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My March Wine of the Month

Frog’s Leap Winery
Napa Valley

Frog’s Leap Winery is a very special place.  Not only are they very “green”, using organic and biodynamic farming (along with many other interesting practices), but they also make some really great wines.

The Wine – This wine is proof that California Merlot hasn’t “died”.  Oh no, it’s still very much alive and singing in Rutherford Valley at Frog’s Leap Winery.  This wine smells and tastes like a Merlot is supposed to smell and taste!  It’s not trying to be a Cab.  It has some plum and other dark fruits on the nose, with a touch of earthiness and spice.  On the palate are some chocolate and nice round fruit, along with some earthiness.  It is well balanced and tastes like a Merlot should!  It is impressively true to the varietal.

Visiting the Winery – Tasting at Frog’s Leap is a really fun and charming experience.  Upon arrival, one is escorted outside to a beautiful wrap-around porch nestled among 40 acres of organically farmed vineyard.  A carafe of water and a lovely cheese plate accompany the wine tasting.

The Journey – Frog’s Leap Winery is located on Conn Creek Road in Rutherford, CA.  The drive up to the tasting room is along a beautiful vineyard.  One is welcomed by the historic Red Barn, which was originally built as the Adamson winery back in 1884.  Today, this “ghost winery” not only inspires their guests, but also the Frog’s Leap winemakers John Williams and Paula Moschetti!

To read more about their winery, check out their informative, fun and interactive website at:

You can also find a blog I wrote about my visit to Frog’s Leap here:

My November Wine of the Month

William Talty Vineyards
Dry Creek Valley

I thought that it would be fun to review a Zinfandel for the holidays!  For me, Zinfandel is the perfect varietal to sip while cozying in front of a fireplace or while watching your favorite holiday movie.

A fabulous producer of Zinfandel is Talty Vineyards and Winery, located in the ultimate region for Zinfandel, the Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma County.

The Wine – This 2008 Estate Zinfandel has a nose full of cranberry, blackberry and pepper, along with a pleasant herbal and floral quality.  The palate is lush with red candied apple, cranberry, oregano, peppery vanilla and a touch of Jolly Rancher watermelon!  It is comprised of 90% Zinfandel, 7% Petite Sirah and 3% Carignane.  I highly recommend all of Talty’s Zinfandels.

My Experience Visiting the Winery – I’ve visited Talty a couple of times now, and have had wonderful experiences both times.  The tasting room is cozy, and sits right amongst the barrels of aging wines.  We tasted at individual wine barrels used as tables instead of the typical tasting bar.  Michael Talty himself poured on this past visit, while his wife Katie walked us through their wines on our first visit.  Talty provides a warm, friendly and unpretentious tasting experience, with the added bonus of fabulous wines.

The Journey – Talty is located right on Dry Creek Road in Healdsburg.  On arrival, we drove up a long beautiful driveway lined with vineyards on the left and peach trees on the right.  These vineyards are the William Talty Vineyards (named for Michael’s father), whose grapes produce this wine.

My October Wine of the Month

Elyse Winery
Jacob Franklin
#33 “Mon Chou”
Napa Valley

Ray Coursen (former head winemaker for Whitehall Lane) and his wife Nancy founded Napa Valley’s Elyse Winery in 1987.  Jacob Franklin is the “brother” brand of Elyse Winery, which is very appropriate as Elyse is the name of their daughter and Jacob Franklin the name of their son.

I had heard of this winery’s Zinfandel for years before first visiting.  I don’t know why it took me a few Napa excursions before setting up a tasting appointment, but boy I’m glad I finally did.  They do a lot more than Zinfandel now, and their wines are some of the best in the valley.  I am a member of VERY few wine clubs (3 to be exact), but I’m a member here!

As if that’s not enough, I’m also a lover of all things French and it seems as if they may be as well.  They name some of their wines with French sayings.  This month’s Wine of the Month “Mon Chou” literally means “my cabbage”, which is a French endearment expressing “My Sweetheart” or “My Darling”!

The Wine – Jacob Franklin’s “Mon Chou” is a Bordeaux blend.  The 2006 is a blend of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Cabernet Franc, with the balance being mostly Merlot and a splash of Petit Verdot.  The nose is very aromatic with black cherry, black raspberry, some coffee and a hint of cedar.  The palate has delicious chocolate covered cherry along with some nice earthiness.  This lush wine is beautifully balanced and has a nice long finish.  The 2006 Mon Chou is a very good wine and definitely worth seeking out!

My Experience Visiting the Winery – Elyse Winery is by appointment only, which really makes the experience personal and a lot of fun.  I have visited here several times now, and John has always given us a fabulous tasting.  He is extremely knowledgeable and spends the perfect amount of time on each wine.  Plus he’s a really nice guy.  The tasting room is small and intimate.  It’s a far cry from the big, commercialized tasting rooms that many people imagine when they think of Napa.   I always advise my friends and clients that this is a must-hit winery to visit!

The Journey – Elyse’s tasting room is a bit off of the beaten path, but very easy to find.  Right off of the major drag Highway 29, Hoffman Lane is an adorable little country road.  Surrounded by vineyards, you’d never know you were in the heart of Napa.

Visit their website at:

My September Wine of the Month

PlumpJack Winery
Napa Valley

The current Lieutenant Governor of California Gavin Newsom and philanthropist and classical music composer Gordon Getty founded PlumpJack Winery in 1995.  Inspired by William Shakespeare’s fun-loving character Sir John “PlumpJack” Falstaff, who appears in three of his plays, the winery has the premise that wine is one of life’s great pleasures in life and should be enjoyed as often as possible.

PlumpJack Winery was the first Napa winery to use screw caps as a wine closure on premium wines!  This is one example of their flair for adventure and open mindedness.   Half of their production is screw cap, also known as the Stelvin closure, and the other half traditional cork.  I like to buy both!  The Stelvin closure is great for picnics.  I also like to save one of each and then compare after some cellar time.  So far, the bottles with screw caps have always held up to the bottles with a cork closure.

The Wine – The 2009 Syrah has a dark ruby color.  The nose has vanilla, plum and smoky meat.  The palate screams of black olives, and also has dark plum, licorice and some nice earthiness.  The tannins are soft and almost sweet.   This is a very nice Syrah.

My Experience Visiting the Winery – PlumpJack is perhaps the hippest tasting room I’ve visited.  I’ve tasted here many times, and have always had a lot of fun in the process.  It is very laid back, usually has fun people both pouring and tasting, and has this earthy vibe going on.  I’ve met so many fun people here, people with whom we’ve continued the day and joined for dinner.  It’s a really friendly place to taste, and the wines are superb!

The Journey – PlumpJack’s tasting room is located on Oakville Cross Road, not far from the Silverado Trail.  It is, however, tucked away from this main road and is nestled among 42 acres of vineyards.  Whenever friends or clients ask me to recommend Napa Valley wineries to visit, I ALWAYS encourage them to seek out PlumpJack!

My August Wine of the Month

Blanc de Blanc

The House of Wine Doppler is located in the Štajerska region of Slovenia.  Originally owned by the Benedictines from Admont in Austria, Ivan Doppler bought this estate in 1938.  He fulfilled his life’s dream and enjoyed 89 harvests before passing his knowledge and love of the vine, along with the winery, down to his daughter.  His granddaughter Mihaela is now enthusiastically running the winery, calling it not only her work, but also her life!  She is developing the estate into a state-of-the-art winemaking facility, which combines modern technology with centuries-old winery traditions.

The Wine – Doppler’s 2009 “Diona” is a lovely sparkling wine consisting of 100% Chardonnay.  It was made in the méthode traditionnelle, with the second fermentation in the bottle, and aged on the lees for 18 months.   It has wonderful granny smith apple and pear on the palate, along with the perfect amount of yeastiness.  The lively mineral notes are nicely balanced with some vanilla cream.

Visiting the Winery – This may be the most beautiful tasting room I’ve ever visited.  We began the tasting outside above the tasting room!  We had a glass of the “Diona” while enjoying their 360-degree views of gorgeous rolling hills with vineyards.  We next headed downstairs to the ultra modern tasting room and winery, which was just opened in May of 2010.  The experience was so special that I will be sure to blog about the winery in the near future and add lots of pictures.

The Journey – The House of Wine Doppler is located very close to South Styria in Austria, where we were staying.  We took country roads through breathtakingly beautiful areas and were pleasantly surprised to arrive at the most beautiful of all.  To top it all off, the wines were wonderful as well!  Check Doppler out at:

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