Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Wheels in the Sky--Red Cap Vineyards

The day Tom and Desiree Altemus purchased their Howell Mountain property, Tom opened the door of his family’s new home on ten acres and looked up to the clear, dark Napa Valley sky overlooking his future vineyard site.  Just as he glanced up, a huge meteor streaked across the sky.  The fireball seemed so huge that Tom was sure he was going to see it burst into flames as it hit the ground a hillside over from his new acreage.  Though the meteor wasn’t as big as it appeared, Tom sensed it was a sign, a symbol.  First, he knew he and his growing family were supposed to be in this place, this setting.  He also knew that the success of his planned vineyard and wine were going to come only after his own walk through the fire of multiple obstacles. 

The first obstacle Tom faced was Napa itself.  In the middle of a moratorium of allowing new vineyards to be planted, Tom waited for the okay to plant his vines.  He waited, and he waited.  He waited so long that he had to take action.  He brought a lawsuit against the county of Napa to move the development of his vineyard forward.  Many others who were also waiting for the approval from the county for their own vineyards watched Tom’s lawsuit with great interest.  If he could get the powers that be to begin approving the planting of new vineyards on Howell Mountain, not only could Tom and Desiree advance, but many others could too.    
The beauty of and beautiful view from Howell Mountain.
The lawsuit worked.  The backlog of permits to plant on Howell Mountain started to move.  Tom and Desiree began planting after three years of waiting, and so did others.  This was the second boom on Howell Mountain, following early pioneers like Randy Dunn in the 1970s.  Tom became one of multiple new faces growing mountain fruit from the unique Napa AVA.

Tom’s plans progressed, and his vines and grapes grew beautifully on the six and a half planted acres.  The first test vintage from which Tom and his winemaker, Rudy Zuidema, made wine was 2005.  Tom and Rudy were impressed with the juice from the “practice” vintage and looked forward to 2006, the first full vintage.  (See my story of the 2006 Red Cap Cabernet.)  This was a great first vintage.  The 2007 was an excellent vintage year in general, also producing what Tom deemed would be an excellent wine.   He and Rudy released the inaugural 2006 wines in 2008 as planned…and then the next obstacle hit:  the worst of the deep recession.

Tom's vines on Howell Mountain, planted in the red, Aiken loam.
Selling a high-end Howell Mountain cabernet in a time when everyone was cutting back spending was not an easy path.  Especially with a wine from a little-known grape grower and a young wine maker.  But Tom, Desiree, and Rudy trudged forward, making stellar wine and promoting their AVA. 

The wines began to sell, slowly at first, but steadily none the less.  More solid vintages came in from Tom’s beautiful red dirt.  His children grew.  His wife continued to work her day job.  Red Cap Vineyards’ popularity and prestige increased, as did the reputation of the Howell Mountain area itself.

Tom believes Howell Mountain fruit is the key to the success of his wines; it is what allowed him to weather the stress and strain of releasing a first vintage in some of the worst economic times the country had seen in decades.  It is also what allowed him to build a reputation of excellent wines.

The soil, almost as fire red as that move-in-day meteor, gives a great mineral characteristic to the wines.  The red dirt filled with oxidized iron and mineral characteristics is called Aiken loam and is like no other.  In addition to the soil, the climate also adds to the character of the wines.  The mountain area of Tom’s planted acres has a much smaller range of daily temperatures throughout the year:  the temps do not get as cold at night, nor do they get as hot during the day.  This leads to a long, steady growing season.  The fruit ripens more slowly, allowing the seeds and their tannins to ripen more fully.  Tom actually doesn’t pick based on brix (the level of sugar in the grapes) like many growers and wine makers do; he harvests based on seed ripeness.  The seed tannins ripen much slower than the skin tannins; they are also the tannins that, when not developed, give the “green” flavor to wines.  Tom picks when the seed tannins are nutty and soft, and these softer tannins show themselves in his wines--wines with big, bold fruit; deep, dark color; peppy, perfect acid; and silky, soft tannins.  Really, a perfect combination for cabernet sauvignon wines.

Roscoe and the vines showing the Aiken loam, unique soil of Howell Mountain.

Grapes just reaching veraison--fruit set. 
Tasting at Red Cap is as unique as the wines and soil.  There is no tasting room, and there are no tasting room hours.  Tom invites fans up periodically for a relaxed tasting similar to ones he had experienced at other wineries.  A welcoming picnic table sits with views of the vineyards and forest.  Roscoe, the Altemus family dog, greets wine lovers who sit and visit with Tom (and Desiree if she is home) while sampling Red Cap vino. 

A "tasting room" like no other at Red Cap Vineyards.

Sipping and chatting with Tom during our tasting.

Yes, that is Roscoe relaxing on my foot--the sweetest wine dog ever!
While sitting and sipping with visitors, Tom talks about the vineyards, the vintages, and the mountain.  On this particular day, Tom and I started with the Red Cap 2013 Sauvignon Blanc.  Beautifully aromatic and refreshing, this was a great wine to prime my palate.  This was also the perfect light wine for such a hot day.

Next we had the Red Cap 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, a year that, at the time, was known for less-than-stellar growing conditions.  However, after careful wine making techniques and a few years in bottle, it has matured into a great example of mineral and metallic rust (think the red Aiken loam) on the nose with full fruit and tannin on the palate. 

We finished with the Red Cap 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, the harvest known as nearly perfect.  This wine is still quite young in the bottle, yet shows bold cherry with silky tannins on the palate.  It is already a show stopper and should age well for years to come.

Amazing Red Cap wines.
While Tom chats about these wines and his other vintages, he is like a proud parent; he is not able to choose an absolute favorite, but he speaks almost lovingly about the fine qualities of each vintage so far:  2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012.  The 2013 and 2014 vintages are still in production, still yet to show the world what they will be. 

He also talks with pride of his property and where all the effort has taken it and his family.  His children—now 20, 17, and 11—all have small jobs and vineyard chores for which they are responsible.  However, his oldest only spends summers at home now since she is in college.  His middle son is excitedly looking forward to his busy senior year.  It’s the Altemuses’ youngest child that seems to relish in the vineyard work.  He will run and play in the vineyard or come home from school and eat handful after handful of grapes, all while feeding many to Roscoe as well.  Boy and dog are definitely grooming themselves for future vineyard work by first-hand knowledge of the vines.

Forests surround the vines, a great place to raise a family.
Red Cap Vineyards is a perfect example of great wines that come from having vision and perseverance, of letting no obstacles stand in the way.  After the fateful symbol of the meteor streaking across the sky, Tom and Desiree have been able to build a comfortable, rural lifestyle through their hard work, a lifestyle they love sharing with their children, family, and friends.  Tom put it best when he honestly stated, “This place is badass.”  Frankly, after one morning with him at Red Cap, I would agree.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Update--Sonoma Wineries

Back in March, when everyone else was deep in the throes of madness over the NCAA basketball tournament, I was experiencing some serious spring fever…spring fever that I cured by thinking about the time I knew I would be spending in Sonoma and Napa counties this summer. 

I poured over books, websites, and articles about the areas and the wineries located there.  I dreamed of all the wonderful wines I would be experiencing, many that are not distributed outside of the tasting rooms in wine country.  I begrudgingly chose eight that I put at the top of my list to visit.  Eight tasting rooms which I couldn’t wait to see, all the time knowing that it just wasn’t fair to choose only a measly eight.  But I tried. 

And I’ve tried my hardest to visit and enjoy (which wasn't difficult) each and every one.  Here is my progress so far.

Dutton-Goldfield Winery

The grape growing and winemaking duo of Steve Dutton and Dan Goldfield is known for making fabulous pinot noirs.  This warm and inviting tasting room is easily located near the town of Graton, though it is considered Sebastopol.  I looked forward to the wonderful pinots others had recommended to me, and the wines did not disappoint.  However, I found some special and somewhat unusual jewels there in addition to the fabulous pinot noirs.  In fact, Dutton-Goldfield shows one of the reasons I enjoy Sonoma County tasting rooms and winemakers so much: quality wines made from other than the usual suspects grape varieties of just cabernet and chardonnay. 

Don’t miss:  2013 Chileno Valley Vineyard Riesling—wonderfully dry and refreshing, this has the minerality, pear, and apple associated with traditional Rieslings, without the sugar to mask the wine’s complexity.  Think German…with a slight California flare shown through both nose and palate.

Don’t miss:  2014 Green Valley Vineyard Gew├╝rztraminer—also wonderfully dry while being beautifully aromatic, this wine is filled with citrus fruit and florals.  This Gewurtz was too good to not purchase.  It would be great sipping alone or with light fare.  Though all the wines were fantastic, I chose these whites as don’t miss wines because of the almost-rarity of finding these bottled varietals.

Dutton-Goldfield's tasting room with unique varietals waiting to sip.

Though I would have loved to visit Ridge’s original vineyard near Santa Cruz—Monte Bello—I happened to be in the Alexander Valley neighborhood, home to Ridge’s Lytton Springs’ location.   Overlooking 115 year old zinfandel vines, I enjoyed the special Monte Bello tasting, a quick trip through three vintages of the flagship Ridge wine:  1988, 2000, and 2011. 

Don’t miss:  Monte Bello tasting—if you are a wine geek of any degree, the fifty dollar fee is worth every single penny.  Every one!  Seeing how this amazing wine ages is a treat, in and of itself.  The ’88 was beautifully fig brown with muted fruit, dry earth, and white pepper.  The 2000 was showing its youth after 15 years.  It still has much life left.  And the 2011, wow!  Silky and smooth today, yet ready to age for decades, this wine is an investment waiting to be made.

Don’t miss:  sit on the outdoor patio for a tasting, if possible, or a glass of wine.  The old vines in front of the tasting room are fantastically tangled and gnarled.  The vineyard is actually a traditional field blend from the time the Italian immigrants settled Sonoma wine country.  Get as close as you can and take lots of pictures.  I did.

Ridge's Monte Bello and gnarly vines--reasons to stop at either location.
Patz & Hall

Known for creating single vineyard chardonnays and pinot noirs, the Patz & Hall team recently (in 2014) opened their new Sonoma House outside of the town of Sonoma.  An absolutely stunning facility, this comfortable and upscale tasting “room” sits overlooking the newly-planted and first-ever Patz & Hall estate fruit.  Though just baby buds now, in the years to come, these vines will provide the perfect picturesque backdrop in which to taste wine.

Don’t miss:  the back yard patio is like hanging out at your coolest friend’s house…if that coolest friend had a beautiful home with all the best wine.  Call to make a tasting appointment and to plan time to relax on this amazing space.  A very educational tasting that teaches not only about Patz & Hall wines, but about Sonoma vineyards as well.

Don’t miss:  if you are a pinot noir fan like me, come to taste here!  All three of the noirs on the tasting menu were special wines.  Good luck choosing just one bottle to purchase.  So go ahead, buy all three:  2013 Brown Ranch, 2012 Chenoweth Ranch, and 2013 Burnside Vineyard.  In the glass, they each reflect the area where grown.

Patz & Hall--great pinots and chardonnays in the swankiest environment.

Copain’s wine maker, Wells Guthrie, makes wines in the style my palate prefers—delicate and complex with a hands-off style of winemaking that starts in the vineyard.  The facility is located on East Side Road in my favorite Sonoma location, the Russian River Valley.  The view over the valley and across to the other side (and also impressive Williams Selyem) begins a wonderfully intimate tasting.  By appointment only and paired with small bites made in the Copain kitchen, the wines are showcased marvelously as wine educators tell all the intricate details of each wine from vineyard to bottle to glass.

Don’t miss:  2011 Laureles Grade Chardonnay—a rich, smooth, and soft chardonnay, this wine shows Guthrie’s propensity to make wines in an old-world style.  If you want a big California butter-bomb chardonnay, this is not for you.  Its time in neutral oak leads to the citrus fruit and minerality one would expect in a Burgundian white; however, from grapes grown in Monterey, there is something very bold about it.

Don’t miss:  2012 Kiser “En Haut” Pinot Noir—meaning “the high” En Haut is sourced from vineyards several hundred feet higher in elevation than its sister wine “En Bas.”  Both are spectacular examples of pinot noir, and if I tasted tomorrow, I might flip my favorite. But on this particular day, “En Haut” won because of its mint and eucalyptus characteristics, two of my preferred traits in a pinot.

Copain's intimate tasting experience in one of my favorite places--the RRV!
Choosing only eight (I actually chose nine…just because) elite wineries on my to-visit list for a long wine vacation was nearly impossible.  Really.  Think Sophie’s Choice and then you know my difficulties.  (Okay, maybe not quite that dramatic, but you get my point.)  However, none of the four I have visited thus far have disappointed.  All have lived up to the recommendations and research.  I purchased wine at all; multiple bottles in fact. 

I haven’t been able to visit them all yet; and unfortunately, I think at least one will not happen.  Hirsch Vineyards has very limited access by the public, with only certain days and times available for visitors.  These limited dates book quickly, and I waited too long.  I think this one of my elite will stay on my to-visit list.  (Silent tear is seriously rolling down my wine-loving cheek right now.)

None the less, I will continue on my journey to visit the other four wineries on my wish list.  One very remote spot is on my schedule for next week. 
Red Cap Vineyards, you’re up!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Worth Repeating--Historic Napa Wineries

In my last blog, I alluded to a problem I have this summer.  Yes, it’s a problem that many would love to face:  too many wineries and not enough time!  Trying to decide on one winery out of the hundreds and hundreds available takes a lot of thought.  One way to decide which establishments to visit is to group them together based on similarities.  As a reading, history, and wine freak, I have enjoyed the multiple historically-important wineries about which I have read or learned through my wine education.  These wineries have not only stood the test of time, but also have been extremely important to creating the modern-day success of Napa.  They are wineries worth repeating.  (This particular blog focuses on the Napa side of wine country; Sonoma has its own historic and impressive wineries to illustrate that area’s past.)

Charles Krug:  Considered the oldest winery in Napa Valley, Charles Krug dates back to 1861, when its namesake started making wine there.  The winery survived Krug’s passing and prohibition (barely), to be purchased by Cesare Mondavi—yes, that Mondavi—father to Robert and Peter.  This was the original Mondavi winery, passed from Cesare to his sons.  After family issues (for the full story on the family, a great read is The House of Mondavi by Julia Flynn Siler), Robert ventured out to open his now-incredibly-famous winery, featuring his own name, just down the road from the family-owned Krug.  Peter Mondavi led Krug into the modern era by making great wines.  The winery is still family owned, with Peter Sr.’s sons, Peter Jr. and Marc, at the helm.  Recently, the tasting room was moved to the restored and renovated original Redwood Cellar building from Krug’s era. 

Vines growing at Krug's tasting room and wine making facility.

Inside the newly restored Redwood Cellar at Krug Wines.

The outside of the beautifully renovated tasting room, originally from Charles Krug's era.
Stand out wines:  2014 St. Helena Sauvignon Blanc—Crisp, refreshing, and aromatic, this SB is a prime example of the Napa varietal.  Would pair great with summer salads and seafood…or a hot afternoon.

2012 Family Reserve Generations—Classic Napa Cabernet with small amounts of malbec, merlot, and petit verdot; smells of ripe black and red fruits with soft tannins.  Pair with beef and lamb.

2011 Limited Release Cold Springs Vineyard, Howell Mountain Cabernet—Cherry cola and smoky oak are common for fruit sourced from the prestigious Howell Mountain area.  Sip this on its own; it is worth the price for a special occasion.

Robert Mondavi Winery:  After family disagreements on business, Robert Mondavi left his family’s wine business at Krug to open his own namesake winery in 1966.  Mondavi chose the historic To Kalon vineyard (originally planted in 1868 and considered a prime Napa Valley growing area) as his location for the absolutely beautiful tasting room and facility.  Though the winery itself is no longer family owned, the figure of Robert Mondavi continues to be incredibly important to what Napa is today.  Mondavi truly believed in the potential of Napa Valley; he also espoused the benefits of wine and the wine lifestyle throughout his long life.  Northern California and wine in the U.S. owe much to Robert Mondavi.

Budding vines at the Mondavi facility.

Beautiful grounds designed by Robert Mondavi.

Robert Mondavi Winery.
Stand out wines: 2012 Fume Blanc Reserve To Kalon Vineyard—I enjoy a great white wine in the summer, and I enjoy a Fume Blanc even more.  The complexity of the oak with the sauvignon blanc's citrus fruits are refreshing to sip on a summer day.

2012 Robert Mondavi Merlot Napa Valley—Though many people (and the main character from the movie Sideways) don’t appreciate merlot, I actually do.  The tobacco and earth with the baked fruit always makes me remember why I respect a well-made merlot.  Serve with pork and robust pasta dishes.

Chateau Montelena:   Originally owned by Alfred Tubbs in the late 1880s, this majestic, ivy-covered stone chateau is breathtaking to look at.  Fast forward to the 1970s when Jim Barrett took over Montelena and worked with wine maker Mike Grgich to create a wonderful chardonnay, a chardonnay so good that it won a little blind tasting competition called the Judgment of Paris in 1976.  This event put California wines on the map and on par with French wines when a panel of French judges chose the Napa chard over others from France and California.  (Read more about this event in the book Judgment of Paris by George M. Taber.)  The winery is still owned and operated by Barrett’s son Bo and still making world-class chardonnay (and other wines, too!).

Chateau Montelena, known for its chardonnay, makes great red wines too.

A bottle of the historic 1973 Chardonnay, winner of the Judgment of Paris.

Stunning tasting room at Chateau Montelena.
Stand out wines:  2012 Napa Valley Chardonnay—No longer made by Mike Grgich, but still a wonderful example of the varietal.  Richness from the oak comes through in mouthfeel and subtle butter flavors.  Sipping it made me want an alfredo sauce…now!

2012 Montelena Estate Zinfandel—Great acid and fruit, yet delicate on the palate, leads this wine to a lasting finish.  Not your typical zin, but better in many unique ways.  Will pair with many different foods from salmon to chicken to pork.

2011 Montelena Estate Cabernet—Another California cab that is worth the price.  As with the other Chateau Montelena wines, the acid keeps the wine from being flabby.  Amazing fruit and potential for some cellar aging.  Pair with a juicy beef ribeye.

Grgich Hills:  Miljenko “Mike” Grgich made his name making wines for others, but after the 1976 Judgment of Paris, he set out to make wine under his own label.  With the help of the Hills family (think Hills Brothers Coffee), Mike opened Grgich Hills in 1977 and has been making great wine in the center of Napa Valley ever since.  In fact, well into his eighties, Mike is still involved in the wine making there and enjoys coming into the facility regularly. 

Grgich Hills tasting room in central Napa Valley.

Grgich Hills Chardonnay, made in the style of the 1973 Judgment of Paris winner.

Other impressive Grgich wines.
Stand out wines:  2013 Miljenko’s Selection Napa Valley Essence Sauvignon Blanc—Sourced from southern Napa regions, aged in oak, and matured on the lees, this is an incredibly smooth and complex SB.  Serve with seafood and cheese.

2012 Grgich Hills Paris Tasting Commemorative Chardonnay—Yes, it seems clich├ę, but this chardonnay is a great example of the what the grape can be in bottle.  Rich and smooth, yet with good citrus and acid.  Pair with pastas, cream sauces, or brie cheese.

Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars:  Nathan Fay planted the first vineyards in this area, named for the rock promontory that juts out over the hillside.  Legend says that a stately stag leapt from one side of the outcropping to the other, hence “Stag’s Leap.”  Warren Winiarski made wine from Fay’s planted grapes, and Winiarski's 1973 Napa Valley Cabernet was one of the California wines entered in the 1976 Judgment of Paris.  In the end, Winiarski’s cab beat out some of the most respected French producers to land the double win for Napa wines in the competition; this cabernet meant California took both the white and red top honors.  The beautiful, modern facility still overlooks Fay’s original vineyards and the legendary rock.  The wines remain legendary too.

Stag's Leap Wine Cellars stellar cabernet options.

The rock promontory across which the legendary stag leapt from point to point.

Stag's Leap Wine Cellars' winning 1973 cabernet.
Stand out wines:  2012 Artemis Cabernet—This is the wine that keeps Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars’ lights on…almost literally.  Making up over 70% of the production and easy to find around the country, it is worth mentioning because it is a great Cabernet at a decent price. 

2012 Fay Cabernet Sauvignon—From the original Fay block of cab sauv grapes (and others planted since), this is a deep, dark, and dense cabernet with smooth tannins and a lengthy finish.  Pricey but would be perfect for a special occasion.

History may have a way of repeating itself, and with the above wineries, the repetition comes in the form of excellent wines, vintage after vintage.  There is a reason these producers were historically important decades ago.  There is also a reason these producers are still relevant—they continue to raise the bar in the region, making some of the best wine in the United States.  Worth learning and reading about, all of these tasting rooms offer examples of outstanding wines, but they also offer a glimpse into Napa’s past, a past worth repeating in the years to come.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

To Be Different--VJB Vineyards and Cellars

In the land of wine plenty—Napa and Sonoma Counties—it is incredibly difficult to choose what wineries at which to stop.  No.  Really.  It is. 

There are over 800 producers legally making wine in these areas.  There are hundreds of amazing producers.  Hundreds with beautiful tasting rooms.  Hundreds with majestic scenery.  Not quite hundreds—but many—that are historically important.  These beautifully-majestic and quality producers also tend to have something else in common.  There is something so similar about them.  Something so homogeneous.  Something so uniform.  (Now, this isn’t a criticism; this is just an observation.) 

If you love to drink chardonnay or cabernet or pinot noir or sauvignon blanc, you are in luck.  Napa and Sonoma tasting rooms abound in these choices.  Literally in every direction, there are so many options of where to taste these varietals of wine, it makes your head spin…and that is before any wine has been sipped. 

So how does a wine lover make this choice of where to sip today?  One option is to go some place different.  Some place completely different.  Some place that produces wine from unique varieties of grapes not always found in the U.S.  Like the sangiovese grape.  The brunello grape.  The aleatico grape.  (That last one some of you may not have even heard of!)

This place is VJB Vineyards and Cellars.

The patio at VJB Vineyards and Cellars
Located on Highway 12—Sonoma Highway—west of the town of Sonoma itself, this tasting room is Italian, inside and out!  Its Italian roots are evident when a customer walks in and first sees owner and father Vittorio walking through the tasting room making sure all is ready for the day.  The Italian-inspired deli is filled with fresh tomatoes, mozzarella, and pesto.  It is also filled with the presence of owner and mother Maria—Vittorio’s wife—working in the kitchen and behind the counter.  (After running and cooking in Italian restaurants for decades, she wouldn’t know what else to do with herself otherwise!)  The gelato counter, the outdoor seating area, and the villa itself, they all exude the Belmonte family’s Italian roots that now run through son Henry’s guidance of the winery as well. 

Delicious Italian-inspired foods in the deli cases.
Though three-quarters of the grapes are grown just up the road on the Belmonte estate vineyards (where the family lives), the wines are very Italian! Yes, there is a chardonnay, but there is also a wonderfully dry and beautifully-colored rose from the obscure (in the United States) aleatico grape.  Other wines from Italian varieties include a tocai friulano, a sangiovese, a brunello (cuttings from Montelcino, IT), a barbera, a sagrantino, and a dolcetto.  Future releases will include a primitivo, a nero d’avola, and a nebbiolo (one of my favorite grapes, though I am a fan of Italian wines and grapes in general!).  There is even a true Prosecco produced in Italy by a connection of Vittorio and Maria’s that has the VJB label.

Some very unique wine options.
Yes, the wines and facility are unique.  Yes, the wines are quality (the last sangiovese sold out in 19 days!) and award winning (that same sangiovese won Best of Class, Gold, and 93 points at respective competitions).  However, there is also the story of VJB that makes it an intriguing stop among so many other great producers.

Beautiful VJB grounds and patio.
VJB stands for Victor Joseph Belmonte—Henry’s brother, Vittorio and Maria’s son.   This winery, which was inspired by the family’s heritage, was actually a dream shared by all, including Victor, in the late 1990s.  While working toward this family goal, Victor unexpectedly passed away in 2000.  It might have been easy for the Belmontes to give up, to not pursue Victor’s dream. However, Henry and his parents used the loss of Victor to fuel the passion for the Italian-inspired winery and deli in northern California as a tribute to Victor’s lust for living life.  His portrait hangs in the tasting room as a reminder to all that wine and food are one aspect of a beautiful, well-lived life.

Victor Joseph Belmonte
When you are in wine-lovers’ Mecca—otherwise known as Napa and Sonoma—it is incredibly difficult to choose which of the hundreds and hundreds of incredible tasting rooms at which to stop.  True, this is a pretty amazing problem to have, but there is also a solution to this issue.  Pick a winery that is unique.  Pick a winery that has something no one else has.  Pick a winery with a story.  Pick a winery that stands for remembering the beauty and joy of life…VJB.

VJB Wines Not to Miss

Prosecco:  I love a nice, light, cold prosecco in the summer.  It’s what non-beer drinkers should drink on a hot day!  Actually produced and bottled in Italy with the VJB label, make sure to try this.

Aleatico Rose:  If it’s hot and there is no prosecco or sparkling wine around, roses are my next go-to, warm-weather drink.  This one is a deep pink with dry strawberry and flowers on the palate.

Estate Sangiovese:  Big fruit and great tannin make this a favorite of many.  Make sure to see my notes above of how the last vintage sold out in 19 days after winning multiple awards. 

Mendocino Barbera:  One of the wines with grapes sourced off the estate property, this is the wine maker’s favorite this vintage.  Frankly, it was mine too.  It was deep with fruit and earth, yet incredibly smooth.  This is the bottle I purchased to take home.

Russian River Zinfandel:  Another wine from fruit sourced off the estate property, this is a zin for zin lovers.  This is also a staff favorite; staff member Jared, who tasted with me that day, loves this wine.