Barra of Mendocino Shines Again

Gems in MY Glass . . ., Mendocino, Tasting Notes

Tasting newly released Barra of Mendocino wines had me reminiscing back to the day I first met (the late) Charlie and his wife Martha Barra well over a decade ago. Following in the footsteps of his father and maternal grandfather, Charlie began cultivating vineyards here in the 1940s. He was among the early leaders (if not the first) to practice organic grapegrowing in Mendocino County. He and his family began farming organically more than fifty years ago, and Barra has been Certified Organic for more than 30 years; impressive!

I recall my very first impression of their wines, each one was remarkable, and also reasonably priced. Tasting the following wines this month confirms that the Barra team continues to produce skillfully crafted wines, with an excellent quality to price ratio.  I appreciate their striking, classy new label, too. Martha, daughter Shelley, son Shawn, and Director of Winemaking Randy Meyer carry on Charlie’s legacy today.

2020 Reserve Zinfandel:  The tantalizing spicy, berry aroma is divine.  The decadent palate coats the mouth with flavors of a spice-accented olallieberry pie melding deliciously with notes of black raspberry jam, succulent tayberries, licorice, a whisper of vanilla bean, and well-integrated oak.  Bright, lively and immaculately balanced through the persistent finish, where a subtle tinge of mint peeks through.  SRP: $26

2021 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon:  Black fruits and a touch of cinnamon on the nose start the juices flowing with this well-structured Cabernet Sauvignon.  Black plum, savory elements, black currants, tobacco, anise seed, and leather comingle with notes of pleasing barrel spice.  Rich while beautifully balanced with firm tannins and a velvety texture, and the finish keeps on delivering long after the last sip.  Approachable now and promises continued  enjoyment ahead.  SRP: $28

2020 Reserve Petite Sirah:  A lovely aromatic of grilled plum and florality greets the nose.  The palate is juicy and mouthfilling as blackberries, dark chocolate covered cherries, blueberry coulis, earthy notes and fresh ground black pepper swirl in harmony.  Bold and expressive with a fine backbone of tannins and complementary acidity ideally balancing the deep fruit, and the lip-smacking finish is precise and long-lasting.  SRP: $28

The Barra tasting room is located in the heart of Mendocino County at 7051 North State Street, Redwood Valley, California.  It is open daily, other than major holidays (New Years Day, Christmas Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Easter Sunday).  More detail can be found at  Plan your visit soon, you’ll be glad you did! 

Eye catching OLED Wine Labels

Northwest, Tasting Notes


You may be familiar with OLED technology for modern TV displays, but did you know it’s now starting to be used on wine labels? You do now. In the beverage industry, Coca Cola was the first to adopt German-based Inuru’s OLED labels.  They won multiple packaging and marketing awards for their use of this technology on limited edition soft drink bottles. Stephen and Gloria Reustle, proprietors of Umpqua Valley’s Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards, were the first adopters of OLED technology for wine bottle labels.  They applied an OLED label on the specialty bottling of their beautifully crafted, Gold medal winning 2020 Deux Barrique Tempranillo. Although the label is higher priced compared to standard wine bottle labels, they are very happy with the outcome in their experimentation with the new Deux Barrique OLED label.  Stephen states that the label helped the Reustles and their team “promote the specialty bottling of Tempranillo and allowed us to grab the person’s attention and tell the story behind the wine.”

A light fingertip touch to a specified spot on the label activates the novel product, illuminating a particular portion of the label. The extremely thin label (0.5 millimeters total thickness) is completely flexible, programable, recyclable, cool to the touch, durable, waterproof and shockproof.  And wireless technology eliminates the need for an app or a plug source in order to light up the bottle.  Inuru’s OLED products are environmentally friendly, as they are manufactured without using any rare earth metals  (reportedly, a low percentage of products which have used rare earth metals have been recycled in past years). According to Inuru, their Organic LEDs make the product and the supply chain green. And beyond that, their products do not contaminate the materials that need to be recycled. 

Initial inventors of the patented OLED technology were long-term Eastman Kodak employees Steven Van Slyke and Ching Wan Tang who began developing it in 1979. Although a brand-new approach to bottle labeling, OLED technology has been around since 1987 for a wide range of applications such as an OLED car stereo display by Pioneer in 1997, and thereafter OLED display for a Kodak EasyShare digital camera. Today, OLED technology is commonly used high-tech televisions (offered by Sony and LG among others), computer monitors and cellular phones.   

Technically speaking, OLED is a highly efficient technology made with organic thin films between two conductors.  When an electrical current is applied, a bright light appears. OLED displays offer increased efficiency compared to liquid crystal displays, and do not require an external light source.  Users have found that OLED products offer improved image quality, brighter display, and a fuller viewing angle, and the refresh rates are faster.  And this technology reportedly reduces power and fuel consumption, and greenhouse emissions, benefiting the not only those of us here now, but future generations as well.

“Since we were the first application of this technology on wine bottles, there was a learning curve for us and the vendor,” says Stephen. The Inuru representative was at Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyard helping to apply the labels by hand.   Stephen shared that Inuru was quite invested in the process, wanting to ensure the Reustles were happy with the product.  Looking to the future of the technology, Stephen learned that the technology is being adapted to have the lighting mechanism be temperature sensitive. “In this case, you would put you wine in the refrigerator and the light would illuminate at the perfect temperature to serve the wine. In my opinion, this would move the technology from gimmicky to practical, ”  says Stephen. This new feature could lead to a more widely spread use of OLED labels for the wine industry. Keep your eyes out for more use of the OLED technology on wine labels as it evolves, and other winemakers begin their experimentation.

Tasting Notes

Materra Cunat Family Vineyards – A new worthy discovery                                          

A recent introduction by publicist Jamie Tobin opened my eyes to a 50-acre property belonging to the Cunat family.  Brian Cunat, his brother John, Brian’s wife Miki and (Brian and Miki’s) two daughters established the Materra label in 2007 after purchasing the historic Oak Knoll 50-acre site in 2007.  Their state-of-the-art winery was completed In 2014.  Today they have Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Viognier, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec, and Syrah planted on the 45-acre vineyard estate.

Talented Chelsea Barrett (daughter of Heidi Peterson Barrett and Bo Barrett, granddaughter of Dick Peterson, all of whom are renowned Napa Valley Winemakers) joined Mattera Winery as Winemaker in 2019, and Assistant Winemaker Caryn Harrison joined the Materra team the same year.  Harry Heitz is the winery’s General Manager. 

I really appreciate that sustainability has been important to them since the beginning, and in 2017 they became Napa Green Certified.  And their wines are noteworthy:

Materra Cunat Family Vineyards 2022 Sauvignon Blanc, Oak Knoll District: The citrus blossom aroma is wildly expressive.  Juicy grapefruit, clementine, Honeydew melon, a touch of herbaceousness, Meyer lemon, and lime sorbet invigorate the palate.  Lively  acidity keeps the wine in fine balance, and the finish is uplifting and zesty.  SRP:  $27

Materra Cunat Family Vineyards 2021 Chardonnay, Oak Knoll District:  The floral, citrus-toned aromatic is engaging at first whiff.  Filling the palate are bright notes of tropical fruit, honeysuckle, lemon-lime, crisp McIntosh apples, a touch of spice, minerality, and hints of oyster shell salinity.  The texture is creamy, and the wine remains fresh and well balanced through the vivacious finish.  SRP:  $26

Materra Cunat Family Vineyards 2019 Right Bank, Oak Knoll District:  Forest berries and earthiness rise from the glass. Rich and deeply flavored while well balanced as layers of cassis, blackberries, dark plum, sun-dappled earth, and tobacco leaf broaden on the palate. It’s deliciously old world meets new world in style, with firm tannins and a silky-smooth texture, and the finish is persistent.  SRP:  $60

2019 Hidden Block Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley:  Violet scents rise from the glass with this deep, dark, well-knit Cabernet Sauvignon.  Beautifully expressive and elegant as blackberries, black currant, leather, hints of marjoram, black plum, and  fresh tobacco unfold onto the palate.  Underlying oak spice adds depth, and the finish seems endless.  SRP:  $72

Materra Cunat Family Vineyards 2019 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Diamond Mountain District:   Wow, compelling aromas of deep, dark black fruit and warm earthiness on the nose. Black currant, spice-tinged plum chutney, fresh tobacco, saddle leather and perfectly integrated oak (21-month aging in 65% new French oak).  Velvety in texture with a backbone of firm tannins, and the finish is memorable, a seamless beauty, approachable now and ageworthy.  SRP:  $100

Materra Cunat Family Vineyards 2021 Midnight:  Napa Valley:  This well-structured red blend composed of Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Merlot and Petit Verdot sports a  deep blackish-purple hue. Rich and nicely balanced, it is approachable now, yet promises years of future enjoyment.  Expressive aromatics lead to Santa Rosa  plums, crème de cassis, earthy tones, olallieberries and well-managed oak interlacing in harmony.  Smoothly textured, the tannins are supple, and the finish is divine.  SRP:  $44

They also offer a line of Napa Valley wines designed to pair with Japanese cuisine. Co-founder Miki Cunat (originally from Shiogama, Japan) collaborated with winemaker Chelsea Barrett to create a series paying homage to her heritage. The labels are designed by Miki’s daughter, artist Amie Cunat.  For more info about this series, visit their website or give them a call.

Tours and tastings can be booked on their website,  Materra Cunat Family Vineyards is open daily from 10 am to 4:30 pm, closed on major holidays.  You can also reach them by phone  (707 224 4900) or contact them via email at

Smith-Madrone Vineyards & Winery in the Spotlight

Napa, Tasting Notes

Tasting recent vintages of Smith-Madrone wines reconfirms the depth and intensity displayed in wines made from fruit cultivated in higher altitude vineyards.  The elevation range of their steeply sloped site is 1,300 to 2,000 feet.  Here are my impressions of the wines the Smith brothers, Founder/Winegrower Stuart Smith and Winemaker/Winegrower Charles F. Smith III, are accomplishing in Napa Valley’s Spring Mountain District AVA. 

2018 Riesling ($36):  Scents of wet stone and citrus blossom rise from the glass at first swirl.  On the palate are layers of succulent peaches and nectarines, fresh squeezed lime, crisp apples, minerality, and faint lemon verbena exhilarating the palate.   Brisk acidity keeps it in fine balance, and a twist of lime lingers on the gratifying energetic finish. 

2018 Chardonnay ($45):  This beautifully complex Chardonnay opens with aromas of honeysuckle and butterscotch.  Expansive on the palate with a heavenly texture, as flavors of fresh pineapple, Granny Smith apple, Lemon Drop melon, spice cake, and a suggestion of toast reach every nook and cranny in the mouth. Brilliantly balanced and pure, and the lip-smacking finish is persistent.  

2019 Cabernet Sauvignon ($65):  The compelling aroma will keep you lingering over the glass, and the palate fully delivers what the aroma promises.  Flavors of dark berries, freshly turned earth, black currants, olive tapenade, blueberry coulis, and underlying oak marry deliciously.  Tannins are firm, the texture is velvety, and savory notes add depth through the long, memorable finish.  Approachable now, yet ageworthy if you have the patience to wait!   

2018 Cabernet Sauvignon (check with the winery if available):  The expressive aromatic drives you into the glass.  Deep and rich with a gorgeous texture and supple, well-integrated tannins.  Black plums, blackberries, sweet tobacco, crème de cassis, and graphite flow seamlessly across the palate.  Pleasing barrel spice sits nicely in the background adding further dimension. Intensely built while elegant, with years of enjoyment ahead.     

Visits to Smith-Madrone Vineyards & Winery can be scheduled for Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday at 10:00 am.  Visits/tastings are by reservation only; you can book online at

PV365 Winery is GOLDEN at the 2023 American Fine Wine Competition

Gems in MY Glass . . ., Oregon, Tasting Notes

PV365 Winery, co-owned by Pradip Patel and Vinanta Mundra, is capturing attention across the country with their beautifully crafted wines.  The savvy owners, together with skillful winemaker Patrick Saboe (a 2002 UC Davis Viticulture and Enology graduate), have developed a creative, thoughtful approach to successful winery management, and top notch winemaking.  An engaging tasting with this dynamic duo uncovered the extraordinary wines Saboe has crafted here of top quality Napa Valley fruit.  Quite taken with the wines, I asked if they had ever entered a wine competition.  No, they had not, but that would soon change.

This year I invited PV365 to enter their wines into The Invitational 2023 American Fine Wine Competition (AFWC).  This prestigious competition is one in which invitees feel honored to participate.  All wines entered here must be vetted and invited by a small acquisition team that deems the wine to be Gold Medal worthy.  Pradip and Vinanta entered three red wines, each of which the professional judges (consisting of Sommeliers, Wine Journalists, Retail Buyers, and Wine Educators) awarded high scores.  PV365’s Cabernet Sauvignon scored a DOUBLE GOLD Medal (all four judges rating it Gold), the Cabernet Franc also earned the winery a DOUBLE GOLD Medal, and PV365’s Red Blend “Sajana” scored a GOLD Medal. 

Here are my impressions of PV365’s winning wines:

2019 Broken Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley:  A compelling aroma of this classy Cabernet Sauvignon wafts from the glass.  The multilayered and complex palate unveils delectable flavors of black cherries, red and black currants, a touch of tobacco, cassis liqueur, earthiness, and underlying barrel spice (from 22 months in French oak) sitting ideally in the background.  Intense and well defined, with a firm backbone of tannins, and the finish just keeps on delivering well past the final sip.  Decant if drinking now or hold for future enjoyment.  This gem is cellarworthy, promising a long life ahead.  ($118) Double Gold Medal, 94 points

2018 Stagecoach Vineyard® Cabernet Franc, Napa Valley: This divine Cabernet Franc has a bit of Petit Verdot, Malbec, Merlot and Cab Sauv giving it added depth and complexity.  Violets and dark berries on the nose engage the senses.  Beautiful purity is showcased on the palate as blackberries, black currants, graphite, hints of roasted red pepper puree, blueberries, well integrated oak (26% new French barrels), and subtle earthiness meld seamlessly. It is varietally spot on and perfectly balanced with refined tannins, and the finish is everlasting.  Approachable now, and ageworthy.  ($108) Double Gold Medal, 93 points

2019 PV 365 “Sajana” Red Blend, Napa Valley:  This velvety smooth blend, composed of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot is compelling at first swirl. Unveiling dark berries and anise seed on the nose, it bursts with flavor upon entry.   A deep, dark, delicious mouthful of cassis, purple plums, tobacco, hints of spice, and fresh leather flows seamlessly across the palate. Balancing acidity, supple tannins, and a nice core of fruit keep it well balanced through the lively finish.  ($90) Gold Medal, 93 points

PV365 wines also include a snappy, lively 2021 Sauvignon Blanc which opens with a citrus blossom aroma leading to flavors of juicy melon, Meyer lemon, crisp pear, hints of pineapple, and lemon verbena that persist through the bright, nervy finish.   The winery’s invigorating 2021 “So Be It” Riesling shows off a beautiful expression of stone fruit and river rock elements. The palate bursts with white peach, nectarine, lemon-lime, a thread of minerality, lively acidity, and a twist of orange rind on the upbeat finish.  And don’t miss their 2019 Sparkling Brut Rosé which offers compelling scents of strawberries and tinges of brioche. Sweetheart cherries, boysenberries, pie crust, and a squeeze of blood orange enliven the palate, and the tiny bead of bubbles is endless; a brilliant apéritif.  For further information and to order wines for your enjoyment, visit PV365’s website at

Congratulations to owners Vinanta and Pradip, and winemaker Patrick for the impressive results at this competition. I envision continued success for them ahead.

Enlighten Your Palate at The Carlton Winemakers Studio

Oregon, Tasting Notes

In the heart of the Yamhill-Carlton AVA in Willamette Valley lies an intriguing incubator that brings together startup winemakers looking to hone their craft, and Willamette Valley wine aficionados looking for a wine-tasting experience to please multiple palates. The Carlton Winemaker Studio offers support to new and expert winemakers with space, equipment, collaboration opportunities, and the ability to connect with curious customers over dozens of Pinots, Chardonnays, and more, in a charming tasting room.

This unique, eco-friendly winemaking facility was founded in 2002 by Winemaker Eric Hamacher and his wife, Ponzi Vineyards Winemaker Luisa Ponzi, along with Ned and Kirsten Lumpkin. Built to LEED standards, in accordance with the U.S. Government’s Green Building Codes, the beautiful Studio with its gravity flow production equipment is now owned by Portland-based Hampton Lumber (purchased the facility in August 2021).

Founder and winemaker Eric Hamacher believes that “starting and running the Studio for 20 years may well be one of the most important things that I have done in my career. It opened folks’ eyes to what was possible if you work together and see opportunity in shared goals,” says Hamacher, “and by showing environmentally thoughtful and beautiful design we had a rather large soapbox (winery)—we opened a lot of eyes to the very idea of building green.” Eric is pleased that the new owners continue to bring in his wines.

Through the years, 47 vintners have utilized the space at this highly functional studio, some of whom now have their own properties.  Fifteen vintners currently call the Winemaker Studio their homebase for crafting wine.

When Charlie Garrell, Owner of Oregon Wine Guides and frequent Studio visitor, first visited in 2008 when “most brands were young in the industry, usually sourcing fruit, and on a relatively “shoestring” budget,” he said. “Today the average winemaker at the Studio has over 20 years in the industry, the brands are well financed and most of the wines made here are top tier. I believe something extra special happens by the different winemakers sharing thoughts, experiences and comparing tasting notes and techniques.”


The Studio’s General Manager and winemaker Anthony King started at the Studio in early 2015 after more than eight years at nearby Lemelson Vineyards.  Interested in accelerating his learning curve, Anthony said “the collaborative nature of the Studio seemed like a logical next step.” He has been an invaluable part of the Studio ever since. King takes on additional work consulting with other small brands, as well as making wine for his own brand, Ratio Wines. “Working with the Studio team to continue to improve the experience of both the visitors in the tasting room and the winemakers in the cellar has been one of life’s great challenges; I couldn’t see doing it with a better team than we have now” he says.

Tasting Room Manager Nick George joined the Studio after earning a degree in Business and Hospitality and working harvest at multiple well known vineyards within the Willamette Valley. George, who runs the tasting room along with Director of Hospitality and Wine Clubs Whitney Govert, shares that “no two tasting are exactly alike at the Studio.” He and Govert can tailor tastings to what the customer is looking for during their visit.  The wines to be poured in any given week are always changing, and there is a broad price range of wines to be tasted, from a $22 Pinot Gris to a $175 Pinot Noir. “It is a tasting experience unlike any other,” he declares . 

Govert, who is celebrating her 7th year at the Studio this year, was initially drawn to the ability to work alongside the winemakers at the Studio. “That seems more and more rare for tasting room teams to interact daily with the winemakers they are featuring. It’s one of the best parts of being part of the Studio team,” she said.

Rounding out the Studio team are Production Manager/Facilities Manager Mel Liebeck, and Office Manager/Bookkeeper Debbie Strauss, who have been with Studio for 5 and 7 years respectively.

Richmond Virginia resident Harry Thalhimer, a Studio wine club member since 2015, first encountered the Studio when a friend gifted him a one-year membership. He’s never looked back. Thalhimer says that “the Studio staff members are exceptional people to deal with, and I’ve never had a wine from them that was not awesome.”


Some of the Studio’s clients have been making wine here for several years, including Andrew Rich who has been here since the opening of the studio in 2002. Although one might think it could be frustrating working in a shared facility, Rich says “the fact that all the winemakers are seasoned pros who know how to work collaboratively and who can roll with the punches means things tend to go very smoothly. And he adds “Over the years there have been many upgrades to the physical plant and to equipment, but I think the most consequential changes have been the hiring of the current GM, Anthony King, and of the current facilities manager, Mel Liebeck. They’ve been responsible for ensuring that the Studio operates at its current high standards, in a way that’s responsive to the owners and the wineries.” Most of Andrew Rich Wines’ existence has been spent at the Studio. “Over time the wines have evolved and, I think, improved. Without a doubt some of that is due to the exchange of information that takes place at a shared facility like the Studio,” says Rich.

Francine Goitz and David Willis of Bend, Oregon, joined the Studio wine club in 2020, after hearing about amazing wines being made here, and tasting Rich’s pinot noirs. “Once we sat down and had a full tasting of many (though not all!) of their winemakers’ works, we knew we would be members, always” said Goitz, who says they appreciate “the wide variety of phenomenal wines we can enjoy, thanks to the hospitality and approachability of the tasting room team and winemakers.”

During the Studio tour, arranged by Consultant and Media Relations expert Carl Giavanti, we tasted a well-crafted Gruner Veltliner crafted by Wynne Peterson-Nedry, Winemaker at Ribbon Ridge Winery, whose brands include Ribbon Ridge and Ridgecrest. Wynne co-owns the winery with her father Harry Peterson-Nedry.  A Willamette Valley icon,  Harry planted the first vines at Ridgecrest Vineyards (in what is now the Ribbon Ridge AVA) 41 years ago in 1982 and remains the sole owner of Ridgecrest Vineyards. The vineyards are planted to 40 sustainably dry farmed acres of wine grapes.

Wynne shares that her “favorite part of working at the Studio, which is also the most compelling and beneficial part of the setup, is the ability to work with and be surrounded by so many other fabulous and talented winemakers. We are all a big family, able to share advice, tips, tricks, and whatever else might be useful. It’s fun to have a collective winemaking mind to bounce things off of, have others taste the wines, and everyone creates a great sounding board for problems.” In addition to utilizing French barrels, Wynne owns a concrete egg used for a special portion of her white wines, and a couple 4.5 ton wooden open-top fermenters used  for her best Pinot Noir. “I like the way both of these materials interact with the wine during fermentation, and I am able to make a unique product not only based on the phenomenal fruit my dad grows, but also because of my own winemaking process and vessels,” she adds.

Winemaker Isabelle Meunier has been making wine at the Studio since 2014.  Isabelle came to the Studio after crafting wines in Burgundy, New Zealand, and France. She and business partner Greg Ralston co-founded their single vineyard wine brand, Lavinea.  Isabelle says that “the camaraderie amongst the winemakers makes it a unique and interesting place to work. There are a lot of talented people under the one roof which provides us with moments to share knowledge, a few laughs, and the opportunity to share ideas and a few bottles of wine. There is a great level of professionalism among the winemakers there that I greatly respect. When asked about her barrel program, Isabelle shares that she uses Burgundian barrels exclusively. As grain tightness has improved consistency she “prefers tight and extra tight oak profiles to suit the long elevage in barrel, while preserving freshness.”  When asked about a standout vintage, she notes that “I have a couple of favorite vintages in the recent years, in particular the 2017’s, which overall was perfectly balanced in my view.  I also really loved this past vintage in 2022.  It had been a while since we’ve had a delayed spring, and subsequent long and late ripening, well into October. The late fall weather was wonderful, the flavor development was complex while preserving great acid balance. I am truly excited by these young wines and look forward to seeing them through completion.”

Winemakers at the Studio most commonly take an “Alternate Proprietor” approach where the winemakers use the property as leased space and pay a la carte for labor from Studio staff if they need a helping hand. Others can choose the “Custom Crush” approach to winemaking and receive varying levels of assistance with winemaking decisions whether they work directly with the Studio Production Winemaker or through a custom crush agreement with one of the tenant winemakers.

“Winemakers are not responsible for building maintenance and upkeep, which would typically take up to 20% to 40% of a winemaker’s time if the building belonged to them” says General Manager Anthony King.


Here are a few fine examples of many beautifully crafted wines at the Studio:

Ribbon Ridge Winery 2021 Ridgecrest Estate Gruner Veltliner (Winemaker Wynne Peterson-Nedry):  Snappy and fresh with hints of tropical fruit and citrus on the nose. Star fruit, juicy white peaches, lemon-lime citrusy notes, white pepper, and lemon verbena entwine with mouth-watering acidity, exhilarating the palate through the bright finish. ($24)

Ratio Wines 2018 Retina Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley (Winemaker Anthony King):  This gem opens with an expressive aroma of red fruits.  Youthful while fully flavored as it broadens on the palate with raspberries, subtle herbs, red cherries, a touch of salinity, and nice underlying oak (from 15 months in 20% new, and seasoned French Taransaud barrels).  The wine finishes with pretty savory notes.  ($40) 

Ratio Wines 2017 Johnson Vineyard Chardonnay, Yamhill-Carlton (Winemaker Anthony King): The wildly expressive aroma with tree fruits and lemon tarragon leading the way, is captivating.  Reminiscent of a fine Chablis, it’s sleek with crisp apples, citrus herb notes, a thread of minerality,  barrel spice sitting perfectly in the background, and racy acidity keeps it finely balance through the long finish. ($38) 

Hamacher Wines 2016 Signature Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley (Winemaker Eric Hamacher):  Floral notes rise from the glass with this silky Pinot Noir.  The well-defined palate showcases rich Bing cherries, spice-dusted wild berries, forest floor elements, and subtle oak nuances from French barrel aging.  It is beautifully textured, and the finish is nervy and long-lasting.  ($60)

Andrew Rich Wines 2018 Sojeau Pinot Noir, Eola-Amity Hills (Winemaker Andrew Rich):  A tantalizing earth-driven nose rises from the glass.  Multilayered and ideally balanced on the palate as black cherries,  anise, black raspberries, and a nice herbaceous accent unfold seamlessly with well managed oak adding a touch of spice. Pure and elegant with fine depth and a lingering finale. ($60)

Studio wineries in addition to those previously mentioned include 00 Wines, Aubaine, Lazy River, Lavinea, Asilda, Dusky Goose, Project M, Megan Anne Cellars, Wahle, North Valley Vineyards, Lucid Wild, and Guillen.   Visitors can taste and purchase wines, and also join the Studio wine club, in which wines are shipped twice per year. Both tastings and wine club shipments can be customized to suit the customers’ needs. 


For further information, visit the Studio’s website For a broader perspective of the many impressive wines made here, call (503) 852-6100 to set up an appointment or visit their facility at 801 N. Scott Street in Carlton, Oregon. The Studio is open daily from 11 am to 4 pm, and reservations are not required.

Sonoma County’s De La Montanya Winery in the Spotlight

Gems in MY Glass . . ., Sonoma, Tasting Notes


This charming family-owned boutique winery located in Healdsburg has a history of multiple generations of dedicated farmers.  I first met President/Owner Dennis De La Montanya several years ago. My recent visit with Dennis, brother Steve, GM Jarod Kline, and the winery’s competent serving staff, including son Dylan De La Montanya, reaffirms my appreciation for what the team accomplishes there. They have 185 acres planted to wine grapes, and all their wines come from their own sustainably farmed vineyards. A visit to the winery offers a relaxing tasting of wines in their delightful tasting room, comfortable patio and surrounding beautiful gardens.  And here is a preview of their well-crafted wines: 

A nice start to any evening is their Sparkling Brut Rosé, composed of classic sparkling grapes Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. It’s an upbeat, lively quaff.  And be on the lookout for their upcoming fresh, vivacious Sauvignon Blanc, and classic Gewurztraminer that brims with a floral aroma, lychee fruit and bright citrus accents on the palate. 

2021 Chardonnay, Russian River Valley:  An engaging aroma awakens the senses with this juicy, pure Chardonnay.  Rich and full bodied, while being precisely balanced with lively acidity.  Honeycrisp apples, a touch of butterscotch, lemon zest, hints of oak and savory spice unfold on the palate.  Creamy in texture, and the finish persists on and on. ($45)

2020 Christine’s Vineyard Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast:  The gorgeous fragrance will have you lingering over the glass.  Layers of Bing cherries, raspberries, black tea, anise seed, and exotic spice tantalize the palate, while oak nuances sit nicely in the background.  Elegance in the glass, with savory elements weaving from the bright first sip to the lingering last one. ($60)

2020 Sharli Vineyard Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley:  Red and black fruits on the nose are compelling with this finely tuned Pinot Noir, made from Pinot Noir clones 115, 667 and Calera. Fresh black raspberries, dark cherries, a touch of earth, pomegranate, Asian spices, cranberry chutney, and cherry-cola notes wrap around silky tannins, and the finish is heavenly. ($55)

2021 Pinot Squared, Russian River Valley/Sonoma County:  This stylish Pinot Noir, crafted from 50% Pinot Meunier and 50% Pinot Noir is highly aromatic. Fruit driven up front, it delivers juicy red cherries, forest raspberries, cranberries, summer strawberries, Sunkist oranges, and a gentle touch of earthiness.  Fresh and delicate with good balancing acidity, and a pop of Rainier cherries on the bright finish. ($45)

2021 Felta Creek Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley:  At first swirl, strolling through a field of fresh blackberries comes to mind.  Deeply flavored with succulent blackberries, red plums, warm baking spices, boysenberries, hints of pink peppercorns, and a suggestion of cocoa melding harmoniously.  Well-structured through the lip-smacking spicy finale.  ($55)

2019 Petit Verdot, Russian River Valley:  A deep hue and expressive aroma of violets and Chinese Five Spice lead you into the glass.  There you’ll find a mighty display of black plums, spiced blueberry compote, a pinch of sage, savory blackberry sauce, and well managed oak nuances.  Intense while remaining lively and juicy all the way through. ($55) 

2019 “5” Bordeaux Style Blend, Sonoma County:  This blend of Cab Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cab Sauvignon and Malbec is intensely expressive as notes of cassis and earthy elements rise from the glass and burst forth upon entry.  Blueberries, aged leather, black plums, and graphite add dimension as the wine builds on the palate, and the finish shows off plenty of strength and length.  ($65)

2018 “Sybil” Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley/Sonoma County:  Here’s a powerhouse Cab Sauv that leads with a captivating aromatic.  Sweet Black Splendor plums, blackberries, fresh pipe tobacco, savory mixed berry compote, cassis, and leather entwine seamlessly. Complex and well defined with skillfully managed oak adding depth through the memorable, everlasting finish; approachable now and ageworthy.   ($85)

Barrel Sample 2021 Tiza Colina Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley:  Deep, dark and delicious is this bold, densely flavor-packed wine.  Black currants, black plum jam, new leather, crème de cassis, allspice, and underlying barrel spices fill every nook and cranny of the mouth.  Decant if popping the cork now, or lay it down for a few years if you can wait, this wine is cellarworthy.  ($70)

Barrel Sample 2022 Sharli Vineyard Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley:  Aromas of dusty earth and warm cherry pie start the party going with the sleek Pinot Noir.  Lively with bright acids supporting wild strawberries, anise seed, rhubarb, and a suggestion of cherry cordial as it traverses the palate, and nice oak integration prevails.  A pinch of dried herbs peeks through on the persistent finish.  ($65)

Barrel Sample 2021 Calandrelli Tempranillo, Russian River Valley:  Dense, black fruit and tobacco leaf on the nose gets the juices flowing with this sophisticated Tempranillo.  Sun-scorched earth, black cherries, saddle leather, black plums, and underlying oak interplay with lively acidity and nicely structured tannins.  Finishes with a touch of clove spice.  ($50)

Barrel Sample 2022 Primitivo, Felta Creek Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley:  A bowlful of berries aroma remains deliciously consistent on the deeply fruited palate.  Blackberry jam, vanilla bean, black licorice, sweet dark red Lambert cherries, a twist of black peppercorns, and roasted figs create a colorful mosaic of flavors in the mouth.  Lush and velvety smooth with a vanilla-scented finish.  ($48)

Barrel Sample 2022  “1776” Felta Creek Vineyard Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley:  Scents of fresh picked red and black berries waft from the glass at first whiff!  It’s bold and plush while being ideally balanced. Ripe black raspberries, boysenberry jam, and mulberry cobbler flavors accented by clove and cinnamon spice richly coat the palate.  Juicy and sumptuous with spicy red plum liqueur notes on the long  finish.  ($55)

For further info visit their website at  De La Montanya Vineyards & Winery is open daily from 11 to 4:30 pm.  Reservations are recommended, call them at 707 433-3711 to book your appointment.

Willamette Valley’s Domaine Drouhin Oregon: Linking Old World Tradition to New World Terroir

Gems in MY Glass . . ., Great Northwest, Oregon, Tasting Notes

The Drouhins believe in the family approach to wine in both Burgundy and Oregon. This speaks to how they live, the wines they make, and their respect for the land. They are farming sustainably and they are LIVE certified. Their team includes fourth-generation head winemaker Veronique Boss-Drouhin, Asst. Winemaker Arron Bell, Philippe Drouhin who is responsible for managing Drouhin vineyards in Burgundy, Chablis and Oregon, and David Millman, President and CEO of Domaine Drouhin Oregon.

Their Oregon wines link the family’s tradition of fine winemaking in France to the terroir in the Willamette Valley. The Oregon site was selected for its similarity to the climate, latitude and aspect of their renowned vineyards in Burgundy. Maison Joseph Drouhin, located in Beaune France, is one of the largest estates in the region. In addition to their 235-acre Domaine Drouhin Oregon estate (established in 1987) in the Dundee Hills AVA, they own Roserock Vineyard in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA, also contained within Oregon’s larger Willamette Valley AVA.

All Domaine Drouhin Oregon wines are made from estate fruit and are crafted by hand at their four level gravity flow winery in the Dundee Hills AVA. Here two incredible examples of their well-crafted wines:

Dundee Hills 2019 Cuvée Laurène Pinot Noir:  The enchanting aroma of rose petals and earthy tones is heavenly. Layers of Lapin cherries, underbrush, spiced plum, star anise, subtle oak nuances, and cherry cola gloriously fill very nook and cranny in the mouth. Pure, polished and divinely balanced with good tension and supple tannins. And the finish will have you reaching for more.  SRP:  $75

Dundee Hills 2021 Arthur Chardonnay: A  perfumed aroma of fresh turned earth and citrus blossom kicks off this complex, multilayered Chard. Flavors of an airy mushroom soufflé, lemon curd, minerality, almond paste, and creamy baked pears glide seamlessly across the palate. It displays wonderful depth of flavor and balancing acidity, and the finish lingers on and on.  SRP:  $42

Visit their website to schedule a tasting at their stunning 235 acre estate in the Dundee Hills AVA, overlooking the beauty of the Willamette Valley. The estate is open seven days a week from 10 am to 3 pm.

Chateau Chantal and Hawthorne Vineyards Gems from Michigan

Gems in MY Glass . . ., Michigan, Tasting Notes

Hawthorne Vineyards 2017 Gamay, Old Mission Peninsula:  An engaging aromatic of fresh spring flowers greets the nose with this spirited Gamay. It is light and airy with a burst of red berries on entry.  Elegant through the palate as juicy red raspberries, Santa Rosa plums, boysenberries, and strawberry jam join Valencia orange tones, shades of savory spice, and a tinge of cinnamon candy on the zesty finish.  SRP: $18

Hawthorne Vineyards 2018 Semi-dry Gewurztraminer, Old Mission Peninsula:  The perfumed aroma of a fresh bridal bouquet of white roses is heavenly. This gem invigorates at first sip and sings with typicity on the palate, as the interlacing of lychee, mango, peach, and ginger creates a vibrant explosion of flavors.  Tingling acidity keeps the wine balanced and the finish is long and silky.    SRP:  $16     

Hawthorne Vineyards 2016 Reserve Merlot, Old Mission Peni.nsula:  Here is another succulent, well-crafted Michigan Merlot.  This intensely fragranced wine struts forth with a concentrated black fruit, earthy aroma.  Well integrated and layered with blueberries, warm olallieberry pie, shades of earth, sandalwood, and savory notes rolling gracefully across the palate.  Smooth in texture and nicely structured with the fruit, approachable tannins, and acids in balance all the way through. SRP:  $35

Chateau Chantal Proprietor’s Reserve 2018 Chardonnay, Old Mission Peninsula:  An engaging aroma of sauteed apples and spice wafts from the glass at first swirl.  The entry is rich yet well balanced and luminous, and the wine broadens with tasty flavors of caramel apple, toasty oak, lemon curd, roasted nuts, and a pinch of nutmeg on the palate.  Full bodied and gratifying through the lingering close.  SRP:  $30

Chateau Chantal 2019 Pinot Blanc, Old Mission Peninsula:  Fresh white fruits and lemon herbs on the nose are tantalizing and remain focused on the smoothly textured palate.  Layers of nectarine, star fruit and crisp apple meld in harmony with blanched almonds and lemon verbena, painting a bright display of flavors. The wine is well structured and boasts perfect balancing acidity as it heads to a luxurious last swallow.  SRP: $18

Chateau Chantal Entice, Michigan: Here is an opulent after dinner drink, a magnificent blend of Chateau Chantal’s Riesling Ice Wine and their own aged brandy. Highly aromatic with notes of honeysuckle nectar and brandied apricots. Flavors are heightened on the palate with the brandied apricot notes joining stewed peaches, lemon custard, lime-flecked nectarines, and cinnamon-sugar roasted pecans, all framed by nice acids, and the decadent finish lingers. SRP: $35

Michigan’s Black Star Farms 2018/2019 Treasures

Gems in MY Glass . . ., Michigan, Tasting Notes

Winery at Black Star Farms 2018 Sparkling Riesling, Leelanau Peninsula & Old Mission Peninsula:  The alluring citrus blossom aroma paves the way for a zesty effervescent entry.  The lively composition of Honeycrisp apples, sweet summer peaches, a whisper of minerality, Kaffir lime, and floral undertones invigorates the palate.  Crisp and fresh with a pinpoint bead, and lovely note of honeysuckle on the uplifted, energetic finish.  SRP:  $18

Winery at Black Star Farms 2019 Arcturos Pinot Gris; Old Mission Peninsula and Leelanau Peninsula:  Here is a sumptuous, richly textured Pinot Gris that simply shines.  An expressive aroma of lemon-sprinkled pears wakes you right up and leads to a delectable entry.  The swirling flavors of Granny Smith apple, D’Anjou pear, citrusy elements, tropical fruit, minerality, and lemongrass are divine. Crisp acidity keeps the wine ideally balance beyond the final lip-smacking drop. SRP: $18

Winery at Black Star Farms 2019 Gamay Noir, Leelanau Peninsula:   Aromas of strawberry rhubarb pie lead the parade for this elegant dry red wine. Montmorency cherries, a gentle dusting of herbs, candied raspberries, shades of forest floor, and a whisper of oak wrap around graceful tannins. Well balanced and ethereal on the palate through the dreamy finish. SRP:  $17.50  

Winery at Black Star Farms 2019 Gewurztraminer, Michigan:  Here is a brilliant example of a dry Gewurztraminer. The expressive aroma draws you heartily into the glass. Zesty layers of tropical guava, lychee, lemon zest, and fresh ground ginger unwind seamlessly onto the palate. Beautifully textured and pristinely balanced as it heads to the grand finale. SRP:  $18

Winery at Black Star Farms 2019 Arcturos Dry Riesling, Leelanau Peninsula/Old Mission Peninsula:  This dry, streamlined Riesling earning a Double Gold (94 pts) medal shows off an inviting perfumed aroma of Japanese honeysuckle. Silky in texture with fine balance, it decorates the palate with energizing flavors of Honeycrisp apple, Asian pear, a suggestion of lemon verbena, seashell minerality, and lime zest lingering beyond the last sip. SRP: $15

Winery at Black Star Farms 2018 Dry Riesling, Michigan:  Here is a savvy dry Riesling with a classic wet river rock, citrus blossom aroma at first whiff; no question what is in this glass.  River rock and citrusy notes remain focused on the entry, and marry harmoniously with fresh white peach, apricot, lemon-lime soda, melon, and a solid thread of minerality on the palate. Stylish and refreshing with a blast of lime zest on the sleek, enduring finish.  SRP:  $16

Black Star Farms 2018 Gruner Veltliner, Old Mission Peninsula: Here is a fine example of one of my favorite white wine varieties. The entrancing aroma welcomes you into the glass. There you will find vivid flavors of exotic Mirabelle plums, a touch of lychee, lemongrass, tangy star fruit, and crushed herbs joining classic white pepper accents. Silky in texture, lively and well balanced, it vitalize s the palate as it heads to the long, zesty finale. SRP: $14

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