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2017 Casino Mine Ranch Vermentino – A Beautiful Alternative to Sauvignon Blanc

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The Winery

Jim & Rich Merryman grew up on this Amador property in California on weekends and vacations with their parents. The property was originally their Great Aunt Simone’s which she bought it in 1936 and was convinced “gold was still in the hills”. She and her workers dug mines in the hillside anxiously wanting to strike gold, as she had previously done so successfully in Alaska. It was a big gamble but no gold was found. Thus the name Casino Mine Ranch. Over the years Jim & Rich purchased the property from their parents (who inherited it from Simone).

This 60 acre site currently has 14 acres planted. While not striking gold, they did find an underground creek, which by today’s standard is almost as valuable as gold. This underground creek runs directly below their planted vineyard.

Now as fate would have it, Casino Mine Ranch was a hillside property with the abandoned mining caves, when Rich invited his friend Andy Erickson to visit. They spent many weekends shooting skeet and apparently imbibing in Bud Light. During one weekend, Rich suggested he would plant grapes, if Andy agreed to be the winemaker. Fast forward 11 years and Rich had planted Teroldego, Grenache, Tempranillo, Mourvèdre and Vermentino varietals on the property. He then got ahold of Andy, who today is one of the top 5 winemakers in Napa with a resume of making wines for Screaming Eagle, Harlan Estate, Staglin Family Vineyards, and Mayacamas Vineyards. These are recognized as the elite pedigree of wines that Napa has to offer. Andy, true to his word, is the Consulting winemaker and Jessica Tarpy Shasheen is the winemaker under Andy’s direction. They make their wine at a custom crush house in Napa so both Andy & Jessica can be hands-on without driving to Amador County.

The Wine

Pulled this bottle out of the cellar for tonight’s dinner. This was by far the best Vermentino I have tasted out of the Sierra foothills!  Half the world production of Vermentino comes from Sardinia, Italy.  This was fermented in stainless steel but dimensions of citrus (lemon/honeysuckle) and tropical flavors of mango, sweet lemon and grapefruit were outstanding. On the eyes a light yellow straw coloring and light bodied might get one to think this may be wimpy. No way!  On the nose pink grapefruit, pear and various citrus zests came rushing to beckon the first sip. When on the palate, lemon, mango and grapefruit were the overarching characteristics. The finish was a bit abrupt with a nutty (almond) and a slight bitterness. This bitterness is due to the high levels of phenols in Vermentino. Yet refreshing, crisp and a wonderfully sharp wine. At $26 a bottle this is a unique alternative to Sauvignon Blanc for a change up!

The Food and Wine Pairing

Tonight’s meal was with our informal “Wine & Dine Group” at Vine18 at the Copper Valley Golf Club. A special of sesame crusted Mahi Mahi, rice, wasabi ginger coleslaw with pickled ginger and Calabrian sweet chili sauce. Perhaps one of the best special dishes served over the last five years!! The flavors combined with the wine provide a mouth filling and delightful experience.

That was my last bottle in the cellar and I will be picking up a few more next time in Amador County.

Sláinte,

Michael

https://californiawinesandwines.com

https://www.casinomineranch.com/

https://www.coppervalleygolf.com/

2019 Hindsight Chardonnay – Aromatic, Clean and Crisp

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The Winery

Hindsight Wines grapes are from around Napa Valley as well as Estate grown. Their wines range from Carneros to Howell Mountain to Calistoga. For more details on their well know Cabernet Sauvignon’s (as well as their Sauvignon Blanc) see a previous written story:

https://californiawinesandwineries.com/2020/07/16/hindsight-wines-cabernet-sauvignons-calistoga-estate-howell-mountain/

The 2019 Chardonnay

Pulled a 2019 Hindsight Chardonnay from Napa Valley from the cellar to enjoy with dinner. Second time I have tasted the 2019 Chardonnay so was very excited to see how it was holding up to the first review. The wine not only equaled the first experience but surpassed it.  First on the eyes a light straw color and medium viscosity. On the nose it was very aromatic with very soft floral notes of jasmine and honeysuckle. On the palate is where some strong flavors of pear and green apple prevailed with a hint of vanilla. On the finish, minerality and a very embracing soft acidity were evident. The words that come to mind while enjoying this lovely Chardonnay are crisp, refreshing, clean, defined and stately opulence. This Chardonnay is sourced from both Carneros and Oak Knoll AVA’s. It is fermented in stainless steel, then aged 3 months on the lees in neutral French oak. It does not have that “buttery finish” and seemed more “old world” in its flavor profile of great European Chardonnays. The wine is listed on their website at $32/a bottle and check out their website for amazing sales!

The Food and Wine Pairing

Paired this evening with a mesquite chicken, Yukon potato and fresh garden salad with Champagne dressing. A wonderful contrast with the smokiness of the chicken and the crisp and clean taste of the Chardonnay.

No matter which wine you chose from Hindsight wines, your Hindsight will ask you “why didn’t I discover these wines sooner”. As they say Hindsight is always 20/20!

Sláinte,

Michael

https://californiawinesandwines.com

http://www.hindsightwines.com/

2013 YoungInglewood Right Bank – Worthy of the Wait!

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The Winery

This small winery is best-known for their Cabernet Sauvignon and “Bordeaux blends”, as they are situated on historic vineyard land in St. Helena, California. However, they’ve got a passion for several white wines like Chardonnay, Vin Clair and a rare Aligote that is oak aged.  One of the most enjoyable aspects of visiting YoungInglewood Winery is not just the tasting of exquisite wines, but partaking in intelligent, purposed and thoughtful discussion of wine.

To begin, Jim and Jacky met while in college and shared a passion/drive with wine. Jim and Jacky Young bought a historic piece of land in southern St Helena and have today all five Bordeaux varietals planted. It is truly a family winery with Jim handling the operations and Jacky and son Scott, being the co-winemakers on property. Their daughter, Mary helps in the operations as well as providing an occasional flute recital.  Their Wine Education Director/Membership Director, a longtime friend Mark Simon is always there to help out in various capacities.

Their time spent in Europe cultivated a real sense of old world wines and that is exactly how they construct both their red and white wines. They like to describe themselves as presenting “old world non-interventionist” winemaking techniques. It surely shows in their incredible wines.

I seldom talk about wine labels but theirs is the exception. The label is one of the simplest yet says so much about their wine with the balancing of the tightrope walker. This is a paradigm for balance in the fruit, tannins, acidity and color. A little too much of any one item, and a misstep happens. Even deeper is their aspiring sense of balance in life, starting in the vineyards with organic and sustainable practices.

You can read previous stories:

https://californiawinesandwineries.com/2016/02/16/younginglewood/

https://californiawinesandwineries.com/2019/11/10/2013-young-inglewood-cabernet-franc-simple-elegance/

https://californiawinesandwineries.com/2021/04/06/younginglewood-2014-malbec-and-portuguese-sausage/

The Wine

Pulled this bottle out of the cellar the other night “just for fun”.  While it was fun, it was even more as the enjoyment was worthy of the nine year wait! The wine is from their estate fruit. Barreling was 100% French oak with 40% being new barrels and aged 21 months. The blend used 86% Cabernet Franc and 14% Cabernet Sauvignon and only 136 cases produced. Each year the percentage mix and grapes are varied based on the winemaker and what nature provides.

On the eyes an alluring and dark concoction with red and purple highlights with medium to medium-heavy viscosity. On the nose aromatics of raspberries and dark fruits. On the palate, this is one of the quintessential Cabernet Franc’s with hints of blackberries, strawberries and only a faint trace of pyrazines. The finish provided silky and rounded tannins, a soft earthiness. Truly a remarkable and elegant Cabernet Franc. The current vintage is 2017 and the 2018 is going to be released in two weeks. Price is $110.

This wine will make my Best Wines Tasted in 2022 for sure. Treat yourself to a visit to YoungInglewood Winery as each wine is purposed and handcrafted.

Sláinte,

Michael

https://californiawinesandwineries.com

http://www.younginglewood.com/

2018 Smith-Madrone Estate Chardonnay – A Bold Chardonnay Like No Others!

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The Winery

Smith-Madrone Vineyards is located on 200 acres on top of Spring Mountain west of St. Helena with 38 acres planted in vineyards. The vineyard elevation ranges from 1,300 to 2,000 feet. The founder, managing partner and enologist is Stuart Smith, Charles Smith is the winemaker and Sam Smith is the assistant winemaker. Truly a family affair! All the wines are estate and dry-farmed on top of the mountain. Annual production is between 3,000 to 4,000 cases a year. Currently they are producing Chardonnay, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon and their iconic Cooks Flat (blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc).

(photo taken by Matthew Denny)

The Wine

This is the first time I had the opportunity to taste their Chardonnay. First, if you are buttery Chardonnay wine lover stop reading as this is not your wine. This wine being dry farmed, has enough minerality to mirror spelunking in a cave. The wine tastes like no other Chardonnay in recent memory and I have enjoyed many Chardonnays.

The wine on the eyes immediately let one know this is “not ordinary”. Rather than your typical light straw or golden coloring, this is a combination of a green and yellow color. Unfortunately, it does not come across in the photo. Next on the nose, apple is the predominant aromatic. Then on the palate is where this wine makes you do summersaults trying to figure it out! The first sip is one of minerality combined with stone fruits. If you were doing a blind tasting, you would be hard pressed to understand if this was a Chardonnay or blend of Sauvignon Blanc/Chardonnay, Picpoul Blanc/Chardonnay or Pinot Blanc/Chardonnay. The wine is lively, bouncy and flamboyant with a sophisticated and opulent presence on the palate. The finish is mid-length, structured and crisp with strong but not out of control acidity. It is still a lighter wine (as opposed to a Roussanne or Marsanne) being a Chardonnay, but a mysterious and elusive taste, eluding a typical Chardonnay. The wine is from Spring Mountain, barrel fermented for 9 months in 55% new French oak. Only 945 cases were produced and it goes for $45.

The Food and Wine Pairing

Paired with a chicken Piccata, baby asparagus and Yukon smashed potatoes. The wine was very enjoyable with this dish.

Essentially, the wine leaves one in a conundrum, scratching one’s head trying to define the traits, flavors and quality. In the end, I simply gave up on the mystery and enjoyed a great and unique wine. Worthy of your consideration and guaranteed at a blind tasting with friends to befuddle them with flavors with an enjoyable wine.

Sláinte,

Michael

https://californiawinesandwineries.com

https://www.smithmadrone.com/

2019 Wood Family Vineyards “Against the Grain” Bourbon Barrel Aged Wine – Unique, Smooth and Worthy of Consideration.

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The History of Using Bourbon Barrels For Wine

In the early 1980’s, American oak barrels were expensive for many start up wineries. By law bourbon barrels have to be 100% American oak and can only be used one time to distill bourbon in the United States. So after their use, many barrels became available for “other distilled spirits” and wineries to purchase at a fraction of the price of new French or new American oak barrels.  So why doesn’t everyone purchase used bourbon barrels? Key is that whiskey barrels are produced differently than wine barrels. Whiskey barrels are charred on the inside verses wine barrels which are toasted. By only toasting wine barrels, the wine while aging develops many nuances of flavor. Bourbon barrel aged wines tend to be bold with ripe reds, vanilla, smoky and with muted tannins.

The use of bourbon barrel aging has taken off more recently with wineries using these barrels. Some view it as a trend to attract Millennials who buy whiskies. Others view it as a crossover from spirits to wine and yet the resulting wine is unique, smooth and provides an enjoyable sipping experience.  The spirits barrel aged category of wine earned $120 million in 2019 compared to $800,000 in 2015. This market is exploding due to the flavor profile not just with Millennials but with wine aficionados looking to enhance their experience.

Wood Family Vineyards 2019 Against the Grain

Last week I was given an advance bottle to review of the 2019 release of “Against The Grain” that uses the following blends: 40% Syrah, 25% Mourvedre, 25% Cabernet Franc and 10% Petit Verdot. The 2018 blend used 28% Merlot, 28% Syrah, 14% Mourvèdre, 9% Petite Sirah, 7% Malbec, 7% Petit Verdot and 7% Cabernet Franc. Each year it is a different blend. All the components of the blend are aged in traditional wine barrels (30% new and mostly French oak) before blending and transferring to the bourbon barrels. The first year production was 2016 with 43 cases produced, 2017 it increased to 88 cases and the 2018 vintage, 138 cases were produced. This year, 2019, Rhonda Wood produced only 45 cases due to constraints of bourbon barrels to infuse her wine! This vintage was aged eight weeks in bourbon barrels. The wine will be released in March timeframe and will most likely be sold for around $45.

The wine on the eyes was a cavernous purple coloration with medium heavy viscosity.  On the nose, the flavors of Syrah like blueberry, mocha and roasted coffee came to mind. The first sip on the palate detonating the senses with a smooth bourbon along with some jammy, cinnamon, smoke and dark berry characteristics of the actual wine blend. The finish was equally pronounced with smoothness, smoke and a hint of bourbon on the back of the throat. The tannins were almost unnoticeable but layers of flavor and structure were present due to the wines used and the bourbon barrels. This year’s wine comes in at 15.7% alcohol.

Food and Wine Pairing

Paired with bone in Short Ribs served with Yukon garlic mash potatoes and demi-glace with seasonal vegetables at Vine18 restaurant in Copperopolis. The combination of the smokiness of the meat and “Against the Grain” was spot on again!! A great combination.

Conclusion

I had purchased the previous releases and always pleased to have a few bottles in the cellar. It has for the last two years made my list of Best Wines tasted under $50. This is unique and worthy of trying. The 2019 is a “bit softer” on the Bourbon than 2018 and the wine is more rounded which should appeal to a broader audience.  It is really a wine to be consumed and not aged. Rhonda states on the back of the bottle “let this bold wine, with unique bourbon influences of vanilla, caramel and smoke, remind us to step outside of the box, go against the grain and have a little fun in this life of ours”. Truer words could not sum up this wine experience better!

Sláinte,

Michael

https://californiawinesandwineries.com

https://woodfamilyvineyards.com/

2018 Gossamer Negroamaro a Solid Pairing with Creole Jambalaya

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The Winery

The etymology of the word gossamer originated in Middle English as “goose summer” or “gos mer”, late summer warmth, when the geese where in prime condition to be eaten! Over time it has morphed into an adjective “gossamer” meaning “light, delicate or tenuous” like a butterfly wings. Thus on the bottle of Gossamer Cellars a delicate butterfly or fairy is depicted with butterfly wings. To this end, it is appropriately named as Gary Grant “flitters from varietal to varietal” making unique, high quality and lesser known wines for those open to experience the vast world of wine!

Gossamer Cellars located in Murphys, California is one of the gems of the Sierra Foothills. Their “motto” written in chalk in a very tiny tasting room sums up their goal and lifestyle “Adventure may hurt you, but monotony will kill you” (Anonymous). See the complete story at:     

       https://californiawinesandwineries.com/2019/01/18/gossamer-cellars-a-unique-find/ .

This is about one of their wines called Negroamaro that I pulled from the cellar. Grown in the Sierra Foothills, this grape is a dark-skinned and best known in the Puglia region in Southern Italy (the heel of the boot). The name Negroamaro translates “dark, bitter”. The typical characteristics are red cherry, forest fruits, licorice and tobacco. With aging (5-10 years) the wine can develop aromas of black pepper, prunes, earthy notes, blackberry and dried thyme.

The Wine

This wine on the eyes was not as dark as some of the Italian Negroamaro’s but don’t let it fool you. It possessed a purple and crimson hue and was medium to medium heavy viscosity. Aromas of plum, dark cherry were prevalent. In the mouth, besides dark fruits, licorice and tobacco, a tinge of green pepper was present along with an almost bitter rhubarb but with food, a latent slight sweetness of the plum & cherry came forward. The finish was dry with both medium to medium-heavy tannins and acid. Definitely an “old world” flavor is what you are left savoring. This is a hearty wine to be enjoy with food not a sipping wine. Price is $28 and you can be transported back to Italy!

The Food & Wine Pairing

Paired this evening with an authentic Creole Jambalaya dish with chicken, shrimp and sausage. Other ingredients included: Slap Ya Mama Cajun seasoning, sliced andouille sausage, sliced chicken breasts, diced onion, diced bell pepper, chopped celery, minced garlic, crushed tomatoes, salt, black pepper, dried thyme, dried oregano, red pepper flakes, hot pepper sauce, Worcestershire sauce, sliced okra, white rice, chicken broth, deveined and peeled shrimp, sliced green onion and chopped parsley. Served with a side of broiled brussel sprouts and fresh sourdough bread. A wonderful and mouth filling meal that packed a “punch of flavors and heat”! The wine was wonderful cutting thru the spices and tomatoes.

Sláinte,

Michael

https://californiawinesandwineries.com

http://restless-frog.com

A Triple Play of 2011 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon’s

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A beautiful golfing day with weather at 72 degrees. Picture is hole number 9 a par 5 with snowcapped Sierra Nevada’s in background.

After golf with friends and back at the house, I opened a grouping of 2011 Cabernet Sauvignons from the cellar. All were premier Napa wineries.

BV Georges de Latour, Larkmead Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, O’Shaughnessy Howell Mtn Cabernet Sauvignon. All were excellent wines.

Sláinte,

Michael

https://californiawinesandwineries.com

2019 Acquiesce Bourboulenc and Fresh Dungeness Crab

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What is Bourboulenc?

This varietal comes from southern France, primarily the Languedoc and Provence appellations. Acquiesce Winery & Vineyards claim to be the first winery to release this fascinating and somewhat obscure varietal in the USA. The variety first mentioned in literature goes back to the 16th Century. While the grape is known to be native to Provence, Bourboulenc has a Greek origin where it was known as Asprokondoura. Bourboulenc is often used in blending with Grenache Blanc and Clairette. Bourboulenc is a white wine giving off intense floral aromatics, with a tremendous mouthful feeling of citrus, smoky and soft spicy notes forming a complex finish.

California’s total wine grape acreage is 620,000 as of the end of 2020. Compare that to just three acres planted in Bourboulenc! That is .0000048% of the total acreage is planted in California for this unique grape.

Acquiesce Winery

There is so much to state about Susan Tipton, owner and winemaker of Acquiesce Winery. The key takeaway is that she established her winery in Acampo (just north of Lodi) with the expressed purpose of bringing French white wine varieties to market. Lodi had been primarily known for red wines, but she turned heads with some of her unique wines such as Picpoul, Clairette Blanche, Bourboulenc, Ingénue (blend of Grenache Blanc, Clairette Blanche, Bourboulenc and Picpoul), Roussanne and more. Here are some reviews of her wines and impact:

https://californiawinesandwineries.com/2020/10/31/acquiesce-winery-vineyards-finding-a-niche-with-unique-white-wines/

https://californiawinesandwineries.com/2020/09/20/2018-acquiesce-vineyards-picpoul-blanc/

https://californiawinesandwineries.com/2020/08/30/2018-acquiesce-ingenue-french-and-more-french/

The Wine – 2019 Bourboulenc

The first thing you notice is the golden color in the glass, and the wine possesses a medium heavy viscosity. Intriguing and frankly startling, was the bouquet of aromatics. On the nose were diverse and numerous floral notes. Over temperature they range from stone fruit, almond, pineapple, honeysuckle, orange blossoms, tropical fruits and stone fruits. Once on the palate, they engulf and dance amusingly in the mouth. All these flavors came forward to introduce themselves and left you with a rich textured enchanted mouth feel with sufficient acidity. The finish provides a polarizing effect of softness and minerality at the same time. The wine won both at Gold and Silver Medal at the SF Chronicle Wine Competition the last two years. It goes for $32/bottle.

The Food and Wine Pairing

Last night with a local Rotary Club fund raiser, but due to Covid restrictions, rather than a typical hall crab feed, everyone picked up their boxed crab to take home. We were guests at a friend’s house to enjoy the crab. Shrimp with pasta, a fresh garden salad, French bread and a lemon pudding were all additional dishes brought by the attendees and host. While several wines were tasted (Chardonnay’s), two were outstanding with the crab. The first was a Cava from Spain, Las Falleras Cava Brut, D.O.P.  The second was the 2019 Acquiesce Bourboulenc. Both were spot on with their aromatics and minerality with the crab.

Sláinte,

Michael

https://californiawinesandwineries.com

https://www.acquiescevineyards.com

Great Food, Wonderful Friendships and Some Very Nice Wines!

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The “informal Friday Night Wine & Dine Group” met last night at Vine18 for dinner. Great food, wonderful friendships and some very nice wines: 2017 Ferrari-Carano Cabernet Sauvignon, 2019 Borjon Barbera, 2013 Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon, 2019 Wood Family Bourbon Barrel red wine (story coming out on it soon), Lavender Ridge Vineyards Roussanne and a 2017 Justin Isosceles. See this story for more details: https://californiawinesandwineries.com/2022/02/05/2019-lavender-ridge-vineyards-roussanne-a-must-try-wine/

Sláinte,

Michael

https://californiawinesandwineries.com

2019 Lavender Ridge Vineyards Roussanne, A Must Try Wine!

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The Winery

Lavender Ridge’s Roussanne has made my Best Wines Tasted for the last 3 years in the under $50 category. This week I sampled their 2019 and immediately bought a bottle to enhance our meal Friday night. Here is a previously written article on Rich and Siri, owners of Lavender Ridge located in the town of Murphys in the lower Sierra Nevada foothills.

https://californiawinesandwineries.com/2020/04/08/traveling-to-wine-regions-while-staying-in-place-today-lavender-ridge-vineyard-in-murphys-california-in-the-sierra-foothills/

The Wine

Roussanne is a white grape grown originally in the Rhone wine region in France. More recently it has done well in the United States in California, Washington and Texas. The berries are distinguished by their russet color when ripe. It can be a difficult grape to grow due to mildew and not flourishing in drought conditions. While this particular Roussanne is 100% Roussanne, often Marsanne is blended with this grape.

Roussanne is powerful with floral aromatics, with hints of peaches, pears and with a rich and silky smooth mouthful texture, almost creamy. Roussanne on the eyes is a light golden straw color with medium to medium heavy viscosity. On the nose floral aromatics, hints of pear, apricots waft into the senses. On the palate, you are treated to a silky smooth mouthful texture. The finish provides a soft nutty almond, compounded with a hint of honey and distinct minerality. This wine retails for $28.

The Food and Wine Pairing

Last evening our “informal Friday Night Wine & Dine Group” met at Vine18, which many partook in their weekly special catch of the week. Last night was a sesame crusted tuna with a winter salad (spinach, fennel, beets, chickpeas, carrots, pickled red onion with a ginger wasabi vinaigrette). The meal was spectacularly delicious. The Roussanne was an excellent choice to pair with the meal.

The Sous Chef by special request prepared a caramel bread pudding with pecans. What a great finish for the evening.

Sláinte,

Michael

https://californiawinesandwineries.com

https://lavenderridgevineyard.com/

https://www.coppervalleygolf.com/