Saturday, June 29, 2019

The Napa Cabs of Summer

Last winter I picked up some Napa Cabs thinking we would have a small tasting. It didn't happen, but I was able to get something going over the summer. I knew Jennifer would love to taste some of her favorites; she's known for her love of Stag's Leap cabs. Karol mentioned his wife's favorite winery, Spring Mountain, and I thought we could use some new blood in our tasting group. Ted has always been known for his love of Napa Cabs. We rounded out the group with Jose, who prefers Zins, but never says no to a tasting.

Recent winery tastings had brought my attention to modern, angular wine glasses. Given we primarily had Pinot glasses and throwing in some toughness convinced me to push the Amazon buy button on Schott Zwiesel, Tritan Crystal, Cabernet glasses. Truthfully, there wasn't much arm twisting involved.

The glasses are beautiful, easy to wash and dry, and a joy to use. We're very happy with our decision, although Sue thinks I went a little overboard with the number of times I clicked the button.

When Paul was preparing their bottle, the cork broke. This worried Jennifer and they decided to give it a taste only to find it off, possibly corked. At Jennifer's insistence Paul ran back to their house and picked up another bottle.

We offered two choices to whet appetites: A 2012 Rhys, Horseshoe Vineyard, Chardonnay and a 2018 Patz & Hall, Sonoma Coast, Rose. We had been cellaring the Chard for awhile and although their vintage chart still said to hold, I thought it was time. It was very nice and its taste improved as it warmed to room temperature. We've really been enjoying the Rose and wanted to share. Not everyone likes Rose, Ted, cough, so we offered the Chard as well.

As a special treat, we offered elk and deer summer sausage on the meat plate, a gift from my cousin's husband Justin. It tasted great and the novelty enticed everyone to try and enjoy. Thanks Justin!

Sue prepared the backyard for our first of the summer event, positioning her flowers and lights to great effect.

We gave everyone three glasses, tasting the six wines in two rounds, followed by a final round of comparisons.


D - 2016 Amici, Reserve came in first place with an average of 3.98. It cost $80. Jose brought this and said "I was planning to get the silver oak, but in my search for it in K&L Wines the Amici also came up, and it had higher ratings. 96 from Jeb Dunnuck, 94 from Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate, 94 from James Suckling, 93 from Vinous."

B - 2005 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars, Cask 23 came in second place with an average of 3.76. It costs $270 from KnL. Paul and Jennifer brought this from her private stash.

E - 2013 Hartwell, Stag's Leap District, Estate came in third place with an average of 3.73. It cost $120. Ted and Shannon brought this.

F - 2014 Crossbarn came in fourth place with an average of 3.66. It cost $46. Sue and I brought this. It was on a list when I was searching the internet. 2014 was supposed to be a great year.

C - 2015 Robert Mondavi, To Kalon Vineyard, Oakville came in fifth place with an average of 3.31. It cost $125. Sue and I brought this. Mondavi was instrumental in the establishment of Napa. I had never tried one of his wines and figured this was a good place to start.

A - 2014 Chateau Montelena, Estate came in last place with an average of 3.27. It cost $130. Sue and I also brought this. Who doesn't want to enjoy a Chateau Montelena? It's a great wine.

I managed to secure the last three places, not a trivial task.

The unveiling almost went wrong given a copy/paste error in my spreadsheet that showed 4 ties for last place. Thankfully we fixed this after the second reveal.

Karol and Amber shared a lovely 2006 Spring Mountain blend with us that we had disallowed from the tasting because it was denoted as a red wine and not a cab. You'd think we would have given Karol a break, but we didn't.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Carlos Loves Oregon Pinots

Carlos is always talking about how much he enjoys Oregon Pinots. We've enjoyed some, but mainly stick to California Pinots given that we mostly drink wine from the wineries we visit. We decided to give them a try. Temperatures kept us inside, and we chose to keep it simple, limiting us to 4 couples, including us. Unfortunately, we couldn't include all the usuals, but this did allow us to bring out one glass for each wine.

We started with a 2016 Domaine Serene, Dundee Hills, Chard. It was an excellent introduction into Oregon wines.


B - 2015 Evening Land, La Source, Seven Springs Estate, Eola-amity Hills came in first place with an average of 3.25. I picked this up a year or two ago from the winery's website after doing some online research. I found out after that I could have purchased it via KnL and avoided the shipping and handling. It cost $75.

C - 2015 Domaine Serene, Evensted Reserve, Willamette Valley came in second place with an average of 3.24, although you could argue it was a virtual tie. In our tastings of Oregon Pinots this has always been a go to. I wanted to make certain it was represented so I brought one, telling everyone else not to bring it. It cost $75 at KnL.

D - 2015 Domaine Drouhin, Dundee Hills came in third place with an average of 3.11.
A - 2015 Domaine Drouhin, Dundee Hills came in fourth place with an average of 2.98. KnL lists this at $40.
There's a first time for everything! Carlos and Ling brought one of these, Ted and Shannon the other. Carlos selected a couple and the owners of the store said 'this one'. Ted said this was on a list of good Oregon pointers (5th he thinks); he went down the list looking for it in stock and this was first hit.

E - 2017 Resonance, Willamette Valley came in last place with an average of 2.67. Jose and Lili brought this. Jose picked this because Paul Gregutt ratings was 4.5/5 stars. He had never heard of Paul, but that was the only rating he could find. He paid slightly over $30 including tax.


The wines were tasted at different temperatures. 3 were cooler, which allowed people to know more about the wines than they should have. To what degree this influenced the outcome is anyone's guess, but it no doubt did. Suffice it to say this will be addressed in future tastings. I don't know why this hasn't come up before.


The downside of one glass per wine is 3 or 4 dishwasher loads of glasses. It usually takes a week for our house to get back to normal after one of these events, but it's well worth it.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

2019 SF Chronicle Wine Competition Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Medal Winners

The 2019 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition results are in. Congratulations to the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA winners on again creating some incredible Pinots.

Pinot Noir - $32.00 - $35.99

  • 2010 Muccigrosso, Santa Cruz Mountains, $35.00 - Bronze
  • 2017 Soquel Vineyards, Santa Cruz Mountains, Partners' Reserve, $35.00 - Silver

Pinot Noir - $36.00 - $39.99

  • 2014 Storrs, Santa Cruz Mountains, $38.00 - Bronze

Pinot Noir - $40.00 - $43.99

Pinot Noir - $44.00 - $47.99

  • 2017 Bargetto, Santa Cruz Mountains, Regan Estate Vineyards, $45.00 - Best of Class
  • 2014 Martin Ranch, Santa Cruz Mountains, Lester Family Vineyards, Therese Vineyards, $47.00 - Bronze
  • 2016 Sonnet Wine Cellars, Santa Cruz Mountains, Muns Vineyard, $45.00- Gold
  • 2016 Sonnet Wine Cellars, Santa Cruz Mountains, Black Ridge Vineyard, $45.00 - Silver
  • 2017 Soquel Vineyards, Santa Cruz Mountains, Saveria Vineyard, $45.00 - Double Gold
  • 2017 Soquel Vineyards, Santa Cruz Mountains, 30th Anniversary Regan Vineyards, $45.00 - Gold
  • 2017 Soquel Vineyards, Santa Cruz Mountains, Lester Family Vineyard, $45.00 - Silver

Pinot Noir - $48.00 - $52.99

Pinot Noir - $60.00 - $66.99

  • 2015 Apriori, Santa Cruz Mountains, Hicks Family Vineyard, $60.00 - Bronze
  • 2017 Bargetto, Santa Cruz Mountains, Mount Eden Clone, $60.00 - Silver
  • 2014 Kings Mountain Vineyards, Santa Cruz Mountains, Clone 13, $65.00 - Silver
  • 2014 Kings Mountain Vineyards, Santa Cruz Mountains, Bacchus, $65.00 - Silver
  • 2015 Partage, Santa Cruz Mountains, Coast Grade, $60.00 - Bronze

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Windy Oaks Named The Prince of Pinot's 2018 Winery of the Year


Windy Oaks is a jewel of the Santa Cruz Mountains.

They take such good care of their guests at the winery. It's one of my first thoughts when entertaining visiting wine lovers. When enjoying their wine and picnicking on the ridge you find yourself asking, "Does it get any better than this?"

When my sister Kylie was getting married and I was put in charge of the wine, Windy Oaks was the wine I shared with the wine enthusiasts of Nebraska.

When I want to send wine for the holidays or a special occasion, Windy Oaks is my first consideration.

When that particularly hard to please guest is interested in a glass of Pinot, Windy Oaks is my go to.

Thank you for producing such great wine.

2018 Winery of the Year: Windy Oaks Estate Vineyards & Winery

Friday, December 28, 2018

Christmas Malbecs

Christmas time my family bakes a number of candies and cookies. On Christmas Eve we deliver boxes of our creations to some of our closest friends.

The Finished Product

This year Jose and Lili were not close enough to deliver their box on Christmas Eve. When they were back in town we arranged for a dinner. I thought this was the ideal time to enjoy a Malbec Jose brought back from his last trip to South America and had given me for my birthday. My thought was why not blind taste it vs the other Malbecs I had in my cellar. Jose was open to the idea.


C - 2015 Picchetti, Pedregal Vineyard, Paicines came in first place with an average of 3.50. We received this as members of Picchetti. It cost $38.

D - 2013 Carmelo Patti, Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza came in second place with an average of 3.38. I picked it up at K&L the day of the tasting. They didn't have many choices, just 4 from Mendoza. I picked he most expensive one. It cost $35.

C - 2014 Chateau St Jean, Reserve, Sonoma County came in third place with an average of 3.25. We picked it up on our last trip to Sonoma. It cost $63 with Ted's member discount. 

A - 2013 Catena Zapata, Adrianna Vineyard, River Stones, Mendoza came in last place with an average of 2.75. 

One can question the wisdom of blind tasting a gift, and rightfully so. I enjoyed all of the wines and enjoyed blind tasting them too.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Intimate Russian River Pinot Bind Tasting

Two of our three kids were going to be gone over the weekend, one in New Orleans and the other in Chicago. Both their trips sounded fantastic, much better than anything we had planned for the weekend, which was nothing. I knew the Farrells were going to be in town, so Thursday night I asked if they wanted to do a last minute blind tasting over the weekend. Ted replied they were in. I pinged Jose to see if he was available. He was, but unfortunately Lili was visiting her sister. Now all we had to do was figure out what to taste.

I put all my wine into VinoCell. It showed me what options I had. I initially offered to do a 2014 Gap's Crown tasting, trying different Wineries' take on the fruit.

Saturday morning Ted countered and we agreed on Russian River Pinots. I let Jose know what the plan was and made certain he knew he didn't have to bring anything, given we were starting in six hours.

The weather was nice, blue skies and 70s. We set up outside with a hodge-podge of glass types as I was too lazy to open up all the burgundy wine glasses.

We started with a lovely 2015 Freeman, Ryo-Fu, from the Green Valley of the Russian River. It was nice. Shannon really liked it.

As we tasted, I noted all of the wines were great, but three of them I would take home and sleep with, they were that good.


B - 2014 Paul Hobbs, Katherine Lindsay Estate, Russian River Valley came in first place with an average of 4.05. Sue and I brought this. It cost $135. We bought this while tasting at their Vineyard Designate Experience. Truly decadent pricing for a Pinot and a tasting. The tasting began at 10:30 in the morning. I texted with Carlos and Ted after the introduction sparkling, asking if $120 was too much to spend on a Chardonnay. The answer is yes, but I bought a couple to share. In my defense, I didn't buy either the $300, $400, or $500 cabs.

A - 2014 Kosta Browne, Keefer Ranch, Russian River Valley came in second place with an average of 3.85. Sue and I brought this. It cost $90. I bought one from my Kosta Browne allocation. Next offering I may have to buy 2.

E - 2014 Dehlinger, High Planes, Russian River Valley came in third place with an average of 3.66. Ted and Shannon brought this.

D - 2014 Macphail, Dutton Ranch, Green Valley of Russian River Valley came in fourth place with an average of 3.30. Ted and Shannon brought this.

C - 2015 David Bruce, Russian River Valley came in last place with an average of 2.60. Jose brought this. Jose remembered that Michel liked David Bruce Pinots.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

SLH Birthday Tasting

After a water break we continued tasting four Santa Lucia Highland Pinots.

While tasting with Ted and Shannon and others in Los Olivos I met a character in the The Los Olivos Tasting Room & Wine Shop. He gruffly expressed his strong opinions on Pinots, one of which was that Santa Lucia Highland produced the best Pinots. Given I haven't explored much of the Pinots in the region, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to give some a try. It was my birthday, which excused the K&L bill and besides, The Emperor of Pinot demanded it, or so I told Sue.


C - 2013 Kosta Browne, Rosella's Vineyard came in first place with an average of 3.70.

D - 2015 Kosta Browne, Pisoni Vineyard came in second place with an average of 3.64.

A - 2012 Kosta Browne, Gary's Vineyard came in third place with an average of 3.29.

B - 2013 Kosta Browne, Santa Lucia Highlands came in last place with an average of 2.96.

I didn't set out to taste only Kosta Browne SLHs, but I wanted all the well known vineyards, all with a similar, drinkable vintage. These seemed the best options K&L had.