Cabernet Sauvignon

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Livermore Stories: BoaVentura de Caires Winery

“Handcrafted” has become such a buzzword in the wine industry that it’s almost meaningless, superfluous.  But not at BoaVentura de Caires, the Livermore Valley winery owned by Brett Caires.  His operation is truly handcrafted. Brett planted the vineyards and renovated the horse corral that’s now his winery and tasting room almost wood plank by wood plank.  He salvaged redwood, a couple of stained glass windows and a door from buildings on the nearby Concannon Vineyard property that were being demolished.  And, oh yeah, Brett farms the vineyards and makes the wine.  His hands are on every grape cluster, every vat of fermenting grape juice, every barrel of aging wine, every bottle filled and dipped in wax. BoaVentura is not your typical winery, and that’s what makes it such a wonderful place to visit.  When you pull up the steep driveway, you see a sign that says “No limos past this…

A Personal Journey to Eonian Wine

Wayne Donaldson is a year and two vintages into his own wine label Eonian.  After about 20 years in the wine business, working in Australia and California, he “decided it was time to do something personal.”   I first met Wayne in 2002, when we he was Vice President of Winemaking and Vineyards at Domaine Chandon, the sparkling wine house in Napa Valley, and we were shooting one of the very first episodes for the show I produced, In Wine Country, on NBC.  I’ll never forget him showing us how to saber open a bottle of sparkling wine.  It was the coolest thing I’d ever seen.  A few years later we shot a story with Wayne going mountain biking on the grounds around Domaine Chandon, another super fun shoot. So when I heard he was launching his own wine label, I had to get the lowdown. “Eonian the name means…

Wine From Under The Sea

You’ve probably heard stories about shipwrecks discovered where bottles of wine were found.  Some of the wines uncovered have been 100 years old or more.  There’s been interest in what these wines taste like and how well they did – or didn’t age – in their watery cellars.  That’s the inspiration behind Mira Winery’s “aquaoir,” a clever play on the word terroir, which means how a wine expresses the soil and climate it grows in, among other things. “Our inspiration was to try something different, so we did an experiment,” says Mira Winery President Jim “Bear” Dyke.  He’s hosting night six of a seven city tour, dubbed the “Are You Dirty or Wet Tour” (they gave out concert t-shirts), a blind tasting of the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, one land aged the traditional way, in a dry cellar, and one ocean aged at the bottom of the sea.  To their knowledge,…

What You Need to Know About Chilean Wines

Before I went on a recent wine trip to Chile, I had certain assumptions about both the country and its wines, things like all the wines are cheap (I mean good values) and it was more important whether or not wineries were in the northern or southern part of this long skinny country.  Not only am I wrong, but I learned many fascinating things to share with you.  Chile tends to get pigeonholed into the “inexpensive” wine category but that’s not a true reflection of what’s happening in wine there now. Carmenere may be the national grape of Chile, but Cabernet Sauvignon is king Don’t get me wrong, we had some beautiful fruity, spicy and earthy Carmenere (reference wines:  Root: 1 Carmenere $12, TerraNoble Gran Reserva Carmenere $18)  But there is more total vineyard acreage in the country planted to Cabernet, about 40% to 10% planted to Carmenere. Many…

Bernard Portet, “A Winery Without Walls”

It’s not everyday you get to have lunch and taste wine with a Napa Valley icon.  Bernard Portet, founding winemaker at Clos du Val invited a small gathering of journalists to reflect on his 40 years making wine in the Napa Valley.  He officially retired from Clos du Val at the end of 2009, but as so often happens he was going stir crazy and he knew he just had to get back into making wine.

Even sailing can’t keep Bernard away from wine.  He has a 36’ sailboat named Obelix and loves to get out on the water.  He’s also involved with the 34th America’s Cup through the Napa Valley Vintners.  The weather for the upcoming weekend is perfect sailing weather but Bernard says he can’t go.  He’s harvesting grapes instead.

The crush is for Bernard’s new label, Heritance.  The project developed after Bernard bumped into Clos du Val’s former COO, Don Chase who also wanted to get back into wine.  So they hatched a plan where Don would handle the business aspects and Bernard would make the wine.  But the set up is nothing like Clos du Val.  Bernard calls Heritance “a winery without walls.”  

DRINK – Check out the Sip Shoppe at Swanson Vineyards

I am really excited about the new tasting room about to open at Swanson Vineyards in Napa Valley. Sure, they’re known for Merlot, and for the elegant Salon wine tasting experience. That’s an intimate sit down tasting, paired with caviar and chocolates. Super luxe, right? But it’s also limited to groups of 8, a couple times a day. What if you want to stop by and try a few bottlings? Up until now, you were SOL. Although they’re not taking text reservations (not yet anyway!), soon you’ll be able to phone up and stop in at the new Sip Shop. The bright red and white striped room is whimsical and fun. Not your average tasting room! Here you can sip flights of Swanson’s wine, paired with some small bites. One signature pairing will be the Swanson Pinot Grigio matched with American caviar on a potato chip. Mmmm. Opening is planned…

DRINK – The price is right

I’m always asked what’s a good wine at a good price?  For me, good price is under $20 a bottle.  Under $10 is even better.  Somewhere in between is where Layer Cake falls.  This wine is made by Jason Woodbridge.  The crazy thing is he also makes Hundred Acre, an amazing Cab that sells for $300+  I’ve tried it and really liked it, almost enough to think about buying one bottle.  But Layer Cake fits my budget.  I bought a bottle of Shiraz at Trader Joe’s for $14.99.  It was a deep, rich and opulent wine, especially for this price point.  The Shiraz is grown and made in Australia, under Woodbridge’s supervision, and all the Layer Cake wines are made in a similar manner to Hundred Acre. Even the labels are top notch — great design, raised fonts. I have a bottle of Primitivo at home – also $14.99 at…

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