Annadel Estate Winery

2008 Sonoma Valley

Anni’s Blend

$36.00 a bottle

I’m going to finish the year and found it only fitting to write my last blog on an incredible Sonoma Valley Cabernet Blend that I just recently discovered. Earlier this month I was invited out to Annadel Estate Winery in Sonoma Valley, California for a private tour and tasting with part owner and assistant winemaker, Abigail Zimmerman. Owners Dean and Abigail Zimmerman followed their dream, buying the ruins of a former winery and abandoned old farmhouse and turned it into what is known today as, Annadel Estate Winery. Making three varietals of wine most of which are estate grown, a Rose of Zinfandel, Zinfandel, and this incredible Cabernet Blend.

I was given a tour of the gorgeous grounds and vineyards that day by golf cart with Abigail. The history of the property itself was amazing. On my tour I was shown the old winery ruins, barns, and saloon dating back to the 1800’s. Really an unforgettable treat. After my tour of the vineyards and grounds we went back to the main farmhouse to open their three wines to taste. I fell in love with their Cabernet blend instantly. This Anni’s Blend is 100% Estate grown and is 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc, 5% Petit Verdot. Truly this wine is heaven in a bottle. This blend has aromas of dark berries, black currant, cigar-box and earth. Tasting first big bold blackberry and black pepper, and spices. This wine is definitely not shy with many structured palate pleasing layers. Anni’s blend finishes with a light coco and a taste of cedar. I was just informed that this 2008 is just about sold out but the 2009 is soon to be released. I was lucky enough that day to taste their library 2007 of this blend which was even more incredible. Definitely a wine to buy and hold onto if you can. Annadel Estate Winery does not have a tasting room and is by appointment only. If you are in the Sonoma Valley area and would like to try their wine’s you can contact Abigail Zimmerman for a private tasting (707) 934-7374. Truly a memorable experience and a remarkable wine. Cheers to 2012 and to many more amazing wine adventures in search for that perfect bottle!

J. Keverson

2008 Dry Creek Valley

Cabernet Sauvignon

$34.00 a bottle

I’m happy to report I finally found a Dry Creek Cabernet that I love. I have tasted many different Cabernets from this region and found very few that I like. J. Keverson’s Dry Creek Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is pretty incredible. The winery is a hidden gem located in the heart of wine country, right off the Plaza in Healdsburg, California. J. Keverson winery is a small winery only producing 1300 cases a year. Making also Chardonnay, Brut Sparkling, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Sangiovese, and Syrah. I have been a huge fan of both their Alton Lane Zinfandel and Carneros Chardonny which I have blogged in the past. I was lucky enough awhile back to meet up with one of the owners and winemaker, John Hazlewood and taste a sample of this Cabernet Sauvignon from the barrel.

We both agreed then that this Cabernet was going to be great. Barreled in 25% New French Oak for 28 months. This wine now bottled and released is tasting awesome. Taking a 2011 Best of Class at the Sonoma County Harvest Fair and given 91 points from Wine Enthusiasts. J. Keverson's Cabernet Sauvignon has huge aromas of dark berries, slight raspberry and chocolate. This Cabernet is rich with flavors and huge structure with several palate pleasing layers. First layer is big, tasting of black berries and chocolate. Second layer tasting of spices and black pepper and finishing with earth and light oak. This wine has a huge beginning and a finish that will only dominate with age. The huge beginning of this Cabernet Sauvignon of black berries and chocolate is definitely my favorite part to this wine.

Gracianna Winery

I am very grateful to have been invited out a couple of weeks ago to the beautiful vineyards and future site for the new tasting room of Gracianna Winery in the heart of the Russian River Valley. The winery tasting room is started and expected to be completed in April of next year. The Amador family is very close knit and very inspiring to me, building their dream of a family owned and operating winery. When I arrived out to their vineyards that afternoon I was greeted by Trini Amador IV winemaker and one of the family owners and his sister Ashley Amador, another family owner. Trini and Ashley Amador were so kind and so full of passion that it radiated off them and was so contagious. Instantly making me feel as if I was part of the family. Both were extremely excited to share their Gracianna wines and story with me. The name Gracianna comes from an Amador family grandmother, Gracianna Lasaga. The present on the wines label symbolizes their gift of giving to family and friends old and new and bringing everyone together in celebration. Their bottles of wine are their family gifts to share with everyone. Trini Amador knew at a very young age that he wanted to make wine. He was caught by his parents at the age of sixteen trying to make wine in family garage. Today Trini Amador IV makes three great varietals all from the Russian River Valley. Gracianna wines are all unfined and unfiltered.

I first tasted their 2010 Chardonnay. A 100% Russian River Valley, barreled in 100% French Oak. This Chardonnay had great aromas of citrus, lemon, and grass. First tasting crisp light pear, grass, and finishing with a lemon, vanilla cream. The finish is the biggest part to this Chardonnay and my favorite part. Gracianna 2010 Chardonnay is not over powered with oak, still tasting lots of fruit on the palate. This is a very nice Chardonnay taking “Best of Class” at the 2011 Sonoma County Fair. $34.00 a bottle.

Their second wine I tasted that day was my favorite one, 2009 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir. A 100% Pinot Noir grapes from the Bacigaulpi Vineyard, barreled in French Oak for eleven months. This is definitely a true Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, full bodied, complex, with huge structure. My kind of Pinot Noir. Gracianna’s 2009 Pinot Noir has aromas cherry, mushroom, and musty earth. First tasting red cherry, spice, and light licorice, finishing with that Russian River mushroom forest floor. A very robust yet smooth, well balanced Pinot Noir, taking a gold metal at the 2011 Sonoma County Harvest Fair. $48.00 a bottle.

Lastly I tasted the Gracianna 2009 Russian River Zinfandel. This Zinfandel is a blend of 95% Zinfandel and 5% Petit Syrah, again coming from the Bacigaulpi Vineyards in the Russian River Valley. This wine is aged in both French and American Oak for 11 months. Gracianna’s Zinfandel has huge aromas of dark berries and light must. A very big and bold wine tasting of blackberries and spice. As this wine opened up it became much more softer and silkier to the palate. $42.00 a bottle.

Again I want to thank Trini and Ashley Amador for sharing their wines and a great afternoon out at their Vineyard. Also I want to thank Trini Amador III and Lisa. I can’t wait to make another visit next year to see the completed tasting room.

Hopland Passport 2011

I had an incredible journey through Hopland California wine country last weekend. I was invited to attend their 20th Annual Hopland Passport Weekend and “wow” what a weekend it was. Sixteen wineries participated and I made to most all of them. I must say I was pleasantly surprised how many wines I found that I really enjoyed. Hopland creates some amazing Viogniers, Zinfandels, Zinfandel blends called “Coro”, Cabernets, and Cabernet blends. There were so many great wineries and wines that I can’t share them all but I will share some of the bottles I brought back.

Jaxon Keys Winery was my first stop that morning. A Beautiful farmhouse set on a hillside with gorgeous vineyard views, breath taking really. They had everything open that day to taste and boy what a line up!

I have to say I enjoyed most of their wines but I fell in love with both their estate grown 2010 Viognier and 2009 Mae’s Block Zinfandel.

2010 Jaxon Keys Viognier has aromas of huge grapefruit, light tangerine and grass. This is a very long structured Viognier tasting first huge grapefruit, peach, light grass with a lingering smooth finish of honey, melon, and cream. This is definitely a crazy good Viognier! Jaxon Keys Winery describes this Viognier well, “Very pretty, and not shy.” 2009 Jaxon Keys Mae’s Block Zinfandel has aromas of deep dark fruits and spice. First tasting huge dry fruits of blackberry and black cherry, finishing with lots of spice, clove, tea, and pepper. Before this trip I have to admit I was not that crazy about Zinfandels but after tasting so many great ones in Hopland I am turning into a Zinfandel lover. Parducci Winery had some great Cabernets and Zinfandels. They pride themselves on being America’s greenest Winery, committed to sustainable wine growing practices while protecting the environment and supporting local farmers. One of the owners of Parducci Winery, Paul Dolan has his own vineyards and label and makes some awesome wines.

I thoroughly enjoyed all four varietals of Paul Dolan wines I tried that day but his Zinfandel was my favorite. Paul Dolan’s 2009 Mendocino County Zinfandel was wonderful. Wow, I never thought I’d say that about a Zinfandel, but so true. This wine has aromas of dark fruit, huge blackberry and earth. First tasting blackberry and slight raisin, finishing with a pepper earthiness that gives it a Cabernet resemblance. This Zinfandel is full bodied and very rich with flavors that balance perfectly together.

There were so many great red blends in Hopland but there was just something very special about this Cabernet blend that made it stand out among the rest, Cesar Toxqui Cellars Heirloom IV Red Blend. This wine is a blend of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Syrah, 10% Zinfandel, 7% Merlot, 3% Viognier. This blend has an incredible nose to it. With aromas of red cherry, leather, slight floral. Tasting of a caramel covered cherry, slight blueberry and earth. An easy to drink blend that is super smooth and great without food. It was such a treat that day to be able to meet owner and wine maker Cesar Toxqui. He was so excited to tell me all about his wines and really wanted to hear what I thought of them. While talking with Cesar there was no hiding that he truly loves what he does and that definitely shows in this bottle.

Some other wineries and wines that stood out for me that weekend was McNab Ridge with their Cabernet’s and Cabernet blends. Campovida which now resides where Fetzer use to be, had a Redvine Series blend of mostly Cabernet that I really enjoyed. McFadden Winery which I was introduced for the first time to the Zinfendal blend’s called “Coro.” I was very fortunate that night to have shared dinner with Mr. Guinness McFadden himself along with Rich Parducci and the very beautiful Margaret Weibel of Weibel Winery. That night I had told Mr. McFadden how much I loved his Coro that day and the generous man he is had brought a bottle to dinner among other bottles to share.

I want to thank the town of Hopland and all the wineries that participated in Hopland Passport Weekend for showing me such great hospitality and sharing their great wines with me. It was truly an incredible weekend. A last big thank you to John Cesano and Megan Metz for giving me a reason to venture further North for wine.

Trione Vineyards

2005 Block Twenty One

Alexander Valley

Cabernet Sauvignon

$64.00 a bottle

I am way overdue on the blogging of this incredible Alexander Valley Cabernet. Trione’s Cabernet has been a favorite of mine for some time and is an excellent representation of how great Alexander Valley Cabernet's are. Trione Winery is located in the heart of the Alexander Valley in Geyserville, California. I have called this my home away from home. Not only can you find amazing Cabernet but the scenery is breath taking.

The Trione family has been growing grapes in Sonoma County for thirty five years, with over seven hundred and fifty acres of vineyards. I have personally gotten to meet and work with winemaker Scot Covington. Scot is a very modest, humble, and extremely talented winemaker. Since I am such a Cabernet lover I felt it only appropriate to blog Trione’s very first Cabernet vintage. This 2005 Cabernet is truly a master piece with excellent age on it but I feel it could still improve with time. A blend of 85% Cabernet, 10% Merlot, 2.5% Petite Verdot, and 2.5% Malbec. This Cabernet has aromas of red currants, dark fruits, sage, and hints of musty light oak and pepper. First tasting on the palate lots of dark fruits, light cherry, and spice. Finishing with a leathery cigar box light pepper taste. A very spicy Cabernet full of layers but not over bearing and extremely smooth.

I have been extremely fortunate to be invited now for my second year to help with harvest at Trione Winery. They truly make me feel as if I’m part of the Trione family. My twitter friend Jess @Moxie_Lady who works at Trione Winery who knows my passion for wine, had asked me last year if I would be interested in helping them and being part of their harvest. I felt very lucky to be asked and definitely could not turn down that opportunity. So again this year I worked side by side with Mark & Cathy Trione, Scot Covington the winemaker, and many other Trione family members. With the first load of grapes being Pinot Noir in the 2011 harvest we all toasted in celebration with a little sparkling. A big Trione family celebration that I am ever so thankful to have been part of. I learned so much about harvest and what goes into the whole process.

Trione Vineyards

2007 Russian River Valley

Pinot Noir

$35.00 a bottle

Helping with Trione Winery 2011 harvest and their first grapes to come in being Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley, I had to blog their 2007 vintage. My favorite Pinot Noirs come from the Russian River Valley appellation and this Trione 2007 Pinot Noir is exceptional. A true Russian River Valley Pinot. Tasting these Pinot grapes only a few hours after being picked still amazes me that they create such an incredible bottle. The light fruit and earthiness of Russian River Pinot’s, complex structures and heartiness is what I love so much about these Pinot Noirs. Trione’s 2007 Pinot has aromas of dark cherry, blackberry, and earthy mushroom. First tasting light dark cherry and spice. Finishing with an earthy mushroom forest floor. A hearty yet super smooth Russian River Pinot Noir. Trione Winery also makes some other great wines, a Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonny, Syrah, and a Bordeaux Blend.

Limerick Lane Cellars

2008 Collins Estate Reserve

Russian River Valley - Red Wine

$52.00 a bottle

It was another beautiful weekend in Sonoma County when I stumbled upon this great bottle. I was out tasting in the Russian River Valley and decided to stop at a winery I had never been to before and taste, “Limerick Lane Cellars.” Limerick Lane has 30 estate acres located on the eastern end of the Russian River Valley just south east to the Dry Creek Valley. I felt very fortunate that day to meet and taste with one of the assistant wine makers Luke. Luke was very knowledgeable and you could definitely tell he loves what he does. He was so excited to inform me about their wines and their whole wine making process. Luke even brought me back into the cellar that afternoon to show me their process and what happens once their grapes arrive to the winery. He even poured me some of their very recent juice straight from the tanks. It was truly a treat for me that afternoon.

In the tasting room I tried some great wines but really enjoyed this 2008 Collins Estate Reserve red blend. This blend is 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Zinfandel, 25% Syrah. A hearty red blend full of rich ripe fruit. This wine has aromas of huge red cherry, slight blackberry, plum, and musty earth. First tasting on the palate huge tart red cherry, with slight dark berries. Finishing with a really nice creamy plum earthy leather taste. Definitely the chameleon of wine with huge changes as it opened up. This was the best part of the wine for me. So full of structure with so many stages to it. That afternoon out tasting just proved to me how many hidden gems there are out there in Sonoma County I have yet to discover. Limerick Lane Cellars also makes some other great wines Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, and a Syrah.


2008 Senal

Rockpile-Red Wine

$30.00 a bottle

I felt it was time to blog another great bottle from my very favorite appellation, “Rockpile.” About a month ago I stumbled upon Down Town Wines tasting room in Healdsburg, California right off the Healdsburg Plaza. Down Town Wines is home to two wine makers, Branham Estate Wines and Hobo Wine Company. To my surprise that day this tasting room houses some incredible Rockpile reds. Rockpile being one of the newest and smallest AVA’s in Sonoma County. This AVA is 15,000 acres but only 160 are planted vineyards. Elevations that range from 800 to 2100 feet above sea level. The poor soils, steep slopes, rugged terrain, lack of fog, high sun exposures, and very little water retention produces smaller stressed grape’s. In turn making a higher quality of fruit with much richer complex flavors. Rockpile for me is the King of all reds! There are currently only 10 Rockpile vineyard owners, one being Gary Branham owner of Branham Estate Wines. Gary’s Rockpile red bled “Senal” is incredibly good. Senal meaning the good “omen” and protector of the vines. This bottle is a 100% Rockpile vineyard blend. Senal is a blend of 40% Zinfandel, 20% Syrah, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 20% Petite Sirah. Aged in French Oak and 10% New for 16 months. This blend has aromas of blackberries, raspberry, blueberries, and leather. Tasting first of dark berries, black current, and all spice. Finishing very earthy, tobacco, and slight leather. This blend has one of the softest finishes of any Rockpile wine I have had. Senal is truly an outstanding bottle of wine again proving how incredible Rockpile wines are.

Pine Ridge

2007 Napa Valley


$60.00 a bottle

I just recently made a trip to the Napa Valley to taste. I made a few stops that day but my tasting experience at Pine Ridge Winery was awesome. The Winery grounds, tasting staff, and of course their wines were incredible. A twitter friend Cat Purcell who works in Pine Ridge Wineries tasting room took care of our group that day. Cat knowing that I was a huge Cabernet lover lined up their vertical of Cabernet Sauvignon’s from all the great appellations in the Napa Valley. I learned that day that Pine Ridge Vineyards has 200 estate acres planted. They have estate vineyards that include 61 acres in Rutherford, 49 acres in Carneros, 47 acres in Stags Leap, 25 acres in Oakville, and 9 acres on Howell Mountain. Cat also took us into Pine Ridge Wineries cave to give us some barrel samples, she definitely beyond spoiled us that day. I have toured many caves but Pine Ridge Wineries cave was quite breathe taking.

To my surprise after tasting all their great Cabernet’s, there was still two red blends to try. Both of the blends were very good but the Onyx was my favorite. Pine Ridge Wineries Onyx is a blend of 50% Merlot from Carneros, 30% Malbec from Rutherford, 11% Tannat also from Rutherford, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 2% Petit Verdot. This Onyx has aromas of black berry, dark cherry, slight cigar box, and chocolate. Tasting first dark berries, dark cherries, and slight plum. Finishing with a long lasting finish of smokey bittersweet chocolate. Lots of deep structure to this blend. Truly a blend that dances on your palate. I see this blend only improving with age that is if you can be patient enough to wait. A trip to the Napa Valley really must include Pine Ridge Vineyards as one of your stops. Again I need to thank Cat for all her assistance and knowledge that day.


2006 Dry Creek Valley


$36.00 a bottle

Excited to say this is my very first blog on a Syrah. I have really been enjoying more Syrah’s this year. In the past I have felt food was so needed to be able to enjoy that bottle. Over the last year I have been trying more Syrah’s and finding many great bottles that are smooth and don’t necessarily need food to be enjoyed.
Both Cartograph and Stark Wines share the very hip, new Garagiste tasting room right off the Healdsburg Plaza in Healdsburg, California. When I was invited out to taste at Cartograph wines a few weeks ago I was introduced to Christian Stark owner and winemaker of @Starkwine. A very humble, sincere winemaker full of passion, who in 2003 followed his dream and started Stark Wine. A true artist that reflects so much in his awesome 2006 Syrah.

Starks 2006 Syrah is a blend of two Syrah vineyards, 55% Unti Vineyards and 45% Teldeschi Vineyards. Both vineyards are located in the Dry Creek Valley. This Syrah has strong aromas of fruit, dark cherry, black berry, cinnamon, and oak. First tasting of cherry, black pepper, and nutmeg. This Syrah finishes with light musty oak and creamy vanilla. Really I think this is one of the biggest Syrah’s I have had in terms of flavors and structure. Super bold and hearty, yet smooth enough to enjoy without food. When paring this Syrah with food it only intensified its flavors. A true gem of a wine. Christian also makes two other great varietals that I also highly recommend, a 2009 Russian River Valley Chardonnay and a 2009 Sierra Foothills Viognier.


2009 Pinot Noir

Russian River Valley

$38.00 a bottle

With Pinot Smack Down right around the corner I only found it appropriate for my next blog to be an awesome Russian River Valley Pinot that I was recently introduced to. Friends I met through twitter Alan Baker @Cellarrat and Serena Lourie @Slourie of @Cartographwines just recently opened their new tasting room right off the Healdsburg Plaza in Healdsburg, California, called Garagiste. I was invited out to come taste their wines for the first time, the weekend before their opening. Cartograph wines all began back in 2009 when both Alan and Serena moved to the heart of Wine Country. Their new tasting room is chic and modern with a lovely outdoor tasting space with plush, cozy couches and a large flowing fountain. Indeed a very inviting tasting room. With Cartograph's focus on Pinot Noir, I definitely couldn’t wait to visit and try. I really fell in love with Cartograph’s Pinot at first sip. Cartograph’s 2009 Russian River Pinot comes from the Floodgate Vineyard. This appellation is home to some of the most prestigious Pinot Noir Vineyards. This vineyard is located adjacent to Mark West Creek on the south end of the Middle Reach section of the Russian River Valley, harvesting the perfect weather for Pinot grapes to thrive. These Pinot vines are primarily planted on the hillsides of Floodgate Vineyards in very rocky soils allowing for excellent drainage and also allowing all of the energy of the vines to focus on the grapes.

Cartograph 2009 Russian River Pinot has aromas of huge red cherry and spice and that traditional Russian River Valley earthiness, tasting first of cherry, tea, and rhubarb. In a really good Russian River Valley Pinot the finish tends to be my favorite part. This Cartograph Pinot did not disappoint. Its finish was my favorite part long and lasting of mushroom earthiness. A very complexed yet also very balanced Pinot. This Pinot comes highly recommended and I’m adding it to my list of Russian River Valley favorites. Cartograph also makes a great Mendocino Ridge Pinot and a Russian River Valley Dry Gewurztraminer.

Sierra Starr

2007 Proprietary Blend


$30.00 a bottle

A few months ago I attended a blind wine tasting of two different varietals. A tasting of Sparkling’s and Zinfandel’s for under $20.00. When both winners of each varietal came from an unknown winery to me, called Sierra Starr I was determined to make a stop there the next time I was in Nevada County. I have been able to taste a few Nevada County wines and I must admit, I have not yet been very impressed. Living in the heart of California’s Wine Country, of course most of the wines I drink come from Sonoma and Napa County. A few weeks ago I was finally able to make a trip to Sierra Starr’s tasting room located on Main Street in Grass Valley California. Grass Valley is located in the Sierra Nevada Foothills between Sacramento and Reno, Nevada. To my surprise downtown Grass Valley was very cute full of charm and history. Main Street looked as if it was right out of an old western film. Sierra Starr’s tasting room was very pretty and inviting with walls made of brick and old rustic wood floors.

I was excited that day to meet one of the family owners and assistant winemaker Jack Starr who was pouring behind the tasting bar. Jack poured all their wines that day for me to taste. One bottles that really stood out and I enjoyed the most was their Cabernet Blend called, “Inertia”. This blend is a make up of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Cabernet Franc, 15% Syrah, and 10% Petite Sirah. A very nice Cabernet blend. Inertia’s aromas are of blackberries and cigar box. First tasting lots of dark fruits and creamy plum and finishing with a smokey light tobacco. Most of the Cabernet blends I usually drink are hearty and complex but this blend is light yet still extremely complex with flavors. Has a definite beginning, middle, and end. This wine has won a double gold at the El Dorado County Wine Competition and Best of Class in the category of Bordeaux Blends. Sierra Starr also makes many other varietals of wines which include Sparkling’s, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonny, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cab Franc, Port, and Ice Wine. A definite stop to taste if in Nevada County.