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Rhône Rangers Rosé!

I was going to post this right after Rhône Rangers in San Francisco, but decided it’s really just as much a preparation for Hospice du Rhône – especially for the Rosé lunch on Friday:

Rosé Lunch

Date: Friday, April 27, 2012
Time: 12:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Cost: $100 (advance purchase is required)
Friday’s lunch has always celebrated pink wines and for the 20th year we will continue to toast these beauties. Don your best pink attire as we raise our glasses to the vast variety of Rosé wines that have traveled far and wide to be with us for the 2012 revelry. To highlight these lovely pink quaffers, Chef John Toulze of the girl & the fig from Sonoma, California will return to delight guests with Rhône inspired cuisine. The Rosé wines will be provided by the attending producers at the 2012 event.

(Question for someone who’s gone to this event before – do people really “don pink attire”? Because I’m going to have to buy something if that’s the case.)

Anyway, here’s a summary of my pink favorites from Rhône Rangers – I’m looking forward to drinking and discovering lots more next weekend!

Tablas Creek Rosé 2011 (Paso Robles, CA)

Always a favorite of mine, the 2011 is delicious. A traditional Southern Rhône blend of 58% Mourvèdre, 30% Grenache and 12% Counoise – these grapes come from an organically-farmed vineyard, and are fermented using native yeast. Surprisingly high alcohol at 14.5%. Watermelon, plum, red berries on the nose. All that and a bit of spice on the palate. Nice and dry, it’s a very food-friendly wine.

Quivira 2001 Rosé Wine (North Coast, CA)

51% Mourvedre, 18% Carignane, 18% Counoise, 7% Grenache, 6% Syrah. 13% alcohol. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel, then the wine spends a short period in neutral French oak before bottling. Berries and orange zest on the nose, cherry-berry and spice on the palate.


Quady North 2011 Rosé (Rogue Valley, OR)

60% Syrah, 40% Grenache. Bright with lots of fruit. Dry and crisp, with citrus, stone fruit and watermelon on the palate. This is the kind of wine I like to sip on a hot day.


Proulx Willow Creek Farm Rosé (Paso Robles, CA)

Dry, with strawberries on the nose.
(It’s not listed on their website, and I failed to take detailed notes. To be updated later….)



Finally, this post is a celebration of today’s scorching hot San Francisco Saturday. Three guesses what’s in my glass….




Visiting Paso Robles: Wineries

I’m impatient for Hospice du Rhône, and thoroughly enjoying planning my trip to Paso Robles. Also this week, three different people asked me for a list of wineries I like in Paso Robles. None of them know each other, and none of them are going to HdR. I hope this means that one of my favorite wine regions is finally getting the attention it deserves!

Anyway, since I made a list for them, I might as well make it public. This is an idiosyncratic list – and deliberately in alphabetical order rather than ranked. I have no doubt I’m leaving off many great places, and certainly I haven’t been everywhere there is in the region. Please do use the comments to tell me your favorites….

Alta Colina Vineyard & Winery

Alta Colina

Small producer of Rhône varietals and blends. Relatively new – their first harvest was in 2007. I especially love the Toasted Slope Syrah.

Thursday to Sunday, 11:00am to 5:00pm. 2725 Adelaida Rd. Paso Robles, CA 93446. 805 227-4191.

Caparone Winery


A two-man operation (father and son), making mostly Italian varietals. Great value for the price. All wines are unfined and unfiltered. So far in my experience their wines age very well. (My dad’s in their wine club, so I mooch from him.)

Open for tasting (including barrel samples) daily 11 a.m.- 5 p.m. 2280 San Marcos Road, Paso Robles, CA 93446. 805.467.3827.

Kenneth Volk Vineyards

Kenneth Volk

A favorite of mine in the Santa Barbara area, and a favorite in Paso Robles as well. Ken Volk describes himself as “an innovating traditionalist”. They make a large variety of wines – from Paso Robles they’re making Bordeaux varietals. They share the property with Lone Madrone – if you take your Lone Madrone glass with you they will give you a 50% discount on your tasting fee. (I love that they have a customizable wine club.)

10:30 am – 5 pm daily. 2485 Highway 46 West, Paso Robles, CA 93446. 805.237.7896.

Lone Madrone

Lone Madrone tasting room

A wide variety of wines, and a gorgeous tasting room surrounded by the herb and flower nursery, Fat Cat Farms. You are welcome to bring a picnic and enjoy the atmosphere. They share the property with Kenneth Volk.

Open daily 10:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. 2485 Highway 46 West, Paso Robles, CA 93446. 805.238.0845.

Opolo Vineyards

Hilltop Vineyard, Opolo

One of my favorite places to visit. In addition to very good wine, they have a wood-fired oven. For very little money, you can get a pizza or the house-made sausage and a glass or bottle of wine and enjoy lunch on the patio. Plan your visit for when you’re hungry!

Open daily 10 a.m.-5 p.m. 7110 Vineyard Drive, Paso Robles, CA 93446, 4.8 miles north on Vineyard Drive from Hwy. 46 West. 805.238.9593.

Pipestone Vineyards

Pipestone's horses, at harvest

Pipestone’s horses, at harvest

A small family winery, they produce estate grown Rhône-style wines from Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, & Viognier and a dry farmed Zinfandel. They farm according to principles of Feng Shui. In addition, they are solar powered, a Certified Wildlife Habitat and have a zero landfill program. Their vineyard is even farmed with a team of draft horses!

Thursday-Monday 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. 2040 Niderer Road, Paso Robles, CA 93446. 805.227.6385.


Proulx’s tasting room

Actually I’ve never been to their tasting room. However, I really like what they poured at Rhône Rangers in San Francisco. They’re on my list to visit next time I’m in Paso!

Thursday – Monday 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. 5424 Vineyard Drive Paso Robles, CA 93445. 805.706.0425.

Tablas Creek Vineyard

Tablas Creek

Tablas Creek Vineyard is the result of a decades-long friendship between the Perrin family of Château de Beaucastel and Robert Haas, longtime importer and founder of Vineyard Brands. They are almost all about Rhône grapes, but they also one of the very few California wineries to grow Tannat and Vermentino. I’m never disappointed by my wine club shipment.

10 a.m. – 5 p.m.; free tours daily by appointment. 9339 Adelaida Road, Paso Robles, CA 93446. 805.237.1231.

For another post: eating and sleeping….

Three Big B’s of Italy: Barbaresco, Barolo and Brunello

This week for Italian Wine Night I took another class at the San Francisco Wine Center, also taught by Mauro Cirilli. We drank an extraordinary selection of wines, whilst learning about Barbaresco, Barolo and Brunello di Montalcino.

Barbaresco and Barolo

Barbaresco comes from the Piedmont region, in an area of the Langhe immediately to the east of Alba and from the communities of Barbaresco, Treiso and Neive. It is made from 100% Nebbiolo grapes. Barolo, from only about 20 km away and also made from 100% Nebbiolo, nevertheless very distinctive wine.

Barbaresco receives a slight maritime influence, which allows the grapes to ripen a little earlier and have a shorter maceration time. Thus the tannins in a young Barbaresco are less harsh than a in a young Barolo. Under DOCG rules, Barbaresco is allowed to age a year less than Barolo. The biggest difference between the two wines is that the tannins of Barbaresco tend to soften quicker – making the wines more approachable when young. Because of that, however, a Barbaresco won’t age as long as a traditionally-made Barolo.

A few more points of comparison and contrast:

  Barbaresco Barolo
Style, Nickname more feminine, “Wine of the Queen” more masculine, “Wine of the King”
Region Piedmont Piedmont
Grape 100% Nebbiolo 100% Nebbiolo
Aging Requirements 26 months, 50 months for Riserva 38 months, 62 months for Riserva

Barbaresco Tasting Notes

Produttori del Barbaresco Riserva Paje 2006
Very traditional style. Aged 36 months in huge barrels of Slovenian oak. Approx $40 retail.
Color: Light garnet
Nose: Red fruit, mint, herbs
Palate: Warm, astringent, red fruit, licorice, mineral finish – wants rich food

Moccagatta 2004
New style; won’t age as long as the traditional. Aged 12 months in barrique. Approx $50 retail.
Color: A little orange-y
Nose: Dry fruit, cherry, vanilla, spice
Palate: Warm, rich, earthy, full-bodied

Barolo Tasting Notes

Comm. Burlotto Monvigliero 2000
150-year old producer, very traditional – still even crushes by feet! Open vat fermentation, 30-40 days maceration. Aged 30 months in large Slovenian oak barrels. Approx $70 retail.
Color: Very light, almost transparent. Shows a bit of age.
Nose: Olives, dry red fruit, orange zest, anise, dust
Palate: Lighter, elegant, very little tannin. Dry herbs, dry fruit. Long finish.

Vietti Rocche 2005
Single vineyard. 2005 was a difficult vintage. Aged 34 months in Slovenian oak barrels. Approx $130 retail.
Color: Darker, no sign of age
Nose: Dry red fruit, cinnamon, orange peel, fresh violet
Palate: Warmer, weightier, acidic. Oak and fruit tannins. Fennel, licorice, spice.

Luigi Einaudi Costa Grimaldi 2006
Another difficult vintage. Modern style. Approx $90 retail.
Color: Garnet, no orange, concentrated
Nose: Red fruit, vanilla
Palate: Very warm, full-bodied, aggressive tannin and acid. Ripe fruit, tart cherry, dried red fruit.

Brunello di Montalcino

Read more

Rhône Rangers 2012 – Win Free Tickets!

Rain, rain, go away! Well, even if our belated rainy-season doesn’t end soon, there’s the Annual Rhône Rangers Tasting in San Francisco to look forward to! This is definitely one of the spring highlights for wine lovers in the Bay Area. Held at Fort Mason, the event offers the chance to taste a wide selection of Rhône-style varietals and blends.

Win Tickets

Win a pair of tickets to the Grand Tasting! All you need to do is click here to send me email telling me which new-to-you grape you want to try this year. You can also enter by sending me a message on Twitter (@terroiriste) with your answer. The contest ends on Monday, March 19 at noon Pacific time. I will randomly select a winner, and notify you by email or tweet.

Rhône Varietals

The French government recognizes 22 varieties in the various appellations that comprise this large and diverse wine-growing region. Rhône Appellations (including Cote Rotie, Hermitage, Condrieu, Chateuneuf du Pape, Gigondas, Bandol, Cotes du Rhône and several others) each choose a different subset from the collection of grapes known (from their place of origin) as Rhône varietals. For a wine to be considered a “Rhône Ranger” wine, and poured at an official Rhône Rangers tasting, the 22 recognized accepted varieties must comprise at least 75% of the blend.

Red Grapes

The most common red Rhône varietals are Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvedre, with Syrah predominant in the Northern Rhône and Grenache in the Southern Rhône. Other relatively common red grapes include Cinsault, Carignan, and Petite Sirah. Finally, the list includes some grapes that are found only in trace amounts even in France, and are just beginning to be explored in the United States, including Counoise, Muscardin, Picpoul Noir, Vaccarese, and Terret Noir. For the sticklers out there, the Rhône Rangers have adopted Petite Sirah, a French cross also known as Durif, due to its extensive interplanting with traditional Rhône varietals in Calfiornia.

White Grapes

The principal white Rhône varietals are Viognier, Roussanne and Marsanne, each found throughout the Rhône Valley, with Grenache Blanc a widely planted but less well known contributor in the Southern Rhône. The other white grapes include Bourboulenc, Clairette Blanc, Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains, Picardin, Picpoul/Piquepoul Blanc, and Ugni Blanc.

Want to learn more about Rhône grapes? See http://www.Rhô

Schedule of Events for the Celebration of American Rhônes

15TH ANNUAL RHÔNE RANGERS GRAND TASTING, GENERAL ADMISSION TICKET, Sunday, March 25, 2012, 2-5 PM, Fort Mason, Festival Pavilion. $45/ticket—> BUY NOW

15TH ANNUAL RHÔNE RANGERS GRAND TASTING, VIP TICKET, Sunday, March 25, 2012, Early Entry at 12 noon, Fort Mason, Festival Pavilion, $75/ticket—> BUY NOW

SEMINAR #1: RARE WINES, COME TASTE THE UNUSUAL, Saturday, March 24, 2012, 12:00 PM, Fort Mason, The Firehouse. Participating Wineries include Clos Saron, Holly’s Hill, Lagier Meredith, Ridge, Tablas Creek, Two Shepherds. $45/ticket—> BUY NOW

SEMINAR #2: WINE & SWINE, A PAIRING OF RHÔNE VARIETIES WITH BACON, Saturday, March 24, 2012, 2:00 PM, Fort Mason, The Firehouse. Participating Wineries include Inspiration Vineyards, Katin, Mount Aukum, Skylark, Treana/Hope Family Wines. Our “Baconologist” is Duskie Estes, Co-Owner, Black Pig Meat Co & Zazu Restaurant. $65/ticket—> BUY NOW

SEMINAR #3: AMERICAN SYRAH FROM A VARIETY OF REGIONS, Sunday, March 25, 2012, 11 AM, Fort Mason, The Golden Gate Room. Participating wineries include: Big Basin, Caliza Winery, Chateau Ste Michelle, Cornerstone Cellars, Domaine Berrien Cellars, Domaine de la Terre Rouge, Donelan Wines, Folin Cellars, Tarara Winery, Zaca Mesa. $55/ticket—> BUY NOW

About the Rhône Rangers

The Rhône Rangers are a group of roughly 150 wineries dedicated to making wines from the 22 grape varieties originally made famous in France’s Rhône Valley. These varieties range from the better known Syrah and Viognier to the up-and-coming Mourvèdre, Grenache and Roussanne, to obscure (but delicious) grapes like Counoise and Picpoul.

The Rhône Rangers started from a small gathering of American vintners who began meeting informally in the 1980s. As their numbers expanded, the group organized under the name “Rhône Rangers.” The Rhône Rangers is a non-profit organization focused on promoting the enjoyment of Rhône varietal wines produced in the United States. These grapes include the 22 traditional varieties approved by the French government for the Côtes du Rhône, as well as Durif (Petite Sirah). In order for a winery to join the Rhône Rangers, they must produce at least one wine that contains 75% of any single approved varietal (or combination of these varietals). Visit us online:

Central Coast Wine Day (#CCWineDay) – What’ll be in your glass?

Tomorrow (15 March 2012) I’m hosting a mini-tweetup for Central Coast Wine Day (hastag #CCWineDay). I hope you’ll all be going to one, or at least opening a bottle of Central Coast wine at home!

The Central Coast AVA is huge, containing 576 resident wineries. It was the second mega coastal appellation in California to be approved by the BATF. The massive AVA runs the 250 miles from San Francisco to Santa Barbara, including 30 sub-AVAs. Chardonnay is the most planted grape, but Rhone varietals are emerging as hot new thing (I personally think that’s fabulous).

Map ©2009 Ernest & Julio Gallo Winery

The region’s 100,000 acres of vineyard one thing in common: the West Coast marine effect (aka fog), which moderates warm temperatures during the growing season.

At the north end of the Central Coast, the San Francisco Bay AVA is heavily influenced by coastal fog and produces mostly Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

Traveling south, Monterey County enjoys a long-growing season due to its cool, foggy climate, and is home to some of California’s most sought-after Chardonnays. Monterey County is one of the state’s larger AVAs, with nine sub-regions, including the renowned Santa Lucia Highlands appellation, home to highly-regarded Chardonnay as well as a lot of my favorite Pinot Noirs.

Diverse climate is a hallmark of the southernmost districts in the Central Coast AVA – San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties – where vineyards vary dramatically in their proximity to the ocean and their elevation. The warmer inland sub-regions of San Luis Obispo, like Paso Robles and Santa Ynez Valley, are famous for complex Syrah.

The most recognized grapes grown in the Central Coast AVA are:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Chardonnay (accounts for nearly half!)
  • Grenache
  • Merlot
  • Pinot Gris / Grigio
  • Pinot Noir
  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Syrah / Shiraz
  • Viognier
  • Zinfandel

With so many choices, how can you fail to find a bottle or three you’ll want to drink?

Finally, the overlapping appellations are:

  • Arroyo Grande Valley (AVA)
  • Arroyo Seco (AVA)
  • California (State Appellation)
  • Carmel Valley (AVA)
  • Chalone (AVA)
  • Cienega Valley (AVA)
  • Contra Costa County (County Appellation)
  • Edna Valley (AVA)
  • Hames Valley (AVA)
  • Lime Kiln (AVA)
  • Livermore Valley (AVA)
  • Monterey (AVA)
  • Monterey County (County Appellation)
  • Mount Harlan (AVA)
  • Pacheco Pass (AVA)
  • Paicines (AVA)
  • Paso Robles (AVA)
  • San Antonio Valley (AVA)
  • San Benito (AVA)
  • San Bernabe (AVA)
  • San Francisco Bay (AVA)
  • San Lucas (AVA)
  • San Luis Obispo County (County Appellation)
  • San Ysidro District (AVA)
  • Santa Barbara County (County Appellation)
  • Santa Clara County (County Appellation)
  • Santa Clara Valley (AVA)
  • Santa Cruz County (County Appellation)
  • Santa Lucia Highlands (AVA)
  • Santa Maria Valley (AVA)
  • Santa Ynez Valley (AVA)
  • Sta. Rita Hills (AVA)
  • York Mountain (AVA)

Italian wine night #4 – 10 varietals from Italy

Last week I took a class at the San Francisco Wine Center, taught by Mauro Cirilli, formerly wine director at Perbacco and now NorCal District Manager for North American Sommelier Association – Indigenous Varities of Italy. He quickly taught us about 10 varietals, of the 600 or so grown in Italy.

Lots of fun, and here are my tasting notes:


BioVio Riviera Ligure di Ponente Pigato di Albenga 2010 (Liguria)
Light, fresh, with greenish hues. Nose: mineral salts, kumquat, apricot, basil, thyme. Palate: bone dry, high acid, saltiness, minerality.

Aia Vecchia Vermentino 2010 (Maremma, Toscana)
Very pale color. Nose: not very aromatic, orange peel, pear, a little grass. Palate: Dry, a bit warm.

Vietti Arneis 2010 (Roero, Piemonte)
Pale color. Nose: very aromatic, almond, pear, honeysuckle. Palate: dry, soft, fresh, low acid.

Valentini Trebbiano d’Abruzzo 1998 (Abruzzo)
Brilliant golden-yellow, clean. Nose: intense, complex. Ripe apple, dry fig, nutty, toasty, cardamom. Palate: dry, weighty, warm.



Cleto Chiarli Lambrusco Grasparossi di Castelvetro Enrico Cialdini NV (Emilia Romagna)
Ruby color, effervescent. Nose: grapey, berry, violet. Palate: red fruit.

Castello di Verduno Pelaverga Basadone 2010 (Piemonte)
Pale ruby color. Nose: black pepper, tart red cherry, raspberry. Palate: dry, high acid, low tannin, light body.

Cataldi Madonna Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2008 (Abruzzo)
Ruby color. Nose: plum, currant, dry violet, cinnamon. Palate: dry, acidic, light, fruit tanins, medium body.

Cantina Andrian Lagrein Riserva Tor di Lupo 2008 (Trentino Alto-Adige)
Very dark color, inky. Nose: spice, violet, vanilla, forest berries, cocoa. Palate: dry, warm, soft, weighty, forest berries, cocoa, juniper, medium tannins.

Scacciadiavoli Sagrantino Montefalco 2000 (Umbria)
Ruby red, barely shows its age in the color. Nose: blackberry jam, tobacco, dry rosemary, hint of black truffle. Palate: dry, warm, still tannic. Alcohol level is American-high – around 14%.

Cantine del Notaio Aglianico del Vulture La Firma 2007 (Basilicata)
Dark color. Nose: dry black fruit, toastiness, cinnamon, paprika. Palate: dry, minerality, salty finish, tannins are present but not aggressive.

Still life after dinner party

Last Saturday night I hosted a wine-pairing potluck dinner party. This is a photo of the aftermath. (Missing two bottles – perhaps those had some wine left in them and went home with the people who brought them.)

The menu, as it turned out to be:

Apero: Domain Ste Michelle Brut, NV
Apple and citrus, with light toastiness. A great value in a sparkling wine.

Portuguese pescado escabeche featuring 7th Taste’s new Ancho Chile Olive Oil! – il Dolce Sparkling Torrontes
Sweetness overshadowed the usual floral quality of Torrontes. Would be better as a dessert wine.

Salad of quinoa, blood orange, fennel, mint and shrimp – paired with a Sauvignon Blanc (bottle missing)
(unanimous critique: these two courses should have switched wines)

Fresh pea soup with crème fraiche – Casal Garcia rosé vinho verde
Low alcohol and light effervescence with a pale pink hue and lightly fruity berry aroma and flavor make it a cross between what you expect in a vinho verde and a traditional rosé. My favorite pairing of the night.

Insanely good pizza – Renwood Barbera 2008
Blueberry and black raspberry scents and flavors with nicely balanced acid and light tannins.

Mixed mushroom pappardelle – Shiraz (the other missing bottle)

Spanish chicken stew – Tablas Creek Patelin de Tablas 2010
Red fruits on the nose, with mineral and floral qualities. Bitter cherry and raspberry flavors with light spice and tangy acidity. My favorite wine of the night.

Pear tart – Justin Deborah’s Delight 2008 (Trader Joe tart, since the person who was going to bring dessert cancelled at the last minute.)
Stone fruit from the Viognier and light citrus from the Orange Muscat, give complexity to this low alcohol (12%) dessert wine.

David Hill Estate Pinot Noir Port 2005
Blueberries and chocolate, soft spice.

Great night – we need to do this again!

Italian wine night #3 – this time with pizza!

This wine night featured an unspectacular attempt at pizza (someday I’m going to be proud of my crust), dramatically improved by a delightful, easy-drinking Nebbiolo: 2010 Elio Grasso Langhe Nebbiolo Gavarini (Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Langhe DOC).

The Elio Grasso estate has a productive vineyard holding of 14 hectares. The producer uses only estate-grown grapes from varieties traditionally grown in the Langhe hill country near Alba.

Technical information: Langhe Nebbiolo

Municipality of production: Monforte d’Alba
Grape: Nebbiolo
First vintage: 1987
Number of bottles produced each year: 6,500
Vineyard area under vine: 1.2 hectares
Aspect and height above sea level: south-facing, 350-380 metres
Soil type: moderately loose-packed, limestone-based
Vine training system and planting density: Guyot-trained at 4,500 vines per hectare.
Average age of productive vines: 15 years
Grape yield per hectare at harvest: 60 quintals
Harvest period and method: first 10 days of October, manual harvest. The vinification procedure for Langhe Nebbiolo involves fermentation for 7-8 days in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks, with daily pumping over. After malolactic fermentation, the wine stays in stainless steel until bottling in April-May.

Now drink it!

On the nose: Red berries, red cherry, and, I think, rose petals and spice
On the palate: Spicy and floral, with raspberry and cocoa hiding in there somewhere. Soft tannins, and a short but balanced finish.

Enjoyable wine, great with the pizza, would be yummy with a variety of foods. The producer recommends drinking this wine in the first 3-4 years after the vintage. True, it did not taste too young, but I think it could age longer than that.

My first trip to Oregon wine country

Thinking about the Wine Bloggers Conference coming up, I searched again for my posts (for another blog) that I wrote last summer. This time I remembered to try the Wayback Machine – and found Part 1! So, I’m adding it here, before Part 2….. (Note that all photos are small – I don’t have the original files, just what I could copy from the Wayback Machine. I wish I knew where the original photos were on my hard drive.)

© Ilona Koren-Deutsch

Part 1

Over July 4th weekend [2011], I went to the Willamette Valley with my dad and a friend. With so much to taste, and so much of that very, very good, what follows are highlights, rather than a comprehensive listing of everything I drank….

Port. Who knew?

I bet you thought I’d start with Pinot Noir! But, that’s so obvious….

Clear Creek Distillery

As we drank our way from tasting room to tasting room, I learned something. It seems that the best wineries in the Willamette Valley are all making port. Pinot port, Syrah port, even, in one case, port from Maréchal Foch grapes. One thing they all seem to have in common is that the alcohol used to spike the fermenting juice is artisan brandy made by Clear Creek of Portland. My next trip up there, remind me to visit Clear Creek.

My favorites were (in no particular order):

  • CJ, Sineann: Port made from “very ripe” Zinfandel. Blackberries and pepper, with a very smooth finish and a surprising orange zest aroma.
  • 2007 Syrah Port, Torii Mor: Earth and dark berries on the nose. The flavors include the same berries, but also spices and heat from the alcohol.
  • 2005 Estate Pinot Noir Port, David Hill: Blueberries and chocolate, soft spice.
  • 2006 Serenidade, Coelho: Port from Maréchal Foch grapes. Ripe figs and walnuts.


Ponzi rosé

I saw only one, Ponzi’s, and we happily drank a bottle of it with lunch. Nothing is better than rosé on a hot day, and I just can’t figure out why there isn’t more of it up there….






More photos

Peace Bell, Torii Mor

Vineyard, Sineann

David Hill Winery

Tasting room, Coelho

Part 2

Pinot – Noir et Blanc – are in the air today, so I went hunting on Google for old posts I’d written for another blog. Last summer, this was the second half of a a two-part post. Unfortunately Part 1 seems to have been lost in the ether. However, I found Part 2, so I’m resurrecting it….

Pinot. White Pinot.

Anyone who knows me (or reads what I write) knows that I like white wine. And for all the well-deserved fuss over Oregon’s Pinot Noir, I want to make sure the whites aren’t neglected. So, a tip of the hat to my two favorites:

Torii Mor, 2009 Pinot Blanc
At $20/bottle one of the most expensive white wines I tasted, but worth the money. (Yes, some came home with me.)

Rogue Valley fruit, aged in 20% neutral oak, the wine has aromas of apples and cloves, with a hint of creme brulée. The flavors show citrus, pineapple, spice and some minerality. There’s a good finish, with lasting fruit notes and spiciness.

Eyrie Vineyards, 2008 Pinot Gris
The first planting of Pinot Gris in the New World took place in the Eyrie Vineyard in 1970. In this vintage, aromas of melon and minerals, but mostly floral. This blend of grapes from all four vineyards shows and fermented in stainless steel tanks, the wine shows complexity not often found in Pinot Gris from remaining on the lees until bottling.

Eyrie is also notable because in 1979 in Paris and in 1980 in Beaune their 1975 Pinot Noir brought international attention to Oregon, which won its first recognition as the New World home for Pinot Noir.

Pinot Noir (a little bit of it)

To be honest, I delayed this section, because I just don’t know where to start. I thought I’d go for cute, and wrote (read: stole code and adapted) this nifty Javascript thing that scrolled a list of two Pinots from each of my favorite wineries (minus the special shout-out to follow) – and now I can’t make it work in Blogger. Isn’t technology fabulous? Pace Google, why aren’t we using WordPress?

And so, that same list without the cute scrolling effect but with whatever random notes I took in the tasting rooms. They’re not necessarily tasting notes. I could steal those from their respective websites where I’m missing my own comments, but you can also look that up for yourselves if you want. Or, better yet, drink the wine!

Eyrie Vineyards 2009 Pinot Noir Reserve “Original Vines”
24-months in barrel, no new oak, mostly neutral barrels. These are the winery’s original vines in their original vineyard.

Eyrie Vineyards, La Luz Pinot Noir
A one-time bottling made to benefit the Cellar Master’s wife, who needed a kidney transplant. Mostly 2007 but some 2006 and some 2008. A soft wine, with chocolate on the finish.

David Hill 2007 Estate Barrel Select Pinot Noir
Aromas of berries and spice, spice on the finish. 1.5 years in the barrel. A bargain at $22/bottle.

David Hill 2007 Estate BlackJack Pinot Noir
From Block 21 (BlackJack, get it?), planted in 1965. Aromas of cherry and vanilla, spice on the palate.

Soléna 2008 Guadalupe Pinot Noir
From the Dundee Hills AVA. Cherry cola, anise and violet on the nose, smoke and spice on the palate.

Soléna 2008 Zena Crown Pinot Noir
Eola-Amity Hills. Red berries and minerals. Long finish, chocolate/coffee.

Torii Mor 2008 Olalla Vineyard Pinot Noir
Hot weather/Umpqua Valley. Sweet, floral aroma. Earthy flavors, both red and black berries, and caramel notes from the oak.

Torii Mor 2008 Hawks View Vineyard Pinot Noir
Floral (rose) aromas, sweet-tart cherry flavors – tart at the beginning, sweeter on the finish.

A special shout-out for Sineann….

Sineann make so many different wines that I just can’t write about them in the same category as the other producers I visited. They use local Oregon grapes, but also grapes from Washington, California and New Zealand. They focus on making small batches of intense wine. Most of their wines are vineyard designated. Crop levels are kept very low, one to three tons per acre. All fruit is hand sorted, delicately destemmed, punched down by hand, gently pressed and gravity racked. The wines are aged in new and one-year-old French oak. They also use unique glass corks (Is that an oxymoron? What else would you call them?), which you can read about on their website.

The bottom line is, they strive to make great wine. “It’s the only kind of wine that makes it onto our dinner table. It’s exciting to make and gratifying to share. We believe that food and drink, lovingly prepared, make for happier and healthier people.”

Finally, Peter Rosback, the winemaker, is also a great host. When you visit Sineann (tasting is in the barrel room, which I never stop finding fun) you feel like he’s welcoming you to his home and sharing a part of himself. In my opinion, that’s what visiting wine country should be about.

Links for wineries:


David Hill Vineyard & Winery:

The Eyrie Vineyards:

Solena & Grand Cru Estates:

Sineann Wines:

Torii Mor Winery:

Micro wineries – big successes

Last weekend I drove up to Santa Rosa, to a tasting event for a group of micro-wineries hosted at Inspiration Vineyards. I enjoy supporting small businesses in general, and wineries in particular. My friend William Allen of Two Shepherds created and marketed the event – I got to be the very first member of his new wine club! – so special thanks to him, and to all the wineries, who poured some delicious wines.

Here are some brief tasting notes for selected favorites of mine. These aren’t the only wines I liked by any means, but other wines from the event have already been reviewed by other bloggers.

2010 Colagrossi L’Inizio, Nevarez Vineyards, Paso Robles (50% Grenache Blanc, 25% Roussane, 25% Viognier) ~300 cases produced
Refreshing, an ideal warm-weather sipper., it would also pair well with fruit, salad, or light fish.

  • Nose: Tree fruit, pear and jasmine.
  • Palate: Lemon, pineapple, and pear.


2009 Inspiration Vineyards Syrah, Dry Creek Valley.
Co-fermented with Viognier, the style is reminiscent of the northern Rhone valley. Paired surprisingly well with the chocolates offered by Truffle Gateau (see my comments below).

  • Nose: Blackcurrant and vanilla
  • Palate: Blueberry, chocolate and coffee.


2010 Two Shepherds MRV, Saralee’s Vineyard, Russian River Valley
(47% Marsanne, 47% Rousanne, 6% Viognier) 50 cases produced
Aged 6 months in neutral oak, on lees, racked once prior to bottling. A "winter white", would be wonderful paired with roast chicken or grilled root vegetables.

  • Nose: Melon, pear and stone fruit
  • Palate: Orange peel, pear, and spice


2007 Wesley Ashley Intelligent Design Cuvée, California Central Coast, 500 cases produced
(51.5% Carignan, 15% Grenache, 14% Cinsault, 11% Petite Sirah, 4.5% Mouvedre, 4% Pinot Noir)
100% French oak, 36% of the oak new. Wines aged separately for 18 months, then blended and bottled unfiltered. Full-bodied yet easy to drink.

  • Nose: Dark fruit and spice.
  • Palate: Cherry, plum and raspberry.


A note about Truffle Gateau: Normally I am not a fan of wine and chocolate. Somehow, however, these folks make the pairing work.
Recommended by over 400 California and Oregon winemakers, their dark chocolate Truffles pair surprisingly well with Cabernet, Zinfandel, Pinot, Syrah, Petite Syrah and Port wines. They didn’t have these at the event, but they also recommend their milk chocolate Truffle Gateau with a Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio or Viognier wine for another outstanding pairing. Anyone who’s tried the pairings with whites – please let me know in the comments what you think!

All-in-all it was a great time in the industrial park. I hope they do this event again soon – and don’t miss it when they do!

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