Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Tucked in Sonoma Mountain is Laurel Glen Vineyard

Tucked away in the Sonoma Mountains are the vineyards of Laurel Glen that were planted by German immigrants at the end of the 19th century. The vines planted were of the red varietal and in 1968 they were replanted by Carmen Taylor with Cabernet Sauvignon. Today there are 14 acres planted of Cabernet Sauvignon and the vineyards are organically farmed.
In 2014 Laurel Glen Vineyard received their CCOF (California Certified Organic Farmers) certification. They plant cover crops every year that enhance biodiversity and minimize soil erosion. It also controls weeds, fertilizes the soil and improves the overall structure of the soil.
The vineyards of Laurel Glen can be found at elevations of 850 to 1,000 feet on Sonoma Mountain. The combination of volcanic rocky soil, good drainage (Cabernet Sauvignon doesn’t like wet feet) and protected from the afternoon heat because the vineyard faces east which is cooler with a breeze most of the time, allows for a long, slow flavor development in the grapes. Mountain fruit tends to have smaller berries, a bit more complex and bold.

The two wines I had the opportunity to taste are the 2013 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2016 Rosella Rose.

2013 Laurel Glen Vineyard Estate Cabernet Sauvignon has layers of of black cherry, vanilla and black currant escaping from the glass. Purplish in color with silky tannins this wine is smooth on the palate. Flavors of blackberry, black cherry, cocoa and licorice on the finish. SRP $75



The 2016 Laurel Glen Rosella Rose made from 100% Cabernet Sauvignon is very unique and mysterious. It’s a field blend. By field blend it’s 50% Cabernet Sauvignon and 50% of red varietals from the gnarly old vines that can’t be identified from the original plantings of the vineyard. The Rose has beautiful aromas of strawberry, rose petals, orange peel and a hint of minerality coming from the volcanic soil. On the palate it was soft and smooth with flavors of ripened strawberries, a hint of pink grapefruit and a touch of baking spice on the long finish.


Pairing notes: I had both wines with leftovers from our Memorial Day BBQ. What stood out the best was the red velvet cupcake paired with the 2013 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon.



Best part, I got to share this wine with my daughter!

Friday, June 23, 2017

Winephabet Street - A is for Albarino



I embarked on a new adventure with Lori Budd of Dracaena Wines two weeks about call Winephabet Street.  Think Sesame Street for wine lovers.  Our first show was all about the Letter A and Albarino.

 Albarino is the indigenous grape variety hails from the Rias Baixas region of Spain.  Rias Baixas is located in Northwestern part of Spain that is known as Galicia or Green Spain. It's nice and acidic, crisp, and you can taste the salinity from the ocean the influences the grape growing. If you've never had an Albarino, I suggest picking one up and trying it on a hot summer day.  It's exciting and refreshing and priced $20 and under.

Watch the episode below and learn all about Albarino.  Catch us on Monday, July 17th at 8pm (link to follow) as we learn about the Letter B - Beaujolais.


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Roadtrip: Traveling the Hudson Valley Cabernet Franc Trail


My article below appears in the Spring 2017 of Hudson Valley Wine Magazine. The focus is visiting the Cabernet Franc producers of the Hudson Valley. Cabernet Franc is the Hudson Valley's signature grape.  Get out and taste some!
For more one and three days itineraries grab a copy of my book Tapping the Hudson Valley

Friday, June 16, 2017

Exploring Northeast Spain's first DO Pago Winery - Arinzano



What is a designation Vino de Pago in Spain? This was a first for me hearing about it, so I was really excited to be taking part in the #winestudio program that featured Arizano Winery, northeast Spain’s first Vino de Pago winery.

What does Vino de Pago mean
Vino de Pago classification was created in 2003 to represent a different way to classify by quality. Pago means vineyard and is derived from the Latin word pagus meaning small hamlet or rural estate. The DO Pago designation goes to a single estate wine. The wine created must all come from their estate and be bottled at their estate winery. Once a winery receives that status it is perceived to be one of the great estates of Spain.
To achieve this classification the winery must prove to the governing bodies (INTIA and EEC) the following:

  • The uniqueness of their terroir
  • The exclusivity of their terroir
  • Highly intensive in-depth study of their soil and climate
  • Once the above is proven - produce wine for 10 years and submit your wines for organoleptic and physical chemical analysis.

History of Arinzano
Arinzano is located in the northeast part of Spain. The closest city is Estella on the border between Navarra and La Rioja Alavesa. It is said the first vineyard planted on the land was in 1055 AD. Mr. Sancho Fortunones de Arinzano first produced wine on the property in the 11th century.
In the sixteenth century Mosen Lope de Eulate who was the advisor to King John of Labrit was named Lord of Arinzano. In the eighteenth century the property was owned by Marquis de Zabalegui. In the 19th century the property was abandoned.
In 1988 the property was rediscovered and brought back to life. The 877 acre estate sits along the Ega River where 316 acres are planted to Pago designation and the rest are committed to conservation and the World Wildlife Foundation certification. They are the only winery in Spain certified by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) for environmental responsibility.

The Terroir
“The founding goal of Arinzano wines is to reflect the uniqueness and exclusivity of the amazing terroir where the different vineyards have been planted, therefore it was a natural evolution to become the first Vino de Pago in Northern Spain”~ Manuel Louzada- CEO & Winemaker Arinzano Wines.
The winery lies in a valley formed by the edge of the Pyrenees Mountains and the Ega River winds through it and creates a unique microclimate. There is a range of soils including loam, sand, limestone, gypsum and dolomites with, varying topography. The backbone of the Arinzano wines is elegance due to the cool climate.

The Wines

Let’s begin with their “House” wines priced at $19.99
Hacienda de Arinzano Red 2012
85% Tempranillo
10% Merlot
5% Cabernet Sauvignon
14 months in French 2nd used oak
Aroma - Rose petals, cigar, red raspberry, perfumy (might be a new word here)
Taste - Red and black fruit with red raspberry and blackberry dominating. Soft rounded mouth feel, nice acid, very well balanced.
Pairing - Paella and cigars


Arinzano La Casona 2008 - $39.99
75% Tempranillo
25% Merlot
14 months in French oak 40% new/60% 2nd use
Aroma - Cherry cola, oak, vanilla
Taste - Stewed plums, cassis, cracked black peppercorns. Strong structure with an elegant finish.
Pairing - Manchego Cheese with salty Spanish meats


Arinzano Gran Vino White 2010 - $79
Grand Champion Best of Show in the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo International Wine Competition. The first time a white wine has won this honor in the 14 year history of the competition
100% Chardonnay
11 months in French oak 50% new / 50% 2nd use for 2 years
Aroma - hints of oak, melon, pineapple, lemon
Taste - Soft on palate, romantic, sexy, well balanced, hint of minerality, nice acidity, subtle oak, melon, citrus, slightly nutty

Arinzano Gran Vin Red 2008 - $99
100% Tempranillo
14 months in French oak 50% new / 50% 2nd use
Can age 8-10 more years
Aroma - Ripe bright red berry at first. As it gets air the nose gives off a dark fruit aromas and some leather, coal/wood embers (sitting around the fire pit)
Taste - Red and blackberry, plum, leather, very well balanced.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Wine Touring Tips


Since I’m out wine touring I thought it would be appropriate to talk about some wine touring tips. Many people don’t know that I owned a travel agency for 20 years. One of the focuses was sending people to the wine regions of the world. I do discuss wine touring tips in my book Tapping the Hudson Valley.

There are things that you might not think about. If you are traveling in a group of 8 or more people to make a reservation or you could be turned away. Many wineries do take appointments for a more personalized visit so you won’t be belly up at the bar with the crowd.

Some of my touring tips are:

  • Before you head out for the day eat a good breakfast. 
  • Did you know what you might eat or drink in the car while driving to the next stop can alter your taste buds. Stay away from coffee and gum. 
  • Don’t wear perfume or cologne because the aromas will interfere with the what is in your glass. You don’t want your Cabernet to smell like Chanel Chance.
  • Chapstick and lipstick also can interfere with what you are tasting. 
  • Don’t forget to bring an empty cooler for your purchases. You don’t want them to overheat in the car.
My friend Jenn from WineAntics has a show on Thursday evenings at 9pm on Facebook. Recently she had a guest Kris from Nebraska Wine Tours on her show and they talked about the what you should do and not do when heading out on a wine tour. I thought it was a great show packed with tons of information that I have to share it with you. I want to make sure you are well prepared for you day and get the most our of it.


Friday, June 9, 2017

Burgundy Bound

Picture courtesy of Chateau des Rontets


As you read this I am heading to Burgundy, France for a week of frolicking in the vineyards. I am really looking forward to this trip. You can say it’s a bucket list item.

After three days in Paris we will be taking the train to Dijon where we will begin our tour. Our tour will take us to Fuisse, Beaune, Chablis and Cote de Nuits.

We will be going on a walking tour of the Grand Cru vineyards in Cote de Nuits. Having dinner with the Thiebault & Mariel Huber of Domaine Huber-Verdereau and will also be visiting their vineyard. Some other stops are at Domaine Gueguen in Chablis, Domaine Comtes de Vogue and Domaine Felettig in Chambolle-Musigny, just to name a few.

Come along with me and follow me on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. If it is possible, I will jump on Facebook Live and share my journey to Burgundy with you.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Blind Wine Tasting with Achaval-Ferrer


During Winestudio in May we had a blind tasting. #Winestudio is an educational program I participate in via twitter 9pm on Tuesday evenings.  Wow this is going to be interesting I thought and two bottles arrived at my door in an Achaval-Ferrer bag. I thought, do I look inside the bag?  How will we know which wine to try first? How on earth are we going to do this. This is really going to test my taste buds. By the way, I didn’t have to peek, Paul did that and saw that the bottles were wrapped.

I’ve never participated in a blind tasting.  The closest I’ve come is to judge a wine competition. Wine competitions are done blind tasting but you usually know what grape you are tasting or if it’s a blend. You are looking to see if there are any faults. Here we only knew that it was from Achaval-Ferrer, it was red and from Argentina. The rest was up to us to identify, this was no competition, we had to guess what is in the bottle. We were given tools, the WSET Level 3 Systematic Approach to Wine Tasting Grid and told once we opened the bottles, the corks will identify the wines by the year stamped on them.



I invited my friend Jen over so she could experience a blind wine tasting with me, after all it’s no fun to drink alone. I’m really not drinking alone, but with all my friends on twitter, but it’s nice to have in person company. Before I go into my findings of the blind tasting, I thought I’d share with you some of my fellow wine friends comments during this blind tasting just to give you an idea what chatter that takes place on twitter. I consider all these people my dear friends, even though some of them I have yet to meet.

The one thing we were told is that the corks will identify what to try first.  One cork was vintage 2012 and the other vintage 2013.

Kathy-Virginia_Made @Virginia_Made
My exact thought. I got the fragrance of lavender. Immediately called out Cab Franc to me. A blend?
Vino-Sphere @vino_sphere
Wife removed the corks so I'm fully blind
William Pollard Jr @wild4wawine
12 Drink or hold, with potential to improve in cellar #winestudio 13 hold, still developing
Lori & Michael @Dracaenawines
@winestudioTINA @AchavalFerrerUS I'm going with a blend- yeah, I know that is going out on a limb. Still leaning toward a CS
Dezel Quillen @myvinespot
Not sure what '13 is (would say Malbec); we think the '12 is Quimera -- we've had it numerous times in the past

Here are our findings with the 2012 bottle:

Color: Dark almost black in color. Very deep purple.
Nose: clean and aromatic, pronounced
Palate: dry, medium acidity,  medium + tannins, medium+ alcohol, medium body, medium flavor intensity and a long finish.
Conclusion: Can drink now but has potential for ageing
Flavor profile describing the aroma and flavors
Nose: Black currant, licorice, black raspberry, floral - frezia
Palate: black current, black plum, fig, bold tannins, long finish black pepper

2013 Bottle:
Color: Ruby with magenta hues, medium intensity
Nose: clean with medium intensity
Plate: dry, medium acidity, medium+ acidity, medium alcohol, medium body, medium+ flavor intensity with a medium+ finish
Conclusion: Can drink now but will age
Flavor profile describing the aroma and flavors
Nose: black currant, earth eucalyptus, black cherry, black berry
Palate: black cherry, cola, woodsy, very juicy, black peppercorns, with a nice black pepper finish

What is in the bottles?


Drum roll please! 2012 Quimera and 2013 Quimera both of which are blends of Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot.  Both vintages were made with the exact same percentages 50% Malbec, 24% Cabernet Franc, 16% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Petit Verdot.  Even though both wines were made with the exact same percentages, the growing season were very different.  The 2013 season was drier and warmer, hence the fruiter taste, while the 2012 was cooler with more rain.

Doing a blind tasting was fun.  Kudos to the PR folks at Gregory White PR who took the time to really wrap those bottles and make it truly a fun event. Corks off to them!

Try your own blind wine tasting at home.  Let me know what you learn. - Cheers