Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Cuda Ridge Wines - Bordeaux adventure in Livermore Valley

Cuda Ridge is a small boutique winery run and owned by Larry and Margie Dino. They have been producing some great Bordeaux style wines from wines from the premier vineyards of Livermore Valley. The wines are handcrafted, produced in small lots and primarily aged in French Oak barrels.

The Dinos got started in home winemaking while they lived in Fremont. When they moved to Livermore Valley Wine Country in 2003, where they continued their winemaking in the garage of their home, while Larry commuted by BART to a computer-software job in San Francisco. Encouraged by the many friends with whom they shared their wines, they chose to become a commercial winery less than two years ago. This past year Cuda Ridge moved to their present locale on East Road.

So how did the name Cuda Ridge originate? Is this a new landmark in the hills surrounding Livermore Valley? The first wine that Larry and Margie made in their Fremont home was produced from grapes grown in the Healdsburg area of Sonoma County. As their winemaking became more serious, they were searching for a new home closer to wine country and went to Sonoma County to find the perfect place. They came away without finding that wine country home, but Larry did spy a vintage he did like in Sonoma Wine Country. He found a vintage bright purple 1970 Plymouth Barracuda muscle car, also known by its nickname, ‘Cuda! As we all know, winemakers are a passionate bunch, and Larry’s passion for his purple ‘Cuda lead to the name of the winery, Cuda Ridge. As you look at the label, that background is not an image of a ridge, but rather, a stylized image of the ‘Cuda!

Cuda Ridge specializes in hand-crafted rich Bordeaux style wines. The 2007 Livermore Valley Merlot from Cuda Ridge is a Bordeaux style blend of 82% Merlot, 13% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot. Larry strives for a Bordeaux style with California fruit qualities. It has delicate fruity aromas of Bing cherries and raspberries; also, elegant light smoky oak undertones with a hint of butterscotch. Fruit carry’s through on the palate with addition of dark chocolate. This is a medium bodied, well integrated wine, with nice complexity. This wine is paired nicely with light meats, such as Pork. Retail price for the 2007 Merlot is $22.00.

Cabernet Franc is often a difficult wine to get just right, but Larry knows the way. His 2006 Cabernet Franc uses fruit from the west side of Livermore that tends to have a cooler climate. But 2006 was a very hot year, resulting in higher sugars and the resulting higher alcohol. This wine is 90% Cabernet Franc with the balance being Merlot, Malbec and Petite Verdot that enhance the flavors and complexity of the wine. The result is a wonderful wine rich in aromas and flavors of maraschino cherries with a hint of olives, vanilla and oak. Larry hit the mark with this excellent wine. This is a great value at just $26.

Petit Verdot is not often found as a single varietal wine. The Cuda Ridge 2007 Petit Verdot is a small lot example of what can be done with this grape that is usually used as a blending grape. Only 11 cases were produced, but the result is a deep purple, inky full bodied wine loaded with aromas and flavors of dark fruit, coffee and chocolate.

A visit to this winery at 5385 East Avenue in Livermore (near Lawrence Livermore Labs) is a real treat. You will meet Larry and Margie at the winery and they will happily share there selection of wines with you that include, in addition to those mentioned above, includes Cabernet Sauvignon and a delicious dessert wine, Cuda Amis. You will see that these are truly hand-crafted wines starting at the hand picked grapes to the gentle handling in the winery and aging with high quality French and American oak barrels. At bottling, Larry and Margie plus their friends get together to bottle the wines and individually cork the wines. The tasting room is open Friday through Sunday, Noon to 4:30 p.m.

For more info: Cuda Ridge Winery

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