Movie Review: American Wine Story

Last weekend, I had the chance to preview an incredible film from Three Crows Media titled American Wine Story.  American Wine Story is a documentary that chronicles the journeys of several winemakers and wine professionals who, for the most part, don’t follow the path into the wine industry that most Americans seem to envision.  The movie draws you in from the start with tales of tragedy, hard work, and success.

American Wine Story

American Wine Story

American Wine Story’s underlying theme is following passions and pursuing dreams, which in this case, revolve around making wine.  While the movie centers around the death of Oregon winemaker Jimi Brooks of Brooks Winery, I found the stories of many of the other featured winemakers equally intriguing.  As a viewer, I was captivated to learn about the winemakers’ day jobs, personal and professional struggles, and what ultimately led them to pursue wine.

Some of the featured winery owners in American Wine Story

Some of the featured winemakers, winery owners, and wine professionals in the film

While the storyline can seem a little slow at times, for the most part the film keeps the audience engaged. American Wine Story also neglects to mention stories of failure, which are as prevalent (if not more prevalent) than successes in the wine industry.  However, in spite of the aforementioned flaws, I found the film very enjoyable.

If you are interested in watching (and you should be), the film is now available to audiences everywhere on iTunes, Amazon, On Demand and at  So grab a bottle of wine, relax, and enjoy the movie!

Broc Cellars 2013 Love Red “Part Deux”…Seriously Good!

If you are looking for a highly quaffable wine for around $20, look no further than Broc Cellars Love Red “Part Deux”.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with the winery, Broc Cellars is an urban winery with a tasting room in Berkeley producing seriously good, minimally manipulated wines.

Broc Cellars Love Red "Part Deux"

Broc Cellars Love Red “Part Deux”

The newly released “Part Deux” version of Love Red is a blend of 83% Carignan, 14% Valdiguie, and 3% Petite Sirah from Frei Vineyard in Solano County.  The wine was fermented in stainless steel and then racked down to 20 year-old 600L German casks for 10 months.  Native yeast fermentation, unfined, and lightly filtered.

Love Red “Part Deux” is incredibly bright and vibrant.  The palate is flavorful yet light with tastes of red berries and spicy anise.  With plentiful acidity and a juicy finish, I could drink this wine all day.  Grab a couple of bottles while this wine lasts!  (13% alcohol, MSRP $20)

New Releases from Cimarone Wines

If you are a fan of Santa Barbara County wines, you should really add Cimarone Wines to your list of wineries to explore.  Cimarone’s vineyards are located in the Happy Canyon AVA of Santa Barbara and the winery is run by husband and wife team Roger and Priscilla Higgins.  With the help of winemaker Andrew Murray, they produce small lot, crowd-pleasing wines.  Over the past week, I sampled the newly released Cimarone 2012 Gran Premio Sangiovese and Cimarone 2012 Cabernet Franc.  Each New World style wine is well-made and full of flavor.

Cimarone's vineyards courtesy of Cimarone Wines

Cimarone’s vineyards courtesy of Cimarone Wines

Cimarone 2012 Cabernet Franc

Cimarone’s Cabernet Franc is pleasantly aromatic with notes of ripe, red berries, cassis, violets, and hints of oak.  The palate is super smooth and features tastes of plums, green bell peppers, red berries, and spice.  Balanced and incredibly enjoyable! (13.8% alcohol, $29.99)

Cimarone 2012 Cabernet Franc

Cimarone 2012 Cabernet Franc

Cimarone 2012 Gran Premio Sangiovese

This wine opens with aromas of ripe fruit, earth, and cinnamon.  Decadent flavors of plum, red berries, and cinnamon are surrounded by more nuanced notes of earth and vanilla.  Hearty enough to pair with roasted meats, this wine will most definitely improve with a little more time in the bottle! (14.5% alcohol, $29.99)

*Media Samples

Sandlands 2010 Mataro

I have been enjoying wine from Turley for years so when I heard about their winemaker Tegan Passalacqua’s personal project called Sandlands Vineyards, I had to try it.  From what I can gather, Tegan and his wife Olivia created Sandlands to highlight forgotten California varieties that they think are well-deserving of more attention. Currently, they produce interesting wines such as Matero, Trousseau Noir, and Chenin Blanc from different vineyards throughout California.  I had the chance to try Sandlands 2010 Mataro last week and it was outstanding.

Sandlands 2010 Mataro

Sandlands 2010 Mataro

Sandlands 2010 Mataro is 100% Mataro (Mourvedre for those of you wondering) sourced from two vineyards, one in Contra Costa County and the other in Amador County.  The wine is fermented whole-cluster with indigenous yeasts and bottled unfined and unfiltered.  At 13.6% alcohol, it retails for $33.

Sandlands Mataro opens with aromas of dark fruit, graphite, and spice.  The wine is well-structured and incredibly balanced.  There are bright layers of dark fruit and earth along with some interesting floral notes that seem to evolve with time.  Alive and inspired, this wine will reach its stride with a few more years in the bottle!

After tasting the Mataro, I am going to make it my mission to try the rest of the Sandlands portfolio. Definitely a brand to keep on your radar!

Bechthold Vineyard – A Tale of Three Lodi Cinsaults

Over the last couple of weeks, I had the chance to try several bottles of Cinsault from Lodi’s Bechthold Vineyard.  Bechthold Vineyard is the home of some of the world’s oldest Cinsault plantings.  The vines were originally planted in 1885 by Joseph Spenker.

Beautiful shot of Bechthold Vineyard - courtesy of Lodi Winegrape Commission

Beautiful shot of Bechthold Vineyard – courtesy of Lodi Winegrape Commission

Today, there are 25 acres of wine in Bechthold Vineyard managed by Michael David Winery.  The vineyard is farmed organically and produces beautiful fruit.  Currently, the Cinsault fruit is sold to 9 wineries and makes it into the hands of a few other lucky producers.  There are 5 acres of Cinsault fruit that are reserved for making Rosé.

Bechthold Vineyard Cinsault cluster - courtesy of Lodi Growers Association

Bechthold Vineyard Cinsault cluster – courtesy of Lodi Winegrape Commission

What I really love about these wines is that they destroy the stereotype that Lodi wine is high in alcohol, bold, and overpowering.  In reality, the Cinsault from Bechthold Vineyard is light, bright, and refreshing.  Here are three diverse Cinsaults I recently tasted from Bechthold:

Turley 2013 Lodi Cinsault

Turley, an iconic Napa Valley winery, produces an excellent Cinsault from Bechthold Vineyard.  The wine has layers of red fruit with bright acidity and excellent texture.  There are also savory and earthy notes to go along with the tart fruit.  To me, this wine really showcases the beauty and terroir of Bechthold Vineyard.  (13% alcohol, $17)

Estate Crush 2012 Cinsault

The Estate Crush Cinsault is the most fruit-forward and heaviest (although still relatively light) wine of the three.  There are notes of strawberries, cranberries, and cherries balanced with savory and herbal notes.  Fruity, smooth, and enjoyable! (13.8% alcohol, $26)

Two Shepherds 2013 Ancient Vines Cinsault

Two Shepherds Cinsault offers beautiful aromas showcasing strawberries along with hints of white pepper and herbs.  Abundant, bright red fruit flavors sing in harmony on the palate and throughout the finish.  The most elegant wine I have tasted from Bechthold Vineyard!  (12.7% alcohol, $34)

*Media Samples

Spotlight on Finger Lakes Riesling

If you are a Riesling fan, you should definitely have the Finger Lakes wine region on your radar.  New York’s Finger Lakes region has an ideal climate for producing diverse Rieslings that range from dry and crisp to sweet and fruit forward.  The region is mostly composed of small family wineries and they are increasingly producing world-class Riesling.

Last week, I joined in with several other bloggers and wine lovers on Twitter to taste through 8 Finger Lakes Rieslings from 8 different producers.  We progressed from dry to sweet and each wine was distinct and expressed totally different flavor profiles.   Here are a few standouts from the lineup:

Finger Lakes Riesling

Finger Lakes Riesling

Fox Run Vineyards 2013 Dry Riesling

Tons of grapefruit on the nose and palate of this dry Riesling.  There are also notes of lime, peach, and golden delicious apples.  Racy acidity and a zesty, tart finish! (11.2% alcohol, $18)

Red Newt Cellars 2013 Dry Riesling

This wine opens with aromas citrus and honeysuckle.  The palate is balanced with tastes of apricot, grapefruit, peach, and lemon.  Crisp acidity and a refreshing finish.  One of my favorites of the lineup! (11.8% alcohol, $15)

Chateau LaFayette Reneau 2013 Semidry Riesling

Enticing floral aromas with hints of pineapple.  The palate has addicting flavors of melon, citrus, and pear.  Slightly sweet with balancing acidity.  Super food-friendly and delicious! (11.5% alcohol, $15)

*Media Samples

Incredible Rhones from Kale Wines

This past week, I attended Rhone Rangers at the Vibiana in downtown Los Angeles.  As I made my way through the winery booths, I stopped to taste at Kale Wines out of Napa; a winery that was totally new to me.  Kale Wines is the personal project of winemaker Kale Anderson, Director of Winemaking for Pahlmeyer.  The small production winery features well-made, terroir-driven wines. I tried their 2013 Napa Valley Rosé and their 2010 Alder Springs Vineyard Syrah.  Both wines are outstanding and ended up being among the best wines at the event.

Beautiful wines from Kale

Beautiful wines from Kale

Kale Wines 2013 Napa Valley Rosé

Bright, red fruit abounds in this crisp, refreshing wine.  There are also tastes of white pepper and hints of citrus.  The lengthy finish allows nuances of minerals to shine through.  A seriously good Rosé! ($22)

Kale Wines 2010 Adler Springs Vineyard Spirit Rock Syrah

This cool climate, Mendocino County Syrah is outstanding.  Soft notes of blackberries and blueberries are coupled with earthy undertones.  At second sip, I noticed a subtle spiciness.  Great flavors yet restrained and elegant.  With bright acidity, this wine should improve a bit with a couple of years.  ($45)


Maison Angelot Bugey Mondeuse 2011

I love when I get to try a grape for the first time.  Maison Angelot Bugey Mondeuse allowed me the opportunity to do just that.  Mondeuse is commonly grown in Savoie and Bugey yet very little is grown outside of the region.  The grape is characterized by being low in alcohol and also a bit tannic if not grown in optimum conditions.


Maison Angelot Bugey Mondeuse

Technical Stuff

100% Mondeuse from the Bugey wine region in France.  Unoaked and undergoing 100% carbonic maceration.  12% alcohol and a retail price of around $14.

Tasting Notes

The nose of this wine is captivating with aromas of earth, licorice, and hints of minerals.  The palate is fairly straight-forward but definitely unique.  The are tastes of black cherries and licorice with noticeable tannins and a bit of black pepper.  The wine is lighter in body but very present in taste.  A great first experience with Mondeuse!

Los Angeles Food & Wine Festival – Don’t Forget About the Wine!

Everyone knows the Los Angeles Food & Wine Festival features some of the greatest chefs from LA and beyond.  So much fanfare surrounds chefs like Michael Voltaggio, Nancy Silverton, and Sang Yoon but few media outlets highlight the fantastic wineries pouring at the event.

I had the opportunity to attend the Lexus Grand Tasting and it was a fantastic experience.  The event featured over 300 wines from producers ranging from those who make around 1500 cases to internationally distributed, household names.  I did some research on the wineries before I arrived to make sure I didn’t miss a great tasting opportunity.  I had the chance to stop by about 20 of the different winery booths and found some amazing wines.

One of my first stops was Wind Gap Wines out of Sebastopol.  I tasted their Rosé, Trousseau, and Syrah.  The 2013 Wind Gap North Coast Rosé ended up being my favorite Rosé of the event.  Bright tastes of red fruit along with white pepper, minerals, and healthy acidity left a lasting impression.  

Wind Gap

Wind Gap

After visiting Wind Gap, I headed over to Red Car Wine.  The entire lineup was well-made and their 2012 Sonoma Coast Pinot and 2012 Fort Ross-Seaview Pinot Noir were outstanding.  Red Car’s wines are graceful, bright, and delicious.

The lineup from Red Car

The lineup from Red Car

One of the most unique wineries pouring at the Lexus Grand Tasting was Movia out of Slovenia.  I had only tried wines from Slovenia one time before and, to be honest, what I tried wasn’t very good.  Movia opened my eyes to the potential of wines from the region.  I really enjoyed the Modri Pinot Noir…light, vibrant, and balanced.

Movia Modri Pinot Noir

Movia Modri Pinot Noir

Lots of other great wineries were present at the event including Baker & Brain, Flowers Vineyard & Winery, Tablas Creek, and Skylark Wine Company.  There were also plenty of nationally known wineries pouring as well.

While the food and chefs definitely (and deservedly) get a lot of attention at the Los Angeles Food & Wine Festival, don’t forget about the wine.  This is one of the best annual wine events in Southern California!

*Hosted event

#Winechat – The Diversity of Riesling

On Wednesday, I had the opportunity to join in with other wine writers and wine lovers to taste Riesling from three different regions.  We sampled Riesling from Alsace (France), Rheingau (Germany), and Kamptal (Austria).  Each wine was completely different from the others, showing the vast diversity of the Riesling grape.  Here are my tasting notes from the #Winechat Twitter event!

Three very diverse Rieslings

Three very diverse Rieslings

Alsace – Paul Blanck & Fils Riesling Grand Cru Schlossberg 2010 

This Riesling opens with abundant citrus aromas.  The bright, balanced palate offers citrus and tropical fruit flavors and there is healthy acidity that gives the wine a nice lift through the tart, lengthy finish.  Full of character yet elegant! ($13% alcohol, $35)

Rheingau – Schloss Schönborn Riesling Kabinett Erbacher Macrobrunn 2011

Enticing aromas of green apples and tropical fruit jump out of the glass.  The palate is slightly sweet with tastes of green apples, pineapple, lime, and a touch of honey.  There is ample acidity present to balance the sweetness.  If you think you don’t like sweet Riesling, I am pretty sure this wine will change your mind! (9.5% alcohol, $24)

Kamptal – Brandl Riesling 2011 from the Heilingenstein 

This is the biggest and boldest Riesling of the lineup.  The wine begins with aromas of minerals and citrus.  The mineral-driven palate offers tastes of stone fruit, citrus, and ginger.  The palate also is a bit thicker than the other two wines of the evening.  I think this wine destroys any argument that Riesling is meek and mild.  (14% alcohol, $34)

*Media Samples