Friday, February 4, 2022


In February the Italian Food Wine Travel group #ItalianFWT explored wines from the relatively less known region of Oltrepò Pavese in northern Italy. Our host Susannah Gold graciously sent some of us samples to review. Two of the wines sent for this review were samples but as always, wine tasting notes and opinions are unbiased and my own. Do read the invitation post here and remember to join us on Saturday, 5 February at 8 AM PST on Twitter at #ItalianFWT to hear about who knew what and what they thought.

Oltrepò Pavese DOC (Pavia across the (river) Po in Lombard) is in Lombardy, Italy, centred around the village of Pavia. It is known for its classic method sparkling wines of the appellation Oltrepò Pavese Metodo Classico DOCG made primarily from Pinot Nero and still wines made from other international grape varieties, as well as a higher residual sugar wine called Sangue di Giuda (blood of Judah) made from Italian grapes Barbera, Croatina, and Uva Rara. With an ABV hovering at less than 10%, Sangue di Giuda is an excellent choice for an apéro paired with a paté and fruit. The rich soil combined with the closeness to the River Po gives the region an excellent terroir and incredible wines at an incredible QPR. I really wonder about other wine regions that are hidden gems in Italy! 

By a fortuitous coincidence, the Slow Wine tasting in San Francisco was in late January where M and I got to dive deeper into Oltrepò Pavese and met the lovely Director and Press from the Consorzio Tutela Vini Oltrepò Pavese. We hit it off almost instantly and they were delighted to know that I was new to Oltrepò wines. We went right when the event began but the wines were late so we had plenty of time to talk. They insisted we taste everything they thought would be interesting to us and after an animated tasting of almost all their wines they sent us off with a bottle of Sangue di Giuda. If you want to know more about Oltrepò Pavese wines visit them here


85% Pinot Nero, 15% Chardonnay
ABV 13%

Having spent 144 months on the lees, this wine was an excellent example of Oltrepò Pavese Metodo Classico DOCG wines.

Looks: bright yellow with flecks of gold and fine racy perlage

Nose: brioche, red fruits, cooked stone fruit

Palate: Echos the nose, but also has warm yeasty notes of brioche and a faint saline mineral edge. Racy and persistent bubbles, a very well structured intense and elegant wine with a delicious, long finish. 

Pairing: We wanted a variety of flavours with this wine so we agreed to have them all! We enjoyed this wine with honey-soaked chestnuts, a black pepper paté and garnishes, Parmigiano Reggiano drizzled with aged balsamic vinegar, salami Varzi and others, 3 year Gouda and a Grana Padano, olives, and an assortment of crackers, grissini, and other bread-y things. We loved each and every single pairing. The chestnuts, salami Varzi, Grana Padano, and the Parmigiano Reggiano with aged balsamic vinegar are definitely traditional regional matches for Oltrepò Pavese wines, but really enjoyed snacking on it all. Sharing always makes everything taste much better, I think! The next time we would pair this with a borlotti bean risotto, another Pavese classic. 

Oltrepò Pavese was new to me but I'm sure some of the other writers are familiar with it so see below and read what everyone tasted, enjoyed, and reviewed!
  • Our host Susannah at Avvinare, talks about “Wine Treasures To Be Found in Oltrepò Pavese."
  • My discovery of this region is here on Keep the Peas where I talk about “Just Now Discovering Oltrepò Pavese Wines"
  • Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla adds Second Pours of Oltrepò Pavese Wines with Braised Short Ribs and Puff Pastry”
  • Linda from My Full Wineglass brings “Flying under the radar with an Oltrepò Pavese sparkling rosé”
  • Terri from My Good Life dishes about “Stone Crabs with Oltrepò Pavese.”
  • Martin from Enofylz showcases “A Taste Of The Unsung Wines of Oltrepò Pavese”
  • Deanna from Winevore posts “Wine for the Priest! from Oltrepo Pavese, Italy”
  • Jeff from Food Wine Click! waxes about the “Surprising Wines of Oltrepò Pavese”
  • Rupal from Syrah Queen post “Oltrepò Pavese Wines -One of Italy’s Best Kept Secret”
  • Gwendolyn from Wine Predator showcases “2 Pinot Nero from Oltrepo’ Pavese #ItalianFWT”
  • David from Cooking Chat reflects on “Tasting and Pairing with Oltrepo’ Pavese Wines” 
  • Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm checks out “Cheesy Vegetable Lasagna paired with Oltrepo Pavese Wine”
  • Liz from What’s In that Bottle suggests we “Check Out “the Other Side of the Pó” for Tasty Italian Wines “
  • Jennifer from Vino Travels adds “Pinot Nero in Abundance in the Oltrepò Pavese”
  • Lisa from The Wine Chef writes “Off The Beaten Path: Oltrepò Pavese, A Wine Region to Know About.”

Friday, September 17, 2021


September is the perfect time to explore versatile wines from Côtes du Rhône (CdR) AOC. Join us #winophiles as we taste and nibble our way through the AOC. We will be talking about all things CdR on Twitter under #winophiles on Saturday, 18 September at 8 AM PDT. Check out host Wendy's post and if you have things to say, chime in on sat AM. If you just need some AM wine talk with your coffee, come and spectate. Either way, it's going to be full of interesting facts and luscious food pics so don't miss it!

Some of us got samples through our event sponsor Côtes du Rhône thanks to the coordination efforts of Jeff from Food Wine Click. As always, samples or not, our opinions remain solely ours. 

Wine has been produced in the Rhône since pre-Roman times and everything including wine at that time was politicised but no history lesson here, so let's talk about now. In the most simple terms, Rhône wines rank like this from bottom to top: CdR-CdR Villages-CdR named Villages-Cru. At the top the crus include heavy hitters like Côte Rôtie, Hermitage, Tavel, etc. and then we have the CdR AOC wines which some might say are basic. But they really aren't. The CdR is further broken into two subregions: méridional and septentrional.

50% of the wine produced in the Rhône valley is classified as CdR AOC. The CdR AOC makes red, white, and rosé wines with regulatory requirements dictating grape varietals and blends allowed. If I had to summarise CdR AOC wines I'd say: versatile, well-made, excellent QPR, and worth a visit.

I received 6 bottles of wine including wines from CdR, CdR Villages, and CdR Named Villages AOCs. Most were red, one was white, and one rosé. It was a beautiful line-up and I opened two reds. I paired one with a top sirloin steak and one with Peshawari chapli kebabs. Both were delicious with each wine.

Grenache, Mourvèdre, Counoise, Syrah, and Cinsault
ABV 14%

I am such a fan of this exquisite wine. According to the tech sheet, Inopia, which translates from Latin as "made from nothing", refers to a neglected barren plot near the village of Orange that Mounir and Rotem Saouma purchased in 2011. They planted the plot densely to Grenache, Mourvèdre, Counoise, Syrah, and Cinsault (plus seven more). All the grapes are hand-harvested at cool temperatures and undergo one week of whole-cluster maceration, followed by a fifteen-day fermentation with no punch-downs or pump-overs. The wine is then pressed and split among a combination of French oak foudres, cement eggs, and 500-liter barrels for 18 months of maturation without racking. The wines are then bottled without fining or filtration. 

Looks: ruby with flecks of pink garnet

Nose: mainly dark red fruits, dried herbs

Palate: Echos the dark red fruits from the nose, but especially ripe cherries, dried resinous herbs, and a saline mineral edge. Velvet-y tannins, full body, juicy acidity, and a long finish. This is a polished wine and one to look for.

Pairing: It's tough to to wrong with Rhône reds and steak but this wine especially really took each bite to such a satisfying level. We enjoyed this wine with a pan-seared top sirloin lightly rubbed with mustard, dried herbs, and butter with roasted potatoes, meaty shiitake mushrooms, and horseradish sauce. The mushrooms were roasted in the pan sauce while the steak was resting and the horseradish sauce was homemade with Mexican sour cream, not sharp, and matched the saline mineral edge of the wine splendidly.

70% Grenache, 30% Syrah
ABV 13.5%

Since 1976 Loius Bernard has been building partnerships throughout the Rhône valley through whom he continues to make carefully crafted wines.

This wine is Made from Grenache and Syrah, hand-harvested at optimal ripeness, destemmed then vinified separately. After a cool-temperature maceration and fermentation period of 3 weeks, the wine is aged for an additional 10 months before bottling. As in the wine, there is thought put into the design of the bottle which pays homage to the regional heritage with a crested coat of arms and distinctive label of a historic arched stained-glass window.

Looks: ruby with a faint purple edge

Nose: mainly dark black fruits, soupçon of baking spices

Palate: Dark red fruits similar to the nose, black pepper at the end. Silky tannins, juicy acidity, medium body and finish. This is a lively young wine and I would say best enjoyed young to relish the fruit and spice, but it is an elegant wine nevertheless.

Pairing: We enjoyed this with a summer lunch in the garden of Peshawari lamb and beef chapli kebabs, mint chutney, Arabic bread, and garnishes. The warmth of the lamb and the spices in the kebabs + the mint chutney were a gorgeous match with the wine. The spicy edge of the wine walked hand in hand with the complex spices in the kebabs. We would absolutely do both again!

And this is what everyone else is saying about the wines they received/selected so do read and be inspired to open a bottle!
  • Jeff from Food Wine Click! thinks we should Embrace the Base of the Côtes du Rhône Pyramid.
  • Cindy of Grape Experiences suggests we Sip Wine from the Côtes-du-Rhône... then Visit the Rhône Valley
  • Mel of Wining with Mel introduces us to The Wonderful World of Chapoutier in Côtes du Rhône.
  • Terri of Our Good Life tells you What You Need to Know about Côtes du Rhône Wines.
  • Robin of Crushed Grapes Chronicles talks about Côtes du Rhône & Côtes du Rhône Villages – a plethora of flavors to pair with!
  • David of Cooking Chat shares Grilled Sirloin Steak and Cotes du Rhone
  • Jen of Vino Travels takes us on A Journey Through the Cotes du Rhone
  • Linda of My Full Wine Glass introduces us to Red, white and pink-The colors of Cotes du Rhone wine
  • Jill of L'Occasion is Feeling Satisfied with Cotes du Rhone
  • Susannah of Avvinare shares A Fresh Look at the Cote du Rhone

Thursday, August 19, 2021


A sliver between Burgundy, France and Switzerland, Jura might be one of the smallest wine regions in France but it is not one to be sidelined. For one, Louis Pasteur, the chemist and biologist indelibly etched in the history of modern humanity was born and raised in the Jura region - and even owned a vineyard near Arbois! But apart from that, Jura boasts a variety of grapes and wines made from those grapes.

Vin Jaune - the sherry-adjacent yellow wine - might be ubiquitous to Jura and it is delicious no doubt but there's much more to explore! Red, white, yellow, crémant... with wine made from grapes including Savagnin, Poulsard, Trousseau, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir, there is a wine for all tastes. And there's also the wine-adjacent Macvin du Jura, a vin de liqueur made from grape juice+must, boiled, and fortified with marc, a type of brandy.'

So join us #winophiles this August as we delve into Jura wine of all manner. I can't wait to find out what everyone's sipping, savouring, and sharing with us this month! Get the inside scoop on Twitter, 8 AM PST on 21 August at #winophiles. A bit of a preview:

Monday, May 31, 2021


I've always been a voracious reader and can never refuse a book. Lately I've been reading plenty of biographies and business books and was looking for something lighter for bedtime reading. So when Cam from Culinary Adventures with Camilla offered a new book to preview, I was all in! The book - Sobremesa: A Memoir of Food and Love in Thirteen Courses by Josephine Caminos Oria - arrived accompanied by two bottles of Argentine wine from Bodega Norton, courtesy of Kobrand Wine and Spirits. Most definitely an ideal package of pairings for the summer.

Briefly summarised, the book is a poignant memoir of Josephine's life straddling two cultures: American and Italian-Argentine. But it's more faceted than that. It's also about Josephine's experiences with her culture and elders - in life and in spirit - and her encounters with them.

The book is full of ingredients of typical first generation American life: suburban everything, but with a thick layer of a specific culture, in her case, Italian-Argentine. We may agree or not, but so much revolves around food and the dining table. The dining table is where stories are swapped, the daily catch up happens, current events/travel plans/grades/life goals/any other topics are discussed, the food itself is oohed and aahed over, and then a few hours later it all moves from the dining table to the drawing room to talk through the rest of the afternoon or evening over dessert or a coffee/tea and perhaps a digestif. It is where children learn table manners but also how to socialise. This habit, common across most old cultures, is elegantly summarised in one word in Spanish: sobremesa.

As stories go, Josephine's is an intriguing tale of the spiritual world mixed into her daily life. Childhood in America, a stint in Argentina along with a romance that led her to making a family with the love of her life, lasting bonds with extended family in Argentina, return to America, and her business, all with the continued presence of her ancestral spirits and people dead and alive that influenced her life in so many ways. Read the book to find out more!

As is often the case, food evokes memories and memories are intimately tied to food. Josephine's vivid memories of food are chronicled throughout the book and at the end of each chapter she gives us a recipe. From salad to dessert, it's all there, and certain to inspire us to rustle up something in the kitchen.

The thirteen chapters of the book = as many recipes, each a different course. After a long 2020 of minimal social contact, we had our first party to inaugurate return to life as we've known it. We had friends over for a Memorial Day lunch-that-lingered-into-after-midnight and I made the Ensalada de Palmitos (Hearts of Palm salad) with the orange vinaigrette rather than the salsa golf. We had it with smoked baby back ribs and potato salad, baked beans, etc. The acid in the vinaigrette perfectly cut through the fat in the ribs and the citrus flavours brightened it all up. Definitely will be a regular!

Founded in 1895 by Edmund James Palmer Norton, Bodega Norton is one of the most awarded Argentine wine brands in the US. The estate has grown to over 1,750 acres of estate vineyards and over 3,000 acres of land holdings. It has been owned by Austrian businessman and entrepreneur Gernot Langes Swarovski, of the Swarovski Crystal company, since 1989. Their diverse portfolio of wines is sure to offer something for every occasion, every meal, and every cuisine.

We opened the sample of the 2019 Bodega Norton Reserva Chardonnay, which was superb with the ribs and salads, but also the snacks of spiced nuts and appetizer of grilled corn-ricotta dip with potato crisps and crudités.

The grapes for this Chardonnay come from 30 - 50 year old (mature) vines, and the wine is aged in 100% French oak for 6 months followed by 3 months in bottle before release. The wine is a pale gold colour flecked with green, and offers a complex nose and palate of ripe citrus+stone fruit, a rather faint hint of vanilla, and a long mineral-edged finish.

We almost never have wine without food but I can see this being an afternoon sipper, especially with a riveting book to keep company. I can certainly say that I enjoyed both, the wine and the book!


Saturday, May 15, 2021



In May 2021 the French Winophiles group delved into all things #purechablis. For a primer on this month's gathering, see host Jill's preview post. Also join us on Twitter under #winophiles on Saturday, 15 May 2021 at 8 AM PST to chat about chardonnay and Chablis wine.

This event is sponsored by Chablis Wines who have generously sent wine samples, but all opinions in this post are my own.

Map of Chablis AOCs (

Chablis is the northernmost wine region in Burgundy (Bourgogne), France and produces wine from one and only one grape varietal: chardonnay. Alsace, Lorraine, and Champagne are the only three French wine regions more northerly than Chablis. Although only the chardonnay grape is allowed, there are four Appelations d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC) within Chablis:
  • Petit Chablis
  • Chablis
  • Chablis Premier Cru
  • Chablis Grand Cru
Wines from each Chablis AOC have their salient points but share one common trait: cool climate higher acid, dry wines, that are often described as citrusy, steely, and flinty. I received three samples - one Petit Chablis (Portlandian soil) and two Chablis (Kimmeridgian soil) - more on those below. I received them a day and a half before our Twitter chat so pulling things together was a bit of a rushed effort but worth it.

Terrior - climate and soil combined - informs the nuanced flavour of all edible things including coffee, cacao, and wine. Non-aromatic grapes like Chardonnay which aren't loaded with beautiful fruit and floral notes especially rely on terroir and vinification for the final outcome. Chardonnay is native to Burgundy and, dare I say, the best expression of the grape comes from wine made there. Especially from Chablis where an ancient seabed has formed two distinct sedimentary soil types: Kimmeridgian (clay + limestone) and Portlandian (dense, weathered limestone). Both are named after stages of the Jurassic epoch and both formed from heated and compressed remnants of ancient molluscs and shellfish. And if there is a wine that acutely reflects its soil more than - or even as much as - Chablis, I have yet to experience it.

Kimmeridgian soil (
Portlandian, Kimmeridgian, Portland stone, portland cement, limestone, ancient Roman tabby concrete - all same but different, all requiring pressurised thermal decomposition of molluscs. Created by heating (burning) shellfish shells, mixing with more shells, sand, and water, poured into moulds if you're making something like a wall, or occurring free-form in nature for millenia. Such a basin of limestone marl extends from the Isle of Portland, England (where Portland stone originates and where portland cement was invented), and runs down through 
the Loire Valley, Burgundy, and Champagne.

Tabby Walls at Ft. Livingston, LA (Payal Vora)

(Fun Fact: to see Portland stone, visit the UN headquarters in NYC or Buckingham Palace, London. To see dramatic shell-studded tabby walls, see the photo to the left or snag a visit to Ft. Livingston, Grand Terre Island, LA - I worked on that partially submerged structure after the BP oil spill in 2010 and it remains my most challenging and fascinating project.)

Grapevines love limestone soil - it offers an abundant source of bio-accessible calcium carbonate, enables greater nutrient uptake by the vines, excellent water retention and drainage capacity, so less irrigation and less chance of water-logged soils. All factors which work in favour of Chardonnay, a grape with early bud break that thrives in a cool climate. But despite the apparent similarities between Portlandian and Kimmeridgian, both soils have a remarkably different effect on the grapes. And that is further nuanced by the limestone and Jurassic limestone soil that interfaces with both, resulting in Chablis wine that is an unabashed reflection of the vineyard soil.

Chardonnay is grown and vinified in numerous wine regions of the world, but none are Chablis. There is no such thing as Chablis-style or -type of wine. The combination of each specific location, grape, climate, soil, water, and sun exposure makes singular Chablis wine that cannot be approximated or replicated in another region.

2019 Jean-Marc Brocard Chablis Vieilles Vignes de Sainte Claire
100% Chardonnay
14.5% ABV | SRP ~$35 | SAMPLE

This single vineyard wine comes from grape vines planted 70 years ago on Kimmeridgian soil and fermented with indigenous yeast. The vines' roots reach over 25 meters into the soil making more concentrated wines that express all the complexity and finesse of the Chardonnay grape and the vineyard. The wine certainly reflects the Brocard commitment to ecology and their 60 ha. of certified organic vineyards and 40 ha. of biodynamic vineyards.

Medium lemon-green

Gunflint, grapefruit rind, lemon, faint wet earth 

Same as nose with a rounded mouthfeel, long finish, and juicy acidity balanced by salinity. The 14.5% ABV definitely doesn't feel like it but will sneak up on you! A quintessential Chablis that is very food-friendly wine ready to enjoy now but could also be cellared for up to 5 years.

2019 Domaine de la Cornasse Chablis
100% Chardonnay
12.5% ABV | SRP ~$30 | SAMPLE

Under the tutelage of their winemaker father Alain Geoffroy, daughters Sylvie, Nathalie and Aurelie have launched Domaine de la Cornasse: a new wine for a new generation. They produce 100% Chardonnay from the village of Chablis from 20-30 year old vines sitting on Kimmeridgian soil.

Pale lemon-green

Faint gunflint, lemon, grapefruit, white flowers

Like the nose, the palate is juicy and redolent of citrus complemented by white flowers and a gunflint minerality. Medium body, balanced acidity, medium finish. A fresh and very food-friendly wine that's certainly ready now but could also be cellared for 2-3 years.

2019 Bernard Defaix Petit Chablis
100% Chardonnay
12% ABV | SRP ~$30 | SAMPLE

Fourth generation from a family of vine-growers, Bernard Defaix started with 2 ha in 1959 and the estate is now a 4th/5th generation family owned estate. The Petit Chablis vines are on hilltop plateaus on stony soils and it is truly a family operation with the founder's son Sylvain in charge of the vinification, the ageing, the bottling and the preparation of orders, his other son Didier in charge of the vineyard and the general management of the domain, while daughter-in-law Helene (Didier’s wife) looks after administrative and the commercial matters.

Pale lemon

Citrus, wet stone, white flowers

The same notes on the palate as on the nose but also a bright juicy mouthfeel with a medium finish. Medium body, balanced acidity. This is a lively food-friendly wine that really shines when paired with fresh raw or minimally cooked seafood.


We are having a rather slow start to summer in mid-California - the weather is cold, and the winter seafood is still plentiful. But the farmer's markets have late spring produce from warmer inland areas. So as soon as I found out which wines I was going to receive, I knew what I wanted to pair with them. Local seafood, local farmer's market finds, and a slew of celebrations. So we had a bit of a lavish weekday lunch with:
  • Halibut Ceviche: Our fish market had just received local halibut and I could not resist volunteering my other half to make us his excellent ceviche. It was exceptional with the Petit Chablis. The citrus in the ceviche and the citrus and mineral notes in the wine... wow! The mild earthiness of the very fresh fish brought a balance to the combination while the avocado and corn added a silky mouthfeel and a faint sweetness. 
  • Plateau de Fruits de Mer // Seafood Platter: Fresh prawns, littleneck clams, West Coast oysters, and a saffron aïoli with lemon wedges. The salinity of the seafood really walked closely with the salinity of both the Chablis. A perfect combination if you have the freshest local seafood.
  • Bruschetta à l'Oursin // Sea Urchin Bruschetta: The sweetness of the sea urchin in the simple bruschetta was sublime with all three wines but especially with the saline edge of the two Chablis.
  • Tartare de Saumon et Thon // Salmon and Tuna Tartare: Not much to say but that as expected, we loved this pairing with all three of the wines. The potato crisps brought another layer of saltiness that elevated each bite to something else. I will absolutely serve this again as an hors d'oeuvre. 
  • Mushrooms on Toast: A beloved Indian favourite and a colonial culinary vestige of the Brits. But so versatile and especially good when made with Kashmiri morel mushrooms. I made do with impulse-buy cremini mushrooms from our farmer's market and they did not disappoint, especially with the Jean-Marc Brocard old vines Chablis. The earthy mushrooms and the hint of earth on the wine were lovely together. Superb! 

So that was me, but the possibilities are endless even though the AOCs are four. So check out these blog posts and be inspired by what the rest of us sipped, savoured, and enjoyed with our choice of Chablis wines:

Saturday, March 13, 2021


In March 2021 the Wine Pairing Weekend group is exploring the wines of Yakima Valley, Washington, USA. For a primer on Yakima Valley wines, see the overview in host Robin's preview post. Also join us on Twitter under #WinePW on Saturday, 13 March 2021 at 8 AM PST to talk about all things Yakima Valley wine.


The Yakima Valley AVA 
and the other AVAs in the region are on land that was originally inhabited by the Yakama and other native people before colonisation and resulting land grabs. It is part of the larger Columbia Valley AVA in the southern part of Washington state in the Pacific Northwest region of the US.

Spanning approximately 70 miles east to west, it lies within the valley of the Yakima River. The AVA has over 18,000 acres of grapevines and has formally been an AVA since 1983, making it WA's oldest AVA. 1983 - not that long ago, right? I know! But grapes have been grown here since the 1860s. 

Today, 40-50% of WA state's wine grapes come from the Yakima Valley AVA, a fertile area that, prior to sharing space with grapevines, was full of fruit orchards and other cash crops. Even today, 80% of the US' hops production is in this area. The volcanic soil and temperate climate is ideal for high acidity in grapes. Cool but also warm enough to allow the grapes to ripen without turning jammy. The majority of grapes here are Chardonnay, Cab Sauv, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Syrah, and Merlot although as you'll read below, other varietals are also grown here. It's definitely an underrated wine region, one to keep an eye on!

I have been focussed on small wineries with a personal touch for a while now, and the fact that I was sent two wine samples from two small wineries with a personal story couldn't be more perfect. Athough the wines were complimentary, as always, all opinions are mine.

Côte Bonneville is the very definition of a family run winery. Hugh Shiels planted the DuBrul vineyard on a 45 acre in 1992 and established Côte Bonneville in 2001. Hugh, a former orthpædic surgeon and still a part-time doctor, his wife Kathy, formerly a physical therapist, and daughter Kerry who is the winemaker, together run the estate. Hugh and Kathy turned their love for wine into a winery, and Kerry left engineering to study oenology at UC Davis before bearing the mantle of winemaker. Here are three professionals who made an impact on people first through their professions and now through their stellar wines!

At DuBrul vineyard, from where the grapes for Côte Bonneville's vineyard designated wines come, the rocky terrain, poor soil, and deficit irrigation regimen coax small yields of small berries in small clusters from the vinesThe vineyard was awarded Vineyard of the Year in 2007 and 2009, and the wines continue to be acclaimed by critics and sought after by consumers. 

2018 Train Station Cabernet Franc
100% Cabernet Franc
14.1% ABV | SRP $30 | SAMPLE

Sourced from a mere 26 rows of Cabernet Franc with own-rooted vines (not grafted onto different rootstock), this estate-bottled Cab Franc is a special one because there's only so much grape to go around from such few rows. As it turned out, in 2018 there was enough to set aside a small chunk to make a single varietal wine.

Medium ruby

Ripe red fruit - especially raspberry and strawberry, white flowers, vanilla, black pepper at the finish

This is a wine full of gaeity - it will immediately put you in a good mood. With a layered aromatic complexity and a rounded mouthfeel, it has the same notes on the palate as on the nose, and a whiff of dried violets. Medium body, balanced acidity, balanced tannins, medium finish. Despite the 14.1% ABV, it definitely doesn't feel like it. A fruity and very food-friendly wine that's certainly ready now but could also be cellared for up to 3 years.

You don't have to know Co of Co Dinn Cellars long to know how passionate he is about wine making. I was already agreeing with him on everything I'd read in his introduction on his website, and then I had a phone conversation with him. His matter-of-fact intensity shows in everything he says, and the love for the craft of wine-making is more than evident in everything he says. Co will readily tell you that he is not a farmer and does not grow his grapes, but he will also tell you in depth that he is very particular about the grapes he sources and it clearly shows in his wine. Even though I have only tasted exactly one of his wines, I don't doubt for a second that all his wines are elegant and worth seeking out.

Although Co Dinn wines aren't on shelves in the Bay Area, they can be shipped directly to consumers and I highly recommend you take advantage of that.

2016 GSM Lonesome Spring Ranch Vineyard
41% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 29% Mourvèdre
14.7% ABV | SRP $45 | SAMPLE

The Lonesome Spring Ranch (LSR) vineyard is one of the "jewels" Co mentions in his intro. In its previous life the LSR vineyard was pasture and an apricot orchard. Established in 1996, this 109+ acre property is now a vineyard farmed using Vinewise management practices. But really, the talent is not just in the vineyard or growing the grapes, but in what the winemaker does with the grapes to make superior wine. And that is just what this wine is... superior in all aspects.

Deep ruby

Black fruit, a hint of cooked red fruit, dried savoury herbs, tobacco, black pepper, leather, faint baking spice

The same notes on the palate as on the nose but also black cherry and lingering tobacco and coffee on the finish. Medium body, balanced acidity, soft tannins, long finish. This is a beautifully structured wine that really shines when paired with meaty food.

As soon as I tasted each wine I knew what I wanted to pair with it. Here in N. CA we're going into spring but with some typical last minute weather vacillations, so I took advantage of the rain and cold and decided to pair the wines with pasta and meat courses at dinner. Farfalle with rapini, olio nuovo, and pecorino with the Cab Franc, and a compound salt-crusted ribeye with braised fennel and potatoes with the GSM.

Pasta, 1st course: The garlic and slight bitter notes of the rapini toned down by the al dente pasta, olio nuovo drizzle, and the salty edge of the pecorino were incredible with the juicy, ripe, fresh, acidity of the Cab Franc. The next day the wine had gone from a juicy wine to a more sombre one that would definitely be excellent with a dish that incorporates tomato sauce... something like meatballs with ricotta and a tomato sauce, bread on the side. Either way, this is a delicious wine and we couldn't have asked for a better pairing! 

Steak, 2nd course: The herbed compound salt-crusted steak along with the fennel and potatoes stood up nicely to the wine. At first, the wine was a bit closed and rather serious wine even after a 60 min. decant. Nevertheless, the complexity of the wine highlighted the slight sweetness and anise of the fennel and of course, was wonderful with the steak. And the potatoes, well, can't ever go wrong with get steak and potatoes! All in all, we really enjoyed the wine together with the food and if I had to summarise this wine in one sentence it would be: This wine needs food, and make it red meat!

As Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, better known as Molière, said, "Trees that are slow to grow bear the best fruit." And so, the first day the wine was quite tightly wound although still terrific with our steak, but when we revisited this the next day, it had opened up to a most delightful wine full of primary fruit aromas leading into greater depth. The structure and mouthfeel did not change drastically but every aroma was deeper, more pronounced, more present, lingered longer. We had it with charcuterie (no bread, cheese, etc.) and it was splendid! I love what Co at Co Dinn Cellars is doing and his passion for his craft is obvious in his wine!

So that was me, but the possibilities are endless so check out these blog posts and be inspired by what the rest of us sipped, savoured, and paired with our Yakima Valley wines:
  • Robin at Crushed Grape Chronicles leads the way with “Yakima Valley AVA – Blends of friendship and history with wines from Eight Bells and Pearl and Stone Co.”
  • Payal at Keep The Peas shares “Yakima Valley Wines FTW!”
  • Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Cam shares “Yakima Valley’s Sin Banderas Rhone Roses Compliment Dishes with Asian Flair” and “Mediterranean-Inspired Dishes Paired with Yakima Valley Wines from Dineen Vineyards”
  • Linda at My Full Wine Glass invites us to “Meet Kerry Shiels: A Yakima Valley winemaker with Vision”
  • Terri of Our Good Life shares 2 posts “Fortuity…Taking Advantage of Life’s Great Wines!”, and “Two Mountain Rose and Fennel Wild Mushroom Tarts”
  • Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm is cooking up “Smoked Beef Brisket with Canvasback Cabernet”
  • Rupal the Syrah Queen gives us “Yakima Valley – Red Willow Vineyards Producing Some of Washington’s Finest Syrahs”
  • Jane of Always Ravenous makes our mouths water with “Filet Mignon paired with Washington Yakima Valley Cabernet Sauvignon”
  • Martin with ENOFYLZ WineBlog is giving us “a Taste of Washington State’s Yakima Valley”
  • David at Cooking Chat has 2 posts for us also “Lamb Ragu Pasta with Red Wine from Dineen Vineyards” and “Sin Banderas Rosé with Corned Beef & More Yakima Valley Wine Pairings”
  • Nicole of Somm’s Table shares “Big, Beautiful Reds from Yakima Valley and Tasty, Meaty Fare”
  • Jennifer at Vino Travels tells us about “Italian Grapes of the Yakima Valley with Sleeping Dog Wines”
  • Gwendolyn the Wine Predator explores “Washington Syrah: Hedges, L’Ecole, VanArnam with Lamb Stew”
  • Susannah at Avvinare gives us “Malbec from VanArnam Vineyard in Yakima Valley”
  • Lori at Exploring the Wine Glass shares “Tasting the Soul of Wine in the Heart of Yakima Valley”

Saturday, February 27, 2021



This month - February 2021 - the World Wine Travel group is exploring the wines of Catalonia, Spain. Between reds, whites, and Cavas coming from this corner of Spain, there's a vast variety of wines to choose from for any occasion and we had a field day deciding on a wine for this review before ultimately settling on a unique wine from an equally unique part of Catalonia. See the overview in host Susannah's preview post and join us on Twitter under #WorldWineTravel on 27 February 2021 at 8 AM PST to talk about all things Catalan wine.

Image: Catalonia, Spain.
Catalonia is in the northeast corner of Spain bordering France to the north and the Mediterranean sea to the east. There are four Catalonian provinces, of which Barcelona might be the most readily known globally.

Priorat is in Tarragona province in  southwest Catalonia, however, and is a Denominació d'Origen Qualificada (DOQ) for Catalan wines produced in Priorat county. The DOQ covers 11 municipalities that primarily produce intense, full-bodied red wines, and was relatively obscure to the wine world until the 1990s.

Priorat DOQ includes the valleys of the rivers Siurana and Montsant, and vineyards are planted on terraced slopes at altitudes between 100m and 700m above sea level. Priorat summers are long, hot and dry while winters are cold with occasional frost, hailstones, and drought. The area is characterised by its unique terroir of volcanic soil comprising black slate and quartz, known as llicorella.

The traditional grape variety grown in Priorat is Grenache, found in all the older vineyards. Amongst other red varietals allowed are: Garnacha Peluda, Carignan (or Samsó), Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, and Syrah. White varieties allowed are: Garnacha blanca, Macabeo, Pedro Ximénez, Chenin Blanc, Moscatel de Alejandría, Moscatel de Grano Menudo, Pansal, Picapoll Blanco, and Viognier.

Along with Rioja DOCa, Priorat is one of only two wine regions in Spain to qualify as DOCa (Denominación de Origen Calificada), the highest qualification level for a wine region within Spanish wine regulations. Priorat wines are absolutely worth the effort and price but can also offer terrific QPR!

As James Russell Lowell said, "Fate loves the fearless". In 1988 a young Daphne Glorian, along with René Barbier, Álvaro Palacios, Carles Pastrana, and Josep Lluís Pérez pooled resources to purchase 17 terraces of vines situated ~400m above sea level in a wooded hollow just outside the village of Gratallops in Priorat, Spain, a rugged and wild region rich in history, poor in soil, and largely unknown outside Catalonia.

Fast forward to today, when Daphne's wines have evolved to become some of the most sought-after references for the Priorat region and some of the most desired wines in the world. Since 2004 all of the Clos I Terrasses vineyards are certified organic  with biodynamic practices.

2015 Clos I Terrasses "Laurel"
80% Grenache, 15% Syrah, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon
15% ABV | SRP $45

Sourced from 3 small vineyards in Gratallops and aged in amphorae and oak, Laurel is a blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon. It is Clos I Terrasses’ second wine (the first and most well known being Clos Erasmus), made from the grapes from younger vines, or the occasional declassified barrel of Clos Erasmus. Nevertheless, it is a dense, concentrated Priorat wine with tremendous aging potential and perhaps it is inaccurate to call it a second wine because it really is in its own league.

Medium ruby

Black and red fruit, cassis, liquorice/fennel, tobacco, graphite, ink/iodine, leather, cloves, bay leaf, pepper. Somewhat medicinal.

This is a delicious - although untraditional - Priorat wine with a layered aromatic complexity and an unctuous mouthfeel. The same notes on the palate as on the nose, a bit more obviously medicinal and graphite laden. Full body, balanced acidity, grippy tannins that soften after ~30 min, med-long finish. An elegant, structured rich wine that begs for robust food.

We thoroughly enjoyed this wine with a late night movie and bits and bites - an assortment of charcuterie including f
inocchiona, a Tuscan fennel-studded variety, Idiazabal, Manchego, and Gabietou cheeses, papas arrugadas, and a refreshing herby mojo verde. The charcuterie and the cheeses certainly were perfect with the wine but the salt-crusted papas arrugadas and mojo were outstanding! The fruit and inky fennel notes  in the wine worked marvellously with the finicchiona and the bright mojo. We have another bottle that we'll hold for a few more years to see how it develops. Another splendid wine from Clos Erasmus, and a must for Priorat red lovers!

Also check out these blog posts and be inspired by what the rest of us sipped and savoured:
  • Allison and Chris from Advinetures look at “Cava: Spain’s Answer to Champagne”
  • Andrea from The Quirky Cork enjoys “Tapas with Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Cava”
  • Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla shares “Pollo a la Catalana + Alvaro Palacios Camins del Priorat 2019”
  • David from Cooking Chat shines with “Mushroom Fricassee and Red Wine from Priorat”
  • Gwendolyn from Wine Predator brings “Sparkling Wine Secrets: Catalonia Cava from Marqués de Cáceres with Spanish Chorizo Kale Bean Stew”
  • Jeff from Food Wine Click looks at “Exploring the Variety of Still Wines from Catalunya”
  • Linda from My Full Wine Glass showcases “Pere Mata Cupada Rosé Cava: Finesse in a glass”
  • Lynn from Savor the Harvest posts “Beyond Cava: Loxarel and Gramona Organic Sparkling Wines”
  • Martin from Enofylz Wine Blog shares “A Taste of Can Descregut; Grower Spanish Sparkling Wine From The Corazón del Penedès”
  • Melanie from Wining With Mel muses about “Innovative winemaking in Catalunya’s Penedès: Torres Gran Coronas Reserva”
  • Nicole from SommsTable pens “On a Hilltop in Priorat”
  • Payal from Keep The Peas joins with “Bartender’s Choice from Priorat”
  • Pinny from Chinese Food And Wine Pairing writes about “Enjoying Cavas of Different Price Points”
  • Robin from Crushed Grape Chronicles focuses on “Priorat DOQ in Spain’s Cataluña region and Franck Massard’s 2015 “Humilitat”
  • Steve from Children of the Grape describes “Cava by the Sea”
  • Susannah from thinks about “Two Key Areas in Catalonia Wine Scene: Cava and Priorat”
  • Terri from Our Good Life dishes about “Chicken Empanadas and Azimut Cava”
  • Wendy from A Day In The Life On The Farm adds “Enjoying Tapas with Spanish Wines from Catalonia”