Cabernet Values for the Holidays!

A lot of people struggle to find a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon to bring to a holiday gathering that is well-priced and actually tastes good!  Here are two different styles of Cabernet, 2012 Rickshaw Wines Cabernet Sauvignon and 2012 Parducci True Grit Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, that are both great values!

2012 Rickshaw Wines Cabernet Sauvignon

Rickshaw Wines Cabernet Sauvignon is a blend of 91% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Malbec, and 4% Cabernet Franc from California.  Smooth tastes of raspberries and cassis mingle with notes of plum and coffee.  Minimal intervention in the winemaking process allow the pure tastes of the grapes to shine through.  An excellent Cabernet for the price! (13.8% alcohol, $15)

2012 Parducci True Grit Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

Parducci True Grit Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
Parducci True Grit Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

Parducci’s Mendocino County True Grit Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon is a blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, and 5% Syrah that opens with aromas of dark berries, dark cherries, tobacco.  The palate is medium-bodied with tastes of cassis, dark chocolate, and smokey tobacco along with hints of vanilla.  Balanced in alcohol and not over-oaked, this Cabernet is very food friendly! (13.5% alcohol, $30)

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Three Great Thanksgiving Wines For Under $20

Thanksgiving is next week and it can be tough to find enjoyable wines that won’t drain your bank account.  Good news – we did the work for you and found delicious, affordable wines that will pair really well with your Thanksgiving meal!  Here are three wine picks that we feel deliver a lot of bang for your holiday buck!

Happy Thanksgiving!
Happy Thanksgiving!

NV Domaine Brazilier Méthode Trad Brut

No Thanksgiving meal is complete without a great bottle of sparkling wine.  One excellent choice for under $20 is NV Domaine Brazilier Méthode Trad Brut.  This blend of Chenin Blanc and Pineau d’Aunis from the Loire will draw you in with aromas of fresh baked bread and baked apples.  The palate is equally delicious with tastes of apples and nutmeg along with vibrant acidity.  Easy to sip throughout the meal! ($15)

2013 The Pinot Project Pinot Noir

Need a solid Pinot Noir to pair with your turkey for under $15?  Look no further than The Pinot Project.  It’s not complex but the medium-bodied wine offers enjoyable tastes of cherries with hints of earth and spice.  A definite crowd pleaser! ($12)

Marcel Lapierre 2013 Raisins Gaulois

Marcel Lapierre 2013 Raisins Gaulois is 100% Gamay and a perfect Thanksigiving wine. Your palate is met with a medley of raspberries, cherries, and cranberries along with hints of pepper and lively acidity.  Light-bodied and pairs wonderfully with turkey and stuffing! ($13)

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West of West Wine Festival – Orange County

Last weekend, Brandon and I attended the inaugural West of West Wine Festival in Orange County.  The event, held at the Honda Center in Anaheim, was put on by the West Sonoma Coast Vintners in partnership with Orange Coast Magazine, Celebrity Cruises, and Hartford Family Wines.  West of West exclusively featured wineries from the West Sonoma Coast, a region known for producing cool climate Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Syrah.

West of West Wine Festival
West of West Wine Festival

West of West afforded attendees the chance to not only taste delicious, well-made wines, but to also have one-on-one conversations with winemakers from many of the wineries pouring at the festival.  Here are a few of my favorite wines along with tasting notes from the event:

Pinot Noir standouts at the West of West Wine Fesitval
Pinot Noir standouts at the West of West Wine Festival

2012 Small Vines “MK” Vineyard Pinot Noir

Elegant flavors of dark berries and black cherries are coupled with floral undertones and hints of spice. A beautiful wine that will age with grace! (13.5% alcohol, $70)

2012 Red Car Hagan Vineyard Pinot Noir

Layers of cranberries, pomegranate, black tea, and spice.  Complex and balanced flavors that are enjoyable now but will benefit from more time in the bottle.  One of the best wines I have tasted from Red Car! (13.7% alcohol, $68)

2012 LaRue Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

Bright tastes of cranberries, raspberries, and cherries are met with notes of black tea and rose petals.  Structured and well-balanced.  Such an impressive effort from this young winery! (13% alcohol, $60)

2012 Gros Ventre Campbell Ranch Vineyard Pinot Noir

Harmonious layers of flavors that include black cherries, dark berries, licorice and earth.  Vibrant acidity and a complexity that unravels with each sip.  So glad I had the chance to try the Pinot Noir from Gros Ventre…some of the best at West of West! (13.8% alcohol,

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Thanksgiving Wine Pairings with Turkey

Tired of pairing your Thanksgiving turkey with Pinot Noir year after year?  This Thanksgiving, try some wine pairings that are a little less traditional.  Here are a few of my favorites that are just as delicious as Pinot, yet not on everyone’s radar.  Plus, the wines generally make great conversation pieces since many people around the table will not have tried them before.

Grenache 

Two Shepherds 2012 Grenache Noir
Two Shepherds 2012 Grenache Noir

Grenache is one of my favorite Thanksgiving wines.  It not only pairs well with turkey but also with side dishes like stuffing.  Look for a bottle with low alcohol, healthy acidity, and ripe berries.  One of my favorite picks is Two Shepherds 2012 Grenache Noir.  Refined tastes of cherries, cranberries, and strawberries are met with hints of spice.  Elegant with vibrant acidity, this is sure to be the highlight of your meal! (13.3% alcohol, $38)

Cinsault

Several weeks ago, I participated in a Cinsault tasting and all I could think about was how well the wines would pairing with turkey.  Turley 2014 Lodi Cinsault is an excellent option and is also a great value.  The wine offers layers of red fruit with bright acidity and excellent texture.  There are also savory and earthy notes to go along with the tart fruit.  A perfect match for turkey! (13% alcohol, $17)

Gamay

A well-made Gamay is pure, fresh, and delightful with turkey.  Martian Ranch & Vineyard “Absolute Magnitude” 2013 Gamay Noir is a great choice.  This Santa Barbara County Gamay is light-bodied with bright tastes of raspberries and strawberries along with hints of violets and spice.  A great addition to your Thanksgiving meal! (13% alcohol, $24)

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Exploring Lodi Tempranillo

Last night, I had the privilege to taste through 5 different Lodi Tempranillos along with fellow wine lovers in pre-celebration of Tempranillo Day, which will be held on Thursday, November 13th.  We were virtually joined by Stuart Spencer (Program Manager at the Lodi Winegrape Commission, owner and winemaker of St. Amant Winery, and President of the Board of Directors for TAPAS) and Rick Taylor (owner and winemaker of Riaza Wines and Director on the Board of Directors for TAPAS).

The lineup!
The lineup!

Over the past 10 years or so, Lodi has been exploring and realizing the potential of Spanish varieties.  Tempranillo has done particularly well, with over 900 tons produced in the region in 2013 (Source: CDFA 2013 Grape Crush Report).  Our hosts led us through a lineup of 5 very different Tempranillos from the Lodi region.  The wines showcased the diversity of Tempranillo along with differences in winemaking styles.  Here are a couple of my favorites from the evening:

2012 Bokisch Vineyards Tempranillo (SRP $23, 13.5% alcohol)

Bokisch Vineyards Tempranillo is a blend of 90% Tempranillo and 10% Graciano from two different vineyards in Lodi.  Savory notes of licorice and tobacco are followed by juicy flavors of cranberries and blackberries.  Light yet full of flavor.  A really nice wine!

2012 McCay Cellars “Lot 13 Vineyard” Tempranillo (SRP $28, 14.3% alcohol)

McCay Cellars Tempranillo is 100% Tempranillo that underwent native yeast fermentation (the only wine undergoing native fermentation in our lineup).  The palate features tastes of plums and red berries with underlying spicy notes.  Well-integrated tannins, smooth, and balanced.  This was the favorite of the night for me!

*Media Samples

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Cedro do Noval 2009 – Rich and Complex

Quinto do Noval is a historic Port House in the Douro Valley of Portugal with roots dating back to 1715.  Quinto do Noval recently added two dry table wines to their portfolio, one of which is Cedro do Noval.  Cedro do Noval 2009 is a blend of traditional Douro grapes (50% Touriga Nacional, 30% Touriga Franca, and 10% Tinta Roriz) along with 10% Syrah.  The wine does an excellent job showcasing the great potential of a region predominantly known for Port.

Cedro do Noval 2009
Cedro do Noval 2009

Uncork Cedro do Noval and you will immediately notice intense, earthy aromatics.  The palate is rich with tastes of dark fruit, earth, and cedar.  There are also smokey and savory notes followed with a spicy, elongated finish.  A little big when first opened but we really enjoyed how the complex flavors integrated with time and air.  Pair with roasted or grilled meats! ($22, 14% alcohol)

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