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Carneros Wine Alliance logo Picmonkey

TASTE News Service June 18, 2015 - The non-profit Carneros Wine Alliance will host a “Year of the Ram” 30th Birthday Bash on Saturday afternoon, July 25. The event will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the group’s founding as well as the 2015 Year of the Ram (“carneros” in Spanish) in the Chinese zodiac calendar. The Carneros wine region has American Viticultural Area (AVA) status and includes land in the southern parts of both Sonoma and Napa Counties.

Though famous for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, which represent approximately 90% of planted vineyard acres in Carneros, the remaining 10% includes varietals ranging from Syrah and Merlot to the more unusual Marsanne, Roussane, Albariño, Petit Verdot, Pinot Meunier, Vermentino, Grenache Blanc, and Tempranillo.

Anne Moller RackeAnne Moller Racke“When we founded the Carneros Wine Alliance 30 years ago we saw the potential for The Carneros AVA to be considered a leading appellation for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay,” reflected Anne Moller-Racke, CWA president and president and winegrower of The Donum Estate in Carneros. “Now, Carneros is known around the world as a producer of world-class wines and a wine capital in its own right. I’m so very proud and honored to have been part of this history and I’m looking forward to the next three decades of promoting our beautiful appellation and the wines that are created here.”

The 30th Birthday Bash is open to the public. A broad selection of Carneros wines is to be paired with locally sourced appetizers while participants enjoy live music and art at the stunning di Rosa property in the heart of Carneros. Tickets to the 30th Birthday Bash are limited and available at $100 a person. A portion of the proceeds will benefit di Rosa, a non-profit contemporary art museum celebrating the artists of Northern California. For further details visit: carneros.com/yearoftheram-30anniversary.

About the Carneros Wine Alliance:

The Carneros Wine Alliance is a non-profit association of wineries and grape-growers in the Carneros American Viticultural Area (AVA). Carneros is located at the crossroads of two major wine regions, the Napa and Sonoma Valleys. A cool-climate appellation influenced by the waters of the San Francisco Bay, Carneros has long been known for Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and sparkling wine production.

About di Rosa:

Located on over 200 acres in the Carneros region of Napa Valley, di Rosa celebrates the artists of Northern California through a wide array of exhibitions and educational programs for all ages. The permanent collection features nearly 2,000 works by 800 regional artists working from the 1960s to the present. A wide range of styles, media, and subject matter provide an overview of the creative energy and freedom to experiment that characterize this region of California. For more information, hours, and tour schedules, visit diRosaArt.org.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015 15:52

Explore Peanuts in Sonoma County

Charlie Brown sculpture Picmonkey

TASTE News Service June 10, 2015 - With a new Peanuts movie hitting movie screens in November 2015, this is a perfect time to celebrate the funny, touching, and loveable Peanuts cartoon characters by visiting their "home town", Santa Rosa, California.

Created by the late cartoonist Charles "Sparky" Schulz, the Peanuts gang lives in our hearts and minds: Charlie Brown working up the courage to talk to the red-haired girl. Lucy pulling away the football at the last possible moment, or just being her crabby self. Linus philosophizing while clutching his security blanket. Snoopy flying his doghouse in a battle against the Red Baron, dancing with wild abandon, or simply being cool.

Schulz passed away in 2000, but his characters continue to charm us, and make us laugh. Nowhere is their presence felt more than in Sonoma County, which Schulz called home for more than 40 years. He moved to the town of Sebastopol in 1958, and settled in Santa Rosa in the early 70s.

A modest man, Schulz nixed the idea of sculptures of himself. However, he approved statues of his characters. In tribute, the city of Santa Rosa sponsored "Peanuts on Parade" art projects, in which local artists decorated five-foot-tall fiberglass statues of a single character.

Charlie Brown figures were decorated in the summer of 2005, Woodstock in 2006, Snoopy in 2007, and Lucy in 2010. In all, the program distributed more than 200 statues and raised more than $500,000 for art scholarships and to install permanent bronze Peanuts sculptures at three sites in town.

As a result, whimsically decorated images of these four Peanuts characters are scattered across Santa Rosa and its environs, tempting fans to explore the community that Schulz loved. Each individual statue has its own color scheme and personality, depending on the organization or individual who commissioned each piece and the vision of the artist who decorated it. Although they are privately owned, more than 70 are still in public view.

Sonoma County has designed a two-day itinerary to take you to some of the most memorable and entertaining of those images, along with places significant to Schulz.

Editor’s Note: If you’re planning a trip to Sonoma County, we suggest first visiting 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 Sonoma Wineries and Craft Beer Purveyors.

Sunday, 07 June 2015 14:34

June 5, 2015 Wine Pick of the Week

Bodkin Cuvee Agincourt Picmonkey

Cuvée Agincourt (N/V)

 Blanc de Sauvignon Blanc


Bodkin Wines

North Coast

Alcohol: 11.5%

Suggested Retail: $23


“The thought of a sparkling wine made from Sauvignon Blanc grapes was intriguing. Your reviewer had never tasted one. Never even heard of one ‘til recently. Apparently, they’re not unknown in Australia and New Zealand, where winemaker Chris Christensen found inspiration to create such a wine in California. To our knowledge, Bodkin Wines’ Cuvée Agincourt is the only such wine made in America.

“In years past, almost any wine with bubbles was labeled ‘Champagne.’ However, most wineries outside France now eschew using the name ‘Champagne’ on their effervescent wines, not wanting to unfairly appropriate a place name for a similar product (which would be kind of like a winery in some other country producing a Cabernet Sauvignon and calling it ‘Napa Valley’). However, emulating the style of winemaking in the Champagne region of France isn’t a bad way to go if you want to produce a quality sparkler. Such style would include using Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and—to a lesser extent—Pinot Meuneir, the traditional grapes of Champagne. California is turning out ever better efforts in this methode traditionelle.

“But who’s to say that’s the only way to make a good-tasting sparkling wine? Unfettered by tradition and regulation of their Gallic counterparts, California winemakers have always been innovative. Cuvée Agincourt is made entirely of Sauvignon Blanc grapes sourced from Lake County and the Russian River area of Sonoma County. When first tasted, it was not clearly recognizable as Sauvignon Blanc, yet it wasn’t quite like Champagne or California sparklers either. There was that yeasty, toasty aspect reminiscent of Champagne (the French stuff), but predominant aromas and flavor came across to us in a more citrusy personality. The mid-palate was fairly rich and showed a roundness in the mouth. The wine finished dry and lingered a bit. Unsure about the whole idea when we first popped the cork, we warmed to this unique wine as we got used to a taste and style new to us. It’s an interesting concept, one we suspect will encourage similar experimentation by other California wineries.

“As the wine itself is intriguing, so is the story behind it. The name Bodkin, the Battle of Agincourt and the winery’s motto all tie together, but it’s too involved to get into here. We suggest you check out the winery website--or your books on European history and a copy of William Shakespeare’s Henry V.”

Food Affinity: “We enjoyed Cuvée Agincourt with grilled chicken breasts that had been marinated in lime juice, Tequila and cilantro. You might try this wine with brunch-time egg dishes or smoked salmon.

Tuesday, 02 June 2015 18:55

An Icon Exits

By Dan Clarke


Geo Starke photo courtesy of St Helena Star PicmonkeyGeorge Starke photo courtesy of St. Helena StarMy friend George Starke died Saturday.

After serving his country as a naval officer in World War II, George enjoyed a career as a petroleum engineer. He and his wife Bette moved up to the Napa Valley after leaving Standard Oil.

In the early days of his retirement George and Bette were involved in the ownership of Napa Cellars winery, but we met subsequent to that part of his life. George was penning his column, Up and Down the Wine Roads, for the St. Helena Star and I was writing for the California Wine Press. He had taught wine classes for UC Irvine in Southern California and, later, at Napa Valley College. He knew all the major players in Napa’s wine scene and most of the minor ones, too. Though living in Sacramento, I was in the Napa Valley frequently and would always pick up a copy of the Star, mostly to read what George had to say. His column was breezy—sort of a wine country version of those by the San Francisco Chronicle’s Herb Caen—but there was real news in it.

Our paths crossed frequently at winery events. He and Bette were delightful company. She was substitute teaching in the Valley and would sometimes have a story or two to share about how her day had gone. George and I could swap wine writer tales and, on occasion, he’d even ask what I knew about some developing story. Hardly ever would I know more than he did, unless the action was taking place far beyond Napa. Mostly I listened and learned.

Though they were older than I was, George and Bette didn’t seem like it. They were fun to be around and must have been way more adventurous than most of their contemporaries. This morning I spoke to David Stoneberg, Editor of the St. Helena Star, seeking permission to run a picture of George for this article. During our conversation I mentioned a moment with George and Bette at a luncheon in San Francisco about 20 years ago. They had just returned from a trip and George was still feeling the effects of a European skiing accident. I confessed my fear of heights and said I’d stick to cross-country, adding, “But, George, I guess if a man grew up with downhill skiing it’s probably not so intimidating.” That might be so, he concurred, but he hadn’t grown up in the sport. He said he’d taken up skiing just two or three years earlier. Mr. Stoneberg replied that George had long championed the construction of a zipline running out of the Napa hills toward the valley floor. Though the zipline didn’t come to pass, the publisher said George would likely have been the first passenger for such a thrill ride. He showed a zest for life many younger folks might have admired, but didn’t emulate.

George Starke is survived by Bette, his wife of 68 years, sons James and Paul, grandson Zane and granddaughters Elizabeth and Francine.

George had a shorthand for recurring aspects of his column—things like “Didyaknow” and “Rumor Du Jour,” but always ended with what he called a “Caboose Item.”

In David Stoneberg’s obituary, which appeared in both the St. Helena Star and the Napa Register on June 1, 2015, he reprised George’s last Caboose Item which ran in both those papers on May 7th:

“My ballpoint pen has been sputtering lately, so I took it to downtown St. Helena, and was told by several shops that it was running out of ink and could not be repaired.

“The alternative is to replace it with a new pen. At my stage in life, an investment in a new pen seems to be less than prudent. I made several inquiries to find a ‘lend-lease’ arrangement, but none of the merchants seemed interested. So, it appears that the only solution is to, after over a half a century of writing, call it quits. I need to thank all who submitted material to me. And to all of my faithful readers — thank you!”

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



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.”

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