Michael Kelly

Welcome to the Ledson Castle Where the Wine is Even More Opulent than the Castle! (Red Wines)

The story begins in England in 1896 and is detailed out on the website https://ledson.com/discover-ledson/history/ . It is a tale of hard work, family ties and a desire to do more for the community. Steve Ledson’s history is both unique and common—unique with background and successful venture and common with family ties. His demeanor and casual manner bespeaks volumes. A couple of years ago, I had a friend come down from Oregon and had Assistant Winemaker Jerry Padilla conduct the private tasting. On the way out, Steve walked in with jeans and tee shirt having worked some aspect of the vineyard only to greet us, genuinely happy that our tasting went well. The Castle is the official tasting room of Ledson and the architecture and construction alone are worth the visit! Ledson Winery is offers the largest premium wine portfolio of any family owned winery in the United States. Today their offering numbers more than 70 wines annually!

2014 Sonoma Valley “Estate Vineyard” Cepage

A favorite since they first introduced it at Ledson many years ago. This year recently won the 2018 World Wine Championship Gold Medal. A classic Bordeaux blend with an almost overload on the nose and palate of plum, blackberry and blueberry. A velvety coating in the mouth with cherries and hint of chocolate resonating on the finish.  A limited release of 80 cases and price is $86.

2013 Alexander Valley “Estate Vineyard” Cabernet Sauvignon

The 2013 the epitome of an Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. This rich dark red wine was opulent and full bodied. Blackberries, raspberries and dark chocolate burst in the mouth. The finish is long and pleasing. Definitely a crowd pleaser and favorite. Price is $90.

2013 Napa Valley “Stagecoach Vineyard” Cabernet Sauvignon

The best red of the day went to the 2013 Napa Valley “Stagecoach Vineyard” Cabernet Sauvignon.  This wine comes out of the historic area in Napa. The wine is saturated with a deep red and purple coloring. The complexity in the mouth is astonishing with blackberry, cherry and chocolate. This medium to medium heavy wine is royalty in a glass! Textures and opulence are only the beginning of this irresistible Cabernet Sauvignon. Priced at $120 and just 20 cases remaining. As you can see in the photo, this made it to dinner as well as the cellar!


Michael Kelly


Welcome to the Ledson Castle Where the Wine is Even More Opulent than the Castle! (White Wines)

The story begins in England in 1896 and is detailed out on the website https://ledson.com/discover-ledson/history/ . It is a tale of hard work, family ties and a desire to do more for the community. Steve Ledson’s history is both unique and common—unique with background and successful venture and common with family ties. His demeanor and casual manner bespeaks volumes.

A couple of years ago, I had a friend come down from Oregon and had Assistant Winemaker Jerry Padilla conduct the private tasting. On the way out, Steve walked in with jeans and tee shirt having worked some aspect of the vineyard only to greet us, genuinely happy that our tasting went well. The Castle is the official tasting room of Ledson and the architecture and construction alone are worth the visit! Ledson Winery is offers the largest premium wine portfolio of any family owned winery in the United States. Today their offering numbers more than 70 wines annually!

2016 Ledson Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley and 2016 Ledson Sauvignon Blanc, Russian River

This side by side tasting revealed some unique traits by each and each Gold Medal award winners. Both were extremely delicious. The 2016 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc won the 2017 International Women’s Wine Competition. This was also on my list for the 2015 Best Wines of Year from the same vineyard. The 2017 is well structured and layered. Grapefruit and lemon custard are the predominate aromas on the nose and gives way to pineapple and tangerine hints. This is the ideal summer wine in a warm to hot region. The Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc is $36.

2016 Ledson Sauvignon Blanc, Russian River won the 2018 Gold Medal from the Critic’s Challenge. This wine had a similar taste profile without the strong grapefruit hit on the nose and more subtle aroma’s and tastes of kiwi, orange peel and kiwi. In the winemakers’ notes, they state “gooseberry” but that eluded my taste buds. Price is $34.

The winner for me, as has been since 2015, is the 2016 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc. Several bottles are now resting in the cellar!!

2015 Ledson Chardonnay, Russian River Valley Reserve

This wine was smooth and delicious and tied for the highest marks of the day! It new world in taste without being “over the top” in butter and/or cream. The color is a light golden with a soft lemon custard, vanilla and rounded medium hint of oak and crème brulee. These grapes come from a “well known” vineyard in the Russian River. This too ended up in the cellar! Only 75 cases produced and price is $52.

Michael Kelly, https://californiawinesandwineries.com

Wine Review: Quilt Wines, Paskett Vineyards and de Lorimier Winery

Joe Wagner Continues His Winemaking Skills, Quilt Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa California

Joe Wagner, grandson of premiere Napa Winemaker Chuck Wagner (Caymus) who sold his own winery, Meiomi Wines to Constellation for $315 million was not exciting enough, he launched another winery. This is called Copper Cane Wines and Provisions in Napa. His brands include Elouan Pinot Noir (Oregon), Belle Glos Pinot Noir (California coastal), Beran Zinfandels (California) and others from Sonoma County. The one that has captavated me is his Quilt 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon.

Joe’s Napa Valley Quilt Cabernet Sauvignon is a patchwork of six Napa Valley AVA’s (thus the graphics on the bottle). By blending Cabernet grapes from these six AVA’s, he like his grandfather, is provided the raw materials to make a consistent and quality wine year to year. Quilt is making hand crafted wines for the consumer.

His 2015 Quilt Cabernet Sauvignon possess a dark red color in the glass.  The aromas consist of “blackberry preserves and a hint of licorice, with strawberry & vanilin”.  On the palate, one gets a mouthful of dark chocolate, molashes and brown sugar. This is not an average Napa Cabernet Sauvignon!  The finish is seamless and long lasting with perfect balance and a wonderful fruit forward that lingers. Paired with hard cheddar, Roquerford, Irish cheedar, etc., this is a stand out wine.

Currently listed at $59 per bottle. They have three club levels which will allow you discounts from 15% to 25% discount.  Still in his mid thirty’s, Joe has a bright future ahead as a winemaker!

Summertime Treat 2016 Verdelho by Paskett Vineyards and Winery, Lodi, California

Perhaps for many an unknown but delcious wine for the summer is Verdelho. Paskett Vineyards and Winery in Lodi AVA, produces a wonderful Verdelho. Paskett has a remarkable sense of history and desire to farm the land. This grape comes from Portugal, specifically the main island in the Archipelago of Madeira. This white wine is fairly obsucre in the United States producing only 3% of world wide production. Portugal is number one with 57% and Austrailia with 37%.

The 2016 Paskett Verdelho is a perfect warm weather companion with distinct guava, pineapple and red apple aromas and flavors. Paskett description includes “bursting with lemon, lime and orange blossom for a crisp refreshing wine”.  The wine is left in 100% French Oak barrels until release from grapes grown on the estate.

This is a perfect accomanyment on a warm afternoon or evening. A nice alternative to Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc. For such a “light colored wine” it packs a big punch! So much in fact that it won Best of Class at the Sunset International Wine Competition. Food compatiability is similar to Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc and recommended pairings include salads, spicy Thai food, Asian dishes and even smoked chicken.

At $26 a bottle it is a most enjoyable alternative. It recently received 91 points from Wine Enthrusiast. A wine club members allows a discount on the wine. So the next patio gathering this summer, try the 2016 Paskett Vineyards & Winery Verdelho and surprise your guest with a delightful new wine.

A long name and a good wine: de Lorimier 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, Warm Springs Ranch, Dry Creek  Valley, Sonoma, California

One of the reasons each bottle has such a “long name” is that de Lorimier Winery uses five distinct areas to produce their arsenal of wines. They are: Crazy Creek, Preston, Smith Orchard, Stone and Warm Springs. Each bottle is a vineyard designated wine. de Lorimier is located in Geyersville in the heart of Alexander Valley. With so many areas they offer a large selection of wines from each vineyard. Their wines for sale include: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Primitivo, Meritage, Zinfandel, Sangiovese, Chardonnay, Petite Sirah, Sauvignon Blanc, Rose Melbec, Cabernet Franc and an assortment of blends and Meritages.

This wine is hold a deep ruby color in the glass and aroma’s include dark fruit and soft violet on the nose. On the palate one can pick up cranberry, black tea and boysenberry. A lingering flavor is a combination of various woods (cedar, oak, eucalyptus) and a tart berry. This wine pairs well with gruyere cheese or a hearty spicy beef or stew.

The 2013 de Lorimeir 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, Warm Springs Ranch, Dry Creek  Valley is a much desired wine. It is offered at a reasonable price of $46 as compared to some of their reserve Cabernets Sauvignon’s which fetch $110. The facility is warm and inviting with availability of special events to attend or to hold. Club membership allows for a handsome discount.

Wine Review: Runquist Winery, Tate Wines and Allegorie Wines

“R” Is For Relax and Drink Runquist Grenache, Plymouth, California

Jeff Runquist’s 2016 Grenache Silvaspoon Vineyard (Lodi) is just the ticket to relax this summer with friends on a deck with some aged hard cheese. It was not that long ago, Grenache was the most widely planted grape in the world. Today it is number five. Grenache is variable from a Rose to white to its deep red.

This Grenache is a fruit forward with a bright look in the glass. Cooled down it is a summertime pleasure. The color is a purple garnet of medium depth. The aroma is jammed pack with red fruits: raspberry, strawberry and cherry. The bouquet is fragrant with fruit and warm nuts. The impact of cherry hits ones palate and delivers a mouth full of lingering flavors.

This wine is only $24 and club members are allowed to purchase it for $20.40. The tasting room is spacious with plenty of light to enjoy the wine experience. Also on display are some intriguing art work and rack of awards which Jeff has won in numerous competitions.

Take some time, cool down a Runquist Grenache this summer with friends!

 Announcing Merlot by Tate in Their New Tasting Room, St Helena, California

Suzanne and David Tate have just opened their tasting room in St Helena. It is down an alley on the main street. Advanced reservations are required by definitely worth the effort. David Tate is a well-known international winemaker and makes exquisite wines in Napa Valley. They purchase various Cabernet Sauvignon’s and Chardonnay besides this Merlot.

The Merlot is a far cry from your grocery store Merlot! David has experience and won awards with his Merlot’s.  The 2015 Spring Street Merlot possess a deep ruby hue. The nose provides ample sweetness and aromas. Cherry or cherry tart is the overwhelming single taste on the palate.  This is a medium oak flavor and medium to medium heavy viscosity. Tate wines are hearty, yet light enough to compliment many food choices. This wine goes for $50 and considered a bargain for a world class winemaker like David Tate.

Next time in the Napa Valley, plan a trip to St Helena and make your reservations. You will be hosted by Suzanne Tate and your experience will be like no other in Napa Valley with warmth and of course great wines!

 Allegorie Wines– a True Tempranillo in Murphy’s, California

Winemaker Jonathon Phillips and Chef Jeannie Hebel have taken over a 1920’s barn in Murphy’s which serves as a tasting room and production facility. This facility is called Val Du Vino Winery. Not content to focus just on Rhone varietals, they started another brand called Allegorie with a tasting room on Main Street. Here they feature Viogneir, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Zinfandel, a Red Blend and Tempranillo.

The Tempranillo is a classic Spanish varietal with striking bold black cherry with notes of licorice. The wine is medium to medium heavy body, but when tasting it you will want to “chew it” as it provides such a robust taste and earthy aroma.  One also gets a hint of vanilla and toasted oak mix in the long lingering balanced finish. This is one of the best tasting Tempranillo’s outside Spain in years!

Now here is the kicker – the price is $30 and club members can purchase it for $25.50. They will certainly run out of this amazing wine shortly. Plan a trip to Sierra Foothills town of Murphy’s and your palate will be thrilled with this truly rich Spanish Tempranillo.

Michael Kelly, https://californiawinesandwineries.com

Wine Review: Wood Family Vineyards, Anaba Wines and Inkblot Wines

 “It’s All Good at Wood

Wine Review of Wood Family Vineyards, Livermore, California – 2015 Cabernet Franc

Rhonda Wood is both the owner and winemaker for Wood Family Vineyards in Livermore California. This year was produced from 73% from the Sacchau Vineyard and blended with 27% from the Ghielmetti Vineyard, both 100% Cabernet Franc.  This wine is a deep, deep garnet color. On the nose you get the earthiness, a hint of sweetness. On the palate, both red and black fruits develop nicely in the mouth. Recently, Rhonda’s Cabernet Franc won Best of Show at the 2018 Tri Valley Conservancy Uncorked Wine Competition and scored 91 points by Wine Enthusiast in 2018.  This wine will age nicely for 5-7 years.  Only 149 cases were produced. The price is $30 and the wine club receives a generous discount. Her slogan of “It’s all good at Wood” is exemplified in this delicious wine.

The Beauty of the Wind

Wine Review of Anaba 2014 Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast—Sonoma, California

Their name originates from the cool and upward flowing coastal winds that envelop their Carneros Estate Vineyards. The cool winds from both the coast and San Francisco Bay, slow down the ripening process to allow the vineyards to provide robust and distinct characteristics to the grapes. A little known fact about Anaba Winery is that they were the first winery in Northern California to utilize wind power. First tasting this wine at a conference, I immediately felt this was an excellent wine. Its nose provides aromas of bright citrus and brown sugar. The body is medium to medium full and provides a rich and satisfying experience with fruit and lemon tart in a delightful presence. Their awards include Best of Show White in the 2017 North Coast Wine Challenge and received 92 points from Antonio Galloni/Vinous.  This wine retails for $36. They have various levels of wine clubs each offering different discounts. Before the next wind blows, secure a bottle or two for the summer months.

On the Edge?  Try Inkblot Cabernet Franc!

Wine Review of Inkblot 2014 Cabernet Franc, David Michael Winery – Lodi, California

Inkblot is one of the many labels by David Michael, perhaps best known for their “7 Deadly Zins”, they have expanded in several new labels. Some of those are Freakshow, Earthquake and Inkblot. The Inkblot family of wines have both Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc. The Phillip family has been making wine in Lodi for 150 plus years. This is both a intensely serious wine production facility as well as having a fun time atmosphere. Inkblot while a serious tool for a psychaiatrist, this wine is for the sane Cabernet Franc drinker and maybe those on the edge :<)   The vineyard is only 9 acres compared to the rest of their Zinfandel vineyards. The name Inkblot hails from looking at a dark inkwell. The 2014 is so dark, almost black and has a indistinguishable purple hue to it. The wine on the nose provides “dark berry, chocolate, tobacco and red cherry traits”. The long lasting finish is outstanding for this Cabernet Franc. High in alcohol at 15.4 percentage, this is no junior Cabernet Franc. The wine pairs  nicely with almost any type of steak. The current release is $35 and Wine Club benefits include substantial discounts.

By Michael Kelly,



Wine Review: Jessie’s Grove Vineyards, Wood Family Vineyards, and Lavender Ridge Vineyards

An Old Vineyard Producing a Great Spanish/French Varietal

Wine Review of Jessie’s Grove Vineyards, Lodi California – 2015 Carignane

This wine comes from their 118 years old vines! This is perhaps the fullest and most worthy tasting of Carignane in the New World. Carignane originated in Spain and is commonly found in French wine. Historically used in blending due to high volume per acre at 11 tons and its agreeable personality. Their 2015, 100% Carignane provided an excellent nose and on the palate a rich fruit spice and even a tad hint of “earthiness”. I found no blemish. Not “advertised” in writing in the tasting room, but told after tasting this wine, it had just won Double Gold at the 2018 S.F. Chronicle Wine Competition. The wine goes for $32.00 and is discounted considerable for Club Members. This is a unique wine to share with friends.

A Mistake Gone Right!

Wine Review of Wood Family Vineyards, Livermore California – 2016 Para Mas Amigas Chardonnay

Rhonda Wood is the owner and winemaker for Wood Family Vineyards. Perhaps one of her most noteworthy varietal is her Chardonnay. She originally produced it and wanted a wine for her girlfriends to enjoy. She named it thinking it was “for my girlfriends” but as she admits her high school Spanish only took her so far! So the translation really comes is “for more girlfriends”. Not only did she succeed in making more girlfriends (and boyfriends), she produced an excellent wine. Her winemakers notes best describe the wine “soft ripe pear and delicately scented cotton blossom ……decandent butterscotch is offset by a hint of fresh herb….the palate is plush with lemon curd and melted butterscotch……..the finish is long yet binary with tart fruit and nutty cracker jacks”. If that doesn’t make you rush out and try this delicious wine perhaps this will:  Price is $28 and it won a Double Gold at the SF Chronicle Wine Competition. Club Members receive a nice discount. Personally I have known Rhonda for 20+ years and this is her absolutely best Chardonnay. I can’t keep enough in my cellar.

How Does Purple Become Gold?


Wine Review of Lavender Ridge Vineyard, Murphy’s California – 2016 Roussanne

Lavender Ridge Vineyards is a small boutique winery located in the Sierra Nevada foothills in the town of Murphy’s.  This area is about 2300 foot elevation and provides some unique varietals to the consumer. Lavender Ridge tasting room is “decked out” with purple lavender hanging from the wall and all also sells artisan cheese to this small community. They are known for their Rhone varietal wines.

Rich Gilpin the owner/winemaker made a spectacular 2016 Roussanne.  Roussanne is a white wine grape and hails originally from the Rhone region in France. Roussanne and Marsanne are often blended together. Recently in May, they were awarded Double Gold at the Sierra Foothills Wine Competition (Blind tasting) held in Angels Camp. I happen to be one of the judges as we “rated” this wine. It was from our judging group one of the unanimous choices for Double Gold. It showed a thick and full viscosity and intense aromatics of floral & herbal notes. On the palate, pear and soft melon presented themselves. So if you want to convert purple to gold, pick up a bottle of Lavender Ridge 2015 Roussanne. The price is $28.00 and a wine club discount is available.


By Michael Kelly


Wine Review: Gianelli Vineyards, Zuidema Grenach, Allora Vineyards

Italian varietals in the California Sierra Foothills

Wine Review of Gianelli Vineyards, Tuolumme County – 2012 Primitivo

One of their most intriguing wines is the 2012 Primitivo.  With significant earthy and blacky cherry mixed with medium oak, this wine also produces a short lasting mineral note on the palate. Aged almost 2 years, this allow for a more “mellow tannic” affect. Alcohol is a bold 15.5%. This wine would appeal to both Millenials and X-Gen drinkers. That stated it does provide enough “umph” to be a solid everyday wine for even Baby Boomers or any Italian varietal afficionados!

The pairing for this Primitivo would be fairly consistent with any tomato based dishes. Be it the mid-week pizza or a Sunday sausage and pasta dish, both would be winners.

At $26 this is a “steal”. If you join their wine club and take 6 bottles, it allows a 15% discount. Go for a smooth dozen and the discount is 25%. This wine has limited availability as only a limited number of cases are produced. http://gianellivineyards.com/

Old World Grenache in Napa Valley?

Wine Review of Zuidema Grenach, Napa Valley, Rutherford – 2014 Grenache

Rudy Zuidema used Clone 515 Grenache from the famed Chateauneuf du Pape heritage and married it to the noble St George rootstock. This allowed his Grenache to be dry farmed in an Old World manner. No trellis, no wires, simply head trained soaking in the richness of the Rutherford soil. The label with the roots seeking minerals and nourishment, is more than an artist logo, it is his vineyard management style in full swing.

His inaugural release of this 2014 Grenache combines delicate finesse with the subtle power of Grenache. Rudy describes it as “the aromas are made up of white pepper, bright rhubarb, strawberry and blood orange peel. The bright acidity in the mid palate bursts with mixed berries, holiday spice and layers of anise and tarragon”. Even the finish gives a hint of the Old World with it being “rustic and not perfectly polished”. At a recent tasting with friends, most agreeing with the color being ruby to brick red, with cranberry fruit, having a spicy oak flavoring, yet showing the minerality of dry farming.

This pairs great with anything as it is not overpowering and suggestion: lamb, pork, pasta dishes and even a grilled fish. We had it recently with a BBQ mesquite chicken.

Also at the same tasting, all agreed to a medium body, they also believed it was close to a $50 wine. Zuidema website shows $42. This is indeed an excellent showing for an inaugural wine release!  Only 99 cases were made and it will go fast appealing to both experienced and intermediate wine buyers. Only available via their website: https://zuidemawines.com/

Serious wine for your cellar!

Wine Review of Allora Vineyards, Napa Valley, St Helena – 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon

Just tasted their Lusso 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon. It is made from Clone 15 grapes and is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon based. Only three barrels are made. The winemaker describes it as “highly extracted and decadent wine that indulges your entire pallet in pure luxury”. When sipping this wine, you get ripe berries and hints of dark chocolate. It is aged 24 months in French barrels. By the way, the label of the three women on the bottle has a fascinating story behind it, but that will be for the Klein family to share with you!

This is a serious wine for collectors with ageing and a peak of up to 20+ years! Save this one for a hearty NY steak, rib eye or filet mignon. The price point is $150 and club membership is available. http://www.alloravineyards.com


By Michael Kelly, https://californiawinesandwineries.com

Hoopes Vineyard, Shadybrooke Estate & Steven Kent Winery Review

You Don’t Have to Jump Thru Hoopes to Enjoy This Good Wine!

In 1983 Spencer Hoopes planted 10 acres in the Oakville region of Napa. They have primarily been doing Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. Their 2016 Sauvignon Blanc is their Inaugural release of this whie varietal.

This wine possesses a light straw coloring upon pouring. Once in the glass, the bouquet of honey suckle, honey melon and floral notes wakes ones senses immediately. Upon the first sip, those flavors come through, as well as a soft citrus on the palate. This Sauvignon Blanc is a soft and mellow with just a tad nip of Mandarin oranges as the finishing flavor. A short lived citrus hangs on the back of mouth but quickly fades.

This wine is an extremely acceptable mid-afternoon with a cheese plate of cheddar, Gouda, Swiss or Monterey Jack. Also, in a warm climate this holds enough weight to sip by itself. What I enjoyed about this Sauvignon Blanc is the soft or almost hidden citrus notes.

The price is $35 for this hidden gem with Coombsville grapes from the Napa Valley. You can order on line and they are in the midst of opening a new tasting room mid-2018.


An Exquisite Wine from one of Napa Valley’s newer AVA’s – Coombsville

Shadybrook Estate Winery on 84 planted hillside acres, offers diverse and uniquely diverse production from the same vines planted within earshot of each of other. Rudy Zuidema, the winemaker, prides himself in blending the various Cabernet Sauvignon grapes on property to produce this premier 100% 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon.

This wine is big, rich and vibrant. In the glass a dark red/purple hue radiates from the glass. The first aromas to the nose are of black cherry and a sweet tobacco. On the palate, it combines as Rudy states, “juicy plum, blackberry, mocha, chocolate and maple notes”. The finish is long lasting and drenches the palate completely.

This is a wine to be paired with a BBQ Rib Eye or a thinly sliced Tri-Tip. It still will be stronger than most Cabernet Sauvignon’s to a good cut of beef. I like this wine for its mouthful finish and mid-heavy viscosity—this is how an exquisite wine should taste from glass, nose, mouth and finish! This is a serious wine for collectors and wine aficionados.

The price is moderate given its pedigree of $125. You can order on line and a wine club does exist.


Coming Home to Flavor – Steven Kent Winery

On a recent stop at Steven Kent Winery in Livermore, they had on the monthly offering the 2013 Steven Kent Home Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon. I had previously purchased and enjoy for years their unique and tasty Home Ranch vintages.  Tasting it this time, brought back memories of almost 20 years tasting this wine near our home.

The wine shows dark fruit in the glass (picture). On the nose, besides the dark cherry and blackberry, you get a local earthy dust. The acid and tannins allow a long and full mouthful of wine. This allows the wine to be aged and continue evolving over the next 10-15 years.

We have consistently paired this from hamburgers to steaks to spaghetti and simply enjoying in the evening.

This is a great intermediate wine, somewhere between the GenX and serious wine collector. The price is mid-level for Steven Kent’s portfolio at $65. Club discounts can range from 15-20% upon volume.



Slainte, Michael