Thursday, October 1, 2020

Merlot: Varietal of the Month


After years of being maligned due to the preferences of a grumpy character in the movie Sideways, Merlot is back. Again. Merlot never went away really, it’s just been patiently waiting for you to rediscover it’s many charms.


Dark and inky in in the glass, with soft to medium tannins, Merlot remains one of the most popular grape varieties. Flavors range from strawberry, red berry, plum, cedar, tobacco to blackberry, plum, and black cherry. Merlot is one of the primary grapes used in Bordeaux wine, and it is the most widely planted grape in the Bordeaux wine regions.


Merlot pairs well with Italian fare and also great with roasted meats, grilled veggies and many tomato based dishes.


Cast 2016 Merlot Windsor Oaks Vineyard Chalk Hill  


The Cast 2016 Merlot, Windsor Oaks Vineyard, Chalk Hill is dark garnet in the glass with aromas of black cherry, chocolate and hint of cedar. Flavors of blackberry, mulberry and mocha predominate with good acidity and a velvety mouth feel. Each sip builds upon the last with a long lingering finish. Pair with hearty lamb stew or lamb kabobs.


Colagrossi 2016 Merlot RRV, Sonoma County 


The Colagrossi 2016 Merlot from Russian River Valley is a bit of a chameleon at first. The pale ruby color shows a tinge of gold about the edges. At first, bright fruit notes of pomegranate and tart cherry dominate the palate, then as it opens it glides gracefully into a plush crush of dark berry fruits with a top note of vanilla and a intriguing touch of sage. Nice structure and good acidity make this Merlot a great prospect for pairing with rich cheesy lasagna. 


DeLoach 2018 Merlot Heritage Reserve 


Dark purple in the glass, the De Loach 2018 Merlot Heritage Reserve floats like a cloud across the palate. Soft and supple it’s full of dark plum and blueberry jam flavors with grounding notes of vanilla and candied violets. Long finish, with an edge of bay leaf linger on the palate. Pair with charcuterie board of pate, rich cheeses, salami, and grilled vegetables.


Hook and Ladder 2015 Merlot Los Amigos Ranch, Chalk Hill


The Hook and Ladder 2015 Merlot, Los Amigos Ranch, Chalk Hill is a sight to behold in the glass with a dark purple glow. A rich scent of mocha, violets and vanilla prevails and sets the stage for an earthy blend rhubarb, tobacco leaf and tart cherry on the palate.

Nice medium body with a good balance of fruit and acid. Pair with juicy lamb burgers.


Pedroncelli 2017 Merlot Bench Vineyards Dry Creek Valley 


Dark garnet color in the glass, the Pedroncelli 2017 Merlot, Bench Vineyards, Dry Creek Valley has velvety smooth tannins and dark fruit flavors. The aroma is floral but spicy with scents of violets and rosebud with a note of thyme. Flavors of ripe sugarplum, tart cherry, blueberry, and cedar notes fill the palate with vanilla and graphite on the finish.  

Pair with pork roast and apple, sage, mushroom stuffing for a festive occasion.


Taft Street 2017 Merlot Alexander Valley, Sonoma County 


The Taft Street 2017 Merlot is red garnet in color with scents of dusty rose petals and anise. Tart red raspberry and red cherry flavors on the approach settle into deep grounding notes of cedar, tobacco leaf, turtle truffle and chocolate. Medium body with fruity finish and stalky tannins. Pair with roast chicken and stuffed mushrooms.


This post first appeared on Along the Wine Road Blog here

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Chardonnay: Varietal of the Month

Chardonnay is one of the world’s most planted white grapes. Its many styles, oaked and unoaked, make it a versatile choice for a variety of pairings. Chardonnay is typically full to medium in body and acidity with low to no tannins. From bold and rich, to lean and lithe it’s guaranteed you’ll find a Chardonnay to suit your palate.

Here are capsule reviews of Chardonnay’s you’ll find along the Wine Road.

On the nose the 2018 Bowman Chardonnay has an unmistakable scent of buttered popcorn that opens up to aromas of fresh baked bread, coconut and an intriguing chalky-peach note. Steady acidity carries the lush flavors of gooseberry, vanilla, apple, straw and tomato leaf to the finish. Pair with something rich such as a lobster risotto.

Focused and polished, the 2016 Chalk Hill Chardonnay is full-bodied and appealing on many levels from start to finish. Rich scents of vanilla, baked apples, and orange blossom lead seamlessly to a lush mouthful of creamy peach and caramelized pineapple. Beautiful balance of fruit and acid shapes this Chardonnay into an instant classic with good aging potential. Indulge with high-low pairing of potato chips and caviar with dollop of crème fraîche.

Bright yellow-gold in color, the 2015 Dutton Estate Kyndall’s Reserve Chardonnay is buoyant with aromas of lemon, peach and vanilla butter cream. Upon opening, the flavors continually shift and change, it’s like a DJ scratching a record back and forth and then—BOOM, the groove drops and everything falls in to place. Rich, full, and satisfying it offers a seamless connection between the fruit and acid with a medley of apple, bosc pear, and zesty lemon on the palate. Pair with crab cakes.

Straw pale yellow in color, the 2017 Gary Farrell Chardonnay, Russian River Valley is bursting with an intoxicating array of scents from citrus blossoms, jasmine and lilac to creamy white peach. Structured and balanced with great vibrancy, the initial flavors offer bright zesty lime and tropical notes, followed by a soft finish grounded with rich notes of piecrust and crème brulee. Pair with truffle popcorn! A classic deserves a classic.

I’ve always liked Chardonnay, but I do admit I’ve ignored its charms over the past few years. Recently my love for the grape was rekindled by this 2015 Jigar Chardonnay from Peters Vineyard in Russian River Valley. It’s a delightful balance of earthy dried apple and spicy carnation on the nose with a lift of lemon curd and creamy peach on the palate and a pop of acidity on the finish. Nice body with a touch of oak that minds it P’s and Q’s. It definitely punches up in its weight class.

In the glass the 2016 Paradise Ridge Chardonnay, Bazzano Vineyard, Russian River Valley glows pale yellow with a slight tinge of green at the edge. Bright, clean and lean the aromas are fresh and fruity bursting with green apple, a touch of lanolin and a lovely lingering white floral scent. White peach flavor predominates at the start, and then segues into honeydew with a light lime finish. Pair with a Croque Monsieur (grilled ham and cheese) or Croque Madame, which is essentially the same as Monsieur sandwich but with an egg sunny side up, on top.

Gosh this is a nice Chardonnay! Pale straw yellow in the glass, the 2018 Sbragia Chardonnay, Home Ranch Dry Creek Valley presents with butter and vanilla on the nose initially, then gives way to bright notes of lime and mandarin. Full bodied with creamy flavors of white peach, honey, citrus, green apple and tropical fruits make this a pleasant journey from start to finish. Enjoy on it’s own or break out the Brie and crackers for a simple pairing.

Lizzo would like this Juice! Bright, rich and plush, with texture in all the right places the 2017 Zialena Chardonnay exhibits the earmarks of a classic. It’s fresh and zesty with flavors of tropical citrus and ripe nectarine, and balanced with notes of toasty marshmallow and butterscotch. Pair with eggplant caponata. 
(Ya-ya-ee, ya-ya-ee….)

This post was first published on Along the Wine Road blog here:

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Follow Up Thoughts on the WMC Travel and Wine Writing Panel

Zephyr did a great job hosting a virtual online conference. But by not being in person, it was difficult to get a bead on the immediate needs of the audience by a quick “show of hands’ type poll to determine how to best tailor the content.

We never did mention that what our panel was really discussing-- wine tourism.
Wine + Travel = Wine Tourism. 

I think it’s important to think about your travel writing from wine tourism perspective because it will help focus your pitches and how you approach a story, be it for outside media or your blog. I actually have a Wine Tourism tab on my blog. Please Note—I have not updated this blog regularly (or at all really) in the last several years because paying work is my priority. Some posts are courtesy posts about trips for stories I could not place out.

One thing I wanted to say on the panel is it helps to know what your goals are. What do you want to achieve by adding travel content into your wine writing?

* Do you want to be published in high profile print media (National newspapers or glossy magazines) or online media?

* Are you looking to start a freelance career? Or transition into full-time freelance writing? (Spoiler alert: It’s not easy or profitable.)

* Do you just want to augment your wine blog with travel writing?

* Do you want wine samples and press trips?

You must know what you want before you can get it. I believe once you truly know what you want—nothing can stop you.

The Pursuit of a Published By-Line
Some people are obsessed with getting published because they think it gives them legitimacy. Yes, in many respects it does, but your work is worthy regardless of whether it is published or not. You don’t need anyone else to confer status upon you. Own it for yourself first.

I have travel writer friends who have “by-line fever” they just want to see their name in print. That’s their motivation. (The only place I want to see my name is on the check!)

Unfortunately “by-line fever” can lead to the dreaded “work for exposure” trap.  Meaning no pay, work for free. You may feel it’s a quick ramp up to publishing riches but it’s not. It just serves to drive down quality and pay rates across the board and hurts all writers. Don’t work for free or “per click” rates.  That’s what your blog is for!

Blogs are back again. I see more and more PR’s happy to see work published on blogs as they too are faced with the disruption and collapse of the traditional print industry as they try to get their message out.

Your voice and opinion is worthy and you will find an audience and attract notice if you bring a fresh perspective to the topic and inject it with your personality and sensibilities.
—Be yourself but have a point.
—Inform and entertain.

NOTE—do not publish anything on your blog that you think you might want to pitch out. If it’s been published, even on your blog, it will not be considered.
These days more and more work is assigned in house. So it’s difficult to pitch unless your story is newsworthy, you have a special knowledge in some way, or the pretty much guaranteed to be accepted—it’s about a celebrity and you have secured an interview.

To break in to print try pitching the personal page or the essay portion of the magazine.
Always read several issues of the periodical you are pitching to get a feel for the tone and style before you pitch.

Think beyond the standard glossy Wine and Travel periodicals —affinity group periodicals often have money and budget. Look to alternative print outlets in travel such as: 

—Airline magazines although these are budgets are shrinking and the wonderful Southwest Air magazine folded recently.

—Regional AAA publications.

—Lifestyle publications in which feature wine/travel content
            Golf, Boating, Etc.

—Professional Trade Organization Magazines
            Doctors, Dentists, Insurance, Realtors, etc.
The “I” in Travel Writing

In the panel discussion I said that historically there was no “I” in travel writing, but I think that’s no longer the case—what I meant is I do think it is acceptable to inject some of your personal experience into a story—but not at the expense of the subject matter. 

There are instances where you may be you the lynchpin or conduit through which the story or an element of the story is told or illuminated. This type of storytelling is normally only in the personal essay, although I see it happening more in other types of articles.

But I do agree with Per that the tedious regurgitation of a trip in the form of a travel diary entry such as —I did XXX, and then we went to XXX —is always to be avoided.

Editor Feedback and Improving Your Writing
Getting feedback from an editor on your work is valuable and important. But these days you may not get much more than a few minor changes.

Anthologies are a good way to break into travel writing and editors do spend considerable time with you to shape your story. It’s a great learning experience, you will get paid (usually just an honorarium $100 and a few copies of the book) but you are published and now have a good credit/example of your work.

There are many annual Travel Writing Anthologies that have open submissions throughout the year. Just Google calls for submissions. Unfortunately there are not really any Wine Writing Anthologies—but someone should get right on that! ;-)

I totally agree with Per that you must READ.
If you want to be a writer you must first be a reader.

Take a class or attend a writing conference. There is very little that you can learn in a one hour panel talk or workshop on writing. You really need to spend the time and money on qualified instruction.

Some Conference Examples:

Consider taking a local writing workshop or online travel writing class.

Final Thoughts

Wine or Travel Writing as a full-time career is not impossible—just improbable given the shrinking of outlets, reduced staff and continual pay cuts.

That being said —this pandemic will eventually end, and while the virus might linger forever, preventative methods and vaccines will allow for resumption of travel. But what remains to be seen is what the travel and wine tourism industry will look like—what will change, what will end and what new ideas and modes will emerge? What types of destinations will rebound first. What about the cruise industry—winemaker cruises have been popular in the past, how may that change?

As you consider what topics you want to write about, seek to observe and note what’s changing, what’s just beyond the topic, the story hidden within the story.

There’s a thing astronomers call averted vision—it’s how when you look at a star or bright object you need to look slightly away to the edge to see it clearly —and I think that’s the same technique you need to find a good story, be aware of what’s happening on the periphery.

Additional Resources:

Per Karlsson’s notes on the panel


Good luck!

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Pinot Noir --Varietal of the Month

Pinot Noir can be finicky and difficult to grow, but when the conditions are right it creates one of the world’s most popular wines. Here in Sonoma County, in the Russian River Valley and along the Sonoma Coast, we have some of world’s best vineyards and growing conditions for producing classic Pinot Noir of elegance and complexity.

Here are capsule reviews of Pinot Noir wines you may find along the Wine Road.

Balletto 2017 Pinot Noir Estate Grown RRV  
Oh yes, it has the unmistakable scent of Russian River Valley—loamy and earthy with complex notes of cigar box, dusty rose, black cherry, licorice and a whiff of bacon. Medium bodied with taut yet well-integrated tannins, the 2017 Balletto Pinot Noir Estate Grown RRV, is full of bright acidity with flavors of black cherry, cranberry, all spice and white pepper. A classic Pinot from a classic region.

D & L Carinalli Vineyards 2018 Estate Pinot Noir RRV
Light and floral this 2018 D & L Carinalli Vineyards Estate Pinot Noir from Russian River Valley opens with a distinct notes of sage and chamomile. The bright juicy red fruit flavors of raspberry and black cherry are tempered by a grounding undertone of vanilla and cedar that deliver great texture and knit into a bright yet silky finish. Elegant and structured it’s well suited for aging or enjoy now with friends from a distance or over Zoom.      

Furthermore 2015 Pinot Noir La Encantada Vineyard, Sta. Rita Hills
Pale garnet in color, the Furthermore 2015 Pinot Noir La Encantda Vineyard, Sta. Rita Hills opens with notes of baking spice, a hint of thyme and a floral scent of crushed rose petals. This Pinot hails from the central coast and is full of juicy black fruits, cherry and a touch of fig preserves with a long and lingering finish that floats softly on the palate. Good structure and balance make this age-worthy if you have the self-control not to drink it immediately.

Papapietro Perry 2016 Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast
This Papapietro 2016 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir is a little bit country and a little bit rock ‘n roll— and by that I mean it hits all the right notes to create a symphony of flavor. On the nose it displays classic notes of dark berry fruit, brambles and allspice. The rich flavors offer a back beat of juicy tart pomegranate, black cherry and licorice with great balance and racy acidity. Each sip takes you deeper into a concentrated melody of pure Pinot pleasure.

Sonoma-Cutrer 2016 Pinot Noir Vine Hill Vineyard Russian River Valley 
Bold and spicy this 2016 Sonoma-Cutrer Pinot Noir is grown in the famed loamy Goldridge soils of the Russian River Valley. Dark garnet in color it presents a rich and multifaceted flavor profile full of ripe raspberry, dark plum, and blackberry with a lift of earthy sage and notes of cinnamon and black pepper. Texture abounds with round firm tannins and juicy acidity that carries through the lengthy finish.

Woodenhead 2015 Pinot Noir RRV
This brilliant ruby red Woodenhead 2015 Pinot Noir RRV has a pretty nose of dusty lavender and sagebrush. The palate presents a dichotomy of flavors—from ripe sweet blueberry and raspberry jam notes to tart bright cherry, strawberry and rose hips. Then, just when you think you’ve got it pegged, it opens up with surprising savory notes of leather, juniper and clove. It’s a complex kid that strikes a balance of soft tannin and zesty acidity as it continually evolves in the glass. A boost of French oak gives it a round and toasty warm finish.

This post was first published on Along the Wine Road here.

Wine Road Podcast --Mercury WInes with Brad Beard


Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Zinfandel -- Varietal of the Month

It’s getting hot in here! So let’s open up all the Zin’s! Although Zinfandel originated in Croatia where it’s known as Tribidrag—the grape is embraced as All-American and has been grown and cultivated in California since the 1800’s. This medium-bodied dry red wine has a range of flavors that include raspberry, blueberry, red and black cherry, plum, tobacco, brambles, hickory and spice. Medium tannins make it a versatile food pairing wine, with flavors ranging from juicy and jammy to lean and elegant depending on climate.

Here are capsule reviews of Zinfandel wines you may find along the Wine Road.

ACORN 2016 Zinfandel Heritage Vines Alegría Vineyards, Russian River Valley  
ACORN has a long tradition making field bends, which consist of multiple varieties planted and harvested together. This lovely 2016 Heritage Vines Zinfandel from the Alegría Vineyards is 78% Zinfandel, 11% Alicante Bouschet, 9% Petite Sirah—and the remaining 2% is comprised of a mind-boggling array of Carignane, Trousseau, Sangiovese, Petit Bouschet, Negrette Plavac Mali, Syrah, Tannat, Muscat Noir, Peloursin, Cinsaut, Béclan, and Grenache. Wow! But can those minute percentages that comprise the remaining 2% really matter? I think so. The proof shows up on the palate in a graceful interplay of juicy raspberry, blackberry and spice, with soft diffuse tannins. Each sip delivers a new facet to savor with a light touch of white pepper and sassafras that deepens throughout the long, satisfying finish.

BACA Wines 2017 Zinfandel Tug O’ War, Maffei Vineyard, Russian River Valley
Baca is Latin for berry and there’s a whole lot of berry going on in this delicious Baca Wines 2017 Tug O’ War, Zinfandel. On the nose, an alluring bouquet of blackberry pie, crushed violets and sandalwood. Cool nights in the vineyard give this Zin a tremendous zip of acidity, with rich dark fruit flavors and savory notes of tobacco and cocoa. Structured and elegant, it’s a harmonic convergence of fruit, acid and tannin. A versatile food wine – it can pair with backyard BBQ ribs or rise to the occasion to complement an elegant Crown Rib Roast.

Christopher Creek 2016 Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley
Bold and balanced the 2016 Christopher Creek Zinfandel is a classic California example of the beloved grape. On the nose, a pretty bouquet of spicy carnation and blackberry jam with a touch of smokiness. On the palate bright juicy plum, raspberry jam, chocolate covered blueberries and white pepper. The close-knit tannins spread evenly over the palate with a hint of sweet tobacco on the finish. Pair with a spicy chicken curry or garlic shrimp scampi.

Harvest Moon Zinfandel 2016 Pitts Home Ranch Estate Zinfandel Russian River Valley
There’s something bewitching about the 2016 Harvest Moon, Pitts Home Ranch Estate Zinfandel. From the heady bouquet of wild berries, sweet briar and cigar leaf, to the deep flavors of Santa Rosa plum, black cherry and blackberry—it’s a primal scream of deliciousness grounded in rich fruit flavor. A trace of Rooibos weaves throughout the light tannins giving it lift and body. Sip on its own by the light of the moon, or pair with spicy scallion pancakes and chili soy sauce.

J.Rickards Winery 2017 Zinfandel, La Cosecha Three Valley Blend 
La Cosecha means “the Harvest” and the 2017 La Cosecha Three Valley blend from J.Rickards showcases the Zinfandel terrior from Sonoma Valley, Dry Creek Valley and Alexander Valley and imparts each valley’s unique characteristics to the wine. From brambly and spicy to lush and jammy, this Zin is a textbook example of balance. The bright fruit flavors are tempered with light spicy notes and the lean soft tannins offer a plush mouth feel that lingers long after each sip. Pair with a spicy curry dish or steak fajitas with diced jalapeños.

Martinelli  2017 Zinfandel, Giuseppe & Luisa Russian River Valley
The gorgeous label on the Martinelli, 2017, Giuseppe & Luisa Zinfandel contains a clue to the rich flavors inside the bottle. The deep sunset depicted on the label echo the fruit flavors of white peach, strawberry and bing cherry. The fruit hails from vineyards owned by Giuseppe & Luisa Martinelli, that originated in the 1800’s. The balance of fruit, acid and tannin give the Martinelli Zinfandel a classic structure and mouth feel characteristic of fruit from heritage vines. It’s the terroir beneath the wings of this Zinfandel that lift it up with punch and panache. Sip and savor with a charcuterie board of spicy salami.

Truett-Hurst 2016 Estate Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County
Complex and well structured, the Truett-Hurst 2016 estate Zinfandel is full of finesse and flavor. Aromas of black cherry, boysenberry, the soft perfume of plump Santa Rosa plums and salty licorice are an olfactory delight. Full fruity flavors of raspberry, blackberry and blueberry jam dominate the palate with light spicy notes of white pepper and toasty vanilla. Hearty yet diffuse tannins carry this wine to the finish line. Pair with a classic pepperoni pizza for a casual meal elevated by a classic wine.

This post was first published on Along the Wine Road here.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Rosé Along the Wine Road

Strawberries cherries and an angel’s kiss in spring
My summer wine is really made from all these things

Those are the opening lines to Nancy Sinatra’s song, Summer Wine written by Lee Hazlewood. And how apt the lyrics are in capturing the essence of Rosé. Fresh, bright, fruity and floral it’s the raison d’être for the #RoséAllDay movement. No longer a simple by-product of red wine making, today Rosé is made intentionally with fruit that is often sourced from vineyards dedicated solely to the varietal.

Here are capsule reviews of Rosé wines you may find along the Wine Road.

Alexander Valley Vineyards 2019 Rosé of Sangiovese, Sonoma County
A virtual love note to the category of Rosé, the 2019 Alexander Valley Rosé is a classic example of everything we love about drinking pink. Made from Sangiovese grapes grown exclusively for the purpose of making Rosé, it’s an homage to the farm fresh fruits of summer; full of bright strawberry, juicy watermelon and spicy spearmint with a light blush pink color. Satisfying and quenching, it’s full of acidity and minerality with a wonderful parchment dry finish. Pair with spicy tuna rolls or poke bowl.

Balletto 2018 Rosé of Pinot Noir Russian River Valley, Estate bottled, Sonoma County
Bright, balanced and beautiful the Balletto 2018 Rosé of Pinot Noir delivers a nosegay of floral notes with orange blossom, spicy carnation, and crushed violets and a fascinating vanilla scent of heliotrope. Full zing and zest with ripe peach and bing cherry floating upon tropical flavors of pineapple, guava, and key lime. Positively dreamy, it floats along on delicate clouds of soft tannin. Pair with roast chicken with spicy jambalaya rice.

Ektimo, 2018 Rosé of Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley , Sonoma
The lovely round and balanced Ektimo, 2018 Rosé of Pinot Noir opens with a bouquet of orange blossoms, ginger and rose petals. Pale golden rose in color, it leans towards citrus notes over red fruits, a characteristic usually found in Provençal style Rosé. On the palate you will find tropical notes of guava, kiwi and mango and a strawberry–lemonade through line that ends with a delicate but bright, dry finish. Crisp and versatile it allows for a variety of pairing options. Spicy duck tacos would be a worthy pairing.

Ferrari-Carano 2019, Dry Sangiovese Rosé, Sonoma County
Elegant and crowd-pleasing, Ferrari-Carano’s 2019, Dry Sangiovese Rosé is chock full of aromas of summer red fruits—strawberry, cherry, white peach and a floral note of hibiscus. The flavor profile is zippy and bracing with citrus notes of orange peel and lemongrass. Dry as parchment, with a long lingering finish, this wine will have you marveling at the complexity of flavor and simple pleasures of a well-made Rosé. Pair with crab cakes or your favorite goat cheese along with a salty prosciutto.

J. Rickards Winery 2019 Ava Rae Rosé of Grenache, Alexander Valley 
Salmon pink with flecks of gold, the Ava Rae Rosé of Grenache checks all the boxes for a standout example of the varietal. Crisp and zesty, it zips across the palate with tart tropical citrus notes, and a rich undertone of ripe watermelon and a distinct note of strawberry that reminds me of the Bonnie Bell Strawberry Lip Smacker that I adored in junior high school. Despite the old school sense memory, this Rosé is a thoroughly modern and sophisticated sip that is as soft and lovely as a first kiss. Pair with pork or chicken sliders.

Pedroncelli Rosé of Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley
Looking for a Rosé with a pedigree? Then cast your gaze upon Pedroncelli 2019 Rosé of Zinfandel. Pedroncelli has been making Rosé for over 60 years, and they have the style dialed in with this soft pink hued example that’s teeming with rich flavor and great body. The nose is like rose petal cotton candy with a strawberry-cherry vibe. The flavors are bright and juicy with notes of blood orange and sweet Bing cherry grounded with spicy notes of galangal and bergamot. Sharp and clean it’s the ultimate refresher on a hot summer day. Pair with a spicy gumbo or grilled shrimp in garlic sauce.

Zialena 2019 Rosé of Sangiovese, Sonoma County
This pale beauty made from Sangiovese is rose gold in color and opens with a rush of fresh fruit featuring white peach, Rainier cherry, the alluring scent of spicy carnation and an herbal note of thyme. Long and lively on the palate, the flavors are bright and brimming with wild strawberry, pomegranate, and Santa Rosa plum. The lingering, satisfying finish keeps the party going. Pair with Thai curry, charcuterie board, or BLT with spicy mayonnaise.

This post was first published on Along the Wine Road here.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Sangiovese --Varietal of the Month

Summer is the season of the grill and a great red wine for pairing with things from the BBQ is Sangiovese. Originating in Italy, Sangiovese derives its name from the Latin  —Sanguis Jovis— meaning “the blood of Jove”.

This medium-bodied dry red wine has a range of flavors that include red cherry, black plum, sun-dried tomato, cigar box, black tea, smoke, anise, and thyme. Great acidity and a nice level of spiciness typify it. Medium to high tannin make it a versatile wine, suitable for pairing with hard cheeses and rich savory types of meals such as roasted meats, pork chops and of course pizza.

Here are capsule reviews of Sangiovese wines you may find along the Wine Road.

ACORN 2016 Sangiovese Alegría Vineyards, Russian River Valley  
ACORN is known for its field blend wines, and the 2016 Sangiovese, Alegría Vineyards, is comprised of 98% Sangiovese, with 1% Canaiolo Nero, and 1% Mammalo Toscano. Fresh and vibrant with scents of spicy carnation and dusty rose petals. The palate is rich with red fruit flavors, specifically raspberry with a trace of dried strawberry, notes of mocha and baking spice, and a touch of cherry cola. Well structured and fully engaging, it has a medium body with sandy tannins and food-friendly acidity, an earmark of classic Chianti. It’s a sensory pleasure to enjoy with sausage pizza or perhaps a hearty smoked mushroom risotto.  

Lago di Merlo 2013 Sangiovese Dry Creek Valley
Balanced and bright the Lago di Merlo 2013 Sangiovese has a grainy yet soft tannin structure with juicy Bing cherry flavors along with dusty plum, mocha-coco, and an earthy porcini finish. The fruit flavors start out a bit muted then build quickly and open to their full potential. High acidity level allows for a variety of pairing options from roasted meats and saucy chicken dishes to aged hard cheese and charcuterie platters.

Peterson 2015 Sangiovese Dry Creek Valley 
The Peterson 2015 Sangiovese reminds me of my Italian grandparents table. Chianti was a mainstay of the Sunday meals where, as a child, I was given a taste of wine cut with water in a juice glass. The memory of those wines came back when I tasted this earthy and wily, classic style Sangiovese. It’s a complex equation of light dusty tannin and bouncy acidity. It’s wild at heart yet balanced in structure with flavors of marjoram, tomato leaf, deep dark fruits of plum and black cherry. A bit of tobacco leaf and leather on the finish meld beautifully with the fruit flavors. A rustic dish of peppers and sausage in tomato sauce or rosemary garlic roast chicken would make a fine complement.

Peterson 2015 Sangiovese, Il Granaio, Dry Creek Valley  
Mama Mia! This is one super duper “Super Tuscan”, blended with 75% Sangiovese, 13% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Merlot, and 6% Petit Verdot. It’s a virtual trip to the Tuscan countryside via the classic light sandy tannin structure, juicy flavors and lively acidity. Rustic, yet elegant with plush dusty fruit flavors of mulberry, blackberry, and dark cherry, and tertiary notes of tobacco, fig and coffee. Pair with hearty lasagna or eggplant parmigiana.

Zouzounis 2017 Sangiovese, Giannecchini Vineyards, Mendocino County 
Fruity and bright the Zouzounis 2017 Sangiovese has layers of red fruit flavor and a lean medium body. High spirited, with frisky tannins that are taught and spiky, a bit of time in the glass gives this wine a chance to relax and unfold revealing dark red currant, cranberry flavors with a touch of tomato leaf. The juicy acidity guides the secondary flavors of black cherry and cola through to a lush round finish.  Tomato and molasses-based BBQ sauces or tomato-based pasta dishes make for a fine pairing.

This post was first published on Along the Wine Road here.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Grenache --Varietal of the Month

 Grenache or Granacha as it’s known in Spain, is a medium bodied red wine with moderate acidity, and bright red fruit and strawberry flavors. The tannin structure can range from light and smooth to more pronounced and firm depending on the climate in which it is grown. Grenache is a wonderful and versatile varietal all on it’s own, but its claim to fame is its use as one of the fundamental grapes in the highly regarded French Rhone blend Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Below are capsule reviews of Grenache wines you may find along the Wine Road.

Amista 2016 Grenache, Dry Creek Valley, Morningsong Vineyard  
Exhibiting plum, leather, and licorice with dried strawberry on the nose, the Amista 2016 Grenache has a touch of ripe raspberry and fig on the palate with smooth lingering tannins. This Grenache shows tremendous balance with smooth medium tannins and a nice weight on the finish. I paired the Amista with an old school recipe for Chicken Marbella and it was marvelous complement to the dish, both savory and rich. An old school recipe with a new world wine made for a perfect pairing.

J. Rickards Winery 2018 Grenache, One Lone Row, Alexander Valley  
Rich and juicy the J.Rickards 2018 Grenache is full of black cherry, lavender, jam and allspice on the nose. It delivers a mouth-watering burst of cherry and blueberry, piecrust, and strawberry crumble on the palate with a sweet note of spun sugar on the finish. A delight on its own but I absolutely loved it with Eggplant Parmesan.

Meeker 2016 Grenache Hoskins Ranch, Dry Creek Valley  
Oh boy! This Meeker 2016 Grenache just could not stay in the glass very long! Each sip brought something new starting with bright strawberry and red grapefruit notes then deepening to flavors of blueberry pie, plum and licorice with mid-weight tannin structure. What to pair? I recommend strip steak fajitas with caramelized onions and peppers—it’s just the ticket to make this Grenache shine.

Mounts 2017 Grenache, Estate Grown, Dry Creek Valley
Simply gorgeous—the Mounts 2017 Grenache connects all the dots from tannin to acidity to balance and flavor. It’s a fully integrated and thoroughly delicious example of the grape with tart strawberry and rose on the nose and rich mouthful of pomegranate, ripe cheery and blueberry on the palate with pleasant long lasting tannins. I paired this with a tater tot casserole, which is essentially an old school Shepherd’s Pie, but with tater tots in lieu of mashed potatoes and it elevated the dish from simple and down home to upscale and stunning.

Quivira 2017 Grenache, Wine Creek Ranch, Dry Creek Valley
The Quivira 2017 Grenache is an enigma of tannin and acidity that will captivate you from the first sip. A rush of ripe red fruit with tart strawberry, grapefruit and orange peel aromatics on the nose. The tannins tap dance across the palate with flavors of pomegranate, maraschino cherry, all–spice and white pepper propelled forward by a rush of tart and energetic acidity. Something grounding and savory such as Figs wrapped in Prosciutto would pair quite well with this juicy Grenache.

This was first published on Along the Wine Road here.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Sauvignon Blanc--Varietal of the Month

Widely planted around the world, Sauvignon Blanc has an array of styles from lean and bright, to juicy and plush. Sauvignon Blanc typically offers great aromatics and flavors that range from zesty citrus, to tart apple, to creamy peach and lean nectarine. Best bets for paring are briny oysters, Thai food, crab cakes, and goat cheeses.

Here are capsule reviews of some of the many Sauvignon Blanc wines you may find along the Wine Road.

A. Toraño 2018 Sauvignon Blanc Kick Ranch Sonoma County
Lean and bright, with medium acidity and tart notes of lemon, lime and quince. This Sauvignon Blanc offers a bit of a riddle, a horse of a different color, with fine spiky tannins that ride into a long finish but with a surprising dollop of creaminess on the end. Satisfying and delicious, a wine equivalent of “Old Town Road”–catchy and memorable. Put it in rotation on your back porch now and all summer long.

Armida 2018 Sauvignon Blanc, Redwood Road Estate, Russian River Valley
Apple, pineapple and creamy notes of peach and guava are the leading flavors in this spicy beauty with a rush of floral aromatics on the nose and immense texture and brilliant acidity. Complex and captivating, pair with rosemary roasted chicken or garlic prawns.

Colagrossi 2018 Sauvignon Blanc, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County 
Pure sunshine and happiness, the Colagrossi Sauvignon Blanc is a classic example of bright citrus, pear and apple flavors and snappy acidity with a clean crisp finish. Nice balance and worthy of a great meal featuring Crab or Lobster. Or enjoy with a simple charcuterie place of spicy meats and goat cheese while relaxing on the deck with your people.

Dry Creek Vineyard 2018 Sauvignon Blanc, Dry Creek Valley
You can’t go wrong with this perennial favorite from Dry Creek Vineyards. Intensely aromatic and floral, this wine opens with big flavorful waves of pineapple, grapefruit and lime and delivers light creamy notes of peach, vanilla and guava on the finish. Elegant and full-bodied with a slightly plush mouth-feel, it’s suited to pairing with everything from light cheeses, to vegetable dishes like roasted tarragon carrots, or even pork chops.

Dutton Estate 2018 Sauvignon Blanc Kylie’s Cuvée
Alive with texture and flavor the pale gold with tint of green color hints at the flavors within. On the nose a bouquet of peach blossom, orange, lime, green bell pepper and touch of white pepper. The palate is full of bright acidity and a play of stone fruit and citrus. Round and balanced, pair with goat cheese and arugula salad or your favorite sushi roll.

Hanna 2018 Sauvignon Blanc Russian River Valley
Year after year Hanna delivers on the promise of an honest well-made example of the grape with an exciting melody of flavors including pink grapefruit, white peach, lychee, orange peel, lemon and lime and notes of galangal, which is a spice like ginger. It has a fleshy, rich mouth-feel, yet maintains a bright and zesty mineral finish.

Kelley & Young 2018 Sauvignon Blanc, Alexander Valley
Pretty, elegant and refined, this medium to full bodied Sauvignon Blanc is the epitome of genteel. Meaning it’s a delight in every way from pleasing aromatics of citrus blossoms and jasmine and to the plush full flavors of apricot, ripe peach, grapefruit, vanilla and a touch of ginger. Lovely long finish that is clean and bright. Pair with good friends and great conversation.

Longboard 2019 Sauvignon Blanc, Russian River Valley
Pale straw yellow with a slight tinge of green, the Longboard Sauvignon Blanc is lean in style but full of mouth puckering juicy citrus, plus notes of kiwi, peach, crisp Asian pear and fresh cut grass. Floral and herbaceous aromatics are a signal to what lies ahead on the palate. Makes for a wonderful breakfast wine paired with quiche! Really. Don’t judge. 😉

Peterson 2018 Sauvignon Blanc, Redwood Glen Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley
A varietal fever dream full of classic Sauvignon Blanc characteristics such as crisp green apple, Meyer lemon, and grapefruit along with a creamy lush line of guava, passion fruit and ripe peach.  There is a an ever so slight savory note of tomato leaf that gives this wine a refreshing lilt and lift from common place to singular with a brisk mineral finish.

Rodney Strong Vineyards 2018 Sauvignon Blanc, Charlotte’s Home, Sonoma County
Fresh aromatics with zesty crisp acidity and full of fleshy peach, passion fruit, quince and green melon. Grounded and balanced with clean, long finish. Classic and refreshing this Rodney Strong Sauvignon Blanc is the definition of Porch Pounder – which is just another way to say it’s eminently quaffable and thoroughly enjoyable. Oysters, with a jalapeño mignonette, would be just the ticket for a perfect pairing.

West Wines 2017 Sauvignon Blanc, Dry Creek Valley
Opens with a surprising soft floral nose exhibiting aromas of peach and ripe melon. On the palate the West Wines Sauvignon Blanc offers great minerality with bracing bright citrus notes of grapefruit, tangelo, and lemon. Great balance and structure –bring this to share at book club and after the first sip, I guarantee no one will be talking about the book!

Zialena 2017 Sauvignon Blanc, Redwood Ranch, Alexander Valley
Tart and full of minerality this classic style of Sauvignon Blanc offers a spring garden of floral aromatics featuring orange blossom, jasmine and bright lime. The initial flavors are lean and dry but quickly open to zesty notes of lemon, kiwi, and an intriguing hit of jalapeño! Perfect summer sipper paired with oysters or spicy Thai dishes.

This post was first published on Along the Wine Road here


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