Tasting No 234 – September 28, 2021 – Wines from Moldova

Tasting No 234 – September 28, 2021 – Wines from Moldova

                                                 Capri Ristorante, McLean VA

  Tasting Overview


The objective of this tasting is to explore wines from local grape varieties and traditional Vitis Vinifera from Moldova.

Moldova, located between Romania and Ukraine, is one of the poorest countries in Europe, with its economy based on agriculture. Most Moldovan families make wine at home, and wineries chiefly produce wines for export.

Type of tasting: Open

Presenter: Marcello Averbug


  1. 2018 Gitana Winery ‘Autograf’ Feteasca Regala, IGT Valul lui Trainan
  2. 2020 Gitana Rara Neagra
  3. 2016 Gitana ‘Lupi’ Rezerva 2018
  4. 2018 Fautor ‘310 Altitude’ Cabernet Sauvignon-Feteasca Neagra IGT Valul lui Trainan


  1. Calamari fritti
  2. Lentil soup
  3. Eggplant a la parmigiana
  4. Médaillon de fillet

Participants: Marcello Averbug, Jose Brakarz, Ruth Connoly, Clara Estrada, Alberto Gómez, Italo Mirkow, John Redwood, Jairo Sanchez, Cristian Santelices, Carlos Silvani, Ricardo Zavaleta, and German Zincke.

Information on the Wines

The information below has been compiled from various internet sources

2018 Gitana Winery, ‘Autograf’ Feteasca Regala, IGP Valul lui Trainan

100% Feteasca Regala. This is a relatively high yield grape variety high, and for this reason, it was once very disseminated and highly appreciated grape variety during the communist period. Autograf is primarily fresh and dry and entertains a good level of acidity and a specific flavor.

2020 Gitana Winery, Rara Neagra

100% Rara Neagra. Beautiful aromas of dark berries and hints of strawberry and citrus notes. An intense and complex taste, with notes of dried fruits, well highlighted. Open fermentation in wood casks followed by two years maturation in large oak barrels.

Plum nose, for the palate having a slightly chocolate note with an oak finish. A light red, well balanced, ideal to make the fall transition from white to red.

Ruby red, blackberry jam, oak, and smoke on the nose, balanced on the palate with medium sweet tannins, medium acidity, blackberry and caramel with a medium finish, a good value.

Color: intense ruby. Olfactory: intense, impressive through complex aromas of strawberries and citrus fruits. Gustative: complex with notes of wood and dried fruits. Goes well with hot dishes, such as grilled veal, pork, schnitzel, or grilled dishes.

2016 Gitana Winery, Lupi Rezerva

Cabernet Sauvignon 30%, Merlot 30% and Saperavi 40%. A rare red blend aged for 24 months in big Russian oak barrels, followed by another 14 months in American oak barriques. Intense ruby red with purple reflections. Smell: rich with aromas of blackberries and fruits, which are added shades of chocolate and coffee beans. Taste balanced, structured, with strong tannins and a refined, long, plum and blackberry aftertaste.

Decanter world Wine Awards 91 Pts. The Lupi is considered the treasure of the winery and one of the most famous wines with the label ‘Made in Moldova‘. Among the vineyards used for producing this wine lives a small family of wolves (Lupi). It is to them that the owners dedicate this wine, which has a strong imprint of the wolves’ character.

Awards: 2016 Vintage: Gold, Sélection Mondiale des Vins, Canada; Silver, International Wine Challenge. 

The Gitana Winery

The history of Vinaria Tiganca began in 1953 when the first winemaking factory was established in the village of Tiganca in the Valul lui Traian (Southern wine region). The year 2011 marks the emergence of the first series of bottled wines under the new Gitana trademark. The year 1953 marks a turning point in the history of winery, when the Dulgher family becomes the owner and makes significant efforts to re-equip the plant, renovate the cellars, provide it with oak barrels and, of course, establish new vine plantations. Step by step, the traditional winemaking practices began to be combined with modern technology. There is limited human intervention on the vines because nature has already created excellent conditions. There is not too much rain in the summer, but the soil still holds enough water for the vines to thrive at an altitude of 360m.


2018 Fautor 310 Altitude, Cabernet Sauvignon, Feteasca Neagra, IGP Valul lui Traian

The wine: a red blend of Cabernet Sauvignon 80%, Feteasca Neagra 20%, is very pleasant red wine, in the nose, there are some notes of leather, dried plum, and black currant. Long almond finish. Before aeration: plum, black fruit, a bit of vanilla, or caramel. After aeration: the same + intense tobacco and leather, pleasurable tannins, not too heavy, nicely done. Good with meat dishes.

Strong alcohol on the first nose, medium-bodied, bold red color, pepper taste, almond, violets. The second nose is delicate, with notes of roasted wood, red and black pepper, a clear sign that this wine was aged in a medium roasted French barrel. Well-integrated level of alcohol and moderate acidity, which make the wine tasty, complex, extracted, insistent, and a little sharp.

Awards: Gold – Portugal Wine Trophy 2018, 2019.

The Winery: In 2017, 2018, and 2020, Fautor was the most awarded Moldovan winery. It is family-owned and operated, producing wines of unique terroir from both international and indigenous grape varieties. The “Fautor” name comes from the Latin “author-creator”, emphasizing the family’s approach and responsibility for quality. The Tigheci micro-zone where the winery and vineyards are located, is unique and one of the best areas to produce high-quality wines.

From 2003 – 2006 the winery has been equipped with advanced technology, and new vineyards have been planted to reach their present size of more than 350 hectares.

Technical Notes

Information compiled and edited by Marcello Averbug, from various sources, such as Wikipedia, Wine Folly, Wine Searcher.


Moldova, located between Romania and Ukraine, is one of the poorest countries in Europe, with its economy relying heavily on agriculture. Two-thirds of Moldovans are of Romanian descent, and the two countries share a common cultural heritage. In 1940, Russia annexed Bessarabia from Romania and combined it with most of the Moldovan Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic to form Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic.

According to archaeological finds, the cultivation of vineyards began in Moldova from at least 3000 up to 6000 years ago. Due to this past, the wine culture has gradually expanded from generation to generation, and currently, viticulture plays an important role in the economy.

The Black Sea basin molds Moldova’s continental climate. Therefore, it’s perfect for wine production. With snowy winters, enough sunny days in the summer, and lengthy landscapes of low hills and vast plains, grape cultivation has prospered in this region since antiquity.

Under feudal Moldova, during the 14th and 15th centuries, local wine was exported to countries such as Russia, Ukraine, and Poland. In the 19th century, after the country became part of the Russian Empire, wines remained a significant asset for export.

Despite comprising a tiny fraction of the vast Soviet Union, Moldova produced about 70 percent of all former USSR wine. However, following the Union’s dissolution in the early 1990s, Moldovan wine for a while remained unrecognized by the international community. As a small country that branded its main product as “made in the USSR,” it took some time until Moldova’s high-quality social lubricant found its place in Western markets. At present, the country exports 80 percent of its wine stocks to EU countries.

Moldova boasts the highest per capita production of wine in the world. However, it ranks 18th for wine produced globally. There are 142 wineries in Moldova. Its production comprises 60% white wines, 34% reds, and 6% table wines.


Varieties: 70% of good value Whites are produced with more traditional European grapes, such as Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Riesling, Muscat, Sylvaner, and Müller-Thurgau. Among Reds, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Saperavi, Malbec, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Montepulciano, Merlot and Semillon are among the most prominent, while grape varieties of more local origins take a back seat in Moldova.

Moldova’s native grapes are usually blended with foreign grapes. Feteasca, which  means “maiden” in Romanian, is a name shared by three distinct varieties: Feteasca Regala (royal maiden), Feteasca Neagra (black maiden) and Feteasca Alba, or white maiden, which refers to the color of the grapes. Another dark-skinned variety is Rara Neagra, which sometimes appears in export markets.

Feteasca Alba is a light-skinned grape variety found particularly in Romania, as well as in Moldova and other Eastern European countries, including Hungary, Slovakia, Ukraine.

Feteasca Regala is a white skinned grape variety widespread throughout the Eastern Europe, in particular in Romania. It is well suited to a continental climate, as it can withstand extremes of temperature in summer and winter. However, it requires ample rainfall and does not perform well in drought-prone areas.

Feteasca Regala tends to be richer in flavor than its alba counterpart, as tannins in the grapes’ skins provide some complexity to the wines. These are aromatic with green apple and tropical fruit characters and can be vinified in an off-dry style. In addition, Feteasca Regala responds well to barrel maturation, which can add complexity to the wines.

The variety is sometimes blended with Muscat Ottonel, particularly in sweeter wines. This grape variety is considered one of the most famous and sought-after of Romania. Furthermore, it is regarded as the most characterful indigenous grape variety of this region, used to produce various tasteful dry white wines worldwide.

Feteasca Neagra is an old native variety and most popular of Romanian and Moldovan grapes. It is usually produced as a varietal wine but is often blended with cabernet sauvignon and merlot to give it more body and weight. Its seeds [of Fetească Neagră] were discovered in ancient vestiges in Romania, more than 2000 years old. For the Romanians and Moldovans, this grape is like a sophisticated fairy – hard to tame, seductive, and mysterious – imposing through presence, complexity, and acidity, while very well balanced.

Depending on the wine-making techniques, Feteasca Neagra wines get various flavors and fine tannins, good acidity, medium to full body, and often more than 13,5% alcohol. It is typical to have aromas of dried plums, blackberries, and black blueberries along with nice black pepper, vanilla, and coffee flavors, and for the old wines, toast, and skin senses.

Rara Neagra is an eastern European dark-skinned wine grape planted extensively in Romania and, to a lesser extent, in Moldova and Ukraine. It has reputedly been grown in the region for 2000 years and is very popular with locals. It is also known as Babeasca Neagra, which in English means “black grandmother’s grape”.


Rara Neagra is a late-ripening variety and therefore is less-prone to damaging spring frosts. Unfortunately, its thin skins create a high susceptibility to mildew diseases. As such an old variety, Rara Neagra is the parent of multiple clonal varieties. It produces light and fruity red wine, typically high in acid and designed for early consumption. A handful of higher-quality versions of the grape are produced, however, a majority are destined for mediocre wine for local consumption.

Synonyms include Babeasca Neagra, Sereksia Noire, Sereksia Tcheurnia.

Saperavi is an acidic, Teinturier-type dark skin grape variety native to Georgia (6000 BC), where it is used to make many of the region’s most well-known wines. It is also grown in Russia, and in lesser quantities in Armenia, Moldova, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Australia, and recently in the United States.

Saperavi is one of very few Teinturier winemaking grapes in the world. Teinturier grapes have red skin and red flesh, whereas other red grapes have red skin and clear flesh. This grape can bring intense color and marked acidity to wines. As a result, Saperavi is an ideal ingredient for cheaper blended wines.

In recent decades, it has also proved itself capable of producing varietal wines of high quality. Dry, off dry, or naturally semi-sweet, this grape is versatile for producing a host of different wines.

Saperavi is compatible with the cool-climate vineyards of the Northeast and the East Coast of the USA and was planted in the Finger Lakes, New York, for the first time in 1958.


The World’s Largest Wine Cellars

The world’s largest wine cellar is in Moldova. The Milestii Mici is a vast underground network of wine-filled “streets”, each picking a name after a different variety of wine. Milestii Mici is also the commune’s name where the cellar was founded, just 11 miles from Chisinau, Moldova’s capital city.

The Milestii Mici cellar is administered by the state. The place would be heaven for any wine enthusiast, as there are more than 125 miles of underground wine galleries and around two million bottles of wine stored within its premises. The site was initially carved out during lime mining operations.

The first bottle of wine was stored there in 1968, and new ones are being added continually. The cellar keeps stable temperatures of between 54°F–57°F year-round, and humidity levels stick to around 90 percent. Some of the most extravagant bottles at Milestii Mici can be purchased for up to $540.

And if you are now wondering where the world’s second-largest wine cellar is, the answer once again is Moldova. The wine cellar Cricova, also near Chisinau, houses about 1.25 million bottles of wine. Some of the vintages stored here were produced as early as 1902. As the Nazis attempted to invade the Soviet Union, the site also served to protect Jews who hid in the cellar tucked inside wine barrels.

 CV Members Rating

The tasting took place before knowing the wines’ prices and the participants evaluated them between Good and Excellent with the following results:


1st – 2020 Gitana, Lupi Rezerva ($29)

2nd-2020 Gitana, Rara Neagra ($16)

3rd -2018 Gitana, Autograph Fateasca Regala ($15)

4th -2018 Fautor 310, Cab. Sauvignon- Fateasca Neagra ($14)

The 2020 Lupi Rezerva was rated as Best Wine and the 2020 Rara Neagra as Best Buy





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Tasting No.233 – August 30, 2021- Wines from South Africa

Club del Vino

Capri Ristorante, McLean VA

Tasting Overview 

South Africa Wine Region

The purpose of this tasting is to learn about South African wines, through exploring the country’s wine history and recent developments, by tasting the main four grapes and wine styles from the most renowned producing regions, districts, and wards.

We will taste two white varietals: Chenin Blanc from Bot River Ward, Walker Bay District, and, Chardonnay, from Robertson Ward, Breeder River District; as red varietals, we have Pinotage, from Simonsberg Ward, and Cabernet Sauvignon, from Jonkershoek Valley, both in the Stellenbosch District. The four wines come from Western Cape Region.


Type of Tasting: Open

Wines presenters:   Jairo Sanchez, Alberto Gomez, and Carlos Silvani

These are the wines:

  1. 2018 Beaumont Hope Marguerite Chenin Blanc, Bot River, Western Cape $37.99
  2. 2017 Westhof Limestone Hill Chardonnay, Robertson, Western Cape $18.99
  3. 2018 Kanonkop Pinotage, Simonsberg, Stellenbosch, Coastal Cape $41.99
  4. 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, Jonkershoek, Stellenbosch, Coastal Cape$36.99


  1. Seafood Salad
  2. Alfredo (or any creamy sauce
  3. Lamb and rosemary sauce
  4. Grilled Fillet and wine sauce
  5. Dessert/Coffee

Participants: Marcello Averbug, Jose Brakarz, Ruth Connoly, Clara Estrada, Alberto Gómez, Italo Mirkow, Agilson Perazza, Claudia Perazza, John Redwood, Jairo Sanchez, Cristian Santelices, Carlos Silvani, Ricardo Zavaleta, and German Zincke.

Information on the Wines

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

2018 Beaumont Hope Margherite Chenin Blanc*, Bot River

The Wine: Named after our grandmother, Hope Marguerite Beaumont, this barrel-fermented and matured Chenin Blanc is always elegant and complex. Beaumont’s old vine Chenin Blanc is naturally fermented in 400L French oak. Beautiful aromas of dried apricot, marzipan, and spice with hints of green apple and integrated oak on the palate. This is a pure expression of our flagship Chenin (winemaker notes).

Matches brilliantly with seafood especially scallops and any beautifully spicy Asian dish.

Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate 90+ Pts. The 2018 Hope Marguerite Chenin Blanc seems very shy on the nose, and it should develop beautifully over the next few years. The palate is pure and ripe, with a clean, fresh citrus core. There is a soft, white powdery minerally expression that is very pleasing with a medium finish. The wine is balanced with soft floral tones that linger on the aftertaste. This wine was fermented naturally in neutral oak barrels and comes from their two oldest vineyards. The Hope Marguerite bottling honors their grandmother and is named after her. 17,500 bottles made.

The Winery:  Sebastian Beaumont crafts superb wines on the family farm in the tiny Bot River Ward, in the Walker Bay district of South Africa’s Western Cape, west of Hermanus. The winery’s old vineyards on shale soils provide good texture and structure. The 2017 Hope Marguerite is one of South Africa’s best Chenin Blancs. It has it all – fabulous fruit intensity, concentration, and length, with 5g/l of residual sugar balancing some lees pithiness and vibrant acidity.

The Ward, which stretches from the Houw Hoek Pass in the north to the Bot River Lagoon in the south, produces high-quality white wines – chiefly Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc – from mostly small, independently owned wine estates. The area is classically cool-climate, with breezes from the nearby Walker Bay and the Bot River Lagoon rushing in to vineyards to replace the hot air during the afternoons. Herbaceous notes in Bot River wines have often been attributed to the fynbos in the region, while minerality is imparted by the soil profile of Table Mountain sandstone and Bokkeveld shale.


2017- De Wetshof Limestone Hill Chardonnay, Robertson

The wine: Heavy clay soils rich in limestone allow this Chardonnay to emit optimum varietal expression in a cloak of rich complexity. An un-wooded wine, Limestone Hill has notes of grapefruit and nuts, with the complexity balanced by a nuanced elegance ending with a delicate ripeness (winemaker notes).

Limestone Hill is superb with oysters, cream-based pasta dishes and light curries, as well as roast pork and veal dishes.

The Winery: The name De Wetshof has been synonymous with the production of fine wines in South Africa since the 1970’s. As the first registered wine estate in the Robertson Wine Valley, De Wetshof has become known internationally as South Africa’s eminent Chardonnay House due to the pioneering role it played in introducing this noble Burgundian grape to the country.

The De Wet family’s winemaking heritage can, however, be traced back to 1694 when the first De Wets arrived at the Cape and immediately made a mark on the South African wine industry.

The Robertson Wine Ward is a wine-producing area in the Breede River Valley region of the Western Cape, 160km east of Cape Town. Robertson is one of South Africa’s better known wine-producing areas and is associated with the production of rich, fruit-driven red and white wines made most often from the Chardonnay and Shiraz grape varieties, as well as sparkling wines from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

The dry, hot climate in Robertson is optimal for producing premium grapes. Annual rainfall is a scant 400mm, and the river is used often for irrigation. However, south-easterly breezes from the Indian Ocean 60 miles (90 km) away have a cooling effect on the vineyards and bring moisture to the area. While daytime temperatures can get up to 30°C / 85°F, evenings are much cooler. This diurnal temperature variation means that the grapes have a chance to cool down overnight, letting them retain acidity while still developing rich flavor profiles. Winters are relatively cold, allowing the vines a period of dormancy before the next growing season. The distinctive medley of soil types gives wine farms in Robertson plenty of options when it comes to site selection. Chardonnay grapes thrive on the pockets of limestone soil found throughout Robertson. High levels of lime in the soil give a chalky minerality to the resultant wines, much like in the region of Chablis in France. 

2018 Kanonkop Pinotage, Simonsberg Stellenbosch  

 The Wine: The nose is beautifully aromatic, with scented aromas of red currants, macerated cherries, and cinnamon spice. The palate displays a silky tannin structure, backed by a fine seam of acidity. Subtle vanilla undertones from the integrated oak profile are juxtaposed against a fruit explosion of wild bramble, plums, and black berries. An elegant wine of intense purple hues, it lingers at the finish with juicy, dark plums flavors (Winemaker notes).

Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate 90 Pts. Displaying a dark ruby core with purple and red hints on the rim, the 2018 Pinotage Stellenbosch opens with a nose of sweet, confected plums, black raspberry, mocha, and hints of sweet oak spice. Medium to full-bodied, the wine displays sweet fruit on the palate with a generous helping of 80% new French oak. It ends with sappy plums and black cherry skin flavors that give way to tight tannins that linger on the long finish. There are plenty of winemaking practices happening with the expression that creates an enjoyable experience for the drinker. Outstanding. Drinking window: 2021 – 2033

The winery. Kanonkop Estate is a South African red wine producer located on the low slopes of the Simonsberg Mountains, between Stellenbosch and Paarl. It was established in 1973 on plots of land that had some old Pinotage vines growing on them. Simonsberg is known as the “red wine bowl” of South Africa, with long summer days, cooling sea breezes and ideal soils for red wine varieties.

Kanonkop Estate is famous for being one of the first producers to grow and vinify Pinotage, the country’s signature grape variety developed in 1924 as an intraspecies cross of Pinot Noir and Cinsaut grapes. The estate also makes red wines from the classic Bordeaux varieties. It boasts some of the Cape’s first commercially planted Pinotage vines, with an average age of over 50 years. Respecting tradition while embracing the future, Kanonkop fuses age-old wine-making techniques with state-of-the art technology. All the estate’s grapes are handpicked and sorted. The wines are vinified in open concrete fermenters, using manual punch-downs, and are subsequently aged in French Nevers oak barrels.

2014 Neil Ellis Cabernet Sauvignon Jonkershoek, Stellenbosch


The Wine: This is the signature Cabernet Sauvignon of Neil Ellis. It is a distinctive style with all the hallmarks of the Jonkershoek Valley and known for its distinctive balance of elegance and fruit power. Medium intense ruby red color. Restraint aroma but deep, complex perfumes of blue and black small berry fruit. Cedary aromas and touches of mint, so typical of a Jonkershoek wine. The palate is smooth and plush followed by fine, but dense tannins. A ripe, soft tannin vintage with savory expression (winemaker notes). 

Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate Rating: 91+ Pts. Beginning with a dark ruby core, the nose of the 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon Jonkershoek Valley has soft, dusty red fruit essences with hints of slightly stewed plums, blackberry, and redcurrant before highlighting a soft minty, herbaceous tone. Medium to full-bodied, the wine is balanced with lifting tannins that grow with sweet baking spices (from the oak) and give way to firm tannins that build across the mid-palate. On the lingering finish is a balanced expression of dusty black cherry skin and nuances of dried sage with an element of bitter black tea. It’s very food friendly and should continue to drink well until the end of this decade.  

Awards: 2014 Vintage: Gold  International Wine Challenge

Appealed black fruit with impressive concentration and length. Youthful, with reined tannins and mouthful highlight.

The Winery: Neil Ellis set out to identify distinct terroir in which individual varieties will excel. He placed the emphasis not only on the environment but also on caring viticultural practices by a dedicated team of growers which extends through to the winemaking practices. Neil Ellis produces not only Cabernet Sauvignon but also other red wines from Pinotage and Shiraz grapes and whites from Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc grapes.

Stellenbosch District is South Africa’s most famous wine-producing district, surrounding the historic town with the same name. Fine winemaking here dates to the late 1600s. Its valleys of granite, sandstone and alluvial loam soils have the capacity to produce beautiful wines from many varieties. The climate is warm Mediterranean, tempered by the cool Atlantic air of nearby False Bay.

Perhaps most well-known for its Pinotage, Cabernet Sauvignon  and Bordeaux blends, Stellenbosch also produces wines from Syrah, Chenin blanc Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Stellenbosch, in Western Cape’s Coastal Region, is home to the country’s best-known wine estates. Cabernet Sauvignon is the region’s most widely planted grape variety.

The region’s climate is relatively hot and dry, although a maritime influence comes from False Bay in the south. Cooling southeasterly breezes wash through the vineyards in the afternoons, refreshing the grapes after the morning’s hot sun.

The variation of terroir in Stellenbosch is divided into many different wine-producing areas. The wards of Banghoek, Bottelary, Papegaaiberg, Polkadraai Hills, Devon Valley, Jonkershoek Valley and Simonsberg-Stellenbosch are all recognized by the Wine of Origin scheme. The unofficial areas of Helderberg and Stellenboschkloof also have their own distinctive wine styles.

 Technical Notes 

Information compiled and edited by Jairo Sanchez, Carlos Silvani and Orlando Gomez, from various sources, such as Wikipedia, Wine Folly, Wine.com, Wine Searcher, producers’ sites, and others.


South Africa is one of the most prominent wine-producing countries in the Southern Hemisphere. With more than 300 years of winemaking history, it is often described as bridging the gap between the Old World and New. Most wines are made using New World winemaking techniques, but often have more in common stylistically with their Old-World counterparts. Since the end of apartheid South African wine has enjoyed international attention and acclaim for its wide variety of styles.

South Africa’s wine industry is distributed around the lush, rugged landscape of the Western Cape. Here, the abundance of mountains, valleys and plateaus allow winemakers to produce a diverse range of styles. Vineyards are also found in the Northern Cape’s Orange River region, where the flat, barren landscape is dominated by the Kalahari Desert. Most of South Africa’s wine-producing regions have a Mediterranean climate, significantly influenced by the meeting of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans.

The country’s signature variety is Pinotage, an indigenous crossing of Pinot Noir and Cinsaut that is rarely found in quantity in any other wine-producing country. Shiraz is widely planted also, as are Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

South Africa White grape varieties account for 55% of the country’s 96,000 hectares of vineyards. Chenin Blanc is the republic’s most planted grape with 18.5 percent of all plantings. While it has not retained its earlier dominance within vineyards as a source of brandy and fortified wines, it retains its number one position having largely transitioned into a role providing crisp dry white wines.

South African Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc have become popular internationally in recent years. The Wine of Origin system, a legal structure introduced in 1972 to acknowledge and protect the diversity of terroir in the country, classifies South Africa into the regions, districts and wards where vineyards are found.

Vines were first planted in South Africa by Dutch settlers in the 1650s, although wine production did not really begin to take off until French Huguenots arrived with viticultural skills and knowledge in the 1680’s. South Africa’s oldest wine estate is located in Constantia, where the production of the legendary dessert wine Vin de Constance gave the region worldwide fame in the 18th and 19th centuries. Stellenbosch is equally historic as a wine-producing region, the first vineyards having been planted here in the 1690’s.

The South African wine industry suffered numerous setbacks during the 19th and 20th centuries. The outbreak of phylloxera in the 1860’s severely reduced the vineyard area. The replanting after Phylloxera – often using high-yielding grape varieties such as Cinsaut – led to large-scale overproduction, prompting the South African government to fund the Kooperatieve Wijnbouwers Vereniging van Zuid-Afrika KWV.

Throughout the 20th Century, KWV restricted the production of wines in such a way that innovation was near impossible, and quantity was prioritized over quality. Yields were restricted and minimum prices set at a level which encouraged production of brandy and fortified wine. KWV’s control over the South African wine sector lasted until the 1990’s, and even now, the country’s industry is unusual for its high number of co-operatives. South African wine fell out of favor internationally during the 20th Century when trade sanctions were placed on the country in the 1980s, due to its apartheid policies.  In 2016, South Africa was the seventh largest producer of wine in the world in terms of overall volume, responsible for 3.9% of global wine output. 


Club del Vino Members Rating

The tasting took place before knowing the price of the wines and the participants evaluated them between Good and Excellent with the following results:

1st -2018 Beaumont Hope Marguerite Chenin Blanc, Bot River BW ($38)

2nd-2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, Jonkershoek, Stellenbosch BB ($19)

3rd -2017 Wetsthof Limestone Hill, Chardonnay, Robertson ($42)

4th -2014 Kanonkop Pinotage, Simosberg, Stellenbosch ($37)


The Chenin Blanc was rated as Best Wine and the Chardonnay as Best Buy




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Tasting No. 232 – July 27, 2021- Wines from North Italy

Club del Vino

Capri Ristorante, McLean VA

Alto Adige

Tasting Overview  

The  main objective of this tasting is to explore less known wines from Northern Italy.  This time we have a white blend of international and local grapes from the Veneto Region and a Pinot Grigio from Alto Adige fermented with the skins known as “orange wine” because of the pink/copper tones resulting from this mode of fermentation. The other two are red wines produced in relatively small but high quality wineries in Lombardía and Trentino. One is a 90 percent Nebbiolo blended  with local varieties and the other is also a Nebbiolo produced, similarly to Amarone, from air dried grapes.

Type of Tasting: Open

Wines presenter: Ricardo Santiago

These are the wines:

  1. 2016 Jermann, Vintage Tunina, Venezia Giulia IGT
  2. 2019 Foradori, Fuoripista, Pinot Grigio, Vigneti Delle Dolomiti IGP
  3. 2015 Arpepe, Valtellina Superiore Sassella Stella Retica
  4. 2017 Nino Negri, Sforzato Di Valtellina

This is the menu:

  1. Lobster Cream
  2. Rissoto alla Milanese
  3. Veal Milanese
  4. Cheese Plate
  5. Dessert/Coffee

Participants: Mario Aguilar, Marcello Averbug, Jose Brakarz, Jorge Claro, Ruth Connoly, Clara Estrada,, Michelle Fryer, Jorge Garcia-Garcia, Italo Mirkow, Agilson Perazza, Claudia Perazza, John Redwood, Lucía Redwood, Jairo Sanchez, Cristian Santelices, Ginger Smart, Ricardo Santiago, Ricardo Zavaleta, German Zincke.

Information on the Wines

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

2016 Jermann, Vintage Tunina, Venezia Giulia IGT

The Wine: WE: One of Italy’s most iconic white wines, this radiant blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon, Ribolla Gialla and Malvasia opens with aromas of spring wildflower, white and yellow stone fruit and sun-warmed hay. Vibrant and boasting tension and elegance, the linear delicious palate doles out ripe apricot, creamy white peach and juicy grapefruit before a white-almond and saline close.

The Winery: The Jermann winery is tucked into the green hills of Friuli-Venezia Giulia below the Dolomites. The family’s two estates, totalling 395 planted acres, are eight miles and showcase markedly different terroirs.

The Ruttars estate is in the hilly Collio sub-region, just west of the Slovenian border. The vines are cooled by the Bora wind off the Adriatic Sea, endowing wines with deeply-perfumed aromatics and zesty acidity.

To the south, the Villanova estate lies in the Isonzo sub-region. The land fans toward the Adriatic and vines grow in more permeable gravel, clay, and sand soils. Temperatures are moderated both by proximity to the sea and the lower Alps.

Read more at: https://www.luxwines.com/collection/jermann

 2019 Foradori, Fuoripista, Pinot Grigio, Vigneti Delle Dolomiti IGP

The Wine: “Only 8,000 bottles of Fuoripista Pinot Grigio from the biodynamic vineyards of the Campo Rotaliano site are pressed by Elisabetta Foradori each year. The wine is fermented on the skins for eight months in tinajas (Spanish amphorae), where it slowly matures to reveal the delicate character of Pinot Grigio and the forgotten diversity of Trentino”. Superiore.de

“Skin fermentation has given this pinot grigio a rosé color, but also a lot of peach-skin, rose-petal and candied-orange character. Notes of wet earth and umami, which you normally associate with red wines, develops as it aerates in the glass. Then comes the surprisingly delicate, medium-bodied palate that is so fresh, the delicate tannins and rose-petal notes lifting the long, almost weightless finish.” James Sukling.

Fuoripista is a different kind of wine that takes an alternative route and has a different approach towards nature. This wine is the result of a collaboration between Foradori and Marco Devigili, biodynamic winemaker from Campo Rotaliano, and aims to express the true essence of this variety, widespread in the Trentino region. The wine spends more than 8 months on the skins inside Tinajas (amphorae) allowing the delicate character of Pinot Grigio to reveal.

Grape: Pinot Grigio
Vineyard location: Campo Rotaliano, Mezzolombardo
Hectares: 2 hectares
Terroir: Alluvial and gravel soil
Fermentation and fining: 8 months on the skins in tinajas (amphorae) in acacia casks
Annual production: 10.000 bottles

The Winery: ( From Wine Searcher) Foradori is a wine estate in the Dolomites region of northern Italy, particularly known for its red wines from the Teroldego variety. The estate dates back to 1901, and has been owned by the Foradori family since 1939. Elisabetta Foradori has made the wine since 1984. There are 28 hectares (69 acres) of vineyards in multiple small plots around the Campo Rotaliano plain, 75 percent of which are planted with Teroldego The rest are planted to Manzoni Bianco, with small amounts of Nosiola and Pinot Grigio. Foridori’s vineyards have been farmed biodynamically since 2002 and were certified by Demeter in 2009.

All of Foridori’s wines are released as IGT Vigneti delle Dolomiti. The range is led by two Teroldego cuvées, Foridori and Granato. Foradori is sourced from around 10ha (25 acres) of vineyards on sandier soils, and is aged in oak and cement tanks for 12 months. Granato, which means pomegranate, comes from 4ha (10 acres) of old pergola vineyards on more stony soils, and is aged in wood for 15 months. The estate also makes four other Teroldego wines which are aged on their skins in amphorae, and varietal wines from Manzoni Bianco, Nosiola and Pinot Grigio.

Foradori’s winemaking follows a philosophy of minimal intervention, which includes the use of indigenous yeasts, no temperature control and bottling without filtration. Production reaches around 160,000 bottles per year, over half of which is the Foradori cuvee.

Read more at: https://www.agricolaforadori.com/en/wines/

2015 Arpepe, Valtellina Superiore Sassella Stella Retica

The Wine: WE: Woodland berry, camphor, wild rose and wet stone aromas shape the nose. The chiseled palate delivers red cherry, cranberry, Alpine herb and star anise set against taut, ultrafine tannins. Fresh acidity keeps it balanced. Drink 2022–2030.

(From Wine Searcher) Valtellina Superiore Sassella wines are made under Valtellina Superiore DOCG rules, specifically from grapes grown around the hamlets of Sassella and Triasso, just west of the town of Sondrio. Like a “standard” Valtellina wine, they are red wines made from at least 90 percent Chiavennasca (the local name for Nebbiolo). Sassella is one of five viticultural sub-zones specifically identified as producing Valtellina wines of particularly high quality. The other four are Grumello, Inferno, Maroggia and Valgella. Sassella is the largest of these, with around 150 hectares (370 acres) of vines.

Located at the foot of a large, steeply sloping bulge in the northern valley wall, the village’s vineyards benefit from excellent drainage and a sunny southerly aspect. The valley floor here is narrow, but the vineyards lie raised up on steeply sloping, tiny, terraced plots well into the fresh mountain air and generally oriented towards the sunshine. For more information about Valtellina wines and the terroir of the region, see Wine Searcher Valtellina page.

The Winery:  “We are a family of winegrowers and, for over 150 years, we have been passionately devoted to the cultivation of Nebbiolo. This is a rare grape variety that, over the centuries, has adapted to the Valtellina, a land like no other, where everything is still done by hand. For 5 generations we have always waited for “the time it takes” “the right waiting time” and it is this that sets the pace of our work. Time and humility are what make our wine the purest, sincerest expression of this land and of the people who cultivate it with such dedication. This was the lesson we were taught by our father Arturo, without letting ourselves be influenced by passing fashions and conventional tastes. We are convinced that the outstanding qualities of Nebbiolo from the Alps means it is more than worthy of its place of honour on the international market of fine wines. Without this worldwide acknowledgement, this age-old activity would simply not be economically sustainable for it rejects any idea of modern mass-production”.

 Valtellina is a valley of glacial origin, furrowed by the river Adda, which runs for a full 120 kilometres from east to west, from the Stelvio Pass to Lake Como. Embraced in between the Alpi Retiche and Orobie, it runs parallel to chain of the Alps and enjoys a unique microclimate. From dawn to sunset, the sun warms the terraced vineyard, which is set like a precious stone on the Rhaetian slope, fully exposed to the south and soothed by the cool breeze from the north. Dry-stone walls hold back poor soils composed of flaked granite, where, since time immemorial, the root of the Nebbiolo from the Alps vine has found all the nutrients it needs to create a genetic variability that is unsurpassed. The spectacle of the terraced vineyards of the Valtellina is the heritage of mountain folk who have tended them for centuries, and it is a priceless treasure that deserves to be protected as a cultural UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Read more at: https://www.arpepe.com/

2017 Nino Negri, Sforzato Di Valtellina

The Wine: (From Vino.com) Sforzato di Valtellina Sfursat Carlo Negri is a wine from the Nino Negri winery produced in the best vintages and in limited quantities that is born on the Valtellina hills, at the foot of the Rhaetian Alps, on the right bank of the Adda river.

It is produced entirely with Nebbiolo grapes, whose selection and harvesting begins in the second half of September and continues until the end of the month. After being left to dry naturally in boxes, the grapes ferment in steel at a controlled temperature with maceration on the skins for 16 days. After a short stop in the same containers, the wine is transferred into French oak barrels for 24 months.

It is characterized by an intense garnet color. It captures the nose with an ethereal and complex bouquet, with hints of cloves, cinnamon and pepper, with hints of plum in jam. In the mouth it is dry, warm and austere, with a pleasantly persistent taste on notes of toasted hazelnuts and licorice.

Perfect to taste in combination with roasted meats and game, it is excellent together with aged cheeses.

The Winery: (From https://www.frederickwildman.com/producers/nino-negri/) Established in 1897, Nino Negri is the premier estate producing wine in the Valtellina DOCG in Italy’s Lombardy region. The estate specialty is Sfursat (“strained” or “forced”); a wine made from grapes harvested by trained pickers and dried for 100 days in the cool, dry, alpine air. This winemaking style combines the opulence of Amarone with the elegant complexity of Barolo. The success of Nino Negri is due largely to the efforts of winemaker Casimiro Maule who has worked at the estate since 1971, his entire professional life. In 2007, Casimiro was named “Winemaker of the Year” by Gambero Rosso, the magazine authority in Italian wine.

The star and primary varietal here is Chiavennasca, the local name for Nebbiolo. The variety has been cultivated in the area for over 1,000 years and all Valtellina DOCG wines must contain at least 90% Chiavennasca. Nino Negri controls almost 400 acres of the finest Chiavennasca vineyards in the Valtellina Superiore subzones. The estate directly owns 75 acres of exceptional vineyards, including the 27-acre Fracia vineyard, an exclusive cru planted since 1995 to special clonal selections. The vine stocks that are cultivated horizontally from west to east, an innovated planting scheme for this region.

The winery is located in the city of Chiuro in the 15th Century Quadrio Castle. The “castle” sits above an array of underground cellars which house thousands of barrels. All Nino Negri wines age for at least two years before they are released to ensure optimum maturity at time of bottling.

Read more at: https://www.gruppoitalianovini.it/index.cfm/en/

CV Members Rating

The tasting took place before knowing the price of the wines and the participants evaluated them between Very Good and Excellent with the following results:

  1. Jermman Vintage Tunina Venecia Giulia IGT Chardonnay  blend:  Excelent ($63)
  2. Furadori Fuoripista Trentino, Pinot  Grigio, IGP: Very Good ($58)
  3. Arpepe, Valtellina Superiore DOGC, Sassela, Nebbiolo:  Excellent ($49)
  4. Nino Negri Sforzato  Di  Valtellina DOCG, Nebbiolo :  Excellent ($47)

The wines were considered a very good example of the region’s wine products, diversity and typicality and representative of high-quality standards.

Technical Notes 

This is the Power Point Presentation for this tasting prepared by Ricardo Santiago with plenty of technical information on the wines and the regions of origin.




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Tasting No. 231 (Virtual) – June 28, 2021- California Red Blends


Tasting Overview

This tasting is the last of a series of six dedicated to red blends of the Americas. In this occasion we have two wines, one from Napa (based on Carignan and Grenache) and another from Paso Robles (based on Syrah and Grenache). The objective is to asses the differences and similarities of these wines and their character. 

Type of Tasting: Open

Wine presenter: Jorge Requena

The wines are:

2018 Neyers Sage Canyon California Red Wine

2017 McPrice Myers High on the Hog, Rhone Red Blends from Central Coast, California

 The menu is up to each participant discretion

Participants: Mario Aguilar, Marcello Averbug, Jaime Estupiñán, Orlando Mason, Agilson Perazza, Claudia Perazza, Jorge Requena, Alfonso Sanchez, Jairo Sanchez, Ricardo Santiago, Pedro Turina, Ricardo Zavaleta, German Zincke

Information on the Wines

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

2018 Neyers Sage Canyon California Red Wine  

The Wine: The 2018 Sage Canyon Red has a finished blend of Carignan, Grenache, Mourvèdre, and Syrah. Each lot of wine was fermented naturally using native, wild yeast, and the grapes were all crushed by foot so as to not break the stems left in the fermenting must. The finished wine is bright and flavorful, with a combination of mineral and earthiness. The Carignan fruit is stylish, incorporating elements of wild cherry, plum and black fig, while the Grenache and Mourvèdre add exotic aromas of wild herbs and lavender. It’s a wine for the ages, and you’ll enjoy watching it age over the next decade or two (Bruce Neyers).

Composition: 50% Carignan, 25% Grenache, 20% Mourvèdre, 5% Syrah

Barrel Program: 100% neutral French oak Alcohol: 13.6%

Vinification: traditional winemaking processes, 100% stem retention, whole cluster fermentation, oak-aging for one year in small, used barrels, and bottling with neither fining nor filtration.

The Sage Canyon Red is made from fruit from four separate areas of northern California: Grenache from the Sierra foothills, Carignan from Oakley, Mourvèdre from the southern Sonoma Valley near Glen Ellen, and Syrah from the Santa Lucia Highlands. The result is a soft wine, wonderfully attractive in its youth with complex flavors that are pleasing across the palate. This full-bodied Carignan-based wine wraps potent fruit and dark-spice flavors in a firm texture, framed by bright acidity and moderate tannins. Its good structure and concentration will pair well with many rich proteins. Best through 2025. (WE 91)

The winery:  In 1999, Bruce and Barbara Neyers purchased and renovated a winery on a thirty-acre parcel in the Sage Canyon area of Napa Valley. Over the next 14 months they built a modern, highly functional winery designed for traditional winemaking practices. They produced their first vintage in this state-of-the-art facility in 2000. In 2002, Wine and Spirits Magazine named Neyers Vineyards the Artisan Winery of the Year.

Even though Neyers Vineyards sits in the heart of the Napa Valley, Bruce’s experience with French wine importers has had an undeniable influence on their wines. Many of the French producers Bruce has worked with farm organically, make their wines naturally without use of cultured yeast or laboratory designed malo-lactic starter, and bottle their wines without fining or filtration. Neyers barrels are made in France from wood air dried for three years, two years longer than normal. All of the grapes are picked by hand, into small bins that hold only one-half ton. They are then hand sorted and inspected at the winery.

The Region: Sage Canyon area of Napa Valley. Sage Canyon Red from Neyers Vineyards derives its name from the sub-region where the winery is located. The canyon created by the north face of Pritchard hill was settled in the 1830’s by a group of Ohio pioneers led to California by John Chiles, and in neighboring Chiles Valley they established a modern, self-sustaining community with farms, homes, gardens, winemaking, mills and a distillery. The sage they introduced to the area grew wild in the canyon, hence the name Neyers uses today.

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

2017 McPrice Myers High on the Hog, Rhone Red Blends from Central Coast, California 

The Wine:  Winemaker Tasting Notes. Aromas of smoky plum, mocha, licorice, and black raspberries. On the palate, Rainier cherry, boysenberry, dark chocolate, brown spice, lush tannins and a long, supple finish.

This wine is a blend: 40% Syrah, 30% Grenache, 22% Mourvèdre, 6% Petite Sirah, 2% Viognier. 

Alcohol: 15.2%

Vinification: 3-5 day cold soak, with pump-overs 2 times a day and punch-downs 3 times a day during fermentation. Fermented in concrete, stainless steel, and small open-top fermenters with 20% whole clusters. Pressed into 500 L French Oak puncheons, 265 and 228 L barriques. Aged 20 months.

Aromas of fresh boysenberry, baked pastries, caramel and savory smoke lead into a well-integrated palate of fruit, herb and wood flavors that are framed by firm yet polished tannins. It’s fresh with acidity and yet dense, finishing on a touch of pine needle (Wine Enthusiast 93.)

Deep vivid ruby. Powerful red and blue fruit preserve, candied licorice and exotic spice aromas pick up a smoky nuance with air. Broad, fleshy and seamless in texture, offering palate-coating black raspberry, cherry cola, fruitcake and mocha flavors sharpened by a zesty, peppery nuance. Smoky finish, which leaves behind a sweet violet pastille note (Vinous 91.)

The 2017 High on the Hog offers earthy dark fruits, bouquet garni, pepper, and violets notes in a medium to full-bodied. It’s California’s answer to a top-notch Côtes du Rhône (Jeb Dunnuck 90.)

The Winery:  The Estate Vineyard is home to 20 acres of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Viognier, and Grenache Blanc. Located in the East/West Adelaida corridor (Paso Robles), where the Pacific Ocean’s influence provides for cool nights, even ripening, and a very long growing season. The hillside blocks are quite steep, with the slopes ranging in incline from 25 to 50 degrees, and with elevations from 1500 to 2000 feet. Well-drained soils are a combination of the Santa Lucia-Lopez and Linne-Calodo series, as well as Rincon and Nacimiento silty clay loam. There are multiple exposures to these hillside blocks, which results in a hands-on cultivation of each block by the McPrice Myers vineyard team.

Read more about this winery here: https://www.mcpricemyers.com/

Technical Notes 

There are abundant technical notes on red blends in the last five blogs 226 to 230.  Readers are welcome to browse through those pages. 





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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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Annual Tasting Summary 2020

Annual Tasting Summary 2020


Year 2020 was a challenging one for the Club. The Covid-19 pandemia forced us to suspend our tastings in person starting in March. In June we decided to go virtual with only one wine or two per session to evaluate.  We were able to carry out our cycle of varietal wines.

A  summary of the tastings is here: Tasting Summary 2020

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