Anderson Valley
Pinot Noir

I have quite the love for Anderson Valley Pinot Noirs. A few months ago I stumbled upon a very cute and quaint tasting room in Healdsburg, California that housed some incredible Pinot Noirs. There were two bottles that day that blew me away. I was was fortunate it enough to taste with owner and winemaker Hank Skewis. Hank came to California in 1994 and was able to purchase grapes from Anderson Valley's Flood Gate Vineyard. Hank also met his wife that year, which began their journey of wine making together. In July 2011 they opened their first tasting room in Healdsburg, CA. They harvest fruit from six vineyards in three appellations; Anderson Valley, Russian River Valley, and the Sonoma Coast. I fell in love with Hank's 2010 Skewis Ridley Vineyard Pinot Noir and his 2008 Skewis Marguerite Pinot Noir, both from Anderson Valley.

Skewis 2010 Ridley Vineyard
Anderson Valley
Pinot Noir
$50.00 a bottle
Ridley Vineyards is located on the valley floor in the heart of Anderson Valley. The vineyard stays dry and warm but, gets frequent thick moist fog in the evenings, allowing these grapes to become superb. This Pinot has aromas of candied cherries, anise, and slight mushrooms. This Pinot very elegantly romances the tongue with creamy red cherries, engaging spices, and ever so slight mushroom finish, with a lite splash of cola on the palate. Ridley Vineyard Pinot is truly exceptional, definitely softer and brighter of the two Pinot Noirs

Skewis 2008 Marguerite Vineyard
Anderson Valley
Pinot Noir  
$32.00 a bottle

Marguerite Vineyards are dry farmed vines located in the hills of the coastal region of Mendocino County, at an elevation of 1500 feet. This Pinot has strong aromas of forest floor, earth, and mushrooms. This well structured robust Pinot Noir first tastes of earth and dusty forest floor. I got an ever so slight taste of cherries on the back end, finishing with creamy mushrooms and woody smoke. Marguerite Vineyard Pinot was the bigger and bolder of the two Pinot Noirs. I loved pairing this wine with food which only enhanced it's flavors and softened it edginess. This yet again was another exceptional Anderson Valley Pinot Noir. After tasting Hank's wines, without a doubt Hank Skewis has mastered the Pinot grape.

Coros of Mendocino

Coros of Mendocino

An hour north of Sonoma wine country you can find a hidden gem to home of some great wines. Hopland, California produces a signature Zinfandel blend called Coro, crafted from Mendocino county grapes. My first trip up North to Hopland about two years ago I found these Zinfandel blends amazing. Each winery that participates in making these blends follows similar guidelines but each winery's Coro blend is a little different in their make up of what reds are blended together. Mendocino's Winegrowers Alliance developed the protocols to these Zinfandel blends and they have agreed to follow as a group. The base make up of the Coro blends is (40%-70%) Zinfandel. The second tier of Coro blends can range from Syrah, Petite Sirah, Carignane, Sangiovese, Grenache, Dolcetto, Charbono, Barbera and Primitivo. No other varietal can exceed the percentage of the Zinfandel. Making each one of these Coro blends so unique and special.

Coro meaning "chorus" was picked to represent the chorus of Mendocino winemakers coming together blending their skills and wine to produce these stunning Zinfandel blends. Each of these bottles carries the same label, the only difference is the producing wineries name and percentage of the blends make up. The other night @winetom and I opened three of these bottles to taste and compare. These were our thoughts.........................

2006 Parducci Coro
55% Zinfandel 19.5% Syrah 18.5% Petite Sirah 5%Grenache 2% Charbono
  $38.00 a bottle

@SLHousman: Parducci's 2006 Coro was a beautiful glistening garnet red with aromas of cherry and strawberry. Refined and elegant with great structure tasting tart cherry, other soft red berries, green tea, cinnamon and dried plums. This bottle was my favorite Coro of the three we tasted. Definitely elegance in a glass!

@Winetom: Tasting tart red cherry and a hint of spice or oak. Something green so faint I couldn't nail it. Cinnamon pops its head in here and there. Then hints of dried plum in the finish. Balanced acids and fruit harken back to Zinfandel from the mid 80's.

2007 Parducci Coro
 47% Zinfandel 45% Syrah 8% Petite Sirah
 $38.00 a bottle
@SLHousman: Parducci's 2007 Coro was a deep dark plum purple. This wine had dominating aromas of blackberry, and hidden hints of leather. This 2007 was much more robust and heartier then the 2006; tasting of tart black fruits, white pepper and raisins. A very powerful glass of wine that screamed for food!

@Winetom: A very woody nose like a holiday cologne. Velvety on the tongue ,first red berry fruit then a dark brooding fig with raisin elements that kick in. White pepper that is classic of 80's Zinfandel also delights the tongue.

 2009 MCFadden Coro
  65% Zinfandel 20% Syrah 15% Petite Sirah
 $37.00 a bottle

@SLHousman: 2009 McFadden Coro had aromas of candied cherries, plums and vanilla. Tasting bright red cherries with a little woodiness of bark with a prune finish. This bottle was the spiciest of them all with the spice still lingering long after the finish. Definitely a glass not lacking zest!

@Winetom: A big plumy nose with some bark that reminds me of the Santa Cruz mountains. Tasting vanilla and tart cherry being somewhat overpowered by a strong woodiness. Super spicy finish which later turns to prunes. For lovers of darker wine let this one breathe.

Gracianna Winery

Gracianna Winery has a beautiful new tasting room in the heart of the Russian River Valley. Gracianna is a family owned and operated winery with four family member partners, Trini Amador IV who is the winemaker, sister Ashley Amador, and parents Trini Amador III and Lisa. A very close knit family who followed their dreams of building a family owned and operating winery. A remarkable family who always make me feel as if I'm a part of the family. I joined them recently at their new facility and was given their new releases to try. Three impressive bottles, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Zinfandel all Russian River Valley. 

A truly gorgeous property and tasting room. If you want an intimate winery experience this is a must visit in the Russian River Valley! Their vineyards are right out the back door.

I opened and shared my three Gracianna bottles with @Winetom and these are our thoughts..............

@SLHousman: Enticing aromas of citrus, pineapple, with slight lingering lemon. Tasting first tropical notes of pineapple, slight banana, honeycomb and lite oak. This Gracianna Chardonnay was very structured and had many more layers to it then most Chardonnays. A very nice wine!

@Winetom: Aromas of tart apricot and honeycomb. Tasting sour green apple and tropical fruits, pineapple, papaya, and over ripe banana. Back end is oakey but done in a mindful balance so as to provide structure to the fruit. A perfect Chardonnay for lovers of tart Chardonnay.

@SLHousman: A favorite Gracianna wine of mine. Aromas of seductive dark cherry, smoke, and silky vanilla. First tasting tart, dark cherry and spices. The wine finishes with anise and orange. The powerful spice in this Pinot makes it edgy and tantalizes the palate. I love the huge spice in this Pinot but with age I think the edginess will mellow out and be more smooth to the tongue. A great Russian River Valley Pinot find!

@Winetom: Aromas of smoke, and dark brandied cherry tort with hints of vanilla. Tasting dark sweet cherry, smoke, with a tiny hint of sarsaparilla which lingers through to more prominence in the finish. End is cinnamon, clove, with hints of dried chili pepper and orange peel. High alcohol for a Pinot and it peeks it's head out here and there.

@SLHousman: Great aromas of red berries, raspberries, strawberries, and must. Tasting lots of strawberry and loving how this Zinfandel is not sweet or jammy. Lots of red berries with a very nice balanced tart finish with added red currant, and black pepper. 

@Winetom: Aromas of Strawberry, occasional black pepper, raspberry. Tasting sweet but present with tartness as well. Currant toward the back end with sarsaparilla on the finish. Monstrous alcohol in this baby getting a little black pepper and cinnamon on the finish.

One of our favorite stops in the Russian River Valley because of the intimacy of the winery and quality of the wines.  

Elyse Winery


2008 Le Corbeau

Los Carneros

$37.00 a bottle 

Last  weekend I finally was able to venture out to Napa in search of a great Cabernet but to my surprise, I found an incredible Rhone Blend "Le Corbeau" by Elyse Winery. I was very fortunate to get a personal tour and tasting with winemaker Mike Trotta, of Elyse Winery. He was very gracious showing me the property and the behind the scenes of the winery. Mike became winemaker of this very cute and quaint winery back in 2001. Talking with Mike that morning I could definitely feel his passion for Elyse Winery and making their wines. Owners Ray and Nancy Coursen started making wine back in 1987. Then in 1997 they purchased a small winery and vineyard on Hoffman Lane in Napa, CA which is the home to Elyse Winery today and was named after their daughter.

Elyse's 2008 Le Corbeau is a blend of 90% Grenache and 10% Syrah and comes from the Hudson vineyard in Los Carneros. This blend is aged 22 months in 20% new French oak and 80% in neutral barrels. This Rhone blend is a light red wine and surprisingly complex from start to finish. The huge structure of this bottle is what drew me in and made me a lover. Le Corbeau has beautiful aromas of herbs, tea leaf, plums and raspberries. The complexity on the palate is what makes this wine so alluring. It seemed every sip I tasted something new. Tasting first raspberries, herbs, distinct white pepper, and bark. There was also a very captivating finish on this wine of buttery caramel. As the wine opened up, little hints of smoke also showed up in the finish. So many rich layers to this wine is what makes this bottle so incredible. If in Napa, it is a must stop! Elyse Winery is by appointment only (707) 944-2900.