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The full Ponty | A family winery tells all about selling in China

Villa Maria Bubbly Sauvignon Blanc – A Delicious Twist

Shipping Wine Across Provincial Borders with Dan Paszkowski, Canadian Vintners Association

Video Wine Chat with Christine Sismondo of the Globe and Mail

Wine Stories with Forbes Wine Columnist Katie Kelly Bell (Video)

Restaurant reviews: Hide, London


Loimer NV Brut Rosé: A Wow-Worthy Sparkling Wine from Austria

My Vine Spot

Hello Friends,I’m sure you’ve heard the saying: “While all Champagne sparkles, not all sparkling wine is Champagne.” The terms are often used interchangeably, but a sparkling wine can only be called Champagne if it comes from the Champagne region of France. And just about everyone, at least in my sipping circle, enjoys the heck out of a good bottle of Champagne. However, equally as satisfying and worthy—and oftentimes less expensive—are “traditional method” sparkling wines like this appealing Brut Rosé from Fred Loimer. Whether you see classic method, traditional method, méthode traditionelle, etc. on the label, these wines require that the bubbles be produced within bottle by a second fermentation in the same way as Champagne. While this method is more labor intensive, time-consuming and costly, it generally produces tiny, longer-lived bubbles and wines of high quality and complexity.Loimer NV Brut RoséThe Loimer Brute Rosé is bio-dynamically farmed with fruit sourced from two vineyards in Niederösterreich, Austria's largest quality-wine growing area. Winegrower Fred Loimer began practicing biodynamics 12 years ago and is a founding member of Respekt, a certifying body for biodynamic viticulture. Austria’s signature red grape, Zweigelt, plays a lead role in the blend—along with two of three traditional Champagne varieties: Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. I don’t have to tell you that Loimer crafts some very nice Riesling and Grüner Veltliner still wines (i.e., non-sparkling), but his traditional method Brute Rosé is one to put on your radar. Once you get it in your flute or preferred glassware, you’ll be happy you did!  For further information and where you can find this tasty bottle of bubbly, please check out my tasting notes below.Brighten your day with Loimer NV Brut Rosé!Loimer NV Brut Rosé (SRP $32): This sparkler pours a vibrant salmon-pink color with a persistent mousse and fine, tiny bubbles. Composed of 58% Zweigelt, 35% Pinot Noir and 7% Chardonnay, the nose delivers freshly picked summer red fruits. On the palate, there are flavors of cherry, strawberry shortcake, rose water, jasmine and a trace of brioche. It’s fresh and crisp, with balanced acidity wrapped in a light, creamy texture, ending in a medium-long, flavorful finish. This is a delicious traditional method sparkler on its own, and yet a wonderful companion to Sunday brunch fare, sushi, grilled prawns, pan-seared tuna and more. Region: Niederösterreich, Austria. Other info: ABV 12%, sur-lie aging, full ML, aged in barrel and stainless, aged 10 months before bottling and one year in bottle, cork enclosure. Click here to find this wine.

Nino Franco Summer Kir: A Refreshing Cocktail to try with Nino Franco Rustico Prosecco and Root 23

My Vine Spot

Hello Friends,Nino Franco is one of the quality pioneers of Italian Prosecco. The winery was founded in 1919 by Antonio Franco and is located in northeastern Italy in the prominent wine growing region of Valdobbiadene. Nino Franco’s Rustico label honors the historic name of the original method used to make Prosecco, which was second ferment in bottle. Pressurized vessels are used today in what is known as the Charmat method. This method lowers the cost considerably, so sparkling wine can enjoyed any time of year, not only during celebratory occasions and holidays.Beat the heat with this delicious, pretty cocktail! Classic cocktails such as the Mimosa and Bellini, which uses Prosecco and other sparkling wines, are delightful, but let’s kick it up a notch with something new and exciting. How does a flute or coupe of Nino Franco Summer Kir sound? You need only three ingredients: a bottle of Nino Franco Rustico NV Prosecco, cherry almond simple syrup from Root 23—a brand founded by two busy moms in Columbus, Ohio (who use only natural ingredients)—and maraschino cherries for garnish. Nino Franco Rustico NV ProseccoBesides being affordable—you can find Nino Franco Rustico NV Prosecco for under $20—this delicious summer thirst-quencher is easy to make. It’s so easy, even Dezel (or a caveman) can do it. Just pour a ½-ounce (1 tablespoon) of simple syrup in your flute or coupe, slowly add 5 ounces of chilled Nino Franco Rustico NV Prosecco, garnish with a cherry and enjoy!Root 23 Cherry Almond simple syrup The crisp and bright tree fruit flavors and floral notes in the Rustico marry well with the backdrop of juicy cherries and mild nuttiness found in the Root 23 simple syrup. This refreshing, eye-catching summer cocktail is sure to add some fun, laughter and sparkle to your next pool party, get-together or cookout. Nino Franco Rustico Prosecco is delicious on its own. Add friends, a cheese platter and enjoy!And let me be clear: while a good base for sparkling cocktails, Nino Franco Rustico NV Prosecco is also a rock-solid sparkler on its own and at your dinner table. Over the years, I’ve enjoyed this Italian sparkler with everything from a cheese and charcuterie platter to Asian dishes to seafood—with pan-fried calamari being a personal favorite. I hope you enjoy this wonderful cocktail as much as I do!

Iapetus 2016 Tectonic: A Delicious Skin-Contact La Crescent from Vermont

My Vine Spot

Hello Friends,Vermont may be one of the last states you think of for producing fine wine. However, for those with an open-mind and an adventurous palate, hidden gems await you. Despite seeing wines from only a handful of well-known states on most store shelves, today wine is produced in all fifty states. The trick is finding these wines. Social media provides an avenue to develop relations with small-scale wine producers you wouldn’t otherwise find in your local market.Iapetus 2016 TectonicDuring a recent virtual chat on #winestudio—an online education program on Twitter that happens every Tuesday at 9PM EST—I had the pleasure of meeting Ethan Joseph. Ethan is vineyard manager and head winemaker of Shelburne Vineyard in Shelburne, Vermont. We were introduced to Iapetus (pronounced ī-ˈa-pə-təs); a new sub-brand he developed that’s committed to sustainable farming and minimal intervention, allowing each bottle crafted to fully express its [Vermont] origins.“We decided to let it ferment on the skins and then we tasted it as the days passed. It has evolved substantially since those early days. I think I said ‘wow’ from the very beginning. I was pleasantly surprised.” ~ Ethan JosephIn a cool/cold climate region such as Vermont, name recognition and market demand does not have strong influence over what’s planted; Mother Nature does. For this reason, you may run across some cold-hardy hybrid varieties that you’ve never heard of. The term “hybrid” refers to a grape created by breeding two varieties from different species. In the right hands—and planted on the right land—hybrids can produce solid wines that would appeal to even the snobbiest of consumers (especially when tasted blind). According to Ethan, “It's important to recognize that our wines are made with hybrid varieties, but it’s equally important to look beyond that.”“A lot of the market has come to us, which is an ideal situation and we’re privileged to have it. In the case of the Tectonic, it is at a perfect intersection of the orange niche, an unknown appellation, and a damn good wine.” ~ Ethan JosephThis brings me to Iapetus 2016 Tectonic, a limited-production wine made from 100% La Crescent—a white hybrid grape bred to resist cold climates that was developed at the University of Minnesota and released to the market in 2002. This wine is macerated on the skins for fifty days. Whether you call it an orange, amber, or skin-contact wine, the style is essentially a white wine that’s made more like a red wine, where the grape skins impart color and other qualities to the wine. For Tectonic, Ethan said, “La Crescent seems to work quite well as a skin-ferment because it’s so aromatic, and those change quite a bit when the wine is dry.” Tectonic is dry, and certainly more of a cerebral wine than not. I find it appealing, and think you will too. For further information and where you can find it, please see my tasting notes below.“The ultimate goal is discovering styles and techniques that really allow for our region and varieties to express themselves—truly geocratic wines. (drops mic)” ~ Ethan JosephIapetus 2016 Tectonic (SRP $24): Named for the structural forces beneath our feet, this wine pours a cloudy peach color with an orange hue. Enticing aromas of citrus blossom and rose petal join flavors of honeydew melon and black tea on the palate. Noteworthy for its round mouthfeel and waxy texture, a spine of juicy acidity provides lift and freshness, ending with a satisfying, slightly bitter, pithy finish.  This is a very food-friendly wine that is also highly enjoyable on its own. It is best served at cellar temperature, where its charming personality is on full display. Only 132 cases of this wine were produced. Regions: Shelburne, Vermont and Charlotte, Vermont. Other info: ABV 14%, hand-harvested, 50 day maceration, aged sur lie for 8 months in neutral barrel/stainless steel, unfined and unfiltered, cork enclosure. Click here to find this wine.

#ChardonnayDay with Wines from America’s First Family of Chardonnay: Wente Vineyards

My Vine Spot

Hello friends,What better way to spend #ChardonnayDay than with wines from the family often dubbed “America’s First Family of Chardonnay”?  The story of Wente Vineyards began in 1883, when founder Carl H. Wente, a first-generation immigrant from Germany, bought 47 acres in Livermore Valley (just east of San Francisco). By 1912, his son Earnest had convinced him to import Chardonnay cuttings from the vine nursery at University of Montpellier in France. In 1936, Earnest and his brother Herman released the nation’s first varietally labeled Chardonnay. The original plantings would eventually become certified as the Wente Clone, and spread throughout myriad California vineyards. It is estimated that more than 80 percent of all California Chardonnay stems from the Wente clone. Today, Wente remains the oldest continuously running family-owned and-operated winery in the United States.The #ChardonnayDay lineup!Although Wente grows a number of grape varieties, make no mistake: Chardonnay is king. They make several styles of Chardonnay, ranging from crisp and unoaked, to rich, robust, and oak-aged. I can tell you from experience that all are well-crafted, and all of their wines are estate-grown. I’ve tasted through Wente’s current releases, including a special 135th Anniversary wine, and they’re what I’ve come to expect: pleasant, expressive, well-balanced wines that demonstrate the diversity of the Chardonnay grape. For further information and where you can find these wines, please see my tasting notes below.  Wente 2017 Eric’s Small Lot ChardonnayWente 2017 Eric’s Small Lot Chardonnay (SRP $30): As barrel aging became the template for many California Chardonnays, fourth generation wine-grower, Eric Wente, wanted to keep his preferred style in the family portfolio. When his son Karl Wente became the winemaker, Eric got his wish and very own label.  In the mouth, this Chardonnay is light, sleek and racy, with notable purity and freshness. There’s profound apple fruitiness and crisp acidity, closing with a nice, refreshing citrus-tinged finish. This is an uplifting and wonderfully food-friendly example of Chardonnay. Region: Livermore Valley, California. Other info: ABV 13.5%, hand-harvested, certified sustainable, made in 100% stainless steel, cork enclosure. Click here to find this wine.Wente 2016 Morning Fog Estate-Grown ChardonnayWente 2016 Morning Fog Estate-Grown Chardonnay (SRP $18):  Year in and year out, this is one of the top values in California Chardonnay. It delivers bright flavors of orchard fruit, melon, and a whisper of toasted vanilla on the back end. A beam of food-friendly acidity keeps it fresh throughout. This Chardonnay bridges the gap between clean and fresh, and rounder, oak-aged styles. I can regularly find it for $12 at shops in my area, which really sweetens the deal. Region: Livermore Valley, California. Other info: ABV 13.5%, fermented in 50% neutral American oak barrels and 50% stainless steel tanks, barrel portion aged sur lie for 5 months, cork enclosure. Click here to find this wine.Wente 2016 Riva Ranch ChardonnayWente 2016 Riva Ranch Chardonnay (SRP $22): Arroyo Seco is a sub-appellation of the Monterey AVA that enjoys a cool climate and long growing season. The Wente family has grown grapes in this region since the 1960s, and source fruit exclusively from their Riva Ranch vineyard for this wine. Made in a rich, layered style, this wine features tiers of flavors suggestive of grilled pineapple, apple tart, spiced pear, and toasted vanilla notes, framed with ample acidity. It is full-bodied, with a spicy, textured finish.  A splash of Gewürztraminer, which is also planted at Riva Ranch, is added for good measure. This is a rock solid, well-made Chardonnay for the money. Region: Arroyo Seco, Monterey County, California. Other info: ABV 14.5%, barrel fermented 90% in combo of 60% new and 40% second-use French and American oak barrels, 10% in stainless steel, 100% ML, barrel aged sur lie for 8 months, cork enclosure. Click here to find this wine.Wente 2016 135th Anniversary Celebratory ChardonnayWente 2016 135th Anniversary Celebratory Chardonnay (SRP $40): Released in 2018, the year is a milestone for the Wente family, marking their 135th anniversary in the wine business. This limited edition bottling is sourced from estate vineyards in Livermore Valley and Arroyo Seco. It features fresh flavors of zesty tree fruit and tangerine notes, complicated by a dollop of vanilla and leesy notes. It is medium-bodied and nicely textured, with a lively, tangy acidity that gives it a refreshing character. With fine depth of flavor and a satisfying, lingering finish, this is a delightful sipper. Approximately 1,000 cases of this wine were produced. Region: Central Coast, California. Other info: ABV 13.8%, matured for 16 months in combo new/neutral American and French oak, with 20% fermented in stainless steel, cork enclosure. Click here to find this wine.Wente 2016 Nth Degree ChardonnayWente 2016 Nth Degree Chardonnay (SRP $70): This Nth Degree wines are part of Wente’s small-lot program. These wines are handcrafted and of limited production, made to reflect the unique character of the site at which they are grown. A product of an excellent vintage year, this Chardonnay exhibits intensity, good depth of flavor, and concentration, without being overly weighty. Its round, creamy texture is led by full flavors of lemon curd, crème brûlée, and baked pie crust, along with hints of almond butter. Well-placed acidity lifts the richness and provides balance. This is an appealing Chardonnay that is a pleasure to sip. Region: Livermore Valley, California. Other info: ABV 14.1%, barrel fermented 3 weeks, 100% ML in new French and neutral French oak barrels, aged sur lie 14 months in same barrels, cork enclosure. Click here to find this wine.Named for the morning fog that rolls into the vineyard from the San Francisco Bay, year in and year out Wente Vineyards Morning Fog Chardonnay is one of the top values in California Chardonnay. I enjoyed it with crab cakes and black bean & corn salad.

A Trio of Fun & Affordable Warm-Weather Wines: Segura Viudas, Nik Weis Selection, and Adegas Galegas

My Vine Spot

Hello Friends,Just about every day, as wine o'clock approaches, you can find me uncorking or unscrewing a new adventure. Being a wine enthusiast, a wine writer, and someone who appreciates the liquid expression of place, a person’s vision, and Mother Nature’s influence, I find wine to be one of the most intriguing beverages out there. The world of wine offers endless opportunities to learn and taste new things.The wines featured for this post, two from Spain and one from Germany, are easy-drinking, refreshing wines that perfectly match the warm weather season. They are also reasonably priced and very satisfying. I hope you will seek out all three, and share them with friends over a good meal. Tapas would be ideal, hint-hint. For further information and where you can find these wines, please see my tasting notes below.Segura Viudas NV Brut Rosé Segura Viudas NV Brut Rosé (SRP $10): This brut rosé from the Cava region of Spain is satisfying and refreshing. It is composed of 90% Trepat, a native variety, and 10% Garnacha. In the mouth, it’s lively and pleasing, with bright red berry fruit flavors joined by rhubarb and zesty citrus notes, closing with a somewhat creamy finish. This wine is fun, accessible, and offers excellent value for the money. Jeff Siegel, a nationally known wine writer who writes the Wine Curmudgeon, says this brut rosé is “perhaps the greatest cheap sparkling wine available today,” adding that it’s “always a value and well done.” Region: Cava, Catalonia, Spain. Other info: ABV 12%, cork enclosure. Click here to find this wine.Nik Weis Selection 2017 Urban Riesling Nik Weis Selection 2017 Urban Riesling (SRP $15): If you’re looking for a versatile, affordable, and satisfying Riesling, this is your bottle. Urban is the second label from Nik Weis, winemaker and third generation owner of St. Urbans-Hof in Mosel Valley, Germany. This wine is light-bodied and fresh, with bright flavors and aromatics of orange blossom, citrus pith, shy stone fruit, and underlying hints of wet rocks. There’s great balance between sweetness and acidity. Enjoy this bottle with good company and good food—especially spicy Asian cuisine. Region: Mosel, Germany. Other info: ABV 10%, screw cap enclosure. Click here to find this wine.Adegas Galegas 2016 D. Pedro Albariño Adegas Galegas 2016 D. Pedro Albariño (SRP $19): This attractive label pays tribute to Pedro Madruga, a noble warrior and feudal knight who lived in Galicia (northwest Spain) at the end of the 15th century—and who will forever be a part of the region’s culture and history. The wine is light, bright, and refreshing, with crisp acidity supporting vibrant flavors of orchard fruit and spring flowers, intermixed with a welcoming dash of sea air and sweet citrus notes on the finish. Serve chilled, and enjoy with seafood or light pasta dishes. It’s also a delightful sipper on its own. Region: Rias Baixas, Galicia, Spain. Other info: ABV 13%, screw cap enclosure. Click here to find this wine.The three wines reviewed will pair wonderfully with tapas dishes—especially small bites that pack a little heat, or those that are fried—like calamares fritos or empanadas.

Chicken with Prunes and Chiles, paired with Pedroncelli Winery Springtime Sips!

My Vine Spot

Hello Friends,Getting together with friends online for virtual cooking and wine tasting is always a blast. And no one does it better than the good folks at Pedroncelli Winery. They totally rocked a chicken dish that called for chile peppers and prunes (yes, I said prunes) as key ingredients. Initially, I found the duo interesting, if not odd; I thought the flavors would surely collide. Boy, was I wrong! The dish was delightful and I’ve already made it a second time. The recipe turned out great. I grilled my chicken on a pellet smoker. Not pictured are the bed of cauliflower rice, house salad, and a generous spoonful of sauce over the bird.  This thoughtful dish came with a dash of history about the wrinkly fruit featured in the recipe. As Vice President of Sales and Marketing Ed St. John said, “prunes replaced grapes because prohibition ended wine for a while.” Ed went on to add that “Dry Creek Valley was once proud to be called ‘The Buckle of the Prune Belt’. After prohibition, which lasted from 1920 to 1933, it was decades before wine grapes made a comeback in the 1970s. But as the California wine industry matured and gained global respect and credibility, vineyards throughout the state flourished and never let up. Pedroncelli Winery was founded during prohibition in 1927. To get by, the family farmed wine grapes which were later sold to home winemakers. They were one of a few producers to remain intact after the repeal of prohibition in 1933.  Still family owned and operated, Pedroncelli just last year celebrated its 90th anniversary in the wine business and farming in Sonoma County’s Dry Creek Valley. The winery offers rock-solid quality for the money year in and year out and should be on your wine radar.The two wines below, both under $20 each, paired wonderfully with the Chicken with Prunes and Chiles dish. You can find the recipe here on Pedroncelli Winery’s website. If you’re in a cooking and sipping mood this warm weather season—and I know you will be—try your hand at the dish and enjoy the wines reviewed below. Trust me, you’ll be happy you did and so will those you invite over! Pedroncelli 2017 Friends WhitePedroncelli 2017 Friends White (SRP $13): This is a delightful, food-friendly refresher to welcome the warmer months. It’s a great choice for picnics, the porch or patio, cookouts, and more. A blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Gewürztraminer, this wine is highly aromatic, showcasing inviting notes of bright citrus fruit, lemongrass, and lovely floral tones. The aromas extend to the palate, sharing the floor with a lively, dancing acidity. There’s a smidgen of sweet fruitiness that will partner well with moderately spicy ethnic cuisine. Overall, a real crowd pleaser that’s tasty, satisfying, and affordable. Region: Sonoma County, California. Other info: ABV 13.6%, screw cap enclosure. Click here to find this wine.Pedroncelli 2017 Dry Rosé of ZinfandelPedroncelli 2017 Dry Rosé of Zinfandel (SRP $17): The winery has made this rosé for a remarkable 64 vintages. It’s produced from 100% estate Zinfandel fruit, picked with the sole purpose of crafting a dry, crisp rosé. Expect freshness, juiciness, and savory qualities in the glass. It’s brimming with bright summer red berry fruit, citrus blossom, and a dab of peppery spice on the back end, with an insistent pop of acidity throughout.  It has just enough oomph to stand up to a wide range of foods. This rosé is a personal favorite of mine while grilling, and later with a plate of barbeque and all the fixings. Region: Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County, California. Other info: ABV 13.8%, screw cap enclosure. Click here to find this wine.

#MalbecWorldDay: A Quintet of Delicious Malbecs from Familia Schroeder, Susana Balbo, Domaine Bousquet, Flechas de los Andes, and Alta Vista

My Vine Spot

Hello Friends,I recently had an opportunity to join a wine-savvy group of social media personalities and the good folks from Wines of Argentina to taste several choices before Malbec World Day on April 17, 2018. Known on social platforms as [hashtag] #MalbecWorldDay, the day commemorates President Domingo Faustino Sarmiento’s founding of the country’s first school of agriculture in Mendoza. Even though Argentina is considered a ‘New World’ wine region, this founding was on April 17, 1853. Early research efforts at the school led to the discovery of Malbec, and amongst a number of other French varieties, the grape showed promise and was well-adapted to the region. Once a key component in French Bordeaux blends, today Malbec is Argentina’s shining star.#MalbecWorldDay Tasting Lineup The grape thrives in the region; particularly in the high-altitude areas that offer ideal growing conditions. The wines produced are among the most versatile and food-friendliest out there. They are generally deliciously approachable while young, with deep berry fruit flavors and supple tannins. Appealing nuances of spice, floral suggestions, and rustic notes can add complexity. For me, Malbec has become a go-to red meat wine. I recently visited a gourmet burger shop in the city that has Malbec on tap—not only a smart move but an excellent food pairing, too. And I should know. I love to grill out back; and a juicy burger and rock-solid bottle of Malbec is simply awesome. Here are several Malbec wines I recently tasted that were satisfying and quite enjoyable. Buy with confidence. For further information and where you can find these wines, please see my tasting notes below.Familia Schroeder 2017 Alpataco MalbecFamilia Schroeder 2017 Alpataco Malbec (SRP $14): Named after an indigenous thorny bush (Alpataco) that embodies the spirit of resiliency, this wine is medium-bodied, streamlined, and well-balanced. It offers fresh red berry fruit flavors accented by violets and a dash of white pepper. Along with relaxed, supple tannins and sound acidity, this is a satisfying everyday red that won’t break the bank. I found it enjoyable on its own and with a grilled lamb burger. Region: Patagonia, Argentina. Other info: ABV 13.5%, 100% matured in stainless tanks, screw cap enclosure. Click here to find this wine.Susana Balbo 2015 Malbec SignatureSusana Balbo 2015 Malbec Signature (SRP $19): This is an affordable and incredibly delicious Malbec from iconic female winemaker Susana Balbo. The fruit is grown in the Finca La Delfina vineyard in Mendoza’s Uco Valley—at an altitude of 4,100 feet. The most expressive barrels make it into the signature series wines. This wine pours a deep opaque color. An inviting bouquet gives way to rich dark fruit flavors and raspberry preserve, joined by earth tones, fennel, and pretty floral notes. It is full-bodied and round in the mouth, with balanced acids and a medium-long, polished finish. A splash of Petit Verdot is added for good measure. With warm weather ahead, this should be your go-to wine for backyard grilling and outdoor dinner parties. Region: Uco Valley, Argentina. Other info: ABV 14.4%, matured 13 months in 30% new French oak barrels and 70% second-use French oak barrels, natural cork enclosure. Click here to find this wine.Domaine Bousquet 2015 Grande Reserve MalbecDomaine Bousquet 2015 Grande Reserve Malbec (SRP $24): This is Domaine Bousquet’s signature high-altitude Malbec. It is made from fruit sourced from their pioneering vineyard that was planted in the 1990s. This full-bodied wine pours a deep ruby color with purple tones. Firm, integrated tannins frame wild blackberries, black currant and licorice flavors swirled with a dash of smoky char and earthy tones. Balanced yet robust, this wine begs for something like a well-marbled steak. I call it a “go big or go home” kind of wine you’re sure to enjoy. Region: Tupungato, Argentina. Other info: ABV 14.5%, additions of 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Merlot, and 5% Syrah, matured 12 months in French oak barrels, natural cork enclosure. Click here to find this wine.Flechas de los Andes 2012 Gran CorteFlechas de los Andes 2012 Gran Corte (SRP $45): This wine is the result of a partnership between Baron Edmond de Rothschild and Laurent Dassault. The fruit is sourced from a high-elevation site at the foot of the Andes that was planted in 1999. Composed of 60% Malbec and equal parts Cabernet Franc and Syrah, this appealing blend is notable for its concentration and length of fruit. Rich flavors of blackberry, plum, and cassis are robust, with well-integrated oak and firm acid structure. Notes of vanilla bean and toasted spices add nuance and carry through the long, grip-filled finish. Quite a pleasure to sip, this wine can be enjoyed now or cellared; there is a good amount of potential. Region: Mendoza, Argentina. Other info: ABV 14.5%, matured 24 months in new French oak barrels, natural cork enclosure. Click here to find this wine.Alta Vista 2012 Alizarine Malbec Alta Vista 2012 Alizarine Malbec (SRP $50): Situated at an elevation of 3,540 feet, the Alizarine is one of the choice vineyard areas in Mendoza. This single-vineyard bottling was introduced in 2001, making Alta Vista the first Argentinian winery to produce a single-vineyard wine. The winery owns old sites, some with vines dating to 1927. This wine pours a deep purple color. There are penetrating flavors of plum sauce, berry compote and floral perfume, intertwined with suggestions of cocoa powder and incense. In the mouth, it is richly textured with integrated tannins and ripe fruit flavors that gain on the long, fruit-driven finish. Power, purity, and concentration are balanced by a juicy, robust acidity in this first-rate wine. Region: Mendoza, Argentina. Other info: ABV 15%, matured 12 months in French oak barrels, natural cork enclosure. Click here to find this wine.Fire up the grill! Malbec is one of the top picks to welcome warmer temperatures and the grilling season.

Smith Story Wine Cellars: A Story of True Love, Delicious Wines, and a Handsome Goldendoodle

My Vine Spot

Hello Friends,I recently had the opportunity to take part in the first Charles Communications Brandlive virtual event of 2018, and what great fun it was. The live broadcast featured Smith Story Wine Cellars, along with a tasting of several of their recent releases from Sonoma County, California. The story of Smith Story Wine Cellars—a true love story—goes back some 15 years when Ali Smith and Eric Story met while working at K&L Wine Merchants. Ali was a marketing manager, hence her early adoption and use of social media, especially Twitter. Eric was one of the leading buyers for German, Loire Valley, Alsace, Austrian, and Greek wine.A particularly fortuitous trip to the Anderson Valley, “way back when,” as Ali says, sowed the seeds of a dream that would one day become reality. She and Eric got engaged in 2012, and then eloped to Hawaii the following year. A day after saying “I do,” they poured more than 30 years of combined experience into their own brand, establishing Smith Story Wine Cellars in 2013. However, there was one small problem—decoupling the romantic vision of producing their own wines from financial realities. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying: How do you make a small fortune in the winery business? You start with a large fortune! Smith Story Wine Cellars 2016 Sauvignon BlancLarge fortune? No problem—the Story’s sought to make wine on a limited budget without sacrificing quality. To secure funds for start-up costs and fruit for their first vintage, Ali turned to social media and launched a “Farmers First” campaign on Kickstarter. After paying the grape-growers they were working with, they quickly reached their goal, becoming the first crowd-funded winery in the US.I’m a fan of Smith Story’s handsome winery dog, Lord Sandwich. Check out his site at socksforsandwich.org. His loves for socks led to a great cause that you will want to be a part of! I’ll be remiss if I don’t mention Lord Sandwich, a handsome Goldendoodle whose love for socks led to a charitable cause and made him one of the top four-legged celebrities on social media. His popularity surely gave the aforementioned campaign a dog-sized boost! This is a winery I highly recommend putting on your radar. Ali and Eric source high-quality fruit from family-owned vineyards to craft appealing, limited-production wines worthy of your attention, dinner table, and cellar. The three wines reviewed below have freshness, airiness, and exceptional purity that I’m sure you’ll be more than pleased with. For further information and where you can find these wines, please see my tasting notes below."Wine is our life, we are honored to now jump into the creative process of producing wines after decades of learning and selling wine for others. It is our hope that you invest in our story, fall in love with the wines and help us spread the joy of Smith Story Wine Cellars, we are humbled by this opportunity to follow our passion."  - Eric and Ali Smith Story Wine Cellars 2016 Sauvignon Blanc (SRP $25): Few wines capture springtime in the bottle like Sauvignon Blanc. And this is the Sauvignon Blanc you want to open during the warm months, be it poolside, on the patio, at a picnic, at the dinner table, or at a backyard get-together with family and friends. It is crisp and clean, with mouthwatering acidity propelling zesty citrus and white pitted fruit flavors. There’s a touch of lemongrass, rounded out by a wet stone-like mineral quality that lingers on the finish. A well-crafted wine that is notable for its vibrant purity of fruit, fresh character, and lovely but racy texture. This wine sells out quickly, so be sure to get yours soon. You won’t be disappointed! Only 775 cases of this wine were produced. Region: Sonoma County, California. Other info: ABV 13.9%, fermented and aged for 6 months in stainless steel tanks, sourced from Knights Valley and Sonoma Mountain vineyards, natural cork enclosure. Click here to find this wine.Smith Story Wine Cellars 2015 Cabernet FrancSmith Story Wine Cellars 2015 Cabernet Franc (SRP $40):  This is one of the most restrained examples of Cabernet Franc I’ve tasted from California. There's an elegance and freshness to it that’s quite inviting. Bright ruby in color, there are aromas and flavors of red berry fruits, a nip of savory herbs and spice, graphite, and shy, pretty floral notes. In the mouth it is medium-bodied and well-balanced, with streamlined texture, fine grained tannins, and a firm acidity, leaving a clean, polished finish. This is a wonderful solitary sipper and table wine. Only 200 cases of this wine were produced. Region: Sonoma County, California. Other info: ABV 14.5%, matured 20 months in second and third-use French oak barrels, natural cork enclosure. Click here to find this wine.Smith Story Wine Cellars 2015 Thorn Ridge Pinot NoirSmith Story Wine Cellars 2015 Thorn Ridge Pinot Noir (SRP $80): This is a single-vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir made from fruit sourced from The Klopp Family. Their Thorn Ridge vineyard is the fruit source for some of the top Pinot Noir out there. This light ruby-colored example packs pleasing aromas and juicy flavors of raspberry, pomegranate, and wild berry fruits, nicely accented by floral perfume, tea leaves, and exotic spice. A wine that’s just an overall pleasure to sip, it is sleek, harmonious, and supple in texture, with plenty of verve and freshness. It is very drinkable now, but a worthy cellar candidate, too. Only 100 cases of this wine were produced. Region: Sonoma Coast, California. Other info: ABV 13.5%, matured 16 months in second-and third-use French oak barrels—of which 25% were new,—natural cork enclosure. Click here to find this wine.

Quick Sip: A Delicious Trio of Red, White & Sparkling with Addendum Wines, Bonterra, and Casa Valduga

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Hello Friends,Just about every day, as wine o'clock approaches, you can find me uncorking or unscrewing a new adventure. Being a wine enthusiast, a wine writer, and someone who appreciates the liquid expression of place, a person’s vision, and Mother Nature’s influence, I find wine to be one of the most intriguing beverages out there. The world of wine offers endless opportunities to learn and taste new things.The wines featured in this post are all worthy of your attention and dinner table, and they are sure to make that special occasion even more memorable. But if you’re like me, don’t wait for a special occasion; make today that special occasion. You can start by popping the cork and enjoying one of these delicious wines any time you like. Good friends and food are optional—but are highly recommended. For further information and where you can find these wines, please see my tasting notes below.Addendum 2014 Skellenger Lane Cabernet SauvignonAddendum 2014 Skellenger Lane Cabernet Sauvignon (SRP $95): Addendum is an exciting new portfolio launched by renowned Santa Barbara producer Fess Parker Winery & Vineyard. The Addendum label focuses on small batches of Cabernet Sauvignon, sourced from some of the top sites in Napa Valley. This full-bodied example hails from the Rutherford appellation. It is deep purple in color, with layers of complexities: cedar box, spice cake, toasted pastry, vanilla bean, and a hint of mint—surround a rich core of ripe dark berry and purple stone fruit flavors. There is good depth and structural intensity, anchored by dusty tannins that gain traction on the long, textured finish. This is a serious wine that is a pleasure to sip. It is also a good cellar candidate to enjoy over the next decade. Approximately 116 cases of this wine were produced. Region: Rutherford, Napa Valley, California. Other info: ABV 14.9%, matured 28 months in 100% French oak barrels [all new], natural cork enclosure. Click here to find this wine.Bonterra 2015 The Roost Blue Heron Vineyard ChardonnayBonterra 2015 The Roost Blue Heron Vineyard Chardonnay (SRP $40): This Chardonnay is made from biodynamic grapes sourced from Bonterra’s Blue Heron vineyard in Mendocino County, California. If you are a member of the Anything But Chardonnay (ABC) club, this wine just may be your ticket out. Notable for its lovely texture, there are flavors of lemon curd, caramel apple, pear tart, and baking spice, framed by notes of toasted oak. In the mouth, it is well-rounded with zesty acidity, providing balance and lift. I enjoyed it on its own and with a delicious bowl of butternut squash soup. Region: Mendocino County, California. Other info: ABV 14.3%, matured in French oak barrels, natural cork enclosure. Click here to find this wine.Casa Valduga NV 130 Brut (SRP $32): Brazil is gaining recognition for its sparkling wines, and examples like this make it is easy to see why. The story of Casa Valduga began in 1875, when the first Italian immigrant from the Valduga family arrived in Brazil and planted a vineyard. Today, the family’s fourth generation runs the estate. This sparkler is made in the traditional method. It is 100% estate-grown, and composed of 70% Chardonnay and 30% Pinot Noir. Pale straw in color, it has a persistent, creamy mousse of bubbles, with notes of dried stone fruit and bruised apple, followed by white flowers and an appealing brioche character. Add a little pop to your next impromptu get-together with this lively Brazilian sparkler! Region: Vale dos Vinhedos, Brazil. Other info: ABV 12%, natural cork enclosure. Click here to find this wine.

Tomasello 2013 Palmaris Outer Coastal Plain Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve: A Garden State Cabernet Worthy of Consideration

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Hello Friends,I closed out 2017 with a number of really nice wines from the Garden State. One of those wines was Palmaris 2013 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon from Tomasello Winery. Tomasello is located in Hammonton, New Jersey, situated halfway between Philadelphia and Atlantic City.The story of Tomasello Winery begins in December of 1933, when prohibition was repealed. Noted fruit grower, Frank Tomasello, jumped in his truck and drove through a snow storm to get to Washington DC, where he obtained the 68th bonded winery license after prohibition. Today, the winery is owned and operated by third-and fourth-generation family members—led by third generation winegrowers Jack and Charlie Tomasello.Palmaris is Latin for “Prize Worthy.” It is the Reserve-line of Tomasello wines, made only in years of exceptional quality and character, and only from 100% Outer Coastal Plain fruit. The Outer Coastal Plain AVA is situated in southern New Jersey, and is where the family has 70-acres under vine. I pay attention to vintage, and can tell you, from east-coast to west, 2013 provided growers an excellent opportunity to harvest high-quality fruit. This Cabernet Sauvignon is reflective of those optimal conditions, enjoying a versatile appeal that makes it a great addition to the dinner table. It is one I recommend, as I have been impressed with a number of wines coming out of the Outer Coastal Plain appellation. This AVA flies under the radar of most wine lovers, but some very compelling wines are being grown here that are worthy of your consideration. For further information, and where you can find this wine, please check out my tasting notes below."Truly great wines require something more, something our family has cultivated alongside our 70-acres of premium varietals since 1933—Hard work and Passion. ~ Tomasello Winery Tomasello 2013 Palmaris Outer Coastal Plain Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve (SRP $40): Composed of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Petit Verdot, and 5% Cabernet Franc, this wine is packed with lifted flavors of mixed berry fruits graced by hints of sweet pipe tobacco, some savory herb and spice complexities, and a tinge of new leather. Crafted with your dinner table in mind, this wine is medium-bodied and supple in texture, with fine-grained tannins lending grip on the medium-long pleasing finish. Well-placed acidity ties everything together, giving this wine a welcoming sense of freshness. This wine is still in its youth and will benefit from a short period of time (30-45 minutes) in your favorite decanter. The rear label best wraps it up: “We hope that you will enjoy this fine wine with a fine meal and in the company of good friends.” I wholeheartedly agree and followed the advice myself. Region: Outer Coastal Plain, New Jersey. Other info: ABV 13.6%, matured in a combination of French and American oak for 28 months, natural cork enclosure. Click here to find this wine.

Unionville Vineyards 2013 Pheasant Hill Syrah: Estate-Grown Deliciousness ‘Straight Outta New Jersey’

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Hello Friends,All 50 states in the U.S. grow and produce wine. This fact is often lost on the average consumer, even one who regularly sips wine. Oftentimes, due to small production and limited distribution, wines coming out of lesser-known wine regions become well-kept secrets among locals and wine savvy tourists. Over the years, I’ve sought out hidden gems throughout the United States of Wine. I can easily name stellar producers in almost every state who fly under the radar but grow and produce quality wine. On occasion, a friend from up north brings down wines from MA, PA, NJ, etc. Many of the New Jersey picks have been non-grape fruit wines—easy-drinking quaffs that are perfect for summer festivals and backyard get-togethers. A few of the wines, however, have been appealing dry table wines, piquing my interest in what the Garden State has to offer.And then, lo and behold, a taste of serendipity came my way. New Jersey wines were recently featured on a month-long program known in social media circles on Twitter as #WineStudio. Here I had an opportunity to chat with some of the good folks from Unionville Vineyards and taste their estate-grown 2013 Pheasant Hill Syrah. And what a delicious wine it was! I look forward to visiting these guys for a proper tasting, and I highly recommend their Syrah. For further information and where you can find this Garden State gem, please check out my tasting notes below.Unionville Vineyards 2013 Pheasant Hill SyrahUnionville Vineyards 2013 Pheasant Hill Syrah (SRP $32): A brilliant ruby color, it is easy to like this wine for its bright blackberry and tart cherry flavors. Maturation in 100% neutral French oak puts the full expression of fruit on display. And then there’s rhubarb, a touch of earth, a dash of white pepper, and faint floral notes, all enlivened with ample acidity. In the mouth, the wine is slender yet elegant—coming across as a cool-climate example—with streamlined texture and soft tannins that melt into a medium-long finish. A splash of Viognier is added for good measure. This wine would be a wonderful addition to any feast. Region: Hopewell, New Jersey. Other info: ABV 13.6%, matured in 100% neutral French oak, natural cork enclosure. Click here to find this wine. 

Pedroncelli Winery 2015 Bushnell Vineyard Zinfandel : A Delicious Wine for Classic Comfort Foods

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Hello Friends,Besides the beauty of Mother Nature’s stunning artwork, fall brings cooler weather and an appetite for hearty comfort foods and robust red wines. And I have just the full-bodied, purple colored wine for you, my friends: the 2015 Bushnell Vineyard Zinfandel from Sonoma County’s Pedroncelli Winery. Fruit for this wine is sourced from Bushnell Vineyard, a 22-acre site situated on the eastern hillsides of Dry Creek Valley. This vineyard, which is great for Zinfandel, has been part of the Pedroncelli estate since the 1940s. So not only will you have a bit of history in your glass, you will also have a wine that’s both enjoyable and affordable.Pedroncelli Winery 2015 Bushnell Vineyard Zinfandel Throughout this year, I’ve been lucky enough to partake in a number of exciting virtual events celebrating Pedroncelli’s 90th anniversary in the wine business—an impressive accomplishment. The winery is family-owned and currently operated by third-and fourth-generation relatives. A recent wine and food pairing I found great pleasure in and highly recommend, is sausage, cheese and basil lasagna paired with the Pedroncelli 2015 Bushnell Vineyard Zinfandel. You can find the wine and the lasagna recipe on the Pedroncelli website. I’ve made the collection of family recipes a favorite in my web browser. If you enjoy cooking (with glass in hand of course), I highly recommend bookmarking it too. Please see my tasting notes below along with a link to where you can find the wine. All three reds were good potential suitors—but the lasagna and Pedroncelli 2015 Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel are simply meant to be togetherPedroncelli Winery 2015 Bushnell Vineyard Zinfandel (SRP $26): Bushnell Vineyard has been a consistent source of fruit for Pedroncelli since the 1940s. Deep purple in color, inviting dark-skinned, berry-driven aromas give way to ripe plums, briary fruit, spice box, cracked black pepper, and cacao nib flavors. Rich and voluptuous in profile, this wine wears its weight well, with a good kick of acidity keeping everything in check. There’s a suggestion of floral perfume, mocha, and sweet barrel spice on the medium-long finish. This wine is a fine, soul-warming solitary sipper—particularly on a cozy autumn evening in front of a roaring fire. It is also a great match for classic comfort foods and just about anything off the grill or smoker. Region: Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County, California. Other info: ABV 15.2%, matured 16 months in American oak barrels—40% new, 3% addition of Petite Sirah, natural cork enclosure. Click here to find this wine.

Unique, Appealing, and Delicious: I’m talking Nino Franco Primo Franco!

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Hello Friends,Today’s Quick Sip is an appealing Prosecco from quality pioneer Nino Franco. The winery was founded in 1919 by Antonio Franco and is located in northeast Italy within the prominent wine growing region of Valdobbiadene. Eponymously named for third-generation owner Primo Franco, this Prosecco is unique in the sense that year-after-year, it is 1) produced from the same single parcel in Valdobbiadene, 2) vintage dated, and 3) built to age. A tribute to family members before him—and a way to express the vintage and inherent site characteristics—it was the first wine Primo Franco made after taking over for his father, Nino Franco.Nino Franco 2016 Primo Franco Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG The fruit for this wine is grown on steep hillside vineyards, which naturally limit yields and require manual harvesting—two factors said to bolster the quality of the finished wine. Primo Franco is made from 100% Glera, a high-acid native variety that is the principal grape used in making Prosecco. It has been made for 32 vintages, and a recent thirty-year vertical tasting of Primo Franco proved just how beautifully this wine matures. This is a special and distinct wine in the Nino Franco sparkling portfolio. Limited quantities are made each year, and the wine remains reasonably priced. For further information and where you can find this Prosecco, please check out my tasting notes below.Nino Franco believes that a coupe—the glass pictured—is the perfect celebratory glass to enjoy Prosecco. Grab a bottle of Primo Franco, some glasses (preferably coupes), and sip the day with friends and an appetizing cheese & charcuterie platter. Nino Franco 2016 Primo Franco Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG (SRP $29): Fresh and refined in style, this sparkling wine boasts a seductively smooth and soft mousse, and nicely rounded texture. There are upfront racy flavors of orchard fruit graced by suggestions of sweet peach and apricot. An underpinning—just a wisp—of white flowers and almond paste add complexity. Juicy acidity provides balance as well as lift, and there is a pleasant combination of crispness and creaminess in the wine’s fruit-driven finish. This wine is highly enjoyable and very versatile, having the ability to pair with a wide array of foods. And it is affordable enough to toast the night away any day of the wine week. Region: Valdobbiadene, Veneto, Italy. Other info: ABV 10.5%, Cuve Close (Tank) method, natural cork enclosure. Click here to find this wine.

Pretty in Pink: Rosés from Les Andides, Domaines Paul Mas, and Villa María

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Hello Friends,Just about every day, as wine o'clock approaches, you can find me uncorking or unscrewing a new wine adventure. Being a wine enthusiast, a wine writer, and someone who appreciates the liquid expression of place, a person’s vision, and Mother Nature’s influence, I find wine to be one of the most intriguing beverages out there. The world of wine offers endless opportunities to learn and taste new things.The wines selected for this post are value-driven rosés—sparkling and still. Just because summer is coming to an end, it does not mean you should retire these beauties. Add pink to the beautiful spectrum of colors that autumn brings. After all, drier-style rosés are some of the most versatile and food-friendly wines available. Their refreshing taste, uplifting flavors, and bright acids are perfect for Thanksgiving—particularly with glazed ham, turkey, and all the sandwiches you will enjoy days later. And add a bottle or three to any holiday party or social gathering that’s heavy on finger foods. For further information and where you can find these pink wines, please see my tasting notes below.Les Andides NV Crémant de Loire Brut RoséLes Andides NV Crémant de Loire Brut Rosé (SRP $10): Here’s a very delightful brut rosé for the money. It is fresh, energetic, and fun to drink. Red summer berry flavors are underpinned by subtle orchard fruit and dried rose petals. A persistent stream of tiny bubbles cleanses the palate, and racy acidity makes it versatile with a wide range of foods. Think Sunday brunch fare and party appetizers. I believe this wine is a Lidl US grocery store exclusive. Lidl is a European discount grocer that’s opening myriad stores in the U.S. If there is a Lidl near you, I recommend finding this wine. Not only would this sparkler perform well on your Thanksgiving table, but a bottle of bubbly goes a long way in making holiday shopping and entertaining less stressful. Region: Loire Valley, France. Other info: N/A. Click here to find this wine.Arrogant Frog 2016 ‘Lily Pad Pink’ RoséArrogant Frog 2016 ‘Lily Pad Pink’ Rosé (SRP $9): From Jean-Claude Mas, a mover and shaker in France's Languedoc wine region, this rosé is a pleasing refresher for every day, anytime enjoyment. It offers a pleasant combination of fresh cherries, ripe strawberries, citrus zest, and candied red fruits—redolent of Jolly Ranchers—over crisp, food-friendly, crunchy acidity. I enjoyed a glass with bacon wrapped shrimp while waiting for some burgers and ribs to finish on the grill. Mid glass, I concluded that this rosé had enough oomph to be a great match for the burgers and ribs as well. And it was! Region: Languedoc-Roussillon, France. Other info: ABV 13%, 100% Syrah. Click here to find this wine.Villa María 2016 Private Bin RoséVilla María 2016 Private Bin Rosé (SRP $15): Villa Maria is an award winning producer famous for their satisfying and value-driven Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir wines grown on the South Island in Marlborough, New Zealand. They also make an agreeable rosé that hits the spot and is made predominantly from Merlot. Its profile is indicative of the warmer climate of Hawke’s Bay—a region on the east coast of the North Island. Medium watermelon in color, this wine is fruit-driven with aromas and flavors of ripe strawberries, hard red candy, tangerine, and a dusty, sweet-like spice, underscored by fresh, brisk acidity. It has a bit of body, but the wine’s bright character provides a welcoming lift. This is a nice bottle to have poolside, in the picnic basket, or at the beach. It is also a good match for grilled foods such as links, veggies, and pork tenderloin. Region: Hawkes Bay, North Island, New Zealand. Other info: ABV 12.5%, screw cap enclosure. Click here to find this wine.

Pedroncelli 2014 Wisdom Cabernet Sauvignon: A wine that begs to be paired with something rich & flavorful!

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Hello Friends,I recently had an opportunity to participate in one of the many fun-filled virtual events the good folks from Pedroncelli Winery are holding throughout the year to celebrate their 90th anniversary in the wine business. Pedroncelli Winery is located in Sonoma County’s Dry Creek Valley and was founded in 1927 by Giovanni and Julia Pedroncelli. Today, the winery remains family-owned and operated by third and fourth-generation family members. Given the ever-changing wine business landscape, this is no easy feat. I was surprised to learn that throughout the winery’s nine decades in business, there have only been three winemakers. John Pedroncelli, son of Giovanni, oversaw an astounding sixty-seven vintages before Montse Reece was appointed head winemaker following John’s passing.The Pedroncelli’s most embody a passion for family, but also for wine, food, and fun—all key ingredients to their success and longevity in the wine business. This leads me to Julie Pedroncelli St. John, a third generation family member, who has a wonderful collection of family recipes easily accessible via the Pedroncelli Winery website.Pedroncelli 2014 Wisdom Cabernet SauvignonMy task for this virtual chat was to make ribeye steak with black trumpet mushrooms and bleu cheese. The wine pairing was Pedroncelli’s 2014 Wisdom Cabernet Sauvignon. Talk about a wonderful marriage of flavors: the acidity and tannins in the wine played quite well with the fattiness, char, and flavor of the steak. This is a wine that’s very agreeable with food, and a pairing I recommend trying. For further information and where you can find this wine, please see my tasting notes below. And do follow Twitter hashtag #PED90th to join the fun. Be sure to wish the Pedroncelli family ninety more years of producing highly enjoyable wines (that don’t break the bank).  The ’14 Wisdom Cabernet Sauvignon begs to be paired with something rich and flavorful. Pedroncelli 2014 Wisdom Cabernet Sauvignon (SRP $36): Aptly named, Wisdom represents the experience gained from farming the same five-acre Cabernet Sauvignon site for the past fifty years. Brilliant deep purple in color, juicy flavors of ripe blackberries and plummy notes are met by complex undercurrents of cedar-box, spice, and espresso bean. This wine is well-structured; there’s good intensity of flavor, nice texture, and grip coming from slow-building, (medium-firm) dusty tannins, all supported by a solid backbone of fresh acidity. The tannins gain momentum on the pleasing, medium-long finish. Age-worthy yet pleasurable now, this delicious Dry Creek Valley Cabernet Sauvignon over-delivers for the price point. Enjoy a glass with grilled veggies or just about anything off the grill, especially a well-marbled ribeye steak. Region: Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County, California. Other info: ABV 14.4%, matured 19 months in French oak barrels—40% new, natural cork enclosure. Click here to find this wine.

Ridgeview Wine Estate 2013 Fitzrovia Brut Rosé: A Delicious Sparkler from England!

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Hello Friends,Today I’m enjoying a delicious flute of Ridgeview’s 2013 Fitzrovia Brut Rosé. Ridgeview Wine Estate is a family-run wine company based in the South Downs of Sussex in England. Founded in 1994 by the Roberts family, Ridgeview specializes in growing high-quality sparkling wines using traditional Champagne grapes and methods. English sparklers are deservingly getting more positive press, and consumers are showing an increased interest in these wines. This is probably why I’m starting to see more selections in DC metro wine shops. Even though Champagne is the crème de la crème of the sparkling wine world, exciting new regions like England are worthy of your attention. The region shares similar chalky soils to the Champagne of France and is located approximately 90 miles to the north -- just across the channel. The English sparklers I’ve had thus far have all been rather delightful and reasonably priced. If your local wine shop does not carry any English sparkling wines, the best thing you can do is ask. Ask your favorite restaurants too. For further information and where you can find this delicious bottle of bubbly, please check out my tasting notes below.Ridgeview Wine 2013 Fitzrovia Brut RoséRidgeview Wine 2013 Fitzrovia Brut Rosé (SRP $35): This traditional method sparkler is composed of 80% Chardonnay, 17% Pinot Noir, and 3% Pinot Meunier. Pale salmon pink in color, there are appealing aromas and fresh flavors of raspberries, ripe cherries, shortbread, and cream. In the mouth, this wine has a delicate texture with a generous mousse and a persistent stream of tiny bubbles. Crisp acidity frames the fruit, adds lift, and heightens the finish, readying you for another sip. Don’t wait for a special occasion. This delightful sparkler will brighten your day and make any occasion special. It is versatile enough to be an ideal pairing partner for everything from truffle popcorn and fried finger foods, to Sunday brunch fare. Region: Sussex, England. Other info: ABV 12%, natural cork enclosure. Click here to find this wine.

Ron Rubin 2013 Green Valley of Russian River Valley Syrah: A delicious cool-climate wine!

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Hello Friends,Today I’m enjoying a glass of Ron Rubin’s 2013 Syrah from Sonoma County’s Green Valley of Russian River Valley appellation. This is one of the smallest appellations in Sonoma County and one of the coolest within Russian River Valley. The region is defined by its trademark foggy marine layer which produces cooler temperatures that are well-suited for varieties such as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. On the other hand, cool-climate Syrah should not be overlooked; especially from this producer. Syrah is an interesting grape. It’s one of the few varieties that performs superbly well in both cool and warm climates. I prefer the latter, but appreciate both depending on my mood and/or food. Syrah from cool climate regions are generally brighter, showcasing more red fruits, and leaner than their warm weather counterparts.   After many years of success in the beverage industry, including recently celebrating 25 years of owning The Republic of Tea, Ron Rubin fulfilled a lifelong dream in 2011 with the founding of his eponymous winery. Situated in Green Valley of Russian River Valley, Mr. Rubin and winemaker Joe Freeman are bringing out the flavors, personality, and unique characteristics of this cool-climate region. This Syrah is quite delicious; reflective of attention to detail and an excellent vintage regarded for exceptional fruit quality. For further information and where you can find this wine, please check out my tasting notes below.Ron Rubin 2013 Green Valley of Russian River SyrahRon Rubin 2013 Green Valley of Russian River Valley Syrah (SRP $32): Fruit for this wine was sourced from [Dutton Ranch] Cherry Ridge Vineyard in Green Valley of Russian River Valley. This site possesses just enough sun and heat to ripen Syrah. Remember, this is cool-climate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir country. The wine is deep ruby purple in color. Inviting aromas of tart cherry, cranberry, and purple stone fruit mingle with peppery spice, tar, and muted earth-tinged complexities. These aromas extend to the palate through juicy flavors supported by soft, well-integrated tannins and an energetic spine of fresh acidity, ending with a medium-long, persistent finish.  Perfect on its own, this Syrah is also very food-friendly. I enjoyed it with herb-crusted rack of lamb. Region: Green Valley of Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, California. Other info: ABV 14.1%, 100% Syrah, clone 877, stainless fermenter, aged 12 months in French oak barrels -- 29% new, cork enclosure. Click here to find this wine.

Bonterra 2016 Rosé: Celebrating 30 years of organic farming and a new rosé!

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Hello Friends,Today’s Quick Sip is Bonterra 2016 Rosé. I recently had the pleasure of joining winemaker Sebastian Donoso and other wine personalities on Wine Studio (aka #winestudio), your source for grassroots brand marketing and beverage education, for a virtual Twitter chat. Just last year, Bonterra was named ‘American Winery of the Year’ by Wine Enthusiast magazine. This year, Bonterra – a forerunner of the green movement – celebrates 30 years of organic farming in northern California’s Mendocino County. In total, Bonterra farms 950 acres of CCOF-certified vineyards throughout the area. Their belief: “Organic grapes lead to flavorful, balanced wines perfectly in tune with nature.” Over the years, I have found Bonterra to be a very reliable producer. Their wines represent good value for the money across the spectrum. This is Bonterra’s inaugural vintage of rosé. It is made from organically grown grapes intended solely for the purpose of making rosé. For further information on this beauty, please check out my tasting notes below.Bonterra 2016 Mendocino County Rosé Bonterra 2016 Mendocino County Rosé (SRP $16): Made from 100% organically-grown fruit from Mendocino County, this rosé is primarily composed of Grenache with amounts of Sangiovese and Nebbiolo. It is crafted in the Provençal style and sports a beautiful pale salmon color. This wine is very pretty, refreshingly dry, and aromatic with an appealing delicacy. There are enticing aromas and balanced flavors of white stone fruit, pomegranate seed, tea rose, and freshly picked red berries. It is mouthwatering and precise, closing with a clean, crisp finish. Just a lovely rosé. Satisfying on its own, it is versatile enough to enjoy with everything from light summer fare to Thanksgiving dinner. Only 2,000 cases of this wine were produced. Region: Mendocino County, California. Other info: ABV 12.9%, intentional rosé, 100% certified organic, screw cap enclosure. Click here to find this wine.

Saved 2013 Red Wine: Where craft, passion, and art meet!

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Hello Friends,Today’s Quick Sip is Saved 2013 Red Wine. Saved Wines is a collaborative effort between world-renowned tattoo artist Scott Campbell and Napa Valley winemaker Clay Brock. One of Scott’s tattoo designs, an attractive one I might add, is etched on the bottle. The wine is named after his tattoo studio in Brooklyn, New York. Clay, a veteran in the California wine industry, brings 30 years of experience to this artistic endeavor. This wine is a ‘kitchen sink’ of sorts – led by Merlot and Malbec – and made from a total of  nine grape varieties; all from the excellent 2013 vintage. For both men, this label symbolizes the freedom and sanctuary one gets by committing fully to their passions.I reached for this wine last weekend when I was out back grilling, and what a great choice. It is supple, robust, and fruit forward in character. It’s just the ticket for a big juicy burger (which I had), ribs slathered with a thick, rich [sweet] sauce, grilled sausage and more. You can find this wine for under $20 and other good deals at Cork Exclusive. Even better, shipping is free on any four or more bottles of wine or spirits. For further information, please see my tasting notes below.Saved 2013 Red Saved 2013 Red (SRP $30): This wine pours a deep garnet color. It is made in the kitchen sink approach, led by 27% Merlot, 19% Malbec, 17% Syrah, and 13% Zinfandel, followed by small amounts of Souzão, Petit Verdot, Petite Sirah, Grenache, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Richly fruited, spice-tinged aromas give way to a generous, fruit-forward palate chock-full of upfront flavors redolent of cherry and blackberry preserve, vanilla bean and toasted pastry, trailed by a dusting of sweet baking spices. In the mouth, this wine is full-bodied and richly textured; it's very approachable with mellow tannins and good balancing acidity, ending in a medium-long finish. Though satisfying as a solitary sipper, this wine works very well with just about anything off the summer grill – especially burgers, ribs, or links.  Region: California. Other info: ABV 15%, aged for 16 months in French oak barrels – 30% new, cork enclosure.Click here to find this wine. It has a suggested retail price of $30 and is available for as low as $17.99 on CorkExclusive with FREE SHIPPING on any 4 or more bottles of wine or spirits!This review is sponsored by: Get the Saved 2013 Red Wine for just $17.99 with FREE SHIPPING on any 4 or more bottles of wine or spirits!"

Arinzano 2008 La Casona: Built for the cellar but very enjoyable now!

My Vine Spot

Hello Friends,Today’s Quick Sip is Arinzano’s 2008 La Casona, a blend of 75% Tempranillo and 25% Merlot. I was introduced to this fine producer through the good folks at Wine Studio, your source for grassroots brand marketing and beverage education. The Arinzano estate is located in northeast Spain, at the crossroads of Rioja Alavesa and Navarra. The historic estate plays host to structures dating back to the 16th century. In 2007, Arinzano became the first site in northeast Spain to receive Vino de Pago status. This is Spain’s top-tier wine designation, above D.O.Ca, given to estates and vineyards that show site-specific growing conditions that impart unique characteristics into a wine. Additionally, all wines must be grown, produced and bottled on property and meet quality standards. It is worth noting that this wine was bottle aged for nearly 8 years and released in 2015. And it is important to understand that a winery holding a wine back for this long is the exception rather than the rule. Arinzano made the decision to bottle age the wine for the consumer; holding it back until it was deemed ready to drink. Extended time in bottle helps integrate flavors, develop complexities, and soften any youthful tannins, among other beneficial things.Of Arinzano’s three red wines --Hacienda and Gran Vino being the other two – winemaker Diego Ribbert says “La Casona is an expression of our terroir: good body and concentration from Tempranillo; and Merlot for red fruit character.” I can tell you that the La Casona is drinking nicely right now. And this is a great opportunity to enjoy a wine with some age on it at a price point that is reasonable for a wine of this quality and character. For further information and where you can find this wine, please check out my tasting notes below.Arinzano 2008 La CasonaArinzano 2008 La Casona (SRP $39): La Casona is a blend of 75% Tempranillo and 25% Merlot. This wine pours a brilliant, medium-dark ruby color. It is full-bodied and deeply flavorful, marked by energy and freshness. There are enticing aromas of blackberry, black cherry, sweet exotic spices, forest floor, and cedar dust. On the palate, lifted flavors mirror the aromas, supported by dusty tannins and a firm spine of acidity that really holds this wine together nicely. It ends with notable grip on the medium-long, finish. Winemaker Diego Ribbert recommends pairing this wine with barbecue fare; and I couldn’t agree more. This wine has a good bit of life left, so enjoy a few bottles now and consider some for your cellar. I do suggest letting this wine breathe for at least 30 minutes in your favorite decanter before serving. Approximately 1,100 cases of this wine were produced. Region: Navarra, Spain. Other info: ABV 14%, maturation 14 months in French oak barrels – 40% new, 60% second use, natural cork enclosure. Click here to find this wine. 

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