Bonny Doon Vineyard is a winery based in the city of Santa Cruz in the central coast of California. It was started by Randall Grahm in 1983. Bonny Doon was amongst the first Californian wineries to embrace Rhone varietals, giving Randall Grahm the nickname “The Rhone Ranger“. The winery is known for its untraditional labels, including illustrations by Ralph Steadman, Bascove, Grady McFerrin, and Gary Taxali. In recent years, the winery has embraced some slightly obscure Italian varieties, screwcaps, and biodynamic production.
History of Claret at Bonny Doon: Some cautionary words: Bonny Doon Vineyard is, as we all know or should know, a strictly cabernet-free zone, at least it has been for the last twenty-eight years. The last “Claret” produced at Bonny Doon Vineyard was in 1985 from grapes grown at their late Estate in the eponymous hamlet of Bonny Doon. It was a blend of approximately equal parts of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Malbec, and against all expectation, it was actually pretty damn good. Randall Grahm, owner and winemaker, has expressed opprobrium, occasionally bordering on amused disdain, for this popular grape variety. They are not really at liberty to say how Bonny Doon Vineyard has come to be entrusted with the distribution of a wine made from such improbably alien grape varieties, but suffice to say that the deal was doon grudgingly and harumphingly.
Varietals: 62% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Petit Verdot, 8% Tannat, 1% Petite Sirah
Alcohol: 13.2% by volume
Tasting Notes: So, with these caveats listed above, the sentiment at Bonny Doon Vineyard is that if you ever were to drink a cabernet-based blend, this would be one that would serve quite well. It is lean, neither overly alcoholic (weighing in at 13%), nor overly extracted; it is precisely as one would imagine ‘A Proper Claret’ to be. The wine contains a substantial dollop of petit verdot (22%), which adds a silky note of violets and textural elegance, in precision counterpoint to the lead-in-the-pencil firmness offered by the inclusion of the manly tannat (8%). There is a lovely suggestion of cedar and mint, in the nose. The wine has medium tannins, nice acidity, and finishes cleanly.
Food Pairings: Proper (British) mutton, proper leg of lamb, (ideally served with proper Yorkshire pudding).
Jim Lutfy’s thoughts: “Rich and vibrant! Loaded with flavors of hickory, cedar, and smoke. Gorgeous weight on the palate, with a long and elegant finish. The unique blend is a trademark of Bonny Doon. This is a new wine for us at FWS, and I am happy to share it with you. Enjoy!”-JL
Located in the municipality of Richerenches, Domaine Mireille et Vincent covers 15 hectares on the left bank of the Rhone . Very famous for its truffles, the town is also known for its wines! The Domaine was founded in 1980s by Bernard Bizard, who before that worked at several other estates. Bizard named the domaine after the couple’s two children, Mireille and Vincent, with the first vintage in 1985.
History of Domaine MIreille et Vincent and its Relation to the Environment: The average age of vines at the Domaine is 35 years old, making the vineyards almost entirely old vines. These vines will flourish for up to 60 years, and account for over 45% of the vines planted in this area. The old vines of Domaine Mireille et Vincent are planted on hillsides with red clay and are more or less pebbly. These strong vineyards give the wine a powerful aroma. Other vineyards in the Domaine are located on old truffle fields, and enjoy a refreshing Mediterranean climate, including wind from the Alps. All of these environmental factors give character and distinction to the wines of this area, and especially the wines at Domaine Mireille et Vincent.
“We are not organic, but we believe in the environment,” said Bernard Bizard . Bizard implements new practices constantly to allow the grapes to truly shine. The Domaine produces three separate Côtes du Rhône: one white, one red, and a rosé. The white wine is crafted from traditional varieties (Roussanne , Clairette , Marsanne and Viognier) and have a light color with pale gold shades . The red is typically a blend of Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault and Carignan and is characterized by spicy notes. Lastly, the rosé is a prettier style but has some spice as well.
Varietals: Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault, Carignan
Alcohol: 14.0% by volume
Tasting Notes: Cool and elegant, pure, and with a lovely scent of berries.
Food Pairings: Pair this wine with a hearty meat dish, ragu, or even a roast. This wine will be great with your Thanksgiving turkey as well.
Jim Lutfy’s thoughts: “Extremely flavorful, with notes of Worchester, garlic salt, and onion. A very pretty and delicate style, with beautiful aromatics. The vintage gives the wine ripeness, but it is not over the top. Enjoy with soups and stews.”-JL
Viña Robles crafts wines that represent a stylistic bridge between the Old and New worlds, capturing the finesse associated with European wines, while celebrating the bold natural flavors of their estate vineyards in Paso Robles.
Here, proprietor Hans Nef and managing partner Hans – R. Michel bring their Swiss heritage to California’s Central Coast, where they aim to unite the best of both experiences.
“I want Viña Robles to express a unique balance of European heritage and American opportunity. As individuals, we are rooted in the Old World. As winemakers, we are empowered by the New World. But both worlds bring value to what we do, and we endeavor to capture this distinction in our wines.”-Proprietor Hans Nef
History of Viña Robles in Paso Robles: They first discovered Paso Robles in the early 1980s and became enamored with this emerging wine country. Along golden slopes, where the Pacific coastline unfolds into rugged ranchlands and cowboy ambiance, a new generation of California winemakers was turning Paso Robles into one of the world’s most dynamic winegrowing regions.
In the mid 1990s, they planted their first estate vineyard and established Viña Robles as a family winery specializing in varieties that excel in the region’s diverse terroir. The vision for Viña Robles is summed up by their motto: European Inspiration – California Character.
Varietals: 81% Cabernet Sauvignon and 19% Petit Verdot
Alcohol: 14.1% by volume
Tasting Notes: “The fruit for our 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon was selected from four of our estate vineyards in Paso Robles. It was handpicked at night in small lots to ensure perfect quality and ripeness. Afterwards, the fruit was destemmed and gently crushed into temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. Pump-overs took place regularly to enhance color and help extract tannins from the skin. After pressing, the wine was racked into barrels to complete malolactic fermentation and aging. Before bottling, we blended in 19% Petit Verdot from our Huerhuero and Adelaida Springs vineyards to round out the blend. The Petit Verdot enhances mouthfeel and structure.”-vinarobles.com
Food Pairings: The wine pairs well with richer foods. A great wine for grilled meats, heavier pasta dishes, and barbeque. Also a great match with salty cheese!
Jim Lutfy’s thoughts: “Rich and deep, with a lavish style. Layers of flavor and complexity here. In perfect harmony of red and blue fruit here. The wine has great intensity and a supple soft finish. Flavors of cassis, raspberry, and cedar are all intermingled. I love it!”-JL
Godelia is a relatively young project, at least in its present form. Its wines come from a combination of very old mountain vines and maturing vines from the hill-slopes in the centre of the valley. About 30 of the 50 hectares which go into production of Godelia were planted in 1989 by a former owner, who traded under a different brand name. Godelia as such came into being when Vicente Garcia Vasquez, the pharmacist of Cacabelos, purchased these holdings in 2009.
The now 20+ year old vines and some 90 year old bush vines in the mountains were entrusted to Joseph Serra Guyillen, a Catalan winemaker brought in from outside specifically to avoid local complacency and to revise inherited bad viticultural habits. His brief –freshness and elegance. His right hand in winemaking is Silvia Marrao.
History of Bierzo and Wine Styles in the Region: About 10% of plantings are the white varieties Godello and Dona Blanca. Historically, these were blended in with the reds to make Clarete–fruity, light reds with around a quarter white grapes. These were the typical local wines for a long while–not just here in el Bierzo, but in Ribera del Duero and Rioja too. Like much of Galicia, the wine tale of el Bierzo is one of great loss in recent times. Starting with the onset of phylloxera in the late 19th century, which eradicated 2000 years of continuous vine culture and accretion of knowledge, this loss continued during the 20th century due to the twin barbarisms of the post-civil-war dictatorship and twentieth century chemical-industrial agriculture. Agriculture was shifted down into the fertile river valley and only a remnant of hill-slope and mountain holdings were left planted to vine. Planting virtually ceased between 1950 and 1985 and the region’s population hollowed out with people moving into mining, industry and the cities.
Like Alfredo at Pittacum and Ricardo at DJP (and Telmo and Pablo in other regions), Vicente and Joseph are keenly aware that good viticulture and lovely resultant wines requires a significant investment in untying the 20th century and going back before phylloxera… a deliberate exercise in cultural re-discovery and preservation. Currently, this takes the form of getting the nursery out of the vineyards. Godelia’s 20-odd year-old plantings at Castro and Legúas were planted to ‘clones’ –generic material from the nurseries, and favouring high crop over quality. Josep is grafting these over with quality genetic material selected and transplanted from their best old vines. High up on the slate vineyard of Sobrado and the quartz at 900m of San Pedro de Olleros, are authentic local cultivars which give low yields of sweet-tannined fruit from small grapes in open-habit bunches.
The name, Godelia, is Vicente’s invention –intended to allude to a fresh and feminine Bierzo, it is a made up contraction of Godello and Lias (lees).
Varietals: 100% Mencia
Alcohol: 13.5% by volume
Tasting Notes: Meaty and plush, the fruit is all wild cherry and blackberry, a dark red fruit confiture with a lovely wild sense –wild hedge and crushed velvet spiciness, earth, bramble, anise and choc-tannins. On the palate, cold rock and dry mineral gives a deep sense of earthiness, which informs the granular tannins and carries lots of scrubby, caney, dried hedge and herb border botanicals through a raspberry-licorice fruit line. ‘Viernes’ by the way is Friday in Spanish and Godelia’s intention is thatthis thing says ‘party time’! I hear it…
Food Pairings: This Mencia could pair with lighter red meats, chicken, and shellfish, especially when cooked with wine or served with a tomato sauce.
Jim Lutfy’s thoughts: “A wine that is rich and flavorful. Full throttle in flavor and loaded with fruit…a wine that has a perfect balance and great backbone of acidity, with a long finish. A great wine for this season, I think you will enjoy with or without food. Cheers!”-JL
Owned by Florentino Martinez Monje, Luberri is located in Elciego in the heart of Rioja Alavesa. Florentino farms 35 hectars of old vines located principally between the villages of Elciego and La Guardia.
A farmer at heart, Florentino was the original winemaker at Artadi before establishing his own winery in 1992. Florentino is hands-on at the winery, working on all aspects of production, but his true love is working in the vineyards. All the plots are farmed with minimal treatment of the soils and vines. Vineyard sites are separately fermented and vinified. By keeping yields low Florentino extracts grapes with great concentration and flavor. Yields are around 34 to 45 hectoliters per hectars.
History of Tempranillo and its Relation to Luberri: Tempranillo is a variety of black grape widely grown to make full-bodied red wines in its native Spain. Its name is the diminutive of the Spanish temprano (“early”), a reference to the fact that it ripens several weeks earlier than most Spanish red grapes. Tempranillo has been grown on the Iberian Peninsula since the time of Phoenician settlements. It is the main grape used in Rioja (Luberri), and is often referred to as Spain’s most noble grape.
Grown early in the 20th century to produce jug wines in California, toward the end of the 20th century Tempranillo enjoyed a renaissance there and throughout the world as a fine wine. The grape has been planted in Mexico, New Zealand, South America, USA, South Africa, Australia, Argentina, Uruguay, Turkey, Canada, etc. The grape is often blended with Grenache and Cariñena (known in Rioja as Mazuelo), Tempranillo is bottled either young or after several years of barrel aging. The grape often grows best at higher altitudes, giving the wine a ruby color, with aromas and flavors of berries, plum, tobacco, vanilla, leather, and herb.
Varietals: 100% Tempranillo
Alcohol: 13.0% by volume
Tasting Notes: “Vivid red. Floral- and spice-accented aromas of red fruits, rose and minerals; smells like a Dujac wine. Seductively perfumed in the mouth, with juicy raspberry and floral pastille flavors dominating. Shows impressive clarity and spiciness on the long, sweet finish. This is extremely easy to drink. “-90 Points, International Wine Cellar
Food Pairings: This Tempranillo is the perfect pairing with lasagna, pasta Bolognese, hearty meat dishes, or Mexican cuisine.
Jim Lutfy’s thoughts: “This is an iconic area of Spain. I love Rioja! The Tempranillo truly shines here. Flavors are dry and savory, with nutty components as well. Loads of cedar and tobacco too. The wine is long and concentrated on the palate as well, with layers of complexity. This wine screams ‘RIOJA!’”-JL
Simon Hackett, the man behind this wine, grew up in an atmosphere steeped in wine, spending his boyhood in the Barossa Valley alongside his father, who was General Manager and a Director of the giant Barossa Valley Distillery. The family home was situated next to the sprawling Saltram Winery outside Angaston. Given this environment, it was not surprising that Simon, at the age of eighteen, elected to follow a career in winemaking and joined the team at the neighboring Saltram Winery. In 1984, Simon decided to concentrate fully on establishing his own boutique winery situated in McLaren Vale.
History of Shiraz and its Relation to The Gatekeeper: McLaren Vale is a wine region approximately 35 km south of Adelaide in South Australia. Grapes were first planted in the region in 1838 and some vines more than 100 years old are still producing. Today there are more than 88 cellar doors in McLaren Vale, including The Gatekeeper. The majority are small family-run operations and boutique wineries. McLaren Vale has a Mediterranean climate with four clear seasons. With a dry warm summer, the area has dry weather from December through to March or April, giving an easy change between summer and winter. It is gentle with long warm days and short cool nights. Winter rains of 580-700 mm per annum flow into a fresh spring. The region rarely experiences frost or drought due to its close proximity to the sea. The McLaren district has many different soil types and this contributes to the wines from the area having different terroir. The vineyards are planted on soils including fertile red-brown earths, terra rossa, rendzina, soft sands and dark cracking clays.
Varietals: 100% Shiraz
Alcohol: 14.0% by volume
Tasting Notes: Balanced and bursting with lush fruit, this is a thoroughly delicious Shiraz. The grapes were sourced from the McLaren Vale and the Riverlands and then carefully aged in oak for 6 months — breaking the over-oaked Australian mold a bit… in a very, very good way.
Food Pairings: Barbecued foods with a smoky char pair nicely with Shiraz, as do lamb, venison and game birds. Enjoy before the summer ends!
Jim Lutfy’s thoughts: “Loaded with layers of concentrated fruit, cherries, cassis, blackberry, and blueberry. Red and black fruits intermingle in this glass. A great combination with BBQ!”-JL
Contra is a wine that reflects the opposite of modern winemaking sensibilities, meaning wines overworked and amped up, pushed and prodded into Procrustean palate-numbing sameness. À rebours, this wine is a contrarian blend of the most old-fangled grape variety, carignane, from several extremely old (100 year+), nongrafted, dry-farmed head-trained vineyards, located in Contra Costa County, and the puer aeternus syrah, young, vibrant, racy and peppery. Contra is a somewhat contradictory flashblack/forward to the straightforward, frank wines of yester- and future-year. A field blend that contravenes contraindicated convention, with aromas of cherries and licorice, flavorful cassis, blackberries, and silky tannins. A wine (hardly) contraindicated for gastronomy, it is above all, contrapuntal.
Ideology of Bonny Doon Vineyard: Dedicated to producing wines in a more unaffected, hands-off style, with a particular emphasis on the expression of terroir, or unique sense of place, Bonny Doon Vineyard fashioned the 2010 Contra from hand harvested grapes from the Central Coast — from the northernmost reaches of old vines from Contra Costa County’s Del Barba and Evangelho Vineyards, and its more Southern climes, Arroyo Seco’s Ventana vineyard, San Luis Obispo’s Alamo Creek vineyard, Monterey’s Rancho Solo vineyard, and Santa Maria Valley’s famed Bien Nacido Vineyard. Hand sorted, indigenous yeast fermented in individual lots, extended maceration and 100% ML, before blending to achieve to a wine that is bursting with life, exuberance and deep vitality.
Varietals: 68% Carignane and 32% Syrah
Alcohol: 13.7% by volume
Tasting Notes: The 2010 Contra marries the fresh blackberry and cranberry aromas of old vine Carignane with the classic old vine Syrah, bringing notes of licorice and leather. This vintage provided a bright acidity with black cherry, blackberry, and a mix of spice on the palate. The silky tannins provide this wine with a texture to savor.
Food Pairings: This wine pairs well with grilled meats and good BBQ!
Domaine de la Terre Rouge, which specializes in single-site Syrahs from some of the highest altitude vineyards in California, has released their own version of a self-styled ‘fun and easy drinking’ wine. Tête-à-Tête is a blend of Côte-Rôtie classics (it’s 34% Grenache, 34% Mourvèdre, and 32% Syrah), but blended from the estate’s younger vines and barrel lots showing plenty of sweet, forward fruit. With this particular grape trio, that means lots of dark summer flavors; boysenberry, black cherry, blackberry and currant— the style, say, of a top-end Côtes-du-Rhône Villages.
History of Rhone Reds and Their Relation to Domaine de la Terre Rouge: According to the Rhone Rangers, there are twenty-two traditional varieties grown in France’s Rhone Valley in eastern France. Twelve of these grapes are planted in the United States including the best-known Syrah and Viognier, plus Mourvedre, Grenache, Carignane, Roussanne, Marsanne and Petite Sirah. Some lesser known Rhone varietals grown in the United States are Counoise, Cinsault, Grenache Blanc and Picpoul. California has over 4000 acres of Rhone varietal grapes planted of which almost half is Syrah.
Examples of Rhone varietals include the popular Syrah, Viognier and Mourvedre. Syrah (also known as Shiraz in Australia and South Africa) is the major Rhone varietal in the United States. Syrah is a sturdy grape in the vineyard and tends to deliver dark fruits and white pepper. Viognier, the most popular white Rhone, is probably the worlds least widely planted premium grape. In the vineyard the yields are low, as is the acid. It is temperamental in the winery, but well-made Viognier delivers an exquisite, exotic bouquet of apricots, pears tropical fruits and floral. Mourvedre is a grape found in many areas, called Monastrell in Spain and Mataro in Portugal. It is often used as a blending wine, producing good acid and some astringency with blackberry aromas and flavors.
Varietals: 34% Grenache, 34% Mourvèdre, and 32% Syrah
Alcohol: 14.5% by volume
Tasting Notes: This wine is a true over achiever! Great mouth feel and texture that is eminently enjoyable everyday. The 2008 has a deep boysenberry fruit, with smoky, meaty, and gamey flavors that emphasize their terroir.
Food Pairings: The wine pairs well with grilled meats and barbeque. Throw a steak on the grill and enjoy with a glass of this wine!
Jim Lutfy’s thoughts: “Earthy and rustic, with cedary smoky flavors. A wine that has a history…one of the most affordable and best tasting Rhone blends coming out of California. The wine has a roasted, meaty mid-palate, with a long savory lip-smacking finish!”-JL
Ancient Peaks wines hail from their estate Margarita Vineyard, which stands alone as the southernmost vineyard in the Paso Robles region. Here, amid the rugged Santa Lucia Mountain range just 14 miles from the Pacific Ocean, they maximize the remarkable diversity of their soils to craft wines of depth and dimension.
Their Zinfandel has emerged as one of the Paso Robles region’s most acclaimed Zinfandels in recent vintages, including “Steal of The Year” honors in Sunset Magazine, 93 points in Wine Spectator and a Top 100 Wine of The Year designation by the San Francisco Chronicle. This acclaim is rooted in their estate Margarita Vineyard, which yields an intense yet finely balanced expression of the Zinfandel grape.
History of Zinfandel and its Relation to Ancient Peaks: A man named Joseph W. Osborne may have made the first wine from Zinfandel in California. He planted Zinfandel from Macondray at his Oak Knoll vineyard just north of Napa, and his wine was much praised in 1857. Planting of Zinfandel boomed soon after, and by the end of the 19th century it was the most widespread variety in California.
Zinfandel old vines are now treasured for the production of premium red wine, but many were ripped up in the 1920s, during the Prohibition years (1920–1933), but not for the obvious reason. Even during the Prohibition, home winemaking remained effectively legal, and some vineyards embraced the sale of grapes for making wine at home. While Zinfandel grapes proved popular among home winemakers living near the vineyards, it was vulnerable to rot on the long journey to East Coast markets. The thick-skinned Alicante Bouschet was less susceptible to rot, so this and similar varieties were widely planted for the home winemaking market. Three thousand cars (about 38000 t) of Zinfandel grapes were shipped in 1931, compared to 6000 cars of Alicante Bouschet.
The 2010 Zinfandel is composed of fruit from five separate blocks spanning three different soil types at their estate Margarita Vineyard–shale, sedimentary and volcanic. Collectively, these different soils and exposures bring natural complexity and dimension to the wine. Additionally, the vineyard’s marine-cooled climate and long growing season enable the Zinfandel fruit to achieve inherent structure and restraint
while delivering ample varietal richness and spic e.
Varietals: 100% Zinfandel
Alcohol: 15.0% by volume
Tasting Notes: The 2010 Zinfandel offers vibrant aromas of crushed raspberry and blueberry with a dash of sweet oak. Bright, juicy flavors of raspberry, boysenberry and black cherry anticipate notes of cola and spice. A smoky vanilla note joins luscious acidity on a rich, jammy finish.
Food Pairings: The wine pairs well with grilled lamb chops, wood-fired sausage pizza, Santa Maria tri-tip and chicken fajitas.
Jim Lutfy’s thoughts: “Really an old school interpretation of Zinfandel. As spicy as it is rich, with great balance and weight. A wine with tremendous flavor and intensity, but also elegance. I am excited to share it with you!”-JL
Established in 1921 by Baptiste Dutheil, then developped by René Couly who married Madeleine Dutheil, the House of Couly-Dutheil has become the great name for Chinon. Today, Couly-Dutheil remains a family house owned by the third and fouth generation.
The Chinon region has all the qualities of the greatest soils. Its semi-oceanic climate is exceptionally mild and benefits of long sunny periods. The variety of soils and their particular qualities allows the Cabernet-Franc (98% of the vineyard) to express all its finesse and its celebrated “taffetas” within a range of strong personalities.
The sandy and gravelly plains along the Vienne river provide a great back drop for thirst quenching, light and fruity wines. The clay and flinty slopes, and flat-lands produce fine and subtle wines, while the clay and chalky hills bare sumptuous wines meant for ageing.
History of Chinon (Cabernet Franc) and its Relation to Couly-Dutheil: 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. It can be bottled as a single varietal, or used in blends as well. It can also be made into ice wine in both the United States and Canada.
Cabernet Franc is lighter than Cabernet Sauvignon, making a bright pale red wineand contributing finesse and a peppery perfume to blends with more robust grapes. Depending on growing region and style of wine, additional aromas can include tobacco, raspberry, bell pepper, and cassis, sometimes even violets.
Records of Cabernet Franc in Bordeaux go back to the end of the 18th century; it was planted in Loire long before that. DNA analysis indicates Cabernet Franc is one of two parents of Cabernet Sauvignon, a cross between it and Sauvignon Blanc.
Varietals: 100% Cabernet Franc
Alcohol: 13.5% by volume
Tasting Notes: Beautiful purple color, with very pleasant aromatics of green pepper and small red fruits. Fruity on the palate, making it easy to drink and very charming.
Food Pairings: A wonderful pairing with chicken, veal, and ham.
Jim Lutfy’s thoughts: “Loaded with an abundance of flavor! Gobs of fruit jumping out of the glass. The Chinon here is uninhibited and seamless. Layered with spicy and earthy tones; this is a great wine!”-JL