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The world sure has changed since I started this little wine blog many years ago. My life has changed too! I was living in New Jersey and drinking wine with neighbors and friends pretty much every night. Then moved to California and started visiting lots of wineries, so I started documenting my winery experiences and giving recommendations to friends. I now live close to Livermore wine country, and do more cooking than wine drinking (yes, I married a man who is not a wine drinker!) but still love finding great value wines and sharing those gems.

I’ve switched to posting my content on Instagram, so find me there if you’d like to see which beers/wines I’ve been enjoying, wineries I’ve been visiting, and what I’ve been cooking.

2008 Kaesler Stonehorse Shiraz Grenache Mourvedre – Barossa Valley Australia

I drink different wines for different occasions.   There are my clean, crisp summer whites to enjoy well chilled on my balcony, sweeter whites to pair with spicy food, pinot noir to drink anytime/anywhere (OK, I freakin’ love pinot) and then those red wines that are so big and robust that they can only be enjoyed on a frigid winter night.   I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, and it does get chilly here but there are Bay Area winter nights and Vermont winter nights.   Two completely different animals.

This wine is a Vermont winter night wine.   When you come inside from a day of skiing and can’t feel your fingers or toes, open this bottle.   This is a three grape blend, dominated by Shiraz.   And it is big, bold and spicy.   Very dark fruit and lots of spice on the nose… the spices remind me of a dish I had at a Malaysian restaurant.   Coriander and star anise.   Tons of black cherry, plum and blackberry on the mouthfeel and the finish has lots of spice and berry jam.   The fruit in this wine is very ripe and you can tell it has been grown in a hot, dry climate.

This is not a wine to be enjoyed on a warm summer night, unless you’re serving it with a juicy steak.   This is an apres ski, campfire, or “I just shoveled the driveway and I’m FREEZING” wine.    Think savory.   Pair with beef stew or chili.   And give this one time to develop in the glass.   It comes off a bit too “in your face” at first but softens nicely after it has had some air.


Using my imagination… Triple on a chilly winter night  🙂

2011 Cape Mentelle Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon – Western Australia

I was going to open a bottle of red tonight.   A pinot noir would have paired better with my dinner.   But it has been in the 90’s here in the East Bay, so a chilled white sounded like a better choice for the evening.   I haven’t tried many Sauvignon Blanc blends, but loved the idea of this one because Sauv Blanc and Semillon seem like they can compliment each other well.   Citrusy nose of blood orange, lime… this wine just smells fresh and clean.   The mouthfeel reminded me of an unoaked chardonnay with ripe green apple and I tasted a bit of peach as well.   Powerful finish – lots of nice citrus and great acidity.   This Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon blend has tons of character, intensity and great fruit.   A nice wine to pair with shrimp scampi, sharp cheddar cheese or grilled veggies!





2010 Cycles Gladiator Syrah – California

Some of my favorite pastimes are drinking wine, watching baseball, hitting the slopes and cycling.   I’ve seen this bottle many times at wine shops and have been drawn to the label – and name!   Sniff….   deep raspberry and blueberry dominate, with some licorice and pepper too.   Dark, chewy fruit on the midpalate.   Lots of acidity on the mouthfeel that lingers on the finish.   This syrah is not easy to sip.    For some reason, I felt I could taste the alcohol in it and was surprised to see that the alcohol content was 13.5%.   Time to take out the wedge of cheddar!

Food pairing taste test results…

Cheese (sharp aged Vermont cheddar) – softens up the wine quite nicely, the creaminess of the cheese helps cut through the acidity

Dark chocolate (Truffle Gateau* Dark Chocolate Coconut) – believe it or not, this wine’s bite overpowers the chocolate!

Dark chocolate #2 (Truffle Gateau Dark Chocolate Expresso) – WIN.   Absolutely loving this combo…   this expresso-laced chocolate brings out mocha notes in the wine and balances it out.    



On its own – Single

Cheese and Expresso chocolate – Double


2009 Flasq Merlot – San Luis Obispo California

Wine in a flask!   Or rather, Flasq.   I love hiking and camping, so wine in a lightweight aluminum container is a pretty cool concept to me.  In addition to merlot, Flasq has a Cuvee Blanc and chardonnay, both of which I’d really like to find and try!   The merlot has big ripe red raspberry on the nose, plum and a tiny bit of cayenne pepper.   As expected, lots of big ripe berry fruit on the midpalate and finish.   The pepper lingers a bit as well, but this is mostly raspberries and blackberries galore.   Would I buy this to serve with filet mignon at home?   It wouldn’t be my first choice.   I like steak with wine that has a bit more of a backbone.   But I would bring this bottle on a hike, kayaking trip (going Sunday, woohoo!) or camping?   Definitely.   And would I pair this with my favorite campfire foods –  hot dogs and S’mores?   Can’t wait!

$6.99/half bottle


Pinot Days San Francisco 2012

Pinot Noir is my favorite grape, so I always look forward to Pinot Days.   Over 100 pinot noir producers participate, and I’m always happy to visit my perennial favorites as well as discover new ones.   

My first stop was Landmark Vineyards, and I really enjoyed all of their pinots.   My favorite at Landmark was the 2010 Spring Hill – it smelled like raspberries and fall foliage, with sour cherry and clove on the finish.   The 2010 Grand Detour was also amazing…  lots of strawberry and spice.   

Kanzler Vineyards was next, and I had a bottle of their 2009 pinot back in January – it tasted great!   Their wines are small production, and I know that if I like what they are pouring I have to act quickly if I want to buy the bottle.   Sure enough, only 272 cases of the 2010 pinot were produced.   It is a nice one, with cranberry, blueberry and vanilla – big fruit, drinking great now but will be even better in a year or so.   I’ll definitely pick up a bottle and try to keep it for a year.  

I’ve been a Sojourn fan for a while now, and recommend their tasting room to anyone who is visiting Sonoma.   It is right off of the Sonoma square, right near lots of cute shops and restaurants.   They were pouring their single vineyard pinots, and today my favorite was the 2010 Gaps Crown – love the black cherry and creamy vanilla on this one.   I have two bottles of the 2009 Gaps Crown and can’t wait to open them!

Meiomi is another perennial favorite, and I’ve been drinking their 2010 pinot pretty often so I was excited to see that they were pouring the 2011 vintage.   I recommend the Meiomi pinot to my friends and also choose it as the pinot to pour at parties and events since it is in the $20 range.   I have yet to find a better pinot than Meiomi for <$25.   Cranberry, baking spices, and strawberry are the dominent characteristics.   The 2011 is tasting fabulous now, and I can’t wait to see how it evolves in the bottle!

Clouds Rest had a special on PBS called Pinot Noir, the Holy Grail of Wine.    Their property is stunning!   Must plan a visit.   Their 2009 Sonoma Coast Femme Fatale is great – silky fruit, complex spices, simply gorgeous.   The 2007 is also awesome, and I even got to try an ’04 pinot and it is still holding up nicely.

Next stop, C. Donatiello!   I am a big fan of their chardonnay, and their pinots are delicious too.   The 2009 Russian River pinot is rich with cranberry/boysenberry, vanilla and exotic spices.   The finish was dark, and I can tell this one has some staying power.  

So many great pinot producers, so little time!   Check out the Pinot Days website for more information about this awesome event 🙂

TAPAS Grand Tasting 2012!

TAPAS is one of my favorite events of the year, and while I love tapas style (small plates) dishes, TAPAS actually stands for Tempranillo Advocates Producers and Amigos Society.   Tempranillo is a Spanish grape varietal, but many California winemakers are starting to grow it since the conditions in CA are well suited to the grape.

Some of my favorites…

2009 DARE by Viader Tempranillo – I’m a big fan of Viader’s cabernet, and was surprised to see Viader at the tasting since I wasn’t aware that they produce Tempranillo.   And it is a great one – berries and flowers on the nose, ripe strawberry and spice finish.

2007 Six Sigma Tempranillo – berries, spice, smells a little sweet in a good way!  Dried cherries and fig on the smooth finish.   I tried the 2009 as well, and think that in a year or so the ’09 will surpass the ’07 – it was really intense!


2010 Riaza Wines Albarino –  ripe citrus, lotsa grapefruit, bit of banana on the finish. Really refreshing…  a great summer white!  Riaza’s tempranillo was pretty nice as well!

2011 Baiocchi Wines gb Neophyte Rose – after tasting lots of reds (not surprising given it was a tempranillo event), I was happy for another light, refreshing wine.   Juicy strawberry and rose petals on the nose, crisp palate and finish.   I wanted to order some for the summer, but it is SOLD OUT… bummer.

2009 Odisea Temporary Insanity – I loved the name and label on this one.   Can wine cause temporary insanity?   Smells like:  chocolate, fennel, raspberries.   Thyme/rosemary mouthfeel, ripe & earthy finish.     

Fans of Paso Robles wine, look up this winery –    I am very excited about the wines Crooked Road was pouring, especially the 2010 Resurrection.  Sweet tobacco and strawberry on the nose, ripe berry midpalate, finish was nice and robust!   I purchased this bottle at the event because I enjoyed it so much!

Next up… Pinot Days!  

2009 Tank House Zinfandel – Borden Ranch California

Before moving to California, I had never attended a wine walk.   Here in the Bay Area, several towns invite wineries to pour their wine in the downtown shops in an effort to bring customers in as well as give the wineries an opportunity to introduce their wines to hundreds of people.   Tank House Winery was pouring their wine at the Los Gatos Wine Walk, and their Zinfandel was part of the lineup.   The winery is located in Gilroy, but the fruit in the Zinfandel is from Lodi.  Clove and nutmeg on the nose, juicy raspberry on the midpalate.   The finish is spicy with lingering blueberry and raspberry notes.   This is a lighter style of zin, juicy and spicy rather than jammy and sweet.   



2012 John Harrison Spring Photo Open House

I was lucky again to have the opportunity to select the wines for John Harrison’s photo open house.   John is a very talented photographer, and his photos capture the beauty of Yosemite…  I usually tell people Yosemite is more beautiful in person when showing my own photos, but John’s photos actually make you feel like you are there!    See for yourself on his website –

Many of John’s clients are wine fans, and like to be able to find the wines they have tried at the open house so I chose wines that are all available at Bevmo.   The favorite of the bunch was the 2010 Belle Glos Meiomi Pinot Noir.   This pinot is a blend of coastal fruit from Monterey, Sonoma, and Santa Barbara.   Juicy cherries and baking spices are some of the nice characteristics in this pinot, and at $20 it is an excellent value.

The 2009 Terra d’Oro Zinfandel from Amador County was another favorite.   The fruit in this zinfandel is ripe and round, not very jammy but big on the berries.   The raspberry notes in this wine helped it to pair amazingly with dark chocolate (Truffle Gateau Double Decadent Dark Chocolate –

New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is a great summer white wine.   My favorite region is Marlborough and the Sauv Blanc from that area has exploded in popularity.   The 2011’s I poured (Nobilo and Starborough) both have the signature Marlborough characteristics –  fresh cut grass and citrus on the nose with a slightly sweet mouthfeel and grapefruit on the finish.

Surprisingly, very few people asked for chardonnay.   The biggest reason I noted was that chardonnay is too oaky and buttery.  I personally prefer a chardonnay that has touched some oak but not so much new oak that you can no longer taste the fruit. Schug makes an excellent Carneros Chardonnay, it does touch oak barrels but you can still taste apple and pear.   The oak just helps to add the vanilla and spicy notes.   This is not a buttery style of chardonnay, and I recommend it to anyone who isn’t a fan of the “butter bombs”.

All of the wines that were poured were under $20, and highly recommended for BBQ season!

2009 Ed’s Red – California

Adastra Winery is located in beautiful Carneros, right near Napa.   The tasting room is in a 150 year old barn, surrounded by vineyards and gardens.   It is easy to miss it because the sign isn’t huge, and you can’t even see the winery from the road.   A must visit if you’d like to avoid the crowds and soak up some gorgeous scenery!

Adastra makes great Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Merlot.   I was pleasantly surprised to see a bottle under $20 on their list – a blend for only $15!  The Ed’s Red is 55% Dolcetto, 33% Zinfandel, and 12% Syrah.   On first whiff – dark fruit, licorice and black pepper.   Huge, hearty, fleshy midpalate and layers of spices on the finish.   The finish is a bit bitter and jammy at the same time.   Ahh, Dolcetto AND Zinfandel, makes sense!   The bottle says to pair it with mammoth (or vegetarian equivalent).  None of my local supermarkets carried mammoth unfortunately, but we did try it with grilled chicken kebobs and the pairing was quite tasty.



May 2021