About Matt.mmwine

Sommelier, wine writer, and overall Motor Mouth, I appear on various TV shows, host local wine events, and write about wine, food, cocktails, family & more!
Website: http://agoodtimewithwine.com
Matt.mmwine has written 199 articles so far, you can find them below.

About Matt.mmwine

Sommelier, wine writer, and overall Motor Mouth, I appear on various TV shows, host local wine events, and write about wine, food, cocktails, family & more!

Find more about me on:

Here are my most recent posts

Sipping Stepping Stone Cabernet Sauvignon 2008

Stepping Stone 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon Wine

Stepping Stone 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon Wine

When people talk about Napa Valley wines, especially Cabernet Sauvignon, they often talk about lofty prices of hard to get wines like Screaming Eagle and Scarecrow. And while there are definitely great wines at lower prices in Napa, California, like Hartwell which can come in around $80, that is still above some people’s wine budget. That’s when a wine like the Stepping Stone 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon fits perfectly in your glass. It’s a great expression of Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, at a price that doesn’t make you feel like you just bought a whole vineyard.

Stepping Stone is the sister label to Cornerstone Cellars, a venture with managing partner Craig Camp and Drs. Michael Dragutsky and David Sloas who started the label in 1991. I had the chance to try the Cornerstone Cellars 2004 Howell Mountain Cab Sauv a year or so back. While I didn’t write up a review, I thought it was delicious, and I was quite sad I opened it when I did. I felt it could have aged for another 2-3 years, if not 10. So, when I was given a shot to try the 2008 Stepping Stone Cab Sauv, bottled in May 2010 after spending 18 months in 50% new French oak barrels and released 9 months after bottling in early 2011, I was quite excited. At just $35 a bottle, I believed we’d have a great Napa wine under $40 to talk about.

Get a Wine Decanter

Get a Wine Decanter

First, a word about decanting, or just aerating wine. Do it. Stop being so impatient. It’s not rocket science, and will improve the taste of just about any red, and even some white wines you’ll drink.  If you don’t have a formal decanter, which my God, if you’re a regular wine drinker, get one, then just pop the cork, and pour out a smidge of wine into a glass. That will allow air to get into the neck of the bottle and start oxidizing the wine. I won’t get into why decanting works, just know you should. Some wines need more air than others to “open up”, and that part sort of IS rocket science. Just know that 10-20 minutes sitting and breathing is almost always the right thing to do.

Tasting the Stepping Stone 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon, the nose was a sweet cherry, with some notes of blueberry and brambles. Yes, I taste with my nose first. Some 80% of what things taste like are based on smell, so taking a nice sniff of the wine will start producing taste patterns. The palate was big fruit up front, dark cherry and blueberry, followed by a nice earthiness. I let this decant for about an hour after my initial taste. I noticed the mouthfeel was full but silky, round flavors of dark cherry, mocha and a beautiful herb and forest floor note. There were fine, well integrated tannin, and this wine was just a pleasure to sip. Even at 14.9% ABV, there was no heat on the finish, and it was a well made wine. At $35, I’d say it was worth every penny. Tim Lemke of Cheap Wine Ratings wrote up a number of the Stepping Stone wines, and agrees the Cabernet Sauvignon is a good wine.

Cabot Coop Private Stock Cheddar and wine

Cabot Coop Private Stock Cheddar and wine

Food pairings for this Cabernet Sauvignon would be the typical red meat such as steaks, as well as lamb or veal. We enjoyed it with some amazing Cabot Coop Cheddar cheese, and think it’s a perfect pairing. The two dance together in a delicious harmony. The Stepping Stones 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon is a great wine on it’s own however, and you can enjoy it just sipping on a glass with friends. I know I did.

 

What do Kiss and Keyshawn have in common?

Kiss Wine

Kiss Wine

What do Keyshawn Johnson and rock legend Kiss have in common? Well, considering Gene Simmons won’t be running a 4.4 40 any time soon, I’m going to have to answer “Wine”. It’s not new for celebrities to “come out with” wines, cashing in on their goodwill. However, what’s behind the wine, and is it worth pouring?

I’ll start out by saying I have not gotten samples of either celeb bottle of wine, nor have I tried either. I don’t propose this to be a review of either, but rather a question about transparency and marketing.  There’s no doubt that Gene Simmons is a marketing genius. His show Family Jewels often portrayed him as a media mogul who was able to parlay a decent sounding band with a cool concept in the 70s to a top grossing band. A band that is still making money from those dolls and cards and everything else that he could stick a long tongue on. However, does that make for a good glass of wine?

In most, if not all cases, celebrities aren’t actually buying wineries and managing grapevines and alcohol levels.  They’re selling their names, earning royalties on each bottle sold, and being the face of the wine.  I actually remember the show where Gene Simmons went to a winery interested in him representing the wine. It made for an awkward moment because Gene doesn’t drink alcohol. For him, it was all about the numbers. If it would be profitable enough, he’d do it. He’s a business man. Keyshawn Johnson is the same.

KEYSHAWN JOHNSON WINE

KJ1 – KEYSHAWN JOHNSON WINE

For Keyshawn, there’s no doubt he hooked up with a half decent winery to put his name behind, or in front of. Master Sommelier, and Palm Beach county resident Virgina Philips gave the wine a pretty favorable review. While she didn’t rate it, her comment of ” The wine tastes well on its own; pairing suggestions include” leads the reader to believe that someone who knows more than a bit about wine is recommending it. And at $125 a pop, you’d want it to taste at least ok.  Johnson paired with R.C. Mills, a Los Angeles wine business expert who’s been in the wine biz since 1996, and was a chef and caterer. However, neither KJ1 or Kiss wine tell you who is behind the wine. It was impossible for me to find out who’s grapes and who the vintner was for either wine.

What I want to know from you is how prone are you to buying wine based on the label, or marketing? Are you more inclined to buy Mommy’s Time Out for it’s kitchy cute name, or KJ because Keyshawn is hawking it on NFL Countdown each week? Or are you more prone to finding good quality wines, where you know who the winery is behind the label?  Does it matter that Gene says “If you like wine, this is the one for you?” Or is that a hard sell from a guy who doesn’t drink wine? Sound off below!

A late edit – it seems that in August, JK1′s name was changed to XIX. No, it wasn’t an Ocho Cinco moment. Here’s what the facebook page for KJ1 says:

After having a long conversation with the Kendall Jackson Winery & Enterprises, we have decided to honor their request and change the name of our wine from KJ1 by Keyshawn Johonson to XIX (nineteen) by Keyshawn Johnson.

A smart move, respecting Kendall Jackson and founder Jess Jackson’s memory.

Another late edit – It seems that the wine for XIX comes from Echo West. Sadly, Google doesn’t seem to recognize “source of grapes for Keyshawn Johnson’s wine”, or about 30 variants. So, even though we know that

harvested in October 2007 of 100% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, all produced on Echo West’s 25 acres of Cabernet stock overlooking Oregon’s Umatilla River.

I still want to know your thoughts on Celebs marketing wine! Sound off!

 

Rodney Strong Vineyards Launches New Website

Rodney Strong Vineyards

Rodney Strong Vineyards

I’m not one to share press releases, especially verbatim. However, as a big fan of Rodney Strong Vineyards, especially the Rodney Strong Russian River Valley Pinot Noir for $15-20, I figured I can give their redesigned website some love.The site is clean, with a simple layout, great use of media, and chock full of information about this 53 year old California winery.

A mainstay in the Sonoma County wine region for over 50 years, Rodney Strong Vineyards unveiled a new website this summer that showcases an interactive storytelling experience, integrating social media as well as mobile responsive design for the whole site. The new website focuses on providing information through video and rich imagery that’s designed to be easy to use, whether shopping for wine, checking on winery events or simply learning more about the brand. Their address remains the same; www.rodneystrong.com.

“Every communication channel counts in today’s competitive marketplace and telling our story is more important than ever – it is what sets us apart” said Vice President of Marketing Dan Wildermuth. “Embracing social media on a deeper level as well as becoming mobile-friendly became top priorities in our marketing communications strategy.”

Over the last year, Rodney Strong has experienced steady 20% fan/follower growth on social media channels as well as a nearly 300% growth in website traffic originating from mobile devices. The brand’s successful communications campaign, “Place Matters,” launched on the brand’s YouTube channel and has received nearly 175,000 video views to date.

The enhanced visual design, storytelling photography and artfully woven videos all adapt to social media and a flexible layout that automatically resizes to accommodate mobile devices. With the changes, the winery anticipates continued growth in site traffic as well as increased interaction on their social media channels throughout the coming year. “We’re taking into account communication trends,” said Wildermuth, “where people engage and enjoy a digital brand experience in the palm of their hand.”

My only piece of constructive criticism is the placement of their social media contact information is a bit too clean and tucked away. It’s on the bottom right of the footer, and grey  until it’s moused over. With social media being so main stream, I’d make it a little more prominent.

Cheers!

Amazing appetizer to serve with Champagne

Dats Stuffed With Goat Cheese Best Appetizer for Champagne

Dates stuffed with Goat Cheese

If you’re like us, you have a ton of cookbooks that you sift through before every party. And if you’re like us, there’s one or two recipes that you always go to for those parties. Maybe they are easy recipes, or maybe they are amazing recipes to pair with wines. Or, perhaps they’re just great appetizers that get the party off on the right foot. I’d like to share one of our favorite recipes, taken from Williams-Sonoma, Entertaining, by George Dolese, that fits all of those categories. This recipe is easy, makes great appetizers, and those appetizers are perfect to pair with Champagne.

This delicious appetizer is so easy to make, my 12 year old son was the chef. He had a tiny bit of help from us, but in general, he did everything from preparing the dates, to stuffing them, topping them, and baking them. Therefore, even if you have no cooking skill, you can make a perfect appetizer to impress your guests.  We’ll cover the recipe step by step, and recap at the end.

Dates Stuffed With Goat Cheese

The Williams-Sonoma Entertaining book recommends you use Medjool dates, however, our grocery store just had “dates” and they worked fine. I don’t like to discriminate. Start by preheating your oven to 375 degrees.

Lightly oil a baking dish that is just large enough to fit your dates in a single layer

making goat cheese stuffed dates Coat Pan With Oil

Coat Pan With Oil

Take a paper towel and use it to wipe the oil on the pan, removing excess. You want your dates to not stick to the pan, but you aren’t deep frying them. That’s for Paula Dean!

Put 1 TBS of olive oil in a small fry pan and warm on medium heat for 1-2 minutes.

Warm Oil in frying pan for dates stuffed with goat cheese

Warm Oil in frying pan

Once the oil is warmed, you’ll pour 2 TBS of plain breadcrumbs (or panko)  into the pan and cook, stirring constantly, until they are evenly golden brown, about 1 1/2 minutes.

cooked breadcrumbs for goat cheese stuffed dates

Golden brown breadcrumbs

Remove pan from heat and transfer crumbs to a plate, letting them cool. While the breadcrumbs cool, start pitting your dates. Using a sharp paring knife, slit the top of each date lengthwise, and carefully pry the pit out.

remove pits for dates stuffed with goat cheese

Pit the dates

Be careful not to make the slit on top of the dates too long, or your goat cheese will ooze out when baking. It takes a little practice, but you’ll get it. You want to make a little pocket in each date to stuff the goat cheese into.

date pocket for goat cheese appetizer

date pocket for goat cheese appetizer

Once all of your dates are pitted, you’ll begin filling them with the goat cheese. Using a small spoon, gently fill each date with enough goat cheese that it just crests the top of the date.

Stuff your date pockets with goat cheese

Stuff your date pockets with goat cheese

Once all of your dates are stuffed, arrange them in a single layer in your lightly oiled pan. Top each date with some of the toasted breadcrumbs.

Top Dates with toasted breadcrumbs

Top Dates with toasted breadcrumbs

Once all of your dates are stuffed and topped with breadcrumbs, you’re ready for the bake. Bake dates on 375 until warmed, about 10-12 minutes.

Bake Goat Cheese Stuffed Dates for 10 min on 375

Bake Goat Cheese Stuffed Dates for 10 min on 375

Remove from oven and carefully transfer to serving dish. The dates will be hot, so use a spatula or tongs.

Goat Cheese Stuffed Dates

Goat Cheese Stuffed Dates

These dates are simple to make, and delicious. They’re a surefire appetizer to serve at any party. The dates also  pair perfectly with Champagne or sparkling wine.

We paired our dates stuffed with goat cheese with an excellent Champagne from Vilmart & Cie, the NV Grand Cellier Brut, Premier Cru.

Champagne Vilmart & Cie Grand Cellier Brut Premier Cru

Champagne Vilmart & Cie Grand Cellier Brut Premier Cru

The Vilmart & Cie “Grand Cellier” Brut Premiere Cru is a blend of 70% Chardonnay and 30% Pinot Noir. The Brut NV Premier Cru Grand Cellier is the first in a line of specialty and Tete de Cuvees in the Vilmart line up. The blend is aged 3-5 years on the lees before degorgement, which helps create a full and rich mouth feel. This is a great NV Champagne incredible length, sophistication and mineral strength that is not usually found in non-vintage Champagne. The high percentage of Chardonnay provides a fresh apple and light tropical fruit note that is a beautiful and harmonious balance between crisp and full. Alder Yarrow from Vinograpy rated this $73 Vilmart & Cie “Grand Cellier” Champagne between 9 and 9.5 out of 10.

If you make these dates, let me know what you think. And more importantly, let me know what Champagne you pair them with.

 

Goat Cheese Stuffed Dates

ingredients

  • 1 T olive oil
  • 2 T fine dried bread crumbs or panko
  • 24 large dates, preferably Medjool
  • 1/4 lb soft fresh goat cheese

directions

  • Preheat oven to 375. Lightly oil a baking dish just large enough to hold dates in single layer.
  • In a small frying pan, over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the bread crumbs (or panko) and cook, stirring constantly, until they are evenly golden brown, about 1 1/2 minutes. Remove pan from heat and transfer crumbs to plate, let cool.

  • With a small knife, make a small lengthwise incision in each date. Carefully remove the pits. Stuff 1 t of goat cheese into cavity left by the pit.

  • Arrange the dates, with goat cheese side facing upward, in the prepared dish. Sprinkle the crumbs evenly over the top. (The dates can be prepared up to this point 24 hrs in advance. Store, tightly covered in refrigerator.)

  • Bake the dates until warmed through, 10-12 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter and serve warm.

The un-retiring of Bernard Portet

Bernard Portet Heritance Wines

Bernard Portet Heritance Wines

When I was asked if I wanted to meet Bernard Portet for lunch, I immediately hit the internet. Didn’t the 30+ year Clos du Val veteran retire from the business? Why would they want me  to meet with someone spending his days playing cards or shuffle board, wine industry veteran or not? The first result when searching for “Bernard Portet” brought up a July 2011 Napa Register article about his retirement barely lasting a year, and his being involved in a new venture, Heritance wines. I jumped at the chance to meet Bernard, and taste his wines, even if I wasn’t getting a “scoop” story.

I met Bernard at Tryst, a trendy downtown Delray Beach, FL restaurant for lunch. As I walked in, Bernard stood, warmly welcoming me to the table. We sat, along with Tryst owner Butch Johnson, and chatted about the Heritance Wines endeavor. After only a year of retirement, Bernard quickly grew antsy when he saw grapes on the vine during 2010′s harvest, and realized none of that would be wine that bore his signature. He soon formed a venture with Don Chase, named Polaris Wines, and began buying juice he had been fond of from the 2008 vintage. Bernard Portet uses assemblage winemaking for Heritance as it has long been his signature style, where he blends different lots of wine to craft a finished wine that is greater than the sum of their parts. Bernard began his masterful blending, and we were soon given Heritance Sauvignon Blanc and Heritance Cabernet Sauvignon, two wines made in the old world style of Bernard’s native France, heralding from Napa.

Bernard said the intent of Heritance wines was originally to be a negociant, buying juice from vintners and blending and bottling himself. However, that plan changed when the wine glut of 2008 and prior dried up. Bernard said the difficult 2009 and even worse 2010 vintages had caused there to be less available wine for Bernard to purchase and blend.  This forced him to change his business plan, purchasing grapes and blending at a custom crush facility. Heritance would not give up the mission of bringing good wine to market, and quickly began sourcing grapes in Napa to continue their project.

Our discussion lead to the styles of wine we often see out of Napa today. We discussed, and all agreed that the age of big, over the top wines may be coming to the close. Bernard feels that the pendulum has swing to it’s furthest point, and is starting to swing back towards more reserved, balanced and elegant wines. Indeed, Bernard found himself wanting to make wines that were closer to his French roots, balanced between fruit, earth and acidity, and crafted with food in mind. With that, we ordered lunch and began to taste the wine.

Heritance Sauvignon Blanc 2010 review

Heritance Sauvignon Blanc 2010

First we tasted the 2010 Heritance sauvignon blanc, a blend of 91% sauvignon blanc and 9% semillion. The nose was full of fresh melon, with faint notes of citrus. The palate was soft and fresh tropical fruit, with a round mouth feel. As the wine opened, citrus notes of lime and lemon developed, and a light herbal note permeated the glass. The Heritance sauvignon blanc had crisp but not bracing acidity, and additional spice notes developed over time. It’s aged and fermented in 100% stainless steel, and has 13.5% ABV. With only 2,000 cases available, it won’t be around long. This white wine had good depth and balance, making it a great $18 white wine, good on it’s own or with food.

I had ordered the fish tacos from Tryst’s lunch menu, and was very glad. Fresh fish, with great taco seasoning, made a great pairing for the sauvignon blanc. The citrus notes balanced the heat of the taco seasoning, while the spice from the wine managed to keep the flavors lingering. I also thought the fish taco would pair nicely with the Heritance cabernet sauvignon, and I was right.

Review heritance cabernet sauvignon 2008

Heritance cabernet sauvignon 2008

The Heritance Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 is a great under $30 Napa cab. A bouquet of dark cherry and spice box waft from the glass. The palate has beautiful fruit, black cherry and blackberry mix harmoniously with a mid-palate of earthy leather. This old world leather transitions into a finish of cedar and soft spice while holding on to the fruit. The finish absolutely kicks on this red wine, bold and prominent but not overpowering. At just 13.8% ABV, the Heritance Cabernet Sauvginon 2008 is a blend of 92% cabernet sauvignon and 8% merlot, and was aged in a mixture of new and used medium-toast French oak barrels. With only 3,000 cases made, you’ll find Heritance cabernet sauvignon mainly in restaurants on their website online.

The fish taco paired nicely with the Heritance cabernet sauvignon. The spice from the wine pumped the spice from the taco, while the dark Mexican seasonings worked nicely with the black fruit. However, I think this wine would prefer beef roasted or grilled, as well as lamb, or veal.

Bernard has no plans of stopping with just the two wines currently in his portfolio. There are plans to bring another red wine to market shortly, and while I can’t mention what it is, I look forward to this South American gem gracing my glass and palate soon. Additional plans are in the work to expand past that and I look forward to seeing what the future holds for Bernard Portet, Heritance and his wines.

Going Barefoot

Matthew Horbund with Jennifer Wall Winemaker from Barefoot Wines

Jennifer Wall, Winemaker from Barefoot Wines

When I “Met” Jennifer Wall, winemaker at Barefoot Wine on twitter, it was after tweeting about my dislike for Beaujolais Nouveau last November. So when the 16+ year veteran winemaker asked if I’d have time to meet her during her January 2012 trip to Florida, I was a bit nervous. I’ve always said I prefer my women barefoot, not my wine, and told Jen this. She told me that she’d love the chance to change my mind, and I eagerly accepted her invitation.

Jen is one of the original Barefooters, joining the winery in 1995 as their sole winemaker. She’s racked up over 2,500 medals and awards for the brand in that time, and she’s passionate about what she does. With a goal of making wines that accurately reflect their grape, are fruit forward, and affordable, Jen now makes six different Barefoot Bubbly and 13 Barefoot still wines.  She is extremely knowledgeable, about her own brand and wine as a whole, and was an absolute pleasure to talk to.

Barefoot Bubbly from Barefoot Wines with Matthew Horbund and Jennifer Wall

Barefoot Bubbly

What did I learn while interviewing winemaker Jennifer Wall? First, her quote “People talk dry, but drink sweet.” resonated with me. I had just finished a visit with my dad, who likes everything sweet. From breakfast to dinner, he wants to eat sweet and drink sweet. I am quite the opposite, preferring savory and tart, so when my dad’s habits mixed with Jen’s words, it really struck me. There are a lot more people out there who prefer sweet, or at least fruit focused wines than not. And Jennifer had the barefoot facts to back that up. In the past 52 weeks, Barefoot Wines has sold about 4 million cases of wine. And with about 60% of those cases being 1.5 liter bottles, that … well that’s a lot of bottles.

While I aim to “Make Wine Approachable”, and hope to help people find fine wines they’re comfortable with, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with picking an inexpensive bottle that you like from time to time. Frankly, I was impressed with more than one of the Barefoot wines I sampled with Jennifer and other Barefooters that day. They make a great option when you don’t want to spend a lot, but still get a sound bottle of wine. Which brings me to the next thing I learned from Jen. Barefoot likes to think there are a lot of Sunday-Thursday wine lovers, and Barefoot fits their budget.

Some Barefoot Wine Matthew Horbund taste with winemaker Jennifer Wall

Barefoot Wine Lineup

While I try to bring to the table as many wines under $15 that rock your socks as possible, Barefoot does it time and time again. As a matter of fact, I believe all of their wines, bubbly included, are under $15. Which makes it budget friendly for just about anyone, even starving college students (over 21, of course!). You may not find the next Robert Parker 99 point rated wine in their collection, but you’ll find something that works for almost every palate.

Another conversation I had during my winemaker interview with Jen was about cork versus screwcap. While I am a fan of screwcap enclosures, especially for inexpensive wine you expect to drink in the next few months after purchase, you won’t find Barefoot wines with screwcap closures anytime soon. This falls under the “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it” category for Barefoot, and they just don’t have people asking for them. I can understand that, though I did tell Jen that I was toe-tally not a fan of the synthetic cork. We agreed to disagree. I then asked about boxed wines. Jen feels that there would be a little something lost if they went from bottles to box, and doesn’t see it in the cards soon. I can understand, though I’m always looking for box wines that don’t suck and will continue to do so.

I enjoyed sipping some Barefoot bubbly with Jen and her team, and she really did change my view on her wines. I brought a bottle of Barefoot Chardonnay home this Saturday, and Robin and I enjoyed it while cooking outside in the Florida heat. It was very tropical fruit forward, a touch of oak, and refreshing on an 85 degree February day. Jen and I built a rapport to where when she came back a month after our first meeting, I drove down to Miami to chat with her again. In the next week, I’ll cover that meeting on my sister site Pour Me Another, and talk about some Barefoot Signature Cocktails.

So, tell me, when was the last time you went Barefoot?

Sipping Trattore Estate Wines 2010 Viognier

Trattore Estate Wines Viognier

Trattore Estate Wines Viognier

The Dry Creek Valley wine appellation of Sonoma Country offers a tremendous variety of wines. From Zinfandel to Pinot Blanc to Syrah, a wine lover can find a winery producing a delicious, affordable wine at every turn. When Trattore Estate Wines sent me a sample of two of their wines, and their olive oil, I was quite looking forward to sampling them both.

Trattore Estate Vineyards

Trattore Estate Vineyards

Trattore Estate Wines is located on a picturesque hilltop on the eastern side of Dry Creek Valley. They liken the growing region to that of the southern Rhone wine region of France, with steep rolling hills, cool ocean influence and warm summer days. Similar to Dry Creek Valley neighbors Montemaggiore and Quivira, Trattore is producing Rhone varieties, such as grenache, syrah, viognier, marsanne, mourvedre, roussanne, and petite sirah, as well as zinfandel. I was given the opportunity to sample Trattore’s  zinfandel and viognier, and was quite impressed with the viognier.

The nose on the Trattore Estate 2010 viognier is a delightful perfume of white flowers and orange blossoms. The palate is full bodied, almost a bit heavy on the mouth feel, and the nose translates to the palate. There are white flowers mixed with citrus and some stone fruit. The mouth feel is a bit oily, which has been described as a lanolin texture typical in viognier, but it’s quite pleasant. There is a lovely vein of spice that runs from the mid-palate through the finish, and goes on well after you’ve finished your sip.

The Trattore Estate 2010 Viognier is blend of 90% viognier, and 10% roussanne, and has an ABV of 15%. The grapes were whole cluster pressed, and barrel fermented in neutral oak barrels. That neutral oak fermentation and aging provides a softer, round mouthfeel, as opposed to stainless steel as an option for fermentation, which would make the wine a bit more lean, crisp and maintain acidity that can be softened by the oak.  It was then aged in 100% neutral oak barrels for 8 months, which further enhanced the mouthfeel and creamy notes.. There were only 127 cases of the viognier produced in 2010, and the retail price is $24.

As I mentioned in my introduction to viognier grapes and wine, you can pair this white wine with grilled or broiled fish, as well as salads. The winery recommends you serve with grilled fish such as halibut, cod, and sea bass. They also recommend summer salads tossed with heirloom tomatoes, goat cheese, crispy pancetta and dried cranberries drizzled with a hint of Dry Creek Olive Company Cara Cara Orange Olive Oil and a touch of sea salt.

Tim Bucher and his Trattore

Tim Bucher and his Trattore

Trattore Estate owner Tim Bucher got his start in farming at a very young age, where he developed his love for tractors, or trattore in Italian. His parents had a dairy farm in Healdsburg, CA, and was known to not only driving the tractors he loved, at age 8 he could be found under the hood, fixing them and figuring out what made them run. While Tim bought his first plot of land at 17 and grew grapes on it, his love of technology ushered him towards a career in engineering and technology.

Tim has been tied to some very successful technology companies, including early workstations at Sun Microsystems  (now part of Oracle) , 3DO gaming, NeXT Computer which was acquired by Apple, as well as helping launch WebTV which was acquired by Micrcosoft. As an entrepreneur, Tim tarted and took public several other successful companies that were later acquired by Microsoft, Apple and Dell, plus was founder and CEO of ZING systems, which developed software for handheld devices for companies like SiriusXM, Yahoo and SanDisk.

TIm and his family returned to Sonoma in 1999. He planted a total of forty acres of zinfandel, grenache, marsanne roussanne and viognier. When he discovered a grove of 150 year-old olive trees on the land, tim decided to start the Dry Creek Olive Compoany, and began producing olive oils from the estate orchards. The first Trattore Estate wines were released in 2008, and the Trattore Estate winery facility and tasting rooms are currently under construction.

What is Viognier

Viognier Grapes

Viognier Grapes

Have you ever wondered “What is that?” when a lunch date ordered a glass of viognier with their meal? Have you scanned a wine list, seeing a number of French wines, or California wines, made with viognier and wonder what it taste like? All too often we stay in the safe zone with our wine choices, rarely venturing outside our box. After reading this, you’ll not only know what to expect in that glass of wine, but you’l be able to pair it with foods, and talk about it, if you want.

Viognier is a French grape,  not very widely planted there any longer, with less than 300 acres planted in it’s Northern Rhone home. Pronounced VEE-ohn-yay, it’s the main white grape of the French appellations of Condrieu and Chateau-Grillet, and often blended with Syrah to add an exotic bouquet to the red wine. Viognier wines exploded in popularity in the United States in the 1990s, and there are more than a thousand acres of the white grape there today. You can find viognier wines from Virginia and France’s Languedoc-Roussilon regions in addition to California and the Rhone. Don’t be surprised if you see it from South America as well.

Typical markers, or notes, of viognier include white floral such as honey-suckle or jasmine, as well as orange blossom. Along with a honey or honey-suckle notes, you’ll also find stone fruit flavors, peach, apricot, nectarine, as well as a nice spice component that can be described as baking spices.  On the palate, you will find it to be typically fuller bodied, often with an oily or “lanolin” feel in your mouth.

Food and wine pairings with viognier include chicken and fish dishes, from grilled to broiled, to poached. Those meats, or others such as veal, with butter or cream sauces will also work well with viognier . The white wine will enhance fruit flavors, making it s great pairing with fruit dishes as appetizers, or as a topping with those chicken or fish dishes. Viognier will pair nicely with lobster, crab, shrimp or other seafoods.  This is clearly food friendly, but also very nice white wine to sip on it’s own.  I’ve reviewed a Sobon Estate Viognier before, as well as a Lange Twins Viognier. Additional viognier reviews are coming, including a new one from Trattore Wines in Dry Creek Valley, CA.

Enjoy some viogner today, and let me know what you think!