Sunday, May 31, 2015

Celebrate Chardonnay Day with Wente, the First Family of Chardonnay

May 21 was National Chardonnay Day.  Chardonnay, America’s bestselling white wine is beloved by wine lovers around the world.  While this grape originated in France’s Burgundy region, it has found a home in most major winegrowing areas worldwide, including every primary wine appellation in California.  Chardonnay flavor profiles range from rich, buttery, powerful wines to lean clean unoaked styles.  Winemakers love this grape because it adapts well to a variety of climates and have high yields and through the aromas and flavors can change greatly due to oak regimen, malolactic fermentation, aging and more. 

But, Chardonnay in America has to thank the first family of Chardonnay, the Wente Family.  You cannot think of Chardonnay and not think of Wente Vineyards.  Carl H. Wente founded Wente Vineyards in Livermore Valley in 1883.  Second generation winemaker Ernest Wente was a student at UC Davis and imported Chardonnay cuttings from Burgundy to California to explore the varietal’s potential in the soil of his native state.  It was this this early dedication that helped product the first varietally-labeled Chardonnay in America in 1936.  And it set the stage for the creation of the world-renowned “Wente Clone” which has been used in most vineyards in the U.S. and is the foundation of some the most famous white wines in the New World.

By 1960 the French wine and food magazine Guide Michelin reprinted a Los Angeles Times review that called the Wente Chardonnay the finest white wine in America, equal to the great white wines of France.  This put Wente Vineyards on the worldwide wine map and has given them the notable distinction of being California’s First Family of Chardonnay.  Today California grows almost 100,000 acres of Chardonnay, more than 20% of the varietal’s total worldwide acreage, and the Wente clone has become the most widely planted in the state.

Today, after more than 130 years, Wente Vineyards continues the family’s commitment to producing 100% estate grown sustainably farmed wines in the Livermore Valley, San Francisco Bay area and Arroyo Seco in Monterey.

Wente Vineyards 2013 Morning Fog Livermore Valley Chardonnay offers crisp flavors of green apple and tropical fruit with a touch of vanilla and toasty oak.  It has a nice full body and balanced acidity leading to a medium-ling refreshing finish. 

Wente Vineyards 2013 Riva Ranch Chardonnay from Arroyo Seco in Monterey County is a particular favorite reflecting the terroir of this perfect Chardonnay region.  You will love the tropical fruit aromas and flavors tied with great acidity and creamy notes of butter, vanilla and soft oak.  As Karl D. Wente, Fifth Generation Winemaker, says, “Our Riva Ranch Chardonnay is beautifully rich, yet balanced style of Chardonnay that represents what the Arroyo Seco appellation has to give.  This is distinctly a California style of Chardonnay, but is consistently well balanced with ample acidity.”

The Wente 2014 Small Lot Eric’s Chardonnay is from Livermore Valley, where the grapes are handpicked and sorted at harvest time in order to ensure premium quality.  This unoaked Chardonnay is a favored style of Fourth Generation Winemaker Eric Wente.  It is clear and bright with a nice balance of fruit and acidity making it refreshing by itself or with food.  You will enjoy the Chardonnay fruit qualities shining through with lemon zest, green apple, citrus, pear, pineapple, and nectarine.

In honor of National Chardonnay Day on May 21 pick up a bottle of Wente Chardonnay and toast this fine grape.  You are encouraged to share your photos, videos and comments through your social channels tagging #WenteChard and #ChardonnayDay.

For more information:  Wente Vineyards

TAPAS Grand Tasting includes Tempranillo and more

TAPAS (Tempranillo Advocates Producers and Amigos Society) hosted the annual Grand Wine Tasting at the Golden Gate Club at the Presidio on Sunday, April 26. TAPAS is an association of domestic wine producers who focus on wines utilizing Spanish and Portuguese varietals such as Tempranillo, Albariño, Graciano, Garnacha and Verdelho.

At the TAPAS Grand Wine Tasting consumers had the opportunity to sample wines from 35 participating wineries from California, Arizona, Oregon, Washington and Idaho. Many of these wineries are limited-production, family-owned wineries so this was a rare opportunity to try some very unique wines.

The event started with the Tempranillo Shootout, a blind tasting event that pits domestic Tempranillos against Spanish Tempranillos.  The moderator was Patrick Comiskey, Senior Correspondent for Wine & Spirits Magazine.  Panel members included Drake McCarthy, Director of Sales for Golden State Wine, Jodie MacKensie of Darioush Winery and Joe LaVilla, Dean of Academic Affairs at the Air Institute of California. 

Tempranillo is the second most planted grape in Spain and there are over 1000 acres planted in California.  Drake calls it, “A Chameleon grape that is dependent on where it grows and how it is farmed having a profound effect on the result.”  Joe LaVilla states that, “Tempranillo has shyness and neutrality as its strength and is not shackled to a specific style.”

A few examples of the great selection of Iberian varietal wines available are as follows:

Bokisch Vineyards – Markus Bokisch has been a leading advocate of Spanish varietals for years, producing a wide range of grapes at his vineyards in the Lodi area. He brought his 2014 Albariño from Terra Alta Vineyards to the event, a 2014 Verdelho from Borden Ranch and the 2014 Verdejo from Clay Station Vineyard.  The 2012 Monastrell was delicious and the Bokisch 2012 Graciano has always been a very popular wine from Bokisch and this vintage continued to provide the dark purple color, dark fruit aromas and the flavors of blackberry jam, black cherry, anise and even a touch of cocoa.

Irwin Family Vineyards – This winery was a particularly pleasant surprise.  Winemaker/owner Dereck Irwin operates his own consulting firm to advise other winemakers and vineyard managers.  The Irwin Family owns a vineyard in Nevada County outside Grass Valley that lies further north than most Sierra Foothill vineyards.  This has a tendency to cool off at night and ensures the grape’s natural acidity will remain high as the grapes mature.  The results are wonderfully balanced wines.  The 2013 “The Bull” is a blend of Tempranillo, Malbec and Petite Sirah.  It is packed with flavors and aromas of black currants, pomegranate, blueberries, cedar and black cherries with a touch of cocoa and lots of spice. The 2014 Verdejo has excellent acidity and vibrant flavors of kiwi, green apples and kumquat.  The 2012 Tempranillo has been aged in French Oak for 2.5 years and loaded with aromas and flavors of plum, black cherry, boysenberry and pomegranate. 

Cinder Wines – Are there wineries in Idaho?  There sure is and Cinder Wines out of Snake River delivered a Tempranillo for TAPAS Grand Tasting.  Cinder, named after the volcanic soil around Boise, was started in 2008.  The 2012 Tempranillo is a bold, spicy and earthy wine that reflects the hot dry vineyards of the Snake River Valley.  It has aromas and flavors of red currant and tobacco with black olive and raspberry qualities.  The 2013 Reserve Tempranillo expresses a great elegance and complexity of flavors and aromas, adding in more spice and fruit qualities.

Martian Ranch & Vineyard – This winery located in Los Alamos in Santa Barbara County and has extensive vineyards of Iberian and Rhone varietals.  It was founded by Nan Helgeland and the name is a combination of her son’s names, Martin and Ian.  The 2013 Uforic Albariño has a great minerality and acidity reflecting its Spanish past along with refreshing apricot and spicy qualities reflecting its California base.  The 2012 Gravitas Tempranillo has dark fruit flavors of cherry and raspberry along with blueberry hints.  The smoke and spice adds to its food friendly style.

There were many other excellent wines at the event but the best way to learn about these Spanish and Portuguese varietal wines tis to taste them. Check out the TAPAS website and fine the winery near you or look for them at your local wine shop.

For more information: TAPAS Society

Barefoot Bubblies are great wines for family gatherings

Barefoot Wines has been making wines loved since 1965 and have grown into one of the largest winemakers in California.  They have a passion for making fun wines aimed at having wine lovers have a great time and making the world a better place through wine.   A particular joy is the collection of Barefoot Bubblies, where you will find a Sparkling Wine that you are sure to enjoy.

In this period between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day pick out a bubbly that you enjoy.  The Brut Cuvee is their driest Sparkling delivering exciting tastes of green apple, jasmine, hints of kiwi and peach flavors leading on to a crisp long finish.  This is the wine to serve with fresh fruit or buttery lobster, a veggie pizza or grilled salmon. 

The Pink Moscato Bubbly is delicious with flavors of red fruit and fresh berries.  It has a nice creamy finish that includes candied cherries and sweet citrus making it a sweet bubbly wine.  This is a great wine to start any summer evening and should be served with sweet treats, fresh fruit, or a peach sorbet.

With more than 30 wines and bubblies Barefoot can meet your needs for the major holidays and an arsenal of recipes to make the meal special.  Some examples for these holidays are as follows:

Place cherry vodka, juice and syrup in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake to chill. Strain into champagne flute. Top with Barefoot Bubbly Pink Moscato. Place 3 mini marshmallows on a cocktail pick. Lightly dampen with a wet paper towel. Roll in pink sugar. Place cocktail pick across top of drink.
  • 3 ounces Barefoot Bubbly Pink Moscato
  • ¾ ounce Cherry Vodka
  • 1 ounce Cranberry Juice
  • ¼ ounce Simple Syrup
  • 3 mini marshmallows
  • Pink dusting sugar – found in baking aisle 
Dad’s Day Delight
Combine bourbon or whiskey, syrup and juice in rocks glass over fresh ice. Top with Barefoot Bubbly Brut and ginger ale. Garnish with lemon.
  • 3 ounces Barefoot Bubbly Brut Cuvee
  • ½ ounce Bourbon or Whiskey
  • ½ ounce Pure Maple Syrup
  • 1/8 ounce Lemon Juice
  • 1 ounce Ginger Ale
For more information:

Tizona 2012 Old Vine Zinfandel from Bokisch

Markus Bokisch has long been known for his exquisite Spanish varietal wines, pulling together his personal heritage combined with his love of Lodi grapes and his hands-on farming style.  But Lodi also is well-known for its Zinfandel grapes.  So what happens when you merge this Spanish heritage winemaker with the California heritage grape of Lodi?  Meet Tizona!

Tizona is a fabled sword forged in Spain one thousand years ago while Spain was under Islamic rule.  After serving in several battles this sword was given as a gift by the King of Morocco to El Cid, noblest of the Spanish warriors and King of Valencia.  As stated by Markus, “El Cid’s Tizona represents bold and intelligent progress, carving out new dominions in directions yet unexplored.  Tizona is forging Bokisch into other varietal paths and our first Kirschenmann Vineyard old vine Zinfandel is an example of this new path.”

Markus has been farming the neighboring Kirschenmann vineyard for a few years and decided to try a new direction from the Iberian varietals and purchased some of the Zinfandel fruit and was very pleased with the results.  The Kirschenmann Vineyard is elegant, refined and supple.  The alluvial, sandy soils of Victor are underlain with a zone of cemented limestone which the vines’ roots perch on, sipping water all summer long.  The balance of the vines canopies, along with that of its perfectly groomed fruit, is reflected in this Zinfandel.

The 2012 Tizona Kirschenmann Vineyards Old Vine Zinfandel comes from 97 year old vines.  Markus produced 99 cases of this wine and the suggested price is $32 per bottle.  This wine is beautifully balanced with full flavors, earthiness and a long inviting finish.  On the nose you will enjoy the great aromas of black cherry, blueberry, blackberry and plus with a touch of lavender.  On the palate these same aromas continue in the flavors with the addition of a touch of strawberry and vanilla and a touch of chocolate.  This wine really shows what Zinfandel can be.  It is also great with foods and you should be sure to include it on the menu with your next steak or BBQ ribs, it pulls intensity from the wine with the ability to be in balance and match the food.

For more information: