Unti Barbera 2013

The longer I live in Sonoma, the longer my list of favorite wineries in Sonoma County grows.  Unti Vineyards easily makes the list and is located on Dry Creek Road in Healdsburg.  They craft well-made wines and throw some pretty fantastic release parties!  Brandon and I attended their last release party and picked up some wine to bring home with us.  Among our stash was a bottle of Unti Barbera that we decided to uncork last week.

Unti Barbera 2013
Unti Barbera 2013

Unti Barbera is inky in color and opens with cherry and floral aromatics.  Although the wine is a bit hefty in alcohol, it is relatively balanced on the palate.  There are bright notes of cherries, plum, and spice surrounded by hints of earth.  Drink young and pair with foods like sausage pizza!  ($30, 14.7% alcohol)

Continue Reading

Harvest Has Begun in Wine Country!

Harvest has officially begun throughout Sonoma and Napa and I am excited to say that we are working on wine project of our own.  I will post more details as the season comes to an end (you can also sign up for McDowell Cellars’ mailing list here), but here are some awesome pictures to enjoy in the meantime!

Early morning in vineyards harvesting Chenin Blanc
Early morning in the vineyards harvesting Chenin Blanc


Brandon foot stomping the Chenin
Brandon foot stomping the Chenin


Working in the winery...when the big press breaks, you have to go old school!
Working in the winery…when the big press breaks, you have to go old school!


Taking a break to celebrate at Whetsone Wine Cellars
Taking a break to celebrate at Whetstone Wine Cellars


Continue Reading

Exploring the Wines of Troon Vineyard

Troon Vineyard sits in Southern Oregon’s Applegate Valley, surrounded by the beauty of the Siskiyou Mountains.  Troon was founded in 1972 and focuses on producing wines that are well-suited for the terroir of Applegate Valley.  With indigenous yeast fermentations and responsible farming practices, the wines of Troon showcase pure fruit and vibrant flavors.

Troon Vineyard Wines

I had the opportunity to taste through several of Troon’s latest releases and was impressed with their creative blends.  They have done a fantastic job of highlighting lesser know varieties and unusual co-ferments.  Here are my tasting notes from a few of the standouts in Troon’s lineup:

Troon Vineyard 2014 Longue Carabine

Troon’s Longue Carabine is my favorite wine from their 2014 lineup.  It is a co-fermented blend of 38.5% Vermentino, 33% Viognier, 27% Marsanne, and 1.5% Roussanne.  The dry wine captivates the palate with tastes of ripe peaches, zesty citrus, nutmeg, and apricots.  There is also a backbone of acidity and lush texture that makes this an excellent wine to pair with shellfish!  (12.5% alcohol, $29)

Troon Vineyard 2014 Vermentino Sauvignon Blanc

This blend of 80% Vermentino and 20% Sauvignon Blanc offers fresh tastes of white peaches, jasmine, orange blossom, limestone, and green apples.  Once again, Troon nails it with zippy acidity and a pleasing texture.  A balanced and refreshing wine easy to enjoy on its own or paired with dishes like seafood and grilled chicken.  (12.5% alcohol, $24)

Troon Vineyard 2013 M*T Reserve 

Troon’s M*T Reserve is a rich and complex blend of Malbec and Tannat from their estate vineyards.  The wine opens with intense aromas of cranberries, dried herbs, and black pepper.  The palate is tannic with rich flavors of blackberries, tobacco, lavender, and leather.  This wine is young so I would suggest decanting or holding for a couple of years.  An excellent pairing with rack of lamb or other savory meats. (13.7% alcohol, $50)

*Media Samples

Continue Reading

Château Coupe Roses La Bastide Minervois 2013

I was cruising the aisles of Whole Foods looking for an inexpensive wine to pair with burgers and was pleasantly surprised to see a bottle of Château Coupe Roses La Bastide Minervois on the shelf for $14.  I have uncorked many bottles of this blend of old-vine Carignan, Grenache, and Syrah in the past and was pretty impressed with the QPR.  The wine hails from the Languedoc region of France and the family-run winery adheres to minimalist winemaking philosophies.

Chateau Coupe Roses Minervois La Bastide
Chateau Coupe Roses Minervois La Bastide


This is a fun and funky wine.  Fresh tastes of plum, dark berries, tar, and anise are surrounded by earthiness and bright acid.  Not too complicated yet far more satisfying than a lot of other wines in the same price range.  Perfect for grilling and just light enough for warm, summer nights! (13% alcohol)

Continue Reading

Adventures in the Bay Area

Our recent adventures have been pretty amazing.  There is always somewhere new to visit in the Bay Area and old favorites that you want to return to.  One of my favorite things we have been doing regularly is relaxing at the Tuesday Night Farmer’s Market in Sonoma Square.  Great music, wine, and produce!

Sonoma Farmer's Market


We have also been making it a priority to explore the beaches of Sonoma County.  Fort Ross State Beach is amazing.  Be sure to pack some chairs, an umbrella, and a picnic!

Fort Ross State Beach


We also has the chance to attend Rhone Rangers at the Golden Gate Club in San Francisco.  We had a great time sipping through California Rhone wines!

Rhone Rangers San Francisco


After years of wanting to visit the wine Promised Land, we finally made it to Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant in Berekeley.  An epic wine shop that should be on everyone’s wine bucket list!

Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant


And, one last pic from the Sonoma Coast.  We already have another trip planned for next week!

Sonoma Coast

Continue Reading

Rhone Rangers San Francisco – June 10-11, 2016

Hey Bay Area…Rhone Rangers is coming to town this week!  This year, there will be over 60 wineries in attendance for Saturday’s Grand Tasting along with a winemaker dinner & auction on Friday evening.  Rhone Rangers is a non-profit organization dedicated to “advancing the knowledge and enjoyment of Rhone wines produced in America” and they do a fantastic job.  The San Francisco event will be held at The Golden Gate Club at The Presidio and showcases some of the best Rhone winemakers in the US (think Bonny Doon, Two Shepherds, and Tablas Creek).  A complete list of the Friday and Saturday’s events are below!

Rhone Rangers

Friday, June 10

Winemaker Reception, Dinner and Auction – Winemakers pull out all the stops from library wines to barrel samples for the reception and dinner catered by Girl & the Fig Caterers. The auction will have you at the edge of your seat as you bid for rare and unique items only found on the auction block. Tickets are limited to the first 180 persons. Reception begins at 5 pm with dinner at 7 pm.

The list of wineries for the winemaker dinner are:

Anglim, Bonny Doon Vineyard, Caliza Winery, Jaffurs Wine Cellars, Pomar Junction Winery, Qupe Wine Cellars, Ridge Winery, Rune Wines, Summerwood Winery, Tablas Creek Vineyard, Tenet Wines, Terre Rouge, Thacher Winery, The Withers Winery, Westwood Wine Estate

Saturday, June 11
Saturday Pass – Spend the day with the Rhone Rangers and kick off your Saturday with a seminar moderated by Sunset wine editor, Sara Schneider. Join the Rhone Rangers for an in-depth look at Syrah with a panel of winemakers who push the conventional styles of Syrah across California and beyond. Join us for a lively discussion and tasting of up to 10 Syrah wines and taste the difference. Then spend the afternoon VIP style at the Grand Tasting, which gives you an early start to tasting more than 60 Rhone wineries. Seminar begins at 11 am followed by VIP Grand Tasting.

The list of seminar wines:

Bonny Doon Vineyard, Caliza Winery, Crux, Jaffurs Wine Cellars, Qupe Wine Cellars, Rune Wines, Skinner, Stolpman, Tenet Wines, Terre Rouge, Westwood Wine Estate, Wrath

VIP Grand Tasting – Membership has its privileges especially when it comes to VIP status at the Rhone Rangers San Francisco event. In addition to an early start to the tasting of more than 60 Rhone wineries, VIP ticket holders will have access to a special lounge area featuring unique wines, appetizers and seating. VIP guests may enter at 1:30 pm.

Grand Tasting General Admission – Join the Rhone Rangers for their annual celebration of American Rhone wines during the grand tasting. Enjoy wines from more than 60 Rhone Rangers wineries from 2:30 – 5:30 pm.

Weekend Pass – The Weekend Pass includes one ticket to the Friday, June 10 Winemaker Reception, Dinner and Auction AND one Saturday Pass.

Continue Reading

Gamay Time – Raisins Gaulois 2014

While I definitely don’t need a reason to sip Gamay, the recent warm weather in Sonoma is making it even easier to reach for a light-bodied red.  My house red for this summer (and for many of the past few summers) is Marcel Lapierre Raisins Gaulois.  This 100% Gamay comes from organically farmed, young vines in Morgon and Beaujolais.  There is as little intervention as possible in the winemaking process which allows this wine to be a pure expression of the Gamay grape.

Domaine Marcel Lapierre Raisins Gaulois
Domaine Marcel Lapierre Raisins Gaulois


Raisins Gaulois pours a bright ruby color in the glass and offers aromas of jubilant, red fruit. In each sip, there are tastes of tangy raspberries, cranberries, and red cherries followed with a juicy finish.  Refreshing, lively, and delicious!  Best enjoyed slightly chilled. (12% alcohol, $13.99)

Continue Reading

A Week in Wine Country (and beyond)

We took our first trip to Medlock Ames in Healdsburg.  Such a beautiful property with plenty of patio space available to grab a bottle of wine and relax!Medlock Ames Patio

We were fortunate enough to be able to attend the Seven % Solution tasting in San Francisco.  This is honestly the best domestic tasting we have ever attended.  Amazing wines poured by passionate winemakers.  Don’t miss this event next year!

Seven % Solution

We ventured through some of the backroads in Sonoma and Napa Counties.  Seek out the road less traveled!

Sonoma Backroads

We also attended yet another fantastic wine tasting.  West of West Wine Festival features cool-climate wines grown on the Sonoma Coast and this year it was held at the beautiful Golden Gate Club.  We sipped some amazing Pinot Noir, Syrah, and Chardonnay!

Seven % Solution

And last but not least, we finished the week in beautiful Sonoma Square.  Sunshine, palm trees, and great wine!

Sonoma Square

Continue Reading

Exploring Lodi Wines – German and Austrian Varieties

When most people think Lodi wine, they tend to think of Zinfandel.  While the region is definitely well-known for big, rich Zins, there are so many other varieties being grown in the region.  Over the years, I have come to enjoy Old World-styled Cinsault & Chenin Blanc from Lodi but just had the chance to sip my way through some fantastic German & Austrian varieties from Lodi’s Mokelumne Glen Vineyard via a BrandLive tasting.  Exploring Lodi wines outside of Zinfandel has really shown me the potential the region has for making interesting, balanced wines.  Here are my tasting notes from the event:

The Lodi Lineup
The Lodi Lineup

Holman Cellars 2015 Uncharted Lodi Bacchus

Bacchus…have you ever tried it?  I hadn’t either until this tasting.  Bacchus, a cross between Riesling and Silvaner, is traditionally grown in Germany and tends to have powerful flavors.  Holman Cellars Bacchus spent 3 days on the skin and was fermented in stainless steel.  It has rich tastes of apricots, citrus, and nutmeg with surprisingly vibrant acidity for the grape.  Nice texture and complexity! (14% alcohol, $25)

Markus Wine Co. 2014 Nimmo Lodi White Wine

Markus Wine Co.’s Nimmo is incredibly interesting to drink.  This wine is a blend of 71% Kerner, 13% Gewürztraminer, 11% Riesling, and 5% Bacchus fermented with native yeasts.  Nimmo is fermented in stainless steel and aged for 9 months in 60% new French oak.  The palate is refreshing & bright with tastes of citrus, spice, and minerals.  There is also a unique texture, noticeable oak influence, and bright acid.  An interesting wine that evolves significantly with air. (13.8% alcohol, $22)

Hatton Daniels 2015 Lodi Zweigelt

I drink Zweigelt from Austria somewhat regularly but I never knew the grape existed in Lodi.  Hatton Daniels did a terrific job with this zero-sulfur wine.  Light-bodied with tastes of juicy, red fruit and pepper, this wine is a perfect warm weather sipper.  Serve slightly chilled and be prepared for it to disappear quickly! (11.9% alcohol, $24)

m2 Wines 2014 Belle Étoile Blanche

I love ending a meal with dessert wine and strong cheeses so I was excited to try m2 Wines late-harvest Belle Étoile Blanche.  It is a blend of 35% Reislaner, 25% Weissburgunder, 20% Riesling, and 20% Gewürztraminer aged in stainless steel & neutral oak.  The palate offers ripe tastes of apricot and citrus wrapped in sweet honey.  Crisp, clean, and delightful at the end of a meal! (13.3% alcohol, $24)

*Media Samples

Continue Reading

Domaine de Fontsainte Corbières Gris de Gris Rosé 2015

Today is the first Tuesday Night Farmers’ Market of the season in Sonoma and I cannot wait to go.  The whole community comes together in Sonoma Square to enjoy wine and food while listening to live music. Rosé is a mainstay in our cooler and we are kicking off the first farmers’ market celebration with a bottle of Domaine de Fontsainte Corbières Gris de Gris Rosé.  It is a blend of 50% Grenache Gris, 20% Grenache Noir, 20% Carignan, 5% Cinsault, and 5% Mourvèdre from the Corbières appellation in the Languedoc region of France.  The wine is made with minimal intervention in the winemaking process and is imported by Kermit Lynch.  It is a Rosé I come back to vintage after vintage and it never seems to disappoint!

Domaine de Fontsainte Corbières “Gris de Gris” Rosé
Domaine de Fontsainte Corbières “Gris de Gris” Rosé

The 2015 vintage of Domaine de Fontsainte Corbières Gris de Gris Rosé pours a beautiful salmon color in the glass.  The wine has aromas of red berries with hints of citrus. The palate is vibrant and juicy with tastes of strawberries, cherries, and tart cranberries.  A fun and refreshing Rosé that we will undoubtedly be enjoying throughout the farmers’ market season! (For all of you fellow Sonomans, Whole Foods Market in Sonoma sells this bottle chilled and ready to sip)



Continue Reading
1 2 3 56