Ageworthy, Bold, Captivating and Delicious – Petite Sirah! 

Gems in MY Glass . . ., Petite Sirah, Tasting Notes

I recently attended the 5th Annual Napa Valley Petite Sirah Breakfast at Robert Biale Vineyards. Talk about a wakeup call!  A delicious spread of savory quiche, breakfast potatoes, fresh baked biscuits and multiple selections of the finest bacon around was paired with this bold, intense wine. Good Morning indeed!

Petite Sirah, also known as Durif, originated in France.  It is a cross of Syrah and the lesser known French variety, Peloursin.  I’ve been a devotee of Petite Sirah for several years, and in my opinion, it is one of the most ageworthy varieties.  I recall tasting a 1967 Foppiano Vineyards (Sonoma County) Petite Sirah in the late 90’s, and it was showing incredibly well.  Yes, that’s right – at 30 years of age!

Many of the fascinating Napa Valley Petite Sirahs I had the pleasure of sampling at this tasty event also promise years of enjoyment, into the next decade and beyond.  Here are my impressions:

Robert Biale Vineyards 2014 Palisades Petite Sirah; Calistoga, Napa Valley, California:  Floral and dark fruit aromas captivate, as this assertive, cellarworthy Petite Sirah approaches the nose.  On the palate, the wine exhibits impressive complexity and balance, with layers of blackberry, bittersweet chocolate, blueberry compote, anise seed, and underlying spice notes from French oak aging. It boasts a firm structure, supple tannins, and a long and memorable finish.   SRP:  $55

Calder Wine Company 2014 Petite Sirah; Rutherford, Napa Valley, California:  From organically grown vines comes this delightful, expressive Petite Sirah.  Inky in hue, it is lush, juicy and bright in the mouth, with blackberries, plums, spice, a splash of citrus, and underlying oak nuances.  Broad and intense yet elegant at the same time, with meticulous balance and fine grained tannins.  SRP:  $30

Chase Cellars 2014 Barberis Vineyard Petite Sirah; Napa Valley, California:  This fragrant and ageworthy Petite Sirah opens with gusto!  Well defined layers of black cherry, cranberry chutney, plum and black raspberry fruit interlace with licorice, oak spice and pleasing earthy accents.  Luxurious and round yet immaculately balanced, as approachable tannins and rockin’ acidity carry the dense fruit to an everlasting finish.  SRP:  $75

Frog’s Leap Winery 2014 Petite Sirah; Rutherford, Napa Valley, California: Fresh berry fruit on the nose leads the way to a powerful display of blueberry, spiced plums, sweet huckleberries, earthiness and a subtle touch of herbs on the palate.  Oak spice (from 20% new oak) adds dimension, while firm tannins and nice acids offset the concentrated fruit; full bodied and nicely crafted.  SRP: $40

Switchback Ridge 2013 Peterson Family Vineyard Petite Sirah; Calistoga, Napa Valley, California:  The black-purple hue sets the stage for the power and intensity of this mouth filling Petite Sirah. Enticing and confident on the nose and palate, delivering aromas and flavors of cassis, elderberry liqueur, orange-scented blackberry marmalade, mocha and savory spice. Firm tannins, depth of fruit and bright acids speak clearly about its ageworthiness.  SRP:  $60

Titus Vineyards 2014 Petite Sirah; Napa Valley, California:  Hints of earth and spiced berry compote rise from the glass.  This wine is smoothly textured and succulent, with flavors of marionberries, warm cherry pie, ripe plums, blackberries, spice cake, a hint of cocoa, and attractive oak accents coating the mouth.  Rich and tasty from the pleasing entry to the plush finish.   SRP:  $38

Tres Sabores Winery 2012 Guarino Vineyard Petite Sirah; Calistoga, Napa Valley, California:  Here is a fruit driven Petite Sirah that is far from shy.  Engaging at first whiff with red and black fruits, this on point wine expands deliciously, as spiced blackberry jam, succulent purple plums, huckleberries and hints of toast unwind on the palate.  Concentrated and deep through the persistent aftertaste.   SRP:  $45

Stanton Vineyards 2014 Petite Sirah; St. Helena, Napa Valley, California:  Deep and complex, this powerhouse opens with dark berries and floral scents.  In the mouth, layers of black plums, wild berries, a twist of fresh cracked peppercorns, and oak nuances (aged 21 months in French and American oak) join energetic acidity.  Full bodied and muscular, with a backbone of firm tannins; drink now or hold.  SRP:  $45

Salvestrin Winery 2014 Estate Vineyard Petite Sirah; St. Helena, Napa Valley, California:  This 100% Petite Sirah offers up gorgeous dark fruit aromatics.  Intense and juicy from first sip, as blackberries, melted chocolate, plum preserves, savory spice, and well-integrated oak meld in harmony.  Deftly balanced and structured with a subtle suggestion of mint on the extended finish; appealing now, with years to go.  SRP:  $49

Neal Family Vineyards 2011 Rutherford Dust Vineyards Petite Sirah; Rutherford, Napa Valley, California:  From certified organic vineyards comes this pure, fruit driven wine that arouses the senses.  Well composed, with a velvety texture on the palate, where boysenberry, ripe plums, black cherries, vanilla bean and spiced olive tapenade interlace gloriously.  Graceful and vibrant with refined tannins. SRP:  $35

Kenefick Ranch 2012 Petite Sirah; Calistoga, Napa Valley, California:  Forest fruit aromas capture the senses.  This vivid and balanced Petite Sirah, blended with 10% Merlot, broadcasts blackberries, Bing cherries, blueberries, spice, and almond paste notes. Oak treatment is perfectly managed (aged 18 months in 10% new, 90% seasoned French barrels), and the texture is satin smooth.  A long finish completes the lovely package.  SRP:  $45

Priest Ranch Winery 2011 Petite Sirah; Napa Valley, California:  Bright and flavorsome, this wine offers up black fruit aromas, followed by sun-kissed blackberries, raspberry jam, licorice and savory spices filling the palate.  Luscious and pure, with silky tannins, a firm structure, and finely integrated tannins.   The lively thread of acidity provides a perfect complement to the lip-smacking, dense and long-lasting fruit.  SRP:  $40

Patland Estate Vineyards 2014 “D’Oro” Port style Petite Sirah; Napa Valley, California:  Here is a decadent way to cap off an evening. Concentrated flavors of boysenberry jam, roasted pecans, caramel, Kirsch, brown spices, orange zest and a trace of crushed spearmint weave a heavenly fabric across the palate.  Fortified with Germain-Robin Alambic Brandy and aged 20 months in French oak, it is opulent, multi-layered and skillfully balanced through the remarkable finish.  SRP:  $80 (375ml)

Petite Sirah is grown in many appellations in California, Washington, Oregon and Idaho, among other areas across the country.  It is also grown outside of the USA, in countries including Australia, Canada, Chile, Israel, Mexico, and South Africa.  Visit the above noted websites, schedule a visit, or check with your favorite wine merchants to pick up a few bottles to sip or cellar, and discover which wines suit your palate. Gain further information about this bold and beautiful variety, and learn about other fine producers, by visiting the Petite Sirah Advocacy Organization, P.S. I Love You website at




Judgment of Geyserville IV – An Impressive Round of Grenache

Judgment of Geyserville, Tasting Notes

 Wine writers, Eric Degerman, Mike Dunne, Dan Berger, Bill Ward, and I met for our fourth annual Judgment of Geyserville, with Grenache taking center stage.  This year we also welcomed Stag’s Hollow Winemaker Dwight Sick, and April Reddout, Wine Director of the Walter Clore Wine & Culinary Center.  Wines from Australia, British Columbia, Idaho, California, Oregon and Washington were represented in this blind tasting.  I see a growing trend for Grenache rising among consumers.  This is attributable in part, I believe, to how well this wine pairs with food.  Give it a try with balsamic glazed salmon, smoked trout, chicken gumbo, pork tenderloin, ribs off the grill, tofu stir-fry, caramelized roasted beets, and vegetarian lasagna; it is quite versatile!   The judges agreed that the overall quality of the flight was remarkable, with nearly every entry securing a Silver Medal or higher.  The winery capturing the only Bronze medal, Andis Wines (2012 Grenache), went on to capture GOLD and Best of Class honors for its 2014 Grenache at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition in January.  Here are my impressions for the Judgment of Geyserville IV wines (with the overall group score noted in parentheses):


Abacela 2014 Barrel Select Estate Garnacha; Umpqua Valley, Oregon:  Full bodied with a deep, dark hue, this concentrated Grenache is tightly wound.  With aeration, enticing aromas of wild raspberries and savory spice waft from the glass.  Layers of black cherries, plums, pomegranate seeds, raspberries, a dash of white pepper and sandalwood unravel onto the palate and lead to a sumptuous, long-lasting finish.  (GOLD) SRP: $29

Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards 2014 Hebron Bloc Estate Grenache; Umpqua Valley, Oregon:  The brilliant hue catches your eye, and the aroma is engaging and expressive.  Pure and well balanced on the palate, with black raspberry, pomegranate, citrus and mineral notes interlacing with a touch of fresh cracked peppercorns, and immaculate oak integration. Finishes with elegance and plenty of length.  (SILVER) SRP: $27

Folin Cellars 2014 Estate Grenache; Rogue Valley, Oregon:  Lush and rich from the sun-kissed berry scents that pave the way, to the cohesive, mouth filling flavors of spice-dusted raspberry compote and Santa Rosa plums, accented by minerality and underlying oak.  Fruit, acids and tannins are exactly balanced, and the finish is vivacious and persistent.  (SILVER) SRP: $35


A Tribute to Grace 2014 Highlands Vineyard Grenache; Santa Barbara, California:   Delicate floral notes and a basket full of fresh mixed berries greet the nose.  Aerate this well-structured wine to fully unleash layers of cranberries, red cherries, huckleberries, orange zest and spicy oak nuances.  The refreshing finale is upbeat and clean.  (SILVER) SRP: $45

Bonny Doon Vineyard 2014 Rancho Solo Vineyard Cuvee R Grenache; Monterey County, California:  Energizing scents of a walk in the forest rise from the glass.  Fresh spiced cranberry sauce, subtle earthiness, and juicy raspberries join savory notes and a thread of minerality creating a burst of flavors on the palate.  The mouthfeel is silky and the wine remains lively through the extended finish.  (SILVER) SRP: $48

Andis Wines 2012 Grenache; Amador County, California:  Highly aromatic, this wine tempts the senses with floral and spice notes.  In the mouth, pleasing flavors of cherry and raspberry compote, a hint of toast, and tangerine accents entwine.  A nice level of acidity keeps the wine balanced and energetic.  (BRONZE) SRP: $26


Sawtooth Winery 2013 Classic Fly Series Grenache; Snake River Valley, Idaho:   Floral notes and hand-picked berries fully engage the senses.  Richly fruited with red raspberries, huckleberries, and juicy loganberries at the core, highlighted by blood orange accents and a touch of clove spice.  Pure and spirited with racy acidity balancing the juicy fruit.  Bright and perky through the lingering aftertaste.  (GOLD) SRP: $32


Stag’s Hollow Winery 2013 Grenache; Okanagan Valley, British Columbia: Ripe black fruits open the door to this opulent Grenache.  Black cherries, black plums and black raspberries intertwine on the palate, with anise and a nice smoky note adding depth. Full bodied, velvety smooth and well balanced, with plenty of verve.  (GOLD) SRP:  $30

Stag’s Hollow Winery 2014 Renaissance Grenache; Okanagan Valley, British Columbia:  Perfumed aromas of berries and a hint of earth at first whiff.  Deliciously fruity, multi-layered and complex, with pomegranate juice, ripe raspberries, tangerine, minerality, and a dusting of sweet herbs interlacing in harmony.  Lacy and ethereal with a silky texture and an everlasting finish.  (DOUBLE GOLD) SRP: $40

Stag’s Hollow Winery 2015 Grenache; Okanagan Valley, British Columbia:  The fruity aroma sets the stage for this gem.  Tightly knit, the wine broadens with aeration, unveiling spiced plum pudding, black cherries, and cranberry notes on the palate. Bracing acids, good depth of fruit, and firm tannins speak to years of enjoyment ahead.  (GOLD) SRP: $30


Palencia Wine Company 2013 Grenache; Yakima Valley, Washington:  This intensely aromatic Grenache shows off gobs of ripe berry fruit.  Robust on the palate as layers of juicy boysenberry, raspberry, Bing cherry, black licorice and spice elements unwind.  Brisk acidity offsets the lush fruit, and the tannins are firm, creating a lovely balance.  (GOLD) SRP: $36

Columbia Crest 2013 Reserve Grenache; Horse Heaven Hills, Washington:  The alluring toasty, vanilla scented nose draws you in.  Black raspberry, Black Splendor plum and loganberry fruit spiked with licorice and a splash of fresh squeezed orange juice enliven the palate.  Succulent and well balanced from first sip to lip-smacking finale.  (GOLD) SRP: $35

Maison Bleue Family Winery 2012 “Bourgeois” Grenache; Columbia Valley, Washington:  Here is a Grenache that struts out with raspberry coulis and herbs on the nose.  Streamlined and zesty on the palate, with cranberry relish, raspberries, blueberries and subtle hints of spice and forest floor notes.  A firm backbone of acidity keeps it bright and lively. (GOLD) SRP:  $30


Kilikanoon Wines 2012 Prodigal Grenache; Clare Valley, Australia:  This wildly expressive Grenache shouts out deep black fruit on the nose.  Powerful from the get go, with blackberry, black plum, and pomegranate seeds marrying with chocolaty notes and impressive oak management.  Fruit, acids and tannins are perfectly balanced.  (GOLD) SRP:  $33

Yalumba Family Vignerons 2014 Samuel’s Garden Collection Old Bush Vine Grenache; Barossa Valley, Australia:   This lighter style Grenache offers up pretty scents of red fruit.  Flowing onto the palate are flavors of strawberries and cream, fresh raspberries, cranberry soda and a sprinkling of fresh cut herbs.  Elegant, nicely balanced, and easy to quaff.  (SILVER) SRP: $20

d’Arenberg 2013 The Derelict Vineyard Grenache; McLaren Vale, Australia: Take a good whiff and enjoy the essence of a plum orchard ready to be harvested. This intense Grenache broadcasts succulent purple plums, black raspberries, a touch of earth and savory spice wrapped around firm tannins.  Nicely structured with a velvety texture.  (SILVER) SRP: $29

My hope is that this variety continues gaining well deserved accolades and upward traction in the marketplace.  Why not gather up a few bottles and discover which suits your palate?  I think you’ll find Grenache to be a very nice addition to your cellar, and your next dinner party.

Gems in My Glass . . . February 2017

Gems in MY Glass . . ., Tasting Notes

Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards 2006 Gruner Veltliner; Umpqua Valley, Oregon:  Seeking an ageworthy white wine?  Look no further!  I have found Reustle Prayer Rock wines to age gracefully over many years, and this is one outstanding example.  Stephen Reustle crafted this gem more than ten years ago, and it simply could not be more stunning.  Mouthwatering aromas get the juices flowing.  Elegant layers of Chamomile tea, flinty notes, honeysuckle, salinity, oyster shell minerality and subtle white pepper accents wow the palate, and the flavors linger heavenly on the persistent finish.

Garrison Creek Cellars 2011 Syrah; Walla Walla Valley, Washington:  Here is a blockbuster Syrah!  Still in its youth, it is tightly wound with firmly structured tannins.  Cassis, blackberry and plum fruit meld with meaty elements, savory spice and well placed oak.  Full bodied and complex, decant if you pop the cork now, or cellar; this complex wine promises many years of enjoyment ahead.

Nicolas Feuillatte 2006 Palmes d’Or Brut; Champagne, France:  Alluring floral and citrus aromas set the stage for this gorgeous Champagne.  Titillating aromatics of brioche and fresh cut lemons waft from the glass. This complex bubble shows off a creamy mousse and flavors of fresh baked bread, citrus, quince paste and crisp apple flavors.  Exactly balanced and lively, with a pinpoint tiny bead that lasts until the final lip-smacking drop.

Dehlinger Winery 2011 Chardonnay; Russian River, California:  I’ve been drawn to Dehlinger wines for decades, and here again is a prime example of what keeps me coming back for more; the consistency and quality shows through year after year.   This is a mouth filling Chardonnay, chock full of crisp pear, spice-dusted baked apple, and Meyer lemon flavors cascading onto the palate.  A thread of minerality and precise oak management cap off the lovely package.

Concha y Toro 2004 Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon; Puente Alto, Chile:  Aromas of earth and leather are entirely engaging. Gorgeous vibrancy in the mouth, with just ripe berries, wild mushrooms, roasted coffee bean, licorice and baking spices joining the earthiness that remains consistent on the palate.  Exquisite balance and depth, with beautifully resolved tannins, and the finish, well, doesn’t!

Domaine Desertaux Ferrand 2013 Cote de Nuits-Villages Les Perrieres; Burgundy, France: Flinty, earth driven aromas send you jumping into the glass.  Ethereal and flavorsome as exotic spice, fresh earth, underlying red cherry, and soft suggestions of oak unfold on the palate.  Pure, pretty and elegant with a racy spine of acidity.

Silkwood Wines 2007 Vintners Select “Satin & Silk” Petite Sirah; Stanislaus County, California; This expressive red wine is opulent and finely structured.   Aged 48 months in brand new Mireau oak (crafted in Burgundy France), it showcases magnificent oak spice. Blackberry, boysenberry, mocha, and plum jam flavors coat the mouth with highlights of orange zest, a tinge of vanilla and tobacco spice.  Deep, dark, dense and delicious.

Kosta Browne 2008 Pinot Noir; Russian River Valley, California: Aroma of dried rose petals and cherries delight the senses. Firmly structured, this PN is brimming with lively layers of black raspberry, wild cherry, cola, a pinch of sage, and sassafras from first sip, to mid palate, through the back palate. Full bodied and nicely structured with a touch of oak adding dimension to the long finish.

Spring Valley Vineyard 2010 Uriah Estate Bottled Red Wine; Walla Walla Valley, Washington:   Here is a spunky blend crafted of 46% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Franc, 6% Petit Verdot, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon and 3% Malbec.  Black cherry and blackberry fruit at the core, with black licorice drop and nutmeg accents.  Oak spice from 18 months in 60% new French oak adds depth, yet stays perfectly in the background.

Spit Take – Breaking the Tie

Spit Take, Tasting Notes

“Gold, Gold, Silver, Silver—let’s discuss!”  This is a typical around-the-table call out on a panel of four professional judges at a wine competition. The tie must be broken. What happens next can change the fortunes of an unheralded winemaker, or end a hot streak for a top-end winery. Wines awarded Gold or Double Gold (unanimous Gold from all judges on that panel), not only gain kudos and shiny medals to display, but can provide vintners a direct route to increased exposure, publicity, and sales.

A good judge will have given each wine thoughtful consideration—each wine on its own merits, regardless of their personal variety or style preference.   A good judge, who may taste 50-125 wines that day, will have been spitting—the first step to maintaining a clear head and palate—and being invited back to judge. And a good judge will be ready to explain and debate their case when ties occur. Communication is key. The most important element of the tie breaker is about to begin: it’s time to lobby. Each judge presents a case for his or her rating.  The judges who called out Gold hope to talk up one, or both of the judges who ranked it Silver, to a Gold rating.  A consensus must be reached before the panel moves on to the next flight of wines.

I appreciate wine competition directors who, when assigning flights of wines, take into consideration judges’ expertise with certain varieties.  It allows judges with particular expertise to share knowledge about lesser known varieties during the discussion portion of the judging.  This gives those who may not have much (if any) experience judging that variety a better idea of what to expect.  Take for example, Gruner Veltliner, a wine I understand very well. In a recent competition, I provided in-depth information to judges who lacked experience with that variety and who under-rated the wine on its true varietal merits. After further discussion and retasting the wine, a Silver medal was elevated to Gold.

Breaking the tie is one of the most exciting parts of any competition. It presents a fun opportunity to share perspectives and knowledge, and become a better judge and co-panelist by understanding what other judges experience in the wines. As I often say, every palate is unique. The discussion that follows—during which passions can show—is part of what has energized my interest in wine, and judging over the past 16 years across vastly different competitions. There is always more to learn…and plenty of wine and conversation to fuel a passionate judge on the way to deciding which wines deserve “Gold!”

Extraordinary Wines, and the Beauty of Nature in Yosemite!

Tasting Notes

Moderating the Grand Grape Celebration again this year, at the historic Majestic Hotel (aka Ahwahnee Hotel) in Yosemite, was an honor and a pleasure.  The vintners for this session, “The Goddesses of the Grape” included Beth Nickel, Far Niente; Mia Klein, Selene Wines; Susie Selby, Selby Winery and Shauna Rosenblum, Rock Wall Wine Company.  Under the top-notch direction of Special Events Manager, Kathy Langley, and the entirely competent staff, this is one of the most spectacular wine events on the planet.  Imagine combining extraordinary wines, fine dining, and the splendor of nature surrounding you in Yosemite, it doesn’t get much better than that!

The noteworthy wines below were among the gems presented by this esteemed panel of women vintners:


En Route 2014 “Les Pommiers” Pinot Noir; Russian River Valley, California:  Aromas of a walk in the woods arouse the senses.  Lively and pure as the first taste crosses your lips, with red cherry, raspberry compote, a touch of oak and savory spice box notes tantalizing the palate.  A thread of minerality holds firm throughout, adding depth and complexity.  The wine is precisely balanced and elegant, with a silky, lingering finish that seems to go on forever. SRP:  $67

Nickel & Nickel 2013 John C. Sullenger Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon; Napa Valley, California:  Scents of cassis and black cherry segue to complementary flavors of spiced plum jam, boysenberries, dark cherries, cassis, black licorice and fresh tobacco.  Hints of oak are nicely placed in the background (aged 18 months in French oak barrels), adding further dimension.  Focused and complex with concentrated fruit, a solid backbone of tannins, immaculate balance and plenty of length; an ageworthy selection. SRP: $110

Bella Union 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon; Napa Valley, California:  Dark fruit aromas are enticing, and in the mouth this wine really delivers, with flavors of ripe blackberries, plum pudding and Bing cherries accented by nutmeg and well-integrated oak spices from French oak aging.  This Cab is ultra smooth with velvety tannins and fine balance.  This is the second vintage of Bella Union Cab Sauv; the 25-acre Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard along Bella Oaks Lane shows magnificent promise for years to come.  SRP:  $85

Far Niente 2010 Dolce; Napa Valley, California:  Perfumed aromas draw you into this exquisite late harvest dessert wine.  Composed of late harvest Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc, it is reminiscent of a fine Sauternes. Decadent layers of apricot, orange zest, butterscotch candy, fresh guava and a dollop of honey saturate the palate.  The lively acidity and bright citrus accents keep the wine beautifully balanced, and the finish will put you in a dream-like state.  SRP:  $85 (375 ml)


Selene Wines 2014 Hyde Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc; Carneros, Napa, California:  The first vibrant sip puts you in a celebratory mood; more please!  This wine is fresh and juicy with Honeydew melon and Asian pear at the center, surrounded by generous lemon and lime citrus notes and a touch of lemongrass tea.  The balance is spot on, and the wine remains upbeat and energetic through the bright and lasting aftertaste.  SRP:  $22.50

Selene Wines 2004 Chesler; Napa Valley, California:  This red blend, crafted of 60% Cab Franc, 22% Merlot and 18% Cabernet Sauvignon presents a stunning bouquet, which may convince you to stay there enjoying the fragrance for a long while.  On the palate, red raspberries, loganberries and blueberries join hands with savory spice, graphite, a hint of smoke and underlying oak notes.  The tannins, fruit and acids are in perfect balance through the lasting finish.  SRP:  $50

Selene Wines 2005 Chesler; Napa Valley, California:  For the 2005 vintage of Chesler, the blend is 50% Cab Franc and 50% Merlot.  Violets on the nose lead to a core of dense blueberries and red plums, marrying seamlessly with pipe tobacco, tarragon spice, a pinch of fresh mint, and chocolate overtones.  Marvelously textured and focused with refined tannins, it keeps your attention through the finish, that lingers with subtle oak and lovely savory notes. SRP:  $50

Selene Wines 2006 Chesler; Napa Valley, California:  The 2006 vintage, a blend of 62% Cab Franc and 38% Merlot, offers up floral notes, dark fruits and spices that tempt the senses.  Complex and well balanced with blackberry, blueberry, and wild berry fruits entwining with graphite, hints of tar, and a very slight suggestion of roasted green bell peppers peeking through on the back of the palate.  Well structured, this wine shows pristine balance, purity of fruit, well-integrated oak and good length.  SRP:  $40


Selby Winery 2014 Old Vine Zinfandel; Sonoma County, California:  This is a delightful example of old vine Zinfandel, America’s sweetheart grape, crafted from vines that range from 40 to 110 years of age.  Welcoming aromas of ripe berries and spice elements carry over to the juicy expression on the palate.  Bing cherries, olallieberries and raspberry preserves take center stage, entwining with fresh ground multi-colored peppercorns and hints of oak; jammy and delicious.  SRP:  $26

Selby Winery 2015 Chardonnay; Russian River Valley, California:  Here is a zesty Chardonnay broadcasting lemon blossom and orchard fruit on the nose.  Creamy and elegant on the palate with layers of Bosc pear, Crenshaw melon, fresh snipped herbs, citrus and oak nuances (from French oak aging).   There is an appealing richness to this Chard, and the level of acidity beautifully balances the succulent fruit.  Finishes with verve and persistence.  SRP:  $32

Selby Winery 2014 Sangiovese; Russian River Valley, California:  Cherries and a touch of earth start the ball rolling at first whiff with this exceptional Sangiovese.  The fruit comes from a steep hillside vineyard in the Russian River Valley. Vanilla bean, cinnamon and nutmeg spice accent the red cherry and raspberry flavors that are carried across the palate with a nice level of acidity, keeping the wine impeccably balanced. The finish lingers, with savory herbs and spice.   SRP:  $26

Selby Winery 2014 Azevedo Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon; Russian River Valley, California:  Highly aromatic, this delectable Cabernet Sauvignon opens with inviting scents of dark fruit and eucalyptus.  Flavors of cassis, Black Beauty plums, fresh spearmint, leather, mocha and tobacco spices meld in harmony on the palate.  The toasty oak (from 22 months in French oak), is well integrated.  Solidly structured, with refined tannins and good length.   SRP:  $42


Rock Wall Wine Company 2015 Sparkling Grenache Rosé; Yolo County, California:  This vibrant sparkling wine engages the senses with floral notes and fresh strawberries on the nose.  The wine dances on the palate, with a lively bead transporting delicious flavors of cranberry, red apple skin and lemon zest framing the juicy strawberry fruit.  Hints of allspice and blood orange chime in as this shimmering bubbly makes its way to a lifted finish.  SRP: $24

Rock Wall Wine Company 2015 Fiano; Sutter County, California:  Dive in and enjoy this refreshing white wine crafted from the Fiano grape (more widely grown in Southern Italy). From first whiff, it is bright and clean with a melon and roasted hazelnut aroma.  Tropical fruit, honeyed almonds, hints of banana bread and a generous splash of tangerine fill the mouth. I love the high acids and strong personality.  This wine is sleek and dynamic, finishing with energy.  SRP:  $18

Rock Wall Wine Company 2015 Montepulciano; Contra Costa County, California:  This Montepulciano (a grape widely grown in the Abruzzo region of Italy), shows off floral notes on the nose.  This wine reminds me of my father’s favorite pie (strawberry rhubarb), as it broadcasts rhubarb and sweet juicy strawberries accented by brown baking spices and vanilla bean.  Intriguing and lively, with licorice drops and a strong mineral card adding complexity throughout; simply scrumptious.  SRP:  $30

Rock Wall Wine Company 2013 Tannat “The Palindrome”; Sonoma and Solano County, California:  What a pleasure to taste this well-crafted new world Tannat.  It’s the national grape of Uruguay, and having visited there recently, I applaud winemaker Shauna Rosenblum for her delicious interpretation of this savvy grape.  Hints of smoke and black raspberry on the nose expand broadly on the palate to lush blackberry, plums and vanilla, with mushroom and spice box highlights.  Concentrated and far from shy, it finishes with a kick of cocoa and cinnamon toast. SRP:  $30

Take a moment to visit the websites of these wineries, and order a bottle or more.  You’ll be missing out if you lose the opportunity to place some of these gems on your table, and/or in your cellar!









Gems in My Glass . . . November 2016

Tasting Notes

Mara Wines 2011 Laughlin Road Ranch Pinot Noir; Russian River Valley, California:   This exquisite Pinot Noir showcases provocative scents of earth and a warm cherry pie.  Red raspberries, black cherries, exotic spice, cranberries, sandalwood and forest floor notes fill the palate, uplifted by beautiful acidity.   Satin smooth with refined tannins, precise balance, and a finish that goes on and on.  SRP:  $50

Gregory Graham Wines 2014 Bartolucci Vineyard Viognier; Lake County, California: Aromas of citrus blossom, sweet tree-ripened peaches and apricots capture the senses. This satin smooth Viognier is rich and viscous, with good offsetting acidity. Juicy flavors of fresh peaches, sweet nectarines, honeysuckle, lemon drops and a touch of spice simply bathe the palate in luxury.  SRP: $22

Ken Wright Cellars 2013 Shea Vineyard Pinot Noir; Yamhill-Carlton, Willamette Valley, Oregon:  This seductive Pinot Noir offers up roasted coffee bean and earthy aromas. Showing remarkable complexity on the palate, this wine displays layers of dried cherry, allspice, and cherry cola joining earthy notes and lovely oak integration; focused and finely balanced. SRP: ~ $49

Trojak~Knier 2013 The Blend; Napa Valley/Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma, California: This elegant blend, composed of 35% Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel, 33% Sangiovese and 32% Cabernet Sauvignon from the Napa Valley, opens with aromas of red and black fruits. Smooth as silk as it unfolds onto the palate with flavors of cherry, black currant, and marionberry fruit underscored by fresh ground black pepper.  SRP: $40

Patz & Hall 2014 Jenkins Ranch Pinot Noir; Sonoma Coast, California:  Here is a deeply hued Pinot Noir with scents of violets, raspberry jam and red fruits rising from the glass.   Rich and expressive from first sip, with black cherry, plum, raspberry, exotic spice and dried strawberry notes unfolding on the palate.  Intense and chewy, yet bright acidity keeps it balanced through the lingering finish. SRP:  $60

Long Meadow Ranch 2015 Rose of Pinot Noir; Anderson Valley, California:  Fresh strawberries fill the senses with this lively dry Rose of Pinot Noir.  Delicious in the mouth with red cherry, strawberry preserves, watermelon and citrus accents melding in harmony.  Bright and energetic with a touch of herbs adding another dimension on the back palate. SRP: $25

J & J Vintners 2012 Les Collines Vineyard Malbec; Walla Walla Valley, Washington:  Dark berry aromas capture your attention with this powerful Malbec.  Delicious in the mouth with a nice backbone of tannins.  Flavors of blackberries, boysenberries, loganberries and currants meld with hints of spice, well integrated oak, cocoa powder and a suggestion of caramel on the decadent finale.   SRP:  $35

Brush Creek Winery NV It’s a Dog’s Life (Sweet White Blend); Iowa:  It’s not just the name of this wine that will make you smile!  Take in the charm of this sassy, sweet blend of 50% LaCrosse and 50% Niagara.   Aromas of honeysuckle and tropical fruits lead to creamy pear, ripe pineapple, and juicy melon flavors on the palate.  If you are a Moscato fan, this wine too will win you over!  SRP:  $12

Prosser – the Birthplace of Washington Wine

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

Prosser – The Birthplace of Washington Wine

Washington’s south-central city of Prosser, endearingly known as the state’s birthplace of wine, is within the American Viticultural Area (AVA) of Yakima Valley.  This AVA, established in 1983, was the very first AVA to be recognized in Washington state.  Later recognized sub AVAs, Red Mountain (2001), Rattlesnake Hills (2006) and Snipes Mountain (2009), and are contained within the Yakima Valley AVA.

Nearby Horse Heaven Hills AVA (awarded the first 100-point rating for a Washington wine), established in 2005, sits just south of Yakima Valley and North of the Columbia River.  North of the Yakima Valley AVA you’ll find the Wahluke Slope AVA (gaining AVA designation in 2006), one of the warmest regions in the state.   Further north in the central part of the state is the Ancient Lakes AVA (established in 2012), one of the cooler Washington wine growing regions.   The Yakima Valley, Horse Heaven Hills, Wahluke Slope and Ancient Lakes AVAs (along with Walla Walla Valley, Lake Chelan and Naches Heights AVAs) are entirely within the larger Columbia Valley AVA (established in 1984).

Three additional AVAs (wholly or partly) located in Washington are Puget Sound (located west of the Cascade Mountains, established in 1995), Columbia Gorge (located in a National Scenic Area east of Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, Washington, established in 2004), and Lewis-Clark Valley (situated on the border of Washington and Idaho, established in 2016).

The knowledgeable guides for Prosser Wine Network’s recent media tour created an informative excursion through this growing wine region.  Vintners, grapegrowers and winemakers exuded passion as they led us through vineyards and barrel rooms, sharing history, experiences and fine examples of their crafts.  Among noteworthy wines, my favorites included:

Daven Lore Winery 2013 Tempranillo; Snipes Mountain, Washington:   Aromas of blackberry and crème de cassis pave the way for this well-balanced Tempranillo.  Dense black fruits unwind on the palate with accents of allspice, saddle leather and hints of fresh tobacco.   Plush and tasty, it warms you right up!    SRP:  $28.50

Daven Lore Winery 2012 Newhouse Vineyard Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon; Snipes Mountain, Washington:  Oodles of black cherries on the nose entwine with Damson plums, wild berries, black currants, roasted coffee bean, and savory spice, creating a cornucopia of flavors on the palate.  Beautifully textured with silky tannins and sweet oak nuances peeking through on the finish.    SRP:  $40

Domanico Cellars 2013 Carmenere; Yakima Valley, Washington:  This expressive Carmenere opens with aromas of wild berries and spice.  Rich and savory on entry, it gains momentum on the palate as scrumptious flavors of clove, pepper spice and hints of toast join the lush blackberry, blueberry and red berry fruits.  Mouth filling and well balanced through the persistent aftertaste.  SRP: $40

Domanico Cellars 2013 Lemberger; Yakima Valley, Washington:  Deep, dark and delicious is this spunky, full flavored Lemberger.  Generous layers of huckleberries, marionberries, fresh boysenberry jam, savory spice and shades of oak interlace and richly coat the palate.  The fine balance and smooth tannins carry the wine to a long, satisfying finish.  SRP:  $21

WIT Cellars 2015 Chardonnay; Ancient Lakes, Washington:  Beautiful expression of the variety; purity of fruit in the glass!  This elegant Chardonnay is fermented in stainless steel and aged ~8 months in neutral oak.  Showcasing crisp green apple, mineral notes, lemon curd, and fresh pea shoots, it is juicy on the palate with a lovely mouth feel and vibrant finish.   SRP:  $22

WIT Cellars 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon; 98% Rattlesnake Hills/2% Wahluke Slope, Washington:  This nicely structured Cabernet (blended with 2% Petit Verdot) opens with enticing aromatics and packs a punch on the palate.  Deep and complex, with focused flavors of cassis, black plum, tobacco spice, black cherry and hints of earth melding in harmony.  Approachable now with refined tannins, and promises years of ageability ahead, too.   SRP:  $50

Alexandria Nicole Cellars 2014 Destiny Ridge Vineyard Shepherds Mark; Horse Heaven Hills, Washington:  This well composed blend of 60% Roussanne, 20% Marsanne and 20% Viognier opens with a beckoning scent of white flowers and stone fruit.  Wildly expressive on the palate with nectarine and crisp pears, lemon blossom and a striking thread of minerality.  Vibrant and refreshing with spot on acids, it finishes long, with a kick of lime zest.   SRP:  $24

Alexandria Nicole Cellars 2014 Destiny Ridge Vineyard Jet Black Syrah; Horse Heaven Hills, Washington:   Scents of earthiness and cherry cordial drive you into the glass.  Fully engaging on the palate with layer upon layer of black cherry, loganberry, cocoa bean, anise, black pepper and dried herbs.  The underlying oak (35% new French/65% one year French barrels) adds complexity as the wine makes its way to the extended finish.    SRP:  $28

Mercer Estates 2015 Culloden Vineyard Viognier; Horse Heaven Hills, Washington:  Alluring tropical fruit aromas lure you into the glass.  Juicy and bright on the palate as flavors of cantaloupe, ripe plantains, summer melon and citrus highlights are unveiled across the palate.  A heavenly satin texture, nice acids and glorious freshness wrap up the delicious package.  SRP: $15

Chinook Wines 2015 Sauvignon Blanc; Yakima Valley, Washington:  Citrus and fragrant floral scents pave the way to a refreshing mouthful of grapefruit and tropical melon.   Racy acids keep this gem lively, and a pretty stream of fresh picked lemon verbena creates a complementary herbaceous accent across the palate.  Sleek and zesty, with an unforgettable, mouthwatering finish.   SRP:  $18.99

Chinook Wines 2013 Cabernet Franc; Yakima Valley, Washington:  A radiant hue and perfumed aroma of violets and wild berries engage the senses.  On the palate, well defined flavors of black cherry, red currant, spiced raspberry chutney and an understated note of roasted bell pepper paint a masterpiece on the palate. Vivid and pure with a smooth texture, impeccable balance, and long-lasting finish. SRP:  $24.99

Milbrandt Vineyards 2015 Traditions Sweet Katherine; Columbia Valley, Washington:  Here is an expressive Riesling that captures the essence of this noble grape in a sweet style (4.2% RS) without being cloying.  A generous level of acidity is ever present, keeping the wine uplifted.  Honeysuckle, juicy sweet peaches and nectarines drive the flavor profile, with a pinch of lemongrass adding a nice accent on the snappy finish.  SRP:  $12.99

Milbrandt Vineyards 2012 Vineyard Series Reserve Malbec; Wahluke Slope, Washington:  This powerful Malbec, aged 18 months in 50% new French oak, opens with captivating berry aromas.  Meaty notes interlace with black plums, blueberries, anise seed and savory spice.  Full flavored and complex, the firm tannins and nice acids are in perfect balance with the core of deep fruit.   The underlying oak is well placed and the aftertaste lingers forever; drink now or cellar if you can wait.  SRP:  $50

Gamache Vintners 2011 Merlot; Columbia Valley, Washington:  Engaging floral notes waft from the glass.  This lush, well-structured Merlot is chock full of blueberry and boysenberry fruit, milk chocolate and cinnamon spice dazzling the palate from start to finish.  Rich with a beautiful velour-like texture and silky tannins; simply yummy.  SRP: $25

Gamache Vineyards 2011 Heritage Collection Nicholas; Columbia Valley, Washington:  This blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec is deep, dense and delectable.   Fruit driven with black cherry, blueberry and plum at the core, it builds on the palate with added elements of fresh tobacco, cassis, vanilla bean notes.  Velvety in texture with a backbone of firm tannins, lively acidity and a long-lasting aftertaste.  SRP:  $40

Martinez & Martinez Winery 2015 May Mae Rose of Cabernet Sauvignon; Horse Heaven Hills, Washington:  The jewel toned color is dazzling, and as you raise the glass a lovely scent of fresh roses demands your attention.  Juicy raspberries, sweet strawberries, a hint of watermelon and tangerine notes are wrapped around a brisk spine of acidity.  Pristinely balanced, this Rose simply dances on the tongue.  SRP:  $20

Martinez & Martinez Winery 2011 Dominio de Martinez Cabernet Sauvignon; Horse Heaven Hills, Washington:  A brilliant hue catches the eye, and dark fruit aromas entice as this well-crafted Cabernet approaches the nose.  Cassis, wild bramble berry and black plums entwine with tobacco, a touch of herbs and minerality. This gem is intense yet elegant, precise in balance, and the oak is nicely understated.  Approachable now, and cellarworthy, too.  SRP: $45

Chateau St. Michelle 2009 Canoe Ridge Estate Cabernet Sauvignon; Horse Heaven Hills, Washington:  This robust Cabernet Sauvignon displays aromas of dark berries and leather on the nose.  Intensely flavored and complex with Bing cherries, olive tapenade, black currant, mocha and blackberries framed by firm tannins.  Muscular yet lively and expressive on the lingering, toffee scented finish.  SRP:  $32

Bunnell Family Cellar 2013 Wine o’Clock Gewurztraminer; Lake Chelan, Washington:  This delectable and varietally spot on dry Gewurz steals the show with its rose petal and tropical fruit aroma!  Bright and perfectly balanced, it electrifies the palate.  Brimming with lychee, hints of grapefruit and passion fruit, and buoyed by a stream of bracing acidity; an irresistible quaff.  SRP:  $18

Bunnell Family Cellar 2013 BDX Painted Hills Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon; Columbia Valley, Washington:  Here is a stellar Cabernet Sauvignon that shows off aromas and flavors of cassis, black cherry, dark plum, tinges of earth, worn leather and tobacco spice.  Multi-faceted with loads of charm, a firm structure, polished tannins and impressive length.  Drink now or hold for future enjoyment.  SRP:  $48

The state of Washington ranks second amidst the highest wine producing states in the USA.  There is much more than what I captured here for me (and you) to explore in Prosser.  Although time did not allow the chance to meet with all the vintners in this region, the personalities I met with, properties I visited, and the wines I tasted gave me ample reason to schedule another visit, and you should treat yourself to the same delightful opportunity!

Gems in My Glass . . . August 2016

Tasting Notes

Navarro Vineyards 2015 Pinot Blanc; Anderson Valley, Mendocino County, California:  Gorgeous fragrant, floral notes lead the way as this dazzling Pinot Blanc approaches the nose.  Silky and elegant on the palate with Golden apple, lemon curd, blanched almonds, mineral notes and a touch of honeycomb thrilling the palate.  Fresh and sunny with a beautiful texture and a long lasting aftertaste.  SRP: ~$20

Adamant Cellars NV Scintillate Sparkling Tempranillo Rosé; Walla Walla Valley, Washington:  Fully engaging scents of potpourri and rose petals prepares you for this perfect evening bubbly.  Flavors of watermelon candy, fresh strawberries and a touch of bubble gum unroll onto the palate with a lasting stream of acidity holding firm.  The finish delivers a bright kick of orange zest.  SRP: ~$75

Garrison Creek Cellars 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon; Walla Walla Valley, Washington:  Deep, dark and oh so delicious is this full-bodied, finely structured Cabernet.  Strikingly balanced with layers of cassis, blackberry, tobacco, savory spice, graphite and just the right touch of oak joining forces with refined tannins and a smooth texture.  Approachable now, yet also promises years of ageworthiness ahead.  SRP:  $65

Willamette Valley Vineyards 2015 Estate Rosé of Pinot Noir; Willamette Valley, Oregon:  Wrap your mind around a bowl full of sweet strawberries, ripe raspberries and crisp watermelon with citrus highlights!  From the expressive aroma through the juicy palate, this dry Rosé is a winner.  Brisk, fresh and well balanced with lively acidity; entirely thirst quenching.  SRP:  $24

Long Shadows Vintners 2013 Pedestal Merlot; Columbia Valley, Washington:   Here is a sophisticated and complex Merlot that opens with expressive wild berry and violet aromatics. In the mouth it showcases wonderful purity and richness as flavors of sweet blueberries, black currants, marionberries, savory spice, hints of cocoa and well-integrated oak unfold.  Finely grained tannins provide the perfect framework, and the finish is persistent.  SRP:  $60

McCay Cellars 2015 Viognier; Lodi, California:  Scents of stone fruit and a suggestion of herbs awaken the senses.  This all stainless steel wine is a magnificent example of the variety, brilliantly capturing the spirit of Viognier.   White peaches, fresh apricots, a splash of lemon-lime and a pinch of white pepper entwine, and the mouthfeel is plush with a nice thread of acidity keeping it up beat through the satisfying finish. SRP:  $35

Ledson Winery & Vineyards 2012 Howell Mountain Zinfandel; Howell Mountain, Napa Valley, California: From vines that are head trained and dry farmed comes this classy Zin.  A delicious melding of fresh blueberry, black plum and sweet blackberry fruit, nice band of minerality, and healthy dash of savory spice elegantly coat the palate.  The juicy fruit is supported by a firm structure and medium to firm tannins.  SRP:  $60

Rousseau Freres 2014 Touraine Noble Joué Rosé; Loire Valley, France:  A blend of 50% Pinot Meunier, 35% Pinot Gris and 15% Pinot Noir, this is a delightful Rosé with a floral, fruity aroma.  Flavors of Rainier cherries, sweet raspberries, lemon curd and a sprinkle of thyme invigorate the palate and stay fresh and bright from start to finish.  SRP:  ~$16

Benziger Family Winery 2013 Tribute Estate Blend; Sonoma County, California:  Ripe dark berries and spice on the nose lead to an enchanting first sip.  This complex red Bordeaux blend (crafted predominately of Cabernet Sauvignon) is lush with a velvety texture, firm structure and supple tannins.   Generous layers of cassis, Bing cherries and blueberries accented by fresh tobacco and spice box notes carry nice weight on the palate, and the aftertaste lives on and on.  SRP:  $85

Gems in My Glass . . . July 2016

Tasting Notes

2016 International Women’s Wine Competition

The 2016 International Women’s Wine Competition got off to a fine start.  Elegant tables adorned with fresh multi-hued pink and violet orchids, lavender spit cups and matching lavender napkins greeted the judges.  A room full of women wine professionals, including winemakers, sommeliers, grape growers, vintners and wine writers were chosen purposefully (studies have shown that a greater majority of wines sold in the USA are purchased by women).   The competition continued as smooth as it gets with Debra Del Fiorentino at the helm, assisted by her experienced and well versed crew; they never missed a beat.

The entries from around the world impressed the judges from the get go.  To our delight, my panel began with sparkling wines (which I oft have the pleasure of judging at competitions).  Needless to say, our morning started off in a most enjoyable way!  Sauvignon Blanc and other white varieties came next to kick off our still wine categories, followed by Pinot Noir and Malbec, and our day ended evaluating Sherry and Sake.  Not a bad day’s work.

Noteworthy wines securing a Gold Medal (or higher) award from our illustrious panel included:

Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards 2012 Late Disgorged Brut Rosé; Carneros, California:   Composed of 90% Pinot Noir and 10% Chardonnay, this delightfully dry sparkling wine shows off an eye-catching mousse and pinkish salmon hue, citrus blossom aromas and an energetic tiny bead.  Baked pie crust, strawberries and creamy lemon custard interlace on the palate, carried by lively acidity.  A touch of spice brings the wine to a memorable finish.  SRP:  $50

Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards 2007 Late Disgorged Royal Cuvée; Carneros, California: Biscuity aromas fill the senses with this blend of 67% Pinot Noir and 33% Chardonnay, and royal it is.  Intensely flavorful, with Granny Smith apples, quince paste, creamy pears, fresh baked bread and minerally notes flowing seamlessly onto the palate.  The tiny, endless stream of bubbles will send you into a dreamy state of mind.     SRP:  $37

Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards took home Best of Show Sparkling honors for their 2004 Late Disgorged Carneros Cuvée.  Wow, a blend of 53% Pinot Noir, 47% Chardonnay, this complex bubbly is exquisite.  The brilliant hue and pinpoint bubbles are mesmerizing, and the yeasty aroma knocks your socks off.  Bright layers of raspberries, fresh green apples, spiced pear chutney, flaky croissants and citrus accents unfold with remarkable vibrancy, and the lingering finish is simply divine.  SRP:  $75

Hagafen Cellars 2012 Late Disgorged Brut Cuvée; Napa Valley, California:   This engaging wine reeled us in with its heady aromas of sugar cookie dough, and a dazzling display of tiny bubbles delighted the eyes.    Luscious and vivid in the mouth with Golden Delicious apples, juicy Rainer cherries, a touch of orange zest and attractive leesy notes framed by spirited acidity.   Bright and invigorating through the lovely aftertaste.  SRP:  $48

Villa Maria 2015 Bubbly Sauvignon Blanc; Marlborough, New Zealand:  We all easily identified New Zealand style Sauv Blanc characteristics on the nose.  That profile remained consistent on the palate, with juicy melon, gooseberry, hints of herbs and fresh squeezed lime tingling the taste buds.  Classic varietal expression of NZ Sauvignon Blanc in a sparkling wine style, with nice acidity holding firm throughout.  SRP:  ~$16

Andis Wines 2015 Sauvignon Blanc; Shenandoah Valley, Amador County, California:  Floral aromas waft from the glass with this striking Sauvignon Blanc, which garnered the Best of Show White Wine award.  Bursting at the seams with sweet Meyer lemon, Granny Smith apples, perfectly ripened nectarines and fresh cut herbs, this precisely balanced, energetic wine electrifies the palate and lingers with brightness and persistence.   SRP:  $19.99

Charles Krug Winery 2015 Sauvignon Blanc; St Helena, Napa Valley, California:  Here is a highly aromatic, mineral driven Sauvignon Blanc that wows from first sip.   Well balanced with brisk acidity, it is vibrant and compelling as notes of lime zest, grapefruit and lemon verbena interlace with the lovely thread of minerality on the palate; brilliant.   SRP:  $18

Cupcake Vineyards 2015 Sauvignon Blanc; Marlborough, New Zealand:   The unmistakable profile screams Marlborough as the aromas lift from the glass.    Fresh mowed grass, gooseberries, grapefruit and lime sorbet fill the senses, and juicy fruit is complemented on the palate with crushed herb accents.   Bracing acidity carries through the zesty finish.   SRP:  ~$11 www.cupcakevineyards.ccom

Berryessa Gap Vineyards 2015 Estate Sauvignon Blanc; Yolo County, California:  Pale straw in color, this invigorating Sauvignon Blanc is clean, bright and fresh.  Star fruit, kiwi and fresh peach flavors highlighted by a generous splash of lemon and orange citrus fruit stream radiantly onto the palate. Bracing acidity keeps it lifted through the long-lasting finish.  SRP:  $23

Pico 2015 Malbec; Mendoza, Argentina:   A bit shy on the nose up front, this richly fruited Malbec opens more fully with aeration.  Dense dark berries and ripe black plums converge at the core.  This lush Malbec broadens in the mouth, with earthy elements and plenty of spice joining the sweet, jammy fruit.  Well balanced and easy to quaff with a fresh, clean finish.  SRP:  ~$18

Grizzly Peak Winery 2013 Estate Malbec; Rogue Valley, Oregon:   Expressive aromas of dark berries and spice draw you into the glass.  Delectable blackberry, black cherry and spiced berry compote flavors entwine with bittersweet chocolate and fresh ground pepper as it flows onto the palate.  Nicely textured and balanced, finishing with a subtle hint of chocolate covered coconut.    SRP:  $35

Lautenbach’s Orchard Country Winery NV Lauren Elizabeth; Door County, Wisconsin:   This tasty fruit driven white wine, crafted of La Crescent (a cold hardy hybrid grape) and Honeycrisp apples, is gentle yet lively on the palate.  Flavors of Honeycrisp apples, freestone peaches and apricots swirl in the mouth with a dash of lemon lime juice; easy to quaff.    SRP:  $14.95

Reverend Nat’s Hard Cider Winter Appey Spice Hard Cider; Portland, Oregon:  This full bodied hard cider capturing Best of Show Cider honors, is reminiscent of Grandma’s apple pie and warms you right up!    Fresh apple pie, cinnamon and nutmeg and raisin tart flavors take center stage, with roasted nuts and caramel adding complexity.  Perfect for a winter holiday feast.  SRP:  ~$13

Bold Rock Hard Cider Crimson Ridge Vat #1 Chiles Orchard Hard Cider; Monticello, Virginia:    Inviting aromas of spiced applesauce greet the nose with this rich and smooth hard cider.  Tasty layers of apples sautéed in butter and brown sugar, allspice, and citrusy notes coat the palate.  Round with no hard edges yet bright and energizing, it is remarkably balanced.  SRP:  ~$12

Kooksoondang 2012 Rice Makgeolli – Peach; South Korea:   A beautifully fragranced aroma lifts from the glass with this generously fruited frizzante style brew.  Silky smooth and elegant, this peachy elixir gently spills onto the palate with yummy flavors and mild to moderate acidity, and the spritzy element keeps it dancing on the palate.  Drink while it is young and fresh, and serve chilled.   SRP:  ~$10

Additional top awards equally worthy of seeking out included:  Best of Show Red Wine and overall BEST OF SHOW Wine to Oak Farms Vineyards for their 2014 Barbera from Lodi, California ($25); Best of Show Rosé Wine to Holman Ranch Vineyards & Winery for their 2015 Rosé of Pinot Noir from Carmel Valley, California ($22); and Best of Show Dessert/Late Harvest to Cupcake Vineyards for their 2015 Moscato D’Asti Italy ($14.99).

CONGRATS to each and every award winner!  Visit to review all the awards for this year’s competition, and to gain details about the 2017 International Women’s Wine Competition, which takes place June 20 – 21.  Be sure to get your entries in early to take advantage of the early bird special.

Gems in My Glass . . . June 2015

Gems in MY Glass . . ., Tasting Notes

Savor your way through California’s delightful Central Coast

Heading south to Paso Robles for the 2016 Central Coast Wine Competition is always a joy, and this year is no exception.   The wines are showing beautifully, and the passion of the winemakers and vintners is palpable.  Results for this year’s competition are in!   The Best Red wine and Best of Show award went to San Marcos Creek for their 2014 Fling’s First Crush, a Grenache based blend.  Best of Class honors for sparkling wine was captured by Laetitia Vineyard & Winery for their NV Brut Cuvee.  Best Pink wine was awarded to Sexton for their 2015 Grenache Rose.  Gary and Marcy Eberle (owners of Eberle Winery) scored two Best of Class Awards, one for their 2015 Viognier (Best White Wine) and the other for their 2015 Muscat Canelli (Best Dessert Wine).

Here are my impressions of these fabulous sippers, and other Gold medal winning favorites:

Laetitia Vineyard & Winery NV Brut Cuvee; Arroyo Grande Valley, California:  This vivacious sparkling wine (made from 53% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay and 17% Pinot Blanc) displays a tiny bead, and draws you in with its fragrant scent of citrus-laced stone fruit.  Flavors of crisp pears, creamy apples, and lemon zest with hints of fresh baked bread are unveiled on the palate; dazzling!  SRP: $25

San Marcos Creek Vineyard & Winery 2014 Fling’s First Crush; Paso Robles, California:  From the enticing aroma and bright entry to the last juicy sip, this blend of 50% Grenache, 33% Zinfandel and 17% Petite Sirah is captivating.  Deeply concentrated with red raspberry, blackberry and ripe plums surrounded by all-spice and fresh cracked peppercorns.  It’s rich and mouth coating with a firm backbone of tannins, nice acids keeping it lively, and a finish that just keeps on going.  SRP:  $39

Eberle Winery 2015 Viognier; Paso Robles, California:  Here is a classic, gorgeous Viognier that is simply irresistible.  Aromas of delicate white flowers and a splash of citrus pave the way for a resplendent palate showcasing perfectly ripe nectarines, apricots and honeydew melon.    Hints of lemon verbena and fresh squeezed orange juice add further delight, and the wine is perfectly balanced.  SRP:  $26

Sextant Wines 2015 Grenache Rosé; Paso Robles, California:  Crafted of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre, this seductive dry Rosé is crisp and radiant.  Strawberry, tropical melon and cranberry cocktail flavors with accents of citrus and chopped herbs enliven the palate; a lovely quaff.    SRP:  $21

Cinquain Cellars 2013 Reserve Malbec; Paso Robles, California:  Aromas of black fruit and vanilla bean waft from the glass.  This tightly wound, complex wine offers up dense blackberry and black cherry at the core, with accents of well integrated oak, exotic coffee, and savory spice.  Beautifully structured and balanced; an extraordinary Malbec. SRP:  $60

Hearst Ranch Winery 2014 “Pico Creek” Merlot; Paso Robles, California: This smooth, finely textured Merlot (composed of 75% Merlot and 25% Petit Verdot) fills the palate with fresh herbs, juicy blueberry, raspberry and blackberry fruit, and a tasty thread of cocoa.  Shows off immaculate balance, pretty tannins, and a lifted finish. SRP:  $30

Michael Rose Cellars 2015 Estate Bouschet Rosé; Central Coast, California:  Fragrant berry aromas draw you into this delectable Alicante Bouschet Rosé.  Lively acidity frames raspberry, blueberry, cranberry and subtle spice flavors that simply dance on the palate.  Thirst quenching, bright and elegant. SRP:  $26

Tlo Wines 2014 Pinot Noir; Edna Valley, California:  A highly expressive Pinot Noir displaying berry and cherry cola notes at first whiff.  The palate is equally compelling with layers of sun ripened Bing cherries, fresh raspberries, a touch of spiced oak and forest floor nuances; well crafted.  SRP:  $40

J Dusi Wines 2014 Dante Dusi Vineyard Zinfandel; Paso Robles, California: A rich and jammy mouthful! Reminiscent of a bowl brimming with juicy, ripe summer raspberries, blackberries and cranberries topped with vanilla bean scented cream.  Oh so spirited, fresh and pure, with a finish that lingers after the final sip.  SRP:  $38

Brophy Clark Cellars 2014 Chardonnay; Santa Maria Valley, California: Aromas of orchard fruit and buttery croissants set the stage for a yummy mouthful of sautéed pears, pineapple, baking spices and well placed underlying oak.  Fully flavored and well balanced with a satisfying, persistent aftertaste.  SRP: ~$20

Eberle Winery 2015 Muscat Canelli; Paso Robles, California:  This vibrant, semi-sweet Muscat Canelli awakens the senses with a pretty floral aroma and fills the mouth with luscious flavors of gingered pears and fresh peach compote.  Striking acidity creates a beautiful balance and the finish is heavenly.  SRP: $20

View all the results for the 2016 competition at  For more enjoyment, spend a few days in this delightful locale to taste and purchase these award winning wines, and other delectable wines being made throughout the Central Coast wine region.

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