Kelly Cohen

Kelly Cohen

About Kelly Cohen

A San Francisco based marketer and hobbyist wine blogger.

Brooks Note Wine Review

I personally believe that Marin County makes stellar Pinot Noir wine, but it can be hard to find. Brooks Note, a family owned winery in Marin specializes in Pinot Blanc, Pinot Noir and Rose of Pinot Noir. The winemaker, Garry is extremely passionate about both Marin County wine and Pinot Noir. Because they are so small, the best place to purchase these wines is directly from the winery online.

2017 Pinot Blanc
This wine had a nose of shortbread, but a taste of tropical citrus. It is aged in stainless steel, so it is an incredibly crisp white wine. If you’ve never had Pinot Blanc, it is like a cross between Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. This wine would work well with a rich chicken dish. (120 cases/$24)

2016 Chardonnay
This wine had a creamy nose, but a very citrus forward taste. It is aged in neutral oak so there is some cream, but it retains its fruit. This wine would pair well with a creamy vegetable soup. (60 cases/$30)

2017 Rose of Pinot Noir
This wine had a nose of grapefruit and a bit of a watermelon taste. This wine is very well balanced and would excel with any food. The wine is a blend of multiple vineyards, including some in Marin and Mendocino. (160 cases/$24)

2015 Marin County Pinot Noir
This wine had a nose of leather and cherries, but the taste was more reminiscent of raspberries. This was my favorite of all the wines I tasted. I’d want to pair it with baked salmon dish. (250 cases/$36)

2015 Weir Vineyard Pinot Noir
This wine had an aroma and taste of both herbs and minerals. The Weir Vineyard is located in Mendocino. This would pair well with a hearty turkey dish. (130 cases/$44)

If you want to learn more, I’d recommend visiting the tasting room Brooks Note shares with Trek Winery in Novato. I haven’t been, but I hope to make a trip up there soon.

The Wines of Thirty-Seven Winery

I’ve been a fan of Thirty-seven Winery for a number of years, so I was delighted when I saw them pouring at the San Francisco Vintners Market this past April. They do not have a tasting room, but you can buy their wines at a few small wine shops and directly from them online. They produce both red and white wines, but I only tasted their red wines on this occasion.

2015 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
This stunning Pinot Noir had a nose of floral strawberries but a taste that was all plum. I’d want to pair this with blackened salmon. 270 cases produced.

2015 Sonoma Coast Grenache
This grenache had a nose of pink peppercorns but a deep chocolate like taste. This would pair best with chicken mole. 68 cases produced.

2014 Hermit Blend
This Bordeaux style blend is made up of 50% Cabernet Franc and 50% Merlot. This blend had a jam filled peppery nose, but the taste was more pepper than fruit. Because of the pepper and fruit notes this would best served with a hearty and flavorful beef stew. 125 cases produced.

2014 Malbec
This Malbec is smoky, both in the aroma and on the palate, but the taste is more reminiscent of earthy boysenberries. With such complex flavors I’d pair it with a simple pan seared sirloin. 123 cases produced.

Thirty-seven Winery also offers two wine clubs, the Reserve and the Essential. Bottles in the Reserve Club range from $36 to $50 each and bottles in the Essential Club range from $22 to $30. Both clubs entitle you to a 20% discount on future purchases, invites to special events and advance notifications of new vintages and varietals.

Wine, Olive Oil and More with Bella Grace Vineyards

One of my favorite parts of attending events like the San Francisco Vintners Market, is that I get to learn more about wineries I’ve tasted wine from but haven’t had a chance to visit yet. Bella Grace Vineyards, located in Amador County is one of those wineries. Their vineyard and wine cave are in Plymouth and they have a separate tasting room in Sutter Creek. In addition to their wines, they also produce olive oils and vinegars, they even have a club for it!

NV Rosé Spumante
This was my favorite of all the wines I tasted from Bella Grace Vineyards. It is a blend of imported Cabernet Sauvignon (80%) and Merlot (20%) from Italy. It smelled far sweeter than it tastes. There were notes of red licorice and strawberry. I’m of the opinion that sparkling wine, pairs with literally everything and this is no exception. They also offer a Prosecco and Brut wine. The Rose Spumante wine retails for $25.

2017 Bella Rosé
This Rosé had a distinctive floral nose, but the taste was much more similar to raspberries. This would pair very well with hot weather and a leek quiche. The Bella Rose wine retails for $26.

2017 Sauvignon Blanc
All the wines were good, but this wine, like the Rose Spumante was a stand out. It had a nose of minerality and kiwi but tasted perfectly citrus, with a predominantly lime flavor. This wine would we best paired with a lemon or orange chicken dish. The Sauvignon Blanc wine retails for $18. This wine is no longer on their website and may be sold out.

2015 Barbera
Although this wine had an aroma of raspberry its taste profile was all spices, especially nutmeg. This wine would work favorably with any lamb dish. The Barbera wine retails for $25. This wine is no longer on their website and may be sold out.

2014 Reserve Zinfandel
Zinfandel is one of my favorite varietals because of the depth of its flavor. I had the opportunity to taste this wine at a Zinfandel Advocates and Producers tasting and it was a delight to taste it again. The nose reminded me of sarsaparilla, but the taste was reminiscent of cranberries. The Reserve Zinfandel wine retails for $49.

These wines were all enjoyable and well-priced for their quality. Hopefully, I’ll have a chance to go to Amador soon and visit their winery in person soon.

A Taste from Pierce Ranch Vineyards

At the San Francisco Vintners Market, I had the pleasure of drinking several wines from quite a few different wineries. One of those wineries was Pierce Ranch Vineyards, which is family owned and based in Monterey, California. I’ve had their wines before, and passed their tasting room many times, but I haven’t yet had the pleasure of visiting them. They focus on Spanish and Portuguese varietals and their tasting room is near Cannery Row. Next time I’m in Monterey I’ll make sure to stop by for a tasting. Below you will find my thoughts on their 2016 Albariño, 2015 Graciano, 2015 Touriga, and the 2015 Petite Sirah.

2016 Albariño

Albariño, is a varietal that does not get enough attention. It is incredibly food friendly and pairs with a wide variety of foods. This wine possessed both a nose and a taste of stone fruit, that was predominately peach. I think this Albariño would be best paired with poached cod or another white fish.  Most of Pierce Ranch Vineyards wines are sold direct to consumer, but you can occasionally find them online or in local wine shops. This wine retails for $18.

2015 Graciano
Presented in a Rioja style, they aim to keep this wine light and dry, to make it more versatile with food. Its nose reminded me of red cherries and its taste was reminiscent of white pepper. I’d be inclined to pair this with a smoked turkey leg. This wine retails for $28. They also have a 2016 Graciano Rosé wine that retails for $22.

2015 Touriga
Their Touriga is a blend of 10% Touriga Francesa and 90% Nacional. Although Touriga Francesa and Touriga Nacional are different varietals, they are not differentiated in the United States. The nose was heavy on black pepper. It tasted a little green, and I’d recommend cellaring this wine a little longer before consuming it. I think it would pair best with roasted peppers and lamb. This wine retails for $28.

2015 Petite Sirah (Lot 2)
This Petite Sirah had a nose of chocolate with a jammy finish on the palate. They also have a Petite Sirah from Lot 1, however it was not being poured the day I tasted. I’d want to pair this with carnitas or pulled pork. This wine retails for $38.

All of these wines were delightful and well-priced. I really appreciate that Pierce Ranch Vineyard’s head wine maker is a women, Sarah Harris. Next time I’m in Monterey, I’m going to make it a priority to visit their tasting room near Cannery Row. If you are interested in learning more, they have a variety of Wine Club options with both shipping and pick up options.

Handley from the Heart

Mendocino County is a wonderful wine growing region that doesn’t get as much attention as its neighbors, Sonoma and Napa County. I’ve been drinking Mendocino wines for a number of years and Handley Cellars is an old favorite of mine. Like many wineries in Mendocino, they focus on Pinot Noir. I also learned they’ve recently expanded into producing sparkling wine too. At Taste of Mendocino, I was able to try four of their current releases.

2017 Estate Pinot Noir Rosé


I’ve had previous vintages of this wine and I’ve always enjoyed it. I personally believe that Pinot Noir is one of the best suited varietals for rosé wines. This wine has a nose of peach with a wonderful taste of a pink lady apples. This could pair with a number of food items well, but I’d probably eat it with a goat cheese salad. This retails for $25 and there are 300 cases for this vintage.

2015 Blanc de Blancs

Starting in 2013 Handley Cellars began producing a sparkling wine. Although it isn’t offered every year, I got to try the 2015 vintage at Taste of Mendocino. It was stunning, with a wonderful nose of freshly baked croissants. The taste was perfectly dry. I could probably pair this wine with anything. Rumor has it they are planning a rosé sparkling wine in the future. This retails for $52 and there are 300 cases for this vintage.

2015 Pinot Noir

Handley Cellars considers this its flagship wine and produces more of it than any of their other wines. It was first produced in 1986 and is meant to represent Pinot Noir across the valley. Its nose is tobacco plum and its flavor is balanced, while leaning on the tannic heavy side. This wine would pair wonderfully with roasted salmon. This wine is not an estate offering (so you can find it at several different retailers). This retails for $32 and there are 2500 cases for this vintage.

2015 RSM Pinot Noir

This single vineyard Pinot Noir has earth notes and a unique flavor reminiscent of raspberries. The vineyard is very special to the Handley family as it is named for Milla’s late husband, Rex Scott McClellan. I’d recommend pairing this with braised lamb shanks. This retails for $52 and there are 225 cases for this vintage.

Handley Cellar’s tasting room is open year-round, seven days a week and offers a variety of tours and tastings. I look forward to visiting them in person soon.

 

 

A Reason to Visit Yolo County – Berryessa Gap Vineyards Wine

Berryessa Gap Vineyards was founded in 2000 by the Martinez family, fourth-generation Spanish farmers. Their estate vineyards are called “The Coble Ranch” in Winters, California, which is a part of Yolo County. This area of Yolo county is known as the Berryessa Gap (hence the name of their winery. Because Yolo County is warmer than other climates and because of their Spanish heritage, they focus on Spanish varietals, however they also produce other varietals as well. The wines I’ve written about below are all estate grown by them.


2017 Sauvignon Blanc

All their wines do great justice to the applicable varietal, but you can also taste the winemaker’s personality and passion in them. This light and perfectly crisp Sauvignon Blanc’s nose reminded me of Dreamsicles, those wonderful orange and cream dessert bars. The taste however was more citrus and less vanilla. I’d recommend pairing this with butter poached cod or shrimp scampi. At $23 this small lot and sustainable wine is a steal. There are 480 cases for this vintage.


2017 Verdelho

Verdelho is a wine varietal you don’t hear much about. Originally from the Iberian Peninsula, their version has a very vanilla nose with a buttery taste. Although all their wines pair well with food, this one seems the best suited for the largest range of foods including oysters, roasted potatoes, Cornish hen, and more. At $19 a bottle this is also an incredible value. There are 275 cases for this vintage.


2015 Zinfandel

I truly believe that everyone should drink Zinfandel from a wide range of regions, because the terroir subtly affects the aromas and flavors. Winters has unique microclimates and soil that create exceptional wines. This Zinfandel had a nose of chocolate but with a wonderful flavor of red vines, bursting with a dry bright red berry taste. It is absolutely true to the varietal.  I’d pair it with baby back ribs slathered in BBQ sauce. This wine is $22 and there are 500 cases for this vintage.

2015 Tempranillo

To me this wine had a wonderful nose of charred flowers. The taste was gamey, and it made me want to eat it with venison-preferably medium rare. This wine, like all the wines I’ve written about here, shows the care and craftsmanship that goes into its production. And like all their wines I recommend really savoring the first sip and the last as it develops and opens. This wine is $26 and there are 600 cases for this vintage.

As a whole, the wines were quite approachable and ready to drink now. All the wines that I’ve discussed can be purchased directly from Berryessa Gap Vineyard (via their website or tasting room) and at a few select retailers including Cost Plus World Market, Alba Ray’s, Nugget Markets and more. I’m really looking forward to taking a road trip up to Yolo County to visit their winery and learn even more about the unique region that is Yolo County for wine growing and of course, to try more of their wine.

A Taste of Mendocino – Part Two: Hidden in Plain Sight

As I mentioned in a previous post, I was able to attend Taste of Mendocino as a media guest and greatly enjoyed drinking old favorites and discovering new ones. A friend and fellow blogger, Thea Dwelle had recommended Waits-Mast Family Cellars to me and I’m glad she did.

They are an award winning small producer of primarily Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc in Mendocino. They also produce a Pinot Noir Rosé. Being a small producer, the case lots for their wines vary between 20 and 125. Although they do not currently have a tasting room you can buy their wines directly from their website.

2017 Sauvignon Blanc

This wine was perfectly crisp with a nose of various stone fruits, but especially nectarines. The taste had the same crisp balance of stone fruits the nose did. I think this wine is made for rosemary lamb chops, not a traditional pairing but I think they’d complement the wine well. At $25 this wine is an absolute steal and total case production is 65.

2017 Rosé of Pinot Noir

This is a dry rosé wine that has a rich mouthfeel. It had a floral nose with a light citrus taste. I’d recommend pairing it with a fresh spring salad and balsamic dressing. There’s only 20 cases of it, so I’d order it sooner than later if you want to try it. At $25 it is competitively priced for its quality.

2015 Mendocino Vineyard Blend Pinot Noir

This wine is entirely Pinot Noir, but it is sourced from their Mariah and Oppenlander vineyards. It had a nose of blackberry with a taste of deep plum. To me, the best pairing would be with blackened salmon. It has a case production of 75 and retails for $35.

2014 Oppenlander Vineyard Pinot Noir

Of the four wines I tried, this was my absolute favorite. The nose was bright red fruit but the taste was of a deep dark berry. It was lighter and brighter than your average Pinot Noir. I’d pair this with roast duck. This wine retails for $45 and has a case production of 125.

A Taste of Mendocino – Part One

Earlier this month I had the honor of attending Taste of Mendocino as a media guest. This sold out event had over 30 wineries from Mendocino tasting and selling their wine to both trade and the public. While there I was able to taste wines from several different wineries that I will profile over the coming months on Wine Trail Adventures. I’ll be starting out with Navarro Vineyards and Winery. Mike was kind enough to guide me through some of their current offerings.

2015 Navarro Première Reserve Chardonnay

This Chardonnay has a nose filled with crisp apples and honey, although the taste is more of a buttered apple flavor without the notes of honey. People who like typical California Chardonnay, but want a little less butter and oak should try this wine. I’d recommend pairing it with a simple roast chicken that allows the flavor of the wine to shine. This wine retails for $27 and is only available from the winery, either in the tasting room or on their website.

2016 Navarro Dry Gewürztraminer


Most people immediately think “sweet” when they hear gewürztraminer. Navarro does make a sweet version, but this dry version smells of fresh cut grass with light floral notes. On the tongue it has a rich pear taste that is screaming for some spicy food like Kung Pao Chicken or Chicken Tikka Masala. This wine retails for $22 and is available at the winery and from select retailers.

2014 Méthode à l’Ancienne Pinot Noir

This free flow Pinot Noir is carefully balanced. The nose has a slight hint of citrus but is primarily dark berry. On the tongue it is reminiscent of cranberry which makes it the perfect mate for Roast Turkey and Mashed Potatoes. Navarro offers several Pinot Noir’s so look for this one specifically. It retails for $32 only available from the winery, either in the tasting room or on their website.

2014 Old Vine Zinfandel

This wine was my favorite of the four I tasted because of its rich and deep flavor. The nose is bursting with raspberry but the taste is more like that of a darker berry. The best pairing for this wine would be anything that has been grilled, especially burgers. At $22 it is a steal and is only available from the winery, either in the tasting room or on their website.

Nottingham Cellars Review

Nottingham Cellars and Vasco Urbano are run by the father and son team of Jeff and Collin. It all started out because Jeff, who was a partner in a boutique Napa Valley winery started to source some grapes from the Livermore Valley. He fell in love with the terroir of Livermore Valley and all it had to offer so he decided to create a winery himself, partnering with various vineyards from around Livermore Valley and his son joined him.

 

Like many Livermore Valley wineries, they focus on Bordeaux and Rhône varietals and blends. Nottingham Cellars describes their wines as a tribute to the rich history that precedes them and the future of world class wine making in the Livermore Valley. Their tasting room also houses their other label, Vasco Urbano.

The tasting room has a private barrel room, open tasting room and outdoor patio. The outdoor patio is both dog and kid friendly. They allow outside food but also have a small menu of bites including crackers, cheese and chocolate, the prices range from $2-$9. The tasting room is open 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., Thursday through Sunday. I found the tasting room and patio to be a bit loud when I visited during Barrel Tasting weekend, but the barrel room was quiet.

There is a standard tasting offered for $15 (free for wine club members and up to four guests) and an elevated tasting for $35 ($20 for wine club members). Both these tastings feature five pours; however the elevated tasting features an additional greeting pour of white wine and a sit down educational seminar through the pours in the barrel room. The elevated tasting requires reservations, but the regular tasting only requires reservations for parties of 6 or more. I’d still recommend making a reservation especially if you are visiting on a weekend. Tasting fees are waived with a two-bottle purchase.

 

Their wine club has an option of three, six or twelve bottles shipped or picked up quarterly for either Nottingham Cellars (Club Nottingham) or Vasco Urbano (Hub Club). Being a wine club member gets you discounts on all their wines and invites to special events throughout the year, like the quarterly wine club member parties. Nottingham Cellars bottles range from $24 – $85 and the Vasco Urbano bottles range from $18 to $48. Some wines, like their White Label series can be found in several local shops around the Livermore Valley, but their smaller lot production is only available at select restaurants and directly from them.

 

 

 

Murrieta’s Well Winery Review

Experience Livermore’s Unique Terroir at Murrieta’s Well

Murrieta’s Well Estate Vineyard is an additional label of the Wente Family Estates. Their winery and tasting room are open year round, and open seven days a week between Memorial Day and harvest. The outside patio is both kid and dog friendly, and upstairs there is an adults only tasting bar as well. Although outside food is not allowed, they have a rotating seasonal menu of food you can order from. The menu changes are synced up to their quarterly wine club releases. Currently their menu features a Market Fresh Board, Charcuterie & Cheese Board, Housemade Barrel Bites, Roasted Turkey Broodje, Pork Belly w/ Crispy White Grits, Farro & Red Quinoa Salad, Mushroom & Pesto Flatbread, Smoked Chicken Flatbread and Cinnamon Churros. Prices for these items range from $9 to $18. Both the Market Fresh Board and the Barrel Bites are vegetarian.

Currently their $25 per person seated tasting includes pours of their 2016 The Whip (a white blend), 2017 Dry Rose, 2015 Merlot, 2015 Petit Verdot and 2015 The Spur (a red blend). Like their food menu, the offerings of their seated tasting rotates quarterly. The tasting fee is waived with a $50 purchase. If you sign up for text notifications, they will give you an extra pour. In addition to the wine we tasted we also ordered the Mushroom Pesto Flatbread, which was large enough for two and tasted just divine. The Whip, Dry Rose and The Spur can be found at local liquor shops, but the rest of their wines are estate only offerings. Reservations for their seated tasting are highly recommended. The general vibe of the patio where most tastings are done is casual but elegant, with an incredible focus on providing outstanding customer service to their visitors.

Even Murrieta’s Well varietal wines are still blends. The philosophy of their wine is helping people see the varietal in a unique light while showcasing Livermore’s terroir. To me, this was most clear with their Merlot which I enjoyed more than most Merlots because of its balance despite its young age. The blends are similar year to year, but do change slightly depending on how the varietals show year to year. A few years ago Robbie Meyer joined as the Director of Winemaking for Murrieta’s Well, as he states on his bio, “The wines we create inspire people to think about where the grapes are grown”. Their primary focus is Bordeaux and Spanish varietals.

Joining their Wine Club (quarterly shipments come as 4, 6 or 12 bottles) will get you 15-20% of their wine, complimentary seated tastings, and an invite to their quarterly release parties held at the winery. In addition to their seated wine tastings they have a seated Wine & Food Experience for $65 per person, Quarterly Winemakers Dinners for $125 per person, live music on weekends in the summer and participate in several Livermore Valley Wine Country Events like Livermore Valley Passport, Wine Wednesdays, Barrel Tasting Weekend, Wine & Wags, Taste Our Terroir, Harvest Wine Celebration, and more.