Tasting No. 161- November 17, 2014 – USA Western Coast – Meritages

Club del Vino

San Francis Winery - Sonoma

San Francis Winery – Sonoma

 1. Presenter and Participants

Wines presenters: Mario Aguilar, Rolando Castañeda

Participants: Mario Aguilar, Rolando Castaneda, Alfonso Caycedo,  Ruth Connolly, Clara Estrada,   Jorge Garcia-Garcia, Emilio Labrada, Alvaro Lopez, Orlando Mason, Ítalo Mirkow, Alfonso Sanchez, Jairo Sanchez,  Ginger Smart, Carlos E. Velez, Ricardo Zavaleta, German Zincke.

Type of Tasting: Open

2. The Wines

 The wines for this tasting belong to the type “Meritage” and all are from the West Coast of USA. The term stands for USA red or white blends.  In 1988 group of Napa Valley vintners decided to create the Meritage Association to respond to the increasing demand for Bordeax-type wines in the US market and to fill the need to have a brand name for high-quality American blends .  Americans were more used to consume varietals than blends.  Now this is no longer the case.  The existing regulations required that  red wines contain at least 75% of a specific grape to be labeled after that varietal but there was no label for the blends. “Meritage”, — a combination of merit and heritage is meant to fill that vacuum.  It’s a blend made from grapes that come from Bordeaux and there are some well-known varieties : Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Carmenere and Semillon. And, some no so well known varieties: St. Macaire, Gros Verdot (red) and Muscadelle du Bordolais(white). The producer can make a red Meritage or a white one.  The blend rule is that it must include at least two of these varieties and no single variety should make up more than 90% of the blend. These are red Bordeax-type blends subjet to the rules of Meritage .  You can read more about meritage at www.meritagealliance.com .

The wines selected are:

  1. 2012 Conundrum California – White
  2. 2010 Four Sons Napa Valley – Red
  3. 2008 Otis Kenyon Walla Walla Valley – Red

3. The Menu

  1. Entrada:  Pollo ahumado con aguacate y mayonesa
  2. Pasta: Gnocchi con salsa Aurora liviana
  3. Vegetales grillados con reducción de vinagre balsámico
  4. Plato principal: Cordero asado con espárragos y puré
  5. Postre y café

4. Information on the Wines

 2012 Conundrum White – California


Conundrum White was first introduced in 1989.  This unique, non-traditional white wine blend was created to offer full-flavored fruit and enough complexity to match a wide array of cuisines. A varietal combination that includes Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Muscat Canelli, Semillon and Viognier with a taste profile that is best described as exotic. It is distinctive for its ripe, complex array of flavors, focusing on pear, peach and melon. Picks up notes of citrus on the crisp, yet lush and creamy finish.  Conundrum is a true California wine, with grapes sourced from Napa, Monterey, Santa Barbara and Tulare counties.

Alcohol:  14%;  Price: $20

Expert Ratings: TBA

 2010 Four Sons Napa Valley


The blend includes Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Syrah and a dash of Malbec. This wine is powerful and filling. Aromas of cinnamon, plum, sweet oak, black olives, cherries and ground coffee entice you and the mouth-watering flavors of cranberries, ripe red fruits, white chocolate and smoky-sweet herbs are wrapped in delicious hints of vanilla from the accent of our 10% new American Oak (the rest of the barrels are French Oak, 40% new). The 2010 Fraternity is approachable and balanced and is the perfect pairing for most foods. 

The 2014 World Wine Championships: “Opaque garnet black color. Resonant aromas of currant jam and honey butter on toast and light menthol tobacco with a silky, dry-yet-fruity medium-to-full body and a tangy, brown spice, earth, and nut skin accented finish with chewy tannins.

Alcohol:  14.5%;  Price: $45

Expert Ratings: TBA

2008 Otis Kenyon Walla Walla Valley


The Wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Aromas of raspberry, cherry, cassis, dried roses and rubbed sage. Flavors reflect the deep, focused Cabernet and minerally, terrior-driven Merlot with notes of licorice, chocolate and French roast.  Cabernet Sauvignon typically provides the blend’s structure, in terms of both tannins and acids. It also brings dark-fruit flavors of blackcurrant and bell pepper. Merlot is generally considered the juicer, “fatter” variety; it has less structure, but is generous with its palate weight and fruit flavors. This is visibly reflected in the vineyard, by Merlot’s larger, plumper berries, whose thinner skins give a lower skin to juice ratio.

Walla Walla is an AVA in the southeastern corner of Washington state, stretching across the border into Oregon. Vineyards can be found on either side of the border in the hills that surround the Walla Walla River, a tributary of the larger Columbia River. The sunny, dry climate of the valley is well suited to the Bordeaux Blend varieties Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, as well as Syrah.

Alcohol:  %;  Price: $30

Expert Ratings: TBA

4. Club del Vino Members Rating : (TBA) 

Criterio para calificar:

Excepcional: 96-100 puntos; Excelente: 90-95 puntos; Muy Bueno: 86-89 puntos; Bueno: 81-85 puntos; Aceptable: 75-80 puntos.

Tipo de Degustación:  Abierta

El primer vino Blanco, fue calificado  como  Excelente con Average de 91 puntos; el primer tinto, como Muy Bueno  con una Media de 88 puntos y el segundo (tinto)  ultimo vino,   tambien como excelente  con una calificacion media de 90 puntos.  En resumen todos  fueron muy bien calificados.

Vinos degustados:

2012 Connundrum White. Californiano con uvas de Napa, Monterey, Santa Barbara y Tulare.

Calificacion Media: 91

Desviacion Estandar: 2.3

Mediana: 90

Moda: 90

Impresion General:  Es un Blend muy bien calificado cuya mezcla de las sepas: Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Muscat Canelli, Semillon y Viognier, termina en un blend algo exotico.  Tiene un complejo sabor a frutas como peras, melocotones y melones. Fue introducido en 1989 y se distingue mucho por su final agradable y muy bien balanceado.

2008 Otis Kenyon – Walla Walla Valley.

  1.      Calificacion Media: 88

Desviacion Estandar: 3.6

Mediana: 88

Moda: 88

         Impresion General:  Muy buen vino, es un sabroso Blend de Cabernet Sauvignon y Merlot, con aromas de raspberry, cherry y rosas secas. El cabernet Sauvignon es muy tipico para establecer la estructura de los blends en terminos de ambos, los taninos y los acidos.  El Cabernet Sauvignon y el Merlot son dos de los mas famosos y de mayores cosechas de uvas para los vinos. Este par forman las fundaciones de muchos de los grandes vinos de Bordeaux, detallan y muestran una agradable sensacion achocolatada.

2010 IV Sons Fraternity – Napa Valley. San Francisco California.

Cificacion Media: 90

Desviacion Estandar: 2.4

Mediana: 90

Moda:  92

Impresion General: Causa gran impresion, es un vino muy acceptado, con un color rojo oscuro un rico sabor y agradable aroma. Entre sus sabores se distinguen las frutas rojas y el chocolate blanco, muy bien balanceado, excelente sabor con un final fuerte y agradable al paladar.

El mejor: Conundrum White Blend

5. Notas Regionales


Information taken from Wikipedia


The more liberal wine regulations of the New World don’t stipulate that grapes grown in different regions cannot be blended together. hence the “California” appellation on many bottles. Most of these wines are made by corporations producing large quantities. The smaller producer tends to carefully choose grapes from their estate vineyards, or from their surrounding appellation. So when one of these winemakers decides to make a blend, the grapes at hand are usually different varietals, all from the same region. Inherent to California culture, many winemakers are willing to take it a step further and have a little fun. These wines are all blends – some of traditional varietals that one would find in France, and some combinations that were thought up by ingeniously creative minds. There are small Rhone producers in the Russian River region, some larger more well-known brands of the Napa Valley, and mavericks on the Central Coast making both red and white blends. It’s a trend that is crossing many lines and breaking down boundaries with every vintage.

California is very geologically diverse region and is equally varied in the range of climates and terroirs that can be found. Most of the state’s wine regions are found between the Pacific coast and the Central Valley. The Pacific Ocean and large bays, like San Francisco Bay serve as tempering influences to the wine regions nearby providing cool winds and fog that balance the heat and sunshine. Winters are mild with little threat of frost damage.

While California’s wine regions can be generally classified as having a Mediterranean climate, there are also regions with more continental climates. Proximity to the Pacific or bays as well as unobstructed access to the cool currents that come off them will dictate the relative coolness of the wine region. Areas surrounded by mountain barriers, like some parts of Sonoma and Napa counties will be warmer due to the lack of this cooling influence. The soil types and landforms of California vary greatly, having been influenced by the plate tectonics of the North American and Pacific Plates. In some areas the soils can be so diverse that vineyards will establish blocks of the same vine variety planted on different soils for purpose of identifying different blending components. This diversity is one of the reasons why California has so many different and distinct American Viticultural Areas.

Main Viticulture Regions of California

The wine regions of California are often divided into 4 main regions:

New World wine styles .

The style of California Cabernet Sauvignon that first put California on the world’s wine map at the Judgment of Paris is still a trademark style today. The wines are known for their concentration of fruits, which produces lush, rich wines. Merlot became widely planted in the 1990s due to its wide popularity, and is still the highest selling of all varietal wines in the country. Many sites that were ill suited for the grape began to produce harsh, characterless wines trying to model Cabernet. Until being passed by Cabernet in 1998, Primitivo was the most widely planted red wine grape in California. This was due in part to the wide popularity of White Zinfandel. Despite being made from the same grape, the only similarity between White and Red Zinfandel is the name. Primitivo is a powerful, fruity wine with high levels of acidity and a jammy type flavor. White Zinfandel is a thin, slightly sweet blush wine. While the grape does have European origins, Zinfandel is considered a unique American style grape.


Like other wines produced in the United States, Oregon wines are marketed as varietals. Oregon law requires that wines produced in the state must be identified by the grape variety from which it was made, and for most varietals it must contain at least 90% of that variety. The exceptions to the 90% law are the following varietals: Red and White Bordeaux varietals, Red and White Rhône varietals, Sangiovese, Tempranillo, Zinfandel and Tannat. For these wines, they follow the Federal guidelines of 75%. Oregon law has long forbidden use of place names, except as appellations of origin. Oregon is most famous for its Pinot Noir, which is produced throughout the state. Pinot noirs from the Willamette Valley have received much critical acclaim from wine connoisseurs and critics, and Oregon is regarded as one of the premier Pinot-producing regions in the world.

In 2005, the top five varieties planted in Oregon were Pinot noir 7,974 acres, Pinot gris 1,184  acres, Chardonnay 842 acres and Merlot 550 acres.  Other varieties with significant production in Oregon include Cabernet Sauvignon, Gewürztraminer, Müller-Thurgau, Pinot blanc, Sauvignon blanc, Sémillon, and Syrah. V. vinifera based wines produced in smaller quantities include Arneis, Baco noir, Cabernet franc, Chenin blanc, Dolcetto, Gamay noir, Grenache, Marechal Foch, Malbec, Muscat, Nebbiolo, Petite Syrah, Sangiovese, Tempranillo, Viognier, and Zinfandel. The state also produces sparkling wine, late harvest wine, ice wine, and dessert wine.

Major wine-producing regions

There are, loosely speaking, three main wine producing regions with a major presence in the state of Oregon, as defined by non-overlapping American Viticultural Areas. Two of them—the Willamette Valley AVA and the Southern Oregon AVA—are wholly contained within Oregon; a third, the Columbia Gorge AVA straddles the Columbia River and includes territory in both Oregon and Washington; however, this AVA is considered to be an Oregon AVA.

Willamette Valley AVA. The Willamette Valley AVA is the wine growing region which encompasses the Willamette Valley. It stretches from the Columbia River in the north to just south of Eugene in the south, where the Willamette Valley ends; and from the Oregon Coast Range in the West to the Cascade Mountains in the East. At 5,200 square miles it is the largest AVA in the state, and contains most of the state’s wineries, approximately 200 as of 2006.

The climate of Willamette Valley is mild year-round, with cool, wet winters and warm, dry summers; extreme temperatures are uncommon. Most rainfall occurs outside the growing season and the valley gets relatively little snow. The region is best known for its Pinot noir, and also produces large amounts of Pinot Gris, Riesling, and Chardonnay

Southern Oregon

The Southern Oregon AVA, which was formed as the union of two existing AVAs—the Rogue Valley AVA and the Umpqua Valley AVA. This AVA was established in 2004 to allow the two principal regions in Southern Oregon to jointly market themselves.[


Washington State ranks second in the United States in the production of wine, behind only California. By 2011, the state had over 43,000 acres  and over 740 wineries located in the state. While there are some viticulture activities in the cooler, wetter western half of the state, the majority (99.9%) of wine grape production takes place in the shrub-steppe eastern half. The rain shadow of the Cascade Range leaves the Columbia River Basin  with around 8 inches (200 mm) of annual rain fall, making irrigation and water rights of paramount interest to the Washington wine industry. Viticulture in the state is also influenced by long sunlight hours (on average, two more hours a day than in California during the growing season) and consistent temperatures.

 Washington has twelve federally defined American Viticultural Areas with all but one located in Eastern Washington. The largest AVA is the Columbia Valley AVA, which extends into a small portion of northern Oregon and encompasses most of the other Washington AVAs. These include the Walla Walla Valley AVA, the Horse Heaven Hills AVA, the Wahluke Slope AVA, Lake Chelan AVA, Naches Heights AVA, and the Yakima Valley AVA, which in turn also encompasses the Rattlesnake Hills AVA, Snipes Mountain AVA and the Red Mountain AVA. The Columbia Gorge AVA is west of the Columbia Valley AVA. Washington’s only AVA located west of the Cascades is the Puget Sound AVA.

Geography and climate

The rain shadow created by the Cascade Mountains keeps the wet, marine influence of the Puget Sound and Pacific Ocean from affecting the dry, desert-like conditions of Eastern Washington.

The Cascade Mountain range serves as a dividing line between the wet, marine influenced climate of the western part of the state and the drier, desert-like climate of the eastern half. The mountains themselves create the arid desert-like conditions with a more continental climate in Eastern Washington and heightens the roles of rivers—most notably the Walla Walla, Yakima, Snake and Columbia River—in the region’s viticulture. In addition to providing vital irrigation sources, the rivers also help to moderate temperatures during the winter.

The state’s northerly location above the 46ºF parallel north allows Washington’s major wine growing regions to experience 17 hours of sunlight in the summer—two more hours of sunlight during the peak of growing season than what California sees further south. During the growing season Eastern Washington experiences a wide diurnal temperature variation which allows the fruit to fully ripen while the cool nights help the vines to shut down, allowing the grape to maintain natural levels of acidity.


Viticulture in Washington State is deeply influenced by the use of irrigation and the water rights associated with suitable vineyard land. Sourced from the major rivers that run through the area, most vineyards in Eastern Washington are irrigated. The ever present threat of severe winter frost has influenced viticulture practices, including the adoption of wind turbines to churn and circulate air in the vineyard. In the late 20th century, many producers began adapting Russian vine-training techniques for fan-training which promotes better air circulation among the vine so cold air doesn’t settle on the vine. Along with many other New World wine regions, viticulture in Washington is highly mechanized with nearly 80% of each years harvest being mechanically harvested.


Geographically and viticulturally, Washington is divided into sections separated by the Cascade Mountain chain. The cooler and wetter Western Washington is responsible for less than 1% of the state’s wine production and is home to the Puget Sound American Viticultural Area (AVA)-. The warmer, drier eastern part of the state is home to the vast Columbia Valley, which extends south into Oregon. The Columbia Valley AVA is further divided into several smaller AVAs including Yakima Valley, Walla Walla Valley, Red Mountain, Wahluke Slope, Horse Heaven Hills, Rattlesnake Hills and Snipes Mountain. To the north in the larger Columbia Valley AVA is the Lake Chelan AVA and two pending AVAs (the Ancient Lakes AVA in the north central part of the state and one around Wenatchee on the Columbia River). On the westernmost side of the Columbia Valley in central Washington is the newest AVA, Naches Heights. West of the Columbia Valley is the Columbia Gorge AVA which, along with the Walla Walla AVA, is also shared with Oregon.

Grape varieties

The early Washington wine industry focused predominately on white wines but in recent years, led by the “Merlot-craze” of the 1990s have shifted the focus to the state’s red wines. Chardonnay also experienced a surge of interest in the 1990s and along with Riesling are among the most widely planted grape varieties in the state. While the acreage of Riesling has been steadily declining, there has been renewed interest in the grape in recent years. Jancis Robinson have noted that Washington state consistently produces white wines of exceptional quality, specifically mentioning those of the Semillon variety. Merlot was one of the first major vitis vinifera varieties to garner international attention for the state with its distinctive earthiness and structure that can be very different from the softer, plusher styles found in California. However the Merlot vine is very sensitive to frost and after significant damages during major winter freezes in 1996 & 2003, more vintners turned their attention to the hardier Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. This led to interest in Bordeaux-style blends. In the early 21st century, Syrah has emerged on the scene as a major player.

Today there are over 80 grape varieties grown in Washington state, but the primary grapes used in the production of wine are from the Vitis vinifera family of grapes. The main grapes used in wine production in Washington are Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling, Chardonnay, Merlot, and Syrah. There are also plantings of Cabernet Franc, Grenache, Malbec, Pinot gris, Sauvignon blanc, Semillon, Tempranillo, Viognier, Barbera, Chenin blanc, Gewürztraminer, Nebbiolo, Petite Sirah, Pinot noir, Sangiovese, and Zinfandel. Vineyard acreage dedicated to red varieties was 17,351 acres in 2006. The four most prevalent red varieties were Cabernet Sauvignon at 5,959 acres, Merlot at 5,853 acres, Syrah at 2,831 acres, and Cabernet Franc at 1,157 acres. Vineyard acreage planted to white varieties was 13,649 acres. The four most prevalent white varieties were Chardonnay at 5,992 acres, Riesling at 4,404 acres, Sauvignon blanc at 993, and Gewürztra miner at 632 acres.

This entry was posted in Meeting Abstract and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s