Thursday, June 4, 2020

Winephabet Street Season 2 Episode 8 - H is for Hunter Valley

Welcome to Winephabet Street Season 2 Episode 8 - H is for Hunter Valley. Winephabet Street is a monthly series where Lori Budd of Draceana Wines and I work our way through the alphabet exploring wine and wine regions one letter at a time. The show is live on the third Monday at 8pm and is free, but you must register to attend. Put it on your calendar, pour yourself a glass of wine and hang out with us.

The month of May we traveled down under to Australia’s Hunter Valley. Did you know that the Hunter Valley is the Birthplace of Australian wine? It is also the oldest Australian wine region, home to 150 wineries, gourmet restaurants,, spas, and concerts in the vineyard. It is a two hour drive North of Sydney.

Hope Estate
This month's wine selection was from Hope Estate, located in Pokolbin. They are more than a winery, with a brewery on site and a large concert venue. They hosted entertainers Elton John, Bruce Springsteen and the Rolling Stones.
Hope Estate is owned by Michael Hope and his family. He began the winery as a retirement hobby that grew into a national brand. He wants to continue to grow and build on his brand.
2017 Hope Estate Basalt Block Shiraz, Hunter Valley - A lovely Shiraz! I was pleasantly surprised by this Shiraz, as I was expecting something fruit-forward and it was not. It wasn’t a bold in your face wine. It was very enjoyable! The aromas escaping the glass were a mix of red and black fruit, plum, cherry, black spice and vanilla. The palate was biting into a freshly picked ripe plum, with licorice spice on the finish.

Watch the webinar or listen to the podcast

For more episodes of Winephabet Street visit



Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Do You Know Tinta del Pais?

Do you know Tinta del Pais? I think you do. It’s Tempranillo and is planted in the Ribera del Duero region of Spain. Tempranillo produces young juicy wines and when aged is more structured.
The Ribera del Duero is Spain’s second most important DO (Denomination of Origin) and represents 16% of the total red wine market. The Tempranillo grown in the region is known as Tinta del Pais to differentiate themselves from other regions that produce Tempranillo.
There are four main wine growing areas of the Ribera del Duero. They are:
  • Burgos
  • Valladolid
  • Soria

Ribera del Duero is planted with Tempranillo. Some of the vines date back 100 years. The region experiences hot summers and cold winters.
The summers are dry with extreme fluctuations between day and night temperatures. The winters can be long and severe. They receive
about 2,400 hours of sun per year.
I had the opportunity to sample two Tinta del Pais wines from Dominio Fournier, a 60 year old winery located in the Ribera del Duero region
of Burgos.

Dominio Fourner
Founded by Jose Manuel Ortega, an investment broker with Goldman Sachs who knew he  to own his own business one day. Like many of us, his experience with wine began as a hobby. Then he found himself investing in wines at auctions, visiting wineries in Spain and reading wine magazines in Spain. Then he started a winery.

Jose has wineries in Spain, Argentina and Chile. What is quite unique is that when harvesting in Spain, the South American counterparts come and help in Spain. Vice a versa for when they harvest in South American, their counterparts in Spain come and assist. This allows all parties to learn, grow and experiment.

The age of the vineyards range from 3 years to over 60. Divided into 22 parcels all are harvested and nurtured separately under the direction of Marian Santamaria and Laura Terrazas Rodriguez. Vineyards are located 820 meters above sea level on alluvial terrace of the Duero river. The vineyard roots dig deep down through a layer of boulders and gravel. This provides good drainage and makes the vines stress (which is good). The outcome is high quality concentrated fruit.

Fourner Reserva Duero Tinta del Pais $50 Reserva wines must age for at least 18 months in the barrel. The Fournier Reserva aged between 18 and 24 months in new French oak for a total aging of 36 months before it was released. This is a very complex wine. Lots going on here. Aromas of blackberry, cassis, plum and prunes escape the dark red liquid with purple hues in the glass. Complex palate that is rich in flavor. Hints of black fruit, black currant, vanilla and sticky tannins. Let it open for a bit and you’ll get a hint of chocolate.

Fournier Crianza 2016 SRP $30 Crianza wines must be aged for 12 months. This 100% Tinta del Pais were harvest and vinified separately. The wine was put into barrels that were 80% French oak and 20% American oak. This is a bit lighter and fruiter than the 2014, but to be expected. Full-bodied with mature black fruit, elegant with a nice finish.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Winephabet Street Season 2 Episode 7 - G is for Glera

Welcome to Winephabet Street Season 2 Episode 7 - G is for Glera. Winephabet Street is a monthly series where Lori Budd of Draceana Wines and I work our way through the alphabet exploring wine and wine regions one letter at a time. The show is live on the third Monday at 8pm and is free, but you must register to attend. Put it on your calendar, pour yourself a glass of wine and hang out with us.

The month of April we talked about the Glera grape. Glera is the grape in Prosecco. It is thought to have originated in Slovenia’s Karst region and brought to the village of Prosecco.
Prosecco was used to indicate a wine as well as both a production area and grape variety. In 2009 to identify Prosecco as a designation of origin the name couldn’t represent the grape and region. Glera was chosen as the grape of Prosecco.

This month's wine selection was Jeio Bisol 1542 Prosecco. Jeio is a love story. Jeio is the name Giovanna Bisol called her husband.
The vineyards are on top of steep hills in the Veneto region. The wine was fermented in stainless steel for 15 days. Made in the Charmat method.
The Prosecco is very elegant. Aromas of green apple and wisteria. The palate is soft and elegant with a slight creaminess to it. Flavors of green apple, pear with a citrus peel finish. The price point on the Prosecco is $20.

Watch the webinar or listen to the podcast

For more episodes of Winephabet Street visit

The Webinar  

The Podcast

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Memorial Day Spanish Wine Suggestions

It’s Memorial Day weekend and time for some grilling. It’s going to be different as we all have cabin fever and want to socialize with friends and family. Whatever you do this weekend, stay safe and healthy.
I’ve been drinking a lot of Spanish wines lately and realize what an underdog they are. Not only are they good, but they are so reasonably priced, you can drink well for under $20. So as you think about your menu watch the video as I explain some Spanish wines that will pair nicely with your meals.
Enjoy the weekend and the wine.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

The Celebrities of Bodega San Valero (BSV)

When you think of celebrities you think of Hollywood legends. But what about the legends among us. We are all legends. Bodega San Valero has created a line of wines to celebrate the Celebrities that we are. These wines highlight the indigenous monovarietal grapes of the region and the international varietals grown there.
Bodega San Valero is located in the Aragon region in Northern Spain. It is part of the Cooperativa VinicolaSan Valero, a winegrowing cooperative with 500 partners and 4,000 hectares of vineyards. The region is situated on a high plateau with significant diurnal temperature shifts. The vineyards are planted at 2,600 feet. With this altitude, combined with the cierzo winds, you get some nice fresh minerality expressed in these wines. Those wines are also important because they cool and protect the vines against disease.
The soil plays an important role in the wines as well. You have a Encinacorba at the 800m altitude which is a combination of slate and quartzite. You have Monte Alcaniz which is mixed, but the effect of the sun and temperature contrasts. Grapes grown in this soil brings strong expressions and quality wines. Monte Ducay soil is very stoney. The thick stones help with soil humidity and the outer stones irradiate light to heat the low lying fruit. Grapes grown in this soil are smaller and more concentrated. They are powerful and expressive.

The Eye Catching Labels
Before we get into the grapes and the wine, I have to talk about the fun, sassy labels. They are so striking and a great conversational piece. The artwork on label wants us to think like a Celebrity, dress like a Celebrity and taste like a Celebrity. If you are wondering, that is a grape covering the face on the label. Behind that grape can be anyone. The labels also have descriptions like “more glamor than ever,” or “a daring look” to help you identify with the character. We are all Celebrities, now let’s drink with them! Best is that all the wines below retail for $14.99. Such a great price point and quality!

Meet the Monovarietals - Granacha and Carinena
Granacha and Carinena are two indigeineous grapes of the Cariňena region. Some of the vines in Cariňena are over 100 years old and 70% of the plantings are dedicated to the indigenous grapes and 25% dedicated to Garnacha.
Celebrities 2016 Old Vine Garnacha The old vines these Garnacha grapes are picked from are between 30 and 40 years old. Aged in used oak for a minimum of 5 months. Dark red fruit, red raspberry, hints of minerality with nice spice on the finish. The spice finishes softly and then explodes in your mouth. This is a nice summer red.
Celebrities 2019 Garnacha This is a young wine and I did experiment and chilled it for a few minutes. Both served with a slight chill and no chill were just as good. This young wine screams fun and excitement! Serious red raspberry hits you in the face as black pepper spice comes out mid palate and softly explodes on the finish. The wine is clean, smooth and refreshing.
Celebrities 2017 Carinena There is a lot going on in this wine. Lots of aromas jumping from the glass. Starting with plum, and hints of violets, blackberry, spicy notes and tobacco. The palate is light with soft red fruit, plume and anise. Nice balance of spice and fruit.

Meet the International Varietals - Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon
There are only 205 hectares of Merlot, 480 hectares of Cabernet Sauvignon and 325 hectares of Syrah grown in the region. The familiarity of these varietals is what will have you reaching for them. Just remember, the wine is about the terroir. I found the wines below all very easy drinking and will be great everyday wines.
Celebrities 2018 Merlot Hints of blueberry with red cherry and sweet tannins
Celebrities 2018 Syrah The blueberry hits you then blackberry and boysenberry flavors show themselves along with some mocha. Nice soft mouth feel.
Celebrities 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon Strong red fruit, red cherries, and blackberries, hints of crushed herbs with soft tannins. Supernice, soothing and relaxing Cab.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

75 Harvests 500 Hands- The Power of a Cooperative

Do you know what as 75 harvests under their belt and 500 hands? Cooperativa Vinicola San Valero in Cariňena, Spain.
Cooperativa Vinicola San Valero was founded in 1944 known then as Bodega San Valero with 60 winegrowers from Cariňena. Today they have over 500 hand-picked member winegrowers. Cariňena is the oldest wine-growing region in Spain and it is here where Old World Winemaking meets New World Innovation.
The Cooperative is made up of the original winery, Bodega San Valero, Bodega Gran Ducay (1984), Bodega Particular de San Valero (2014), Bodega Verde de San Valero (2019) and Tierra de Cubas. They encompass 4000 hectares of vineyards between the rivers of Huerva and Jalon.
In 1982 they began what you could say is quality control. They had what was called a “control harvest.” They just didn’t take all grapes harvested. The grapes were graded and paid for by quality parameters. The importance of quality was instilled at that point as one of their corporate values and innovation soon followed. The winery has become the most tech-savvy winery in the DOP Cariňena. They combine ancestral traditions with cutting edge techniques. Each vineyard owner has just as much stake as the next. They work together to grow in terms of quality, product and innovation all 500 of them.

The main varieties in the vineyards of Cooperative are Garnacha, Tempranillo and Macabeo. Less than 50% of their production is indigenous grapes. Of the 4000 hectares, 205 are planted with Merlot, 480 to Cabernet Sauvignon and 325 to Syrah.
The time has come to get to know Cariňena, it’s terroir, the stones and the wines! It’s a region to watch! The wines I’ve tasted are a hidden gem. All great quality and so reasonably priced. We’ll begin with the celebratory wine, celebrating the 500 growers at the 75th harvest.

500 Manos SRP $20
Today we are going to celebrate 75 harvests of 500 hands with 500 Manos. Bodegas San Valero launched this wine to pay tribute to the 500 winegrower family in the Carignan group.
The hand has a fist full of dirt which is what makes the Cariňena so unique. The label represents the hands of the growers that work hard in the vineyards and winery with the unique terroir that they nurture to create the wine. Each of the 500 growers have a part in the bottle of wine.The wine is a blend of 40% Syrah, 30% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon.
This wine is a powerful statement to the power of the Cooperative and the people all working together. I suggest decanting it for at least a half hour. It has a lot going on. Aromas of cassis, earth, violets and spice all come at you from the glass. A complex palate of black cherry, black raspberry, black plum. Basically lots of layers of black fruit with black licorice spice that explodes in your mouth and lingers on the finish. Think of that explosion as the 500 hands clapping as they finish up a successful harvest #75

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Meet Jeff Pisoni and Bibiana Gonzalez Rave - Pisoni Vineyards & Wines by Bibiana

Last year I got introduced to two wines - Pisoni Family Vineyards, Lucy and Wines by Bibiana and her Alma de Cattleya label. A few weeks ago I got invited to a virtual tasting featuring Pisoni Family Vineyards Lucia label and Wines by Bibiana, Alma de Catteya label. When I received the information I noticed the brochures for the wines were similar and not knowing much about the background of either, thought, hmmm, wonder if there is a relationship here.

The first 15 minutes of the tasting was on zoom then we moved over to twitter. I was the first to log in and it was so nice to meet Jeff and Bibiana. I noticed there was some chemistry between them. Then one of them mentioned their kids and I knew they were husband and wife, each with a wine, both so proud of each other. They work together yet separate. Both are perfectionists. Bibiana likes to share her blending trials with Jeff blindly because she values his opinion. They don’t say they are competition for each other but a humbling mentoring process that continues to make each other’s craft better.

Alma de Cattleya

We tasted two Alma de Cattleya wines, a Sauvignon Blanc and Rose of Pinot Noir both sourced from Sonoma County. On thing I noticed is that both wines are aged in used oak barrels. This is a characteristic in Bibiana’s wines. She loves fermenting and aging in them because it allows the lees to be in contact with the wine. Both wines below were aged for 6 months in oak. This adds texture to the wine at the same time as it protects the wine from oxygen. She feels it adds balance and mouth-feel as well as preserving the aromatics of the wine.

One thing to be careful of if you are going to Coravin the wine, DON’T! You are going to have to open and drink the entire bottle. Bibiana uses DIAM corks. These corks provide security against cork taint and it will break your Coravin needle. She has a guarantee with her wine that if you open a bottle and it’s got cork taint, she will replace it with a full case. She has yet to do that.

2019 Alma deCattleya Sauvignon Blanc SRP $22 - This Sauvignon Blanc is mostly Musque clone along with Clone 1. The Musque clone brings a lot of the citrus characteristics to the wine. It is a beautiful Sauvignon Blanc! Soft acidity with a zing on the finish. Crisp with some stone fruit, subtle grapefruit, orange blossom and lemon. Very delightful!

2019 Rose of Pinot Noir SRP $20 - The grapes for this Rose were sourced from the cool areas of the Sonoma Coast and Carneros using clones 115, Pommard and 777. After uncorking I got aromas of serious peach escaping from the bottle. I didn’t find that on the palate. Once pourd there was citrus on the nose leading to a soft texture on the palate with fresh strawberries and a burst of citrus on the finish. It was nice, light and crisp.

Lucia Wines by Pisoni Family Vineyards
The Lucia collection represents wines that come from the Pisoni family’s 3 vineyards; Pisoni Vineyard, Gary’s Vineyard and Soberanes Vineyards all located in the Santa Lucia Highlands. The Santa Lucia Highlands is a cool-climate region growing great Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Gary Pisoni is the founder of the family vineyards and son Mark is the vineyard manager and Jeff the winemaker.

Both the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir we tasted are fermented with native yeast. This is yeast that is found on the grapes and each grape variety and each vintage will have a different microbial makeup. There is a little bit more TLC that goes into working with native yeast. It will give the wine a creamy softer texture.

2018 Lucia Chardonnay SRP $45 - If you are looking for a romantic Chardonnay this is one for you. This wine was just released and I was honored to be one of the first to try it. It aged for 11 months in 100% French oak of which 32% was new oak. You can definitely taste the new oak in the wine. Flavors of apple pie hit the palate first followed by orchard fruit, pear and some lemon meringue. This is a great Chardonnay to sit around the fire pit on a chilly evening.

2018 Lucia Pinot Noir SRP $45 - Nice expression of fruit. Red berry, plum, and red currant. Soft mouthfeel with a bit of spice pizzaz on the finish.

Meet Lucy, Lucia Wines Younger Sister
Lucy is made with estate Pinot Noir and a combination of whole cluster pressing and saignee. It ages in old oak barrels for 3 months. What is really special is that $1 of every bottle sold of Lucy is donated to Breast Cancer.

2019 Lucy Rose of Pinot Noir - Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey County - Clean and fresh Lucy is perfect after working in the garden. Bright strawberries and light hints of red cherry with a touch of lime and minerality. Sit on the deck, relax and have a glass.