“Of oil, wine, and friends, the oldest.” ….. Portuguese Proverb

Let’s move on to unfairly neglected Portugal.  Wine from Portugal is generally inexpensive and offers numerous bargains to be enjoyed. As a rule, the wine is delicious, different and, for me, a necessary transition into each fall season. Funny how those grapes grown in the Dao, south of Oporto, surrounded by mountains more in Portugal’s interior and with a more continental climate, make for wine that is so incredibly appropriate for fall in my cool-continental climate area. Each year, I mark this change of the seasons with wine from Portugal.

This 2014 Cabriz's Colheita Seleccionada Red (they also make a white) exemplifies why: Full bodied, textured, the mouthfeel of Portuguese wine is itself a marker in any blind tasting. Consider the grapes: 20% Touriga Nacional – the grape of port wine, 20% Tinta Roriz (grown extensively in Portugal but you may know it better as Spain’s Tempranillo) and 40% Alfrocheiro (a grape suspected to be native to Portugal, mostly grown in the Dao and noted for its velvety texture and spice). Branded by Cabriz, this wine is deep purple, from extracted fruit, in the glass and offers aromas of earthy blackberry compote with a note of kirsch.

As with all Portuguese wines, it coats the palate. Plum becomes prune-like with raisin and includes notes of blackberry jam. Flavors are concentrated with dark cherry, dry but juicy, along with dried raspberry. Seamlessly mixed with the plum/prune, these flavors are more roasted than fresh and are perfect for fall. Some violet completes the complexity, though other tasters got white chocolate and licorice. We all agreed on notes of pepper and herbs, though for me – more herbs and less pepper. Most impressive:  the wine holds up in the bottle easily for 2, even 3 days without losing any of its appeal. In fact, the taste actually took on more of a fresh fruit character on the second day.

The ARP for this wine is ridiculous at $9 and it can be found for even less. It was ranked #46 as one of the top 100 wines of 2016 by Wine Spectator, awarded 90 points and also rated as a “Best Value.” Wine Enthusiast assigned it 87 points, referring to it being “ripe, full of black fruit” and “rich and fruity, soft tannins with full bodied structure”. I mention this because I too found the tannins VERY soft as opposed to a very few other tasters. Of course, all palates are personal: some tasters referred to “forest fruits” (I agree) but also “fresh red fruit” (I found it more roasted and black initially). All that aside, the wine itself is delicious and, for me, perfect as fall announces itself. And, at less than $10, it is not to be missed. I’d even call it “case worthy”. Imported (locally) by Tri Vin Imports. ALC: 13%. Bottled by Global Wines, Inc. 

Viva!  Saude!  Tchim-tchim!
……………………………… Jim

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“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”   From Fitzherbert's Book of Husbandry in 1534 (language updated). Original author unknown

The story goes that RobertMondavi wanted to set a particular style of his Sauvignon Blanc apart.  The grape itself was suffering from a poor reputation in the U.S. in the 1960s.  Mondavi, having spent time in France, and tasting wine there, came upon the idea of naming an oaked style of his Sauvignon Blanc as Fume Blanc from the French word Fume referring to the hint of smoke in the aroma and taste of Pouilly-Fume wine from that area in the Loire Valley of France (Pouilly Fume is an AOC and Sauvignon Blanc is grown there).  Mondavi did not trademark the name and, subsequently, Dry Creek Valley Vineyards and other winery/vineyards began using the term and the rest is history.  It became so because people liked it.

But I was not one of them.  Why oak a Riesling or Chenin Blanc?  Why oak anything that by nature’s dictate should be all about freshness?  Everybody knew that, didn’t they?  Why oak Chardonnay? …….. oops!  Maybe it was time to re-think this.  There are meals in which an oaked Chardonnay, or partially oaked Chardonnay, works better than one that is 100% fermented and aged in steel.  So I vowed to get around to it “eventually”.  In the meantime, I’d keep my “mind open” while not paying attention.

My mind opened in 2014 when I tasted the Sauvignon Blanc of another winemaker (in Sonoma) who was gracious enough to allow me a private tasting during the busy season of October.  Famous for its Pinot Noir, this winery had previously rendered a Fume Blanc for a White House dinner.  The wine was very well received and had been in production since.  The winery was pouring. I was tasting.  Why not? And with just one taste I understood why.  I “got it”.  So yes, you can teach an old dog new tricks.

That happened again a week ago tasting Mondavi’s “Napa Valley” 2016 Fume Blanc.  I “got it” again.   What is interesting is that not all Fume Blanc is necessarily oaked (though, generally, it is safe to assume so).  What is interesting is that it always gets back to what is in the bottle, because the term “Fume Blanc” is not legally defined in the United States; it is interchangeable with “Sauvignon Blanc”.   You just have to taste the product and determine for yourself what suits your palate.

What I enjoyed about Mondavi’s Fume Blanc (the first in the U.S. to be named so) is its finesse.  All wine is manipulated grape juice, but there is no manipulation for the sake of trends here.   In fact, great care and attention to tradition has been paid into the making of this wine. Grapes are hand-picked in the cool temperature of early morning.  Whole cluster pressing is used to minimize skin contact, retaining freshness and aromatics.

Yes, the wine is different.  Some might be tempted to consider it a different-though-same-wine relationship (like Pinot Gris to Pinot Grigio). The citrus is apparent and the wine still offers those aromas and taste of grass.  But the body is different. Smoke from the oak char adds complexity. The wine is weightier, creamier and more textured.  Not better. Different. But different in a way that makes it more suitable for pairing with certain foods.  That can be especially fun if you cook because it adds to your repertoire.

The nose offers lemon, a vegetative hint (grass), grapefruit and orange peel.  On the palate is the citrus and minerality (wet stone) you expect from Sauvignon Blanc, but the wine is rounder, richer and more melon-like.  Lemon takes on character of lemongrass.  The smoke of the oak’s char adds complexity and the wine becomes weightier.  The lemon is there, but as the wine airs and warms in the glass, lime announces itself though more as lime crème. Other tasters refer to hints of ripe peach and guava. The “Fume” version is simply creamier and more textured.  Despite this, there’s a cleansing acidity to this wine – enough to suggest it’s even a good pairing for oysters on the half shell.  And that alone is enough to explain better than I have that this wine is in excellent balance. The oak, while adding texture, is handled with finesse.  No element in this wine is obtrusive or excessive.  Instead, each works in harmony with the other elements to make the total better than its parts. 

Not to worry. Mondavi makes both styles.  Mondavi even makes a “Reserve To Kalon Vineyard” Fume Blanc. But this label (the “Napa Valley”) is one you can find in almost every wine shop and many grocery stores.  And with an average retail price (w/o tax or shipping) of $18, it’s certainly worth looking for.  And speaking of the “To Kalon” vineyard, 39% of the juice for this wine comes from that hallowed area contributing richness, weight, age-ability and complexity to the blend, along with floral notes, tropical fruit and minerality.  59% comes from Mondavi’s prestigious Wappo Hill (in the Stag’s Leap District) with the fruit from there contributing the bright citrus and herbal notes along with giving the wine a lift. The balance of 2% is pure Oakville, making the wine 100% Napa Valley.  Not to be outdone, the blend is completed as 92% Sauvignon Blanc and 8% Semillon adding another instrument to the complex symphony.

Another quote, attributed to Harry Graham, comes from the last line of a poem he wrote and was first published in 1903.  It goes, “It’s never too late to mend.”  He knew too that old dogs CAN learn new tricks. I have, and now will include this Mondavi Napa Valley Fume Blanc as a staple in my cellar.

……………….. Jim

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Robert Mondavi Winery
7801 St Helena Hwy, Oakville, CA 94562

TA:                                         6.5 g/L
pH:                                         3.14
RS:                                         0.40 g/L

The juice is barrel fermented to add richness and complexity but with only 2% being new French oak. The wine is aged sur lie (makes for creamy texture) for six months in 60-gallon oak barrels and hand stirred twice monthly.  Semillon gives the final blend a broader mouthfeel and added complexity.

I served this wine with a modified version of Chicken Cordon Bleu, cubed and baked Japanese Yam and Purple Sweet Potatoes along with Asparagus.  It would do nicely with crab cakes (and a mild horseradish sauce), grilled salmon and scallops, grilled squid with lemon, smoked trout and California rolls or other sushi.  It can also do nicely with vegetables such as Provincial Tomatoes, grilled Zucchini or Tomatoes – or mini peppers – stuffed with goat cheese.   For meat, consider Grilled Pork Chops and Chicken in so many styles, it’s impossible to list.  


“All taste is personal and every palate correct for the person owning it.” .... James McMillan

The season’s evening chill and early loss of sun makes me want a red wine that is stout and bolder than my summer preferences. Today, it is a Cote du Roussillon (appellation Cotes Catalanes) blend of Syrah and old vine Grenache by Domaine Lafage Bastide Miraflores: 70% Syrah and 30% (old vine) Grenache. The average age of vines is 55 years in this practicing organic vineyard on soil of alluvial gravel and schist.  And in this far south and sunny area of France, the berries are quite happy. They’re also hand-harvested with the Grenache traditionally brought up in concrete tanks and the Syrah in demi-muids (600-liter oak barrels, equal to just over 158 gallons).  

A lot is going on inside this bottle that has an ARP of just $14.  It’s fruity blackberry and black raspberry notes, and the wine’s structure, lend themselves to pairing with grilled sausage, braised lamb, beef, venison and duck, stew and (surprisingly) even chicken glazed with Asian barbecue.  On the nose, blackberry preserve is dominant and with a brandied note. A gentle note of eucalyptus makes for interest.  And the wine develops in the glass: notes of chocolate and smoked meat announce themselves.  The texture is pure and surprisingly glycerin: smooth, silky and medium bodied, it is luscious with fruit from its nose and joined by plum.  Ripe, rich, deep – all appropriately descriptive, especially for a wine only medium bodied and that glides itself so easily across the palate.  A little warming heat on the mid-finish balances the fruit with a contrasting rustic quality that (for me) adds to its charm and seasonal suitability.

Writing reviews can be unnerving by their challenge to the writer sometimes needing to admit having a bias.   How do you compare a Sauvignon Blanc from Sancerre to that from New Zealand when, clearly, you will have a bias toward one style?   It can be done and most often is but requires the critic evaluate and compare wines from the same region -- not just the varietal -- when assessing the wine.  The same must be said about price points.  While it’s a fact that a high-priced wine is not necessarily (or even frequently) a higher rated wine, comparisons should be “like to like” or at least within a range of price.

But if “All taste is personal and every palate correct for the person owning it” who needs to read reviews anyway?   Hopefully, you do because I’ll continue to admit having a bias when I do. And when I encounter lapses in fairness, I’ll be able to alert you to them so that you can better “read” reviews (even “between” the lines).  Once such presented itself recently when another person compared this wine to another blend from the Cotes-du-Rhone, one that was considerably more expensive.   What’s inside the bottle is what matters, but what it is sold for also must be considered.  And reasons for price differences run the length of one’s imagination, from initial acquisition cost, to length of ownership, to basic management effectiveness and to various less than noble considerations.  Suffice to say that at $14 (often less), you will be hard pressed to find a better value.   

………………… Jim

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Domaine LaFage:    
Imported By:                     European Cellars, an Eric Solomon Selection
Winemakers:                     Jean-Marc and Elaine Lafage
Maceration (in tank)         42 Days
Ageing:                             12 Months, Tank and Barrel
ALC:                                 14.5%  
Ratings:                             94 Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate

A custom cuvée for European Cellars and a joint project between Eric Solomon and Jean-Marc Lafage, Bastide Miraflors is a cuvée created from Grenache grown on rocky, alluvial clay soils resembling those of the Rhône Valley combined with Syrah grown on schist in the village of Maury.


"I think I'm simply too much of a Burgundian at heart to be able to appreciate fully whether Pinot Noir in other guises can be considered to achieve greatness.".....Benjamin Lewin, MW

I’m guessing Benjamin Lewis didn’t taste this wine. But do a search for quotes about Pinot Noir and you’ll see many experts expressing contrary opinions.  I was brought up at a time when most “good” wine available in the U.S, was from France and so I too was a Francophile.  Trips to Oregon and later California adjusted my outlook.  And now, I’m more involved with what is inside the bottle and less about where it was shipped from.  Rather than change allegiance, I prefer to think I’ve broadened my outlook.

Let’s be honest. There is a lot of bad Pinot Noir out there and people have made many millions of dollars producing it and then selling the brand.  But comparing a $20 bottle of that stuff to a quality offering of Pinot Noir is like equating a “Puddin’ Pop” to nanna’s home-made tiramisu. It’s just not a fair comparison.

Pinot Noir, thin skinned as it is, suffers from a bad attitude both in the vineyard  and in the winery.  Vines require constant attention and are susceptible to rot, mildew and viruses.  Clonal selections can increase yield (a shortcut).  Barrels are expensive.  And how long they are used is a cost factor.  It can be expensive to grow Pinot Noir and it can be expensive to produce and shortcuts don’t make for a good finished product.  And all along the way, Pinot Noir is just stubbornly capricious. But when it’s good, it is very good.  Sensual and suggestive, charming, transparent yet mysterious. 

I’m reminded of my own saying that “Every palate is personal and correct for the person owning it.” If you like Puddin’ Pops, that’s fine.  But it’s only fair that you acknowledge it cost more to make the tiramisu than the pop.  It’s also fair for people like me to acknowledge that the world standard of Pinot Noir remains in the Cote de Nuit where Domaine de la Romanee-Conti is produced and, depending on the vintage, comes with a price of $7,000- $12,000 (and more) per bottle. You can also get, for just $234, a bottle of Domaine des Lambrays Clos des Lambrays. And for only $26.95, a bottle of 2015 Louis Latour Cote de Nuit-Villages.

The point being terroir does make a difference - yes.  But so does demand. And so does, for some, image.  And so does one’s ability to afford the higher end stuff.  But can we at least slough off the quick dismissal of any Pinot Noir not from the Cote de Nuit and pay attention to what’s inside the bottle rather than only where it was shipped from?

Wines Readied For Tasting
In California, in the cooler growing area of the Russian River Valley, is where Merry Edward grows and produces the Klopp Ranch (single vineyard) Pinot Noir.  But, like Grandma Moses, Merry didn’t start young at her particular genius, nor did she have the advantage of growing up in the family business. While a physiology major at Berkeley, she bought fruit at the farmers market and played at making wine. It proved popular After college, she attended the enology graduate program at UC – Davis.  Later, she ran a 25-acre vineyard and did everything she could to learn the business. At age 50, she was forming a company to produce wines in Sonoma, met a fellow rafter (she was rafting in the Grand Canyon) whom she later married. He had a degree in agriculture and for ten years they made wine in a rented facility.  Eventually, they built their own winery.

Making Tasting Notes At The Table
I visited the winery in October of 2014 and was grateful for the extreme courtesy of a private tasting away from the busy tasting room, allowing me time to better appreciate (during their very busy season) what it was I was tasting.  The wines were amazing. And when I recently opened this bottle of “Klopp Ranch” 2012 it brought me back to that glorious tasting. But the wine spoke on its own.

To aromas of dried candied fruit, but with a savory note. Burnt cherry, but brandied fruit. Forrest floor (old world and with some mushroom), white pepper.  Floral notes of rose petal and lavender/violet. Tastes of cherry, sure – it’s Pinot Noir, but different, mysterious. Plum, white pepper, dried fruit, cardamom.  Some tannin but spread evenly across the entire palate and ever so gently, lifted by the wine’s clean acidity yet seamlessly. Everything about this Pinot Noir is different. Layers of cherry but with earth. Bright but earthy. Whispered hints of strawberry lighten the truffle hint.  Anise?  Floral notes of violet meld with light wood. There’s a mix of minerality against brambled berries opposed themselves by black tea. This is indeed complex, intriguing, mysterious and a wine you want to keep tasting just to understand; a Flying Wallenda of balance.

Methode a l’Ancienne is used on this bottle’s label. It means a “minimalist approach to winemaking”. Interestingly, that approach is exactly that used by the “winemakers” – they don’t like the term “winemakers” in the Cote de Nuit.  Instead, it’s all about terroir.  Indeed, there are other California Pinot Noirs I enjoy (3 others?) and include another from the Russian River Valley.  But something about this wine by Merry Edwards makes it stand out even from others she produces, despite that I enjoyed them all.  So while terroir may always remain the genesis of disputes (after all, “Klopp Ranch” is a single vineyard), and while Merry Edward herself refers to a “minimalist approach,” my palate tells me she isn’t taking enough credit.  For this Francophile, it will remain one of my favorite “Burgundies” and very well-priced by comparison. 

……………….. Jim

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2959 Gravenstein Hwy N, Sebastopol, CA 95472

Varietal:                      Pinot Noir, 100%

Clones:            Uncertain (by me), likely: Dijon 115; Martini, a mix of California & Burgundian          clones including the “Swan” clone – a Pommard selection.  If I can get more specific, I’ll update in the comments section

Fermentation:          Partial whole cluster pressing. (My opinion: Lifts fruit and freshness). Others note “adds spiciness”.
Aging:                        10 months French Oak, 63% new.
ALC:                          14.3%
Produced, Bottled By: Meredith Vineyard Estate
Wine Enthusiast:         93 Points, rated a “Cellar Selection”
Wine Spectator:          90 Points

Drinkable Through:     2022 (with good storage conditions)
Paid $60 at the winery. Current ARP $86, But have seen for $60 w/o tax & shipping                                                                                  


“Some sparkling wines are Champagne without the geography…. or the price tag.” …… James McMillan

At the risk of being taken for a snob, I’ll admit to preferring French Campaign – or something intended to be entirely different (like Prosecco).  There are exceptions, of course, and I’ve written about some domestically made sparklers (on my Facebook page [like “Etoile” Brut from Domaine Chandon] and on this blog (see].  Now it’s time to mention another: Scharffenberger Cellars' “Brut Excellence”.  

Scharffenberger began in 1981 in the village of Philo in the heart of California’s Anderson Valley. Only a few miles from the Pacific Ocean, the area benefits from the region’s noted sunshine moderated by the cooling fog coming into this protected valley from the coast. 
It is where, on their 120-acre vineyards, Scharffenberger grows the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes used in making their Brut Excellence. 1   The location itself explains the “French Connection” in California with French Domaines (Moet & Chandon, Mumm, Roederer and others) buying land in California and making Sparkling Wine within the U.S., or working in partnership with established wineries.  Under these and other labels (with differences noted on them) you may choose to purchase the product made in California or France.  Each will be made according to Champagne standards.

Scharffenberger has no “French Connection” I’m aware of though I doubt Gene Hackman would refuse a glass.  It is, however, made in the methode traditionelle (traditional method), or methode champenoise (Champagne method) meaning fermented twice in bottle.  You may see terms like metodo classico on sparkling wines from Italy, Cava from Spain or even Cremant (Also from France but not made within the designated Champagne region).  Ageing requirements may differ, but be assured it is made in the twice-fermented-within-the-bottle style.  

And while neither the name Scharffenberger nor the winemaker’s names (previously Tex Sawyer, now Jeffrey Jindra) bear much French resemblance, this sparkling wine is classically made and offers very good value.  “Creamy and lively, with festive apple and spice flavors,” says Wine Spectator.  One of the Top 100 Wines (of 2013) per the San Francisco Chronicle. A wine that’s remarkable for the money, says me.

On the nose, aroma of green apple and kiwi bathed in lactic acid. There’s a “sour” gooseberry-like note that is difficult for me to narrow down more precisely but I found it very pleasant. Regardless, a note of plum fruit and Rainier cherry balances this perfectly. On the palate, I loved the yeasty introduction of brioche with lemon (another taster said “lemon curd”). My opinion? The “curd” reference is more apt to the wine’s creamy texture from the juice resting on its lees for almost two years and the wine undergoing 100% malolactic fermentation.

The wine is dry (Brut, my favorite) and complex with notes too of almond and lychee nut. Fine, persistent bubbles. Other tasters said they enjoyed flavors of Bartlett pear, fig and mandarin orange. (I get the pear now that they mentioned it). Either way, at about $17, this sparkler screams out value. About two-thirds Pinot Noir and one third Chardonnay from their own vineyards and others nearby1 in cool growing Mendocino County (Anderson Valley) California. (Another reviewer reversed this percentage2. I’m going with the information provided by the winery itself as to the percentage of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay).

If you find many sparkling wines (or Champagne) too acidic and crisp, while Scharffenberger’s Brut does provide a crisp clean finish, it is rounded and creamy with vanilla notes and smoothed in its texture with surprising body.  It’s fresh, yet richer and deeper (yet with subdued fruit flavors) than other wines similarly priced. I found it lacking in nothing and with excellent, spot-on balance.

I tasted the wine without pairing it, but would suggest it is a (if not the) perfect match for trout amandine. Consider also, breast of chicken in a creamy white sauce, stuffed mushrooms or better yet deviled eggs topped with caviar/roe for the saltiness. 

………………. Jim

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Scharffenberger Cellars            
1)      Scharffenberger Cellars also has long-term contracts with select vineyards within greater Mendocino Country and from whom they may source grapes. The same practice is used in Champagne.
2)      Another reviewer stated the blend as two-thirds Chardonnay and one third Pinot Noir. My source for the blend is from the winemaker’s notes: “The wine is approximately two-thirds Pinot Noir and one-third Chardonnay.”
Appellation:                                         Mendocino County
Fermentation:                                      Twice in bottle
                                                            100% Malolactic
Aging:                                                 On Lees, Average 2 Years
pH:                                                      3.27
ALC:                                                   12%
Exclusively represented by Maisons Marques & Domaines USA 
Ratings:                                              91 Points Wine Enthusiast,  
                                                           90 Wine & Spirits Magazine


Anni e bicchieri di vino non si contano mai” (Age and glasses of wine should never be counted”) ….. an Italian Proverb

Sometimes the “pro” reviewers and I agree. Sometimes we don’t, or I may think a wine has been over or under rated.  But this wine is one on which everyone agrees.  A 2006 Brunello di Montalcino from Uccelliera  (Azienda Agricola Uccelliera). If you’re unfamiliar with Brunello, know that it is made from Sangiovese, that same grape that makes for the Chianti you so enjoy. 

Brunello di Montalcino indicates it is of Montalcino.  Montalcino is south of Chianti in Tuscany and it is its own DOCG.  The climate is warmer, producing grapes that are riper (and with the potential for higher alcohol).  Being grown at higher altitude, berries are smaller producing thicker grapes with a higher skin to pulp ratio and, therefore, wines with more tannin. 

Brunello also has different aging requirements than does Chianti (even its DOCG). These are not wines to drink now.  But are they worth the wait?  Oh yes!  Deep purple in the glass and taking on coppery age tones at the rim, the nose on this Uccelliera is strong with brandied black cherries and fresh-cut, purple plum with a hint of green pepper.  The palate is immediately alerted with tart cherry but smooths out soon, and with air the texture becomes pure glycerin. Black cherry develops, notes of dried fruit and sweet tobacco contrast herbaceous hints.  Others get strawberry and raspberry. Complex, focused, precise and incredibly delicious. I allowed it an hour in the bottle and another in the decanter and it could have used even more, but didn’t hold up well for the next day despite being vacuum pumped.  Nonetheless, a pleasure to experience and next time, I’ll just have to finish the bottle. 

I served it with a simple green salad, basil-pesto stuffed chicken breasts and a side of zucchini cooked with sweet onion and tomato.  (The harvest of my and my friend’s garden calls and I answer).  But mostly, I intended to enjoy this wine today and mostly I cooked what I had on hand. As a rule, Sangiovese compliments all such tomato rich dishes and whatever the meal is, it is elevated by Sangiovese.  This particular Sangiovese wine lifted it almost out of reach! 

………….. Jim

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90 Points James Suckling,  96 Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate,   94 Wine Enthusiast  93 Wine Spectator.  Drinkable 2014-2026.  ARP at time of purchase $56 (now $72) found as a close out for $50.  Imported by deGrazia Imports LLC (Winston-Salem NC).  ALC: 15%.


“Chianti improves with age. The older I get, the better I like it”.  … Author Unknown

 HOW DO YOU WANT YOUR FETTUCCINI? With sausage and a garden-picked tomato and a slice of Parmesan Reggiano? Maybe meatballs instead and heavy on the basil in the pasta? Or “old school” with petite green peas and Buffalo Ricotta cheese only? (and, of course, some Parmesan shavings). Whichever you choose, I’ll make it however you prefer as long as you are open to tasting a domestic Chianti-style wine with the fettucchini.

This 2011 “Chianti Station” from Seghesio Family Vineyards has done nothing but get better with time in the bottle since I bought it at the vineyard in 2014, and it’s drinkable though another year. Seghesio makes many wines, being famous for Zinfandel (“Home Ranch”). Called “Primitivo” in Italy, Zinfandel is a grape the Italian immigrants were familiar with when they settled in Central California in 1881. Sangiovese, the principal grape of Chianti, is another varietal those same early Italian immigrants were familiar with.

“Chianti Station” is a vineyard in the Alexander Valley sub-AVA within the Sonoma County AVA. The grapes (Sangiovese and Canaiolo) were first planted in “Chianti Station” by the Seghesio family in 1910. They had been growing grape vines in Sonoma since 1895.  At $48, when I bought it at the winery, it was an expensive proposition, but delicious and interesting. The field blend used in producing “Chianti Station” may be comprised of (mostly) Sangiovese with Canaiolo and some Trebbiano and Malvasia (the latter two no longer allowed in the Chianti Classico District of Italy since 2006).
As the oldest planting of Sangiovese in North America, these are definitely “old vines” yielding concentrated fruit. Some of the wine’s charm comes from Canaiolo, another Tuscan varietal and used in Italy still for making Chianti (which now allows a percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or Syrah). Despite temperature and growing conditions in Tuscany being similar to those in Alexander Valley, I found “Chianti Station” (while similar to the Chianti from Italy’s Classico Zone and seven sub-zones) deeper and richer in style. You might say, with the inclusion of whites from a field blend, that it’s more “old world” than that even from the Old World! An interesting mix of both classic and new world styles, “Chianti Station” offered aromas of black & red raspberry, cinnamon and white pepper. On the palate: Roasted tomato, leather, cherry and clove. ARP for the 2011 vintage, now unavailable, was $79. Look for newer vintages. Better yet: Take a “WineCation” and visit the winery in Healdsburg, California. ALC: 14.8%  P.S. Remember what your mother taught you: eat your greens too!

Cheers!  (Salute!)
………………….. Jim   

Seghesio Family Vineyards
700 Grove St, Healdsburg, CA 95448