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Our Favorite Blogs

We’ve selected two of our favorite local wine blogs for whom wine is a passion. Dallas Wine Chick and GrapeStone Concepts take you on a journey and exploration of a wide variety of wines.

Each wine blog is a direct feed into our blog page. Their opinions are their own, and are posted here without edit or further refinement.


Growing Up Gaja: A Conversation with Gaia Gaja and Delving into Ca’ Marcanda with #winestudio

Me and Gaia Gaja If Italian royalty comes knocking, one answers the call with an appropriate curtsy.  When I received

The post Growing Up Gaja: A Conversation with Gaia Gaja and Delving into Ca’ Marcanda with #winestudio appeared first on DallasWineChick.com.

Me and Gaia Gaja

If Italian royalty comes knocking, one answers the call with an appropriate curtsy.  When I received the invitation to meet Gaia Gaja, the daughter of one of Italy’s most world-class families of wine, I was in awe.  When I met Gaia and found how warm, open and engaging she is, I was impressed.  By the end of our lunch, I had reached the reverence stage.  What a fabulous person with amazing stories to tell!

Brief Background on Gaja

Gaja is an Italian wine producer from the Piedmont region and the Langhe district, which was first known for Barbaresco and Barolo wines.   In 1859, Giovanni Gaja, opened a tavern in Barbaresco and served his wines made from the five acres of vineyards that he owned.  In the 30’s, the wines were bottled and the family started to acquire more vineyards in the region.

Gaja later expanded its empire into Tuscany with the Pieve Santa Restituta estate in 1994, the Gromis property in La Morra for production of Barolo Conteisa Cerequio in 1995, and the Ca’Marcanda property in Bolgheri, Tuscany in 1996, and later diversified into Brunello and Super Tuscan wines.  Today, the winery produces 18 wines with an annual production of 350,000 bottles.

The Leadership

Angelo Gaja, the great-grandson of Giovanni, and today’s president, started working at the winery in 1961 after getting his wine degrees at the Enological Institute in Alba and at the University of Montpellier.  This is where he began the vinification and modern winemaking techniques that he learned in France like barrique aging, hybrid French bottle formats, longer corks, and clonal and massal selection in the vineyard.  This eventually led to him being named as “the king of Barbaresco” and he is credited with elevating the winery to world-class status and establishing Barbaresco as one of the great appellations of the world.

Today the day-to-day operations are handled by Gaia and Rossana Gaja, the fifth generation of the family to make wine in Barbaresco.  Gaia was on a multi-city tour through Dallas, Houston, New Orleans and Florida, hosted by the Terlato Wine Group.  I met her at the downtown Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse in Dallas with one other member of the press and a small group of the city’s top restaurant sommeliers where she talked about growing up Gaja and how 95 percent of the wineries in the region are family wineries.

“My parents partnered in life and business,” she said. “My mother, Lucia, was the real boss – the cook, the wife, the mom.”

Gaia talked about how the Gaja wine business really is a family business.  “We meet as a group to discuss, agree (sometimes), disagree (sometimes) and that’s how we ultimately reach a decision.”  Since the 2013 vintage, when the former cellar master retired, she’s been intimately involved in the making of the wine.

“The winery truly is our baby – it’s not about ego.  The winery must be strong for future generations. We have a passion for wine.  We don’t sell particular grapes, we sell Gaja” she said.  “The wine is about showcasing memories – the memory of time, the memory of culture.”

We had the following line-up of delicious wines that I won’t review in detail due to Ca’Marcanda #winestudio three-week session that followed our lunch:

2015 Gaia & Rey

2014 Gaja Barbaresco

2013 Gaja Conteisa

2013 Gaja Sperss

2012 Gaja Darmagi

2000 Gaja Pieve Santa Restituta Sugarille

2012 Gaja Ca’Marcanda MagarI

2013 Gaja Camarcanda

2014 Gaja Sorì Tildin

2012 Gaja Brunello di Montalcino

Our #winestudio Program

I then moved to our three-week #winestudio program, which focused on the Ca’Marcanda property in Tuscany, located in the famous Bolgheri district in Castagneto Carducci.  Because it took the Gaja family 18 trips to complete negotiations for this historic 250-acre Bolgheri estate, they began to refer to it as “ca’ marcanda,” or the house of endless negotiations.  The focus is Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Syrah vines.

We learned further about the region that Angelo Gaja defined as “learning of color after only working in black and white.”  While the winery was purchased in 1997, it took six years for it to be completed.  Incredibly, the winery is almost invisible if you took an aerial view.  It was crafted to integrate into the earth and landscape.  They even relocated olive trees and have more than 360 trees over 150 years old.  There are two distinct soils – the terre brune (dark earth): mostly loam, mineral content and clay with little limestone located close to the Tyrrheanian Sea or stone and terre bianche (white earth): mostly calcareous clay and sand, rich in limestone and filled with stones and pebbles, which is closer to the hills.

The climate is Mediterranean – with warm days and cool nights.  The mirrored triangles on the label of all Ca’ Marcanda wines represent the view of the famous Cypress Alley leading to the town of Bolgheri that Angelo wanted to mirror.  His vision was to show his passion from place to glass.

Over a three-week #winestudio program, we tried three wines:

2015 Ca’Marcanda Promis – This wine was created to show commitment, expectation, fulfillment and hope or a promise (same meaning in Italian as well).  It is a blend of 55% Merlot, 35% Syrah, and 10% Sangiovese grown in terre brune soils.  I tasted blackberry, herbal notes, terroir, cigar, cassis and licorice.   This is the entry point for the Gaja Super Tuscan wines.

2015 Ca’ Marcanda Magari – Magari means “perhaps” or “if only it were true” in Italian and is often used to express desire, hope and a vision of a bright future. The vineyard blocks are closer to the fertile hillside and are made from fruit grown terre brunesoils.  This is a blend of 60% Cabernet Franc 30% Cabernet Sauvignon 10% Petit Verdot — each aged separately for 15 days.  The 2015, is a shift to more Cabernet Franc with a small addition of Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Verdot.  I tasted blackberry, raspberry, cherry, espresso, licorice, coffee, Asian spice and herbal notes.

2013 Ca’ Marcanda Camarcanda – a flagship wine made only in exceptional years (there was no 2014), this wine is grown in 100 percent terre blanche soils.  This wine is aged in slightly used barriques for 18 months and it undergoes at least 12 months of bottle aging at the winery before release. I tasted cherries, plum, red raspberries, cloves, stone fruit, olive tapenade, cedar, sandalwood, coffee and spice. This wine had Bordeaux characteristics but demonstrated the Gaja magic touch that combines art and innovation showcasing the vineyard one glass at a time.  This wine is 50 percent Merlot, 40 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 10 percent Cabernet Franc all made from estate fruit.

I so appreciate Terlato Wines, Gaia Gaja, Ca’Marcanda and #winestudio for teaching me so much about this special family and what it takes to build a legacy in wine and for a region.



The post Growing Up Gaja: A Conversation with Gaia Gaja and Delving into Ca’ Marcanda with #winestudio appeared first on DallasWineChick.com.

My Return to Santa Barbara: Part Two of Our Wine Country Trip: Hilliard Bruce, Tyler, Bryon, Beckman and Pence Wineries

At the last Wine Blogger’s Conference in 2014, Solvang was a just a stop on a bus tour through Santa

The post My Return to Santa Barbara: Part Two of Our Wine Country Trip: Hilliard Bruce, Tyler, Bryon, Beckman and Pence Wineries appeared first on DallasWineChick.com.

At the last Wine Blogger’s Conference in 2014, Solvang was a just a stop on a bus tour through Santa Barbara Wine Country.

Solvang, founded in 1911 and meaning “sunny fields”, began as the vision of Danish immigrants: Reverend Benedict Mordent, Reverend J. M. Gergesene, and Professor P. P. Hornsby.  They planned to raise money to buy a large tract of land on the West Coast and subdivide it into plots for farms, homes, and create a town for Danish immigrants.

Fast forward more than 100 years and Solvang is still a picturesque small town with a great atmosphere. Charming boutiques, hotels and restaurants line the streets still filled with Danish themed architecture, thatched roofs, old-world craftsmanship and traditional windmills.

We stayed at The Landsby, which is a 50-room boutique hotel, which becomes the most stylish happy hour in town.  It’s a contemporary and sophisticated oasis in a place that can get a little over the top with the Danish themes and we loved the great bar, fire pit and restaurant.

We went to a lot of great wineries during our trip and I don’t have space to mention them all.  Some of my favorites included:

Hilliard Bruce:

Photo Credit: Jennifer Schuder

The winery was formed by fellow Texans, John Hilliard and Christine Bruce, who came from Houston. Christine is a musician (a professional keyboardist) and horsewoman and John ran his family’s shipyard business, but had a love of painting.  When they met, the couple took wine classes at Rice University and became certified as Master Gardeners from Texas A&M and the University of Arizona.  Christine also started to breed Arabian horses in Houston.

They purchased the 101-acre Hilliard Bruce estate in the Sta. Rita Hills and planted pinot noir and chardonnay.  Christine wanted a ranch where she could expand her business of breeding Arabian horses and John survived two life-threatening illnesses.  They finally decided to pursue their passion project of wine.  They planted 21-acres of pinot noir and chardonnay and enrolled in courses at the UC Davis Extension Program, Allan Hancock Viticulture and Enology Program, and the Grayson County College Viticulture and Enology Program.

The Sta. Rita Hills winery is a certified sustainable vineyard through Sustainable in Practice (SIP) but sustainability extends to the gravity-flow winery, which is LEED-certified, and features a subterranean naturally humidified cellar with ambient temperature-controlled aging rooms, solar power, no-maintenance core-ten steel siding, creative LED lighting, as well as 40 foot solar tubes that bring natural sunlight into the cellar.  The winery was designed by the same guys that design the Apple buildings.  The family sells about half of its grapes to local producers and estate bottles the rest.  I loved the pinot designations of Earth, Sky, Sun and Moon – depending on where they are grown in the vineyard.  The style is Burgundian and I had a hard time choosing my favorite.

Tyler Winery

We didn’t know that Tyler worked with vineyards planted right down from Hilliard Bruce (also in the Santa Maria Valley), but they definitely had exceptional wines, a common shared focus on chardonnay and pinot noir and a dedication to quality in common.

Justin Willett, the owner and winemaker, started Tyler winery in 2005.  Previously he had worked in vineyard management as well as being assistant to winemaker Joe Davis at Arcadian.  He knew he wanted to make Burgundian wine farmed with meticulous viniculture and a focus on balanced, harmonious and nuanced wine as the end goal.

Within these two appellations, you get the effect of ocean influences, transverse mountain ranges and valleys, and diverse soils.  There is a focus on seeking out wines with age as well as a close collaboration with growers.  Tyler produces 12 wines from 22 parcels within 7 different vineyard sites with a total production is approximately 5,000 cases per year.

Gabe Fabela, the Tyler General Manager in the middle of our group

Gabe Fabela, the general manager, tasted us through a number of different Tyler wines including Lieu Dit Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc wines that Justin makes.  We even got to try the newly bottled rose as well as the full line-up of chardonnay and pinot noirs that showed the diversity of the vineyards, but showcased the tenants of Justin’s winemaking.

Bryon Wines


Since 1984, Bryon Wines has been solely focused on crafting Pinot Noir from single, estate-vineyards in AVAs in the Santa Maria Valley and the Sta. Rita Hills.  Winemaker Jonathan Nagy believes that most winemaking takes place in the vineyard as he takes things down to the row and block level as he looks for the clonal expression by variety and site.

As we tried the different wines from the Santa Rita Hills side by side with the Santa Maria Valley, it was fascinating to see the differences by vineyard and varietal.  As Jonathan quotes on the website, “It’s fascinating how Pinot’s can showcase such different personalities from vineyard to vineyard, or even block to block.”  I couldn’t agree more.

Beckman Winery

The premise of Beckman Winery is that good wine comes from good grapes grown from great plants grown on the right soil nurtured by great people.  The Beckman family has always had an appreciation for agriculture and the land. They first acquired 40 acres in the Santa Ynez Valley in 1994, after a successful career in the music business as co-founders of Roland Corp US, a maker of keyboards and synthesizers. This vineyard is planted mainly with Cabernet Sauvignon with a little Grenache, Mourvedre and Syrah.  They later purchased 365 additional acres in Ballard Canyon, which is known as the biodynamic Purisima Mountain Vineyard, and planted 150 acres of grapes.  This vineyard is known for white production as well as Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre and Counoise.

We enjoyed a number of Rhone varietals and my favorite was the 2016 PMV Whole Cluster Grenache, which is normally sold to wine club members only, but they were awesome enough to sell me a few bottles.

Pence Winery:

We were on our way out of town and we kept hearing about Pence Winery.  We falsely read (in a Santa Barbara tasting room brochure) that the tasting room was open to the public without appointment and we came busting in like the Kool-Aid man into what was a highly efficient and customer-oriented operation.

Kace Sarvis, Pence Vineyards

The folks were awesome and Kace Sarvis made an exception to see us with an expedited tasting since we made a special trip.  As we sat on the porch and viewed the individualized customer service and people being greeted by name, it was evident the care that was taken with each appointment.  We felt special that they fit us in.

Pence Winery is a premium, small production vineyard and a farm operation founded by Blair Pence. He was obsessed with pinot noir and chardonnay (finding a theme here, readers?) and traveled to Burgundy seeking connections with how to make great wines.  He learned from great winemakers that terroir and focusing on farming and vinification are important keys to success.  However, he wanted to stay true to wines made in Santa Barbara and in the vineyards.  The wines are about elegance, grapes and the vineyards.  The farm makes chardonnay, pinot noir, gamay and syrah as well as grains, heirloom orchards, vegetables, Marcona almonds and olives.  They use about a third of their total production and bring 19 different blocks and 12 individual clones into their own program, sometimes using as little as a single ton of grapes from any given block.  The rest goes to other Santa Barbara wineries that you may know like Arcadian Winery, Brewer-Clifton, Pali Wine Co and Rozak Vintners with the goal of collaboration.

The wines are impressive and expressive the deliberate nature of winemaking, the terroir and what is special in your glass.

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My Return to Santa Barbara: Part One of Our Wine Country Trip with Tercero, Presqu’ille, Storm, Zaca Mesa and Demetria

Four years ago, I attended the Wine Bloggers Conference in Santa Barbara and had two main take-aways – the people

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Four years ago, I attended the Wine Bloggers Conference in Santa Barbara and had two main take-aways – the people and wines were fantastic.  I knew then that I needed to come back and discover more.  Looking back at my blog then I wrote two things that resonate:

·      “This is an under-appreciated region.  The wines are diverse.  The wines are unique.  The wines are amazing.  The wines have a true sense of place.  You need to seek out these wines.”

·      “The people here were great.  Wes Hagen, the winemaker (at that time) for Clos Pepe said it best, “Wine is liquid humanism.  We need to inspire the imagination of the people that drink wines.”  I have never met a more down to earth group of people that have gathered together in their sense of place – it’s collegial, it’s fun and most importantly, it’s real.  You can see it as the winemakers help each other go through the AVA application process to the banter about terroir, climate and grapes.  These are people that you want to party with later.”

In February, I had a chance to go back with a few girlfriends.  I had already done the “Sideways” pilgrimage with a few other bloggers prior to the last conference and I was trying to balance the relaxed nature of a girl’s trip with my quest to be in journalist mode.

I wish planning the trip had been a little easier.  I reached out to the industry association wine folks and was surprised to not get a response back.  So, I went to a friend and PR guru of Santa Barbara wine, Shawn Burgert, and asked him for his recommendations. He completely delivered.  But to plan a trip first you must understand the region.

Much to the chagrin of many of the winemakers in the region, the area is often referred to as the Central Coast.  This is a disservice to the region.  It incredibly diverse and is comprised of 250 miles of coastline and ten very diverse counties – from San Francisco to Santa Barbara.  It’s California’s largest AVA with four million total acres in which more than 100,000 are under vine and with more than 360 wineries.  And the sense of place is very different – there’s no standard climate, temperature or soil.  Two river valleys – the Santa Maria River and the Santa Ynez River Valley are the two binders.

The region has a storied and long history beginning in 1782 when Junipero Serra planted the first vines.  Four years later, the Santa Barbara Mission was established.  Sadly, this came to a screeching halt in 1920 with Prohibition and the wineries didn’t begin producing again until 1962.

If you break out Santa Barbara alone, there are more than 200 wineries, six appellations or American Viticulture Areas (AVAs), which are Santa Maria Valley, Santa Ynez Valley, Sta., Rita Hills, Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara and Ballard Canyon, and more than 50 grape varieties exist.

I’m going to talk about some of my favorites with a very brief history of each place since this was a vacation we were somewhere between consumers and the trade during these visits.

Tercero Wines

The One and Only Larry Schaffer and me

You will not find a more authentic person than Winemaker Larry Schaffer …. like it or not.  I had the chance to meet Larry during the Wine Bloggers Conference and we connected.  He was the first call that I made and knew that my irreverent group of friends had to meet this larger than life character that happened to make amazing wine.


After a career of doing many things including being an Enologist for Fess Parker Winery, Larry decided that he wanted to start buying grapes and making his own wine.   We stopped to see Larry in his tasting room in Los Olivos which surprisingly is lacking a single tasting note.  Larry thinks consumers should make their own decisions and based on the number of cases our group took home of his red and white Rhone varietals, that is a smart and solid choice.  He is also a master of baked goods and if you are lucky enough to be there when bread or cookies are in the tasting room, consider yourself lucky.

Presqu’ille Vineyard

Cameron, our awesome host, and me

The winery is awe inspiring. We sat on the gorgeous patio with the expansive views of the coast and vineyards and enjoyed amazing Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noirs with Cameron as our guide.  It started our first full day of Santa Maria Valley wine country perfectly.

Presqu’ille, which was once an old gladiola farm, was started in 2007 when the Murphy family acquired 200-acres in Santa Maria Valley, the second oldest AVA in California.  Originally from Mississippi, the family wanted to recreate Southern hospitality at their winery.  They were avid collectors of wine and wanted to embark on their own project after investing in a winery project.

When You Need To Quickly Get Around the Caves…

For two years, the Murphys, and their Vineyard Manager Jim Stollberg and Winemaker Dieter Cronje, designed the vineyards and planted accordingly with their vision of small lot wines in mind. The vineyard has 73 total acres of vines and the vineyard is Sustainability in Practice (SIP) certified. The winery combines architecture and hospitality.

While approximately 85% of the wine made at Presqu’ile are entirely estate grown, Presqu’ile also partners with Rim Rock, Steiner Creek and Bien Nacido Vineyard.

Storm Wines

Ernst Storm, Winemaker Storm Wines

As we went down the hill from the Presqu’ile property, there sat a non-descript barn.  In that barn sat the site of some of the most impressive wines we found during our trip.  That is Storm Wines with Ernst Storm, a quiet South African with a passion for making organic Rose, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and Syrah.

As he said, “I love nature and believe the less that you do to impact the environment, the better. It is all about respect.”


Ernst grew up in South Africa and went to school at the Elsenburg Agricultural School in Stellenbosch and worked as a winemaker in South Africa.  He came to California to learn how to work in a warmer client and eventually saw similarities with the soils and microclimates between the Western Cape and Santa Barbara County.  He worked at Firestone Winery (during the days of the Bachelor filming, and no he was never on camera) and started Storm with 6 barrels in 2006.  In 2008, Ernst became involved in the winemaking at Curtis Winery.  At the end of 2013, he left Curtis to focus on Storm.

Ernst’s brother, Hannes, launched Storm Wines-South Africa in 2012. His focus is Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley.

Zaca Mesa Winery and Vineyards

Zaca Mesa is considered one of the founding wineries of Santa Barbara County – in fact the third and they are known for the great winemakers who have trained there and started their own wineries.  From Ken Brown, who was Zaca Mesa’s first winemaker, who started Byron in Santa Maria Valley to Adam Tolmach, Jim Clendenen and Bob Lindquist who worked at Zaca Mesa before starting Ojai, Au Bon Climat and Qupé, the list is impressive. In fact, they started Zaca University, an official training center because of it.

An example of the different ways of experimentation at Zaca Mesa

Purchased in 1972 by John Cushman and five friends, the first vines were planted a year later in 1973.  They were known to be experimental, planting several varietals to see what would work.  In 1978, Syrah was planted, namely the Black Bear Block, which has become own of the most well-known and oldest Syrah blocks of the Central Coast.

Today the winery focuses on Syrah, Viognier, and other Rhône varieties.  In 2016, Eric Mohseni was promoted to Director of Vineyard and Winery Operations and Kristin Bryden was promoted to Winemaker.  John Cushman, along with his brother Lou, became 100% owners of Zaca Mesa in 1988.

We had a great tour of the winery and enjoyed a great line up of wines.

Demetria Estates:

Demetria Estates was born when John Zahoudanis went searching for vineyard property in 2005.  He had grown up as a farmer of olives, citrus, and grapes and used to make family wine in Greece.  John and his wife Sandra purchased the estate in Los Olivos and named it after their daughter Demetria, and the Greek goddess of harvest Demeter.


Me and Alexis Zahoudanis

After spending about an hour on the patio tasting through some delicious estate Rhone wines that are bio-dynamically farmed, we realized the party was in the tasting room.  That is when we had the chance to talk to Alexis Zahoudanis, John’s son, who has lived and worked on the estate full-time since 2009.  He works with Harry Waye, the winemaker, on forty-six acres of Rhone varietals.  Demetria also makes Burgundy-style wines, sourcing organic Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, and Pinot Gris grapes.

Sean and me

I must give a shout out to Sean Michael from Destination Drivers.  Destination Drivers will transport you in your rental car for a fraction of the price. They pick up and drop you off at your hotel and make it so easy along with way.  Sean took great care of us – he picked up food, made recommendations for wineries and was delightful even when I did rap Paul Revere by the Beastie Boys (sorry, Sean).

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March Madness: Sample Round-Up

It’s time for the general wine round-up and I’m featuring 19 of the 35 wines from 5 countries that I

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It’s time for the general wine round-up and I’m featuring 19 of the 35 wines from 5 countries that I sampled this time around.  These wines are diverse, they have some great stories behind them and they most importantly are interesting, which is always my personal quest when I’m tasting.



NV Camino Calixo Cava Brut – Notes of lemon, green apple, brioche and floral notes.  Super drinkable and priced at $10.

NV Domaine Bousquet White Brut – Notes of green apple, citrus and lots of tropical fruit as well as baked bread.  Another great sparkling for under $14.

NV Domaine Bousquet Brut Rose – juicy cherry and raspberry with notes of citrus, toasted bread and floral notes.


2012 Bodegas Godelia Mencia – Cherry and earthy with plum, berry and chocolate with a touch of oak.  Earthy, funky and delicious.

2012 Brennan Vineyards Tempranillo – notes of blackberry, cranberry, herbs, leather and a touch of earth.

2015 Canoe Ridge the Explorer Red (Horse Heaven Hills) – blackberry, plum, cedar, spice and a great balance.  I really loved this blend.

2015 Cono Sur Reserva Especial Pinot Noir – tried last week during a Twitter tasting, this one was a crowd favorite so I had to include it.  It had intensity with earth and spice with notes of tea, leather, berry, cherry and herbs, but the balance was there and it kept until the last drop disappeared

2015 Domaine Petroni Corse – notes of violet, strawberry, raspberry, earth and spice.  Elegant and delicate.

2013 Dry Creek Meritage – this wine was one that continued to evolve in the glass throughout the night.  I tasted raspberries, cherries, dried flowers, black fruit and spices along with herbs.

2014 Highwayman Proprietary Red – notes of Heath bar, extracted berries, mocha, cranberry, herbs, oak and chocolate.

2015 Macchia Winery Oblivious Old Vine Dry Farmed Zinfandel — this century-old, dry-farmed vineyard is Oblivious to the fact that a town has grown up around it, hence the name.  Notes of blackberry, raspberry, herbs, spice and meat.  This is a full-bodied delicious Zinfandel.

2014 Norton Privada Family Blend – this family blend from Bodegas Norton in Argentina continues the family’s trend for high-quality, easy to drink, value wines.  The blend of Malbec (40%), Merlot (30%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (30%) is full of black, red and blue fruits, spice, tobacco, mocha and chocolate.  There is a lot going on in this wine.

2015 Rutherford Ranch Two Range Napa Valley Red – notes of cassis, black cherry, chocolate, mocha, eucalyptus and herbal notes.  An easy drinking and elegant blend.

2015 Rutherford Ranch Merlot – notes of red cherries, blueberry pie, spice, tobacco, raspberry and vanilla notes.

2014 Rutherford Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon – this was a delicious and elegant Cabernet.  Lots of black cherry, blackberry, chocolate, plum, herbs, mint and eucalyptus.

2015 Fort Ross Winery Pinot Noir Sea Slopes – this Pinot Noir sang with the salmon dish at our dinner table.  It was rich and earthy with notes of black cherry and red raspberry with plum, tea leaf, spice and earth.


2015 Bodegas Godelia – notes of lime, melon, flint, flowers and ginger.  We took this to the beach and it was a perfect match for the paired shellfish.

2016 Cornerstone Cellars Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley – this has long been a favorite Spring sipper of mine. Lots of white stone fruit, tropical fruit and flowers with a great minerality.

2016 Empire Estate Dry Riesling – this Riesling was fun to bring to a group of folks that thought they didn’t like Rieslings.  It was full of rocky soil with hints of green apple, lemon, citrus, dried fruit, candied ginger and a great minerality.  I loved it!


Warre’s Otima 10 Year Old Tawny Port — lots of white stone fruit, almonds, toffee and cinnamon.  I really loved this as a perfect end to an after dinner drink.  It’s rich, but dry.

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A Prelude to Women’s History Month: A #WineStudio Focused on the Women Owned Wineries of Sonoma

As a prelude to Women’s History Month in March, our #winestudio in February was a early celebration of women-focused wineries. 

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As a prelude to Women’s History Month in March, our #winestudio in February was a early celebration of women-focused wineries.  As I have found in my past conversations with some of the iconic women in wine like Merry Edwards, there is still much work to do.

That is why, when I found that we were kicking off our discussing on Amy Bess’ new Sonoma-based Women Owned Wineries of Sonoma County project, I knew this was finally the collective platform that was needed to inspire change.

Amy stated, “I was compelled to create this site because, during my eight years of helping  operate a boutique winery, I witnessed hardworking women throughout the industry being marginalized every place from sales meetings to the cellar floor.  I wanted to do something positive to celebrate their work.  This project is my love letter to them.”

Since its launch last November, after being inspired to action after the Sonoma fires, fifty producers in Sonoma have been identified that either have a winery or fruit source in Sonoma County and where a female-identifying owner plays an active role in the company business.

Woman-Owned Wineries of Sonoma County is on the brink of exciting growth that will 1) expand our geographic area, 2) include a review and features section showcasing nationally published wine writers, and 3) establish a wine club and/or concierge service.

With these efforts, WOW hopes to bring female wine entrepreneurs their due attention.  A few key stats:

  • Of 4,000+ wineries in California, only 10% have a woman as their lead winemaker.
    Of those wineries, a significantly smaller portion of female (4%) than male (47%) winemakers are also owners of their winery.
  • In California, the North Bay area has the highest percentage of women head winemakers (12 to 14%) while Southern California has the lowest (4%).
  • Proportional to their representation in the field (9.8% women, 90.2% men) more women lead winemakers (23%) than men (14.1%) are listed in the acclaimed wine reference book Opus Vino.

A shocking fact for me was that until 1988, women had to get a male co-signer for a business loan.  Seriously?  Let’s support these wineries and empower some change in Sonoma and beyond.

We had the chance to visit with Breathless Wines, a winery built on a tribute to a very special mother who passed along a passion for life to her three daughters and taught them to cherish “breathless moments.”  The family is also dedicated to support non-profits focused on health, education and issues affecting women and young people.  Sadly, their mother died from emphysema, illustrating to them to never take any of life’s special moments for granted.

We tried two of their sparkling wines, the Breathless North Coast Brut SRP $25 and the Breathless Blanc de Noirs SRP $30 and I loved both.  I also want to call out the label art that brings to life a time when sparkling wine illustrated celebration and fun.  It came from a 1920s vintage poster that the sisters fell in love with at first sight.

We then moved to a conversation with Julie Pedroncelli, one of my most famous humans in the world of wine.  I had the opportunity to celebrate the 90th anniversary live with the family last July and I am still so honored to have been part of such a small family celebration.  Most families would spend the time focusing on their history and celebrating their success.  This family spent as much time taking us around to other family businesses and places that helped form Sonoma County.  You can read about it here – here.  During 2017, we did a variety of Twitter events to celebrate with the family like this one here – here.  It was a great year to be a part of the extended Pedroncelli family!


Julie and her father, Jim, toast to the 90th anniversary of Pedroncelli

Julie talked with her usual honesty and candor about how to find your voice and place in a family business.  Having spent some time with her dad, Jim, I can tell you that Julie had to earn and prove herself every step of the way.  He’s a lot like my dad.  Big expectations, and never one to let me coast into an opportunity that I didn’t deserve.  Julie is a master of all trades but her love for the marketing side and bringing wine to life through writing and working with people makes her the perfect brand ambassador (and third generator owner).  She hasn’t only found her voice, she owns it.

We tried two wines – the first was the 2017 Pedroncelli Friends White SRP $14, which has a fun screw top with a happy face on top.  While it’s been said to be targeted for the millennial generation, it’s a great easy drinking white for all.

We also tried the Pedroncelli 2015 Mother Clone Zinfandel SRP $19, which has become a rallying cry after spending time with Ed St John (happy to fill you in if you ask).  This is a wonderful Zin at a great price point.

The post A Prelude to Women’s History Month: A #WineStudio Focused on the Women Owned Wineries of Sonoma appeared first on DallasWineChick.com.