On my first day of tasting, a 2015 French Domaine Saint Gayan Gigondas Cuvée was sent to me. A Rhone red wine priced at $27.99 a bottle. Complex and elegant, this wine is at the top of my list for a favorite tasting.
On the second day of tasting, a delightful 2018 Vignoble Ducourt – Château Briot, priced at $13 a bottle was uncorked. What? A value-priced Bordeaux? Why, yes. This garnet blend of cabernet sauvignon and merlot is a light-medium bodied drink-alone Bordeaux perfect when paired with a cheese plate and tapas. It’s not the boldest of Bordeaux’s but that’s a good thing for those who want to keep things light.
My third day of tasting was at the beautiful indoor/outdoor tasting room at Hamel Family Wines in Sonoma Valley, where a bold and structured 2012 Hamel Family Ranch stole the show. Priced at $200 a bottle, this cabernet sauvignon brought forth a bouquet of violets and deep, dark berries mixed with cedar and coffee – black, no cream. The on-site chef, Clinton Huntsman, served up a savory roll of pressed rabbit sausage with a wine-soaked prune in the middle, on a bed of potato puree. The pairing was as divine as this wine.
Day four surprised me with a semi-sweet Stella Rosa Golden Honey Peach wine made with Italian countryside grapes. Talk about shaking things up a bit. With a slice of pumpkin pie. You can Stellabrate this honey and peach forward wine for $12/bottle. And yes, it is not a red, but it’s a dark honey.
On the fifth day of tasting, my palate sang to me once I sipped a 2016 Muriel Fincas de la Villa Crianza of Rioja ($14). Of course, I paired this wine with tapas. Blueberry and toasted coconut mixed with oak… it works!
On my sixth day of wine tasting, a taste of 2016 BRION Cabernet Sauvignon spoke to me. And it was during an outdoor tasting at this new Napa winery on the border of Yountville and showcasing its Yountville AVA. I must share that upon arrival, I was greeted with a flute of Dom Perignon – telltale of the sophistication and hospitality of this winery. And the wines… wow. This particular 2016 BRION Cabernet Sauvignon was made with grapes grown on its Oakville Ranch Vineyard slopes with its red-orange volcanic soils that contribute to the vines’ low water retention, which makes the fruit denser and with deep berry notes. Its earthy bouquet is mingled with tobacco, leather, and mocha. At $225 a bottle, it had better be good, right? Well, it is. Seriously. Kudos to winemaker Mark Herold. This is an approachable wine with potential to gain in its complexity if cellared for another 5 years or so.
Day number seven was spent at home, as I tasted a 2010 Muriel Viñas Viejas Gran Reserva Rioja ($30). Ah, tempranillo. How do I love thee rustic berries of Spain… so much so my thoughts were dominated with visions of visiting and sipping my way through Spain. I’ll get there eventually, just not today. So I’ll travel through this taste and be happy in place.
On my eighth day of tasting, the wine that spoke to me was a 2017 San Simeon Pinot Noir of Monterey – Estate Reserve ($22). Noteworthy is that the Riboli Family was named American Winery of the Year in 2018, courtesy of Wine Enthusiast. I’ve heard good things grow in the Santa Lucia Highlands, and now I know this to be true. Raspberries dominate the palate, and that works for me.
My ninth day of tasting brought me Down Under to the Barossa Valley, a place I’ve actually visited – but not at this winery… yet. This 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon label belongs to 3-Rings and is priced at a reasonable $19.99 a bottle. It’s closure is a screwcap, typical of Australian wines – yes, even the reds. And this is the deepest of deep red, almost black! Twenty-five days of maceration will do this. All I wanted was a BBQ dinner with this wine.
Day number 10 showcased Paso Robles, one of my favorite California wine destinations, with a Maddalena 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon ($18) that rocked my palate! Berries, please meet mocha and toast with a drizzle of caramel. This is another label of the Riboli Family and it prompted me to dig out my crockpot to make beef stew.
On my 11th day of wine tasting, I headed to Argentina. Ok, I didn’t actually visit (but I want to!), but my palate traveled to Bodegas Bianchi for a taste of its 2019 Malbec, harvested in March 2019 and bottled in August that same year. This Oasis Sur Malbec is deeply violet in color, packing a bouquet of plums, figs and deep blackberries. It’s a fruity $15.99 bottle of Malbec magic.
My final day, the 12th day of tasting, surprised and delighted me with a… dare I say… Costco wine? Yes, Kirkland Signature Reserva 2015 Bodegas Muriel, L.L. Rioja was my most surprising find. At $6.99 a bottle, say what? Like a ruby slipper on your palate. Balanced velvet. If you don’t believe me, try it yourself.
Charlene Peters is a wine writer who regularly visits wineries around the world and reviews wines from her home in the Napa Valley. She is author of “Travel Makes Me Hungry: Tales of tastes & indigenous recipes to share” available on Amazon and touted as the perfect holiday gift to give during a time when travel is safest when brought to the dining room table.
I took a road trip to Healdsburg, California, to Seghesio Family Vineyards in Sonoma County. This winery celebrates a historic milestone with 125 years of harvesting its flagship grape, the legendary Old Vine Zinfandel. Although “old vine” is an unregulated term, Seghesio applies it exclusively to vines of at least 50 years.
Edoardo Seghesio planted his first Zinfandel vineyard in the Alexander Valley in 1895, and he is considered one of the oldest winemaking names in Sonoma. Through earthquakes, Prohibition, the Great Depression, droughts and fires, five generations of the Seghesio family stayed on course 125 vintages later to establish themselves as Sonoma’s exalted Zinfandel specialists. Today, Seghesio Family Vineyards encompasses over 300 acres in Sonoma growing regions of Alexander, Dry Creek and Russian River Valleys.
Once arrived, I was handed a glass of 2019 Vermentino, which set the stage for tasting Italian-style wines. This white wine had a bright acidity and would be perfect with seafood or shellfish. But no food could be served, due to Covid-19 restrictions; alas, I gratefully began tasting more Seghesio wines.
I hadn’t expected the first tasting of red wines to be the Italian varietal, Barbera. I was elated to begin with this 2017 Barbera made with grapes from Alexander Valley. Winemaker Andy Robinson took an old-world approach to craft this (and every) wine, and I have to say… this Barbera didn’t actually taste like the Old World Italian Barberas I’ve enjoyed in the past. The Seghesio version of this peasant grape was much more sophisticated in style. It offered a burst of raspberry goodness with a juicy finish, reminding me more of a pinot noir.
But I digress. I was here to taste zinfandel wines of which Seghesio produces 14 versions.
I was more than ready for the first taste of 2017 Mariah Zinfandel. The grapes that make up this wine hail from Mendocino Ridge and grown at an elevation of 2,600 feet, which gives these grapes a bit more minerality to produce a bright, cool-climate wine. Spending 14 months in an oak barrel added baking spices of clove and slight forest floor notes. The tannins were bold enough to let this sit for a few years, no problem.
Next, a 2017 Cortina Zinfandel from grapevines planted in the early ‘70s proved how different a wine can taste when its grapes are planted on the valley floor. This wine hails from grapes harvested at Chen’s Vineyard in Dry Creek Valley (I’m a huge fan of this region), and I have to say… wow. Elegant, yet bold. Balanced and a perfect expression of how a zinfandel should be made. Boysenberry, mulberry, cedar, clove… it’s all there.
Kudos to the dedicated vineyard team, led by Viticultural Director and fifth generation Seghesio family member Ned Neumiller, who maintains several blocks of 100-plus-year old-vine Zinfandel, including the original vines the founders planted in 1895 at Home Ranch in Alexander Valley, of which I am excited to taste next.
Four percent of the 2017 Home Ranch Zinfandel was crafted with those old vines of 1895, with an added smidgen of petit syrah, attributing to its darker color. This estate wine offers complex characteristics and a great intensity I fully enjoyed. Incredible structure and dark berry notes with a nutmeg finish. Oh, yes. I truly tasted the integrity of purple.
Before I departed my outdoor tasting spot, I enjoyed one more wine – a 2018 Paso Robles Zinfandel that tasted more like grenache to my palate. This might be explained by the winemaking techniques Robinson utilizes, which are more commonly associated with First Growth Bordeaux or Grand Cru Burgundy than with California Zinfandel.
Said Robinson, “Our roots, just like those of the old vines we tend, run deep in Sonoma County and we have a responsibility to the Seghesio family name to make wines that celebrate the American dream of our founders—Italian immigrants who came to this country to build a family and a future. As we’ve evolved, so too has our idea of family to include not just the one you’re born into, but also the one you choose. This is the inclusive and welcoming spirit that inspires everything we do.”
All I know is I’ve become a huge fan of Seghesio Family wines.
Charlene Peters is a travel, food, wine and wellness writer with a newly published book, “Travel Makes Me Hungry”. She can be reached by email: SipTripper@gmail.com
Say what you will about tradition and how disappointed we are this Thanksgiving. Yes, once again, the 2020 theme of having to “pivot” rears its ugly head, reminding us of the “new now” – a deadly threat in gathering of extended family and friends. Let’s count our blessings, though, and focus on the wonderful tradition that remains — the release of Beaujolais Nouveau!
Under French law, the wine is set to be released at 12:01 a.m. on November 19, weeks after harvest. Every third week of November, like clockwork, we can count on this bottled gamay. Grown in the most southern wine growing region in Burgundy, France, there’s an outlier region called Beaujolais, where the wine is quite different in regard to production and climate. In fact, Beaujolais is referred to as its own appellation that produces these light, dry grapes that are a cross between a pinot noir and the ancient white gouais grape.
In a non-Covid-19 ravaged world, Beaujolais Nouveau Day is typically marked in France on the third Thursday in November with fireworks, music and festivals to celebrate the first wine of the season.
When you pick up your bottles of Beaujolais Nouveau, be sure to look for label artist Maeve Croghan’s “Russet Vines” on the Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau 2020 bottles (featured image). Keep in mind that it’s meant to be consumed immediately — within a month, preferably, and it will not have a high tannin structure or acidity, but will be fruity in both aroma and taste. Its tart cranberry overtones make it a perfect pairing for Thanksgiving dinner – even if you’re a table of one.
The producer most familiar to those who open a bottle or two of Beaujolais Nouveau each November is Les Vins Georges Dubœuf. But did you know Les Vins Georges Dubœf produces more structured wines? Try a few bottles of Villages and Moulin-A-Vent and you’ll be sure to up your game with Thanksgiving dinner. Beaujolais-Villages is not the same thing as Nouveau, but it is made from the remaining production to produce a darker, richer and more full-bodied wine – and can be stored longer than Nouveau.
Take a listen to what Romain Teyteau, North America export director at Les Vins Georges Dubœf, has to say about Beaujolais wines:
I look forward to tasting the soon-to-be-released Beaujolais Nouveau, but in the meantime, I’m sipping a 2018 Domaine des Rosiers Moulin-A-Vent produced by Georges Duboeuf and rated 93 James Suckling points, and a 2018 Domaine De La Vigne Romaine Moulin-A-Vent — both pour a garnet gamay of exquisite silk on the palate. Enjoy these deeper, full-bodied wines with beef stew, duck confit, Portobello mushroom dishes, spicy dishes and fine, matured cheeses.
As you celebrate with a bottle of Georges Duboeuf, toast to Georges, who passed away in January 2020 at the age of 86. And be sure to check out THIS LINK for upcoming virtual Beaujolais Nouveau events.
If you’d like to learn more about Georges Duboeuf wines, click HERE.
During uncertain times, there is one thing for certain – white wines pair well with summertime. In honor of National White Wine Day, here are six selections to enjoy on or off the rocks, as recommended.
#1 – In a nod to 1950s Paris, Le Goût d’Autrefois Blanc Limé, a Vignoble Ducourt Bordeaux refresher with lemon, lime grapefruit, sauvignon blanc, semillon and bubbles, is the only one of these wines where ice cubes are preferred. This slightly bubbled spritzer is the perfect gateway wine for newbies or for those who prefer a light wine with low alcohol (8%).
$17 for each impressively designed bottle with retro hinged closure.
#2 – Better known for its production of premier pinot noir, the Willamette Valley in Oregon offers an exotic cedar + salmon 2018 pinot gris to sip throughout summer and beyond. During peach harvest time, this wine’s stone fruit aromas call to the season. Like a ripe peach, each sip of this pinot gris is refreshing and rich with exotic fruit flavors that include kiwi and guava. Chill before serving with grilled white fish or roasted chicken and veggies, but please… leave out the ice cubes.
#3 – Vranken-Pommery recently launched a single vineyard Louis Pommery Carneros Chardonnay 2019, and you will definitely want to sip on this beyond summer – without adding ice. By all means, however, chill before sipping. You’ll notice an expressive palate of creamy honey, attributed to the slight malolactic fermentation, and cantaloupe, and maybe even a touch of almond paste. Best served with blue cheeses or any creamy cheeses, and dessert of crème brulee.
#4 – New Age Sweet Wine is a versatile wine to drink on its own, on the rocks – YES! – or mixed as a cocktail. I am typically not a fan of sweet wines – other than port – but I drank my glass on its own, sans ice – and it was quite pleasant on a warmer than usual day. Made with Argentinian grapes: 90% Torrontes and 10% Sauvignon Blanc, try on ice with a slice of lime or splash of gin and slice of grapefruit to change things up a bit. Pair with Indian, Thai, Chinese or Japanese dishes.
#5 – Georges Duboeuf Pouilly-Fuissé 2018 Chardonnay is a French wine that deserves the royal treatment – so please do not add ice! Serve chilled as an aperitif or with lobster, cured salmon toasts, or cheeses. Better yet, set the bottle aside as it ages well. In typical French style, expect notes of acacia flowers with balanced minerality and… a finish of chestnut! Oh yes. Quality counts.
#6 – Last, but certainly not least, is another Georges Duboeuf, but this time a brilliant pale gold Mâcon-Villages 2018 Chardonnay. The complexity in this wine offers loads of citrus… think lemony, and a nutty bouquet mixed with white flowers typical of France. This is a summer fresh white wine that is lovely when chilled, but please do not add ice.
With so many rosé wines on the market, and in demand especially throughout summertime, it’s important to note each rosé varies on a wide spectrum, from salmon-pink Provencal rosés to full-bodied rosé of cabernet sauvignon.
Most rosé wines are made using the process of short maceration – fermenting wine is drained from the skins after a short period of time – typically a few hours, and then moved to stainless steel tanks to continue fermentation in the process of white wine, temperature-speaking. Other winemakers blend red and white wines to create rosé, but this is not typical – or permitted in Europe.
As rosé wines go, it’s a personal preference, and my palate is undeniably Provencal style. But around the globe, if the terroir permits vineyards to grow Provencal grapes, I’m happy to taste. And I’m ready to report I’ve tasted 15 amazing bottles of rosé from all over the world and happy to share my thoughts with you.
My rosé roundup has been a labor of love for me throughout SiP days, where I’ve been “sip tripping in place” while sheltering in place.
2019 Malene Rosé, Central Coast, California $22 Sip Tripper rating: GOAT
Why? Because it encompasses all that I love in a rosé: 48% Grenache, 23% Mourvedre, 12% Rolle and 17% Cinsault.
Visually, this is a medium pink rosé offering a light bouquet and notes of peach, a tinge of white grapefruit and a favorite of mine: peony. On the palate, a perfect expression of a fresh-picked strawberry with a smidgen of nectarine leads to a crisp finish of clean, crisp acidity.
Grenache, the black grape variety, needs a warm climate to ripen well, and its red-fruit flavors attribute to the summertime sip’s success. The growing region in the Central Coast of California is as close to the terroir of Provence as one can get, which is why this rosé is a favorite of mine! www.MaleneWines.com
2019 Herdade de São Miguel Colheita Seleccionada Rosé $14.99 Sip Tripper rating: AWESOME
Why? Because this salmony-pink blend wow’d my palate. It’s in a class unto itself due to the use of a few grapes specific to the terroir of Alentejano in Portugal: 50% Touriga Nacional, 30% Syrah and 20% Aragonez.
By the way, this wine has a cork stopper, regardless of its value pricing – hey, it hails from the land of cork forests! Why not? I do, however, recommend that once you open a bottle, plan to consume in one sitting with a friend, as it loses its complexity by next day. Best enjoyed with sushi, fresh fish, seafood and salads. www.quintessentialwines.com
2019 Tablas Creek Vineyard, Dianthus, Paso Robles, California $30 Sip Tripper Rating: Success is Southern Rhône cuttings grown in California
2018 Rosé, The Wolftrap, South Africa $14 Sip Tripper Rating: Great Value Quintessential Rosé
The trap was set once I read the label for this blend of cinsault (69%), syrah (21%) and grenache (10%). Immediately, I unscrewed the cap and poured half the bottle into an ice cube tray so I could make frozé to share with my neighbor on a hot day in late spring. I threw in about 4 chunks of frozen pineapple, about one cup of sliced strawberries that sat overnight in the fridge in some water, and added the frozé cubes, aa half tray of plain ice cubes and a quarter bottle of The Wolftrap.
The end result was a refreshing version of a slushie in all its rosé perfection. The next day, I poured the remaining bottle to enjoy without the slush effect. There’s a softness on the palate that I enjoy from South Africa wines, and I would declare this bottle to be well-crafted and a best value summer sip! www.vineyardbrands.com
2018 Marqués de Cáceres excellens, Rioja $11 Sip Tripper Rating: Amazing Value — top of my list for rosés
Wine varietals of Rioja have always held a special place in my palate, so when I discovered this Spanish blend of 60% Garnacha tinta and 40% Tempranillo, I was pleased as pink. And this pink is pleasing, believe me. If you could taste what the lightest pink would be, excellens is it. It’s a lovely expression of Spanish grapes softened with bright acidity and freshness.
Crafted with 100% pinot noir grown on French terroir of Domaine Delaporte, this rosé leaves a lasting impression of the palate — a pristine expression of the Domaine’s 15-year-old grapevines and its limestone soil.
The grapes are 100% hand-picked and pressed straight away without any maceration (skin soaking time), which accounts for the feather light pink color, and following six months aging on lees.
A young Sancerre rosé typically offers raspberry and wild peach aromas, and this is no exception. The full palate of raspberries and crisp cool acidity and finish of citrus almost calls for a dollop of whipped cream. Drink within two years of bottling and enjoy on hot summer nights. www.VineyardBrands.com
2018 Studio by Miraval $14.99 Sip Tripper Rating: Lightest rosé ever tasted
It’s irrelevant that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie own the chateau and vineyard. They may be divorced, but they parented a new label with their brand, Miraval. Studio by Miraval, like the estate rosé, has been made in partnership with the Perrin family of Château de Beaucastel. And it’s good. Really good.
This rosé from southeast of France carries the appellation “Les Vins de Méditerranée Indication Géographique Protégée”. Its blend of Cinsault, Grenache, Rolle, and Tibouren grapes grown on soil influenced by the sea sprays and the proximity of the Mediterranean Sea attributes to the Frenchness of this very pale rosé. On first inspection, the watered down pink wine indicates barely a flavor, but wow, it packs a bright red fruit punch infused with white flowers and a squeeze of citrus. www.VineyardBrands.com
Louis Pommery Rosé Brut Sparkling Wine, California $26.99 Sip Tripper Rating: Vivacious, Elegant Sparkling Rosé
The coolness of the Pacific Ocean and the heat of the hinterland of the California vineyards are met with French tradition and exceptional wine-making to create this masterpiece of elegance. Well balanced, this brut rosé features a bouquet of delicate red berries with a hint of citrus, all wrapped in pastry.
Winemaker Thierry Gasco, former Champagne Pommery cellar master for 25 years, crafted this sparkling wine with 76% Chardonnay grapes and 24% Pinot Noir — via methode champenoise, with fermentation in the bottle and aging on the lees.
2019 Lucas & Lewellen Rosé of Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara, California $19.99 Sip Tripper Rating: Pleasant
Why? While I’m not a fan of rosé made with pinot noir… unless it’s sparkling, this light pink, light-bodied semi-dry wine is made by a family winery and was pleasant. My palate didn’t embrace this wine fully – perhaps due to the fact that there’s a small percentage of viognier – my least favorite varietal. This rosé paired well with my Japanese vegetable fritters served over white rice and edamame. The bouquet of blossoms was especially pleasing, as is the acidity. www.quintessentialwines.com
2017 The Clambake limited edition Rosé of Mendocino, California $19 Sip Tripper Rating: Philanthropically delicious!
First, let me say that with every case of wine you order, Clambake will send two complimentary bottles of wine to your healthcare worker of choice to thank them for their service.
I opened my bottle of old-vine carignan rosé as a self-described “not a huge fan of carignan,” but the deep color alone bedazzled my senses to open my mind. Dry-farmed and head-trained at Zaina-Sargentini Family Vineyard, these grapes produced a wine with notes of ripened cherries, limestone and candied grapefruit that paired well with my special treat of mail-ordered lobster tails. www.ripelifewines.com
2019 Bricoleur, Flying by the Seat of our Pants $27 Sip Tripper Rating: Pleasant/Acceptable
I tasted and played with the bottle app, dragged the tip of my phone over the label’s target and received all the info I wanted to learn about this light, fresh, acidic rosé of grenache from grapes harvested in the Fountaingrove District in Sonoma County.
Admittedly, this wine really doesn’t taste like a Provence rosé, but it has much of the same light, fresh, acidic qualities, and the color is barely a tint of the lightest pink rose petal. I taste more peach on the palate than watermelon or strawberry, but every taster has his/her opinion. https://russianrivervalley.org/vineyards/bricoleur-vineyards
2019 Bricoleur, Rosé of Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley $32 Sip Tripper Rating: Splendid/Elegant
Typically, I’m not a fan of rosé made of pinot noir unless it has bubbles. But anything from the Russian River of Sonoma County dispels set notions. Is this the greatest California growing region? Perhaps. A light raspberry with tint of orange and perfection in acidity. This is a winner and worth the price per bottle. https://russianrivervalley.org/vineyards/bricoleur-vineyards
2019 Reserve Côtes du Rhône, Famille Perrin, France $14.99 Sip Tripper Rating: Elegant / What is expected of a rosé
The quintessential rosé blend of cinsault, grenache, mourvede and syrah, this ballet-pink summer sip offers a fresh strawberry bouquet and crisp palate of light red berries and grapefruit finish. Background of interest: The Perrin Family has owned Chateau de Beaucastel since 1909 with five generations involved in the Southern Rhône Valley vineyard. www.vineyardbrands.com
2018 Goose Bay Pinot Noir Rosé, New Zealand $28 Sip Tripper Rating: Atypical and potent
This is an in-your-face burst of strawberries rosé. If you are not a fan of the ballet-pink version of rosé and want more of a fruit candy flavored wine, this is the one for you.
With grapes grown on New Zealand’s South Island on Goose Bay, I would expect nothing more than a vastly different taste. It’s worth noting that this is a vegan wine, and is Kosher for Passover. And if you’re curious about life on a kibbutz winery, novices and oenophiles alike can explore all this and more with Kosherwine.com’s free Live-Streamed Wine Events, presented in partnership with the Israeli Wine Producers Association (IWPA), now through July 5.
2018 The Daily August Rheingau Rosé, August Kesseler, Germany $35.99 Sip Tripper Rating: Unimpressed
Why? Because my first sip was a bit fizzy, and this isn’t a sparkling rosé of pinot noir. Wine Enthusiast gave this wine a 91-point rating and suggested to “drink now”. I agree with the vibrant flavors, but something was amiss and my bottle seems to have begun a secondary fermentation other wine reviewers interpret as “zesty” – but it’s a bottling flaw (carbon dioxide was trapped during bottling). www.vineyardbrands.com
In stark contrast among a world population of almost 8 billion, there are less than 400 Masters of Wine. Suffice to say, this is an elite crowd.
While one might infer the circle of wine experts is small, it’s promising to know that with Internet courses and multiple wine education programs introduced to wine enthusiasts eager to learn, the space is growing. Not everyone needs or wants to become an MW. Most people want to learn about wine for the social benefits alone.
To communicate in corporate circles or among friends, oenophiles don’t have to go to the extreme of becoming an MW to fit in; in fact, most do so to climb the corporate ladder. There are also a series of sommelier and wine education courses meant to propel careers within the wine industry, such as a WSET (Wine, Spirits Education Trust) certification. Four levels begin the groundwork in growth to learn about New and Old World wines, but some people simply want to learn the basics and a bit beyond – and take levels 1 and 2, skipping the diploma.
For those who find wine intimidating, Napa Valley Wine Academy offers online courses that are approachable and affordable. Best of all, you don’t have to live in Napa Valley to enroll. This ever-expanding school of wine knowledge offers a series of non-WSET wine courses meant to enhance your wine speak.
For $125, you can take an online Wine 101 Foundation course and receive an introduction to all aspects of wine knowledge. Most people are curious why wine tastes a certain way, and through this course, the answers are revealed in an easy to understand format. To know wine-speak among social circles is to know the major grape varieties, wine regions and a bit of the wine-making processes that help create character in a wine. Added to this focused education are lessons on how to pair foods with wines – who wouldn’t want to sign up?
For those who want to step up a level and become a certified American Wine Expert (AWE), there’s a course online for $595 that will educate you on wines in the U.S. market.
Napa Valley’s most famous winery we all know as Chateau Montelena was a chateau founded by Alfred Tubbs, who made his fortune selling rope during the Gold Rush. Today it’s a winery best known for its silver-screen moment in the film, “Bottleshock” — which tells the story (loosely adapted) of the “Judgment of Paris” in 1976. The story was based on an international wine competition that included Montelena’s chardonnay, which surprisingly bested its French counterpart in a blind tasting. At that time, the winery was owned by Jim Barrett, who opened the winery in 1972. Today, following Jim’s death in 2013, Chateau Montelena is run by his son, Bo, and it’s world-famous chardonnay is crafted by winemaker on-site, Matthew Crafton.
The quality of this chardonnay hasn’t skipped a beat when it comes to its elegance, not even since that tasting of ’76. Open a bottle of 2016 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay and you’ll be able to relate. This is a bottle that presents notes of fresh florals and a palate of crisp acidity that adds to the wine’s freshness. It’s a perfect wine to open at the onset of Thanksgiving dinner. While some chardonnays are “oaked out” and compete with the buttery mashed potatoes on the table, this chardonnay will complement with its ideal oak and fruit balance. You might not want to switch to reds during dinner.
In fact, once you’ve tasted this 2016 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay, you may be tempted to order more. And why not? The exclusive privileges of wine club membership include access to enjoy picnics in the private Chinese pagodas on the elegant grounds surrounded by resident swans, fish, vineyards and some of the best wines in California.
Charlene Peters, a.k.a. SipTripper, is a WSET Level 2 Certified wine writer with extensive experience traveling the world to explore New and Old World wines and indigenous culinary creations to share with readers. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Unlike a book cover, judging a wine by its label is trendy and assumed. And when you see a chardonnay label with artwork of buttery yellow drips, it’s safe to assume the chardonnay will taste like a butter bomb.
Au Jus is a 2017 Monterey County Chardonnay ($25) showcasing a robust malolactic fermentation; its label doesn’t lie. This glass of liquid gold was crafted from grapes grown in the best conditions offered in a coastal climate. The aromas of this wine brought the label of dripping butter to life, and on my palate, this chardonnay reveled in the smooth, stone fruit flavors and buttery finish.
Los Angeles Street Artist, Saber, created the label on the Au Jus chardonnay, but all the labels on 1849 Wine products are a depiction of contemporary inspiration from the art movement of the 21st century. In fact, every handcrafted bottle of 1849 Wine reflects the artistic spirit and dedication to the art of wine making.
My next taste was a 2016 Pinot Noir of Sonoma Coast called iris ($30), with a kaleidoscope-colored graffiti label Saber titled “Tool of Dissent”. The philosophy of a prevailing idea is what dissent is all about, but I have to be honest here and admit that outside of the label, this is everything you’d expect a pinot noir grown on the Sonoma Coast to be: aromas of violets and a palate tinged with earthy elements but dominated with red licorice flavors of raspberry, which I personally love — but nothing beyond the typical.
It is worth noting that this pinot noir was barrel aged for 10 months in French and Hungarian Oak and has won several awards: a double gold medal at the 2018 Sonoma County Harvest Fair; a gold medal at the 2018 San Francisco International Wine Competition and at the 2018 Harvest Challenge and Sommelier Challenge, and a silver medal at the 2018 Millennial Awards and New Orleans International Wine Awards.
They say that women generally select wines by the label, and while I don’t personally use this method of selection, I totally understand the allure to visuals. My recommendation: Choose the Au Jus every time!
Charlene Peters, a.k.a. SipTripper, is a WSET Level 2 Certified wine writer with extensive experience traveling the world to explore New and Old World wines and indigenous culinary creations to share with readers. She can be reached at email@example.com
Cameron Hughes is a négociant for Languedoc wines (formerly Coteaux de Languedoc), specifically in the town of Cesseras, a sleepy farm village of less than 200 in the Minervois appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC). What makes this place so beautiful is its geography, with endless acres of southern-facing delineated vineyards.
The Languedoc is an appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC), also known as the bucket region in the Southwest of France because of the high volume of mid-level quality wines produced. To add perspective, the Languedoc produces more wine than all New Zealand. One such wine is crafted from thick-skinned cabernet sauvignon grapes and is labelled “Lot 681”.
Upon first pour, the wine’s deep purple color was telltale of its youth (2017). A quick swirl later, my nose detected notes of black current, black cherry, and black plum with a slight note of thyme. A tasting revealed medium-high alcohol content (14%), and an earthy, short finish (time in the cellar would most likely improve the finish). The added petit verdot created more of a tannin structure and freshness to this cabernet sauvignon. At $13 a bottle, this is an “enjoy now” bottle — don’t expect a whole lot of complexity. This is a table wine, not a Bordeaux Supérieur.
Word in the wine world is the Languedoc region is making a comeback as the “New World of France”, yet this is an Old-World region if there ever was one. The history of this wine region began with the Greeks, who first planted grapevines there during 5th century BCE.
Interesting to note is that half of the wine produced is organic and is where Millesime Bio, the world’s largest organic wine fair is held. Also of interest, is that Cameron Hughes Wine,Lot 681 2017 Languedoc, is the négociant’s first French release in 5 years.
The Sip Tripper, a.k.a. Charlene Peters, is WSET Level 2 certified and has been reviewing and promoting wines for over a decade. She occasionally serves as a wine judge internationally and travels to wine destinations as often as possible. To reach Charlene, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Autumn mornings in Sonoma, California are when the air feels crisp and cool before the afternoon sun warms temperatures up to near 90 degrees. A recent birthday brunch with a few favorite ladies could not have happened on a more perfect day.
We met at the River Vine Café in Santa Rosa, part of the Vintner’s Inn. The café closes at 1:30pm and serves breakfast/brunch items with indoor/outdoor seating. The inside was nearly empty on this Saturday morning, mainly because the outdoor seating was full. The view of the gardens captivated our attention, especially when we noticed white folding chairs were being set up for a wedding. It was a perfect day for a wedding, but I was happy with celebrating my friend’s birthday during this marvelous brunch.
The bottle of bubbles I brought to toast my friend’s birthday was much like the air that morning – before temperatures soared into the 80s. This luxury collection Mionetto Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG was as crisp as the first bite of an apple – extra dry, and it was as clear as water with bubbles bigger than bottle-fermented sparkling wines. Prosecco is a sparkling wine made from the Glera grape that grows in the northeast of Italy. The sparkling version is typically made using the tank method, and this bottle was no exception. It was lovely, dry, and fitting for fall with its apple notes. I enjoyed the pairing of this Prosecco with my order of Rancho Huevos.
We finished the bottle with ease, laughed and enjoyed the setting and each other’s company, and departed to continue our Saturday, but with a renewed vigor and stride in our step that could only be formed by bonding with your girlfriends during Saturday brunch.
This isn’t the first Mionetto Prosecco I’ve enjoyed. I shared a cocktail recipe previously, of which I’ll share again for those hosting their own brunch sometime soon. I recommend you pour this cocktail in a martini glass.
Italian Honey Suckle (courtesy of Mionetto Master Mixologist, Justin Noel)
– 1 jalapeño slice
– .5 oz fresh lime juice
– .5 oz honey syrup
– 1 oz blanco tequila
– 1 oz Mionetto Prestige Organic Prosecco DOC Extra Dry
– jalapeño slice for Garnish
In a mixing glass, add jalapeño slice and lime juice.