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Behind The Wine: Lunch with Sequoia Grove Director of Winemaking Michael Trujillo

Wine is about the story. It’s not about tart cherries and blueberries wrapped in a blanket of cedar and sprinkled with generous amounts of pepper. Likewise, it’s not about making sure you’re pairing Merlot with lamb shank and Chardonnay with lobster. Sure, those things are nice, and work their way into most of my articles. However, in the end, wine is about the people behind the juice, who they are, as well as where and why they do what they do. I had the chance to meet, and have lunch with, the man behind Sequoia Grove, President and Director of Winemaking, Michael Trujillo.

Sequoia Grove Winemaker Michael Trujillo Talking Napa Red Wine - agoodtimewithwine.com

Tasting barrel samples with Sequoia Grove Winemaker Michael Trujillo

The son of a Colorado rancher, Michael has been in the wine industry for over thirty years. While in college studying architecture and engineering, Michael took a spring break vacation in California, and it changed his life. Leaving his college studies in his 20s, Trujillo packed his belongings and moved to Napa, landing a job at a vineyard that would eventually become Domaine Carneros. There, he had the chance to learn from wine industry legends such as Tony Soter and Mike Grgich, helping shape his ability to craft excellent wine.

Michael soon transitioned to working in the cellar at Sequoia Grove with founder Jim Allen, as well as consulting winemaker Andre Tchelistcheff. Here, Michael Trujillo learned quite a bit about making wine. So much so, he started his own side project in the 1990s, Karl Lawrence, using the Sequoia Grove winery as a custom crush facility. In 1998, Trujillo was appointed as assistant winemaker of Sequoia Grove, and in 2001, when founder Jim Allen retired, Michael got his call to the big leagues.

Wines From Sequoia Grove - Cambium, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Chardonnay - agoodtimewithwine.com

Wines From Sequoia Grove – Cambium, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Chardonnay

In 2001, the Kopf family, which had acquired 100% of Sequoia Grove, brought Michael to New York for a meeting. Meeting with “the three sisters”, Michael was rather relaxed and aloof when they started asking him questions about how he would change Sequoia Grove. He was quite candid, discussing things like improving the quality of the winemaking equipment, elevating the quality of the grapes sourced, and the fact that the winemaking facility was “like cooking for an army on a Coleman stove.” The Kopf family was impressed with his vision to improve the brand, and handed the reins over to Michael, who was made President and Director of Winemaking at Sequoia Grove. He began immediately putting into place the improvements he outlined.

By the end of 2002, the winery was buying and using only “A” quality grapes, where it had previously been sourcing “C” quality grapes. Vineyard Manager Steve Allen began replanting the winery’s estate vineyards, including the purchase of an additional 48-acre vineyard in 2006. The goal was to eventually provide 80% of the fruit for Sequoia Grove Cabernet Sauvignon and Cambium, and have that fruit be top quality. Michael brought on UC Davis grad Molly Hill as Assistant Winemaker in 2003, who was promoted to Winemaker in 2008. All of these measured steps elevated the wine from an average California wine at a good price, to an excellent Napa wine at a good price!

Pairing Sequoia Grove Chardonnay 2011 with stone crab claws - agoodtimewithwine.com

Pairing Sequoia Grove Chardonnay 2011 with stone crab claws

Back to our lunch together, which started with the Sequoia Grove Chardonnay. Beautiful aroma of vanilla and pear, with a crisp palate of Granny Smith apple, vanilla, rounded out by warm baking spice. The wine is crisp while being full bodied, seeing oak aging but no malolactic fermentation. The oak is well integrated, however, and there are no splinters in your glass, I assure you.  The acidity of the Sequoia Grove Chardonnay, which is excellent for the $27 price, worked perfectly with our Florida stone crab claws, as well as the Alaskan king crab legs.

We then took a pause from the serious look at Sequoia Grove wine, to play with… wine. Michael brought two barrel samples from the newer Sequoia Grove vineyards, 100% Petite Verdot, and 100% Cabernet Franc. These two wines show a lot of promise, and I look forward to seeing what Sequoia Grove does with them once they’ve aged.

Pairing Sequoia Grove Cabernet Sauvignon with barbecue beef tri-tip - agoodtimewithwine.com

Pairing Sequoia Grove Cabernet Sauvignon with barbecue beef tri-tip

Lunch was served, and I chose a barbecue tri-tip sandwhich to pair with my two red wines. However, Michael encouraged all of his guests to order fish or lobster, in typical “Drink what you like” fashion. Several orders of fish tacos and lobster rolls were soon paired with Cabernet Sauvignon and a blended red wine, and no one was disappointed.

Sequoia Grove Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 - agoodtimewithwine.com

Sequoia Grove Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

The first red wine, the Sequoia Grove Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, had aromas of blackberry and black cherry, and sweet vanilla scents.  The palate was beautiful red fruit, sweet spices, with a hint of vanilla and soft tannins, which were “sweet”, as opposed to dry and astringent. The  Sequoia Grove Cabernet Sauvignon 2o10 is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon from multiple appellations, aged in 100% American oak for 22 months, with 40-50% of it new oak. Absolutely lovely wine, and for about $38, definitely one to  have with food. It paired perfectly with my well seasoned barbecue beef sandwich.

Sequoia Grove Cambium 2008 red wine blend - agoodtimewithwine.com

Sequoia Grove Cambium 2008

The proverbial icing on the cake was tasting the Sequoia Grove Cambium 2008. Michael said that when blending wine, his goal is to create the perfect blend, “where you smooth out the peaks, and fill in the valleys”. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot, there are only about 400 cases of the Cambium made, and it’s sold mostly in restaurants. Aromas of soft raspberry and vanilla with soft baking spice waft from the glass. The palate is a wave of spice, start to finish, with tart cherry and cranberry mixed with mocha and espresso flavors.

The Sequoia Grove Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon are two wines that are well priced, and fairly available. They offer great quality, and are definitely worth trying. You should be able to find them where you live, as I saw them in both Total Wine and Publix here in South Florida. I told Michael these were “Put your money where your mouth is” wines…. wines that I may have had the chance to taste for free, but I’m happy to spend my own money on. You’ll be happy you did too.

As for the rest of Sequoia Grove’s story, it’s still being written. Michael’s goal of elevating the quality of the fruit continues, with a focus on building the estate vineyard program while nurturing the relationships he has with his current grape sources. He tools around with various grapes at the home vineyard, the Petite Verdot and Cabernet Franc mentioned earlier, as well as Malbec. He said we’ll just have to wait and see what happens next. I’ll be waiting, Michael!

Quick Sip: Long Meadow Ranch Sauvignon Blanc 2012

Matthew Horbund Reviews Long Meadow Ranch Sauvignon Blanc 2012

Long Meadow Ranch Sauvignon Blanc 2012

My sipping the Long Meadow Ranch Sauvignon Blanc during the nationwide Polar Vortex freeze had very little to do me taunting my frozen friends. Ok, maybe it had something to do with the fact that I was in shorts and flip flips while you were in a parka, and your tears froze before they dripped down to your nose. However, it was mostly due to the fact that I am not a seasonal drinker. I happily drink white wine in winter and red wine in summer. In the end, my sipping this delicious white wine really had everything to do with the fact that for $19, the Long Meadow Ranch Sauvignon Blanc was darned good.

The Rutherford AVA is Home for Long Meadow Ranch Sauvignon Blanc

The 2012 vintage marks the 8th bottling of Long Meadow Ranch Sauvignon Blanc. The fruit for this crisp white wine is from their Rutherford Estate vineyard. South of St Helena, and north of Yountville, the Rutherford AVA is smack in the middle of the Napa Valley wine region. More prominently known for it’s excellent Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford is home to some notable wine names, including Quintessa, Frog’s Leap, Mumm Napa Valley, St Supery and Cakebread, to name a few. On the Napa valley floor, on the Rutherford Estate, Long Meadow Ranch farms a total of 74 acres of Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvingon vineyards. The Long Meadow Ranch vineyards are farmed using organic practices certified by California Certified Organic Farmers. In addition to wine, Long Meadow Ranch sells olive oil, grass fed beef, eggs, honey and heirloom fruits.

Long Meadow Ranch Sauvignon Blanc 2012

Long Meadow Ranch Sauvignon Blanc 2012

Tasting Notes For Long Meadow Ranch Sauvignon Blanc 2012

The color of the Long Meadow Ranch 2012 Sauvignon Blanc is a pale yellow, bright in the glass, with a medium viscosity. The aroma of grapefruit, lime, and a little salt is very refreshing. The palate is light bodied and crisp, with more lime than grapefruit, candied lime peel, and a little “zip” on the finish from the medium+ acidity. There is a slight smokiness on the finish of the Long Meadow Ranch Sauvignon Blanc 2012, and the length of it’s finish is moderate and enjoyable.

The Long Meadow Ranch Sauvignon Blanc 2012 is definitely a white wine worth trying! Are you a fan of Sauvignon Blanc? Let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment below.

Nine Wines For Your Thanksgiving Feast

Wines to Pair with a Happy Thanksgiving

Wines to Pair with a Happy Thanksgiving

It’s a scant few days before Thanksgiving, have you finalized your menu yet? Of course you have, and you’ve paired the perfect wine with the meal, right? Well, most wine writers and sommeliers will argue that there is no ONE wine that works perfectly for Thanksgiving. I’ve written about pairing wine with Thanksgiving meals before, as well as brought three wines for Thanksgiving to CBS 12, and maintain that the variety of palates your guests have and range of flavors at Thanksgiving calls for a variety of wines to be served with your Turkey. While there are some “typical or classic wine and Turkey Day pairings”, and I’ll cover them below, there are some addition wine pairing options that you may not have considered. I’ll summarize where I bought the wines and their prices at the end of the article. However, first, let’s take a look at nine different wines, some the same grape from different regions, to offer you some great Thanksgiving wine pairing ideas.

Chandon Brut Classic Sparkling Wine For Thanksgiving

Chandon Brut Classic Sparkling Wine For Thanksgiving

If there is one thing you can safely serve at any party or big meal, it’s sparkling wine. There are of course tons of options, a true Champagne from France,  Prosecco from Italy, Cava from Spain, or California bubbly like Chandon’s Brut Classic. A non-vintage (NV), budget friendly sparkling wine at $13, there are great flavors of green apples, peach, and a little toasted bread. These flavors work perfectly with appetizers, including cheese, fruit and even stuffed mushrooms. Champagne and sparkling wine love salty snacks, so salted nuts and even pigs in a blanket work perfectly. This is a slightly more fruit forward option, and if you like a traditional Champagne, feel confident that it’s a perfecting wine selection for Thanksgiving as well!

Chateau Megyer Tokjai Furmint 2012

Chateau Megyer Tokjai Furmint 2012

Chances are, you’ll surprise your guests with a wine from Hungary, made with a grape they’ve likely never heard of. Tokaji, pronounced Toke-eye, is a wine that can be dry or sweet, and made with one of six approved grapes: Furmint, Harslevelu, Yellow Muscat (Sargamuskotaly) Zeta, Koverszolo, and Kabar. The Chateau Megyer Tokaji Furmint 2012  is a budget friendly dry white wine option at $12. A light, clear yellow color and subdued nose leads to a palate that is reminiscent of riesling. Flavors of soft apricot, coupled with good minerality, this white wine will pair well with appetizers, as well as your turkey.  The sweet versions of Tokjai, Aszu or Eszencia, are perfect dessert wines. They are sweet enough wines to pair with the fruit pies that are common desserts at Thanksgiving.

DeBeaune Les Galopieres 2011 Pouilly-Fuisse wine for thanksgiving

DeBeaune Les Galopieres 2011 Pouilly-Fuisse

Chardonnay is a grape grown the world over. The wine can be lean and mineral driven, tropical fruit focused, or full of apple and pear ‘tree fruit’ flavors. The French styles of chardonnay are typically less focused on the burst of fruit flavors you’ll find in California wines. Additionally, if there is oak used to age the wine, it’s much more subdued than it’s California cousins. Pouilly-Fuissé is an appellation (AOC) for white wine in the Mâconnais subregion of Burgundy in central France. Pronounced Poo-Wee Foo-Say, Pouilly-Fuisse only permits chardonnay to make wine bearing the AOC’s designation. Though there is often oak aging involved with these wines, the $20 DeBeaune Les Galopieres Pouilly-Fuisse 2011 is unoaked. A lean, crisp white wine with flavors of green apples, minerals, and a beautiful finish of spice and smoke, this is a perfect all around wine for Thanksgiving. It will work nicely with your appetizers, your vegetables, your turkey and even your ham.

Sonoma-Loeb Chardonnay 2011 wine for thanksgiving

Sonoma-Loeb Chardonnay 2011

Another great $20 white wine selection is the Sonoma-Loeb Chardonnay 2011. A perfect wine to pair with ham, turkey, potato and stuffing, this oaked chardonnay has notes of vanilla and creme brulee, with a dominant fruit flavor of pear. There is a soft smoke and spice on the finish, but all of the flavors are balanced and none overwhelms the others.

Domaine Pignard 2011 Beaujolais wine for thanksigiving

Domaine Pignard 2011 Beaujolais

Beaujolais is not a revolutionary wine pairing idea for Thanksgiving. There is no doubt you’ve heard of Beaujolais Nouveau. However, it’s not the best expression of gamay, and it’s more a marketing ploy than anything else. It is not a wine I recommend or partake in. However, gamay grapes make fantastic wines, and the Domaine Pignard Beaujolais 2011 is a steal at $10. An easy drinking, fruit forward red wine, the DeBeaune Domaine Pignard Beaujolais is a great idea for Thanksgiving, as it will pair with fowl or meat. A soft palate, with flavors of dried fruits like blackberry and bing cherry, there’s a hint of oak as well. There is good acidity, which makes it a great food friendly wine. I did also try a Cru Beaujolais, the Domaine Mont Chavy 2011 Morgon. Less fruity and more earthy, this was another great French wine under $20.

Forever 2012 Pinot Noir wine for Thanksgiving

Forever 2012 Pinot Noir

I’m not the first wine writer/sommelier to recommend Pinot Noir wine for your Thanksgiving meal. I do, however, try to find new and exciting options for you to try. Like Chardonnay, Pinot Noir is found the world over. This year, my pinot noir Thanksgiving wine comes from California and Oregon, to highlight two different styles. Forever Vineyards Pinot Noir 2012 is a budget friendly $11 option. A nose of fresh berries, the palate is a mocha and strawberry mix with a hint of spice. Pork and Pinot are a favorite wine pairing, but of course turkey will work perfectly.

Domaine Loubejac Willamette 2010 thanksgiving wine

Domaine Loubejac Willamette 2010 thanksgiving wine

While tasting Clos Pepe Pinot Noir with winemaker Wes Hagen, he mentioned how Oregon winemakers are similar to their Burgundian counterparts. Domaine Loubejac offers a Willamette Valley Pinot Noir for $18 that certainly reminds me of French Burgundy. Dried strawberry and raspberry, with a nice spice on the mid palate and finish, the Domaine Loubejac Willamette 2010 has great acidity and is very food friendly. Your Thanksgiving turkey or ham will enjoy this wine. Feel free to pick up a bottle of Wes Hagen’s Clos Pepe 2009 Pinot Noir as well. At $54, the Clos Pepe 2009 is a well made red wine that will work perfectly with your 2013 Thanksgiving, or sit in your cellar and age nicely until 2010. I’ll feature the 2010 Clos Pepe Pinot Noir in an upcoming article.

Dr Loosen 2012 Blue Slate thanksgiving wine

Dr Loosen 2012 Blue Slate thanksgiving wine

I don’t drink a lot of riesling. It’s not that I don’t enjoy it, and I’ve tasted a few German Rieslings this year that I really enjoyed. I just don’t reach for them frequently. I’ve recommended the wines from Dr Loosen previously, and will again say that riesling is a great Thanksgiving wine selection. The Dr Loosen Dr L Riesling is a bargain at $12. A perfect wine pairing for ham, turkey, fruit and cheese, the Dr L has fresh apricot and peach flavors with a very subtle minerality through it. For a more mineral and slate focused palate, the Dr Loosen Blue Slate (pictured left) is an excellent riesling selection as well, and cost only $22. It has enough white peach fruit and floral flavor to balance the flinty minerality that is typical from blue slate soils the vines are planted on.

We have already mentioned nine, well ten wines to serve with your Thanksgiving meal. However, I recently participated in a tasting of Bordeaux Superieur wine under $15 that had some real great selections. These samples were the second part of the Planet Bordeaux wine series I had previously participated in.  You may think a merlot from Bordeaux would be too overpowering for your Thanksgiving meal. However, the Les Hautes de Lagarde Bordeaux is bound to change your mind.

Les Hauts De Lagarde Bordeaux 2011 merlot wine for thanksgiving

Les Hauts De Lagarde Bordeaux 2011

I’ll feature the entire six wine Bordeaux tasting in a future article, but the Les Hautes de Lagarde Bordeaux 2011 was my favorite of the flight. An organic Bordeaux red wine that cost only $12, the Les Hauts de Lagarde is a blend of 65% merlot and 25% cabernet sauvignon. Flavors of blueberry and black currant with nice oak integration lend themselves to this soft, elegant red wine. There was a hint of spice on the finish that brought all of the flavors together nicely. A perfect wine to pair with beef, lamb, veal and pasta, it was light enough to enjoy with turkey, stuffing, and the rest of your Thanksgiving meal. As a side note, we decanted this wine for about 1 1/2 hours.

There are a few tips to keep in mind when serving these wines

  • Serve your white wines chilled, but not ice cold. Serving wine too cold mutes the flavors
  • Serve your red wines SLIGHTLY chilled. Room temperature for red is about 60 degrees, not your typical 75 house temperature
  • Decant your red wines for at least 30 minutes before serving. Chill it in the fridge for 30-40 minutes, then open and leave on the table 30 minutes before meal time
  • Don’t be afraid to decant your white wine. They’ll open up with a little air. Just keep them cool, perhaps in an ice bucket while doing so. Simply pull the cork and leave them open 15 minutes before serving.

I purchased all of the wines mentioned today, with the exception of the Les Hauts de Lagarde and the Clos Pepe Pinot Noir, which were media samples. They were all found easily, and you should be able to pick up one or more for your own party.

  • —Chandon Brut – Publix & Total Wine $13
  • Chateau Megyer Tokaji Furmint – Total Wine $12
  • DeBeaune Pouilly-Fuisse – Total Wine $20
  • —Sonoma Loeb Chardonnay – Publix & Total Wine $20
  • Domaine Pignard Beaujolais – Total wine $10
  • Forever Vineyards Pinot Noir – Total Wine $11
  • Domaine Loubejac Pinot Noir – Total Wine $18
  • Dr Loosen Dr L Riesling – Publix & Total Wine $12
  • Les Hautes de Lagarde Bordeaux – Whole Foods $12

Cheers to you and your friends and family this Thanksgiving season. I’d love to hear what your favorite wine is this Thanksgiving, and what dish you enjoy it with. Just leave a comment below!

Budget Wines For Everyday

Decent Wines For Just A Few Bucks

Decent Wines For Just A Few Bucks

I’m often asked to recommend cheap wines that can be found in grocery stores. Many people hear about Two Buck Chuck, which now sells for $3 or so, and wonder if it’s any good. During my trip to Oregon, someone asked me about Two Buck Chuck right before the Harry and David wine dinner. I’ve not had Two Buck Chuck in recent years, and my first taste was a long time ago. However, I took a run to the local Total Wine, which has a much bigger selection of good wines under $10 than the grocery store, and have eight wine options that wont break your budget.

Conte Priola Pinot Grigio Veneto 201

Conte Priola Pinot Grigio Veneto 201

Our first budget wine is a $7 option from Italy. The Conte Priola Pinot Grigio – Veneto 2011 has a fragrant nose of spiced pear and yellow apples. There is a smokey, spicy note that translates from the bouquet to the palate. There is very nice acidity, which comes across as citrus notes. An easy drinking, simple wine. Not very complex, just a back yard sipper.

Kemblefield 2011 Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough

Kemblefield 2011 Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough

Moving to Marlborough, New Zealand, we have the $9.99 Kemblefield 2011 Sauvignon Blanc. The bouquet is bursting, big kumquat and tangerine and lime on the nose, mixed with herbal notes. The palate is very refreshing, great citrus notes like pink grapefruit, mixed with tangerine and even apricot flavors. Very fresh fruit, that may come across a touch tart from the acidity. Good structure, and well made for under $10.

Generation Green Chardonnay

Generation Green Chardonnay

Vying with the Two Buck Chuck line is Generation Green Chardonnay, costing a scant $3.99. The nose show scallions and apricots, and the palate is smooth and light. There are toasty apple flavors mixed with toasted breads and vanilla creme. There is a good bit of green and spice on the mid-palate and finish, showing the oak that the wine is aged in. This wine is in a bottle made from lighter weight glass, helping to reduce the company’s carbon footprint. Definitely a bit more green than our next option, but also half the price!

Cloud Break Chardonnay 2011

Cloud Break Chardonnay 2011

Our next white wine also comes from California. The Cloud Break Chardonnay 2011,  costs $7.99 at Total Wine and is one of their big sellers. The bouquet is fresh pears and yellow apples. The mouth feel is fuller, showing toasty bread topped with a nice pear and yellow apple compote. There is a good bit of warming spice on the finish, that shows the oak aging and barrel fermentation. It’s not over oaked, however. Don’t fear splinters when you sip this budget friendly white wine.

Barefoot Cellars Chardonnay

Barefoot Cellars Chardonnay

For those who love a more fruity, almost sweet tasting wine, this $5.99 bottle is for you. I used to jokingly say “I prefer my women barefoot, not my wine.” That was, until I met Barefoot Cellars long time winemaker Jennifer Wall! She had me taste the Barefoot line again, and I had to retract my comment. The entire Barefoot line is fruit focused, and clearly people like that style. Barefoot sells millions of cases of wine a year. So, while it may not be the most complex wine you’ll put in your glass, for $6 or so per bottle, this is an easy drinking, back yard, feet up and relax kind of wine. The chardonnay will show fresh fruit salad, pears and apples, and have just the slightest hint of spice and vanilla.

Pepperwood Gove Pinot Noir

Pepperwood Gove Pinot Noir

Moving on to red wines, our first option is one of Suzanne’s picks. The Pepperwood Grove Pinot Noir is $6.99 in Publix grocery stores. This pinot noir has bright fresh strawberries and red raspberries on both the nose and the palate. There is a little bit of tannin, which dries the mouth and offers the slightest hint of smoke.  The finish seems very long. If you are a fan of more fruit forward red wines, this $7 option would be right up your alley.

Ropiteau Pinot Noir 2010

Ropiteau Pinot Noir 2010

Moving to France, we have the Ropiteau Pinot Noir 2010 for $9.99. The bouquet shows dried strawberries that are earthy and subdued. The palate is very dry, and the earthiness and old world flavors come through. There may be a little too much oak for some on this wine, which shows in the tannin and spice on the finish. The oak is not overwhelming, as the fruit still shows. However, the spice from the toasty oak definitely makes a firm showing. This could use some food, whether that be a host of cheeses, some nice grilled salmon, or even a breast of duck dish.

Radius Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

Radius Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

Finally, we have the Radius Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 from Washington state. The nose is bright red cherry, and highlights the super simple, super fruit forward nature of this wine. Not complex at all, there are fresh ripe cherries and raspberries, with just a hint of spice and tannin on the finish. This wine is all about young, fresh, vibrant fruit, and is a super easy sipper. There is no food necessary for this $8.99 porch wine.

This list is by no means a complete resource of budget focused wines under $10. As a matter of fact, I plan on highlighting more options in the coming months. I’m not the only person focusing on these value wines, however. Jay, the store manager at the Palm Beach Gardens, Florida Total Wine put up signs in each of the grape variety sections in the store, highlighting their under $10 wine options. The big pink signs are hard to miss, but customers find them very helpful.

What is your everyday budget wine?

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.

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.

Stepping Stones 2010 ROCKS! White Wine

Matthew Horbund Sips Stepping Stone 2010 ROCKS! White Wine

Matthew Horbund Sips Stepping Stone 2010 ROCKS! White Wine

A good white wine has it’s place in your glass, regardless of time of year. It may be fall, and temperatures are dropping, but we’re enjoying a nice white wine with dinner tonight. Living in Florida, we still eater lighter meals in autumn, and roasted chicken makes it’s way onto our plate at least once a week. I went to the cellar and looked for a white wine to serve, and a bottle of Stepping Stone 2010 ROCKS! white wine was my choice.

Stepping Stone is a second label from Cornerstone  Cellars, producers of some excellent Napa Cabernet Sauvignon. I’ve received media samples of their wines previously, and this bottle was part of a tasting of various Stepping Stone wines, red, white and rose. An entry level wine, the Stepping Stone costs $15, and is available on their website. It’s a proprietary blend, but other bloggers disclosed it’s made of chardonnay and muscat. Definitely meant to be an easy back yard sipper, the wine has a pleasant bouquet and palate that makes it easy to drink alone, or pair with food.

Lighter in color than a typical California chardonnay, the Stepping Stone ROCKS! offers a bouquet of soft citrus and white flowers. It’s reminiscent of a sauvignon blanc and vigoner on the nose. The palate is light to medium bodied, very soft and gentle on the approach. The first sip gives way to a little spice, making me think of a gewurztraminer with nice soft floral notes and spice on the mid-palate and finish. I let the wine sit a little, to breathe as well as warm a tad. The flavors opened up a little, and soft lemon  became a little more prominent, and coupled with the white flowers, honey suckle and jasmine, coated the palate.

Matthew Horbund Sips Stepping Stone ROCKS! with roast chicken

Matthew Horbund Sips Stepping Stone ROCKS! with roast chicken

Though the palate is very smooth, and the acidity is barely noticeable, the Stepping Stone ROCKS white wine worked wonderfully with dinner. The palate held strong, even with asparagus on the plate, and the citrus and floral flavors complimented the roast chicken and potato dinner very well. An affordable wine, good on it’s own or with food, definitely a wine to try.

What are your thoughts? Leave a comment below, and share this article with your friend!

 

Sipping Chardonnay – Franciscan 2009

Franciscan Napa Chardonnay 2009

Franciscan Napa Chardonnay 2009

For over thirty years, the Franciscan Estate winery has been making small lots of wine and blending them together to bring to market what they believe is a fantastic wine. They offer multiple lines of wine, including the Signature Wines, as well as the Limited Selection Magnificat and Cuvee Sauvage lines. Their main line, Signature Wines, offers Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, and the wine I’ll discuss now, the 2009 Franciscan Napa Valley Chardonnay.

I receive many press samples of Franciscan wines, and have thought they were all nice wines. This chardonnay is the first I’ve written about, because I feel for the price, it offers a solid wine. For $18, this offers a taste of a Napa chardonnay without paying exorbitant prices. This white wine needed to breathe, something I’m finding more and more whites can benefit from. As soon as it was uncorked, the bouquet was pears slathered in buttered popcorn, and the palate was light to medium, with a very round mouth feel. The acidity seemed a little off and the fruit seemed over ripe.  However, after about 15 minutes open in the glass, the wine was much different.

After breathing, the palate was much more round, a function of the malolactic fermentation as well as the 8 months sur lie in a mix of American and French Oak. Sur lie means the lees, or expired yeast left after fermentation, stays in the barrel with the wine, which gives it a rounder, softer mouth feel.  There were notes of pear, vanilla and buttered popcorn on the palate, and the acidity was much more subtle.

The Franciscan Napa Chardonnay is fermented in oak barrels, using wild yeast which results in lively, fruit and mineral flavors with some layers of complexity. When fermenting wine, some winemakers use specific yeasts to achieve specific notes. Using whatever yeasts are in the air and vineyard naturally is thought to allow nature to guide the wine’s outcome. If you are a fan of oaky, buttery chardonnays then for $18 this is one to try. However, if you prefer a crisp chardonnay, or one with more fruit, then you’d skip the Franciscan. While the pear and fruit notes are definitely present on the wine, I feel with even such a light oak aging of 8 months, the vanilla, butter, and oak takes center stage.  If you’re looking for a nice chardonnay food and wine pairing, this wine will pair nicely with a roast chicken and side dishes such as mashed potato or macaroni and cheese.