Tag Archives: wine

La Paulée Kicks-Off Vintage Party at Mattei’s

Mattei’s Tavern is a bit of an institution in these parts and I was very happy to return to the stagecoach turned restaurant for Santa Barbara’s Vintner’s kick-off vintage party, Paulée style. I hadn’t been to Mattei’s for what must be about 15 years (it was a regular go-to spot for the well behaved students of my high school, Midland, just up the way on Figueroa Mountain Road, I think I went once in those years…). It was also my first time attending a Paulée event, where you bring a favorite bottle and go around and share with the other folk.

Nyetimber, Ambyth Estate After much deliberation I brought my treasured sparkling wine from England, 2007 Nyetimber Classic Cuvee. A vineyard I spent a lot of time at while writing my dissertation for uni. The place is mentioned in the Domesday Book and the soil is this little lone spot of chalk, straight from the Paris Basin and oddly enough surrounded by clay. Just for good measure I also brought an Ambyth zinfandel from 2010, their ode to Paolo Bea and my first Californian natural wine and from Paso no less.

The new and renovated Mattei’s is to say the least, stunning. I was seated next to kitchen and pretty much all the action. The food was excellent with the dinner highlights being the grilled avocado starter, the Smoked Beef Short Rib, and the Rotisserie Chicken salsa verde.


On the left Mike Roth of Lo-Fi is probably talking about SO2. While on the right Tyler Thomas of Dierberg and Star Lane is struggling with what appears to be a decanter.

These are the sort of events that bring a wine community together. Wines were shared, poured for others, swapped around, some were even hidden. But the idea is you get to hang around with some of the local winemakers in a very non-formal fashion. Yes, winemaker dinners are also fun, but here people are bringing wines they feel best represent what they are doing or what they strive to do.
It’s brilliant.

wines matteis

Above, is some of the older French stuff that appeared from Mattei’s Cellar.
A 2001 Stolpman syrah, Sashi Moorman’s first wine.
And Greg Martellotto’s epic grenache, syrah and mourvedre blend, with grapes from Demetria.

Thanks to Eric Railsback from Mattei’s and Morgen McLaughlin from Santa Barbara Vintners for the invite.

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Wines For All The Times

I was lucky enough to do a little comparative tasting of these two similar varities. Jura-vision is taking over some of the more brave of California’s winemakers and I’d much rather see the likes of these grapes then say sangio or another gsm blend…..I suggest just trying one if you can find it. Totally different and unique.

2012 Two Shepherds Trousseau Gris, Fanucchi Vineyard, Russian River – $27.00

2014 Stolpman Trousseau ‘Combe’, Stolpman Vinyards, Ballard Canyon – $??

Inspired by Grand Budapest Hotel the Adami Prosseco was just enough crisp to cut through the frosting lathered and choc filled choux pastry. Sublime.

Ramonet. C’est tout.

Sparkling white goes perfect with sushi!!!!      


Mike Roth is making insane natural wine in Santa Barbara. This guy is a blend of syrah, grenache and even some counoise. Lighter style, with lots of stems but insanely good. So happy this stuff is coming out of SB County. Went perfect with that beast of a burger….something in that acidity

It’s something about the pineapple in this wine that makes me think California. It’s bright with a bit of weight on the palate, just a fresh, quenching drop. A wine perfectly matched with a classic SoCal dish.

Mike Roth made this wine too when he was a Martian. However biodynamique vudu guru Phillipe Armenier has since taken over the winery responsibilities. His wine will be released soon…..something to watch out for….

Very excited that by the BD pedigree in my backyard.

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Keyed Up

As cliche as it might sound, the Key to Wine Country event really did unlock some new tasting room doors…I think that sounds better than, I got keyed at Key to Wine Country, not sure if that even makes sense. Regardless the “keys” thing is put on by the Santa Barbara Vintners Association. You pay $100 for your ticket and there is a bevy (and a few bevvies for that matter) of different tasting rooms to visit, throughout Santa Barbara County. Admittedly, this is one of the more creative winery experiences I’ve come across. Definitely, more interesting than those big room and table affairs.

You’ll need a map of the county as all sorts of winery folk get involved. Some have food or chocolate with wine parings, others do vineyard walks, the best by far are the intimate winemaker chats (you have to RSVP as spaces are limited) where they taste you through their decision making steps, from grape to bottle….I fancied the El Paseo experience. A tour of all six tasting rooms in the maze-like corridors of El Paseo, in downtown SB.

El Paseo Santa Barbara

El Paseo is located just above De La Guerra and between State and Anacapa. Doug Margerum’s tasting room has been here the longest, about four years or so, next to his Wine Cask restaurant. Doug talked one of SB’s most famous winemaker’s, Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat fame, to open next door. You can find ABC wines to purchase, dating back decades. There’s also Grassini out of Happy Canyon AVA. And two other spots Happy Canyon Vineyard and Jamie Slone, whom I imagine also opened tasting rooms under Doug’s suggestion….and why not, he makes both of their wine (totally different styles too!).

This whole winery wonderland is really the brainchild of Doug Margerum, and I must applaud him as it has really propelled, actually started, the whole State Street wine scene. It truly is a handful of the best Santa Barbara has to offer. As for the wines I tried here are my three favorites:

Top accolades go to Au Bon Climat. Their tasting list is true to the winery’s Burgundy roots, but there’s all sorts of stuff to try. The bog standard Santa Barbara County Chardonnay for instance, which is used by MWs in London to teach classic Chardonnay. There’s everything from Aligote to Riesling to purchase, but my fav wine of the day in fact was a Chardonnay from ABC.

2009 Au Bon Climat “Compelling” Nuits-Blanches au Bouge, Santa Maria County – A tight lemony and raw apricot little number, when you talk about tension in wine make sure you try this. Has years to go, but if you’re into crisp and fresh it’s ready now – $35 (There’s also a ’98 Nibiollo that was insanely good and a steal at $35)

2009 Au Bon Climat "Compelling" Nuits-Blanches au Bouge, Santa Maria County

2009 Au Bon Climat “Compelling” Nuits-Blanches au Bouge, Santa Maria County


Margerum actually has two tasting rooms. His regular one with an entrance on Anacapa, then MWC 32 a few steps into El Paseo, where they pour older vintages and reserve wines. It was at his Anacapa room that I found my fav though.

2011 Margerum Syrah, Colson Canyon Vineyard, Santa Barbara County Margerum is all about Rhone varietals and this Syrah does not disaapoint in the slightest. I reckon it has quite a few more years (about 10), but you can have it now, no problem. It is a very, very approachable wine. With a hint of peppercorn spice and fresh juicy blueberries – $40

Margerum’s straight Grenache was also very good.

2011 Margerum Syrah, Colson Canyon Vineyard, Santa Barbara County

2011 Margerum Syrah, Colson Canyon Vineyard, Santa Barbara County


Four years back, Grassini’s Bordeaux inspired wines were the first I tried out of the Happy Canyon AVA, I really liked them. There was a turn of events and Justin Willit of Tyler fame (and also partner to Mandy Grassini) made the previous vintage and his wines were being poured. I’ve been looking forward to trying Willit’s Bordeaux style, his own label is very much about Pinot and Chardonnay and above all that restraint…it was interesting to see him venture to the dark side of the noble grapes. The Sauv Blanc was particularly fresh, the grapes were picked at the very dawn of harvest, beginning of August and probably very low in potential alcohol. The two Bordeaux blends were also quite fresh it was however a single varietal wine that I really enjoyed.

2011 Grassini Petit Verdot, Happy Canyon AVA – not a grape you see very often, if at all, by itself. Petit Verdot is usually used to add back bone or rather mid-bone to the mid-palate of Cab and Merlot. Grassini PV is what I like to call a crunchy wine. It tastes as if your biting in to handful of juicy ripe blackberries, super concentrated fruit. There’s some musky like leather and grippy tannin. Like it’s palate the price too is a hefty $95, steep but a very good wine.

A great thing to note at Grassini’s tasting room, they pour all their high-end wines with a coravin, my first time seeing it in use….totally impressed!

2011 Grassini Petit Verdot, Happy Canyon AVA

2011 Grassini Petit Verdot, Happy Canyon AVA


Look out for the Keys to SBC next year. Thanks to Morgen and Taylor over at the Santa Barbara County Vintners Association for sending the tickets. Find out about future SBCVA events on their website — www.sbcountywines.com

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Wino events worth a tipple

Open House in Santa Rosa

Two Shepherds is having an open house this coming Saturday – November 2nd from Noon to 6pm! I met William Allen (ex-blogger now winemaker) about a year ago and have tried his Sonoma Rhônes a few times.

Two Shepherds Grenache<br /> Blanc

Most impressive are his whites, but his straight grenache is nothing to scoff at either. Recently I tried his (rare) straight 2012 Marsanne from Saralee’s Vineyard just south of Santa Rosa. It was one of the most pure and minerally wines I’ve come across, lots of almondy flavor and an amazing (almost addictive) waxy texture. It’s about $30 and available only to club members……so join up!!

harvest party

His tasting room(mates) will also be pouring their wares. The event is free and you’ll get 10% off if you register below:

Tickets and Info here: https://novreleaseparty.eventbrite.com

3rd Annual Garagiste Festival in Paso Robles

November is also the time for the third annual Garagiste Festival, one of the only good things coming out of Paso, hahahahhaa. Sadly I cant make it this year but I must admit the last two have been quite impressive. One of my favorite California wineries (who happens to be in Paso, of all places) Ambyth Estate will be in attendance. They are one of the few natural/biodynamic in our great state.

2013 Garagiste<br /> Festival Paso Robles

Also in attendance are Ranchero Cellars, who make a very nice Carignan sourced from giant vines in Mendocino. Casa Dumetz with
the ever amiable winemaker and owner Sonja Magdevski (I interviewed her celeb fiancée, Emilio, for wine-seacher, great guy!). Also
Paix-sur-terre who are making some nice Rhônes style wines out of Paso, I met them last year.

New to the Garagiste this year are Harrison-Clarke.  A winery located deep in the (newly designated) AVA Ballard Canyon. I’ve walked
their vineyard and was so impressed with the estate grenache…I am sure it will be poured, and it is awesome! My buddy Lee Tomkow
(who hosts great walking vineyard tours in Santa Barbara County) has a great tasting for their estate syrah, click on his photo:

Harrison Clarke Syrah

The 3rd Annual Garagiste Festival takes place in Paso Robles at Windfall Farms, November 7-10th, 2013

All ticket information is on the site

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Don’t Judge a Rosé by its Color – The Pics!!!

It’s August, Summer is almost over, but there’s still plenty of time to down as much rosé as humanly poss!!! (responsibly, of course)

I tasted through some 40 odd pinks to come up with my top 17 (yeah it’s a weird number) for the Big Rosé Review on ZesterDaily….

for all the tasting notes and buying info, go to this Zester page below.

Zester Daily

Below are bottle shots.

Keep cool!
(unless you’re in SF, then grab a light-sweater)

2012 Lieu Dit, Rosé, Santa Ynez Valley

2012 Lieu Dit, Rosé, Santa Ynez Valley – Available at The Winehound and K& L Wines

2009 Inman Family, Endless Crush, Brut Rosé Nature, Sonoma County

2009 Inman Family, Endless Crush, Brut Rosé Nature $65 – Available at winery website

2012 Curtis Heritage Rosé, Santa Ynez Valley

2012 Curtis Heritage Rosé, $22 – Available at the winery’s site

2012 Idlewild, Grenache Gris, Gibson Ranch

2012 Idlewild, Grenache Gris, Gibson Ranch – $28- Available at the winery, also at Little Vine in San Francisco

Action Comics #1

NV Croft Pink, Porto, Douro Valley

NV Croft Pink – Porto –Widely available across the US

2012 Vallin, Rosé, Santa Ynez Valley

2012 Vallin, Rosé, Santa Ynez Valley $30 – Available at The Winehound and K& L Wines

2012 Mounts Family Winery, Grenache Rosé, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County

2012 Mounts Family Winery, Grenache Rosé, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County $16 –Available at the winery

NV Blason de Bourgogne Rose, Crémant de Bourgogne, Burgundy

NV Blason de Bourgogne, Crémant de Bourgogne, about $8.99 Trader Joe’s

2012 Clendenen Family Vineyards, Mondeuse Rosé, Bien Nacido Estate Plantings, Santa Maria Valley

2012 Clendenen Family Vineyards, Mondeuse Rosé, Bien Nacido Estate Plantings, Santa Maria Valley
$15 – Available online and at the Au Bon Climat tasting room in Santa Barbara, 805-963-7999

2012 Broc Cellars, Santa Ynez Valley

2012 Broc Cellars, Santa Ynez Valley, $20 Available online, also at the Village Market in Oakland and many restaurants throughout the Bay Area.

2012 Cameron Hughes Lot 349, Napa Valley

2012 Cameron Hughes Lot 349, Napa Valley, $9.99 available in most SoCal CostCo

2012 Campovida – Rosé di Grenache Riserva, Russian River Valley

2012 Campovida – Rosé di Grenache Riserva , $34.00 Available at Campovida Tasting Room in Hopland (707) 744-8797, or at the Campovida Tasting Room in Oakland, 510-550-7273

2012 Gioia, Castello di Amorosa

2012 Gioia, Castello di Amorosa – $24 Available at the winery’s site

2012 Brooks, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley

2012 Brooks – Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $20 –Widely Available

2012 Bonny Doon, Vin Gris de Cigare, Santa Cruz

2012 Bonny Doon, Vin Gris de Cigare $16.00 – Widely available

2012 Miraval, Côtes de Provence

2012 Miraval, Côtes de Provence, around $23Widely available

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Santa Barbara’s wine future starts now.

Printed in the Santa Barbara News-Press, May 6th, 2013. 


Brian McClintic has sent me this note, explaining there will be a postponement to the futures tasting.


First of all, I wanted to thank you for the amazing support you’ve shown us.  The response has been overwhelming.  
With that, it has become apparent that our license will not cover an event of that size, taking into account the current state of construction.

For this reason we’re forced to postpone the tasting until August 10th.


The Santa Barbara wine futures program made famous by the Wine Cask, in El Paseo, is making its way back to our city. This time however you’ll be heading to the Funk Zone to taste some of Santa Barbara County’s best pre-release wines. Sommeliers Eric Railsback, 28 and Brian McClintic MS, 37, are restarting the program that will give you the opportunity to try and purchase over 50 different producers’ wines, before they are bottled, at the opening of their new wine bar and shop, Caveau, on the corner of Anacapa and Yanonali streets.

This will be a return to Santa Barbara for Railsback who graduated from Westmont College in 2007. While attending, he worked at the Wine Cask where he developed a taste for European wines. Since then, he has made quite a name for himself as a sommelier. Railsback has been up and down the state working for the likes of Chef Gordon Ramsay in Los Angeles and most recently heading up the wine program, for the Mina Group restaurant, RN74 in San Francisco. He’s also managed to stick in a few harvests in France, most notably at Domaine Dujac the famous Burgundian wine producer in Morey-Saint-Denis.

Eric Railsback and Brian McClintic MS

Eric Railsback (left) and Brian McClintic MS (right) – looking studious

You might recognize his business partner McClintic, as he was one of the sommeliers featured in the film SOMM that played at this year’s Santa Barbara Independent Film Festival. The film followed a group of sommeliers for a few years whilst they studied for the Master Sommelier exams, a qualification with a notoriously low pass rate (spoiler alert, McClintic passed). He will be the only Master Sommelier in Santa Barbara County.

The two are both very excited about their new venture and especially about the wines from the county.

“Santa Barbara wine country is way more exciting than Sonoma or Napa or any of those other places, just the potential, the terroir and everything, it’s pretty epic.” Says Railsback, who has been visiting the region off and on over the past few years and is making a wine under the label Lieu Dit, with local winemaker Justin Hewitt of Tyler Winery, since 2010.

McClintic too, really believes in the wines from the area. “Eric and I feel the same way about the wine from Santa Barbara, this is no joke and not a line, we without a question believe this is one of the most underrated terroirs in the country, if not the world. With the soil, the climate, the typography, everything included, Santa Barbara is incredibly underrated and it is an incredibly dynamic area, he says, “We are proud of the area and everything about our business serves to promote Santa Barbara County wine.”

Railsback and McClintic met in San Francisco a few years ago, McClintic was looking for a place to live and through a mutual friend, another sommelier Rajat Parr, was introduced to Railsback.

“What was supposed to be one week staying at his tiny studio flat, ended-up being nine weeks.” Recalls McClintic, it was somewhere in this time that the idea of Caveau was born.caveau site

The pair are modeling Caveau, which is being built in the new development that used to be Santa Barbara’s original fish market, on the Parisian wine bar. A place where you can have a glass of wine, a plate of charcuterie and cheese but also where you can purchase a bottle to take home. McClintic will also be teaching a wide variety of wine courses at the location, everything from beginners appreciation to how to blind taste. Wines sold will be from Santa Barbara County with a wide variety of European wine as well.

Doug Margerum, who started the original futures program in 1987, when his family owned the Wine Cask is happy the torch is being relit. “I am thrilled someone is re-championing it again, it’s really good for the wine community and really promotes the wines of this area to a broader audience. Eric is a superstar in the wine business as is his partner, Brian; I think they’ll do a great job. Santa Barbara County needs some advocates and these are the perfect guys to do it.”

Caveau’s Futures tasting will include: Alma Rosa, Alta Maria, Anacapa Vintners, Au Bon Climat, Barden, Barrack, Bien Nacido, Estate, Beckman, Bonaccorsi, Buoni Anni, Brewer-Clifton, Carlson, Cebada, Chanin, Clendenen Family Vineyards, Curtis, Goodland, Grassini, Habit, Happy Canyon Vineyards, Jaffurs, Kunin, La Fenetre, Lieu Dit, Margerum, Melville, Municipal Winemakers, My Essential Red, Native 9, The Ojai Vineyard, Palmina, Piedrasassi, Piocho, Qupé, Roark, Sandhi, Samsara, Sillix,, Stolpman, Storm, Tatomer, Tyler, Vallin, Verdad, Wenzlau, Zotovich Cellars

“We wanted a good balance of the old guard who started Santa Barbara County, like Adam Tolmach, Bob Lindquist and Jim Clendenen who have been doing it forever. And new smaller, up and coming wines that no one knows about.” Explains Railsback.Caveau Wine Bar Santa Barbara

The Santa Barbara County Wine Futures Tasting will be on Saturday May 18th August 10th at Caveau Wine Bar & Merchant.

131 Anacapa Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
From 11am – 5pm

Tickets can be purchased for $70 at www.caveau.eventbrite.com
For more info contact either Eric Railsback or Brian McClintic at info@caveausb.com

Or call 1-503-314-4318

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Sweet! The 2010 Longoria Vino Dulce

It’s Spring, but damn is it cold…so I’m breaking out the port!

Rick Longoria makes his fortified wine just about every other year.
Lucky for us 2013 is when the new batch got bottled.

He sent me a tank sample before bottling….and it was a great little tipple.

Rick Longoria Vino Dulce
The 2010 Vino Dulce is made out of Syrah – you get sweet cigar smoke, chocolate, coffee bean, cocoa and fresh black and blueberries, there’s vanilla ice cream and hint of spice on the finish.
Went great with jam donuts and chocolate torte.

Longoria Port

Pretend it says 2010 on the label

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Garagiste Festival, Parking Up In Santa Barbara

Really happy to hear that the Garagiste Festival will be making its way down south! The Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure will be taking place in Solvang next month, February 16th.

I have a belief that a lot of innovation and trends come from smaller projects and it’s great to know there is a dedicated wine show with the same thoughts.

I’ve attend the first two Garagiste Festivals in Paso, most recently last November, and each time came away with about 6 new producers who I thought were breaking trends with potentially future star wines…Ambyth Estate will always be a stand-out in this regard.

There are about 30 producers pouring wine with some of my personal favorites in attendance: Piedrasassi, Ground Effect, Storm Wines and Tercero Wines

If you have Presidents day weekend free, support the little guy, and definitely mark this event on your calendar.

Garagiste Festival Southern Exposure - February 16th 2013

Garagiste Festival Southern Exposure – February 16th 2013 in Solvang



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Garagiste Festival, taking the wine show helm in Paso Robles

Now that Hospice du Rhône has vacated the festival ‘throne’ in Paso Robles, CA there is an opening for a newly crowned king.  The Garagiste Festival is only in its second year but might very well be the heir apparent.

There is a2nd Annual Garagiste Festival Paso Robles sameness recipe that a lot of wine shows just can’t seem to break.  Endless rows of clothed folding tables in some sort of pavilion or civic center, a of mass people all who all seem to be asking for the same wine and of course the tiny ISO approved wine glass.

Well there is a light at the end of the dimly lit wine show tunnel and it just might be The Garagiste Festival.  It’s breaking the wine show mold and this is partly due to the grounds they host the show on, Windfall Farms.  A converted barn, gives a more intimate feel when you chat to the producers.  It only allows wineries producing 1200 bottles or less to pour their wine, so a lot of the wineries here don’t have their own pump, let alone a tasting room.

I enjoy this show because you are going to find a few of gems.  Last year I discovered one of the most serious natural wine producers in the Central Coast, Ambyth Estates,
who proved that wines with acidity exist  in the land of big fruit and even bigger alcohol.

Another positive on the Garagiste front is the total lack of fluff and glitter that tends to pair far too often with wine shows.  I have no doubt this is due mainly to the one of the show’s co-founders, Stewart McLennan.  Stewart, who’s an Aussie, is all you would expect in a brash, to the point, no-nonsence antipodean.  Such personalities are very welcome in the slightly plastic Californian wine world.

I asked Stewart if he was taking Hospice’s spot “I don’t want to be the next Hospice, I don’t like their time slot in Summer and I don’t want to lose our location here. I do however want to grow Garagiste to include wineries from oversees like they did.” There are also rumors/rumblings of the Garagiste Festival traveling out side of Paso to other wine regions in California….I’ll be the first to support that,  and wish the supporters luck in their quest.

So, of the 48 some producers on show, here are my favorites, no particular order.

Ground Effect – Nick de Luca’s wine was one of the few from Santa Barbara County. Nick’s very into low, low sulfur use btw.  2011 Rock Garden is a blend of Syrah/Grenache/Zin – it had some dense concentration, a deep of berries, lavender and herb like finish.

2010 Ground Effect Rock Garden

2010 Ground Effect Rock Garden

Stage Left Cellars  – Melinda Doty and her husband make their wine in Oakland.

The 2009 The Escape Artist is 100% Syrah from Watch Hill Vineyard in Santa Barbara County.  Lovely fruit on this one with loads of spice and minerals.

2009 Stage Left Cellars The Escape Artist

2009 Stage Left Cellars The Escape Artist

Chris Von Holt  of Von Holt had a 2010 Pinot Noir Bacigalupi Vineyard from Russian River Valley. Really liked this Pinot sour cherry fruit and pencil lead minerality, some nice tarry asphalt as well.

He just got mentioned as of one of Jon Bonné’s Top 100 in the Chronicle too (good job guys).  Also, interesting to note, you hear about ex-lawyers/doctors retiring into the wine world.  Well Chris was a secret service man – working with a bunch of different presidents and a certain president’s daughter who went to Stanford!!!!

2010 Pinot Noir Bacigalupi Vineyard, Russian River Valley

2010 Pinot Noir Bacigalupi Vineyard, Russian River Valley

Paix Sur Terre is owned by Ryan and Nicole Pease – their making Rhône blends – Particularly liked the 2010 Passenger, a blend of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre all though the alcohol was a bit high for me at 15.6%, the wine still came out quite balanced.  Labels are pretty sweet too. Their 2010 The Other One was quite a good tipple as well of mostly Mourvedre, Grenache, Syrah.

2010 Paix sur Terre Passenger

2010 Paix sur Terre Passenger

2010 Paix Sur Terre The Other One

2010 Paix Sur Terre The Other One

Les Deux Chats – Being an owner of two cats myself how could I not mention these guys!

Liked the 2010 Viognier, despite being from the fairly hot climate of Lodi and having 15.4% alcohol (WOW!!!) the wine was surprisingly soft, well balanced, not flabby and very pleasant.

2010 Les Deux Chat Ripken Vineyard Viognier

2010 Les Deux Chat Ripken Vineyard Viognier

Amy Butler of Ranchero Cellars, named after her vintage Ford Rancero, sources her 2010 Carignan from 5ft high ancient vines up in Mendocino.  Love this stuff and had it last year….this vintage was actually better than the ’09 I had last time. Also, just found out Amy won “Spirit of Garagiste’ award! Congratulations!

2010 Ranchero Cellars Carignan

2010 Ranchero Cellars Carignan

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