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Bordeaux Wine Cruise

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We’re Heading to Wine Mecca

Bordeaux Wine River Cruise

Bordeaux Wine River Cruise

We are hitting the road. Well make that the river on a journey to wine mecca, Bordeaux, France. We will be leading a small group to Bordeaux, home to arguably the world’s best wine. So, Save the Date, April 15, 2016.

Not to be sacrilegious, but many wine lovers have the Bordeaux wine region on their Bucket List since it is considered Mecca for wine enthusiasts. Our group will be embarking on a 7-day Bordeaux wine cruise, traveling along the rivers through the top communes with winery visits and tastings, wine and food pairing dinners, cultural walking tours and so much more. The cruise will begin and end in the city of Bordeaux, with pre- and/or post-cruise land packages available.


Bordeaux – The Ancestral Home
Bordeaux Red Wine Mecca

Bordeaux – Red Wine Mecca

Serious wine drinkers and of course, I’m referring to those who drink red, all have a bottle or 12 of Bordeaux in their wine collections. Bordeaux is the celebrated offspring of Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc. Typically, a Bordeaux red blend is comprised of the following five grapes:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Merlot
  • Cabernet Franc
  • Petit Verdot
  • Malbec

Due to Frances’ strict viticulture laws, these, along with carmenere are the only red grape varieties allowed to be grown.

These five varieties are used in varying combinations in wine regions the world over but all got their start in Bordeaux. Bordeaux-style red blends are referred to as Claret by the Brits, whereas American winemakers use the name Meritage (rhymes with heritage), which can only be used by members of the association.

Merlot and Cabernet Franc are grown on the “Right Bank”, the name given to the vineyards on the east side of the Gironde River. Merlot, the most widely planted adds fruit and richness to the mid-palate during blending.

Bordeaux Communes Map

Bordeaux Communes Map
Courtesy of CIVBordeaux

Notable Right Bank appellations include St-Émilion and Pomerol. The wines produced in these regions are of excellent quality and have lengthy aging potential, but without the stratospheric prices common for Left Bank reds.

Plan on leaving room in your suitcase or think about shipping a case or two home of these amazing bargain reds. For those traveling with us from the same gateway city, San Diego we can mix and match cases for more cost-effective buying.

The top communes and the ones fetching the highest prices are:

  • Médoc (Haut-Médoc)
  • Pauillac
  • St-Estephe
  • St-Julien
  • Margaux

White wine lovers, do not despair. On our cruise tour, you’ll also get to experience Sauvignon Blanc, Semillion as well as Muscadelle, which is a different grape variety from similar sounding name Muscat. The primary growing regions for these three white varietals are located south of Bordeaux along the Garonne River.  Sauternes is home to the delicious, sweet dessert wine of the same name. The city of Graves produces dry and sweet wines.


Reserve Your Spot
Let's Hang Out Together on the River Cruise

Let’s Hang Out together on the River Cruise

Call us today so we can add your name to our Interest List for those joining us on the Bordeaux Wine Cruise.  Plus, your $400 deposit guarantees you the reduced 2015 pricing.  And, if you change your mind, your deposit is fully refundable until March 31, 2015.

It’s going to be a merry, fun time. Why not join us? Joie de vivre!

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Wine Rating Systems

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Wine Rating Systems

Wine Rating Systems are Flawed

Wine Rating Systems are Flawed

I have a major issue with the current state of wine rating. I think the system is simply another way for corporate-owned magazines to generate advertising dollars. What better way to make a buck than to give a top rating to a wine, then sit back and wait for the winery to pour marketing dollars into print and Internet ads?

How many times have you seen a highly rated wine discussed in an article and then at the end of that same article, the ad pages are promoting this newly acquired rating? This system gives too much power to the magazines and wine rating experts. And it presents an opportunity for dishonesty, favoritism and kick backs.


A Flawed Scoring System

When we were all back in school, the grading system was based on a 100-point system. However, a student could actually score a 48/100 or totally hose the test and score 18/100. That is not the case with wine. I’ve researched several wine rating systems, both foreign and domestic; and all of them cease granting scores below 60. So, what’s the point of using 100? Plus, these scores do not accurately reflect the average wine drinker’s experience. I mean really. Who among us can distinguish between a 91-point wine and one that scored a 94? It’s a trick to get us to fork over more money for wine and to have the winery fork over more money for advertising.


Wine is Not a Competition

My other major issue with the wine rating systems is wine drinking is not a competition. Wine should be enjoyed with the pretense of point systems. I’m not saying I wouldn’t love to be given the opportunity to try both the 94-point, as well as the 91-point wine. Wouldn’t you? The more wine I get to taste, the better. However, it doesn’t mean I’m going to be impressed with the wine or agree with the rating.  On how many occasions have you been unimpressed by a 90-plus point wine that you drank? You’ll run out of fingers keeping count.


A Meaningful System

So if a system “must” to be used, I prefer a 5-point system, where “5” is the highest mark and “1” is the lowest. Using my 5-point system, a score of 5 equals an A, 4=B, 3=C, 2=D and 1=F. Compare this to a rating of 85 or 83. WTH does that mean? If you tasted a wine you absolutely hated, wouldn’t you be comfortable giving it an “F”? I would. An “F” clearly demonstrates your distaste for that bottle and you aren’t doing a disservice to anyone who reads your rating. They’d clearly know you thought the wine sucked.


My system is something everyone can get down with because it’s a far more meaningful rating system.  We grew up with this one. And one that doesn’t take itself too seriously by using scores like 88 or 89.


Days are Numbered

Although the Robert Parker’s of the world have saddled us with this 100-point wine rating system, I do believe its days are numbered. I believe as younger wine drinkers become more prevalent and marketing dollars are shifted to this demographic, they will view this as an antiquated system. They will shun it in favor of one that simply asks, “Would you buy this wine?” It doesn’t get any simpler than that.




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The Newest California AVAs

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California Gets 13 New AVAs

California Gains More AVAs

California Gains More AVAs

The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) is granting new American Viticulture Areas (AVA’s) with the same frequency that Biogenesis distributes steroids to professional athletes. In 2012, there were 206 registered AVA’s in the United States. During the past couple of years, that number has increased markedly.

Many states, including North Carolina new AVA designations. But California, already home to more than 50% of all AVAs, is leading the pack. The most recent additions include the new AVA called Eagle Peak Mendocino County,  11 new sub-AVAs, all part of the Paso Robles AVA, as well as, Malibu Coast.


The Newest California AVAs

Beginning on November 10, growers will be able to label wines produced in the Eagle Peak Mendocino County AVA with the new moniker. The new region encompasses approximately 26,260 acres. It is part of the greater North Coast AVA, located about 125 miles north of San Frsmcisco. As strange as it may sound, despite the name, Eagle Peak Mendocino County AVA is not situated within the already-established Mendocino AVA, nor is it a sub-region. Thankfully, Eagle Peak Mountain, a prominent topography feature, and rising 2,700 feet above sea level is delimited to the region.

The distinguishing characteristics include a marine influence climate, strong breezes, shallow soils with low-holding water capabilities, and a mountainous terrain.


Central Coast
Ocean Breezes & Fog

Vines Love Ocean Breezes & Fog

Paso Robles, in its quest for new sub-regions wins the prize for the longest and most detailed proposal ever filed with the TTB. Paso may have been feeling like the Rodney Dangerfield of wine regions. Prior to the establishment of the new AVA’s, Paso Robles was the largest undivided AVA within California. In comparison, the Napa Valley, which is two thirds smaller, currently has 11 sub-appellations. Now, the two prominent regions are even. Paso Robles AVA Map

With the division in place, the hope is winemakers will be able to show the diversity of the soil and weather of each region, in essence the terroir. The distinguishing attributes also include average annual rainfall ranging from 11 to 29 inches and altitude rising from 600 feet to over 2,400 feet above sea level.

Taking effect on November 10th, the 11 new sub-appellations are as follows:

  1. Adelaida District
  2. Creston District
  3. El Pomar Paso District
  4. Paso Robles Estrella
  5. Paso Robles Highlands
  6. Paso Robles Genesso
  7. Paso Robles Willow Creek
  8. San Juan Creek
  9. San Miguel district
  10. Santa Margarita Ranch
  11. Templeton Gap

The timing of this announcement is perfect as it coincides with the Paso Robles Wine Harvest Celebration on Oct 17-19.


Surf’s Up

In July, two existing AVA’s, Malibu-Newton Canyon and Saddle Rock-Malibu became sub-appellations of the new, greater Malibu Coast AVA.  With a size of approximately 44,590 acres, it includes portions of Los Angeles and Ventura counties. Boundaries were also redrawn as a result of the addition. If a winery wishes to use a specific AVA name on a wine bottle label, at least 85% of the grapes must have been grown in the region.


Do Wine Drinkers Care?
Visit the Tasting Room

Visit a Winery & Taste the Difference

Winemakers in all of these new AVA’s will now have to accept the challenge of demonstrating the subtle differences to consumers. Will wine drinkers recognize and/or appreciate these hard-fought battles for new AVA status?

If nothing else, it’s a great excuse to get out and visit wine country.





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Tourism Changes Lives

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Cape Town's Iconic Table Mountain

Table Mountain in Cape Town

South African Tourism 

Due to the injustices from decades of Apartheid, many indigenous Africans are financially disadvantaged. In an effort to help right some of these wrongs, trust and initiatives have been instituted for various industries, including the wine industry.

Currently, there are approximately 160,000 individuals from socio-economically disadvantaged communities who are employed within the industry.  With each visit, additional employment opportunities open up.


African Winemakers

On my first visit to South Africa in 2004, I met a young man from one of the townships who was working toward a career as a winemaker. Today, around a dozen Africans, whose families suffered under Apartheid have risen to the role of winemaker.  Although that number is still quite small, it is a prime example of how tourism brings hope and changes lives. Tourism is an integral part of the South African economy, creating one in twelve jobs.


First African Female Winemaker

First African Female Winemaker

In the late 1990s, Ntsiki Biyela, from KwaZulu Natal enrolled in the University of Stellenbosch’s oenology program. Her road to becoming a winemaker was atypical and quite difficult. All of our classmates were white and classes were taught in Afrikaans,  the language of her oppressors. However, Ms. Biyela, a proud Zulu persevered. Upon graduation, she joined the staff at boutique wine producer Stellekaya, becoming the country’s first African female winemaker. Shortly thereafter, she was named Female Winemaker of the Year.

Stellekaya, located in the heart of the Cape Winelands produces seven red wines, many with a blend that includes Merlot. Stellekaya sources grapes from local producers. When the grapes arrive at the winery, Ms. Biyela has them undergo a cold maceration process designed to capture the fruit flavors. She then uses a traditional punch down method followed by a wooden basket press. After fermentation, the wine is aged in 100% French oak barrels.  You should taste the award-winning results for yourself.

South Africa dons many travelers’ Bucket Lists.  This is hardly surprising given its ideal climate, friendly people, great exchange rate to the US Dollar, awesome food scene, quality wines and beautiful wine regions.

When you visit Stellenbosch, (I suggest you do) stop in at the Stellekaya winery and see firsthand how your tourism dollars have helped lift this country. Then, head to dinner at Aubergine with its cosmopolitan menu and dazzling wine list. But that’s a discussion for another post.

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Wine Review Snapshot

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Wine Tasting Review

Sipping for Wine Reviews

Sipping for Wine Reviews & Education

As a wine educator, I am tasked with tasting wines on a frequent basis. Yes, break out the guitar and play a blues song for me. So, since I drink wine almost daily, I thought it was time again to share some tasting notes. For another wine review snapshot, check out my post on Warm Weather Wines ideal for fall.

What follows is a wine review snapshot of wines I’ve enjoyed recently.


My Wine Tastings Highlights

Domaine Peiriere by Paul Sapin


Pays d’Oc

Salad with orange slices

Salad with orange slices

I love blends. The Viognier in this blend gives it a bit of freshness and lemon zest, while the Chardonnay brings a great golden color that hints of oak. I wish more American Chardonnay producers would blend their white wines instead of making pure single variety wines.

This wine would be a nice accompaniment to a salad with mandarin orange slices or one with pieces of avocado. The acidity would compliment the citrus while matching nicely with the creaminess of the avocado.

It’s not a complicated wine but I’d drink it again as one of my simple, everyday wines. I believe it is priced under $10.


2011 Robert Craig Affinity

Cabernet Sauvignon

Napa Valley

This wine has great legs and a beautiful deep, purple color. On the nose, I got plum and blackberry fruit. Although the wine was young, I tasted masculine dark, plum and jam-like fruits. It also had surprisingly tamed tannins.

For a Napa Cab, the Robert Craig Affinity at $39.95 is priced quite reasonable. If you can buy two bottles, you should. Then, you can drink one now and lay one down for another 3 to 4 years. This is a wine that will taste even better in a few years.


2012 Ramey

Cabernet Sauvignon

Napa Valley

This Cabernet will set you back around $50, but it is worth every penny. It tastes like a Cab that cost twice as much. And that certainly is not a bad thing given the hefty prices most Napa Cabernets.

Its appearance is an intense dark red but the nose was a bit trickier. I smelled cherry and Thanksgiving spices, which only hastened my desire to taste it. So I gave into temptation and was rewarded with beautiful black cherry and raisin flavors. The tannins were as beautiful as the wine.

After drinking this wine, I was so intrigued that I went to the website to find out more about the winemaker. Dave Ramey developed an impressive resume working in the industry prior to opening his winery  with his wife Carla, in 1996. They have a tasting room in Healdsburg, which I will surely have to visit on my next trip to the region.

To learn more about their vineyards, click http://www.rameywine.com/vineyards/


Mumm Napa

Sparkling Wine Brut Prestige

Napa Valley

Champagne Classy Enough for a Wedding

A Sparking Wine Classy Enough for a Wedding

I could drink champagne and sparkling wine every single day of my life. I love it that much.  And this sparkling is a staple in my wine captain. A Napa stalwart, it is refreshing and has a creamy brioche finish typically only found in expensive French champagnes. It is medium bodied, with a citrus flavor and the perfect amount of acidity.

Mumm’s sparkling wine is classy enough to serve at a special occasion such as a wedding; yet it won’t break the bank. The complexity will have your guests thinking you spent far more. It’s a perfect food wine that typically retails for around $17.


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Seneca Lake Riesling Country

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Seneca Lake Riesling Country

Stunning Finger Lakes

Stunning Finger Lakes

New York’s Finger Lakes wine region is not as well known as other wine regions. However, its place in American wine history is secure. With grapes being planted as early 1800s, Finger Lakes is one of the country’s oldest wine regions.

During these early years, native grape varieties such as Concord and Niagara were used in winemaking. It wasn’t until the 1970s when two pioneers, Herman Wiemer and Charles Fournier transformed the region with the introduction of quality vinifera grape vines.

The Seneca Lake Wine Trail, the largest and most popular in the Finger Lakes region, was established in 1986. Today, approximately 34 wineries call this area home.


Experience Counts

There’s nothing like experience. Whether you are talking about a championship football team, a time-tested corporate manager or a been-around-the-block-a-few times winemaker, a hefty whack of experience often leads to successful ventures.  This is certainly the case with head winemakers Tim Miller of Chateau LaFayette Reneau and Steve DiFrancesco of Glenora Wine Cellars.

Miller has been worked for more than 30 wine harvests.  His impressive resume includes wine-making duties at two other Finger Lakes wineries, Glenora Wine Cellars for 14 years and Swedish Hill Winery.  Recently, this experience at LaFayette Reneau was rewarded with a “Best of the Show” by the New York Wine and Grape Foundation. The Governor’s Cup was awarded to Miller and his team for their 2013 Semi-dry Riesling. In addition, the wine won honors as the Best White Wine, Best Overall Riesling and Best Medium-dry Riesling.

When consumers find a wine they love, adding it to their list of favorites is a no-brainer. They keep coming back because of consistency. Due to changing weather patterns and bad vintage years, winemaking is more challenging and consistency becomes an issue. But, that is not the case at Glenora.

Steve DiFrancesco has been member of the Glenora team since the late 1980s, taking over the helm as Head Winemaker in 1995. His long tenure, along with his assistant Chris King gives Glenora’s Rieslings tried-and-true fruity aromatics, as well as refreshing acidity.


Chateau LaFayette Reneau
Fruit and Cheese Plate

Fruit and Cheese Plate

The 2013 Dry Riesling is very light in color but very strong in flavor. On the nose it gives lemon and lime, with the same citrus coming through on the palate.  This is a perfect wine to bring to a football party, especially for those of us on the West Coast were games start as early as 10 AM. The alcohol by volume is 12%, which isn’t extremely low; however, it allows for it to hold up to most foods. It really worked well with a hard and soft cheese plate mix.

When I tasted this wine with food, I knew it was a winner. I ate it with a grilled chicken breast and a cucumber salad. The charring from the grill, along with the vinegar from the salad held up nicely to the wine. I really enjoy a wine that you can continue drinking it long after the meal has been finished. This Chateau LaFayette Reneau wine fits that requirement.  This is one of my new favorite casual-drinking Rieslings. I also like the $15 price.



Glenora Wine Cellars

Established in 1977, Glenora Wine Cellars was the first winery on Seneca Lake. For the white wine lover, it is a must stop on the wine trail as it produces wine from 11 different white grape varieties. However, today is all about their Riesling.

The 2013 Dry Riesling has a slightly golden color along with honey and lemon on the nose. It’s a very balanced wine with bright acidity.

Glenora Dry Riesling

Glenora Dry Riesling

This is a great food wine. With it, I had a pork loin served with apples and caramelized onions with a salad of mixed greens, roasted beets, walnuts and goat cheese. Maybe this Riesling has a natural affinity with cheese and apples since both are grown in New York State. With food, there was an added perception of sweetness, although the residual sugar is locked in at 14 g/l.

I really like the tropical taste of this wine as it warms up. I get more guava and mango flavors when I drink it as a sipping wine. I also tasted this dry Riesling with a cheese plate. Again there is great balance between the wine’s the fruit flavors, the acidity and creaminess of the cheese.


Note: I received these bottles as samples as part of Finger Lakes Wine Month.

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How to Select A Riesling

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Riesling Sweetness Chart

Riesling Grapes

Sunkissed Riesling Grapes

It seems whenever I mention drinking Riesling, inevitably one or two people in the group will state they do not like sweet wines.  That’s when I go on my tirade stating all Rieslings are not sweet.

But it’s statements like “I don’t like sweet wines ” that make it difficult for Riesling wines to gain the esteemed reputation in the United States they so desire.  But I think the tide is turning. A new Riesling taste profile will give consumers an easy way to figure out how to select a Riesling based on their taste preferences.


Determining Sweetness Level

Thanks to the efforts of several Riesling wine makers and wine journalist Dan Berger, a sweetness guideline has been created for consumers to use when buying a Riesling.  The International Riesling Foundation has designed a system comprised of four categories, which depict a wine’s level of sweetness. And don’t worry. The system is simple, forgoing the usual complicated numerical rating system. Instead, Riesling bottles are labeled with a sliding descriptive-word scale as follows:

Dry    Medium Dry    Medium Sweet    Sweet

Riesling Sweetness Level Chart

Riesling Sweetness Level Chart

These type of initiatives have helped make Riesling the fastest-growing white wine in America. Chefs and sommeliers have been championing the virtues of Riesling for years. As more consumers drink Rieslings, they too will learn to appreciate its versatility. Are you looking for a wine for dinner, hanging out with friends or as a gift for a wine collector? A Riesling wine will satisfy all of these situations.

Rieslings pair beautifully with myriad foods.  They have great acidity and minerality. And contrary to popular belief the fruit flavors are not-to-syrupy sweet.


Here’s a guide on how to select a Riesling for any occasion.

  • Sweet – Trying serving with an after-dinner cheese course. The high acidity levels help tame the butter fat content.  This means diners will not be overpowered by either the wine or the cheese.  Dessert such as a pear tart or apple pie are other great options.
  • Medium Sweet – They are a great pairing partner with spicy foods like Thai, Szechuan and Indian dishes.  This natural sweetness gives balance to the heat. In addition, heat of the food brings down the sweetness levels in the wine.
  • Medium Dry – These Rieslings have a hint of sweetness, which due to their generally low alcohol levels allows the fruit flavors to shine through. However, it’s this delicate balance that makes these wines perfect for general, daytime drinking. You may also serve them alongside salty, snack foods or appetizers, making them ideal for game-day gatherings.
  • Dry – A dry Riesling can be served with dishes you’d serve at a dinner party such as chicken, pork, and even vegetarian fare, which can be challenging. The citrus flavor makes it a natural companion to sushi and seafood dishes.
Drink Something New

I think many people are opening up to the idea of drinking wines from outside their comfort zones. If you normally drink a California Zinfandel with pizza, next time try a medium dry Riesling.  If you love Sauvignon Blanc, then reach for a dry Riesling instead.

There’s a big wonderful world of wine just waiting for you to explore.  Still not sure what new wine to try?  Think Finger Lakes. There are more than 115 wineries from which to choose. Wines from this chilly region are produced in all four style categories. Do you enjoy a wine with a great sense of terroir; one with a pronounced taste fruit or perhaps one with brazen acidity?  The Finger Lakes region has something for everyone. You can’t go wrong.

Well, don’t just sit there. It’s time to go wine shopping! And now it’s easier than ever to select the right wine for your needs.

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Cayuga Lake Rieslings

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Cayuga Lake Rieslings

Swedish Hill & Hosmer Wines

Swedish Hill & Hosmer Wines

The vineyards of the Cayuga Lake region benefit from a micro-climate created by the 40-mile-long lake and its neighboring hillsides. Granted AVA status in 1988, currently 17 wineries are region members. Established in 1983, Cayuga Lake is credited as being America’s first organized wine trail.

There are some winemakers who produce wines using native grape varieties such as Niagara, Catwaba and Cayuga.  However, it’s the region’s cool-climate vinifera grape varieties that have brought it the most accolades. Two of the more popular stops along the trail are quality wine producers Swedish Hill Winery and Hosmer Winery.


Swedish Hill Winery

This pale, straw-colored wine has beautiful apricot and pear aromas that are mirrored in the flavor. On the first sip, there was a perception of sweetness, which was not present when I drank it later with food.  I love drinking wine with food, as both play off the other. I had this wine with Thai curry, grilled chicken and chicken spring rolls. Although the wine was a great accompaniment to each of these foods, its lush fruit flavors really paired exceptionally well with a cheese and fruit plate.  It’s a wine that has you wanting to take sip after sip.

Tropical Mango Flvaors

Tropical Mango Flvaors

This Riesling is the real deal. It’s a perfect wine for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. You can open a bottle when your guests arrive and continue drinking into dinner service. Then, as you are sitting around enjoying each other’s company, the wine remains pleasing on its own. This Swedish Hill is a dry wine; but because it has that hint of sweetness, it should satisfy a wide range of palates. As it warmed, I got more tropical flavors like mango.

The tasting room,  located in Romulus is open daily through December from 9 AM to 6 PM.


Hosmer Winery
Hosmer Winery Riesling

Hosmer Winery Riesling

There is a saying that old vines make great wines.  If that is true, then the 25-year-old-plus vines at Hosmer Winery should provide wine lovers with a special treat. The Riesling vines are more than 30 years old, thriving in high-lime Cavenovia loamy soil.

Winemaker Aaron Roisen should have plenty of frequent flyer miles. He hails from Minnesota but worked harvest in New Zealand on two separate occasions, prior to leading the wine-making efforts at Hosmer.



Grapefruit Flavor Profile

Grapefruit Flavor Profile

The Hosmer Riesling presented as the most dry Riesling of the four I tasted from the Finger Lakes region.  There was citrus, as well as pear aroma. Pear and acidity that came through as grapefruit on the taste.  The beautiful grapefruit flavors paired nicely with my cheese board. As the wine opened up, it became more lovely and smooth, with an almost honey like finish.

Through October, the tasting room is open Mon-Sat from 10:50 – 5:50, then closes at 5:00 in Nov. On Sundays, it’s open from Noon – 5:00.


Finger Lakes Riesling

I was pleasantly surprised these Finger Lake Rieslings were start-to-finish wines.  I only wish I had discovered them this summer because they would have been my afternoon go-to wines.  Until next then, I’ll just have to enjoy them with my fall and winter meals.

Note: The wines reviewed here were provided by the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance as part of a Virtual Tasting. No promises were made regarding what I was to write only that I should post my reviews.


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Finger Lakes Rieslings Launch

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 Riesling Country

Finger Lakes Riesling Launch 2014

Finger Lakes Riesling Launch 2014

The Finger Lakes 2013 Vintage Rieslings Launch debuts on September 27, 2014 from 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm EST. This event showcases approximately 20 wineries throughout the region.  With more than 100 wineries, Finger Lakes is the largest American Viticulture Area (AVA) in New York.


Finger Lakes Rieslings

Wine has been produced in the region since the early 1800s, with the first winery opening in 1860. Cool climate grapes such as Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Gewurztraminer are ideally suited for the area. However, Riesling is the most widely planted grape; and is the region’s most celebrated grape variety.


You are welcome to join in this evening’s event. If you’re lucky enough to be in the Finger Lakes region, then head out to the tasting room. If not, grab a bottle or two from your local wine shop and start tasting. Either way, the Finger Lakes Rieslings Launch will be a fun look into this emerging region.

To share your thoughts on social media:

Twitter & Instagram: #FLXRiesling and @FLXWine

Facebook: Tag @Finger Lakes Wine in your posts





Note: I had the honor of being selected to participate in this event as a member of the media.

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Wines for Fall

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Warm Weather Wines

Wild Horse Pinot Noir

Wild Horse Pinot Noir

Last week, I opened a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc to drink with grilled chicken. I never thought it was possible but I was too hot to drink a glass of wine. I know. Me!  I knew something was terribly wrong.  The brutal southern California heat wave was definitely getting the best of me.

So after recovering from my shock, I decided I would chill this white wine to a temperature of about 45°. I tried another sip after it was chilled and did manage to finish the glass.  But this got me thinking.

Checking the calendar, I saw that fall was arriving and hoped it would bring fall-like temperatures.  The warm weather may return given the shift in climate change, but I envision weather, during the next few months that will have me reaching for more red wines.

Over the past week, I have been on a mission to uncover red wines light enough to enjoy in the early evening as the day’s heat dissipates.  But I also want something elegant that can be enjoyed with a great dinner.  And Cabernet Sauvignon was not an option for two reasons.  First, it’s an obvious choice and kind of a cop out.  Second, it’s still too freaking hot to drink Cab! These three wines for fall were my top choices of the bottles I sampled. And yes, it was arduous!


Distinctive Topography

As you probably know, Santa Barbara County vintners make some outstanding wines.  Wild Horse Winery and Vineyards is one of a stars of this region. Their Unbridled Pinot Noir has grapes that were grown in the northernmost part of the appellation, Santa Maria Valley. This part of the Central Coast has a cool climate that sweeps in from an unusual east-west running traverse that brings in ocean breezes. These winds are followed by afternoon coastal fog that lingers throughout the night. This distinctive characteristic helps make for a long growing season, allowing the grapes to ripen slowly, in addition to increasing the hang time on the vine.

This 2012 drinks nicely. The tannins have softened already and the fruit isn’t too jammy given the high 14.5% alcohol by volume (ABV). There were slight floral notes on the nose, as well as black cherry. I tasted ripe cherry and baked plum tart. This wine is worthy as a dinner companion.


Two Oceans Converge


South African Pinot Noir

2012 Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir

The quality of South African wines has improved dramatically. The Hamilton Russell Vineyards Pinot Noir is an excellent example of the pride and investment that is leading the charge for quality wines throughout the country. Their 2012 Pinot Noir is produced in the Hermel-en-Aarde area, which is part of the Hermanus wine routeClick to see the map of the Hermanus Wine Route  Along the southern tip of Africa, the cold Atlantic Ocean waters converge with the warm waters of the Indian Ocean.  The ocean breezes help to create a perfect environment for growing Pinot Noir, as well as Chardonnay.

The garnet color along with the raspberry and red cherry aromas signal classic Pinot Noir. This bottle is an excellent choice to bring to a dinner party, especially if the hosts are red wine snobs. The reason? It is no typical New World Pinot Noir.

Upon tasting, I got a wonderful earthiness typically found in an aged, red Burgundian. I also tasted dark cherry and raspberry, the usual New World flavors; but there was also cranberry and a hint of spice. Given its youth, this Pinot had unexpected mellowed tannins. It is an age worthy wine with an elegant structure, retailing for $38.  (The price at Vintage Wines in San Diego.)

I was surprised to see the alcohol by volume  (ABV) was a whopping 14% given its production area, along the cool-climate Walker Bay region.  However, the wine did not present any pronounced alcohol heat.


Who Wants Italian?
Italian Wines

Indigenous Italian Wines

When you think about wines for fall you have to give a nod to Italian wines, as the two go hand-in-hand.  I am not a huge Italian wine fan but I enjoyed the 2011 Valpolicella Ripasso Monte Vozo.  Located in the Veneto wine region, a ripasso wine is a blend of indigenous grapes Corvina (70%), Rondinella (20%) and Molinara (10%).

The ripasso wine-making process reuses the partially dried grape skins and sediment of Amarone wine.  It then undergoes a secondary fermentation that brings in more flavor, body and structure.

The reason I don’t care for a lot of Italian wines is I find many of them to be ordinary, especially in the lower-end price point. These inexpensive wines usually lack structure and taste like watered down grape juice.  (Of course, I’m not referring to the outstanding Barolo, Montepulciano or Sangiovese wines.) I firmly believe time in the bottle has helped this wine to develop more concentration in flavor.  A bit of age has improved its fruit flavor by adding a bit of depth.

You should treat this wine as you would a rosé, meaning serve it chilled.  Doing so will help bring out more of the almond and dried cherry fruit flavors.

This is a backyard wine to serve as an icebreaker when entertaining friends in the afternoon. It coss around $19. I drank it with various hard and soft cheeses, salamis, dried fruit, and nuts.


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