Tags: "Alicante Bouschet", "big reds", "California wines", "El Dorado County wines", "Findleton Winery", "French varietals", "red wines", "wine bargains", "wine history"
One bright January day, I stumbled upon this handsome gentlemen at the newly opened Nello Olivio tasting room in Camino, CA off Highway 50. He was the epitome of grace and finesse, and invited me to join him in some libations left over from a wine club event that had just been held. I had just tasted his wines, and immediately joined the "Wine Mob" as I just couldn't get enough of the big, earthy reds offered! Also , wine club members can use this beautiful room as well as a gorgeous "cave" at the Placerville location that was just the site for my husband Bert's 65th birthday held this July.
And the wine we opened that day? It is now a library wine as it was a double Gold medal winner; the 2015 Sagrantino. I tasted it that day in January, bought it and hid it to save it for Bert's party. I mostly hid it from myself -if I had seen it in plain site it never would have made it till July! Sagrantino is a rare treat, as it is an Italian varietal only grown by a few wineries in the US. Until recently, it was almost exclusively grown in Umbria, Italy.
It was the perfect birthday treat - rich with a lovely berry nose, heavy but smooth and rich tannins, and plummy with hints of earth, cinnamon, leather, and just a touch of fine oolong tea. Our friends loved it, and ran to the tasting room to try the 2016 Sagrantino. Not quite as big or elegant, but still a very fine wine and a great find.
If you are looking for a light summer wine, another one enjoyed at our party was the 2016 Bianconello. It is simply delightful chilled! It's perfect if you want a dry white that is not lemony, buttery or heavy. I also loved the Dieci and the Sangiovese.
If you visit Camino OR Placerville, be sure to stop in and visit the "Grapefather". The reds are fantastic, and the ambiance wonderful.
And now, for something completely different (to quote Monty Python) - here is a little video they showed us in the Placerville tasting room. Yes, he really IS the Grapefather!
Posted at 02:11 PM in Barbera , California Wines , Camino wines, El Dorado County wines , Food and Drink, Italian wines , Nello Olivo Winery, Obscure Varietals, Sangiovese, Wine Clubs, Wine Tastings | Permalink | Comments (0)
Tags: "camino wines", "el dorado county wines", "italian wines", "light whites", "nello olivo", "placerville wines", "red wines", "The Grapefather", "wine tasting, Bianconello, sagrantino, wine
Sunday was a cold, rainy day in El Dorado County - but spirits were bright at the annual Madrona Vineyards Open House! Here is a small video I took - there was a small live band playing so may be a little tough to hear. Turn up your speakers, and get ready to stand in line for those Malbec futures.
Tags: "camino wines", "el dorado county wines", "el dorado wines", "malbec futures", "wine futures", cab franc, madrona, madrona vineyards', malbec, red wine, syrah, wine
One of our favorite wineries here in El Dorado County is Via Romano, and for the first time ever, our busy schedules allowed us to attend their bi-monthly pizza night. Jon and Leanne, the winemakers, purchased an Italian style pizza oven that cranks out unique and delightful creations about every ten minutes for the duration of the event. What a great time we had! The pizzas ranged from a traditional pepperoni and red sauce with cheese to a delightful pesto, tomato and arugula creation. They even had wonderful, piping hot calzones oozing with cheese and veggies. Nothing is better than this, fresh from the oven and enjoyed on the winery patio under the stars.
If you want to attend these events, I suggest booking early as they sell out fast. Live music is featured every pizza night, we got to listen to Wanderlodge from Oregon, which was a folksy, southern rocky kinda small town band with a style all their own. And you have to be quick as the pizzas get put on the table in front of the oven where hungry guests dive bomb them. The veggie pizzas don't go quite as quickly as the meat ones do, but are every bit as delicious.
We enjoyed the new 2015 Sangiovese with our dinner and it was just lovely, with big jammy flavors and the rich complexity that Italian wines bring to the table in spades. It perfectly complimented our delicious pizzas, and the night was just fabulous.
The only down side was that I did a great VLOG of this event that I lost as I was just learning my video blogging platform.....which was upsetting. Next time...
Tags: "Camino wines", "el dorado county wines", "el dorado wines", "Italian wines", "pizza oven", "red wines", "Via Romano", "winery events", pizza, sangiovese, wine
Last weekend we stopped at Chateau Davell's brand new tasting room on our way to a jam sess in the Bay Area to pick up a friend's wine club shipment. WOW!! The view is spectacular, the grounds peaceful and inviting, and the wines are as good as ever.
I am posting my first ever VLOG or video blog on our visit - which is here:
Two of our favorites were the 2015 Charlotte's Cuvee and the 2015 Verlyn. The winemaker, Erik, names his wines after members of his family and includes beautiful portraits of them on every bottle. Charlotte is his daughter, and she was happily doing cartwheels on the front lawn while we sipped her namesake wine. Verlyn is Erik's grandfather.
We are definitely blend people, and both these wines are blends. The Charlotte is an Estate wine and a blend of Cabernet, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. Our friend John Worley served it at our jam sess where it was definitely a hit. It has an inky deep reddish garnet color with a blonde coffee noise, big fruity middle tones, and a cardamom and clove finish. It is both delicate and rich at the same time, and the blend has created just the right amount of lightness and complexity.
The Verlyn is a stronger, heavier wine, with 45% Mourvedre and 25% Grenache. It has solid, structured tannins and would cellar well. I tasted cedar, toasted oak, rich black cherry and pomegranate flavors. This wine would stand up well to any grilled meat or BBQ, and has plenty of spunk and character.
The longest finish wine is the 2015 Green Man cabernet - a great wine to drink on Summer Solstice. I got eucalyptus, wood, and leather on the finish, with a ripe garden nose and early palate and blackberries with sun dried tomatoes on the mid palate. Chewy tannins give this wine the structure one expects from a fine Cabernet.
If you are up this way, a visit to Chateau Davell will be worth your while for sure!
Posted at 03:40 PM in Cab Franc, Cabernet , California Wines , Camino wines, Chateau Davell, Cuvee, El Dorado County wines , French wines , Grenache, Mourvedre, Red Blends , Wine Decor , Wine Shopping | Permalink | Comments (0)
Tags: "cabernet franc", "camino wines", "Chateau Davell", "el dorado county wines", "el dorado wines", "red blend", "red wine", "wine tasting", cabernet, Cuvee, Grenache, merlot, Mourvedre
Tom Findleton has created such a gem and I was thrilled to be able to taste it back in February. Since then, we have enjoyed several wonderful bottles of this "nectar of the Gods"
Cab Franc is primarily grown as a blending wine, which is why you rarely see it sold pure. From Wikipedia,:
Cabernet Franc in Viala & Vermorel
|Color of berry skin||Blue-black|
|Also called||Bouchet, Bouchy, Breton (more)|
|Notable regions||Bordeaux, Loire|
|Notable wines||Château Cheval Blanc|
Cabernet Franc is one of the major black grape varieties worldwide. It is principally grown for blending with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in the Bordeaux style, but can also be vinified alone, as in the Loire's Chinon. In addition to being used in blends and produced as a varietal in Canada and the United States, it is sometimes made into ice wine in those regions.
Cabernet Franc is lighter than Cabernet Sauvignon, making a bright pale red wine that contributes finesse and lends a peppery perfume to blends with more robust grapes. Depending on the growing region and style of wine, additional aromas can include tobacco, raspberry, bell pepper, cassis, and violets.
Records of Cabernet Franc in Bordeaux go back to the end of the 18th century, although it was planted in Loire long before that time. DNA analysis indicates that Cabernet Franc is one of two parents of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Carménère.
This lovely and fully drinkable wine is acidic in character, with the beautiful softness of a Cab Franc as well as a bold character usually seen more in its close relative; Cabernet Sauvignon. I tasted rich forward fruit, a hint of black pepper, soft vanilla and hot cocoa flavors enriched with some tart strawberry and rhubarb middle tones and a soothing rich dark berry finish that was both lingering and satisfying. I also got just a hint of the type of bell pepper you would find in a Chicago Portillo Italian sub sandwich (thinking of those, as I am making a clone of them tonight for dinner). The color is also dark and rich, with outstanding clarity (no need to decant as no sediment in this wine).
There are enough tannins to provide some character with a mild chewy feel, as well as to ensure it will cellar well.
We enjoyed this wine with a a pasts smothered with rich Marinara sauce and meatballs. I would expect it to go equally well with salmon dishes, fajitas, grilled chicken based dinner salads, and Italian antipasto plates. And yes, Portillo type Chicago-style Italian sub sandwiches which are NOT low calorie, but a true foodie experience that is not to be missed.
Drink up folks!
Tags: "cab franc", "cabernet franc", "Camino wines", "El Dorado Wines", "Findleton Winery", "Italian sub sandwiches", "red wine", cabernet, Findleton, wine
Looking back on the year, Bert and I had a ton of great meals between our subscription to Blue Apron, my incredible cookbook collection, and our El Dorado and Lake Tahoe restaurants. Hands down, the winner of the best meal of the year was the Winemaker's Dinner at our local Italian winery; Via Romano. And believe me, this was a tough call to make!
A new Apple Hill/Camino winery - Via Romano will be celebrating its one year anniversary on January 6th with an Open House featuring small bites and desserts. They are fast becoming a local hot spot with incredible Italian style wines, a beautiful patio, regular fun events, and a friendly atmosphere that exudes warmth from the moment you set foot in the tasting room.
This event, held on October 13th (two weeks before our annual Halloween party which explains the tardiness of this post), was held on a long well-appointed table in the center of the tasting room. Chef Giovanni, a local chef who hosts culinary excursions to Italy and has a restaurant located in the picturesque Italian Alps was the star of the show ( sharing the stage with the wines and Papa Romano himself, of course). Each of the six courses was paired with one of the hand-drafted, award winning wines created by Jon and Leanne, our winemakers.
The first course was a Farinata, a "light as air" chickpea crepe with onion and sage, paired with the 2015 Calaveras County Vermentino. The Vermentino is a rare Italian varietal hailing from Northern Sardinia in the province of Olbia Tempio. It features a nice floral nose, a "not-too-sweet" flavor and a hint of citrus with some mineral flavor with an overtone of nectarine, pine nuts, and nutmeg. It was a wonderful first course wine, and really unusual and fun. The crepe, cooked in Jon's new outdoor pizza oven, served to whet our appetite for more luscious foods, which Chef Giovanni explained to us course-by-course.
The next course was "Peperoni Ripieni con Tonno e Bagnet Verde" or red peppers stuffed with tuna and finished with a Piemontese parsley sauce. The pairing here was the 2016 Shenandoah Valley 'Lileana' Rose di Sangiovese. I usually don't like Roses, but this one was divine - with a soft velvety texture, light yet complex finish, and floral flavor with a hint of spice. The peppers were incredible and just as soft and delicate as the wine.
At this point, one of the other stars of the show - Papa Romano (the namesake for the "to-die-for" Super Tuscan red) raised his glass and proposed a toast by banging on the side of his glass. "A toast - TO ME!" My crazy husband followed this up with a cry of "Dilly Dilly" (adopted from the NFL Budweiser commercial ). We were enjoying a dinner with a big, wild and crazy Italian family, even though most of us just met each other that night - and it couldn't be better!
A course of handmade pasta filled with meat and greens was next, served with a wine that I was sad to hear was sold out - the 2014 Dolcetto. This was a BIG red with a "sweeter than your typical California red" flavor; full-bodied and rich with ripe cherry, strawberry and plum adding to its sweet goodness.
Next came a rolled beef course filled with proscuitto, cheese and herbs that had been slow-roasted in Barbera and a handmade tomato sauce. The sauce was incredible, like nothing I had ever tasted before with an explosion of herbal flavor and tomato goodness that had my taste buds dancing. The 2014 Fairplay Barbera perfectly complemented this dish - with bright acidity so characteristic of a great Italian wine. It was full of ripe berry flavors with a hint of cinnamon and licorice - definitely one of my favorite Barberas ever. The judges at the California State Fair thought so too - they awarded it a Silver Medal.
Chef Giovanni further titillated our senses by serving cheeses he had brought into the US from the Italian alps - YUM! They were served with what was hands down the best wine we had that night - the 2013 Sierra Foothills "Papa Romano Red" Super Tuscan. We loved this wine so much that we brought a bottle with us on our recent trip to Costa Rica where the sommerlier from Secrets Papagayo said that he would have sworn it came from Italy if we hadn't told him it was a California wine. Big, brash, and unapologetic just like Papa Romano himself (Bert was seated by him all night, they had a great time), this wine is a blend of a blend of 38% California, Shenandoah Valley Sangiovese, 38% El Dorado County Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Calaveras County Cabernet Franc, and 12% Fair Play Merlot. I taste rich black cherry, bright blackberry jam, pomegranate, rich spice, a hint of earth and TONS of forward fruit with a long, satisfying finish. We loved it with the cheeses, and had it again with a wonderful pork loin in Costa Rica.
The last course was a pot of chocolate creme with almond -hazelnut cookies paired with an aromatic Nocino and a luscious Moscato di Neroli - ALL of which were to die for and the perfect finale to one incredible evening. Dilly Dilly!
Posted at 01:17 PM in Barbera , California Wines , Camino wines, El Dorado County wines , Food and Drink, Italian wines , Obscure Varietals, Red Blends , Super Tuscan, VIa Romano Winery | Permalink | Comments (0)
Tags: "California Reds", "Camino wineries", "Chef Giovanni", "el Dorado wineries", "italian food", "Italian reds", "red wine", "super Tuscan", "Via Romano winery:, "Winemaker's dinners", Barbera
My dear husband Bert is a beer drinker and usually only drinks red wine to humor me. Imagine my surprise when I handed him my glass at Illuminaire Winery filled with the Pinotage only to hear him exclaim, "Off the hook! Can we get some of this?" What the---? Happily, I obliged him and this wonderful wine now sits in our cellar (which is just a small room off our garage), waiting to be paired with a fantastic meal worthy of its amazing spirit.
Winemaker Aaron Hill, never to be seen without his signature baseball hat, has a right to be proud of his Sierra Foothills winery. This year at the California State Fair, his bold jammy reds won three gold medals; one for the 2014 Petit Verdot (another of my favs), the 2014 Zinfandel (bought one of these too), and the 2014 Alicante Bouschet.
The Pinotage was our fav wine at this tasting as it was literally bursting with big jammy cranberry, blackberry and raspberry fruit with a hint of allspice, and enough tannins to add complexity. It had a wonderful fruity nose, a smooth finish, and a beautiful deep cherry flavor with exceptional clarity. It was different, and not your "run-of-the-mill" red. What was different was the mix of fruit flavors and spice - giving it a unique and very welcome taste sensation.
This is because this varietal is not usually found in California. From Wikipedia:
Pinotage // PIN-ə-tahzh is a red wine grape that is South Africa's signature variety. It was bred there in 1925 as a cross between Pinot noir and Cinsaut (Cinsaut was known as "Hermitage" in South Africa during that time, hence the portmanteau name of Pinotage). It typically produces deep red varietal wines with smoky, bramble and earthy flavors, sometimes with notes of bananas and tropical fruit, but has been criticized for sometimes smelling of acetone. Pinotage is often blended, and also made into fortified wine and even red sparkling wine. The grape is a viticultural cross of two varieties of Vitis vinifera, not a hybrid.
No acetone nose here, thankfully! I also thought it was quite different from this description as it had no real smokey or bramble flavors, although I could taste some earth. What was predominant in this top notch wine was big, bold, juicy fruit flavor. I also got a very small hint of the peppery flavor one would get in a Pinot.
I think this wine is a bargain at $25/bottle!
As to pairings, I am working on some ideas - and here they are:
Food Pairings: This is not a shy and retiring red - it is BIG BIG BIG! It needs something big and juicy to accompany it, and right now I am thinking something like Beef Tamales smothered with a spicy red sauce, lasagna (Bert's favorite food), or a big bowl of Cioppino served with a bib and lots of those little hand wipes that smell like Windex.
Music Pairings: I see drinking this wine while listening to Isaac Hayes, Trombone Shorty, BB King, or Bonnie Raitt. Big, bluesy, strong music goes with the BIG RED this is!
Activity Pairings: The key word here is BIG - I vote for drinking this wine while boating or having a summer picnic with friends. I also see it as a great accompaniment to a rowdy, raucious pool party - even though it has a very smooth finish it is a strong wine.
Posted at 12:17 PM in Bargains, California Wines , Camino wines, El Dorado County wines , Food and Drink, Illuminaire Winery, Obscure Varietals, Pinot Noir , Pinotage, Zinfandel | Permalink | Comments (0)
Tags: "California reds", "California State Fair award winning wines", "California wines", "Camino wines", "El Dorado wines", "obscure varietal", "pinotage", "red wine", "Sierra Foothill wines", "South african varietal", "wine review", reds, wine
One of the reasons I moved up to El Dorado County was the cornucopia of incredible wineries with reasonable prices for reds that melt in your mouth. This special Italian varietal from DiVittorio is no exception; we enjoyed it with a steak several months back and we still remember how special it was!
The DiVittorio winery was founded by Dr. Al DiVittorio and his wife Sally (an RN) - both of Marshall Medical Center here in Placerville. Dr. DiVittorio is a well known surgeon who probably saved my neighbor's life a year ago, but that is another story. The winery is unique and features wonderful reds and ports - and hails from a family recipe the DiVittorio's brought with them when they immigrated to America from Italy in 1904. This winery is a friendly, sunny spot in Camino, CA where all are welcome and tasting is free. Cheese and crackers are available to complement your experience, and a small jewelry case with finds made by local craftsmen graces the front entrance.
A Silver medal winner in the 2016 El Dorado County Fair, this wine is big, rich and bold, like a Barbera should be. It is also smooth at the same time, and doesn't have the brash after taste found in many lesser Barberas. The color is deep and rich, and it has a very pleasing earth and leather nose with a hint of fresh flowers. I enjoyed the velvety texture of this wine as well as it's mineral content and rich, chewy tannins (which tell me that it would have aged well, too bad, I drank it). Like most of DiVittorio's reds, this wine is a bit on the sweet side. This is because DiVittorio is also known for some of the most incredible ports you will ever drink, and the reds here also take on some of the port character. I would definitely recommend stopping by DiVittorio if you are ever in the Placerville/Camino area. It is well worth the visit - and they also have a special running where you can get a case of their 2005 (that's right, 2005) Cabernet and Syrah for $110. That is cheaper than grocery store swill folks.
Food Pairing Suggestion: We enjoyed this wine with a nice steak, but it would also pair well with any grilled meats or Italian dinners. I would love to try it with Spaghetti and Meatballs myself. Although I shouldn't be eating Spaghetti and Meatballs (but yet again, that is another story).
Music Pairing: My husband and I have an Alexa (Amazon Echo) in our dining room and we love to play our unlimited music while eating great food and drinking great wine. We listened to (what else?), Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack while enjoying our Barbera and steak. It was simply a magical combination, and could only get better if we were actually in Italy.
Activity Pairing: This is a sit down dinner wine in elegant surroundings, preferably with Italian decor. I would pay corkage and bring it to an upscale Italian restaurant. It would be a "date" wine that would wow, and set the stage for better activities to come if you get my drift.
Be sure and get this great wine before it is all gone!
Tags: "award winning wines", "barbera", "California reds", "Camino Wines", "El Dorado County Wines", "Italian varietals", "red wine", "wine bargains", "wine tasting", DiVittorio, wine, winery
Easter is a bright and lovely holiday - and deserved a bright yet soft and lovely wine to share with friends. After not writing ANY blogs for many months, I am returning to my beloved wine blog - and the 2009 Crystal Basin Renegade Red is a wine deserving of being my first blog post for the resurrection of The Wine Hacker.
It's no secret that I love a good red blend - the Renegade Red is crafted of 18% each 2009 Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Sangiovese, with the majority being the 2009 Zinfandel. This wine is soft with delicious strawberry and plummy flavors, but packs a Malbec and Zinfandel punch - with toasty oak coming from barrel aging in French and American oak for 18 months. When tasting, I tasted a cedar finish with a soft vanilla overtone complimenting the beautiful raspberry/strawberry zinfandel front palate flavors.
Crystal Basin calls this it's "Tuesday night, non-pretentious, Pizza-and-Pasta wine", but I found it lovely enough to take to a gathering of my friends for Easter, all of whom found it perfect for the occasion. It stood up nicely to the Easter ham as well as the cheesy broccoli casserole and green beans without losing brightness or character. It also has great clarity and a wonderful claret red color, making it more elegant that just a "pasta" wine.
Blends tend to get a bad rap as some lesser labels have used them to use up "leftovers", creating blends that widely vary in quality and taste. Crystal Basin is a small, El Dorado county wine producer with a solid reputation for quality. The Renegade Red is not a vat of leftovers - it is a masterfully blended and well crafted cornucopia of El Dorado wine essence, with only the best grapes included. I found this a "friends and family" wine, and it tasted magnificent!
As my friends and family know, about three weeks ago I had a very significant life event - a heart attack. Red wine in moderation is GREAT for your cardiac health, but moderation means no more than two full glasses for a woman with one being preferred. If you sip a great wine, it is not difficult to drink in moderation. Its the bad wines you want to drink quickly so you get them over with!!! This one I enjoyed with generous sips of water in between.
Also thanks to my significant life event, I made a firm decision to spend more time doing what I love - which is writing!
Food Pairings: Like most wines that are predominantly Zinfandel, this wine IS a great pasta and pizza wine - yet it also complimented ham quite nicely. It has more softness than most Zins and a beautiful oak taste as well - I think it would go well with BBQ'ed ribs, lasagna (yeah, that is pasta too), pork tenderloin, or a rack of lamb.
Music Pairings: This is a warm and friendly wine - the kind of wine that inspires friends to gather around the piano and play 60's music while singing (maybe even a bit off key). I see it as a Beatles White Album kind of wine, or even a BB King and Diane Schuur album mash up kind of wine. Its soft yet warm and complex flavors echo the blues scale - as well as 60's rock and roll. I hear great bass too, when I sip.
Activity Pairings: A great family and friends holiday gathering wine, this would also be a good jam session wine or rock and roll concert replay wine.