Seasonal Wines from $18-$40

It’s that time of year when the calendar calls it spring but the cold nights make it seem like it is still winter. This means it’s a perfect time for winter reds that also drink well during spring weather.

Thanks to Kobrand, we received samples of wines that fit both seasons. You might not have heard of all of them, but don’t let that stop you. These are good wines!

BARDA By Bodega Charca 2015 ($29.99)
BARDA is a beautiful, balanced, smooth and 100% certified organic Pinot Noir from Argentina. This medium-bodied wine features red fruits, vanilla and spice. It’s also very food-friendly, which means you can try it with pasta, roast beef or salmon.

Agricola Punica Montessu Isola dei Nuraghi 2014 ($30.99)
This Italian beauty is primarily made from Carignano, a Spanish variety found in Sardinia, and blended with 10% each of Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. Rich, silky, and intense depth with flavors of black fruit and hints of caramel, consider pairing it with tomato-based pasta dishes, lamb or pork.

St. Francis Winery and Vineyard: Reserve Merlot 2014 ($39.99)
The Reserve Sonoma Valley Merlot is rich and velvety with lush texture and flavors of blackberry, dark chocolate, spice and cassis. This wine will pair well with steaks or other meat dishes — on cooler nights, crisp spring evenings, or at summer barbecues — and you can also try it with dark chocolate brownies for dessert.

Masi Agricola Campofiorin 2012 ($18.99)
This easy-drinking, good-value wine features tart black cherry, licorice and dark chocolate on the palate, with vanilla, cinnamon and spice notes. Its versatility means it will complement lasagna and other pastas with rich sauces, beef dishes, and mature cheeses.

Tenuta di Salviano Lago di Corbara 2013 ($17.99)
A blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, this full-bodied wine is the described as the Umbrian answer to the Super Tuscans. A great value for all this richness in a hearty wine, which will pair well with pizza, grilled meats, risotto or hard cheeses.

So what are you waiting for? We recommend that you give these wines a try!

Cheers,
Margot and Dave

 

 

Little Black Dress

The dress code for your holiday party doesn’t call for your little black dress, but there’s no reason you can’t bring a bottle of Little Black Dress (LBD) wines from Mendocino County.

According to LBD Wines (of California), “a good bottle of wine is your best accessory” and their wines  are “the perfect fit for every palate, party or holiday meal.”

To demonstrate it, the winery kindly sent us four samples to taste. While we don’t think these wines are for every palate, they are crowd-pleasers for those who like basic, simple, easy-drinking and affordable wines.

LBD Pinot Grigio ($11.99)
The predominant Pinot Grigio is blended with a bit of Chardonnay, Muscat and Viognier, which provides a pleasant combination of citrus and floral flavors. It pairs well with salads, sushi (or any soy-sauce-based dishes) or fish with lemon, to complement the citrus flavors of the wine. From the tasting notes: “Aromas of apple, melon and lemongrass before a zesty tangerine finish.”

LBD Cabernet Sauvignon ($11.99)
Cabernet Sauvignon is rounded off with Petite Sirah, Syrah and other red varietals to provide multi-layers to a medium-bodied wine. As with most Cab Sauvs, this goes well with juicy burgers and other grilling meats. Or you could try it with strong cheeses or chocolate. From the tasting notes: “Rich aromas of dark berries and toasted oak, a hint of vanilla spice and a lasting finish.”

LBD Diva Red ($11.99)
This Cab-based red blend contains a medley of Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan and Petite Sirah, with small amounts of Zinfandel, Tannat, Mouvedre, Garnacha, Malbec and “other red grapes.” A fruit-forward wine, the Diva not surprisingly has a juicy finish. From the tasting notes: “Decadent notes of dark plum, cocoa and caramel leading to a finish accented by hints of cinnamon and chocolate-dipped strawberries.”

LBD Merlot ($11.99)
A small amount of Petite Sirah rounds off this rich Merlot, which has aromas of red licorice and plum, moving into flavors of berries and vanilla. Like the Cab, this wine pairs with meats and hearty dishes. From the tasting notes: “Plush aromas of ripe black cherry, rich mocha and spicy plum before a seductive vanilla and oak finish.”

Be sure to decant all of these wines before pouring, and enjoy!

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Locations Wine by Dave Phinney

You might have heard of Dave Phinney because of his popular red blend, The Prisoner, or through Orin Swift Cellars, which he recently sold as a premium brand to E. & J. Gallo.

In addition to remaining with Orin Swift, his latest focus is on Locations Wine — as the name suggests, he is making the best value wines possible across the locations of all of the major wine-producing regions of the world.

In Dave Phinney’s words: “I seek out high-quality vineyards, and forward-thinking growers, across appellations to create a wine that proudly represents the best viticultural parcels of that country or location. Our quest is for old vines with low yields, to bring out the best of a specific vineyard and area. We then combine these parcels of place to craft a wine that pays homage to the country of origin; a wine that makes all of us proud.”

And better yet – these attractive wines are also affordable and approachable. Accolades for Phinney have been swift.

“Dave Phinney might be my “value winemaker of the year” candidate … If there are better wines for under $20 a bottle in the world today, please share that information with The Wine Advocate. These are all remarkable efforts. Kudos to Dave Phinney!” — Robert Parker, The Wine Advocate, July 27, 2016

We were fortunate to be provided with samples of six Locations wines, which have basic labels (the letters of the region) and a release number — in this case, the numbers 4 and 5 represent the most recent vintages. We’ve only tasted two so far, and were impressed.

WA4 – Washington Red Wine, $19.99
A unique blend of Syrah, Merlot and Petite Sirah, we knew immediately this would be a big Washington state red that our palates favor. We were right.  A beautiful nose of blueberries, almonds and licorice was followed by flavors of dark fruit, chocolate and spices on the finish. There is a lot going on with this complex wine.

CA4 – California Red Wine, $19.99
This is another unusual blend — Petite Sirah, Barbera, Tempranillo, Syrah and Grenache, from California’s diverse appellations: Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino and the Sierra Foothills. Deep ruby in color, this is a robust red, offering flavors of intense berries, black fruits, smoke and savory notes, with a peppery finish that one might expect from Syrah.

These two wines were delightful, and we are looking forward to experiencing the remaining four samples. Until then, here are their tasting notes and price points.

OR4 – Oregon Red Wine, $23.99
“100% Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley; vivid red with a deep purple core, the nose is generous with ripe cherry, black raspberry, acacia flowers and hint of forest floor. Immediately, the palate is treated to a textural mélange of sweet cherry, pomegranate, rose petal and sappy strawberry. A lively mid-palate reveals a mineral twist and exotic spice notes juxtaposed with fine tannins and superb clarity on the finish.”

F4 – French Red Wine, $18.99
“A blend of Grenache, Syrah and assorted Bordeaux varieties; a dominant nose of raspberry, rhubarb and wild strawberry are complemented by savory aromas of humid tobacco, lavender and rose petal. An immediate entry of cranberry and other red fruit leads to a touch of savoriness. the wine is fresh and lively with great acidity and approachable tannins.”

E4 – Spanish Red Wine, $18.99
“A blend of Grenache/Garnacha, Tempranillo, Monastrell and Carignan/Carinena; the wine presents a dark, polished amethyst with aromatic notes of white pepper, tobacco and black currant emerging from the glass. A silky mouthfeel with a palate of dark plums, black raspberry and hints of French vanilla closes with subtle tart black cherry and a lengthy, structural finish.”

AR5 – Argentinian Red Wine, $17.99
“A blend primarily of Malbec with a small percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon; garnet in the glass, the wine exudes aromas of brambly boysenberry complemented by hints of antique rosewood and lavender. Immediately, the wine presents a rich entry of ripe red currant, hints of dark berries and subtle minerality, which transitions into an elegant and lingering finish of thyme and sage.>

The vision of Locations Wines is “Simple. Complex. Fun.”

Simple: “Make the best possible wine from a given country or location”

Complex: “Going out and tracking down the vineyards which are capable of delivering the quality of wine needed”

Fun: “Traveling the world to visit incredible sites and meeting amazing people that challenge each other to make the best wine possible”

Our final note: At this price point, we highly recommend that you try some, if not all, of the wines in this unique portfolio.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Adler Fels

Just in time for the holidays, Adler Fels has a reenergized vision and new releases of 2014 Pinot Noir and 2015 Chardonnay.

Although Adler Fels has been producing award-winning wines in California for more than 35 years, the winery decided on a rebirth in 2016 by focusing on “artisan wines with intense varietal character.” To do this, winemakers Aaron Bader and Linda Trotta “searched for the best vineyards in the best regions, grown by interesting people in interesting places.”

We joined the celebration by tasting samples, provided by the winery, of these two new releases.

Adler Fels 2014 The Eagle Rock Pinot Noir ($27.99)
Adler Fels is German for “Eagle Rock” — a fitting name since the winery is high on a crest in the Mayacamas mountains, with a fantastic view of many of California’s Napa and Sonoma vineyards.

This luscious wine is sourced from grapes in the Santa Rita Hills (76%) and the Russian River Valley (24%), and shows the true character of Pinot Noir. It features notes of black olives, earth, cedar, cherries, licorice and smoke, with a hint of caramel, vanilla and spices. We recommend decanting for a few hours, or cellaring this wine for a couple of years to truly bring out the flavors.

This lovely Pinot could be paired with turkey, mushroom dishes and hearty salads. Adler Fels recommends pairing it with grilled portobello mushrooms with garlic and baked brie. Yum!

Winemaker Aaron Bader says: “Making good Pinot is both a physical and mental exercise. And then it’s so darn delicious. It’s sexy, luscious, with that sweet perfume, a hint of maple syrup and lush fruit.”

Adler Fels 2015 The Eagle Rock Chardonnay ($19.99)
Also from grapes in the Russian River Valley (50%) in addition to Monterey County (50%), this is a wonderful wine for Chardonnay lovers. Well balanced, complex, creamy, yet fruit-forward, this true-to-character California Chardonnay features aromas and flavors of mango, peaches, pears and  honey comb.

You could pair this full-bodied, easy-drinking Chard with with tuna, salmon, vegetarian dishes or even pork chops. Adler Fels recommends pairing it with salmon rillettes.

Winemaker Linda Trotta says: “Subtlety is key for well-made Chardonnay — a challenge I relish.” She describes this vintage as refreshing, balanced and rich on the palate. “The bright acidity makes it a delicious and food-friendly wine.”

You can enjoy both wines for any occasion, including your holiday meals or parties.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Madrigal Family Winery

Nestled between Howell and Diamond Mountains in Napa Valley, Madrigal Family Winery is best known for its Petite Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel and Sauvignon Blanc. Winemaker Chris Madrigal is a third-generation vintner, which shows in the wines he crafts.

We were fortunate to receive samples of three Madrigal wines, as the winery celebrates its 20th anniversary.

Madrigal Family Winery Petite Sirah 2012 ($34)
The winery made its name with Petite Sirah, and just one sip of this vintage will explain why. This intense wine is inky in color, with aromas of berries, licorice and dark chocolate. On the palate, there are rich, yet smooth flavors of dark fruit with spices on a long finish. You could pair this wine with grilled meats or sausage dishes, or sip on it before the meal, while nibbling on hard cheeses such as parmesan or sharp cheddar.

Winemaker Tasting Notes: “Inky black-blue color precedes perfumed aromas of cassis, espresso, and dark chocolate. Intense dark currant, blackberry, and plush plum flavors initially fill the palate. This heady, explosive wine then finishes long with BBQ rub spices, sweet toasted oak, and round tannins.”

Madrigal Family Winery Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 ($48)
An Australian winemaker told us that she thinks about wines based on their “Yum Factor.” This Cabernet Sauvignon definitely has you saying “Yum!” Cab Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Merlot are blended with the Cab Sauv, resulting a robust, rich and beautiful expression of Napa Valley, where Cab is King. Now let’s get some steaks on the grill to pair with it!

Winemaker Tasting Notes: “From the outstanding 2012 vintage, this is a big, rich Napa Valley Cabernet with dark fruit and spice aromas and a hearty core of currant and black cherry flavors. The wine has excellent balance, soft tannins and a long, delicious finish.”

 

Madrigal Family Winery Sauvignon Blanc 2014 ($20)
We typically enjoy Sauv Blancs on the deck on warm evenings, but this lovely wine also works well during these cooler nights, particularly when paired with seafood. (We enjoyed it with garlic prawns and rice.) We love Sauv Blanc with 100% stainless steel fermentation, like this one, which results in a crisp, fresh taste of summer. Citrus and grassy aromas turn into smooth flavors of vanilla, melon and green tea.

Winemaker Tasting Notes: “Light straw color with the brilliance of sunlight through a forest canopy. Aromas of grapefruit, pineapples and orange peel. Flavors of pineapples and honeydew melon that are creamy and viscous on the palate. Nice crisp acid that finishes clean and refreshing.”

Next time we are in Napa Valley, Madrigal Family Winery will definitely be on our list of wineries to visit.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

More Thanksgiving Wines

ThanksgivingThanksgiving is behind us, but we bet we’re not the only ones still eating leftovers! So here are some more wines to pair with turkey, in addition to the ones we told you about before the holiday.

Again, these are wines that were sent to us to sample over the holidays. Thank you to the wineries who shared their bounty!

screen-shot-2016-11-26-at-5-23-05-pmJoseph Phelps Vineyard 2014 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir ($55)
This is the 10th vintage of Pinot Noir sourced from two of the winery’s estate vineyards in Freestone, CA — 51% from the Quarter Moon Vineyard and 49% from the Pastorale Vineyard.

The 2014 Pinot Noir is a powerful combination of fruity and savory, with earthy notes and flavors of black fruit and spices. Enjoy it now (with decanting) or over the next five years. From the winemaker:

“The 2014 Pinot Noir showcases aromatic red fruit, fragrant violet and savory spices. Fresh and focused on the palate with concentrated red raspberry and cherry, currant, baking spices and a hint of smoked meat. Nicely textured with firm acidity and a lingering finish.”

screen-shot-2016-11-26-at-6-11-45-pmCraggy Range Te Muna Road Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013 ($45)
We loved (and wrote about) the 2009 vintage of this beautiful New Zealand Pinot Noir, so we knew we wanted to open the 2013 vintage with our Thanksgiving feast. It received a unanimous thumbs up from everyone at the table — an elegant, silky, smooth and complex wine from the Martinborough wine region of New Zealand. This Pinot is stellar, featuring smoky, earthy and savory aromas and flavors. From the winemaker:

“Deep brick red colour. Vibrant aromatics of red and black cherries, rose petal, sandalwood and wet earth. On the palate, fresh red fruits and fine dry tannins provide a soft yet complex finish.”

We were fortunate to visit Craggy Range during a trip to New Zealand in 2014, and the people in the tasting room were as lovely as the wines.

screen-shot-2016-11-26-at-5-51-12-pmSequoia Grove Chardonnay 2015 ($30)
We enjoyed the 2013 vintage of Sequoia Grove Chardonnay with cilantro-lime prawns on the deck on a warm summer evening. But we recently discovered that this food-friendly Chardonnay also pairs well with many Thanksgiving side dishes.

Somehow, it’s rich and creamy, with light custard flavors — yet also refreshing with citrus zest, which will complement the heaviness of a holiday meal. We found it a little to oaky for our palates, but we know people who will absolutely love it.

And if you’re finished with turkey leftovers, pair this Chardonnay with seafood or cheeses.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Stag’s Leap at Semiahmoo

img_0136We’ve been fans of Stag’s Leap wines for years, so we were delighted to find out the winery was holding a dinner on Nov. 3 at nearby Semiahmoo Resort. What an evening of taste sensations!

Chef Bruno paired each of Stag’s Leaps wines with a delicious five-course meal, while Kirk Grace, Stag’s Leap director of California vineyard operations, talked about the winery’s history and  winemaking. He made time to talk to everyone throughout the evening, and we learned that Stag’s Leap is one of California’s earliest wine estates, growing grapes in Napa Valley since the 1880s.

img_0150We enjoyed the company of two couples from Semiahmoo and Bellingham at our table, with a beautiful sunset forming a backdrop to the festivities at the scenic resort.

We are fortunate to live in this beautiful part of Washington state, and so close to friends and family in B.C. too.

Now onto the explosions of tastes that we enjoyed that night!

First Course: In a word, heaven.
Maple Cured Sockeye Salmon, Smoked Salmon Roe Pickled Cucumber, Red Miso Mayonnaise
— 2015 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars “Aveta” Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley, CA

img_0137Second Course: A wonderful pairing
Pan Seared Neah Bay Black Cod Penn Cove Mussels “Paella”
— 2014 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars “Karia” Chardonnay, Napa Valley, CA

Third Course: A lovely red blend
Foie Gras Terrine, Candied Purple Grapes
Sour Apple & Charred Blood Orange
— 2013 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars “Hands of Time” Red Blend, Napa Valley, CA

img_0147Fourth Course: Absolutely delicious – our favorite course and favorite wine
Japanese Wagyu Beef Tenderloin
Black Truffle Spätzle, Chanterelles, Red Wine Jus
— 2013 Stag’s Leap Cellars “Artemis”, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, CA

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Dessert: Yummy!
Warm Roasted Plum Tart, Pomegranate Sauce
— Chateau St. Michelle Late Harvest Ethos Riesling, WA

Congratulations to Stag’s Leap and Semiahmoo Resort for a special evening.

This event was part of the resort’s Vintner’s Dinner Series.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

 

 

Sbragia Family Vineyards

Sbragia Family Vineyards began in 2006 but its roots are in the love of wine by owner Ed Sbragia’s grandfather who moved to California from Tuscany in 1904. Much later, Ed’s father acquired his own vineyards near Healdsburg, growing zinfandel. And Ed himself began working for Beringer Vineyards in Napa in 1976.

The family tradition continues today, with Ed’s son and the rest of his family involved in Sbragia in the Dry Creek Valley. A 10th anniversary celebration is set for this fall.

The brand is well-known, so we were delighted to receive samples of two wines to taste.

Screen Shot 2016-09-04 at 9.49.56 AM2012 Monte Rosso Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon ($65)
This beautiful red comes from old vines planted in the 1880s in an historic California vineyard, and was rated 93+ from Wine Advocate.

The Cabernet Sauvignon (95%) was blended with 4% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot to give it structure and depth.

This is a big red, with notes of cedar, dark berry, black licorice and a bit of earthiness — a ripe, juicy wine that is drinkable now through 2022.

Pair it with steak, grilled meats, savory stew or dark chocolate. Delicious!

Screen Shot 2016-09-04 at 9.49.14 AM

2014 Home Ranch Chardonnay ($30)
Home Ranch Vineyard is located at the southeast end of Dry Creek Valley, where temperatures are cooler than most of the appellation. This results in bright fruit flavors of apple, pear and citrus, a hint of oak with a gravelly minerality, good structure and balanced acidity.

On the nose of this 100% Chardonnay, you’ll find aromas of tropical fruit, pear and toasted almonds in addition to apples, vanilla and baking spice from the oak.

Pair it with smoked salmon or trout, crab, prawns, seafood pasta or with creamy vegetable soups in the cooler evenings.

Ed Sbragia is well-known for his Chardonnays. He established the Beringer Reserve Chardonnay program and currently serves as Winemaster Emeritus there. Robert Parker said, “Sbragia has always demonstrated a Midas touch with Chardonnay.”

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Murrieta’s Well

Screen Shot 2016-09-04 at 8.18.34 AMTwo years ago, we wrote about how we enjoyed Murrieta’s Well 2011 The Spur from Livermore Valley ($25). We just tasted the 2013 vintage, and we liked it even more. While the price has increased to $30, so have the flavors, with a higher percentage of Petite Sirah and Cabernet Franc, and the addition of Merlot this year.

Crafted by the new director of winemaking, Robbie Meyer, this unique red wine blends 40% Petite Sirah, 26% Cabernet Sauvignon,10% Petit Verdot, 8% Merlot,  8% Malbec and 8% Cabernet Franc. In other words, the Petite Sirah forms a beautiful foundation for the classic Bordeaux varietals.

Each type of grape was harvested, fermented and handcrafted separately to achieve their greatest varietal expression, and then blended into The Spur. From the winemaker’s tasting notes:

“Beautiful fruit aromas of black cherry and blueberry are highlighted by subtle notes of sweet oak and earthy spice. A ripe tannic structure and balanced acidity make this wine perfect by itself or paired with your favorite recipes from the grill.”

We think this big blend would pair well with roasted or grilled meats, dishes with red sauces or rich cheese.

Screen Shot 2016-09-04 at 8.32.58 AMThanks to Murrieta’s Well for sending us a sample of The Spur, as well as 2014 The Whip, a white wine blend also from the Livermore Valley. While white blends aren’t our favorites, we know many people who would enjoy The Whip ($24).

The Whip blends 29% Semillon, 27% Chardonnay, 18% Sauvignon Blanc, 12% Orange Muscat, 8% Muscat Canelli and 6% Viognier; as with The Spur, each varietal was fermented individually. From the winemaker’s tasting notes:

“This unique wine showcases juicy fruit flavors of white peach, pear and melon with bright acidity and a touch of sweetness that creates a smooth and creamy finish.”

Murrieta’s Well is one of California’s original wineries, propagated in 1883 with vineyard cuttings from Chateau Margaux and Chateau d’Yquem in France. Need we say more? Oh, one more thing — Murrieta’s Well is owned by Philip Wente of Wente Vineyards, the country’s oldest, continuously operated family-owned winery.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Winemaker Dinners at Semiahmoo Resort

Screen Shot 2016-03-20 at 12.45.13 PMBring out your calendar and mark the dates for these winemaker dinners at the spectacular Semiahmoo Resort. Whether you live in Washington state, British Columbia, or anywhere, really, Semiahmoo Resort is a great weekend getaway with breathtaking scenery, kayaking, birdwatching, swimming and lots of other activities in addition to the winemaker dinners. We are lucky to live nearby!

July 28: Spring Valley Vineyards, WA
This dinner will feature Spring Valley wines paired with a mouth-watering five-course meal created by the resort’s Executive Chef Bruno. Dinner includes Japanese Wagu Beef Ribeye, along with other tasty courses. Winemaker Serge Laville will be available to answer your questions.

Save the dates for these upcoming dinners in the Vintners Series:

  • August 25: Wagner Family Wine featuring Caymus
  • Sept. 8: Rodney Strong
  • Oct. 4: Cakebread Cellars
  • Nov. 3: Stags Leap
  • Feb. 10, 2017: Second Annual DeLille Cellars Dinner
  • May 11, 2017: Joe Dobbes

For locals, the dinner price is $99 per person for Spring Valley, $125 for Rodney Strong, $135 for Cakebread Cellars, and $150 for Caymus and Stag’s Leap.

For those wanting a weekend getaway, dinner and resort packages and pricing will be available on Semiahmoo Resorts website closer to the date of each dinner.

We are looking forward to this series of events, and hope to see you there.

Cheers,
Margot and Dave