Brianne Cohen

Brianne Cohen

About Brianne Cohen

I am a Los Angeles area event producer who dabbles in wine in my free time! I am currently pursuing (and almost done!) with the WSET Diploma sommelier certification.

Acquiesce Winery: All White Wines, All the Time

I have made a small handful of visits to Acquiesce Winery in Lodi, CA, and I hope to return again soon as they never disappoint. Sue Tipton is both proprietor and winemaker at Acquiesce, which gives her street cred in my book, as I love to support my fellow women in the wine business, especially on the winemaking side! Acquiesce is unique because they only produce whites and rosés…and remember, we are in LODI, which is Old Vine Zinfandel country. No red wines to be found here, which is a gutsy move in this Zinfandel-soaked Lodi area.

From their website: Acquiesce has become our mantra — to submit to nature, to yield to the vineyard, to acquiesce to the grapes so they present their own true character. Attention to detail reigns here with sustainable vines that are lightly watered, grapes that are handpicked and then whole cluster pressed to create wines that are both classic and traditional.

 There is a $10 tasting fee, which is waived with any wine purchase. Bottles of wine range from $25-$55 for their sparkling Grenache Blanc. The fun part about a tasting at Acquiesce is that they pair a small bite with each wine taste. My favorite was the goat cheese with thyme and Meyer lemon paired with the Grenache Blanc. Delicious!  They sell-out of their wines every year and at that point their tasting room shuts down until the following season! Be sure to check their website or call before going.

The tasting room is comfortable and homey and feels like you’re in a farmhouse in Tuscany or the south of France. They do not accept pets or groups of over 6 people. Outside food and beverage is not allowed. This is a more tranquil, laid back tasting room where you can enjoy the wines and relax a bit.

 Acquiesce is focused on Rhone varietals. When I was last there we tasted: Grenache Blanc, Viognier, Grenache Rosé, Picpoul, Rousanne, and Belle Blanc (which is a blend of Grenache Blanc, Rousanne, and Viognier). They also have a Clairette that I did not get to try.

Fun fact, Acquiesce Winery is a member of LODI RULES for Sustainable Winegrowing, which is California’s original sustainable viticulture program. LODI RULES is considered a benchmark program that will (hopefully) be transferable to other winegrowing regions.

Their wine club is super simple. You get 6 bottles of wine in both the Spring and Fall, a 20% discount on all other wines, invitations to parties and pickup events, and complimentary tastings when visiting.

 If you find yourself in Lodi and are either burned out from the big Zins OR not much of a red wine drinker, I highly recommend a visit to Acquiesce. Or perhaps it’s a hot summer day and you want to drink a flight of Summer Sippers…..Acquiesce is the perfect choice!

Lucas Winery = Lodi Legacy of Tomorrow

According to the Lucas Winery website, wine tasting at The Lucas Winery is very different than you will encounter at most wineries. We move through the winery while tasting different wines. Depending on the time of year, you might prune a vine, taste Zinfandel grapes almost ready to harvest, punch down some newly harvested grapes, or sample some freshly fermented wine. During my visit we walked through the vineyards as well as the Grand Chai room.

Since 1978, Lucas Winery has made Zinfandels from their historic 90-year old ZinStar Vineyard. Thy also makde Chardonnary. Their specialty is unblended wines. According to the website, winemakers and owners (who are married!) David Lucas and Heather Pyle-Lucas create balanced, food-friendly, elegant wines that reflect the full potential of California’s Lodi Appellation. The ZinStar vineyard is CCOF Organic Certified and their winery is 100% solar powered.  Heather says she spends more time in the vineyard than in the winery. She loves getting up in the middle of the night in her pajamas and checking in on how her fermentations are doing!

Lucas is a lovely property and you get the true “heart and soul” feel from every touch point, whether it’s from the warm greeting upon arrival, the pride from the staff as they take you through the vineyard, or the care taken in pouring the wines and telling you the story in the glass.

ZinStar is their signature wine sourced from their 83-year old CCOF organically certified and hand harvested ZinStar vineyard (3.5 acres). The wine has black cherry notes and subtle notes of white pepper. It is a wonderfully complex wine showcasing fruit, spice, and leather. It is VERY food-friendly! We tried the 2012 vintage during this trip. The current vintage is 2015 and retails for $58.

The tasting room is open Wednesday-Sunday and a tasting is $10 and includes a souvenir Riedel glass. They also offer more extensive tastings including the Elevated Tasting Experience which is $40 per person and includes the hands-on, interactive portion of the regular tasting plus the opportunity to taste wines from the library. The other option is the Winemaker’s Tour, which is $75 per person. This tour is private and intimate and includes a tasting menu customized to include library wines, barrel tastings (when available), and rare vintages.

The Superb Wines of Evening Land Vineyards

Winemakers Sashi Moorman and Raj Parr are pseudo celebrities (in my eyes). From hearing their interviews with Levi Dalton on the “I’ll Drink to That” podcast, to reading about them in every wine rag, these guys are everywhere. I first heard of them when Sashi gave the “viticulture” talk to my WSET Diploma class in 2015. I was instantly captivated with his philosophies when it came to grape growing and winemaking. He’s a bit of a purist and (in my opinion) has a “zero f*cks given” approach. He’s certainly not afraid to voice his opinions and I found him to be honest, refreshing, and not ego driven, as some in this industry can be.

Evening Land fruit comes from Seven Springs Vineyard in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA. It was planted in the early 1980s.  The portfolio here is very tight. They only produce Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and a tad of Gamay Noir. The wines are elevated and for the sophisticated palate. Very understated and subtle. Old-world in style. For quality wines in the Willamette, I highly recommend a visit to Evening Land Vineyards.

2014 Pinot Noir, Seven Springs Vineyard $45
Pepper, earth, and muted red fruit on the nose. This wine has a pungency (a good one) with notes of game and mushroom. On the palate this wine is spicy and leather-y. It bounces on my tongue a bit. This was my favorite of the Pinot Noir selections we tasted. You’ve got to work harder for it. It doesn’t rest on its laurels. My kind of wine.

2014 Pinot Noir, Seven Springs Vineyard, La Source $75
These vines are at a higher altitude than the others and are more stressed as the soil is less fertile and rocky. 25% whole clusters included.  A beautiful wine with red fruit (cherry), pungent spice (black pepper), baking spice (cinnamon), and an earthy forest floor note.

2015 Gamay Noir, Seven Springs Vineyard $35 
This is a special wine. They only do a 600 annual case production. In fact, only 7 producers in the Willamette Valley even grow Gamay. Fun fact: part of the Gamay vineyard was planted in 1983, which makes them the oldest Gamay vines in the US. Whole cluster carbonic in concrete.
This wines has notes of red fruit (cherry, cranberry), pepper, and the requisite bubblegum note from the carbonic maceration. Raj is showcasing this wine because it’s unique and fun. The industry buys it up. Exhibit A: I bought a bottle.

2014 Chardonnay, Seven Springs Vineyard $45
Wine Deets (aka nerd talk): Aging in 30% new oak, and then stainless steel tanks to rest. Organic/biodynamic farming and wild/native yeasts used. This wine goes through full malo (though spontaneous). No sulfur is used at press, just some at bottling. All their Chardonnay’s are made in a reductive style (in an environment that lacks oxygen). The first exposure of oxygen to this wine is when the bottle is opened. I’d call this a low intervention wine.
My Notes: This wine is delightful. Meyer lemon and a doughiness on the note. A pleasing, creamy palate. But not gratuitously creamy.

2014 Chardonnay, Seven Springs Vineyard, La Source $75
This wine has everything you’d want in a Chardonnay. Biscuit, dough, and yeast on the nose, with green fruit (green apple and pear) on the palate. Also a distinct flint/matchstick flavor characteristic, reminding me of a Chablis.

2014 Chardonnay, Seven Springs Vineyard, Summum $100
Wine Deets: The soils in this vineyard are the least fertile of the bunch. Major vine stress here. 100% new oak. Yeasty notes on the nose with a round, full, and creamy body. A great spice character as well.

The wines of Evening Land Vineyards are sure things. If you can get your hand on a bottle, it will be a treat. And if you can make it up to the Willamette, I highly recommend a visit to Evening Land Vineyards. You can taste in the “no-frills” tasting room in Dundee, or visit the vineyard in Salem.

Evening Land Vineyards: Stellar Wines at a “No-Frills” Tasting Room

A visit to the Evening Land Vinayards tasting room is not your quintessential winery experience: You drive through Dundee in the northern Willamette Valley and pull into an unassuming industrial park. Once you enter the building, you need to find the suite that has “Evening Land Vineyards” on the glass door in a frosted stencil. You have arrived to taste some of the best wines in the Willamette. How’s that for “no frills”?

Winemakers Sashi Moorman and Raj Parr are pseudo celebrities (in my eyes). From hearing their interviews with Levi Dalton on the “I’ll Drink to That” podcast, to reading about them in every wine rag, these guys are everywhere. I first heard of them when Sashi gave the “viticulture” talk to my WSET Diploma class in 2015. I was instantly captivated with his philosophies when it came to grape growing and winemaking. He’s a bit of a purist and (in my opinion) has a “zero f*cks given” approach. He’s certainly not afraid to voice his opinions and I found him to be honest, refreshing, and not ego driven, as some in this industry can be.

Evening Land fruit comes from Seven Springs Vineyard in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA. It was planted in the early 1980s. I visited the Dundee tasting room only. More details below on visiting the vineyard.

The tasting room is no-frills, yet comfortable. One of the knowledgeable tasting staff will walk you through the Evening Land portfolio. The tasting room is open 7 days a week from 10am-5pm.  Wine is available for purchase.

For a unique experience, you can take a walk through the Evening Land Vineyard and do a tasting of the wines between the vines. This experience must be booked in advance and is $65 per person.

The portfolio here is very tight. They only produce Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and a tad of Gamay Noir. The wines are elevated and for the sophisticated palate. Very understated and subtle. Old-world in style. For quality wines in the Willamette, I highly recommend a visit to Evening Land Vineyards.

The Wines of Youngberg Hill in the Willamette

Youngberg Hill is in McMinnville, 25 miles from the ocean (some say these are the most Western vines in the Willamette). The first vineyards on the property were planted in 1989 by Ken Wright, one of the “gurus” of Oregon wine. In 2003, Wayne Bailey came in, bought the property, and has been farming grapes for close to 15 years there. Currently there are 20 acres planted to Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Chardonnay, all dry farmed organically and biodynamically.

*This tasting was comped due to my industry affiliation.

Bailey Pinot Blanc 2016 $25
These are sourced grapes.  Stainless steel fermentation and aged in neutral oak. Aromas and flavors include: stone fruit (peach/apricot), citrus (lime peel and Meyer lemon). A great food-friendly acidity. This wine would pair well with a spinach salad with stone fruit and perhaps a citrus-based dressing.

Natasha Pinot Noir 2014 $50
Grown on marine sedimentary soil with clay, this wine shows: white pepper and red/blk cherry. It’s showing a bit tight at the moment, but this wine should age 20+ years in the bottle. This wine would pair well with a grilled piece of salmon.

Jordan Pinot Noir 2013 $50
This vineyard has the highest elevation onsite. The wine is earthier than the others and shows more fruit concentration, with darker fruit than Natasha. Currently the ’14 and ’15 vintages are available. This wine could hold up to simply grilled red meat.

*Wines are 15-25% off with wine club membership, depending on the level.

I highly recommend a visit to Youngberg Hill if you want to have an authentic wine country experience. Also, if you love animals (like I do!) this is the place for you! This is lovely place to spend an afternoon or even an entire weekend. The wines are crowd-pleasers and reasonably priced between $25-$75 per bottle, with the bulk being $50 or under.

 

Biodynamics at Youngberg Hill in the Willamette

Last November I enjoyed my FIRST trip to the Willamette in Oregon. I’ve got a handful of family that live in Central Oregon, including my sister in Redmond, and my Aunt/Uncle in Bend. Fresh from my visit with them, I decided to tack on a side-trip to the Willamette and brought the family along! This was a comped visit/tasting due to my industry affiliation.

The Willamette Valley is a vast wine region located between Portland and Eugene. It’s 150 miles long from top to bottom! The region boasts over 550 wineries with 20,000 acres under vine. Approximately 75% of that acreage is planted to Pinot Noir, its most well-known grape.

The Willamette is a “newer” region in the wine world, with vineyards first planted in the mid-60s. There are 6 sub AVAs in the region: Chehalem Mountains, Dundee Hills, Eola-Amity Hills, McMinnville, Ribbon Ridge and Yamhill-Carlton.

The Willamette is situated between the Coast Range to the west, with an average height of 1500 ft and the Cascades to the east, which have peaks over 14,000 ft. This sandwich of mountain ranges gives the region a mild continental climate though with strong maritime influences, as the Coast Range is not quite high enough to mitigate the ocean influences. The Willamette has a finicky climate with a good amount of cloud cover and precipitation. And a finicky climate calls for a finicky grape: Pinot Noir.

Most recently, Wine Enthusiast named the Willamette Valley 2016 Wine Region of the Year. And after my trip, I can see why! Read more HERE.

We spent a good part of our first day at Youngberg Hill in McMinnville, 25 miles from the ocean (some say these are the most Western vines in the Willamette). The first vineyards on the property were planted in 1989 by Ken Wright, one of the “gurus” of Oregon wine. In 2003, Wayne Bailey came in, bought the property, and has been farming grapes for close to 15 years there. Currently there are 20 acres planted to Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Chardonnay, all dry farmed organically and biodynamically.

General Winery Information

The tasting room is open 7 days a week from 10am-4pm. There are 3 tasting options. A general tasting at $15 per person. That fee is waived with a $100 purchase OR if you sign up for the wine club. There is a seated 1-hour tasting available for $30 Friday-Monday (a maximum of 12ppl). That fee is also waived with a $100 purchase OR if you sign up for the wine club. There is also a winemakers tasting (2 hours in length) that is $100. Advance reservations are required for the seated tasting and the winemakers tasting.

Wines range from $25-$75 per bottle.

Atmosphere

The first thing you notice at Youngberg Hill is the presence of animals. Upon arrival, a couple dogs greet you. The dogs are used for security (I found this hard to believe, as they were sweet as sugar) and to maintain pest control. There are frogs in the ponds and honeybees onsite. Most noticeably they have a small group of Scottish Highland Cattle (and a Black Angus!) that I wanted to take home with me.

Wayne describes the Youngberg Hill philosophy, “It’s all about balance and being in concert with nature,” he explains. “Anything that man does will inhibit nature. We try to do anything we can do to stay out of the way. As an example, plant life, insect life, animal life … if we throw any of that off, we’re going to throw the balance off. It’s common sense.” The biodynamic “debate” is still a hot one. Some fail to see how burying a horn with dung in the vineyard has anything to do with the quality of the grapes grown. However, Bailey states, “Back in Iowa (where he grew up), we planted potatoes according to the Farmer’s Almanac. And that’s biodynamic farming.”

The sprawling property also features a quaint 11-room inn. Rates start at $199/night and go up to $399/night. They also have a new events center to host weddings and other social events. Total case production for this entire operation is (approx) 2,500 cases per year.

The Wine

 Youngberg Hill specializes in Pinot Noir, but they also produce: Chardonnay, Syrah, Pinot Blanc, and Pinot Gris.

I highly recommend a visit to Youngberg Hill if you want to have an authentic wine country experience. Also, if you love animals (like I do!) this is the place for you! This is lovely place to spend an afternoon or even an entire weekend.

Donelan Wines: Quality Not Quantity

 

The motto at Donelan Wines is: Wine Is A Journey Not a Destination. And that couldn’t be more true! How I made my way to Donelan Wines up in Santa Rosa was certainly a journey.   A couple of years ago, I had the incredible opportunity to participate in a harvest at this artisan winery in Sonoma County. I was gifted this experience from a family member for my birthday. They gave me a birthday card and a bottle of Donelan 2013 Chardonnay and said “give Cush Donelan a call”! Anyone named Cush is bound to be a good time, right?!?! I made the call, and two weeks later I was on a plane with him up to Santa Rosa to spend a couple days in the vineyard and at the winery.

Donelan Wines is a small-ish boutique, premium winery. They own a vineyard (the Obsidian Vineyard in Knight’s Valley) and also purchase grapes from about a dozen other Sonoma growers, plus one in Mendocino. The winery is in an unassuming industrial park in Santa Rosa with a total case production of 6,000-8,000 cases annually.

Joe Donelan got into the wine business as a second career right around the year 2000 with a business partner. In 2008 he started his own label, Donelan Wines. Joe’s son Tripp, in addition to being the Director of Sales, handles shipping and operations, whereas Cushing has more of a marketing focus on building brand awareness, business development and wholesale relationships. How did Joe get into wine? In his 30’s he spent some time in Europe and was exposed to great wines and the European sensibility with wine that every day is a celebration, and that every day calls for wine. A day with loved ones is a day to celebrate.

He believes in living life to its fullest daily, and not just waiting for Fri/Sat/Sun. Joe says he has no plans for immediate retirement, because he’s having too much fun. He loves people and a sense of adventure the wine business provides him.  As mentioned earlier, about 75-80% of their wines are sold DTC (direct to consumer).  Joe doesn’t want to change that. He likes to meet these people and help them in their growth and journey to learn about wine.

General Info

In order to taste at Donelan you need to make an appointment, as the tasting room does not keep regular hours. A Donelan Portfolio tasting is $30 and a more extensive “Road Less Traveled” Reserve tasting runs $50.  There are no hurried pours here and no pourer who barely knows the wines he/she is serving. Every wine will be poured with care and stories behind the wines (and the vines) will be shared. Bottle prices range from $25 for their rosé up to $150 for their single vineyard offerings.

Atmosphere

When you visit Donelan Wines at the industrial park in Santa Rosa, you may not know what you are in for. There are no romantic vineyard views and no Tuscan-style estate on the property. You drive into the park and see a series of white stucco buildings, one of which has a “Donelan Wines” placard. The tasting room is minimalist, yet comfortable.  Note that the tasting room and the winery are one in the same. Both are at this same location.

The winery is clean. And I mean spotless! One reason for the extreme cleanliness is that Donelan does not use any commercial inoculations in their fermentation. They use only native fermentations. What this means is that they rely on the ambient yeast in the environment and in the winery to jump start the fermentation. There is a native flora that exists in the winery that needs to be maintained. A lot of the “cleaning” done in the winery is with water plus an organic, nontoxic, biodegradable detergent. Countless hours of scrubbing down every piece of equipment and surface, plus a water rinse, ensure the winery stay spotless.

How’s the Wine

Chardonnay, Syrah, and Pinot Noir are their bread and butter. About half of their wines are even named after Donelan family members. Their focus is on cool climate varietals on great sites, according to Joe. The quality of Donelan Wines is second to none. Robert Parker agrees, as he has personally visited the winery and given some impressive scores to various Donelan wines.

Unique Experiences

What I love about Donelan Wines are the personal touches. Within 48 hours of anyone adding themselves to the email list, they get a personal call from Joe Donelan, the founder of Donelan Wines, welcoming them to the Donelan family. Cush also stays in touch with many of the Donelan clients. “We value customer service over everything and want that to be synonymous with Donelan. It strengthens our commitment to quality and reassures people that a family is behind it on all levels.” According to Cush. About ¾ of their annual production is sold direct to consumer (either online or in their tasting room).

Speaking of unique experiences, during my visit to Donelan I had the opportunity to participate in an overnight harvest. Harvest is quite a sight to see anytime of day….and a middle of the night harvest is no exception! Flood lights are set up to pour a bath of light onto the vineyard. The grapes were being manually harvested, and a large truck drove with the harvest team down the rows of vines. The truck had lights on it to shine directly on the vines, and also carried the large bins that the grapes were emptied into. For 2am, there’s a lot going on. A couple dozen people scurrying between the vines, a LARGE and LOUD truck making its way through the vines, a heavy (and wet!) mist coming over the vines, and not to mention the vines themselves! By 5am I was back home, moist from mist, and covered in dirt and bramble from the vines.

The following morning our bounty (close to 4 tons of grapes) arrived at the winery for processing. The whole cluster grapes arrived on flatbed trucks and were immediately weighed. Some samples are pulled for the winemaker to do testing (pH, TA, and Brix levels). The grapes are first put through a mechanical shaker, which helps to release the MOG (matter other than grape), such as: leaves, stems, bugs, rotten grapes, etc. Immediately after the grapes are shaken, they go on the conveyer belt sorter and we all manually sort through the grapes and pull out more MOG. It’s a fast process and you really need to concentrate and focus, because it’s easy to zone out and almost forget what you’re doing.

After the grapes are sorted, they go into a destemming machine that magically (really, it feels like magic) de-stems the grapes. The grapes are cold-soaked for a couple days, then a nutrient add, then the beginnings of fermentation. Some of the grapes needed to be stomped (I Love Lucy stomped!). They only needed one person to do it, and that lucky person was me!

What’s next for Donelan? According to Cush: We have experienced tremendous growth in the last 3 years: great vintages, an estate property, expanded the portfolio, a new winemaker and new territories. We are continuing to strive for the highest quality while maintaining a great customer experience. In the future we would like to acquire more property and ultimately a stand-alone winery to call our own.

Punching Down with Craig Camp of Troon Vineyard

Troon Vineyard is located in the Applegate Valley of southern Oregon. In 2016 I received the below samples for review.

I met Craig Camp at the 2015 Wine Bloggers Conference in the Finger Lakes region of New York. Craig was then with Cornerstone Cellars of Napa. Cornerstone makes potent and powerful Napa reds, and a handful of whites. Beautifully assertive wines that held nothing back. At the 2016 Wine Bloggers Conference in Lodi, I came to find out that Craig had picked up his toys and moved to southern Oregon to be the General Manager of Troon Vineyard. According to Craig, he relocated to “…be a pioneer in an emerging AVA.” That emerging AVA is the Applegate Valley in southern Oregon. It is a bit warmer here than in the Willamette. Troon has mountain vineyards with granite soils as seen in Sardinia and Beaujolais. Grapes grown include Rhone varietals, Vermentino, Tannat, and Tempranillo among others.

Craig left Napa because he wanted to take risks. Fruit in Napa, as you can imagine, is VERY pricey. The average cost for a ton of Napa Cab is $4,000. When Craig was with Cornerstone, the fruit he wanted to work with in his last vintage was upwards of $7,000 per ton. With expensive fruit, you are not able to take as many winemaking risks. You might make a decision to play it safe and use tried and true processes that are commonly seen in the area you are in. Craig believes it is always safer to make boring, industrial wines, and I agree. With less expensive fruit, you might try your hand at more new and exciting things. Of course, the idea is not to take risks just to take risks. It has to make sense for your vineyard, for your fruit, and for the style of wine you desire to make. In the end, though scary as it is, more risks = more fun. According to Craig, you have to take a little risk if you want to do something really special.

Craig wrote a blog piece entitled “Rationally Natural”. In this piece he preached about doing as less as you can with what you’ve got. Essentially, a more “hands off” approach to viticulture and vinification. Here is an excerpt:

Natural wine and biodynamics seems to promote irrational flame wars on the Internet. I have faith in science and personally have trouble buying some of the more voodoo practices myself. On the other hand I can’t argue with the results. Many of the wines I find the most compelling are made using natural winemaking concepts and from vineyards farmed biodynamically. My goal is to become rationally natural.

The intensity of these debates is hard to comprehend after you’ve fermented two hundred tons of fruit without a bag of yeast in sight. My vision of becoming rationally natural is simple: only do what you have to, and when you have to do something don’t use bad stuff. Simply minimize or eliminate inputs everywhere. Indigenous yeasts, little or no sulfur, no new oak, no acid or sugar added during fermentation.

Biodynamics came into use in the 1920’s and was based on the teachings of Rudolf Steiner. In a nutshell, biodynamic farming is a holistic way of looking at the land. Some of the tenets include: fertilizing the vines with compost from the land (at certain times of year), using the waste of the animals on the farm, encouraging beneficial pests, and burying a cow horn in each vineyard (filled with cow dung). Yes, weird stuff. In the end, the goal is harmony with the land and with the living organisms on it.

An excerpt from my interview with Craig is below:

Biodynamics is already very respected and has become a big -time marketing term. I think it’s simple, if you work really hard in your vineyard and are deeply connected to what’s happening there and don’t put bad things on it you’re going to make better wine. As I said, I feel somewhat more comfortable with the teachings of Fukuoka. There is something to be learned from biodynamics, organics, the ideas of Masanobu Fukuoka in the “One Straw Revolution” and many others. Studying all of these concepts and finding the practices that match your vineyard and region is the best solution for me. The only goal should be what will help me make the best wine possible. Just choosing one discipline does not well represent the complexities of nature.

In the end, Craig’s goal is to make interesting wines that are accessible for people to drink. In my opinion, he is doing just that at Troon Vineyard in the Applegate Valley of southern Oregon.

Wine Review #1

2014 Troon Black Label Vermentino, Applegate Valley SRP $29

This wine is both fresh and crisp. An easy drinking, yet interesting white. This wine would be best enjoyed with seafood. The current vintage for their Vermentino (there are 2 offerings) is 2016 and they retail for $15-$20.

Wine Review #2

2014 Troon Blue Label Sangiovese, Applegate Valley SRP $35
Includes 7% Syrah which is co-fermented. This wine is medium ruby. On the nose, this wine has a medium intensity with aroma characteristics of red berry (cherry and raspberry) and spice (black pepper and clove). There is also a floral/potpourri note with a hint of vanilla. On the palate, this wine is dry with medium + acid, medium alcohol, medium soft tannins, med – flavor intensity, and medium body. Flavor characteristics are similar to the nose: red berry ;(cherry and strawberry), black pepper, and vanilla. The finish is a medium length. This is a daily drinker for a sophisticated wine drinker. In other words, this wine has an ease to it, but there’s nothing easy about it.  Good stuff. The current vintage for their Sangiovese (There are 2 offerings) is 2015 and they retail for $25-$40.

Wine Review #3

2014 Troon Black Label M+T, Applegate Valley SRP $50
This is a blend of 61% Tannat and 39% Malbec. This wine is medium ruby with purple hues. The nose has a medium intensity. Aroma characteristics include a combination of red and black cooked/stewed fruit (raspberry and plum), spice (vanilla and black pepper). There is a hint of meatiness/gaminess. On the palate this wine is dry, medium aside, firm med + tannins, medium alcohol, medium body, and medium flavor intensity.  Flavor characteristics include the same combination of red and black fruit, vanilla, and dark chocolate. This wine has a medium finish. This is a deep and meaty wine that calls for food. I really would have enjoyed a skirt steak with this bad boy. The current vintage for their M+T is 2015, which retails for $55.

Mawby: Bubbles in Northern Michigan

Mawby is a sparkling wine producer in Northern Michigan, creating traditional méthode champenoise, cuve close wines, and sparkling ciders. I have not personally visited Mawby, but was sent some samples for review.

M. Lawrence Green, Michigan Sparkling

Characteristics/Composition: This wine is a tank method sparkler made from 70% Cayuga (a crossing of 2 hybrids) and 30% Riesling with 1.5% RS (residual sugar). The wine is pale lemon green with medium aromatic intensity. On the nose is a floral note. Overall, this wine is quite unfamiliar due to the Cayuga. The wine is not have all vitis vinifera grapes, so you don’t get the traditional aroma/flavor descriptors.

Pairing: This is a clean and simple sparkling that would be best consumed on its own or perhaps with something salty before a meal.

Price & Availability: This wine is $15 on the Mawby website. The wine club price is $12.75.

L. Mawby Blanc de Blancs, Leelanau Peninsula, Michigan Sparkling

Characteristics/Composition: This is a multi-vintage, traditional method sparkler made from Chardonnay grapes. The color is pale lemon green with a medium – aromatic intensity. There are faint youthful citrus aromas.

Pairing: This is a clean and simple sparkling that would be best consumed on its own or perhaps with something salty before a meal.

Price & Availability: This wine is $23 on the Mawby website. The wine club price is $19.55.

L. Mawby Cremant Classic, Leelanau Peninsula, Michigan Sparkling

Characteristics/Composition: This is a multi-vintage, traditional method sparkler made from 100% estate Vignoles, a hybrid. This wine shows citrus and yeasty/leesy notes.

Pairing: This is a clean and simple sparkling that would be best consumed on its own or perhaps with something salty before a meal.

Price & Availability: This wine is $27 on the Mawby website. The wine club price is $22.95.

Talismon, Leelanau Peninsula, Michigan Sparkling

Characteristics/Composition: This wine is made from a field blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Vignoles, and Pinot Gris. This was my favorite of the bunch, with a nice toasty nose and nuttiness on the palate.

Pairing: This is a clean and simple sparkling that would be best consumed on its own or perhaps with something salty before a meal. I’d also enjoy a glass of this post-dinner as a palate cleanser.

Price & Availability: This wine is $37 on the Mawby website. The wine club price is $31.45.

Grace Rosé, Michigan Sparkling

Characteristics/Composition: This wine is made from 98% Pinot Noir + 2% Regent, which is a hybrid grape used for color and aroma. This is a very enjoyable domestic rosé. Red fruit aromas of strawberry and raspberry.

Pairing: This wine would pair well with a fresh fruit dessert tart.

Price & Availability: This wine is $23 on the Mawby website. The wine club price is $19.55.

Tradition, Michigan Sparkling

Characteristics/Composition: This wine is 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Chardonnay made in the traditional method. It’s an austere sparkling with strong acidity and citrus/green fruit notes.

Pairing: This is a clean and simple sparkling that would be best consumed on its own or perhaps with something salty before a meal.

Price & Availability: This wine is $23 on the Mawby website. The wine club price is $19.55.

Bonterra Organic Vineyards Wine Tasting

bonterra vineyards

In November I had the opportunity to attend a private tasting and day of education at Bonterra’s McNab Ranch in Mendocino. Bonterra is one of America’s largest organic wine brand with over
1,000 acres of organically farmed vineyards. To date they do not have a tasting room open to
the public, but their wines are widely distributed in all 50 states and in 23 countries. Below are
reviews and tasting notes for three of their wines.

Bonterra Sauvignon Blanc 2016

Characteristics/Composition: A great, pure Sauvignon Blanc. Fresh, vibrant, and youthful, which is what you want from a Sauvignon Blanc. This is a great alternative to some other “big box” Sauvignon Blancs…..the best part is that the grapes are all organic and biodynamic. A good balance of sugar and acid.

Pairing: This is a white wine you don’t have to think about. It’s not an intellectual wine, and it doesn’t need to be. It’s a crowd pleaser. If it’s summertime and you want a glass of wine, go for Bonterra Sauvignon Blanc. I’d enjoy this on its own or perhaps with a salad with citrus dressing and grilled prawns.

Price & Availability: This wine is $14 on the Bonterra website. Bonterra, despite being the #1 organic wine in the US, does not have a public tasting room. BUT, their wines are widely available. Specifically, they are at many Whole Foods locations.

Bonterra Chardonnay 2016

Characteristics/Composition: This is a lovely, inexpensive California Chardonnay. On the nose I detect what I presume to be malolactic fermentation and/or battonage. On the palate this comes through with creaminess. Overall this is a very well-balanced Chardonnay.

Pairing: This wine would be good with a pasta with cream sauce or with a piece of fish with a lemon butter drizzle.

Price & Availability: This wine is $14 on the Bonterra website. Bonterra, despite being the #1 organic wine in the US, does not have a public tasting room. BUT, their wines are widely available. Specifically, they are at many Whole Foods locations.

Bonterra Zinfandel 2015

Characteristics/Composition: This is a nice cool-climate Zinfandel from Mendocino. It has a very pure nose of red fruit (plum, cherry), plus some black fruit and spice.

Pairing: This wine would be good with BBQ or any grilled meats in general. A perfect, inexpensive wine for a backyard BBQ.

Price & Availability: This wine is $16 on the Bonterra website. Bonterra, despite being the #1 organic wine in the US, does not have a public tasting room. BUT, their wines are widely available. Specifically, they are at many Whole Foods locations.