Tasting No. 230 (Virtual) – May 24, 2021- Red Blends from California Central Valley and Napa

Tasting Overview

Each year, California produces millions of liters of good quality table wines with a growing number producing high quality vintage wines. In 2017, the U.S was the 4th largest producer of wine in the world, and 90% of the wine produced by the U.S. came from California.  Major grapes include Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, and Sauvignon Blanc.  A wine tradition going back to the early 19th century, California has some of the oldest continuing vineyards in the country. Many historians generally agree that the first California vines were planted in 1769 at the Mission of San Diego de Alcala.

This tasting focuses on two red blends: one with grapes harvested from California’s Napa and Sonoma Counties, and a second from Lodi in the Central Valley.

Type of Tasting: Open

Wine presenters: Michelle Fryer, Claudia and Agilson Perazza

The wines are:

2018 Chappellet Mountain Cuvee Proprietor’s Blend, Napa Valley

2017 Bogle Phantom, Central Valley, California

 The menu is up to each participant discretion

Participants: Mario Aguilar, Marcello Averbug, Clara Estrada, Jaime Estupiñán, Michelle Fryer, Orlando Mason, Agilson Perazza, Claudia Perazza, John Redwood, Lucía Redwood, Jorge Requena, Alfonso Sanchez, Jairo Sanchez, Pedro Turina, Ricardo Zavaleta, German Zincke

Information on the Wines

(The information below has been compiled from various internet sources) .

2018 Chappellet Mountain Cuvee Proprietor’s Blend, Napa Valley 

The Wine: Winemaker Notes: Blended from the traditional Bordeaux varietals, including our own coveted grapes, the Chappellet Mountain Cuvee Proprietor’s Blend builds on our five decades of experience crafting great Napa County mountain-grown wines. Each component varietal in the cuvée contributes to nuances that complement each other. The result is a complex array of aromas and flavors that deliver pure pleasure in a glass. Made for more near-term enjoyment, this is the wine to choose when you’re looking for vivid, mouthfilling fruit flavors. Alluringly dark and spicy, this wine displays beautiful aromas of currant, cassis, sage, and thyme, as well as hints of cinnamon and clove from barrel aging. On the palate, the tannins are impeccably balanced, adding depth to the lush ripe berry flavors, with layers of cola and grenadine emerging as the wine evolves in the glass. Blend: 44% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot, 10% Malbec, 8% Petit Verdot, 5% Cabernet Franc

The Winery: Chappellet Winery is a wine producer based in the Napa Valley. Spurred by the notion that mountain fruit would make superior wine, Donn and Molly Chappellet started the winery in 1967 by purchasing land on Pritchard Hill at the advice of legendary California winemaker André Tchelistcheff. Pritchard Hill, in St. Helena, was an appealing site for a vineyard due to its steep aspect, high elevation, and east-facing slopes. Chappellet remains family-owned and in 2011 bought the Sonoma County-based producer, Sonoma-Loeb, who had made its wines at the Chappellet winery for over two decades.

The estate vineyards on Pritchard Hill have an altitude that ranges between 800-1800ft (245-550m) above sea level. The Chappellet family were the first to plant vineyards exclusively on high elevation hillsides and the second winery to be established in the Napa Valley after Prohibition. Their specialty is red Bordeaux varieties, especially age-worthy Cabernet Sauvignon, which accounts for 25 of the vineyard’s 34 individual plots. Its flagship wine is the critically acclaimed Pritchard Hill Cabernet Sauvignon which is sold mostly to members of its wine club by allocation. The rugged terroir of their vineyards produces wines with great intensity and depth, qualities that define the world’s finest wines.

Chappellet prides itself on its commitment to its land and the environment. Only 16 percent of the estate is under vine, the rest being uncultivated land. Furthermore, the entirety of the Pritchard Hill vineyard is organic and in 2008, solar panels were installed that generate enough energy to completely offset the winery’s needs.

As one of the first wineries to pioneer high-elevation hillside planting, and one of the few remaining great family-owned Napa Valley wineries, Chappellet Vineyard and Winery has influenced generations of vintners. Throughout its history, Chappellet has also established an enduring legacy as one of California’s most acclaimed producers of Cabernet Sauvignon.

Since being founded by Donn and Molly in 1967, Chappellet has earned acclaim championing the robust power and complexity of wines crafted from mountain grapes. At the same time, Chappellet has helped to establish Pritchard Hill as one of California’s most revered winegrowing sites. To honor the mountain’s rich, expressive character, the winemaking team focuses on creating extraordinary, age-worthy Cabernet Sauvignons that embody the intensity and finesse of fruit from Pritchard Hill.

The Region: Geographically speaking, Pritchard Hill fits between the official AVAs (American Viticultural Areas) of Oakville, Howell Mountain, the Stags Leap District, Rutherford and the Chiles Valley, not far from the town of St. Helena. The Chappellet family chose to trademark the name “Pritchard Hill” instead of going through the formal AVA application system. 

St Helena is one of the Napa Valley’s key subregions, located in the shadow of the 4345ft (1325m) Mount Saint Helena, from which the small town takes its name. The AVA, given in 1995, specializes in rich red wines made from Cabernet Sauvignon and, to a lesser extent, Merlot. The AVA covers 9000 acres (3645ha) of densely packed vineyards and is home to more than 30 wineries, including  Chappellet and Beringer, one of California’s oldest continuously operating wineries, founded by Jacob Beringer and his brother Frederick in 1875. In recognition of the contribution the Beringer family estate has made to Napa Valley and its wine industry, the site was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2001. Next to Beringer Vineyards is the Charles Krug winery, established by the German-American who is often credited as being the “father of Napa wine”. 

The town of St. Helena and its vineyards are located where the valley narrows substantially, about 15 miles (25km) north of Napa, and receives little benefit from the cooling effect of the San Francisco Bay fog and ocean breeze. Consequently, St Helena is one of Napa’s warmer appellations, and well suited to producing rich, structured red wines from the key Bordeaux varieties.  

  2017 Bogle Phantom, Central Valley, California

The Wine:: Winemaker Notes: Intriguing, beguiling…this mysterious apparition of ripe berry and relentless spice returns to haunt wine lovers. Enveloped in shadow, this wine’s intensity and concentration will entice you with every sip. Full-bodied and jammy, Phantom’s origins of Petite Sirah and Zinfandel emerge from the glass. Spicy pepper and juniper tantalize your senses, while black plums and blueberries emerge on the palate. Notes of pipe tobacco and clove settle around the finish, long and lingering, like the Delta fog. Blend: 52% Petite Sirah, 48% Zinfandel.

This California wine has received good scores from various critics. Numerous prizes have been won by this wine: the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition awarded the 2015 vintage Gold and the 2014 vintage Double Gold. Based on critic scores and price, this wine represents great value.

The Winery: Although the Bogle family has been farming since the 1800’s, it wasn’t until 1968 that the father and son team of Warren and Chris Bogle planted their first 20 acres of wine grapes in Clarksburg, California. Clarksburg is a small farming community nestled in the Sacramento Delta. Initially selling grapes to other wineries, Bogle Vineyards became a winery in its own right, in 1979.  Since then, the winery has grown tremendously along with the vineyards. According to tracking by the wine-trade magazine Wine Business Monthly (2021), this family-owned vineyard is currently the 13th-largest winery in the United States, with an annual crush of approximately 39,000 tons of grapes and an annual production of from 2.5 million – 2.7 million cases of wine.   In fact, no winery in the country makes more Petite-Sirah wine than Bogle, some 130,000 cases a year. Chardonnay, their top-selling varietal wine, accounts for more than half of Bogle’s estate vineyards and about a quarter of its sales.

While the Bogle signature brand is a mass-market wine that is widely available in grocery stores, Costco, and Trader Joe’s, these value-priced wines have achieved a consistently high quality-to-price ratio, having earned the Wine Enthusiast’s Best Buy selection more than 40 times from 2015-2020, and the magazine’s Wine Star Award for “American Winery of the Year 2019”.  More recently, Bogle has expanded its portfolio to include several upscale wines, specifically the higher-priced Juggernaut (a name inspired by the surge in growth at the winery over the past decade) and Phantom programs. Twenty Acres, a new brand developed solely for on-premise and restaurant consumption, was rolled out this year.

Most of Bogle’s wine is made at a newer facility, with a 200,000 sq ft. barrel cellar large enough to accommodate Bogle’s 90,000 oak barrels and a veritable forest of fermentation tanks.  Estate acreage — 1900 acres mostly in the Clarksburg and Lodi AVAs — provides about 80% of the grapes needed by the winery, and the balance of fruit is brought in from growers across California and Nevada. First and foremost farmers, the Bogle family subscribes enthusiastically to a program of sustainable farming that adds a premium for each ton of certified grapes they process. As of 2018, this investment totaled $2.8 million in bonuses paid to local growers.  To be a certified grower, the program — “California Rules,” a spin-off of Lodi’s pioneering “Lodi Rules” — requires participants to adhere to water, soil, pest and other management standards. As part of this practice, Bogle installed high-efficiency drip irrigation on its estate vineyards and all water used at the winery is reclaimed and reused to irrigate on-site crops and landscaping. Consequently, in 2018, Bogle received California’s Green Medal Award, for being the vineyard that best demonstrates leadership in environmentally sustainable wine-growing practices.  While the family is proud of its sustainability efforts, a methodical approach to wine quality is also key to Bogle’s success.  The winery takes extra steps that many large wineries do not.  For example, each vineyard lot, whether gown by Warren Bogle or by partner growers, is processed separately to improve quality control throughout the winemaking process.  All red wines are aged in oak, while Chardonnays are barrel-fermented, and 96% of Bogle’s grapes are sustainably certified.  In recent years, corporate wine companies have bought several similarly successful family wineries, but Jody Bogle says their massive new winery and their sustainable farming practices are meant to keep the operation in the family “for future generations.”

The Region: Lodi AVA is located directly east of San Francisco Bay between the cities of Sacramento and Stockton. The AVA proclaims itself as the Zinfandel Capital of the World. Over 40 percent of California’s premium Zinfandel vineyards are located here. Lodi is known for old vine bottlings, with some plantings dating back as far as 1888. Many of these are on their own roots and naturally low-yielding.

Modern-day Lodi vineyards are planted with a broad portfolio of California’s favorite varieties, over 100 in total. Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and the Southern Rhône varieties are all represented.

Other key varieties include Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Merlot for reds, with Chardonnay, Viognier, and Sauvignon Blanc for whites. Although less common, Petite Sirah, Cabernet Franc, Barbera, Tempranillo, Graciano, Riesling, and Albarino are among the supporting cast.

One of Lodi’s former stalwarts was the unusual Flame Tokay, otherwise known as Ahmeur bou Ahmeur. Of North African origin, this robust red variety had traditionally been used around Lodi to make fortified wines and brandy. There are no commercial plantings anymore.

Read more about this winery here: 






Technical Notes 

Compiled by Claudia Perazza, Michelle Fryer and Agilson Perazza

The Napa Valley.

It could be said that the history of Napa Valley begins when Joseph Osborne started planting vines on a 1,800 acre tract of land he named Oak Knoll, in the 1850’s. George C. Yount was the first person to seriously plant vines, but Napa Valley history was made by John Patchett, who gets credit for creating the first official vineyard and winery in the Napa Valley. John Patchett began planting vines in 1854 and started producing wine just three years later. He constructed his cellar in 1859, and the following year his wine received an official review. History shows that the Napa Valley region really gets its start when the Charles Krug winery in Napa was founded in 1861. Other wineries quickly followed. But it is only since the 1960s that wine of any particular quality has been produced.

Napa County is the best known county (in wine terms, at least) in the larger North Coast AVA of California, largely because it includes the world-famous Napa Valley AVA, which covers most of the region. The region is located 50 miles north of San Francisco and is known around the world as the premium wine-growing region in North America. Its Mediterranean climate and the skill of its winemakers contribute to its popularity for wine. In most parts, Napa Valley is only a few miles wide with low volcanic hills defining its sides. As one of California’s smaller counties, Napa County covers a total of 485,000 acres (196,275ha) with less than 10% of the land under vine. Perhaps surprisingly, despite its formidable reputation, the Napa Valley represents just 4% of California’s total wine production – but it accounts for 30% of the state’s wine economy.

Napa Valley comprises 16 sub-regions or AVAs where more than 500 wineries are located, making it the most densely concentrated wine region in the world. The Napa Valley is home to Beringer Vineyards, the region’s oldest continuously operated winery, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Robert Mondavi, who established his winery in 1966, is considered to be one of the pioneers of Napa’s modern wine industry, as well as being one of the first proponents of varietal labeling.

Can see map here: https://winefolly.com/deep-dive/napa-wine-map/

Although a number of grape varieties are grown in the valley’s vineyards, the area is particularly known for its Cabernet Sauvignon. The classic “Napa Cab”, the archetypal Napa Valley wine, is a rich, oak-aged red with aromas of blackcurrant, boysenberry, licorice, vanilla, and smoky, bittersweet chocolate. There are several reasons for Napa Valley’s global renown as a wine region. Most obvious is that the wines are produced to high standards, in a popular style, and are very well marketed. But no less important (even after almost four decades) is the triumph of Napa Valley wines over their rivals from Bordeaux and Burgundy in the 1976 Paris Judgment.

Enter Robert Parker, who started his career as a wine writer in 1978, when he founded The Wine Advocate.  His call for harvesting ripe fruit, lower yields, more sorting and selection, cleaner facilities, more new French-oak barrels, planting the right grape varietal in the correct soil, and producing more vineyard-specific wines was heard by many California winemakers. Consequently, the late 1980’s ushered in the first wave of high-end vinyards and was seen by many as the first golden decade for California wine.  It became clear that making better wine earned you better scores from critics, and higher scores quickly translated into more money.

In recognition of the uniqueness of the soils and the myriad of different vineyard sites, in 1983, a system of American Viticultural Areas, (AVA’s) was created; however, the California AVA system has its quirks.  For example, wines are allowed to come from multiple AVA’s as long as the grapes from the AVA’s and that the percentage of each AVA is listed on the label. The first AVA was granted to Napa Valley, and the system expanded over the years. Today, the Napa Valley alone consists of 16 unique AVA’s.

Climate, geology, and topography are three essential components in what makes Napa Valley such a first-rate viticultural area. The combined influences of San Pablo Bay and the hills of the North Coast Ranges are responsible for the valley’s very particular mesoclimate. The bay generates morning fog, and the hills channel it inland, up into the valley. Without this fog that comes rolling in from the bays, the valley’s climate would be substantially warmer than it is, making it difficult to achieve structure and balance in the wines. The fog does not reach the higher parts of the valley, however, leaving these to rely on the cooling effects of altitude to keep their vines in balance.

Various parts of the Napa Valley suffered in the wildfires of October 2017. One fire began on Atlas Peak, requiring the evacuation by helicopter of vineyard workers. Signorello Estate’s winery was destroyed, and Stags’ Leap Winery was among those which were damaged.

The Central Valley 

Central Valley, in the center of California, is the engine room of the state’s agricultural output. It supplies all manner of foodstuffs to almost every part of the United States, from tomatoes and asparagus to almonds and apricots. Inevitably, the grapevine has found its way into this highly productive area. There is no Central Valley appellation per se, but the valley is home to a number of lesser-known AVAs. The most notable AVA is Lodi, just south of Sacramento, and others are Diablo Grande, Fresno County, Madera, River Junction, Salado Creek, Tracy Hills, and Yolo County.

The Central Valley is vast, running parallel with California’s Pacific coastline for more than 400 miles. Located about 100 miles inland, it swallows up the northern two-thirds of the state, with its spread halted only by the Coastal Ranges in the west and the Sierra Nevada mountains in the east.

See map here: https://vineyards.com/wine-map/united-states/california

Technically speaking, the Central Valley it is in fact two valleys: the Sacramento Valley in the north and the San Joaquin Valley in the south. They converge at the extensive and hydrologically complex Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta. This might be viewed as a natural extension of the San Francisco bays, and brings the meeting point of the salt and fresh water some 50 miles (80km) inland. The presence of all this water not only contributes to lowering temperatures, but also provides all-important irrigation.

The Central Valley is the workhorse of California’s wine industry, producing more than half of the state’s grapes. The hot, dry conditions which prevail here are conducive to high yields, with the majority of the harvest going into the bulk wine market. In selected sub-regions, increasing quantities of high-quality wines are also being produced. Grapes with higher natural acidity, such as Chenin Blanc, Colombard, Barbera and Chardonnay, are the best performers.

Nestled among the Sacramento Delta waterways just east of the San Francisco Bay Area, the fertile Clarksburg AVA extends into three counties. Most of its wine-growing areas are contained within Yolo and Sacramento counties, with a small southern portion in Solano County. The over-fertile, poor-draining soils found across Clarksburg are more suited to high yields than high-quality, refined wine styles. Because of its ability to produce cool-climate wine styles in vast quantities, Clarksburg is popular with wineries from other AVAs looking to buy in grapes for bulk wine bottlings, meaning the vast majority, up to 90 percent of Clarksburg grapes are vinified in other parts of the state and other states across the US. So, relative to the AVA’s prolific production levels, very few wines actually bear the Clarksburg name, leaving it among the lesser-known Californian AVAs.












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Tasting No. 229 (Virtual) – April 26, 2021 – Red Blends from California Central-South Coast


Tasting Overview:

The Central-South Coast of California (from San Francisco to Santa Bárbara) has earned a reputation for its excellent Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines.  These wines are produced in the valleys running east to west to the Pacific Ocean that benefit form the fog that comes through the valleys from the ocean resulting in cold nights and mornings and warm to hot afternoons. This thermal range is ideal for the wines in question. However, this only part of the history. the lands above the fog line with hot days and cool nights combined with the prevalent type of soils (composed of weathered granite, volcanic and marine sedimentary rocks overlayed with shallow combinations of sandstone, mudstone or calcareous shales) are ideal for growing Zinfandel and Rhone varieties. The Rhone type blends are becoming the raising stars of the Region. This tasting includes two red blends from Paso Robles one of the salient AVAs of the region.  This región is worth to explore more because its good quality, variety and reasonable prices.

Type of Tasting: Open

Wine presenters: Ginger Smart and Alfonso Sanchez:

2018 DAOU Vineyards, Pessimist Red Blend

2017 Vina Robles, The Arborist

The menu is up to each participant discretion

Participants: Mario Aguilar, Marcello Averbug, Jose Brakarz, Clara Estrada, Jaime Estupiñán, Alberto Gómez,  Jorge Garcia-Garcia, Orlando Mason,  Agilson Perazza, Claudia Perazza, John Redwood, Lucía Redwood, Jorge Requena, Alfonso Sanchez, Jairo Sanchez, Cristian Santelices,Pedro Turina, German Zincke

Information on the Wines

(The information below has been compiled from various internet sources) .

2018 DAOU Vineyards, Pessimist 

The Wine:  The 2018 Pessimist is inky and dark aubergine in color. A powerhouse vintage with a plethora fruit showcasing blueberry, boysenberry, plum and strawberry. Smoky notes of truffle and roasted coffee are accompanied by accents of floral consisting of lavender and lilac, highlighted by underlying nuances of buttered toast, vanilla, and a breath of cool wintergreen. Blend: 62% Petite Sirah, 20% Zinfandel, 16% Syrah, 2% Lagrein.

Winemaker Notes: The 2018 Pessimist is inky and dark aubergine in color. A powerhouse vintage with a plethora fruit showcasing blueberry, boysenberry, plum and strawberry. Smoky notes of truffle and roasted coffee are accompanied by accents of floral consisting of lavender and lilac, highlighted by underlying nuances of buttered toast, vanilla, and a breath of cool wintergreen. A veritable cascade of juicy berries, red cherries and huckleberries flood the palate while a river of lush fruit flavors overflow its banks. Voluptuous and robust while tempered with grace and elegance; a true gentle giant. The purity of fruit is elevated by its silky texture and hints of kirsch and cassis, olive and fennel. This wine displays a well- rounded and balanced finish that offers essences of blueberry and cranberry with prodigious persistence.

Jeb Dunnuck: The Pessimist cuvée by the Daou Brothers is always a good value for those who love opulent fruit, and the 2018 offers loads of sweet blue fruits, white chocolate, violets, and toasted spice aromas and flavors. Based on 62% Petite Sirah, 19% Zinfandel, and 17% Syrah, it’s full-bodied, decadent, and rich while staying light on its feet. I’d be happy to drink it

92 points- Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate

90-92 points- Jeb Dunnuck

The Wienery: (From Wine.com) Paso Robles has made a name for itself as a source of supple, powerful, fruit-driven wines. But with eleven smaller sub-AVAs, there is actually quite a bit of diversity to be found in this inland portion of California’s Central Coast.

Just east over the Santa Lucia Mountains from the chilly Pacific Ocean, lie the coolest in the region: Adelaida, Templeton Gap and (Paso Robles) Willow Creek Districts, as well as York Mountain AVA and Santa Margarita Ranch. These all experience more ocean fog, wind and precipitation compared to the rest of the Paso sub-appellations. The San Miguel, (Paso Robles) Estrella, (Paso Robles) Geneso, (Paso Robles) Highlands, El Pomar and Creston Districts, along with San Juan Creek, are the hotter, more western appellations of the greater Paso Robles AVA.

This is mostly red wine country, with Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel standing out as the star performers. Other popular varieties include Merlot, Petite Sirah, Petit Verdot, Syrah, Grenache and Rhône blends, both red and white. There is a fairly uniform tendency here towards wines that are unapologetically bold and opulently fruit-driven, albeit with a surprising amount of acidity thanks to the region’s chilly nighttime temperatures.

In 1961, Dr. Stanley Hoffman, a Beverly Hills cardiologist, moved his family to Paso Robles to follow his dream of becoming a winemaker. Then known as Hoffman Mountain Ranch, the property produced notable wines and was widely considered the birthplace of modern winemaking in Paso Robles. However, its full potential lay unfulfilled for more than 30 years.

Dr. Hoffman hired André Tchelistcheff as a consultant, and together, they developed the Hoffman Mountain Ranch vineyard and winery, the first gravity-flow winery in America and first commercial-scale winery in Paso Robles. Tchelistcheff was a Russian enologist who became America’s most influential post-Prohibition winemaker. He revolutionized Napa Valley wine making by concentrating on high-quality California Cabernet Sauvignon aged in small French oak barrels. Known affectionately as “Maestro” and “the dean of Americans winemakers,” Tchelistcheff mentored a long list of legendary California winemakers.

When Georges and Daniel acquired the original Hoffman Mountain Ranch property, they completely restored the original redwood winery preserving a vital part of Paso Robles history. The torch that Tchelistcheff and the Hoffman’s lit a half century ago passed to the Daou brothers along with the responsibility to fulfill the mountain’s long-held promise.

DAOU Mountain is created from a very rare soil, calcareous clay. This soil, famously found in Saint-Émilion and the right bank of Bordeaux, is composed of clay with a calcareous and limestone subsoil perfect for growing Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux varieties. This is the soil Georges and Daniel sought when they searched around the world for their dream vineyard. DAOU Mountain rises 2,200 feet in elevation in the hills of the Adelaida District on the west side of the Paso Robles AVA. With its steep mountain slopes of up to fifty-six percent, DAOU Mountain rises dramatically above the Coastal Range with breathtaking views from the highest winery on the Central Coast of California. The mountain is cooled by the Pacific Ocean, fourteen miles away, and gentle breezes that flow over the Templeton Gap.

Warm, temperate days and cool nights guarantee even ripening and vine balance every year. The terroir of DAOU Mountain yields harvests of fruit with extraordinary phenolics, small berries with intense flavors, aromas, and deep colors from a low skin-to-juice ratio. Georges and Daniel promise to fulfill this mountain’s destiny of becoming one of the world’s greatest vineyards.

Read more about this Winery here: https://daouvineyards.com/

2017 Vina Robles, The Arborist

The Wine: A caretaker of trees, The Arborist pays homage to the iconic Paso Robles oaks. This estate blend is made mainly of varieties grown in our Huerhuero Vineyard, located directly behind our winery in the rolling hills of Paso Robles. Here, warm afternoons and cool evening breezes shepherd the grapes to perfect ripeness. The clusters were picked during the cooler morning temperatures and cold soaked for two days prior to fermentation. Various pump-over techniques were implemented during progressive stages of fermentation to enhance fruit extraction and balance out the tannin structure. The wine was then aged in both small and large format French, Hungarian and American oak barrels for 18 months in order to add complexity while enhancing a soft, velvety finish. This fruit forward wine is a natural go-to for just about any meal.

(WE) This blend of 44% Syrah, 32% Petite Sirah, 18% Grenache and 6% Mourvèdre begins with aromas of charred oak and dried herbs that decorate the boysenberry-sorbet and soy-pepper-sauce elements. The palate is rustic while balanced between red-plum and smoke flavors (88Pts.)

The Winery: (From Wine Searcher)Paso Robles is located approximately halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco in northern San Luis Obispo County on California’s Central Coast. Here, the growing season is distinguished by a reciprocating climate of warm inland afternoons and cool marine-moderated evenings. To the west, the Santa Lucia Mountains border the coast and insulate the Paso Robles region, trapping heat during the daytime. Toward evening, however, coastal air billows inland through the Templeton Gap, a notch in the mountains, as well southward from the Salinas Valley. Temperature swings of 50 degrees are not unusual during the summer months. Such conditions are optimal for Bordeaux and Rhône varieties, with ample solar energy to develop fully defined flavors and sufficient natural cooling to maintain excellent acid structure and overall balance.

The scale of soil diversity throughout Paso Robles is tremendous and it is not unusual to have several types within one vineyard site. Primarily, bedrock is composed of weathered granite, volcanic and marine sedimentary rocks overlayed with shallow combinations of sandstone, mudstone or calcareous shales. This is a stark comparison to the deep, fertile soils predominately found elsewhere in California. Despite its proximity to the Pacific Ocean, Paso Robles’ climate is remarkably warm and continental. This is due largely to to the hills that lie between the main vineyard areas and the coast. These shield the area from climate-moderating coastal influences, meaning hot days and cool nights almost everywhere within the AVA. The region is not entirely bereft of refreshing coastal breezes, however, thanks to the “Templeton Gap”. This is not a single gap per se, but a series of narrow river valleys that bisect the Santa Lucia range, collectively allowing Paso Robles to “breathe” cool, coastal air in the afternoon and early evening. Regions vary in climate largely due to their proximity to the Templeton Gap and their relationship to the shielding effects of the Santa Lucia range and the Temblor Range to the east. 

(From the Winery’s webpage) Vina Robles is the result of a unique personal trajectory, one that led founder Hans Nef from a rural village outside Zurich, Switzerland to the rugged terrain of California’s Central Coast.

As a child in Switzerland, Nef learned to appreciate his rural surroundings and the blessings of agriculture. It was this special appreciation that lead him to expand his interests into agricultural land in the southern United States in the early 1990s. At the same time, he leveraged his passion for fine wine into his own wine import business, furthering his appreciation for California wines.

Each time Nef traveled to the U.S., his desire to grow his own wine became more intense. He discovered Paso Robles in the mid-1990s and quickly became enamored with the emergent wine country. Here, where the Pacific coastline unfolds into rugged ranchlands and cowboy ambiance, a new generation of California winemakers was turning Paso Robles into one of the world’s most dynamic winegrowing regions.

Nef was inspired to embark on his own idea for a Paso Robles winery, one that would honor his European roots while embracing the unique growing region in order to pursue his dream of producing world-class wines.

In 1996 Nef selected longtime friend and business associate Hans – R. Michel, a Swiss expatriate, as managing partner. A year later, the duo planted the first of what would later become six vineyards in Paso Robles, and soon thereafter Vina Robles was born. Winemaker Kevin Willenborg joined the team in 2012.

Read More about ViNa Robles here: https://www.vinarobles.com

Technical Notes 

Compiled and edited by Ginger Smart and Alfonso Sanchez from various sources, most importantly Wien Folly, Wine Searcher and Wine.com

 The Southern Central Coast of California

(From Wine Folly) The Central Coast Viticultural Area that extends from the south of San Francisco all the way to Santa Barbara, California and contains 40 AVAs including Paso Robles, Santa Cruz Mountains, Monterey, and Santa Barbara and each of these sub-regions specializes in different types and expressions of wine. Central Coast produces some of California’s most intriguing, up-and-coming wines and each region has its own top-performing varieties, what makes each area unique.  The Central Coast is planted with 90,300 acres (36.500 hectares) of vineyards. Currently, the most widely planted variety is Chardonnay. The majority of the vineyards are located in the valleys that run east to west to the Pacific. The benefit of being along the coast is that the cold, moist air gets pulled in and creates a layer of morning cloud cover which reduces temperatures and sun exposure on the grapes. This is why cool climate varieties such as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir excel in the coastal regions of the Central Coast AVA. Notable Cool and Coastal AVAs are:

  • Santa Cruz Mountains: The mountains to the west of Silicon valley were originally planted with vines by French immigrants in the early 1900s. The upper slopes and western side are known for Pinot Noir, whereas the more inland areas produce elegant examples of Zinfandel, Merlot, Cabernet, and Syrah.
  • Sta Rita Hills: This region was featured in the blockbuster flick Sideways and perhaps because of the press (and partly because of the quality), SRH has since become one of the most famous Pinot Noir and Chardonnay regions on the West Coast.
  • San Luis Obispo: Edna Valley and Arroyo Grande Valley are the 2 AVAs in SLO that produce outstanding, rich Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines.
  • San Benito: An intermediate climate area with a vein of limestone soils that’s become known for Pinot Noir (look up Calera) but there is potential for elegant styles of Sangiovese, Merlot, Zinfandel, and Cabernet Franc.
  • Monterey: A larger encompassing region with many large scale vineyard farms producing a great deal of the bulk Chardonnay and Merlot that we see labeled “Central Coast” in grocery stores. Still, within Monterey AVA, there are several great sub-regions including Santa Lucia Highlands, Chalone, and Arroyo Seco.
  • Santa Maria Valley: Home to the California’s largest connected vineyard, Bien Nacido, which has 900 acres in Santa Maria Valley. The region is more intermediate in terms of climate and is hailed for its lusher styles of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Syrah.

Where there isn’t morning cloud cover, there is a very different wine scene. The inland regions and ridges receive ample sunshine and a long, hot, dry growing season, so you’ll see a prevalence of warm to hot climate grapes excel here including everything from Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvèdre to Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel. Notable warmer and inland AVAs are:

Paso Robles: One of the most exciting regions for Syrah and other Rhône varieties on the West Coast. The area also produces a great deal of pocketbook-friendly, smoky, and satisfying Cabernet Sauvignon.

  • Santa Ynez Valley: Moving inland from Sta Rita Hills, it gets noticeably hotter and you’ll find a focus on Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Syrah.
  • Ballard Canyon: Noted for being slightly cooler than the Santa Ynez Valley because of massive temperature shifts between night and day. Ballard Canyon has a keen focus on Syrah and other Rhône varieties including Grenache, Viognier, and Roussanne.
  • Hames and San Antonio Valleys: The inner-most regions of Monterey contain some of the largest bulk wine production farms and wineries. There is potential here considering the presence of limestone soils but quality will need to start in the vineyards.

The southern Central Coast of California is an up-and-coming wine district in general.  It has very rapidly become one of the best wine areas in the world, outside of Burgundy itself, for Pinot Noir.  Chardonnay is equally exciting, and Italian varietals could well be the most prized wines of the new millennium, The San Ynez Valley in Santa Barbara County had a flourishing wine industry in pre-Prohibition times; Santa Barbara town itself was once dotted with vineyards. Yet most of the area was devoid of vines in the 1960s. Firestone, in the Santa Ynez Valley, established vineyards in 1972 and then others followed.

Quite why Santa Barbara of all areas in the southern Central Coast has become the mecca for Pinot Noir specialists is difficult to unravel. In the late 1980s, California seemed the least likely place to be in a position to challenge Burgundy for the Holy Grail of winemaking.  Oregon and New Zealand looked much more likely, but they have both since proved too small and prone to inconsistency.  If it was going to be California, no one a decade or so ago was going to put their money on Santa Barbara, way down south, just a stone’s throw from Los Angeles; Carneros or Russian River Valley seemed a more likely bet. The foundations for Santa Barbara’s sudden surge of wonderful Pinot Noir wines were laid innocently in the 1970s, when the land was relatively cheap and planted with this variety in order to supply the sparkling wine industry in the north of the state. It is impossible to pinpoint exactly when local winemakers realized the potential of making their own still wine, but much of California’s finest, purest, and most consistent Pinot Noir wines now come from this valley. The San Ynez Valley makes the best Santa Barbara Pinot.

The southern Central Coast is a cool place (thermally).  Despite its southerly latitude, the southern Central Coast is by far one of the coolest wine areas in the state. The reason has to do with the way the valleys lie.  Thanks to California’s tumultuous geologic past, most of the valleys in the state were formed in an essentially north to south direction 9think of Napa and Sonoma as well as the huge Central Valley, for example). Unusually for California, however, the wine valleys of the southern Central Coast were formed so that they run basically east to west, enabling them to become direct conduits for fog and cold offshore breezes that barrel (blow strongly) inland from the Pacific Ocean.  Summer in the Santa Maria Valley is goose bump season, the average summer temperature is only 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

Not surprisingly, this is chardonnay and pinot noir country, for while it is possible to make either wine in a warm region, top-class chardonnays and pinots – the kind that have character, focus, and complexity – are almost exclusively the provenance of cool places (consider Champagne, Burgundy, Oregon, Carneros). Chardonnay represents 60% of the wine grown in the area. There are also some warm pockets of land where snappy sauvignon blancs are made. The red grapes of renown (deservedly) are Pinot Noir and Syrah, which in the hands of great producers here can make very delicious wines full of personality. Wineries located elsewhere buy San Ynez grapes and make good wines from them, some of the very top wines are made by local producers.

As for the wineries themselves, early on the middle and southern Central Coast was a haven for tiny, creative wine companies on shoestring budgets headed by maverick winemakers who intuitively understood the region’s potential. One of the best and a typical example is Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat, often described as looking more like a Hell’s Angel than a vintner.   By the late 1980s, however, so many delicious wines were coming out of the region that big companies moved in and snapped up vineyard land at comparatively rock-bottom prices. Among the large wineries that now own extensive vineyards in the middle and southern Central Coast are Robert Mondavi, Kendall Jackson, and Beringer Blass Wine Estates (the later owns Meridian Vineyards in Paso Robles and in the Napa Valley, Beringer  Vineyards).



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Tasting No. 228(Virtual) – March 29, 2021 – Red Blends from California North Coast

Tasting Overview:

  This tasting includes two red blends from California’s North Coast. California’s North Coast AVA is vast, covering more than 3 million acres (1.2 million ha) of land to the north of San Francisco. Its large size should not be taken as an indicator of low quality or a lack of regional identity, however – the area is home to some of the wine world’s most valuable and distinctive real estate. The Napa Valley, Sonoma Valley, Russian River, Stags Leap and Carneros districts – the aristocracy of American wine – are all located here in the North Coast.

Type of Tasting: Open

Wine presenters: Clarita Estrada y Jorge García-García

The wines are:

2016 Halcón – Esquisto Yorkville Highlands, Mendocino County

NV Locations By Dave Phinney “CA” Non-Vintage

The menu is up to each participant discretion


: Mario Aguilar, Marcello Averbug, Jorge Claro, Clara Estrada,Michelle Fryer, Alberto Gómez,  Jorge Garcia-Garcia, Orlando Mason, Agilson Perazza, Claudia Perazza, John Redwood, Lucía Redwood, Jorge Requena, Alfonso Sanchez, Jairo Sanchez, Cristian Santelices, Ricardo Santiago, Pedro Turina, Ricardo Zavaleta, German Zincke

Information on the Wines

(The information below has been compiled from various internet sources) .

2016 Halcón – Esquisto Yorkville Highland, Mendocino County

The Wine: 

The 2016 Esquisto—a blend of 70% Grenache, 20% Mourvèdre and 10% Syrah—is a little closed at present, opening with aeration to reveal notes of sweet red berry fruit, plums, Provençal herbs and underbrush that are quite marked by the blend’s dominant Grenache component. On the palate, the wine is medium to full-bodied, supple and somewhat firm and compact right now, with a fine-grained but firm chassis of tannin that asserts itself on the finish. After 24 hours, this bottle really opened up, so I have confidence recommending it—but a few years of patience will be required to realize all its potential. (Wine Advocate, April 2018) 92+pts

The Rhone blend of the estate is the 2016 Esquisto and it’s a rough blend of mostly Grenache with smaller amounts of Mourvèdre and Syrah. It’s a ripe, meaty, earthy barrel sample that offers serious intensity in its blackberry, blueberry, peppery herbs and earth-driven aromas and flavors. It’s tannic and structured, with plenty of fruit, and I suspect 2-3 years of bottle age will be its friend. (Jeb Dunnuck, July 2017) 91-93pts

Read more about the winery here: https://www.halconvineyards.com/

NV Locations By Dave Phinney “CA” Non-Vintage 

The Wine: This wine is a blend of Petite Sirah, Barbera, Tempranillo, Syrah, and Grenache.

Read more about the winery here: http://www.locationswine.com/




Recommended by Participants

2018 Conundrum Red Blends or Varietals “Red Wine Blend”

The Wine: This dark ruby colored wine from Conundrum opens with a black raspberry and milk chocolate bouquet with hints of spiced plum, cherry, vanilla and oak. On the palate, this wine is medium plus bodied with medium acidity. It is also balanced, juicy and round. The flavor profile is an extracted blackberry and blueberry blend with notes of integrated minerality, milk chocolate, spice and cherry. The finish is subtle and its flavors and mild tannins fade away nicely. The Panel suggested pairing this red blend with Peter Luger steak sauce marinated steak tips or just sip it by the firepit. Enjoy – KWGTP

Winemaker Notes: A deep cherry red, this vintage features vibrant, round scents that suggest what it will taste like on the palate. Aromas of fresh brewed coffee mingle with baked cherry pie, milk chocolate and freshly turned earth. Cherry pie flavors carry all the way through, along with a subtle smokiness, brown spice, light wood and a hint of black pepper. The weight and texture of this wine are perfectly balanced, with granular tannins providing both a smooth and grippy character on the complete finish.


Winery: CONUNDRUM/ Charles F. Wagner.

It all began at the dinner table. Charlie Wagner Sr. – who co-founded Caymus Vineyards in 1972 with wife Lorna and son Chuck – would mix wines to find the perfect glass to pair with his meal. No one blended wines back then, so his experiment was pretty radical. Fast forward to 1989, when Conundrum White was born, quickly taking off with its mysterious, tropical notes and amazing versatility.

Today it’s Charlie Sr.’s grandson and namesake, Charlie Wagner, who keeps Conundrum as inventive as ever. He launched Conundrum Red, a wine that is both lighthearted and serious. Charlie loves how there are no single-varietal rules when it comes to making these wines, and each has a unique style. They also showcase some of the best wine regions California has to offer, from Napa Valley to Santa Barbara County and many places in between.

A major force on the global playing field, California is the world’s fourth largest wine-producing region on the planet and the majority of land under vine here is devoted to red varieties, covering nearly double the vineyard acreage of whites.

While the state’s incredibly diverse terrain and microclimates allow for countless red wine styles, the one factor unifying all California red wine is the abundance of sunshine and a long, consistent growing season, which leads to well-developed and fully ripened fruit.

Conundrum  Red is a perfect complement to richly flavored or spicy foods like spaghetti a la puttanesca; Asian or Indian cuisine; Mexican food; and BBQ. The winemaker recommends drinking Conundrum Red slightly chilled – this not enhances the fruit profile and structure of the wine.


CV Members Rating: (TBA)

Technical Notes 

Compiled and edited by Clara Estrada and Jorge García

ORIGINS OF THE “LOCATIONS” IDEA. In the world of wine there are compelling Locations that exist where soil, climate and vines interact to produce grapes that uniquely express their Location through wine. These Locations exist individually within appellations for the new and old world, but are seldom combined across appellation, in the art of blending due to laws and restrictions that make it near impossible to express true winemaking freedom.

In Champagne, across appellation blending is a time honored and respected tradition- a tried and true method for producing premium and consistent wine that represents the best aspects of the Champagne region.  Why can’t this concept be taken wider – across country?  Why do the rules not allow this? Why are these rules accepted?

But what if it could be done.  What if one could blend across all of the major appellations, to produce a wine that represented a country of origin? What if one could do this across all of the major wine producing regions of the world.  What if there were no rules?  What if one had complete freedom to express whatever one believed.  Could it be done?

The question is – do you break the rules, and thousands of years of history and tradition, in pursuit of expressing freedom? WE BELIEVE SO.  WELCOME TO LOCATIONS.

I ended up buying this property in Maury (France), which now consists of 300 acres of vineyards.  After numerous trips and vintages making compelling single vineyard wines from this estate, I began to venture north, east and west within France.  From Bordeaux to Rhone, I saw incredible fruit from gifted sites.  I began to wonder, what if I could blend old vine Syrah from the Rhone with old vine Grenache and Carginan from my vineyard in Maury.  The thought quickly passed as I realized that was not allowed within AOC (appellation d’origine contrôlée) law and as such could not be labelled with a vintage and would be “relegated” to a “table wine” category.

Although this was disappointing to me, I had to just let it be.  But as time progressed, and our venture in Maury grew, I started to become more frustrated with the AOC laws and restraints on blending which I hold of utmost importance as a winemaker.

Just after the 2010 harvest, while waiting with my old friend curbside at the Charles de Gaulle airport, we began talking about wine.  My frustration was evident as we discussed labelling laws in regards to vintage dating and cross-appellation blending.  We joke about possibilities, imagining what if there were no rules.  What if you could blend across appellations. What if you could produce a blend that represented France.  What if there were no rules and fun would it be to travel this country to find great growers with old vines while experiencing the culture and people of this place.

As I said my final goodbyes, a taxi pulled curbside and I noticed the very distinctive “F” sticker on the license plate.  My mind exploded with thought and possibility.  What if I could take this idea and do this not only in France, but also in Italy, Spain and Portugal. Great wine is made all over the world.  What if I could produce a range of wines across all of the major wine regions of the world?  What if this could be done having a whole lot of und and by creating a team of some of the best people in each of these countries to produce a wine that pays homage to their home land without compromise and without boundaries. The concept of Locations was born.

Dave Phinney: A gifted Napa-based winemaker and hugely successful brand builder Dave Phinney sold The Prisoner brand to Huneeus Vintners in 2010 for $40 million. (Huneeus went on to sell it to Constellation for $285 million.) Then Phinney sold his next big wine project, Orin Swift, to E. & J. Gallo in 2016. He’s a major reason why Gallo soon bought Napa Valley’s large Stagecoach Vineyard, as Orin Swift was one of its biggest buyers of grapes. In June of last year, Gallo bought Phinney’s latest and greatest act, Locations, a joint venture with importer Aveníu Brands, a subsidiary of Codorníu Raventós. Locations makes wines that pay homage to a variety of regions: France, Spain, Italy, Argentina, California, New Zealand, Oregon, Washington, Portugal, Corsica and Texas. Phinney will continue to make the wines. He also opened the Savage & Cooke craft distillery recently on Mare Island in Vallejo, California

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Tasting No. 227 (Virtual) – February 22, 2021 – Red Blends from the South Cone

Tasting Overview: This tasting focuses on two red blends, one from Argentina and another one from Chile. These two countries became well known in the wine world until a couple of decades ago for their red varietals. Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in the beginning followed by Malbec (Argentina) and Carmenere (Chile) lately. However, as new varieties were planted, both countries started taking a greater interest in Bordeaux-type blends made from high-altitude grown grapes that give unique crispiness and freshness to the wines. Both countries have made remarkable inroads in the market of red blends, producing wines of superior quality and complexity, quite often better than to those of the varietals that go in the blends.

Type of Tasting: Open

Wine presenters: Mario Aguilar and Orlando Mason

The wines are:

2017 Clos de los Siete Red Blend, Uco Valley, Mendoza

2017 Trisquel Aresti Gran Reserva Red Blend , Rapel Valley

The menu is up to each participant discretion

Participants: Mario Aguilar, Marcello Averbug, Jose Brakarz, Clara Estrada, Jaime Estupiñán, Michelle Fryer, Alberto Gómez,  Jorge Garcia-Garcia, Orlando Mason, Agilson Perazza, Claudia Perazza, John Redwood, Lucía Redwood, Jorge Requena, Alfonso Sanchez, Jairo Sanchez, Cristian Santelices, Ricardo Santiago, Pedro Turina,German Zincke

Information on the Wines

(The information below has been compiled from various internet sources) .

2017 Clos de los Siete Red Blend, Uco Valley, Mendoza

The Wine: Winemaker Notes. Clos de Los Siete 2017 is deep red in appearance shot through with purple glints characteristic of Malbec. On the nose, its intense and complex aromatic expression delivers subtle notes of fruit and spice. On the palate, the delicate tannins are ripe and silky, and combine with appealing freshness. Well-balanced in structure, full-bodied and offering typical freshness, the wine showcases the charming, elegant style ever present in Clos de Los Siete. Blend: 52% Malbec, 21% Merlot, 15% Syrah, 7% Cabernet-Sauvignon, 3% Petit Verdot, 2% Cabernet Franc.

Wine Spectator: Deep, rich flavors of roasted cherry, plum tart and dried savory herbs are supported by firm acidity and tannins. Features a tensile frame, with slate accents midpalate. Dusty graphite notes show on the finish. Malbec, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Petit Verdot. Drink now through 2024.

The Winery: The grapes are sourced from seven vineyards located in the UCO valley in the foothills of the Andes, south of Mendoza. The vineyards are owned by four different families. The wines are blended by Michael Roland, the originator of the project.

Uco Valley is considered to be what the Bordeaux area is to France and the Napa Valley to the US. The soils are made up of pebbles, clay and sand. One meter (3.3 foot) down, the vines’ roots penetrate a bed of gravel, which provides natural drainage. Water, which is indispensable in this sun-bathed country, comes from springs fed by melting snow and glaciers up in the Andes Mountains. The weather here is very dry with widely varying temperatures between daytime and night, which is especially beneficial for concentrating tannins and color in the fruit.

The vines are oriented south/south-west and soak up the sunshine whatever the season. The vines are cultivated just like for a Bordeaux grand cru classé with green harvesting, leaf removal, managed 1- to 3-hectare (2.5- to 7.5-acre) plots and very strictly controlled yields.

Read more about the winery here: https://www.closdelossiete.com/en/

2017 Trisquel Aresti Gran Reserva Red Blend , Rapel Valley 

The Wine: Winemaker Notes: This wine presents an intense, dark ruby red color. On the nose, it is complex showing fruity notes to plums and blackberries with flowery aromas combine with mocha and coffee hints from the barrel aging. Sweet and juicy in the mouth, it has nice structure and soft, ripe tannins. Ideal for lamb, red meats, aged cheeses and nuts. Blend: 44% Cabernet Sauvignon, 42% Syrah, 14% Petit Verdot

The Winery: The Aresti family started growing grapes in Curicó valley in 1951 but it took them almost 50 years to start making their own wine. Today the founder daughters run the show. The Aresti winery and its vineyards remain in Curicó, Chile – about 140 miles  south of Santiago – where they have four different vineyard sites and produce a wide range of wines from rich Bordeaux blends to fresh Semillón.

Viña Aresti is managed by a team of leading professionals with strong commitment and extensive knowledge of the industry including two Agricultural Engineer-Enologists. In 1999 major renovations were undertaken, state-of-the-art technology was introduced in the winery, modern processing techniques were incorporated, and an underground wine cellar was built for premium wines. 2018 marks the completion of extensive investment plan under which vineyards were reconverted, new plantations were developed, new winemaking techniques were introduced and a world-class bottling line was implemented.

Read more about the winery here:  https://arestichile.cl/en/

CV Members Rating

Eleven participants rated the Clos de los Siete. Two found the wine excellent, eight found it very good and one, good. They gave scores between 85 tp 92 with a mode of 90 points.  Overall value for money was split between good and very good. Only three participants rated the Trisquel Gran Reserva with ratings of 85, 90, and 85 (good, very good and excellent)

Technical Notes 

Compiled and edited by Jairo Sanchez and Alfonso Sanchez

Chile – Red Blends

Adapted from:  Wine Enthusiast. Michael Schachner

Chile began to climb the global wine ladder in the 1980s and ’90s, with varietal Cabernet Sauvignon and, to a lesser extent, varietal Carmenère.. But these days, it is Chile’s blended red wines that have emerged as its best wines. Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenère remain dominant players in the overall blend, but often Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Carignan and Malbec along with other grapes including Petite Sirah and Petit Verdot are included. Chile is in the midst of a red-blend moment, Bordeaux has long been about blends, as has ­the southern Rhône. In the New World, Australian winemakers are known as big-time blenders, while across the Andes in Argentina, blends consisting of Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and other red grapes often outperform varietal Malbec. What a good blend offers are aromatic harmony, textural balance and greater depth and complexity of flavors.

Some of the blends to look for are:

  • Ventisquero’s 2014 Carmenère and Syrah blend called Vertice. It expresses the ripeness and power common to wines from Apalta, but it’s also silky smooth and balanced to a tee.
  • Casa Donoso’s 2015 Sucesor Blue is as solid as a brick house but ideally structured and complex. From Cachapoal Valley come two top-tier blends:
  • Santa Carolina’s 2014 VSC, made from mostly Petite Sirah and Petit Verdot as well as Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenère and Malbec, and
  • Viña Vik’s 2014 Milla Cala, composed mostly of Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenère, with Syrah, Cabernet Franc and Merlot filling out the roster.

Argentina – Malbec Blends

Adapted from: Andrew Catchpole, at therealargentina.com.

Argentina’s winemakers are increasingly revealing their hand as masters of the art of blending. This is especially true of their top red wines where the aromatic purity of high-altitude Malbec is proving a perfect partner with a host of Bordeaux and other red varieties, delivering world-class, elegant and age-worthy wines.

Argentina’s leading blends are still evolving as winemakers, adding a splash of Cabernet Sauvignon here, a dash of Petit Verdot there, perhaps a slug of Tempranillo or a soupcon of Shiraz elsewhere, in the search for ever greater Malbec-based expressions of Argentine terroir. And this vinous alchemy is producing Argentina’s greatest wines.

It is not that Malbec alone does not stand tall among the great wine of the world. But delve a little deeper into the best of the bunch and often you will discover a spot of judicious blending at its core.

This can be a complimentary partnering of grapes from cooler, higher vines, and a warmer spot, such as Argento’s vibrantly aromatic Reserva Malbec, Septima’s seamless Dia Malbec, or the intensely concentrated Broquel Malbec from Trapiche, drawing on fruit from Uco sites between 950 and 1350 meters above sea level. It is all about bringing extra complexity to the wine.

It turns out that Malbec is a fantastically flexible friend to a host of other varieties too. You would not necessarily know it from the label, but many Malbec wines, like Jean Bousquet’s Reserva, have a modest splash of Cabernet and even Syrah in the blend. However, at the top end, Argentina’s finest red winemakers are unabashedly open minded about their ingredients for introducing elegance and complexity into the final bottle.

Some good examples are:

  • Catena Zapata in with a Cabernet-Malbec blend as top in class. Back at O’Fournier, Malbec-Tempranillo is a revelation.
  • Clos de los Siete opts for Malbec-Merlot-Syrah-Cabernet-Petit Verdot.
  • Italian interloper Masi, , blends Corvina and Malbec in its Amarone-style Corbec to create a skillfully Argentine-flavoured interpretation of this Venetian classic.

Elsewhere, Cabernet Franc, Bonarda, Carignan and even Touriga Nacional have also made their mark.

Blends are without question at the heart of the vast majority of the best Argentina wines. Where Argentina triumphs over Bordeaux, though, is in what Argento winemaker Sebastián San Martín describes as Argentina’s “myriad of microclimates” coupled with none of the arcane European restrictions on blending the best ingredients from complimentary region and micro-climates.

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Tasting No. 226 (Virtual) – January 25, 2021- Red Blends from Washington State



Tasting Overview: This is the first of a series of tastings dedicated to red blends of the Americas. Winemakers have been blending red grapes for ages.  Sometimes it was the result of harvesting and cofermenting different varietals planted in the vineyard (port wines are made this way) but it also has been the result of decisions by the winemaker to blend them, after fermentation in certain proportions to to produce exciting flavors beyond that which can be achieved with a single grape varietal. At times blends were considered low quality wine.  This is no longer the case. In fact blending has become an art and a science to produce superb wines. In fact, most reds contain some blending even though they are labeled as varietals. For example in California, wines only have to have 75 percent of a given varietal to be labeled as such. There are blends that have become famous and traditional. Some examples of them are:

  • Red Bordeaux is traditionally a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc, though it sometimes also uses Petit Verdot, Malbec, or Carmenere as well. 

  • Chianti is a famous Italian wine from Tuscany that typically uses a blend of at least 75% Sangiovese grapes, with grapes such as Canaiolo, Cabernet Sauvignon, or Cabernet Franc making up the remainder. 

  • Super Tuscan wines come from Tuscany, Italy, and are known as any wine that disobeys Tuscan DOC standards and uses international or unauthorized grapes. These blends can include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sangiovese, and many other grapes.

  • Rioja is normally a blend that contains 70% Tempranillo grapes, along with Mazuelo, Graciano, and Maturana Tinta grapes. 

Type of Tasting: Open

Wine presenters: Pedro Turina, Germán Zinke

The reference wine is: 2016 B. Leighton – Gratitude Olsen Brothers Vineyard, Yakima Valley

Participants: Marcello Averbug, Jose Brakarz, Jorge Claro, Clara Estrada, Jaime Estupiñán, Alberto Gómez, Jorge Garcia-Garcia, Orlando Mason, Agilson Perazza, Claudia Perazza, John Redwood, Lucía Redwood, Jorge Requena, Alfonso Sanchez, Jairo Sanchez, Cristian Santelices,Pedro Turina, German Zincke.

Information on the Wines

(The information below has been compiled from various internet sources) .

2016 B. Leighton – Gratitude Olsen Brothers Vineyard, Yakima Valley 

The Wine: Indicative blend: 70% Mourvèdre, 25% Grenache and 5% Syrah.

93 points Vinous:  (a field blend from vines planted in 2009 on volcanic soil at an altitude of 1,200 feet; winemaker Brennon Leighton originally created this wine for his wife, who loves Domaine Tempier; aged in neutral demi-muid and 500-liter puncheons): Medium red with a palish rim. Subtly scented aromas of strawberry, cranberry, spices, red licorice, tree bark and rose petal. Supple, savory and fine-grained, with an essentially gentle texture enlivened by spice and tree bark notes and nicely integrated acidity. This is really quite complex and suave, with its restrained sweetness countered by salinity and a light touch. If this blend doesn’t possess quite the body of the 2015, it has every bit as much energy and spicy persistence, not to mention excellent retention of fresh fruit. Finishes with a firm spine of ripe tannins. Another singular wine from the multi-talented Leighton. (11/2018)

91 points Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate: A blend of Mourvèdre, Grenache and Syrah, the 2016 Gratitude Olsen Brothers Vineyard wafts from the glass with aromas of black and red fruit, with a mineral dustiness and lush flowers. Medium to full-bodied, it’s a delicious wine with flavors of dark cherry skin and blackberry, delivering lively tension and pleasure across the mid-palate, ending with a spicy finish. (12/2019).

The Winery: (from Wine.com) Brennon Leighton is the Director of Winemaking and Viticulture at Charles Smith Wines where he oversees all viticulture, vineyard relations and winemaking for all Charles Smith brands, including K Vintners, Charles Smith Wines, ViNO, SIXTO, Wines of Substance and Casa Smith. Considered to be one of the best winemakers in the state of Washington by wine critics and connoisseurs alike, Leighton has nearly 20 years of experience in winemaking and viticulture.

In 2012, Leighton created B. Leighton Wines to showcase the world-class terroir of Washington State. B. Leighton Wines are authentic, classic and alive. The wines have received 90+ points by wine critics such as Wine Spectator and Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate, who most recently noted, “If you haven’t heard of Brennon Leighton, now’s a good time to fix that!”

The Region: (From Wikipedia) The Yakima Valley AVA was the first American Viticultural Area established within Washington state, gaining the recognition in 1983. Part of the larger Columbia Valley AVA, Yakima Valley AVA is home to more than 18,000 acres (73 km2) of vineyards, giving the area the largest concentration of wineries and vineyards in the state. The most widely planted varietals in the area are Chardonnay, Riesling, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot gris, and Syrah.

The Yakima Valley’s borders include the sub-AVA of the Rattlesnake Hills to the north, the Horse Heaven Hills to the south and Red Mountain forming parts of its eastern boundaries. The Snipes Mountain AVA also lies within its boundaries. To the west, the Cascade Range forms a natural border and creates a rain shadow over the area which requires the use of irrigation in viticulture. The appellation covers 600,000 acres (2,400 km2) of land that is mostly contained within Yakima County, Washington with the eastern edge extending into Benton County.

Yakima Valley has an arid continental climate, with annual average precipitation at just 8 inches (20 cm). Irrigation is therefore required to cultivate vinifera grapes, as is true of all growing regions in eastern Washington. Also like eastern Washington’s other growing regions, Yakima Valley soils are strongly influenced by the Missoula Floods, which were a series of dramatic cataclysms in prehistoric times. Moderate to deep silt-loam is layered over gravel or directly onto basalt bedrock. This foundation creates well-drained soils that are ideal for viticulture.

A French winemaker from Alsace-Lorraine named Charles Schanno is credited with planting the first vines in the area in 1869. Schanno purchased the cuttings from a vineyard in The Dalles, Oregon and the Hudson’s Bay Company outpost at Fort Vancouver. In the early 20th century, an attorney from Tacoma named William B. Bridgeman pioneered the modern wine industry in the Yakima Valley. Bridgeman helped draft some of the state’s earliest irrigation laws for wine growing and planted his first vineyard in 1914. Many of the vineyards established in the Yakima Valley during this period came from Bridgeman’s cuttings. Following the repeal of Prohibition, Bridgeman opened Upland Winery and hired Erich Steenborg as winemaker. Together they were influential in promoting the use of varietal labelling for wines made in the Yakima Valley, including the state’s first dry Riesling.

CV Members Rating

View full evaluation here: 226 Summary of Scores

Technical Notes 

Jairo Sanchez compiled the following notes from the sources indicated.

The Oxford Companion to Wine. Jancis Robinson

 Blends. A blend is a product of Blending but specifically a wine deliberately made from more than a than a grape varietal (which can contain only a small proportion of other varieties).

Blending different batches of wine, or coupage as it is known in French, is a practice that was once more distrusted than understood. In fact, almost all the world’s finest wines are made by blending the content of different vats and different barrels; Champagne and Sherry are examples of wines which are quintessentially blends. It is often the case, as has been proved by the most rigorous of experiments, that a wine blend is superior to anyone of its component parts.

Blending earned its dubious reputation before the mid 20th century when wine laws were either non existing or under-enforced, and “stretching” a superior wine by blending it with inferior wines and was commonplace. Blending of different lots of the same wine as it is commonly practiced today to ensure the quality is maximal and consistent was not possible before the days of large blending vats; before then wine was bottled from individual cask or vats, which is one explanation of the much higher degree of bottle variation in older vintages.

Modern blending, important in the production of both fine and everyday wines, may combine wines of different but complementary characteristics: heavily oak-influenced lots aged in new barrels may be muted by blending with less oaked lots of the same wine; wines that have undergoing malolactic conversion may be blending with crisper ones that have not. In the case of ordinary table wines, blending is an important ingredient in smoothing out the difference between one vintage and its successor. Such practices are by no means unknowns in the realm of fine- wine production, whether legally sanctioned or not. The wine regulations in many regions permit the addition of a certain proportion of another vintage to a vintage-dated wine, as they frequently do a certain proportion, less than 15%, of wine from a region or even grape variety other than that specified on the label.

In today’s competitive and quality-conscious wine market, motivation for blending is more often improvement than deception.

Perhaps the more enthusiastic blenders are the Australians who regularly blend the produce of two or more different wine regions, probably many hundreds of miles apart. There are philosophical differences between them and the Europeans authorities but a compromise solution to allow the importation of such wines into the EU was reached in the mid of the 1990s.

Solera, a fractional blending used for Sherry wine, is also an alternative approach to blending wines.

Red Blends. www.vinepair.com

Red blend is a kind of term, it tells you everything and nothing about what’s inside. Put simply, a red blend is a wine made with a blend of red wine grapes. The category has come to signify a particular type of New World red wine, often from California, that has been blended to resemble classic European regional wines, such as Bordeaux. (No, Bordeaux, although a classic blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, is not considered a “red blend.” Yes, we need to come up with better terminology around red blends).

If your red wine preferences tend toward monovarietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Noir, it’s time to give red blends a chance. The fact that they are tailor-made to suit individual winemakers’ preferences and goals means that there is a wide range in flavor profiles — and prices — of red blends.

Washington State Red wines. Andy Perdue/Great Northwest Wine https://greatnorthwestwine.com

Washington is often thought of as a white wine state, probably because we’re famous for our Rieslings and Chardonnays. But, in fact, Washington has been a red wine state for a long time.

The last time Washington produced more white wine than red was during the 1980s. And since 2001, winemakers normally harvest about twice as many red grapes as white grapes. This is because of increased consumer interest in such varieties such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. During the 2016 harvest, those three grapes totaled 127,000 tons out of the 270,000 tons of wine grapes picked.

While we certainly see marked increases of these varieties made by large wineries, this doesn’t account for all of the grapes being harvested. What’s taking up the slack is red blends, which make up a popular segment o the Washington wine market. At the 2017 Cascadia Wine Competition, 160 of the nearly 1,000 entries were red blends.

As European winemakers have known for centuries, blending red wines often makes the most interesting wines, certainly true in Bordeaux and the Rhône Valley, two of France’s most famous regions.Blending gives winemakers the flexibility during winemaking to produce wines full of flavor and balance.

We Need a Better Way to Talk About Red Blends, Internet, Courtney Schiesse, www.courtneyschiessl.com

I tend to like a red blend, so what should I drink?” In the last two years, more wine drinkers have begun to use the term “red blend” to indicate their wine preferences in the same way that one might use the words Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Noir. But although it’s excellent to be able to verbalize and ask for a preferred style of wine, there’s one problem: A red blend isn’t one single style of wine. In fact, red blend doesn’t really mean anything at all. So why do more and more wine drinkers proclaim that it’s their favorite kind of wine?

When a red wine that is a blend of more than one grape this definition does not specify any particular grapes that must be used in the blend, meaning that any grape is fair game, from Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot to Trousseau and Poulsard. Therein lies the problem: A category of wine cannot reliably indicate one style if it can potentially include any permutation of red grapes.

The rising popularity of the American red blend category likely has something to do with the so-called style that is now commonly associated with red blends. The concept of blending is certainly not foreign to U.S. winemakers, as blends of wines allow producers to combine and complement favorable qualities from several different grape varieties, stretch a more noble grape by blending it with a higher-yielding, easier-to-produce grape, or hide undesirable grapes in minute blending percentages. In fact, California wine law even allows for a single-varietal wine to blend in up to 25 percent of other grapes, meaning that a quarter of your California Cabernet Sauvignon could theoretically not even be Cabernet Sauvignon.

In the past five years, however, more big-brand wineries have started to make inexpensive California wines marketed specifically as “red blends.” The trend really took off in 2015, when Nielsen estimated that red blends comprised 13 percent of all off-premise wine sales, second only to Cabernet Sauvignon in red wine categories. Based on grapes like Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Shiraz, these red blends are typically full-bodied, round, rich, and juicy, providing full flavor and drinkability at a low cost. This is the flavor profile that most self-proclaimed red blend lovers have come to expect, even though the style encompasses far more.

Even wine publications list “red blend” as a wine “varietal” along with the world’s most important international grapes. But the discrepancy becomes increasingly clear when viewing the category in this context. Just the first of over 500 pages of Wine Enthusiast red blend ratings includes wines from Piedmont, Italy; Rioja, Spain; Burgenland, Austria; Walla Walla, Washington; and regions of California from Livermore Valley to Paso Robles. All of these wines taste markedly different, emphasizing the point that “red blend” is not a reliable indicator of a single style of wine.

That doesn’t mean that red blends should be tossed aside, however. On the contrary, even more attention should be paid to the category of red blends. Some of the world’s most famous wines are, in fact, red blends, particularly those with difficult grape-growing conditions. Take Bordeaux, for instance: Because the wet maritime climate can create a difficult growing environment and significant vintage variation, winemakers don’t typically place all their bets on a single grape variety. Rather, they grow several grape varieties and blend them together to create a complete wine, each grape making up a piece of the puzzle. This is also why certain wines throughout the world are referred to as a “Bordeaux blend” — they are made from some of the six classically blended Bordeaux grape varieties. The Rhône Valley is another famous region for blending, but again, no one would argue that a Bordeaux blend and a Rhône blend are the same style of wine.

So what’s a red blend lover to do? The key is to break this gigantic category down. Find out what grapes are in your favorite red blends or where they come from, and look for other blends that have similar qualities. After all, Nielsen’s 2015 report noted that half of all those surveyed felt that red blends allowed them to confidently experiment with wine, and there’s no reason to quash that experimental notion. But there’s a way to take on a more guided exploration within the red blend category, and that’s what these wine lovers should embark on next.

Rhône-style Blend Following for reference is a brief description of the Lower Rhone GSM wine main grape components contribution that resemble the B. Leighton 2016 Gratitude. Olsen Brothers Vineyard, Yakima Valley Red Wine Blend for Washington Club del Vino taste No. 126.  

Grenache“What Grenache is going to bring is bright red fruit—strawberries and cherries,” says White. “You get nice richness, especially in the mid-palate. In hotter vintages, you’ll get some characteristics that are a little more savory. In cooler vintages, you get some spice.”

Syrah.“Syrah is such a chameleon,” says Macmorran. “It has a very broad spectrum of aromatic and flavor profiles where you really wouldn’t even think it’s the same grape.” Aromas and flavors can range from raspberry, blueberry and blackberry to smoked meat and olive.Syrah also changes the appearance and structure of a wine. “Syrah adds color,” says Carter. “It also tends to add a little bit more tannin and also add finish.”

Mourvèdre“For Mourvèdre you’re going to get raspberry, but you’re also going to get leather and pepper,” says White. “In some of the hotter vintages, it’s going to go more toward black pepper and in the cooler vintages, you’re going to get more of that white pepper.”

Carignan“Carignan can bring in some of the herby, wild aspects, that for me is such a charming thing with the Rhône varieties,” says Mantone. “It’s herbs and spices and savory things.”

Cinsault“[Cinsault] can be a little light on the palate but a very intense flavor profile,” says Mantone. “It can help reduce some of the heaviness of the palate.”

Read more about blending here: https://winefolly.com/deep-dive/wine-blending-why-certain-grapes-are-blended/







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Tasting No. 225 (Virtual) – December 14, 2020 – Pinotage

Tasting at Capri Restaurant


Tasting Overview: Pinotage is a red grape  a variety emblematic of South Africa but has made inroads to other regions in the world.  A hybrid between Pinot Noir and Cinsault (Hermintage), hence its name, can produce bad to excellent wines depending on the vineyard and fruit cropping management and on the wine making techniques.  It has had ups a downs as explained in the technical notes below but recently there are excellent Pinotage wines in the market.  This is the result of wineries increased focus on quality rather than volume.

 Pinotage is host to a wide variety of styles. This large spectrum includes cheap, light-bodied wines with strange aromas like paint, banana, rubber, and acetone. However, it also includes full-bodied wines that exhibit elegance, balance, and fully developed fruit flavors with a smoky, sweet finish.  This tasting’s  objective is to asses the features of the variety in two highly rated wines. 

Type of Tasting: Open

Wine Presenter: Jaime Estupiñán

The reference wine is:

2016 Beaumont Pinotage, Walker Bay, South Africa

The presenter recommended another wine for comparison

2018 Neethlingshof Estate The Owl Post Pinotage, Stellenbosch, South Africa

 The menu is up to each participant discretion

Participants: TBA

Information on the Wines

(The information below has been compiled from various internet sources) .

2016 Beaumont Pinotage, Walker Bay, South Africa

The Wine: Winemaker Notes. This is still an elegant style of Pinotage with red berry and ripe fruit flavors with fine tannins and lovely fruit on the palate. Matches very well with bobotie (a South African dish made with minced beef, curry and a savory custard), game and curries, spare ribs and pepper steak or try snoek and grape jam.

Tim Atkin (90 Pts): Located squarely at the fresher, lighter end of the Pinotage spectrum, this 10% new barrel aged is floral, appealing and well balanced, with some spice and subtle wood notes, smooth tannins and bright summer berry fruit. 2019-24.

Robert Parker: The nose of the 2016 Pinotage is mainly red-fruited, with a precise core that wafts with white and red spiced tea, fresh black cherry and dark dusty plum. The palate is honest with precision and focus not typically seen with Pinotage. The wine shows a remarkable balance of fruit, earth and florals, with a medium body. The finish is still grippy and lingers with well-structured tannins. There are none of the tones of the “funky Pinotage” to be found here. After fermentation in concrete tanks, the wine was moved into barrel and aged for 18 months. If you are not familiar with Beaumont, it is time to explore some of their wines. Sebastian Beaumont, owner/winemaker at Beaumont, has a talent for making unique and expressive wines in Bot River. Based in a historic building, with the original cellar built in the 18th century, Sebastian makes hand-crafted wines that show grace, elegance and focus. They are worth the out-of-the-way drive to visit. (AM) 

The Winery: Beaumont is a family owned and managed farm situated in the heart of the town of Bot River (“Botter Rivier”) in the Overberg. The farm, home to the region’s oldest wine cellar, was originally established in the 1700’s by the Dutch East India Company. In the 1940’s the wine business was initially started but wine production was discontinued in the late 1960’s. Jayne and Raoul Beaumont bought the farm Compagnes Drift in 1974 and set about replanting the vineyards.  However, the legacy of creating wines in the farm cellar under the family name was only initiated years later.

After generations of farming and partnering with nature, the land now offers some of the finest vineyards in the area. Together with a non-conformist approach to winemaking, these vines produce notably balanced, classical and artisanal wines. The farm also grows pears, almonds and olives surrounded by fynbos and abundant birdlife. It still supplies produce to visitors wanting fresh pears, apples, almonds and delicious olives. Beaumont Family Wines are proud members of the IPW, Global Gap and the BWI initiatives that encourage and support sustainable farming. Read more about the winery here: https://www.beaumont.co.za/

2018 Neethlingshof Estate The Owl Post Pinotage, Stellenbosch, South Africa

The Wine: Ripe fruit aromas with vanilla oak and a rich and velvety palate with ripe fruit and vanilla flavors.

Total Wine: Ripe berry and banana aromas with vanilla oak perfumes give way to a rich and velvety palate of black cherry, plum and vanilla flavors. This single-vineyard Pinotage is excellent served with grilled meat, game, or hearty stews.

Tim Atkin 92 Pts.

Cell Tracker 91 Pts.

The Winery: The history of Neethlingshof Estate spans more than 300 years.  In 1692, Willem Barend Lubbe, a German settler, began farming the site he had been granted by Governor of the Cape Simon van der Stel on the Bottelary Hills overlooking False Bay.  He named the farm De Wolwedans, “The Dance of Wolves”, having mistaken for wolves the packs of jackals roaming the countryside. Since 2003 Neethlingshof is following an active biodiversity orientated strategy in its farming practices. 

The farm has 8 distinguishable terroirs, each of them characterised by unique slopes, aspects and altitudes and inducing different phenological, physiological and growth pattern reactions in the vine. These occur on a complex soil type pattern. Most soil types, e.g. Tukulu and Oakleaf, are of high to very high potential for viticulture, but a relatively small percentage of medium to low potential soils, e.g. Kroonstad and Katspruit, also occur. The latter soils are mainly used for grazing while the better soils are planted to vineyards.

The predominant climate aspects are South and South-west (open to cool sea breezes every afternoon). Clearly the locality of Neethlingshof enables cool sea breezes from both the Indian and Atlantic oceans to penetrate the vineyards and cool down the grapes during hot summer days. The subsequent slow ripening processes enable all grape components to reach full maturity.

The different grape varietals grown on the farm are: Red: Pinotage, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Shiraz White: Gewürztraminer, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Weisser Riesling, Chenin Blanc

Read more about the winery here: https://neethlingshof.co.za/

Other Wines Tasted 

Two participants recomended the follwoing wines:

2018 Kaapzicht Pinotage. Dark deep depth of black plum with an opulent, slightly reductive nose of black cherry, mulberry and stewed plum. The oak is very subtle and integrated playing to the strengths of the fruit purity and precision emphasising the wines wild edge. Texturally there is impressive focus, balanced finesse and a classy, cool, elegant mouthfeel punctuated with soft supple black fruits and oak spice. This is an impressive expression of this uniquely South African variety.

2018 Seaward Pinotage, 2018, Stellenbosh. This Pinotage emphasizes elegance in its dark ruby color with aromas of roasted almonds, fresh cherries, hints of tobacco and a soft creamy palate. A perfect selection to pair with meat, poultry and roasted vegetables.

Technical Notes 

Compiled by Jairo Sanchez, Jaime Estupiñán and  Alfonso Sánchez


South Africa’s wine production is concentrated in the southwestern tip of the country and more specifically within a radius of about 60 km around Cape Town (Western Cape Province).. The climate of this region is much cooler than other places in the world at the same latitude due to the cold Atlantic Benguela current that bathes its coasts. The result is a typically Mediterranean climate with cold and rainy winters and hot. summers.  The proximity to the sea softens these extremes. The mountain ranges of the region channel the dry and cold winds of the southeast (Cape Doctor) that moderate the climate and minimize fungal infections, although sometimes they also damage the vineyards.

You can see a map of the wine regions of South Africa here: https://wandercurtis.com/south-africa-map/

The Biodiversity and Wine Initiative seeks to maintain the balance between the rich regional ecosystem and wine production by managing crops that preserve natural vegetation and promote the eco-tourism. This increases the costs wines that must compete based on quality.   After the end of “apartheid” and international sanctions, the industry has had outstanding development in terms of quality and volume. All grape varieties grown in South Africa were imported from Europe and are therefore very prone to phylloxera.  That is why they are currently grafted into American stock resistant to this insect. There are 11 wine regions in the area among which the main ones are Stellenbosch and Paarl followed by Oliphant River (Chenin Blanc, Colombard) and Klein Karoo (port and fortified Muscatel wines).

It is worth mentioning two types of special wines from South Africa.  One is ROODEBERG, made only in South Africa (in Paarl) that exhibits a ruby, garnet colors. It has been produced for 50 years or more and is the result of mixtures of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Shiraz.   Aromas of red fruits, grass and tobacco.  Strong in tannins, somewhat astringent. The other is the PINOTAGE, a variety created in 1925, by the hybridization of the Pinot Noir and Cinsault strains (also called Hermitage – hence the name Pinotage).). This variety is characteristic of South Africa and has become the symbol of the country’s wines even though it is not the most cultivated variety.


Stellenboch, about 45 km east of Cape Town is the capital of South African wines  where50% of the wineries are found. The region produces the most famous reds in the country.  The city is home to the South African Academy of Wine.

The Soils. The soils are residual decomposed granite and sandstone and well drained. The mountainous topography to the east produces a wide variety of soils and microclimates but the wines do not exhibit the characteristics of “terroir” because they almost always come from mixtures of grapes from various places.

The Climate. A mediterranean climate with adequate amounts of rain and slightly warmer summers than those in Bordeaux.  That is why Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Shiraz are surpassing the Chenin Blanc which was the predominant grape in the sub-region. The types of wine are more like those of the old world (Bordeaux type) than the varietals of the new world. There is no need for irrigation in this sub-region and therefore production per hectare is lower with a higher concentration of flavors than in the others.

Varieties. Mostly the French varieties mentioned above are grown in addition to Pinotage, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay in the colder areas.

Olyphant River

This is the northernest sub-region of West Cape and comprises the river valley that gives it its name.  Its main agriculture is citrus. It produces grapes in bulk mainly for distillation of juices by cooperative companies (Vredendal which is the largest, processes 40,000 tons of grapes annually).  The region also produces wines for export.

The Soils: Soil profile ranges from sandy alluvials (near the river) to alluvium with gravel, silt, and clay on the slopes.  The latter produce the best reds while the sandy ones are excellent for whites.

The Climate: Due to its location, the climate is more influenced by the Atlantic and is milder than in other sub-regions with sunny and misty days.

Varieties:The main ones are Merlot, Pinotage, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chenin Blanc.


Pinotage is the South Africa’s signature red grape variety and its contribution to the history of the vinifera vine. It is Pinot Noir and Cinsault also called Hermitage. Hence the name Pinotage. It typically produces deep red wines with smoky, blackberry and earthy flavors, sometimes smelling to acetone.  

The Birth of a Grape: Pinotage grape variety was created in South Africa in 1925 by Abraham Izak Perold, the first Professor of Viticulture at Stellenbosch University. Perold was attempting to combine the best qualities of the robust Hermitage with Pinot Noir, a grape that makes great wine but can be difficult to grow it up. The first wine was made in 1941 at the first commercial plantings at Myrtle Grove near Sir Lowry’s Pass. The first recognition came when a Bellevue wine made from Pinotage became the champion wine at the Cape Wine Show of 1959. The Bellevue wine would become the first to mention Pinotage on its label in 1961.This early success, and its easy viticulture, prompted a wave of planting during the 1960s.

The Ups and Downs of Pinotage. Despite the reputation for easy cultivation, the Pinotage has the tendency to develop isoamyl acetate during winemaking resulting in a sweet pungency that often smells like paint. A group of British Masters of Wine visiting in 1976 were unimpressed by Pinotage, calling the nose “hot and horrible” and comparing the taste to “rusty nails.

The grape has seen its plantings rise and fall due to the current fashion of the South African wine industry. In the early 1990s, after the end of Apartheid, the world’s wine market was opening to South Africa wine and winemakers ignored Pinotage in favor of more internationally recognized varieties like Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. Towards the end of the 20th century, the grape’s fortunes began to turn, and by 1997 it commanded higher prices than any other South African grape.

It has been suggested that part of some South African winemakers’ disdain for Pinotage stems from the fact that it is a distinctly New World wine while the trend for South African wine is to reflect more European influences and flavors. Despite being a cross from a Burgundy and Rhône grape, Pinotage reflects none of the flavors of a French wine. While not a critique itself, outside of small plantings most notably in New Zealand and the United States, Pinotage has yet to develop a significant presence in any other wine region.

Pinotage grapes grow quickly, and they’re easy to cultivate with very little maintenance. This led many producers to make commercial wines of very low quality that didn’t taste very good but were cheap. They stretched their grapes as far as they would go to sell more wine and make more money, which led to the idea that Pinotage wine wasn’t very good

Pinotage remained relatively obscure internationally until Beyers Truter from Kanonkop won the 1987 Diner’s Club Wine of the year for his Pinotage. Pinotage has since experienced a renaissance in South Africa, with an increasing number of producers exploring a bright and juicy expression of the variety that shows off the fruit rather than oak and showing real finesse with less ripe extraction.

From 2007 to 2017, the quality, demand, and supply of Pinotage grew significantly. From around 3 million liters of Pinotage a year at the turn of the century, domestic sales have increased to over 5 million liters, and exports since 2001 have gone from just over 8 million liters a year to close on 19 million liters.

Where is it Grown. The majority of the world’s plantings of Pinotage are in South Africa, where it makes up 6% of the vineyard area and is considered a symbol of the country’s distinctive winemaking traditions. It is a required component (30-70%) in “Cape Blends”. Here it is made into the full range of styles, from easy-drinking wine and rosé to barrel-aged wine intended for cellaring. It is also made into a fortified ‘Port wine’ style, and even a red sparkling wine. The grape is very dependent on the skill and style of winemaking, with well-made examples having the potential to produce deep colored, fruity wines that can be accessible early as well as age 

In addition to South Africa, Pinotage is also grown in Brazil, Canada, Israel, New Zealand, United States and Zimbabwe. In New Zealand, there are 94 acres (38 ha) of Pinotage. In the US, there are plantings in Arizona, California, Michigan, Oregon and Virginia. German winemakers have recently begun experimenting with the grape.

How it is Grown The vines are vigorous like their parent Cinsaut and easy to grow, ripening early with high sugar levels. Pinotage can be grown via the trellised system or as bush vines (untrellised). The older Pinotage vineyards are predominantly planted as bush vines and it is perceived that these lend to more concentration of fruit and depth to the wine. It has the potential to produce yields of 120 hl/ha (6.8 tons/acre) but older vines tend to lower their yields to as low as 50 hl/ha. Yield restriction is managed through water stress and bunch thinning. In winemaking, controlling the coarseness of the grape and the isoamyl acetate character are two important considerations. Volatile acidity is another potential wine fault that can cause Pinotage to taste like raspberry vinegar. Since the 1990s, more winemakers have used long and cool fermentation periods to minimize the volatile esters as well as exposure to French and American oak. The grape is naturally high in tannins which can be tamed with limited maceration time but reducing the skin contact can also reduce some of the berry fruit character that Pinotage can produce. Some winemakers have experimented with letting the grapes get very ripe prior to harvest followed by limited oak exposures as another means of taming the more negative characteristics of the grape while maintaining its fruitiness.

Paring. If you love a bold barbecue-friendly wine, Pinotage wine is worth investigating.

What a Great Pinotage Tastes Like:

Pinotage association member and winemaker Danie Steytler Jr. says it’s common to find purple fruits and black fruits in Pinotage, but occasionally you’ll taste amazing red fruit flavors of raspberry, red licorice and even red bell pepper (on optimal vintages).

On great bottles of Pinotage, you will be delighted by the flavors other than fruit. A wide array of other flavors includes rooibos, dried leaves, bacon, sweet and sour sauce, hoisin and sweet pipe tobacco. 

You should expect tannins to be bold but to have a sweet note on the finish –almost like flavored smoke. As far as acidity is concerned, the grape is typically high pH (low acidity) so most winemakers will acidify their wines early in the fermentation process, so the acids are more integrated. Many wineries in hot climates, including California, Australia, and Argentina, acidify their wines. Well-integrated acidification is unnoticeable although some tasters appear to be more sensitive to this trait than others

Pinotage can go very wrong because it is so volatile. When it is bad, it will smell very pungent and sharp, almost like nail polish remover. This smell is a clue that the wine has high levels of Volatile Acidity (VA) which is caused by a high proportion of a ‘bad acid’ called acetic acid. Besides the sharp smell, some of the wines can become over-extracted which is a process where the wine spends too long on the skins and seeds. Over-extracting Pinotage will make the wine taste like burnt tar.

Pinotage Profile (1 to 5 scale)

Body  5; Sweetness  1; Tannins  4; Acidity 1; Alcohol   5

How to drink Pinotage Wine: Decant 60+ minutes. Cellar: 5-15 years

Sources:The Oxford Companion to Wine, Jancis Robinson & Julia Harding, Wine Folly, the Master Guide, Magnum Edition. Madeline Puckette and Justing Hammack, WineFolly.Com 





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Tasting No. 224 (Virtual) – November 23, 2020 – Aglianico


Source: Wkimedia By poltronafrau – https://www.flickr.com/photos/destabile/3717853719, CC BY-SA 2.0,

Tasting Overview: Aglianico is together with Nebbiolo and Sangiovese one of the three main varietals of Italy. The aim in this tasting of the varietal program is to assess and discuss the character and properties of this less known varietal and the style of wines it produces.

Type of Tasting: Open

Wine presenters: Marcello Averbug, Jose Brakarz

The reference wine is:

2015  Gudarra, Aglianico del Vulture, Azienda Bisceglia, Basilicata, Italy 

The presenters recommended another wine for comparison or as a substitute in case the Guaddra is in short supply

2013 Tenuta Del Portale Aglianico Del Vulture

The menu is up to each participant discretion

Participants: Marcello Averbug, Jose Brakarz, Clara Estrada, Jaime Estupiñán, Alberto Gómez, Jorge Garcia-Garcia, Orlando Mason, Agilson Perazza, Claudia Perazza, John Redwood, Lucía Redwood, Jorge Requena, Alfonso Sanchez, Jairo Sanchez, Cristian Santelices, Ricardo Santiago, Pedro Turina, Ricardo Zavaleta.

Information on the Reference Wine

(The information below has been compiled from various internet sources) .

2015  Gudarra, Aglianico del Vulture, Azienda Bisceglia, Basilicata, Italy 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is guadarra.jpgThe Wine: Winemaker Notes: Gudarrà is deep ruby-red in color with violet hues and enticing notes of red cherries, cassis, blackberries, and sweet spice. On the palate, balanced tannins and integrated alcohol make for an elegantly smooth wine that is truly “to be enjoyed.” Pair this wine with roasted game, spicy tomato-based sauces, southern Italian pasta dishes, and slow-cooked beef stews.

RP: You get terrific value with this red wine from Southern Italy. The fruit in this warm vintage comes together with precision and balanced intensity. The 2015 Aglianico del Vulture Gudarrà is a generous and opulent expression with a thick layer of black fruit. In addition, you get delicate and territorial notes of campfire ash and exotic spice. This is a contemporary expression from a deeply traditional wine region. On the finish, you get touches of black olive and grilled herb.

The Winery: (From Wine.com) The Bisceglia estate is situated on the lower slopes of the extinct volcano, Mount Vulture, in the splendid district of Lavello. This old farming community is officially recognized as “Wine Town” in the Basilicata region of Southern Italy. The winery itself was designed by internationally acclaimed architects Hikaru Mori and Domenico Santomauro, and has state-of-the-art winemaking facilities and aging cellars. The estate extends over pristine hillsides rich in flora and fauna, characterized by a Mediterranean mesoclimate. A natural balance of temperature shifts characterizes this terroir, conferring remarkable fertility to calcareous and clay loam soils. Bisceglia comprises forty hectares of vines in the heart of the Aglianico del Vulture DOCG appellation, which include local varieties – Aglianico, Moscato and Fiano – as well as a selection of international vine varieties.

Read more about the winery here: http://www.vinibisceglia.it/en/

The RegionNotes taken from Wine-Searcher.comBasilicata, in southern Italy, is a region whose name crops up only very rarely in wine circles. It is best known for red wines from the Aglianico variety, and in particular the Aglianico del Vulture appellation. It is home to just four DOCs, which collectively cover only two bottles in every hundred produced here. The remaining 98 percent is sold either under IGT titles or – more likely – Vino da Tavola. Compared to other Italian wine regions, total wine production in here is very small at less than 50 million liters. Basilicata’s 10,000 square kilometers (3860 square miles) of land are bordered to the north by Campania and Puglia and to the south by Calabria. Predominantly landlocked, with the Ionian Sea on one side and the Tyrrhenian Sea on the other, it features stunning mountain and hill ranges. In fact it is one of the most mountainous regions in Italy, with around 47 percent mountains and a further 45 percent hills. Only 8 percent of the surface area is classified as being flat. The three main peaks dotted across the region are Monte Pollino at 2238m (7375ft), Monte Sirino at 2005m (6578ft) and the extinct volcano Monte Vulture at 1326m (4350ft).

The main area for viticulture lies in the heart of the fertile Vulture Massif in the north. Vineyards are located around Mount Vulture on volcanic soils. The mountainous terrain and harsh weather makes vine-growing a challenge. But the area still enjoys an abundance of sunshine throughout the growing season and cool temperatures around harvest, thanks to climatic variations. Cool Balkan breezes, travelling across the Adriatic and Puglia, help moderate the temperatures. In addition, the Apennines create a barrier to the mild currents from the Tyrrhenian Sea to the west. In this hilly territory the local variety, Aglianico del Vulture, reigns, producing quality wines which exhibit fine aromas and flavors.

Winemaking in Basilicata dates back over a thousand years. In central and northern Italy it was the Etruscans and Romans who pioneered local winemaking. However, in the south this task was largely undertaken by seafaring Greeks. Basilicata was also influenced by the Byzantines, who ruled the area during two distinct periods in both the 6th and 9th Centuries. They gave the region its current name (from the Greek basilikos, meaning prince and governor). Aglianico has the leading wine grape variety here for many centuries. Recent theories suggest it was introduced (known as vino de llanos, or “wine of the plains”) under Aragonese rule during the late Middle Ages.

Technical Notes 

Compiled by Jairo Sánchez


The Grape: 

Aglianico is a dark-skinned top-quality Southern Italy grape variety. For long it was thought to be of Greek origin although DNA profiling has failed to find a relationship with any Greek variety. It retained the name Ellenico until the end of the 15th century, when it took the current name of Aglianico. First Planted around the Greek colony of Cumae, this early-budding vine variety is cultivated mainly in the mountainous center of Italy’s south, mostly in the provinces of Avelino and Benevento in Campania, and in the provinces of Potenza and Matera in Basilicata. It is found also in small quantities in Calabria, in Puglia, Molise, and in the island of Procida near Naples. Italy total Plantings were 25.000 acres in 2010. The vine can ripen so late even this far south that grapes may be picked in November. Attempts to pick it earlier, or increase yields, invariably lead to a failure to tame its rather ferocious tannins. Aglianico seems to prefer soils of volcanic origin and achieves its finest in the two DOCs of Taurasi in Campania and Aglianico del Vulture in Basilicata where elevations are lower and the wines rather softer and earlier maturing.

Aglianico is considered with Sangiovese and Nebbiolo to be one of the three greatest Italian varieties. Aglianico is sometimes called “The Barolo of the South” due to its ability to produce highly refined, complex fine wines like the famous Piedmont wine, Barolo.

History:  Oenologist Denis Dubourdieu has said “Aglianico is probably the grape with the longest consumer history of all”, claiming that Aglianico was used to make the Falernian wine famed during Roman times. Along with the white grape Greco (today known as Greco di Tufo), the red grape of the region was regarded favorably by Pliny the Elder. Traces of the vine have been found in Molise, Apulia, and also on the island of Procida near Naples,.

Wine Regions. In Basilicata, Aglianico is the basis of the Aglianico del Vulture DOC and the region’s only DOCG wine, Aglianico del Vulture Superiore, concentrated in the northern area of the province of Potenza. The most sought-after productions come from the vineyards located in and around the extinct volcano Mount Vulture. In Campania, the area in and around the village of Taurasi in the Province of Avellino and the area around the Monte del Taburno in the Province of Benevento produce Aglianico wines bearing the DOCG designation. Taurasi was designated DOCG in 1993, and Aglianico del Taburno in 2011. More Aglianico can be found in the province of Caserta, as the principal grape of Falerno del Massico.

The grape has also recently been planted in Australia and California, as it thrives in predominantly sunny climates with a long ripening season. In Australia it is being introduced in the Murray Darling region with some success.  Producers in McLaren Vale, Margaret River, Mudgee and Riverland are also experimenting with plantings. Elsewhere in North America, it has been trialed in Texas and Arizona, and in Ontario, Canada.

Viticulture: The Aglianico vine buds early and grows best in dry climates with generous amounts of sunshine. It has good resistance to outbreaks of powdery mildew, but has low resistance to botrytis. Since it is too tannic to make a worthwhile dessert wine, the presence of this noble rot in the vineyard is more of a viticultural hazard than an advantage. The grape tends to ripen late, with harvests as late as November in some parts of southern Italy. If the grape is picked too early, or with excessive yields, the grape can be aggressively tannic. The vine seems to thrive in particularly volcanic soils.

Wine styles:  Aglianico’s best wines are deep in color with full chocolate and plum aromas, fine-grained tannins and marked acidity on the palate. Wines produced from Aglianico tend to be full-bodied with firm tannins and high acidity, endowing them with good aging potential. The rich flavors of the wine make it appropriate for pairing with rich meats such as lamb. In Campania, the grape is sometimes blended with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in the production of some Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT) wines.  In its youth, Aglianico is very tannic and concentrated, requiring a few years of ageing before it can be approachable. As it ages, the fruit becomes more pronounced and the tannins more balanced with the rest of the wine. The trademark coloring of the wine is a deep garnet. In well made examples of the wine, it can have chocolate and plum aromas.

Aglianico del Vulture is a potentially superior wine, one of the handful in Basilicata, based on the tannic and age worthy. The DOC zone consists of close to 1000 acres, all on soils of volcanic origins in the northwest of the zone and benefiting from cool nights at 600 mt. The area was given its own DOC as early as 1971, as the Superiore and Riserva versions of the wines were elevated DOCG in 2010. Minimum vine density for both DOC and DOCG is as low as 3350 plants/ha while the high permitted yields of 10 tons/ha for the DOC is lowered to 8 ton/ha for DOCG. Legal ageing for DOC version is one year and while DOCG requires 24 months of ageing, of which 12 must be in oak.

Aglianico Wines Profile

Fruit: Low

Body: Full

Tannin: High

Acidity: Medium High

Alcohol: Medium to High

Flavors: Aglianico: White Pepper, Black Cherry, Smoke, Game, Spiced Plum

Aglianico del Vulture: Blackberry sauce, Licorice, Smoke

A savory wine like Aglianico goes well with gamey dishes or even Texas style barbecue.

Recommended Video on Aglianico: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-oFGe7DM5-8&list=WL

Sources: Wine Folly, The Master Guide Magnum Edition, The Oxford Companion to Wine, Jancis Robinson and Wikipedia.




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Tasting No. 223 (Virtual) – October 26, 2020 – Valpolicella


This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is valpolicella_region.jpg

By Aaron Epstein – Flickr: *Italy 28, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32520084


Tasting Overview

This tasting is part of our varietals tasting program but is not strictly about a particular grape variety. Instead is about a particular kind of wine, the Valpolicella, that is always made of the same handful of varieties combined in different proportions.  There are five types of Valpolicella wines (see the Technical Note Below) some of which share the common feature of starting with the sun drying of the grapes to concentrate sugars.  The sun dried grapes or raisins are then fermented with wine.  The young dry Valpolicella Classico wines exhibits punchy flashes of spicy, tart, and sweet flavors, often referred to as having a “sour cherry” note and considered to be the Beaujolais Nouveau of Italy.  It felt a bit in disrepute in the 70s/80s because of excessive production. To be considered Superiore, the wines must be aged for at least a year and are therefore darker in color and more concentrated. Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso is produced by macerating the pomace (grape skins and stalks) leftover from Amarone production with Valpolicella Classico. Resulting in a much richer, denser, and higher alcohol content. Yet even more exciting than the ever-improving array of dry red wines are the area’s sweeter creations. 

Type of Tasting: Open

Wine presenters: Ricardo Santiago, Jorge Requena

The reference wine is:

2016 Zenato Ripassa, Valpolicella Ripasso DOC Superiore

The presenters recommended two other wines for comparison , the first is one notch above and the second is one notch below in terms quality and price than the reference wine:

2015 Zenato Amarone della Valpolicella

2017 Zenato Valpolicella Superiore

 The menu is up to each participant discretion

Participants: Mario Aguilar, Marcello Averbug, Clara Estrada, Michelle Fryer, Alberto Gómez, Jorge Garcia-Garcia, Orlando Mason, Agilson Perazza, Claudia Perazza, John Redwood, Lucía Redwood, Jorge Requena, Alfonso Sanchez, Jairo Sanchez, Ricardo Santiago, Pedro Turina 

Information on the Wines

(The information below has been compiled from various internet sources) .

2016 Zenato Ripassa, Valpolicella Ripasso DOC Superiore

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is zenato.jpg

The Wine: Zenato’s Ripassa style wine is a lush and powerful red. The color of the Zenato Ripassa is deep ruby ​​red. It has lots of dark fruit on the nose. The bouquet is intense, fine and persistent, with hints of black cherry and plum. It has a rounded, velvet-textured palate with an impressive lengthy finish. The taste is harmonious and velvety, with good structure.

This wine is closely connected to Amarone, the greatest wine of Valpolicella. After pressing the dried grapes from which Amarone is made, the Valpolicella wine is passed over the still warm marc of Amarone. A second alcoholic fermentation begins which increases the alcoholic content and the wine becomes richer in color, bouquet.  The wine is aged for 18 months in oak casks and barrels.

The Zenato Ripassa is a blend of grapes with 85% Corvina Veronese, 10% Rondinella, 5% Corvinone.  The recommended serving temperature is 18 ° C. It has 14.5% alcohol content.

It is an excellent companion with game dishes, grilled meats and roasts, cold cuts and aged cheeses.

The winery: Zenato is an important producer in the Veneto region of northeast Italy, with estates in the Lugana and Valpolicella regions. It is particularly known for its Amarone della Valpolicella wines, although it makes a range of other wines, from Pinot Grigio and Soave to varietal Corvina wines. Sergio Zenato started the winery in 1960 and today the family tradition in winemaking is carried on by his children Alberto and Nadia.

The vineyard is in a hilly area of ​​Valpolicella with South-East and South-West exposure. The average altitude of the land is 250-300 meters above sea level.  The soil type is mainly cretaceous, calcareous. The average age of the vines is 10/15 years with an average load of 8/10 buds per plant. The yield per hectare is about 100 quintals. The harvest is manual and it takes place the first half of October.

Read more about the winery here: https://www.zenato.it/en/our-wines.html

The region: The Veneto is the leading wine-producing region of the north of Italy in terms of volume. The most important Veneto wines are Amarone, Pinot Grigio, Prosecco, Soave and Valpolicella.

The Valpolicella wine zone is in the Veneto region. Straddling Lombardy and Veneto a few steps from the southern shore of Lake Garda, is one of the most original wine areas in Europe. It has a particular climate tempered by the mass of water of Lake Garda.

Read more about the region here: https://www.cellartours.com/italy/italian-wine-regions/valpolicella

Technical Notes 

Presentación Valpolicella by Jorge Requena

Compiled by Jorge Requena and Ricardo Santiago

Valpolicella varieties. The Valpolicella Ripasso wines are based on blends of native red grapes. The main varieties are Corvina, Rondinella, and Corvinone.  Corvina and Rondinella are mandatory grapes and can form the entire blend by themselves. Corvina participates with 45% to 95% and Rondinella with 5% to 30%.  Corvinone is permitted to the maximum of 50%, replacing an equal percentage of Corvina. Additionally, other traditional varieties of Verona, such as Molinara and Oseleta, and international varieties, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, can contribute to the blend with very small percentages.

Corvina is the backbone of the blend.  It confers aromas and softness to the wines. It has low tannins and low anthocyanin content: its color is never ultra-dark. A good Corvina will remind you of violet, blackberry, and red cherry, with a delicately aromatic touch of herbs.

Rondinella is the second most grown variety. It contributes with color and aromas. Some producers claim that it is an invaluable part of Valpolicella as it confers color and a lovely herbaceous note. For other producers, it is rather neutral, and its only real virtue is its reliability being the strongest of the local grapes against diseases and adverse weather.

Corvinone is a particularly important allowed variety conferring aroma complexity and structure to the wine. It supplies Corvina with the tannins it is missing, and the result is much better than the single components on their own.

Molinara was historically a major contributor to the blend. It gives supporting acidity. It contributes aromas and flavors of red berries, citrus, and delicate herbs and spices. Its participation is declining because of its rosy, light color “…is not liked by producers looking to make the biggest, blackest wine possible.”

Oseleta, old native variety rediscovered in the 1980s and now used in very small amounts by some producers. Gives great tannic concentration and exceptional color.

Styles of Valpolicella. There are five styles of Valpolicella; Classico, Superiore, Superiore Ripasso, Amarone Della Valpolicella, and Recioto Della Valpolicella.

A) Valpolicella Classico, everyday wine, is the largest quantity produced ($13-$15).

B) Valpolicella Superiore, minimum 12% alcohol and 1 year in wood. Darker color than Valpolicella Classico ($15–$20).

C) Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso, one of Italy’s best values. Made by macerating Amarone pomace (grape skins & solids) with fresh Valpolicella Classico. Medium – full body. Rich, soft, complex ($20–$25).

D) Amarone della Valpolicella. Made with grapes that are dried for 4-5 months. Minimum 2 and up to 5 years prior to release. Can cellar 10+ years. Minimum alcohol 14%, usually 15-16%. Full bodied, dried fruit, firm tannins, high acid ($50 or more).

E) Recioto della Valpolicella is a dessert wine. Same grapes as Amarone, same process, but fermentation is halted before completion to leave residual sugar in the wine. Extremely concentrated, spectacularly complex. Rich dried fruit, lots of tannin and bright acidity. 12% alcohol. Can cellar for 20-30 years ($40+ 375ml bottle).

Vinification: Because Valpolicella’s wines generally lean towards the lighter end of the scale, for centuries the local winemakers have employed various techniques to improve the depth and complexity of their cuvées.

The passito and ripasso methods have been the most successful: the former is used in the Recioto della Valpolicella and Amarone della Valpolicella, while the latter is used to make Valpolicella Ripasso. For a passito wine, the grapes are dried out for weeks or even months prior to fermentation, during which time their natural sugars and flavors become sufficiently concentrated to produce deeper, more alcoholic wines. The ripasso method is to ‘re-pass’ (re-ferment) the passito grape skins with standard Valpolicella wine, creating a deeper, more character-laden result. The style was granted its own independent DOC title in 2007.

Valpolicella is the most famous red wine to come out of the Veneto wine region (Bardolino is the only other contender). The defining character of all quality Valpolicella is its fragrant, tangy cherry aroma, a quality which is carried through into the ripasso wines.

You can see a PowerPoint presentation on Valpolicella wines (in Spanish) here:


The Zenato site: https://www.zenato.it/it/ripassa-valpolicella-ripasso-doc-superiore.html

Valpolicella Wine Pyramid: https://winefolly.com/deep-dive/valpolicella-wine-pyramid/

About the grapes: https://www.amaronetours.it/wines/amarone/grape-varietals

About Ripasso and Amarone methods: http://wineandabout.com/basics/ripasso-amarone-methods/#.X2-SMpNKjeo




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Tasting No. 222 (Virtual) – September 28, 2020 – Petit Verdot

Club del Vino


Tasting Overview

Courtesy of winesofchile.org

The  tasting is limited to two wines proposed by the presenters as part of the tasting series on varietals. The main objective of the tasting is to find out the salient and specific features of Petit Verdot and the character of the wines made of this grape.

Petit Verdot is a variety of red wine grape, principally used in classic Bordeaux blends. It ripens much later than the other varieties in Bordeaux, often too late, so it fell out of favor in its home region. When it does ripen it adds tannin, color and flavor, in small amounts, to the blends.

Even though Petit Verdot is mainly used in blends, it is also used to produce varietal wines like the ones included in this tasting. Petit Verdot wines exhibit aromas of black fruit ranging from plum, blackberry and blueberry to slightly lighter black cherry. Flavors reflect the aromas with added complexity of herbal and floral notes such as violet, lavender, sage, and dried herbs. Most producers will oak age this wine to soften it and add flavors of vanilla, hazelnut and mocha. And occasionally, the wine can be a bit smoky and rustic, like smoked meats. The wine is dry and full-bodied with high tannin, bold fruit and medium-plus acidity.

Petit Verdot pairs extremely well with lamb. Other suitable meats include roast pork, burgers, and Chinese BBQ pork and beef. Petit Verdot also works well with Mexican dishes such as adobo and mole.

Type of Tasting: Open

Wines presenters: Jorge Claro, Cristián Santelices

The reference wine is:

2016 Ruca Malen, Petit Verdot, Mendoza, Argentina

The second wine is:

2014 Perez Cruz Chaski, Petit Verdot, Maipo Valley, Chile

 The menu is up to each participant discretion

Participants: Mario Aguilar, Jorge Claro, Clara Estrada, Michelle Fryer,  Jorge Garcia-Garcia, Orlando Mason, John Redwood, Lucía Redwood, Jorge Requena, Alfonso Sanchez, Jairo Sanchez, Cristian Santelices, Ricardo Santiago, Carlos Silvani.

Information on the Wines

(The information below has been compiled from various internet sources) .

2016, Ruca Malen, Petit Verdot, Mendoza, Argentina 

The Wine: The intense aromas of fresh plums and cherries are harmoniously balanced with subtle notes of sweet roses and spices and soft hints of caramel, vanilla and moka. A full-bodied wine, concentrated fruity flavors, a balanced acidity and a velvety texture. Sweet tannins last through a long and persistent finish. Ruca Malen Petit Verdot is aged in new and second-use 80% French and 20% American barrels for 12 months.

Variety: 100% Petit Verdot; Store in Barrica: 12  months,  80%French barrel and 20% American; Alcohol: 13. 4%; Location: Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza

The Winery: Ruca Malen’s dream began in 1998 when Jean Pierre Thibaud and Jacques Louis de Montalembert confessed the illusion of having their winery in Mendoza with a portfolio of premium quality wines. With the addition of Noelia Torres in 2017 as an enologist, the winery began to travel a path of innovation presenting a completely renewed wine portfolio. Combining grapes from Luján de Cuyo and Valle de Uco in most of its lines, Noelia proposes wines of cosmopolitan palate and local value that reflect the restless and bold spirit of the winery, and bets on the conquest of curious consumers by nature, for whom wine is synonymous with enjoyment.

Read more abot the winery here: https://www.bodegarucamalen.com/en/

The Mendoza Wine Region: See notes about the Mendoza Region here: The Mendoza Wine Region

2014, Perez Cruz Chaski, Petit Verdot, Maipo Valley, Chile 

The Wine: The 2015 Petit Verdot, under the Quechua name of Chaski, which means “messenger”, is complex and elegant, with grapes harvested by hand in the Fundo Liguai de la Viña, in the Maipo Alto, has notes of red and black fruits, herbs, tobacco, black pepper and species. On the palate it is structured, fresh and balanced, with a particular mineral note, silky and firm tannins, and a delicious and powerful harmony. Ideal to serve at 18oC, and enjoy it with red meats, Italian food, ripe cheeses.

The grapes that give rise to Chaski Petit Verdot were harvested during the second week of May, seeking the correct maturation of the tannins and aromas of the variety. Clusters and berries were manually selected at special tables, and then the grapes were introduced to the pond gravitationally.

The extraction was performed by cold pre fermentative maceration for 5 days at 9oC. During the alcoholic fermentation careful pumpings were made to obtain a soft but concentrated structure. Finally, the total maceration period was 25 days. Malolactic fermentation took place in French oak barrels.

Other Tasting Notes: The aroma is complex and elegant, highlighting its character and identity, with notes of red fruits, herbs, tobacco, black pepper and species. On the palate it is well structured, fresh and balanced, with a particular mineral note, its tannins are soft and the final is long and persistent.

Variety: 100% Petit Verdot; Store in Barrica: 14 months, 100% French barrel (50% new and 50% first use); Yield: 4.5 ton /ha; Alcohol: 14. 5%; Harvest: Mid-May. Total Acidity: 3.66 gr/l; Method: Harvest by hand; Maceration: 25 days.

The Winery: Pérez Cruz is a family vineyard specializing in red wines produced and bottled in origin, reflecting the character and identity of Maipo Alto. Located in Fundo Liguai, Huelquén s/n, Paine, Maipo Alto, Chile. On the foothills of the Andes range, its soils are deep, stony and low in nutrients. The climate is Mediterranean, with dry summers of great luminosity and thermal amplitude. Ideal combination to produce high quality wines.

With more than 12 years of experience, Viña Pérez Cruz continues to stand out for its wines from Maipo Alto, where the quality of the vineyards has achieved the elaboration of great exponents today recognized worldwide. Robert Parker gives great ratings to Viña Perez Cruz. The latest edition of Wine Advocates magazine on June 30, Robert Parker delivers 92 points to three wines from the Vineyard.

A 50% jump in your wine shipments around the world is what you hope to give the Pérez Cruz Vineyard – linked to the family of the same name – between this year and 2021. According to the company’s general manager, José Ignacio Laso, the plan is to go from exporting about 100 thousand boxes, and reaching the end of the decade at 150 thousand boxes. The investment was US$ 15 million to increase its production capacity.

Read more about the Winery here: https://www.perezcruz.com/en/vina/

The Maipó Valley: (Wine-Searcher.com) The Maipo Valley is the home of viticulture in Chile. The first vines were planted around Santiago at the city’s birth in the 1540s, but it wasn’t until the 1800s that viticulture began to expand significantly, as an indirect result of entrepreneurial Chileans growing rich from the mineral wealth found in the Atacama Desert to the north. It became fashionable for these wealthy individuals to travel to France, and they inevitably returned home with vines to plant in their new, French-influenced wine estates. The vineyards of Cousiño Macul, Concha Y Toro and Santa Rita were developed during this period, and they remain today important names in the Chilean wine industry. Read more about Maipó Valley here: https://www.wine-searcher.com/regions-maipo+valley

Similar Wines

Two participants tasted different Petit Verdot as follows:

2015 Terre Di Talamo Per Cecco, Marema, Toscana, Petit Verdot. The color is dark purple, strong in tannins. A full bodied wine with 14.5% alcohol content. It has a good long finish. It benefits from opening and airing the wine a few hours before drinking.

James Suckling (93). “This is a linear and tight Petit Verdot with black berry, licorice and ink character. Full yet tight and very polished with fantastic focused fruit and precision. Long and flavorful”. US$ 35  at Total Wine.

 Hello World Petit Verdot, La Mancha, Spain. The cork is  champagne-like with a larger head and a short neck; the cork cover had a small strip to pull it and break the packaging, and then the cork could be easily removed by gently pushing it upwards. No corkscrew or sharp instrument is required to  open the wine.

The color is a deep ruby. The aroma and initial taste were unpleasant. Barely open, the aroma struck me as very unpleasant (drugstore). The taste very acidic and strong. A half hour later I tried it again and the initial unpleasant sensation had disappeared while it felt unscented, with a distant smell of wood. The acidity had also disappeared. Then I tried it with two cheeses, a French Comté and a Manchego, that paired very well with the wine. The quality of the wine improved markedly as did the value for money. The wine had long legs or tears and a reasonable finish. US$ 10 at Total Wine.

Technical Notes 

Compiled by Jorge Claro and Cristián Santelices

Originating in Bordeaux, where the soil produces light wines, the Petit Verdot grape was always used to enhance them, thanks to its structure and supplementary color,it is used in small quantities when it comes to providing character to some of the most important labels of Médoc. But without a doubt it is the grape less appreciated by the bordeleses, since in Galic lands it provides a rustic, vigorous and quite herbal character. This, however, does not detract from merit or importance. Quite the opposite.

In the New World, however, it is increasingly cultivated and appreciated in areas such as Argentina, Australia, California and Chile to achieve an opposite effect: softening the power of Cabernet Sauvignon.

La Petit Verdot grape demands work in the vineyard, because it is a high yielding strain. Hence many prefer to avoid it. However, when given due attention and care, petit Verdot develops a very different personality in dry and sunny climates. This allows another ripening point, which makes your wines voluptuous, but at the same time rounded.  A common feature of the New World Petit Verdot is The aging in barrels for a period never less than the year, time that these reds demand to round their character.

In Argentina and Chile,more and more people think that this grape has the potential to write its own history from varietal wines, even if these pose a new challenge for viticulture. In this sense, Argentina is taking its first steps in exploring Petit Verdot as a varietal. Lover of the warm climate, it expresses its full potential in Mendoza and La Rioja, where it reaches its optimum maturity. In many respects it resembles Tannat and Malbec: dark color, high doses of anthotians and complex nose. The truth is that it gives rise to wines of great character and elegant finish, but above all,different. As with Malbec, it demonstrated very good adaptability to the climates and soils of Mendoza, San Juan and La Rioja, where it adds about 600 hectares. Today, in tune with those achievements, many embark on a new challenge with Petit Verdot as a standard.

In Chile, the red grape pichintún (a litlle bit) is expanding. At the last wine fairs, in the midst of the new and old country stars, País and Cinsault, a new force has appeared: that of the Petit Verdot. A red grape strain that has been in our vineyards for decades, but traditionally only a “pichintún” has been used, for its uncontrolled strength of tannins and acidity.

In Chile, Petit Verdot is known to give strength and freshness to the great Carmenére de Colchagua. We know it because it is one of the secondary that form the mixture of the great reds of Bordeaux, in the background always, to leave cabernet sauvignon and Merlot in front.

Why it appears now more forcefully and accessible, and not before, it’s a good question. Answering it leads us to think of the important, if small group of curious people who are always looking for the new and different. For them, therefore, the Petit Verdot was ready to be the protagonist with its great strength of tannins and very rich acidity. These two features are important when you want to make a wine that can withstand the years of keeping in your bottle, but not necessarily wines to drink and enjoy now.

The follwing references have been used for this Blog on Petit Verdot

  1. Historia Petit Verdot (Wine folly). https://winefolly.com/deep-dive/guide-to-petit-verdot-red-wine/
  2. Historia Petit Verdot (MasterClass). https://www.masterclass.com/articles/learn-about-petit-verdot-grapes-wine-region-and-pairings#where-does-petit-verdot-grow
  3. Historia Petit Verdot (WSJ). https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB961160609233601386
  4. Historia Petit Verdot (Wikipedia). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petit_Verdot
  5. Historia Petit Verdot (intoxreport). https://intoxreport.com/2011/11/15/petit-verdot-goes-gangbusters-in-ripley-ohio%E2%80%94believe-it-or-not/
  6. Historia Petit Verdot (the wine cellar insider). https://www.thewinecellarinsider.com/wine-topics/wine-educational-questions/grapes-for-wine-making-flavor-characteristics-explained/petit-verdot-wine-grapes-flavor-character-history/
  7. Vino Chaski. https://massanois.com/product/perez-cruz-petit-verdot-chaski-2015-750ml6/
  8. Vino Chaski. https://www.vivino.com/vina-perez-cruz-petit-verdot-chaski/w/1231597
  9. Vino Chaski. https://www.perezcruz.com/lanzamiento-2011-chaski-petit-verdot-2008/
  10. Vino Chaski Ficha.  https://www.perezcruz.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Chaski-Petit-Verdot-2014-Es-Web.pdf
  11. Uva Petit Verdot en Chile. https://www.winesofchile.org/en/chile-a-wine-producing-country/wine-diversity/petit-verdot/
  12. Uva Petit Verdot en Chile. https://www.lanacion.com.ar/lifestyle/cinco-petit-verdot-para-los-que-quieren-probar-un-vino-distinto-nid2064041/
  13. Vino Ruca Malen. https://www.southernwines.com/ruca-malen-terroir-series-petit-verdot-2015/wine-online.cfm
  14. Vino Ruca Malen. https://www.wine-searcher.com/find/ruca+malen+terroir+series+petit+verdot+uco+valley+mendoza+argentina
  15. Vino Ruca Malen. http://opiciwines.com/wines/petit-verdot-reserva/
  16. Vino Ruca Malen. https://www.bodegarucamalen.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Ruca-Reserva-Petit-Verdot.pdf
  17. Uva Petit Verdot en Argentina. https://blog.winesofargentina.com/es/petit-verdot-un-tinto-que-conquista-curiosos/


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Tasting No. 221 (Virtual) – August 31, 2020 – Cabernet Franc

Club del Vino


Valle de Uco

Tasting Overview

Cabernet Franc Grapes
Courtesy Bordeaux.com

The  tasting is limited to one wine proposed by the presenters according to the existing program that focuses on varietals.    The main objective of the tasting is to find out the salient and specific features of Cabernet Franc and the character of the wines made of this grape. Cabernet Franc is normally found in blends with other red grapes, mostly but not only, with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot  (Bordeaux), to contribute aromatic complexity and moderate tannins. Cabernet Franc produces outstanding wines in its own right like the ones found in St. Emilión , the middle Loire and Argentina. Wines made of Cabernet Franc are lighter than Cabernet Sauvignon, less tannic, with fruity and herbaceous aromas. They pair very well with almost all kinds beef, poultry, fish and hard or semi soft cheeses.

Type of Tasting: Open

Wines presenters: Orlando Mason, Alfonso Sanchez

The reference wine is:

2017 Catena Appellation San Carlos Cabernet Franc, Mendoza, Argentina 

The menu is up to each participant discretion

Participants: Jorge Claro, Ruth Connoly, Clara Estrada, Jaime Estupiñán,  Alberto Gómez,  Jorge Garcia-Garcia, Orlando Mason, John Redwood, Lucía Redwood, Jorge Requena, Alfonso Sanchez, Jairo Sanchez, Cristian Santelices, Ricardo Santiago,  Pedro Turina, German Zincke

Information on the Wine

(The information below has been compiled from various internet sources) .

2107 Catena Appellation San Carlos Cabernet Franc, Mendoza, Argentina 

The Wine: Winemaker Notes: The Catena Cabernet Franc Appellation El Cepillo presents a purple color with red ruby tones. The nose offers elegant aromas of spices, and fresh herbs as thyme and rosemary, red berries, cassis and raspberries, with layers of cedar. The mouthfeel is full and rich with cassis, raspberries flavors and notes of black pepper and oregano . The finish is bright and fresh with finely grained tannins. This versatile wine is fantastic paired with rich meat dishes such as stews and braises, Latin dishes with heat and a little kick such as enchiladas or moles and lamb dishes and tomato based pasta and sauces. This wine is also delicious paired with dark chocolate and berries and also served alongside a cheese plate.

RP 92 points: “The Appellation range keeps growing, and the new name this time is the 2016 Appellation San Carlos Cabernet Franc, produced with grapes from the most fashionable red variety at the moment. It is from 20-year-old vines in El Cepillo, one of the cooler places of San Carlos in Valle de Uco. Furthermore, 2016 was a particularly cool year, so the wine is really a “cool climate” example. It matured in French oak barrels for one year before bottling. It has tons of black pepper aromas and flavors, balsamic and with perfect ripeness. 2016 has produced outstanding wines in this Appellation range.

 Vinous 91 points: Moderately saturated red-ruby. Aromas of plum, herbs and peppery spices. Silky, fine-grained and light on its feet, conveying a pronounced peppery herb element but also lovely intensity and floral lift to its dark berry, licorice and dark chocolate flavors. Finishes with broad, ripe, tooth-dusting tannins and terrific spicy length. This wine can’t quite match the 2017 version for concentration or suavity but still offers terrific typicity and savory minerality. A superb example of 2016.

The Winery: Bodega Catena Zapata is one of Argentina’s high altitude Malbec pioneers. The Catena family began making wine in Mendoza in 1902. Nicolas Catena, third generation family vintner, was one of the first to see the potential of Mendoza’s mountain vineyards for producing high quality Malbec. In 1994, he became the first Argentine to exprot a world-class bottling of Malbec under the Catena label. Nicolas is joined by his daughter, Dr. Laura Catena, in their relentless pursuit of world-class quality from the family’s high altitude vineyards. Laura has done extensive work in introducing Malbec and other varietal plant selections, soil and climate analysis, and sustainable practices throughout Mendoza. Head winemaker, Alejandro Vigil, has been at Catena Zapata since 2002 and works with Laura and Nicolas to make wines that express the family’s vineyards and palate.

K&L Notes: Over the past five or so years, Catena has been fine tuning their range, producing wines of more specific origin from their vast vineyard holdings. Originally planted in 2007, these 20 hectares of Cabernet Franc (which Laura Catena notes, is the same acreage that Cheval Blanc has planted to the variety!) represent a significant investment, though not a surprising one given the grape’s popularity and proven ability to produce very good wine in the Uco Valley.

The Mendoza Wine Region.

(These notes are compiled and edited from various internet sources mostly Wine Searcher and Wine.com)

Mendoza Province, responsible for over 70% of the Argentina’s wine production, is divided into several distinctive wine making sub-regions, including Luján de Cuyo and the Uco Valley. It is the source of some of the country’s finest wines. Most large wineries are in the provincial capital of Mendoza.

For many wine lovers, Mendoza is practically synonymous with Malbec. Originally a Bordelaise variety brought to Argentina by the French in the mid-1800s, here it found success and renown that it never knew in its homeland where a finicky climate gives mixed results. Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, Syrah, Merlot and Pinot Noir are all widely planted here as well (and sometimes even blended with each other or Malbec). Mendoza’s main white varieties include Chardonnay, Torrontés, and Sauvignon Blanc.

The pink-skinned grapes of Criolla Grande and Cereza account for more than a quarter of all planting. Criolla is used to produce deeply colored white wine. It is sometimes used to produce a light-colored rosé. The grape is rarely exported outside of Argentina where it is used to produce massive quantities of box and jug wines.

Vineyards are planted at some of the highest altitudes in the world, in the eastern foothills of the Andes, in the shadow of Mount Aconcagua,  with the average site located 600–1,100 meters (2,000–3,600 ft) above sea level. Altitude is one of the most important characteristics of the Mendoza terroir. The strip of vineyard land that runs along the base of the Andes lies between 800 and 1200 meters (2600 and 3900 ft) above sea level, and it is this altitude that moderates the hot, dry climate of the region. The climate is dry and continental, presenting relatively few challenges for viticulturists during the growing season. Warm, sunny days are followed by nights made much colder by westerly winds from the Andes. This cooling-off period slows ripening, extending the growing season and contributing rich, ripe flavors to the grapes that do not come at the expense of acidity.  There is barely any variation in climatic conditions from year to year, resulting in highly consistent quality of wines produced regardless of the year. Predictable harvests also afford Mendoza’s winemakers the luxury of increased control over the styles of wine they produce – a factor which has contributed to the region’s international reputation.

The soil of the Mendoza wine region is primarily alluvial composed of loose sand over clay. These rocky, sandy soils have little organic matter and are free draining, making them dry and low in fertility. This kind of soil is perfect for viticulture – vines are forced to work hard for hydration and nutrients, and will produce small, concentrated berries in lieu of leafy foliage. The wines produced from grapes grown on these soils are often highly structured, with firm tannins, and have a distinct minerality that is often attributed to the soil.

Mountain rivers provide ample water supplies from melted glaciers in the Andes. Nearly 17,000 wells provide the equivalent of an additional two rivers’ worth of water flow. A system of irrigation channels, canals and reservoirs (some dating to the 16th century) help sustain viticulture in this semi-arid desert region. Irrigation is facilitated by the rivers that cross the region, including the Mendoza itself, which runs down from the mountains. Warm, dry harvest periods mean that winemakers can pick their grapes according to ripeness, rather than being ruled by the vagaries of the weather.

Similar Wines

A participant tasted another Cabernet Franc wine side by side with the reference wine:

2011 Linden Vineyards, Virginia, USA.  Well integrated with black fruit, tobacco, herbs, earth and spices.  More rounded and a bit more complex than the reference wine.  Very good to excellent.

Technical Notes 

Compiled by Jairo Sánchez

(Sources: Wine Folly internet Profile; Wine Folly, The Master Guide Magnum Edition, The Oxford Companion to Wine, Jancis Robinson and Wikipedia).


Cabernet Franc is one of the major red grape varieties worldwide and is the parent grape of both Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenere. Cabernet Franc is, with Sauvignon Blanc, one of the parent grapes of Cabernet Sauvignon. Its origins have been traced to the Basque County of Spain. Records of Cabernet Franc in Bordeaux go back to the end of the 18th century, although it was planted in the Loire Valley long before that time. Across the world Cabernet Franc is one of the twenty most widely planted grape varieties. Plantings are found throughout Europe, in the New World, Africa Australia, China and Kazakhstan. Close to 90% of world’s Cabernet Franc is produced in France, Italy and the USA with the rest of the world including Hungary, South Africa, Chile and, minor producers like Spain, Canada, Argentine, and others accounts for around 10% of the production.

Cabernet Franc is principally grown for blending with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in the Bordeaux style wines, but can also be vinified alone, as in the Loire’s Chinon and sometimes made into ice wine in Canada and the US.

Cabernet Franc is lighter than Cabernet Sauvignon, making a bright pale red wine that contributes finesse and lends a peppery perfume to blends with more robust grapes. Depending on the growing region and style of wine, additional aromas can include tobacco, raspberry, bell pepper, cassis, and violets.


In general, Cabernet Franc is like Cabernet Sauvignon, but buds and ripens at least a week earlier. This trait allows the vine to thrive in slightly cooler climates than Cabernet Sauvignon, such as the Loire Valley. In Bordeaux. Plantings of Cabernet Franc are treated as an “insurance policy” against inclement weather close to harvest that may damage plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon. Its early budding does pose the vinicultural hazard of coulure (a failure of grapes to develop after flowering) early in the growing season. The berries are quite small and blue-black in color, with fairly thin skins.

Cabernet Franc can adapt to a wide variety of vineyard soil types but seems to thrive in sandy, chalk soils, producing heavier, more full-bodied wines there. In the Loire Valley, terroir-based differences can be perceived between wines made from grapes grown in gravel terraces versus those grown in the limestone slopes. The grape is highly yield sensitive, with over-cropping producing wines with more green, vegetal notes.

The Wine

Cabernet Franc is medium-bodied red wine loved for its savory, bell pepper-like flavors, medium-high acidity, and mouthwatering taste. It is an ideal food pairing wine. The Cabernet Franc grape has a thinner skin than Cabernet Sauvignon, so the wines made from Cabernet Franc tend to be lighter in color and lower in tannin.

Wine Profile

Acidity: Medium-high

Tannin: Medium

Alcohol: Medium

Sweetness: Dry

Flavors: Strawberry, Raspberry, Bell Pepper, Crushed Gravel and Chili Pepper

Wine Regions

In many regions, Cabernet Franc is planted as a component of a Bordeaux-style blend such as Meritage, playing secondary role to Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. In parts of northeast Italy, Anjou-Saumur, Touraine and the right bank region of Bordeaux, Cabernet Franc both plays a more prominent role in blends but is vinted also as a single varietal.

France. The Loire Valley is known for producing exceptional single varietal Cabernet Franc wines in and around the middle Loire Valley (Chinon, Bourgueil, Anjou and neighboring areas). The cooler climate lends itself to wines with lighter color, lighter body, higher acidity, and distinct herbal flavors.

Italy. Tuscany warmer climate gives Cabernet Franc richer fruit flavors. The region’s red clay soils generally increase tannin. Since Cabernet Franc is not an indigenous variety of Italy, wines are declassified to IGP and labeled by variety or made-up name (Supertuscans). Flavors: Cherry. Leather, Strawberry, Licorice, Coffee

California. Sierra Foothills, (Climate conditions like Mendoza, Argentina). The regions of Shenandoah Valley, El Dorado, Fair Play, and Fiddletown have warm stable climates that make for ripe, sweeter grapes with lower acidity. Wines are typically fruit-forward and jammy with higher alcohol and subtle whiffs of dried leaves. Flavors: Dried strawberry, Raspberry, Tobacco leaf, Cedar, Vanilla.

Argentina. Cabernet Franc plantings in Argentina have been producing top quality wines in recent years, and the varietal has been claimed as having the most potential in the country after Malbec. Squeeze Magazine has called it “the new, handsome superhero of Mendoza’s wine scene”. In 2014, the highest scoring Argentine wine in Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate was a Cabernet Franc scored at 97 points. Cabernet Franc can be bottled alone, making lighter-bodied wines than the country’s typical Malbec or either as a majority or minority in blends.


Franc is a food friendly wine. There are numerous ways you can easily match Cabernet Franc based wines with food. For a few tips, try it with roasted chicken, pork, roasted or grilled, beef, duck, sausage, lamb, veal, hearty fish dishes and even hard as well as soft cheese. Higher Acidity makes it possible to pair Cabernet Franc with tomato-based dishes, vinegar-based sauces like smoky barbecue, or rich black beluga lentils.


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