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Homework for Rioja!

While planning an upcoming trip to Spain, I decided to crack open a bottle from one of the regions I’ll be visiting … Rioja!

The bottle I selected is the 2009 C.V.N.E. (Compañía Vinícola del Norte de España) Rioja Imperial Reserva. Founded in the year 1879 in the town of Haro, Rioja by two brothers, CVNE is still controlled today by the direct descendants of the founding family.  The “Imperial” product operates as a winery within a winery, and was given its name because it was originally exported to the United Kingdom in imperial pint sized bottles. This is a very well respected wine from Rioja; the 2004 vintage was named the #1 wine of the year in 2013’s Wine Spectator Top 100.

This 2009 is a blend of 85% Tempranillo, 10% Graciano and 5% Manzuelo. Decanted for about an hour before pouring, on the nose is dark cherry, chocolate, tobacco, some licorice and a lavender note. On the medium bodied palate are stewed fruits, especially currant and plum, some spice and well-balanced tannins.

One of the many things I love about the wines of Rioja is that they aren’t released too early. The Reserva level wines require at least one year of aging in oak (both American and French) and two years in the bottle before being released. This ’09 was actually aged for 2 years in oak and 2 years in the bottle. Therefore, although this is still a young wine and will get even better with a few more years in the bottle, it is drinking very well right now.

Am I excited about visiting Rioja? I sure am! I’m also excited to do some more homework on this region and the others I’ll be visiting. See … homework CAN be fun!

Looking for a “Green” Winery With Wonderful Wines??? Check Out Frog’s Leap!

My husband and I recently returned from another adventure in Napa and Sonoma. Our goal was to visit wineries we’d never hit before, and for the most part that’s what we did. There’s one winery, however, that we couldn’t drive by without stopping, and that’s Frog’s Leap.

“Why?” you ask! Well, there are a few reasons.

Firstly, it’s just so darned beautiful there.

Secondly, the tasting is very special. When the weather is nice, tastings are held outside when possible. The tasting includes yummy local cheeses, crackers, and some jams made from fruit grown on the property.

Thirdly, and most importantly, the wines are WONDERFUL!!!

As we arrived for our tasting, we drove alongside beautiful vineyards of dormant vines surrounded by the beautiful mustard know in the region at this time of the year. The historic Red Barn, which was originally built as the Adamson Winery back in 1884, welcomes the winery visitors on the drive in. Today, this “ghost winery” not only inspires their wine tasting guests, but also Frog’s Leap’s winemakers John Williams and Paula Moschetti.

John Williams (a former diary farmer from upstate New York, NOT the music composer famous for film scores with the same name!) moved to Northern California in 1975 to study Enology and Viticulture at UC Davis. After working at Glenora Wine Cellars in the Finger Lakes region of New York, and Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars and Spring Mountain Vineyard in Napa, he started Frog’s Leap Winery in 1981. It is located along Mill Creek in a spot known as the Frog Farm. Frogs were raised here around the turn of the century, providing the very appropriate name!

Here are some of the wines we tasted on the lovely wrap-around porch of The Vineyard House overlooking the vineyards:

2014 Napa Valley Chardonnay – A lovely Chardonnay with great acidity, the green apple and Meyer lemon flavors are balanced beautifully with the floral aromas and the toasty element from eight months of sur lie aging.

2013 Napa Valley Zinfandel – One of my favorite wines of the tasting, this Zinfandel is what a Zinfandel is SUPPOSED TO BE! It has a beautiful transparent color, not one of those deep purple colors that shouldn’t represent Zin at all! A field blend of 77% Zinfandel, 22% Petite Sirah and 1% Carignan, the aromas and flavors include brambly fruit, licorice, some Southern Rhone type garrigue and has a nice long finish.

2013 Rutherford Merlot – One of my favorite Merlots of the New World, Frog’s Leap always knows how to do this varietal right. With ripe plum and cherry flavors, this wine has soft tannins and isn’t too big! It’s what a Merlot should be; elegant and nicely balanced. (82% Merlot, 17% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1% Cabernet Franc)

2013 Rutherford Estate Cabernet Sauvignon – This lovely Cab has black cherry, blackberry and cassis, along with the dusty earth of the Rutherford soil. This needs some time, but it’s going to be wonderful! (89% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Cabernet Franc, 3% Merlot)

The thing that probably impresses me the most about Frog’s Leap Winery is that they truly care about our planet. Frog’s Leap produces some wonderful wines, while keeping the planet healthy through the production of solar and geothermal power. In 2005 they built their Vineyard House according to the goals of the U.S. Green Building Council. They even insulated it using old blue jeans. Talk about recycling!!!

Health of the vineyard is achieved though organic farming and the use of biodynamic methods. Along the rows of vines are borders of specially selected plants, which attract butterflies and beneficial insects.

So if you want tasty wine, made true to the varietals and green conscious to boot, pick up some wines from Frog’s Leap Winery. Or if you’re heading to Napa, pay them a visit.

Here’s a link to their very fun site:

What Vintage Are YOU Celebrating?

A fun way for a wine lover to celebrate an anniversary of any kind is to crack open a bottle from that specific year. My husband and I did just that to celebrate our wedding anniversary a few nights ago. We were married in 2001, so we selected a 2001 Napa Valley Silver Oak to toast 15 years of marriage!

I wasn’t sure what to expect. I feared an over-aged thin wine with no fruit. Thankfully my fears were not founded AT ALL. The 2001 Napa Silver Oak is singing right now.  On the nose are cassis, cherry and some tobacco. The palate reflects the fruit and has beautifully integrated tannins. We were thrilled! We may need to hunt down another bottle for our 16th anniversary!

Interestingly, Silver Oak uses American oak for both their Napa Valley and Alexander Valley bottlings. The reason? They feel that American oak imparts less wood tannin than French oak! In fact, as of last year they have acquired full ownership of A&K Cooperage in Missouri. They purchased 50% in 2000, but feel that a full ownership will help them to maintain the barrel making standards they desire.

I love that Silver Oak waits to release their wines. While a lot of Napa 2013 wines have already been on the shelves for months, Silver Oak is just now releasing their 2011s.

I also love that Silver Oak has been using sustainable methods for 40 years! From the usage of solar, Integrated Pest Management and water conservation to obtaining multiple “Green” certifications and more, Silver Oak is one of the “good guy” wineries in Northern California.

To find out more about their Sustainability practices, along with their wines and winery, click here:

Tis the Season for SYRAH!

Merry Christmas to me … so I opened a bottle of my favorite varietal tonight! SYRAH!!!! I do believe that I picked a nice one!

Sol Rouge (red soil in French) is a winery located in the Red Hill Lake County appellation, which was designated in 2004. Their seventy- acre estate contains rich red volcanic soil. That would explain the name chosen for Bryan and Jill Kane’s winery!

I wasn’t familiar with Sol Rouge until this bottle, but I’m thankful that I stumbled across it. Located in California’s Lake County (north of Napa County), the winery produces wines using varietals from France’s Rhone Valley and Bordeaux. It also uses a lot of France’s viticulture principals; letting the high elevation vineyards do much of the work.

The ruby red 2011 Sol Rouge Syrah has aromas of raspberry and violet. With flavors of black raspberry, black current, and some black pepper, it is very well balanced with smooth, yet structured, tannins. Sol Rouge has created a very enjoyable wine, and I will seek out more of this and their other wines.

They have a conveniently located tasting room on famed Treasure Island in San Francisco for those who can’t get up to Lake County.

To learn more about Sol Rouge and their wines, check out there website here:

Walk the County Line, And Taste Some Fine Wine!

Pride Mountain has been one of my favorite Napa wineries for years now. Well actually, they’re not JUST a Napa winery! The Napa/Sonoma county line is on their property, and most of their wines are made with fruit from both AVAs.

Tonight my husband and I cracked open a bottle of their 2010 Merlot, comprised o 90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. After about an hour and a half of decanting, the aromatics are lovely! Dark fruits including black cherry, blueberry and ripe plum burst from the glass. Accompanying the fruit are some cedar, tobacco and chocolate.

The palate reflects the fruit on the nose, with chocolate covered cherry, velvety tannins and some nice acidity that balances the wine beautifully. This wine is great with the cheddar cheese on which we’re nibbling. It would also be delicious with a full meal, or simply sipping on at the end of a hectic workday!

Be sure to schedule an appointment to visit this special winery the next time you’re in Napa or Sonoma. You’ll have the opportunity to go deep into the caves and experience some fabulous barrel tastings. Visiting Pride Mountain isn’t the typical “tour”. This is an extraordinary tasting. On one of our visits we were shown the actual county line that separates Sonoma from Napa, right where the crush pad is located.

Pride Mountain Vineyards is located on Spring Mountain. Their eighty-three vineyard acres on the Mayacamas Mountains are about 2000 feet above the floor of Napa Valley, providing many of their vines with a desirable southern exposure. The location also provides spectacular views for your viewing (and sipping!) pleasure.

To learn more, check out their website here:



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