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Jack and Jamie Davies PicmolnkeyJack and Jamie Davies

TASTE News Service (May 31, 2015) — Schramsberg Vineyards, America’s first craft sparkling wine house, celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2015. Hugh Davies, second-generation vintner, will be kicking-off various retrospective tastings, winemaker dinners and events beginning in September thru December 2015. The winery is also releasing a special 50th anniversary bottling to commemorate this golden celebration.

In 1965, Jack and Jamie Davies revived the Schramsberg winery on the property originally founded in 1862 by German immigrants Jacob and Annie Schram. Their vision was to create the first American sparkling wine from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes — utilizing secondary bottle fermentation just as is done in Champagne.

At a time when there were only 22 wineries in Napa Valley and fewer than 500 acres of California vineyards planted to Chardonnay and Pinot Noir combined, Jack and Jamie set out to make sparkling wine in the true méthode traditionelle style. Theirs was the first American winery to produce a Blanc de Blancs in 1965, followed by a Blanc de Noirs in 1967. Now, 50 years later, their son Hugh Davies, who was born the same year the Davies arrived at Schramsberg, leads the winery’s management and winemaking team with the same resolute vision as did Jack and Jamie.

“To look at how far we’ve come since 1965, from those first 200 cases of Blanc de Blancs to where we are now, it’s overwhelming in a great way,” states Hugh Davies, second-generation vintner of Schramsberg Vineyards. “But I have to remember that it didn’t happen overnight. It has taken years of dedication to my parent’s vision and commitment from multiple generations of families, friends and employees to get us to this point. It is a privilege to be able to take this year and celebrate the love and passion of those that have made Schramsberg what it is today.”

The Schramsberg winery property is tucked into the densely forested slopes of Diamond Mountain, a few miles south of the town of Calistoga, and home to the oldest hillside vineyards in Napa Valley. It totals 218 acres with 43 acres planted to vines. While initially the winery worked with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir vines on the home property and in the upper Napa Valley to produce its sparkling wines, Schramsberg has expanded and improved its vineyard range to include more than 100 cool-climate sites throughout Carneros, Anderson Valley, and along the Sonoma and Marin coasts. Starting in 1990, the winery began replanting Cabernet Sauvignon on the home property. These grapes would eventually provide Diamond Mountain District fruit for the family’s J. Davies Estate Cabernet.

Hugh Davies and Family PicmonkeyThe current and future faces of SchramsbergThe original 1889 J. Schram Victorian house has been lovingly restored by the Davies family, and Hugh, wife Monique, and their three sons reside there today. The lower winery, barn and caves remain largely unchanged since the 19th century. Originally, starting in the 1870s, more than 10,000 square feet of caves were hand-dug into volcanic rock by Chinese laborers. Additional cave tunnels have been added over the past 50 years, providing 34,000 square feet of ideal underground storage for the aging of Schramsberg’s sparkling wine bottles.

In 1972, Schramsberg played its first role in world history, when its Blanc de Blancs was served at President Nixon’s “Toast to Peace” with China’s Premier Zhou Enlai. This was the first time a California wine had been served by a U.S. president on the world stage. The media coverage for this historic moment not only highlighted the Schramsberg brand, but was an initial catalyst for the attention that would follow for wines made in Napa Valley and California. Schramsberg’s sparkling wines have been served at official state functions by every U.S. presidential administration since.

Today, Hugh, with his family and the veteran winery staff, successfully build upon what was started 50 years ago. By incorporating tradition, innovation, and sustainability in all of its practices, Schramsberg Vineyards is as committed as ever to pressing the envelope of quality in crafting world-class sparkling wines. (Here's a three-minute video update from the winery)

Editor's Note: If you're planning a visitr to the Napa Valley you'll find links to Winery websites, as well as links to the sites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining options, in Taste California Travel's Resource Directory.

Saturday, 16 May 2015 16:28

May 15, 2015 Wine Pick of the Week

Sbragia Ginos Zin Picmonkey

2012 Gino’s Zinfandel

 

Sbragia Family Vineyards

Dry Creek Valley

Alcohol: 15.1%

Suggested Retail: $34

 

“Sonoma County’s Dry Creek Valley produces other wine varieties, but few would deny that this growing region is best-known for its Zinfandel. Both the variety and the land are in the blood of Ed and Adam Sbragia, father and son winemakers for Sbragia Family Vineyards. Ed’s grandfather, a Tuscan immigrant, came to Sonoma County just after the turn-of-the-century (not the last one, but the one before that—around 1900). He worked for Italian Swiss Colony, among other wineries. Ed’s Dad, Gino, grew grapes for sale and for home winemaking.

“For years Ed was associated with Beringer in St. Helena. There he oversaw a high volume operation, but also made some wonderful smaller production wines, particularly those based on Cabernet and Merlot. These justified the winery calling him their Winemaster, rather than just the winemaker. A quote included in background information provided by his current family winery reads, ‘For 32 years I drove to Napa and made Cabernet and Chardonnay, but when I came home to Sonoma we drank Zinfandel.’

“The grapes for this week’s ‘Pick’ come from three Sbragia vineyards; La Promessa, Italo’s and Gino’s. The latter two, though primarily Zinfandel, were planted in what was known as a field blend (In earlier times, California growers would often plant a vineyard with a field blend of multiple grape varieties in the percentages that they thought would make the best tasting wine, rather than assembling separate varietal lots after crushing). The 2012 Gino’s Zinfandel, an homage to Eds’s Dad/Adam’s Grandfather, is made up of 94% Zinfandel, 4% Carignane and 2% Petite Sirah.  It was aged in French oak barrels for 18 months.

“On opening this wine we found it big, but not overwhelming. We returned to the bottle several times in the next 24-hours and enjoyed it more as time went on. With some aeration it definitely opened up to show complexity not evident when the cork was first pulled. There’s a peppery quality found in many--but not all--Zinfandels that can manifest itself in different guises. Sometimes it’s powerful, like freshly-cracked black pepper. At other times, it can be much lighter and seem like the dustiness of finely-ground white pepper, such as in the aroma of the 2012 Gino's Zinfandel. We noticed other herbal influences, too, but they were subtler and hard to identify. The winery says there are fruit aspects red in character (raspberries, cherries, etc.). We don’t disagree with this observation, but our palate also tasted black fruit qualities like blackberries and dark plums. At 15.1% alcohol, this is a substantial wine, but—unlike some Zins at 15 or above—it doesn’t seem 'hot' or too-big-to-be-balanced. Long finish and very satisfying overall.”

Food Affinity: “Red sauced dishes—but full-flavored ones. Bistecca Fiorentina or maybe just a backyard-grilled London Broil, accompanied by some mushrooms sautéed in olive oil, fresh rosemary and shallots.

ThreePalms Vnyd PicmonkeyThree Palms, America's best-known Merlot vineyard

TASTE News Service – May 14, 2015 – Yesterday Duckhorn Wine Company announced that, after 37 years of making wines from its coveted fruit, the company has acquired Napa Valley’s legendary Three Palms Vineyard. Duckhorn Vineyards made its inaugural Three Palms Vineyard Merlot in 1978. This iconic wine helped to pioneer luxury Merlot in California, and played a pivotal role in establishing it as one of North America’s great premium varietals.

Three Palms was acquired from Sloan and John Upton for an undisclosed price. Duckhorn Wine Company has been purchasing all of the grapes from the 83-acre Three Palms Vineyard since 2011. Fruit from Three Palms will continue to be used exclusively in Duckhorn Vineyards wines.

Three Palms Vineyard has long been recognized for its unique history and its benchmark Merlots. In the late 1800s, the property was owned by San Francisco socialite Lillie Coit (Coit Tower), who planted the site’s three landmark palm trees. In 1967, the rocky alluvial fan was acquired by the Uptons, who planted it the following year. The vineyard has sparse, bale loam soils. In many spots the vines’ roots dig as deep as 18 feet in search of nutrients. Because of the challenging soils, the vineyard is planted to only 545 vines per acre. Three Palms is also covered by volcanic stones, which absorb the sun’s heat during the day and radiate the heat back to the vines at night, protecting against frost and helping to ripen the fruit. In addition, the vineyard’s warm up-valley location contributes to a shorter season with exceptional ripening. Of Three Palms’ 83 total acres, 73 are under vine, with approximately 50 acres planted to Merlot, and the rest planted to smaller amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec. The average vine age at Three Palms Vineyard is roughly 20 years, with the most recent plantings in 1999. Dan Duckhorn PicmonkeyDan Duckhorn

“This is a very special day for us,” said Duckhorn Wine Company Founder and Chairman Dan Duckhorn. “We have championed the remarkable character and quality of Merlot from Three Palms Vineyard since our debut vintage. We released that inaugural vintage at the then high price of $12.50, because we wanted people to understand that it was a Merlot of exceptional quality. This message connected with people. Not only has the Duckhorn Vineyards story always been tied to the story of Three Palms, our long friendship with Sloan and John has been one of the wine industry’s most successful and enduring partnerships. We are honored that they are entrusting us to carry on their life’s work, and to carry their great legacy forward.”

Editor’s note: Three Palms Vineyard is not set up for visitors, but is readily identifiable to wine fans driving past on the Silverado Trail. If you’re traveling to wine country, check out the listings in the North Coast section of Taste California Travel’s Resource Directory. There you will find links to the websites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining options, as well as links to sites of all the wineries.

Napa V Auction shot Picmonkey

by Julie Ann Kodmur

May 13, 2015

Is there a “perception vs. reality” problem in Napa Valley? This publicist thinks so. And if it doesn’t get fixed soon, there may be unfortunate consequences. Let’s dip into a real world scenario. In case you haven’t heard, the Napa Valley is now in the middle of a whirlwind of controversy about whether there should be a moratorium on new wineries and vineyard development (among other related issues). To that end, the Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission appointed a task force to consider these issues. Called the Agricultural Protection Advisory Committee, it’s composed primarily of environmentalists with a couple of token wine industry people. The Napa Valley Register reports “The Agricultural Protection Advisory Committee is trying to figure out whether Napa County is choking on its own wine country success and, if so, what to do about it. Residents have brought up issues ranging from too much traffic to a perception that winery tourism is trumping agriculture.”

What does it mean to be a winery today? In a time when distributors are disappearing isn’t having a chance to present your ‘brand’ in your ‘home’ crucial? At yesterday’s Committee meeting, some members proposed that a Napa Valley winery be at least 40 acres in size. Say what?! In these fast-changing times, where a garagiste winemaker can present unique wines in a unique and perhaps “tiny” spot (certainly smaller than 40 acres)? How can the public not understand that a “winery” can come to life in any number of unusual configurations?

Back to perception vs. reality. I would suggest that “real” people are confusing hard-working vintners with the marketing of wineries. Namely, let’s look at Auction Napa Valley, coming up in early June. Live lots this year are full of bling, no question. They include a private concert by a rock star at a vintner’s home, trips to Europe and the Kentucky Derby, tickets to the Emmys, private jets, SEAL immersion and of course much more; the online e-lots are a marketing triumph as well for their creativity and diversity.

Here’s the disconnect. Auction Napa Valley is in a race to be the world’s biggest, best, most lavish, most written about wine auction. How do you achieve that? Flashier, ever more outlandish, more wow factor. But just as the Auction is ever more extravagant, it increases what you might call the squirm factor. Who is the beneficiary of all of this lavishness? “Real” people, disadvantaged kids, vineyard workers, senior citizens. No one that you will run into strolling the grounds of Meadowood sipping sparkling wine and eating caviar.

The real conundrum, from a publicity point of view, is that by masterfully marketing Brand Napa Valley through the Auction, you set up unintended consequences—alienating locals, who might not realize that the wining and dining which vintners do all the time is actually real work and hard work. As a ‘real’ person living in the Napa Valley, you’re watching this. Maybe a vineyard is going in next door or the winery down the road seems to have more cars on weekends. How can you not be resentful? The 1% are twirling around right in front of you. Where do you channel that frustration? What do you do about resenting that conspicuous consumption beginning to engulf you?

So are there really too many wineries in the Napa Valley? I doubt anyone really knows (how could anyone know?). Only the marketplace will tell us. But….that’s the perception that zealous environmentalists are trying to turn into reality. Where are the winery marketers portraying the reality, of wineries who give back to the community, who send superb products into the world, who fight for every sale and every customer? It’s too tough a balancing act—to equate the lifestyle of the rich and famous (aka Auction Napa Valley) with ‘real’ people.

So what have years of glitzy auctions created? A rumbling of class warfare, of the haves and have nots …. and sadly, a failure of targeted publicity and marketing on home base, where it matters.

More about author Julie Ann Kodmur can be found at www.julieannkodmur.com

Saturday, 09 May 2015 14:29

May 8, 2015 Wine Pick of the Week

manteo bottle Picmonkey

Manteo

 

2012 Red Wine

American Pioneer Wine Growers

Sonoma County

Alcohol: 13.5%

Suggested Retail: $18

 

“Writers get continual messages about the latest wine releases. Sometimes these accompany unsolicited samples sent for review. Occasionally, however, an e-mailed press release will be intriguing enough for a wine writer to respond and request a bottle be sent. Such was the case with this week’s ‘Pick.’

“According to the Manteo website, American Pioneer Wine Growers marketed wines during the 19th Century using proprietary names derived from American culture.  The name of this company has been resurrected by film director and winery owner Francis Ford Coppola, who apparently wants to develop a brand separate from his own identity or that of two other wineries he owns (the historic Inglenook estate in the Napa Valley and Francis Ford Coppola in Sonoma County). 

"A little internet searching reveals that Manteo is the name of a city in the Outer Banks of North Carolina and that there really was a fellow named Manteo, a Croatan Indian who befriended the English settlers of the Roanoke Colony. Subsequently, he and another of his people, Wanchese, actually traveled to England twice during the 1580’s and lived for short periods there. One can only imagine whether the experience was stranger for the guests or for their hosts.

“It would appear that Manteo was a stand-up guy, who treated the colonists well. The label depicts him as the protector of a white girl, Roanoke Governor John White's daughter who was the first English child born in the New World. We don’t know how closely Manteo resembled his picture on the label, but the packaging of this wine is unusual—it’s handsome and visually arresting.  It doesn’t look like any label we’ve ever seen. 

"The wine's website states, somewhat cryptically, ‘Manteo is the second release in a series of wines that will reveal the name of our new winery in Geyserville.’ The White Doe and Two Arrowheads are additional wines mentioned. Will there be other wines released referencing Indian (native American) lore? We have no idea, but at first glance the theme seems a curious direction. To our knowledge there is no history of Indians vinifying native American grape varieties. However, wild grapes did exist when the earliest European settlers came to this new world and a winery spokeswoman tells us that there is a 400-year-old Scuppernong vine on Roanoke Island. A cutting from it will soon be planted in a vineyard at the as-yet-unnamed winery in Geryserville.

“Marketing aspects aside, we can report that we liked the wine. It’s a blend of eight red wine grapes from Sonoma County: Syrah (28%), Petit Verdot (16%), Cabernet Sauvignon (16%), Cabernet Franc (15%), Petite Sirah (13%), Merlot (6%), Malbec (4%) and Zinfandel (2%). We found aromas of raspberries, white pepper and herbes de Provence (the blend without lavender). In the mouth there is more of that raspberry personality, amplified by plums, some blackberry jam and a bit of spice. This is a dry table wine, but we found it finishes with just a hint of sweetness. There were some subtle aspects we found reminiscent of Rhône grape characteristics (Syrah and Petite Sirah), but more of the personality comes from the Bordeaux varieties and tiny bit of Zin. This Manteo was very juicy and showed a lot of fruit.”

Food Affinity: “Sweet Italian sausages in a tomato sauce with sautéed onions and green peppers.”

Saturday, 18 April 2015 15:33

April 17, 2015 Wine Pick of the Week

Mondavi 99 Cab S. Reservr Picmonkey

1998 Cabernet Sauvignon Res.

 

Robert Mondavi

Napa Valley

Alcohol: 14%

Suggested Retail: $145 (for the current release)

 

After disappointment when opening a Bordeaux of similar age a couple of weeks ago (see our wine “Pick” for April 3), our publisher got nervous about a few other older wines he’d been saving for special occasions. Today’s featured wine had special meaning for him, since it was a bottle given to attendees at Robert Mondavi’s 90th birthday party. Better to pop a cork a little too early than too late, he figured. Fortunately, this wine from the 1998 vintage fared much better than the ’99 Chateau Magnol.

“I hadn’t sampled this particular vintage of the Mondavi Reserve Cabernet in years. When opened this week for a family birthday dinner it was different from the way I remembered it. Not worse. Not better. Just different. This Napa Cabernet Sauvignon had traded power for finesse. If it didn’t have the commanding presence that could overshadow most first-growth Bordeaux in its youth, at age 17 it did show an almost delicate side. Sourced primarily from the Oakville AVA and with most of the fruit coming from the famed To Kalon vineyard, this Cabernet Sauvignon includes a bit of Cabernet Franc (12%) and a smidgen of Petit Verdot (2%). The aroma still evokes blackberries and black currants, with a little spice in the background. Those fruits make up a major part of the taste, along with dark plum characteristics. On the palate, the wine seems lighter than younger versions of quality Napa Cabernet, but there is a long, lingering finish. Wine is a living beverage that changes over time. The presumption that older wine is automatically better than young, isn’t necessarily accurate. This week’s experience with the ’98 Mondavi Reserve was delightful, but I’m happy I chose to open the bottle this year, rather than next.”

Food Affinity: “Almost any good red meat would be enhanced by the presence of this wine in your glass (for that matter, so might special vegetarian dishes). We referenced power and finesse above—we think this wine would be a great pairing with a prime grade filet mignon, cooked medium rare.”

 

Napa V Education Ctr Charleston SC PicmonkeyCharleston tasters experience a bit of Napa Valley

TASTE News Service, March 30, 2015 - Mira Winery celebrated the Grand Opening of the Napa Valley Education Center & Tasting Room (NVEC) in mid-March. The facility gives visitors a unique Napa experience - a premiere wine destination but in Charleston, S.C., a historic culinary destination. It will offer a number of programs using interactive displays, videos and visiting speakers.

“The Napa Valley Education Center & Tasting Room is the first of its kind and we’re thrilled it is finally open,” said Mira President Jim Dyke, Jr. “Napa Valley is one of the leading winemaking regions in the world. We want to give people a sense of its place, educate them about wine and the variety of elements necessary to create wine. We believe the NVEC will become a community resource for locals and visitors alike.”

Grand opening events included a blending session led by Mira winemaker Gustavo Gonzalez in which participants created their own wine. This was followed by a discussion of vineyard practices and the Stags Leap District of Napa Valley hosted by Steve Schweizer of Schweizer Vineyards. His conversation with wine club members is the first in the NVEC’s Distinguished Speaker Series that brings leading members of the wine industry to Charleston to share their experiences and knowledge. “Napa Valley – where we source all of our grapes – has a certain magic to it. We try to capture some of that magic in every bottle of Mira, and we hope to express the same through the NVEC,” Gonzalez said. “The excitement we’ve seen from visitors, residents, and guests suggests the NVEC is a must-stop.”

The NVEC is distinguished by an 18 x 29 foot mural by famed artist David Boatwright on the side of the 68 ½ Queen Street building – an adaptation of Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s “Luncheon of the Boating Party” named “Renoir Redux: Exceptional Pairings.”

Mira began as a partnership between Gustavo Gonzalez, whose 20-year winemaking career started in a winery lab and led him to be head red Winemaker for Robert Mondavi Winery, and Dyke whose 20-year political career started with parking cars in the Senate Parking lot and led him to the White House. Wine writer Steve Heimoff noted, “Winemaker Gustavo Gonzalez left Robert Mondavi to do his own thing, and what an auspicious start … The wine is wonderful.”

Editor’s Note: If you’re planning to visit Napa County wineries, we suggest you first check out Taste California Travel’s Resource Directory. In it you will find links to the websites of nearly all the wineries, as well as links to hundreds of Lodging and Dining options in the area.

Saturday, 28 March 2015 14:35

March 27, 2015 Wine Pick of the Week

Grgich Napa V Chard Picmonkey

2012 Napa Valley Chardonnay

 

Grgich Hills Estate

Napa Valley

Alcohol: 13.5%

Suggested Retail: $42

 

“Croatian immigrant Miljenko “Mike” Grgich secured his reputation for all time when a Chardonnay he made as winemaker at Napa’s Chateau Montelena bested several top-quality French white Burgundies. That event is now known as the Judgement of Paris, which is also the name of a book by George Taber, a Time magazine reporter who attended the 1976 tasting. Soon after this triumph Mike opened his own winery in a partnership with Austin Hills of the Hills Bros. coffee family. Though Grgich Hills Estate makes several other varieties including a wonderful Zinfandel, it’s probably best known for its Chardonnay. Nothing wrong with that.

“To oversimplify, French Chardonnay grown in Burgundy tends to have a leaner, less-buttery character than California examples of this variety. It’s subtler and may be an acquired taste for many Americans. Grgich Chardonnays from the Napa Valley tend to show the sophistication of these white Burgundies, but with a California richness that seems to us to be the best of both worlds.

“Though Mike Grgich hasn’t officially retired, his nephew Ivo Jeramaz carries the title Vice President of Vineyards and Winemaking and is pretty much responsible for the wine these days. Ivo is a proponent of natural grapegrowing and all of the winery’s vineyards are now certified as organic. Most California Chardonnay wines undergo a process called malolactic fermentation, which softens the taste and may make them more attractive in the near-term. Because Grgich Chardonnay doesn’t follow this winemaking process, it retains a natural acidity which tends to make the wine a better match for food and may improve its ability to age. Complexity is enhanced by a technique known as sur lie aging in which the juice is periodically stirred or otherwise agitated with the lees (spent yeast cells). While the process may not sound appealing, it yields wines with greater richness and complexity.

“The 2012 Grgich Hills Chardonnay shows some aromas of apple and hazelnuts, followed by layered flavors of apple and melon. Lovely long finish for this elegant Chardonnay.”

Food Affinity: “It wouldn’t be bad with just simple barbecued chicken, but it is special enough to justify spending on more upscale pairing. How about scallops or almost any preparation of lobster?”

J Tray Flutes BubbleRoom Picmonkey

TASTE News Service March 24, 2015 - E. & J. Gallo Winery (Gallo) and J Vineyards & Winery announced today that Gallo has agreed to purchase the critically-acclaimed sparkling wine producer. Founded in 1986 by Judy Jordan, J Vineyards & Winery is located in Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley and produces a wide range of prized sparkling wines, Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris.

According to Roger Nabedian, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Gallo’s Premium Wine Division, "We are very excited to add the J Vineyards & Winery brands to our premium portfolio of wines. The brand’s contemporary elegance has a unique position in the marketplace." He added, "J Vineyards & Winery is well known for their award-winning sparkling wines and we look forward to carrying on the winery’s reputation of making elegant, luxurious wines."

The acquisition, which includes the Healdsburg winery and more than 300 acres spread over nine vineyards within the Sonoma Coast and Russian River Valley AVAs, expands Gallo’s presence and properties in California’s prestigious North Coast wine country. Gallo already owns nine wineries strategically located in wine regions throughout California and Washington.

"Over the last 30 years, I have created and built J Vineyards & Winery from a small sparkling wine house to an iconic luxury brand producing not only sparkling wines but also award-winning Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris," said founder Judy Jordan. She added, "I am proud to announce today that I have found the perfect fit to take this beautiful company to even greater heights. E. & J. Gallo is also privately owned and shares similar core values as both companies are dedicated to a balance of quality, community, and financial sustainability. I look forward to my new chapter of building a mentorship platform as I honor and salute the outstanding new stewards of J Vineyards & Winery."

Demeter Group, a San Francisco-based investment bank for beverage alcohol companies, acted as J Vineyards & Winery’s exclusive financial advisor on the transaction. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The sale is scheduled to close this Friday, March 27. 

Saturday, 28 February 2015 12:51

February 27, 2015 Wine Pick of the Week

sofia red bottle shot Picmonkey

2013 Sofia Red

Francis Ford Coppola Winery

 Paso Robles

Alcohol: 13.5%

Suggested Retail: $17

 

Named for the daughter of the famous filmmaker and winery owner, Sofia Red is put up in an unusual, and undeniably beautiful, bottle. This is the debut vintage for the red wine, though there have been earlier releases of two sparkling wines, one of them non-alcoholic, a rosé, a Riesling and a Chardonnay. 

Sofia Red’s composition is the trendy ‘GSM’ blend of Grenache (62%), Syrah (37%) and Mouvèdre (1%). These are grape varieties native to the Rhône Valley of France, though they are popular in California and Washington these days. While the Coppola winery is situated in Northern California’s Sonoma County, the fruit for this wine was grown in the warm climes of Paso Robles on the Central Coast.

Our reviewer was intrigued by this wine, but he wasn’t expecting to like it, assuming it was targeting an audience of women who drink aromatic and slightly sweet wines as their preferred cocktail. It’s likely that he guessed the audience the winery had in mind, but says he may have dismissed the wine way too early.

“Sofia Red exhibits some aromas of cherries and raspberries and gives the consumer layered berry flavors backed by a bit of spice. Tastes were light and lilting and, perhaps surprisingly, showed a hint of complexity. Finishes with a long, cherry-like conclusion that was too sweet for Taste California Travel, but probably hits right in the middle of that ‘sweet spot’ sought by the makers.”

Food Affinity: “A likely winner with Sunday brunch—French toast with cinnamon, syrup and sausage? For evening fare, baby back (pork) ribs or salmon bisque might be interesting.”

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