“There is truth in wine, but you never see it listed in the ingredients on the label” — Josh Stern

I’ll get to that quote later. For now, let’s talk about the wine. More specifically, let’s talk about the winery, Kendal Jackson / Jackson Estates and the wine: their Alisos Hills Syrah.  The estate is grand: near the vineyards are rows of walnut trees and areas in which organic produce is grown and used in preparing dishes made in their kitchen.  

Sitting outside under a patio umbrella and enjoying a glass while also enjoying the view is a joy anyone experiencing will want to experience again. Problem is most of us don’t visit vineyards. We don’t tour wineries. Problem is, Kendall Jackson, as a brand, is so available it’s become commonplace in our minds and, in the process, devalued.  We want something different, something exotic or assumed to be expensive - especially when entertaining - perhaps to impress?  And perhaps it’s true that “success breeds contempt.”  Yet the brand being as successful as it is speaks to the fact that lots of people are buying it.  So is it an issue of image regarding how we project ourselves when discussing the wines we admit to drinking?  Gee, you’d think 1976 would have erased all that nonsense.  Quality has always been about what’s inside the bottle; not the front label on it.

I’m proposing that we remove that veil of snobbery that we wear in public and let the truth of the marketplace’s private reality be admitted.  This is some delicious wine.  And that it’s commonly available and at budget friendly prices should be celebrated, not secreted.  

One of the Walnut Trees
The "Mizer" with Chef Matthew on the
patio in Oct. 2014

Syrah is noted for being high in tannins and low in acidity.  But with site selection, blending and meticulous vinification by Kendall-Jackson (and six years from vintage), I found the tannins silky and with sufficient acidity to make the wine food friendly and its pairing versatile.  In cool months, it begs for beef stew or braised beef.  Great with lamb and Osso Bucco, it can also be casually enjoyed with sausage and barbecue or grilled steaks.  Enjoy it with smoky blue cheese melted on a hamburger, or alone against an English styled Cheddar.

Inky purple in the glass, the wine gifts aromas that (for me) are strong with blueberry and black plum, then blackberry and cola with spicy hints. Complexity, I find, starts in vineyard selection.  And while the wine is 100% Syrah, grapes are selected from special blocks
Alisos in the Glass
within two of their many estate vineyards: (1) In the upper Southeast corner and a separate Southwest facing bench of the Barham vineyard having mixed soil of clay, sandy loam and gravel.  Clay brings density and structure to the grapes.  The lightness balancing this is from the very sandy soil of (2) the upper Northeast beach corner of the Neely Vineyard. These cool coastal vineyards of Santa Barbara are dotted with warmer blocks that hold heat better than others – ideal for Syrah.  Alisos Hills is a blend of those special blocks.  Grapes from these two vineyards grow at elevations of 700 to 1100 feet from “mountain” tops, ridges, hillsides and raised bench land.

Syrah is noted for being high in tannins and low in acidity.  But with site selection, blending and meticulous vinification by Kendall-Jackson (and six years from vintage), I found the tannins silky and with sufficient acidity to make the wine food friendly and its pairing versatile.  In cool months, it begs for beef stew or braised beef.  Great with lamb and Osso Bucco, it can also be casually enjoyed with sausage and barbeque or grilled steaks.  Enjoy it with smoky blue cheese melted on a hamburger, or alone against an English styled Cheddar.
Loin Lamb Chops, Baby Broccoli,
Fresh Herbs and Alisos

Just as good with Split Peas soup with
diced bits of smoked Ham Shanks
On the palate, the wine is smooth and luscious and super “malo-mellow”. Medium plus bodied but rich and palate coating enough to be considered full. Black cherry, vanilla, dark chocolate; hints of blackberry and currant and baking spice and herb notes.  Dry, but fruit rich, yet restrained and in balance, its only threat is its roundness and easy drinking quality which makes it too easy to enjoy.    

And finally, to that quote:  As only one among a very few wineries, Kendall-Jackson makes a practice of providing information about each wine on its back label. Imagine!  No stories about why a wine is named after a neighbor’s pet bird or other similar nonsense.  Useful information. Respectful of the process, as we should be of this wine.
The Back Label of their Los Robles
Pinot Noir

…………….. Jim

Back Label of 2013 Alisos

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Kendall-Jackson Vineyard Estates       
Varietal:                                                          Syrah, 100%
Vintage:                                                          2013
Source:                                                            Los Alamos, Santa Barbara County
Appellation:                                                    Santa Barbara County
Vineyards:                                                       Barham and Neely
Elevation:                                                        700-1100 Feet
Aging:                                                             13 Months, 88% French Oak (34%) New 1
ALC:                                                               14.5%
TA:                                                                   0.57 g/100ml
pH:                                                                   3.75
ARP:                                                                $37.00 U.S.
Current Vintage:                                              2019
   1  Changes are made as needed for vintage. 2016, for example, was 11 Months, 100% French and 28% new.

Note:   This wine was previously labeled as “Highland Estates.”  Names are changed to confuse the                innocent,


“Some people have such good taste they can’t enjoy anything.” … Marty Rubin

As a person reaches a certain age and prepares to write the final chapters of his life’s story, certain deeply meaningful, philosophical questions remain not only unanswered but ever more troublesome -- such as: “Why does a blowing fan attract dust instead of blowing the dust away?”  (I found the answer to that one). But here’s one that lingers: “Does a winery’s success breed contempt or are people just not being honest”?

Take your pick from any of the large wineries whose presence is well established in grocery stores. Today, I’ll be “picking” on Francis Ford Coppola: a wine theme-park offering tours but also lodging, bocce courts, swimming pool, cabanas, an outdoor stage and restaurants on-site in the Geyserville, Sonoma winery grounds where I visited. Lots of movie memorabilia (including the car used in the making of “Tucker” and items from “Godfather”) in another building so large it has an elevator. Pasta & expresso machine, oh my! There’s so much going on, one wonders if there’s any room for the wine (there is).  But go online and look for critics’ reviews of Coppola’s “Diamond Collection” wines and you won’t find much.  The glitterati of wine writers have little to say about this price series.  With some exceptions, wine bloggers also seemingly avoid such less expensive labels.   

Is it that the winery, being so well established, has become too common a name for people to spend time writing about it, or is it disdain for the brand’s association being a “grocery store” wine?  The reality supports neither but also doesn’t explain it.  As with other California wineries, Coppola is somewhat of a “winery within a winery.”  And, as with those other wineries, Coppola makes world-class, highly rated wine but in limited production and available only at the winery, or at fine restaurants or to club members. You may come across a review of Coppola’s “Archimedes” ($120) or “Eleanor” ($80) – neither of which you will find in grocery stores. Both these wines are incredible.  And though they score well (my opinion) in the value to price category, they’re pricey enough to be removed from the “everyday drinking” category (at least for me). 

It was while pouring wine at retail events that I came across Coppola’s “Diamond Collection” series:Twelve wines, none single vineyard, all priced for everyday consumption and all with the simple California appellation. For some, that’s another issue – no AVA, no sub-AVA, not all the grapes being from a south facing slope on a particular hillside at a particular elevation.  But as with Champagne and some scotch for example, blending is an art too.  An art that allows the artist to knit together a sum greater than its parts. 

Coppola’s Syrah-Shiraz (different names for the same grape) is that. And with an average retail price of $14 (U.S.), it’s even more than that.  A blend of 99% Syrah and 1% Petite Sirah (percentages may change with vintages), people note aromas of wild berries and pomegranate spiced with a hint of tobacco leaf.  Others note plum and clove, mocha and toasted oak.  For me, it was deep rich fruit with raspberry and blueberry preserves being dominant and enticing. On the palate, dark cherry in a silky-smooth wine with very subdued tannins and well managed alcohol that generates no “heat” on the palate.  Sweet vanilla balances bittersweet chocolate. Some plum carries onto the palate from the wine’s aroma.  Other tasters note some smoky bacon and fig and cassis and caramel.  Some note white pepper, others black pepper.  I note that we can complicate things, but – in order to do so – the wine must be good to start with.

The wine is medium bodied and if there is any potential drawback to it, it is that it so easy drinking and enjoyable. Definitely “new world,” it is fruit forward, but not jammy.   Though some tasters commented on “earthy notes,” I found them subtle and without mushroom.  Not that such are bad things. Most of my cellar is “old world” and ageable.   This is wine that knows its market and is simply and unapologetically delicious, easy to enjoy and in good balance.

A Magnum! Who says
the best things
come in small
A benefit that comes attached to such “wineries within wineries” that also make “grocery store” wines is that the same skill and concern that goes into making their top priced labels goes into those labels also (in this case, the “Diamond Collection”).  In fact, such is a common practice in Bordeaux, though the Chateau name may be different enough to be confusing.  In the U.S., wineries may do the same by using the number #2 preceded by the first letter of the first name of the winery or they may use a play on the name of their winery along with a related image.

Although some varietals included in Coppola’s “Diamond Collection” series have been rated highly or have won GOLD at various San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competitions, the series itself doesn’t get the attention it deserves.  Maybe it’s that “grocery store” thing.  Maybe it’s low price doesn’t build the wine’s cachet among the glitterati. Maybe there’s more to Rubin’s quote that I realized.  I’ve tasted several varietals among the “Diamond Collection” series with the Syrah-Shiraz being the most recent.  (They are not all at the same price point as the Syrah-Shiraz, though all are inexpensive).   And should someone make a disparaging comment when you offer them a glass of this “grocery store” wine, don’t reply in kind. Be kind: pour them a taste.

………………. Jim

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Francis Ford Coppola Winery     
300 Via Archimedes,
Geyserville, CA 95441
(707) 857-1471

Blend:                                                   99% Syrah 1% Petite Syrah, Generally from Paso Robles
                                                              and Monterey.
Appellation:                                          California
Aging:                                                   French oak, 12 Months
ALC:                                                     13.5%
TA:                                                        .64g/100 ML
pH:                                                         3.62

Included in the 12 shown on Coppola’s web site for the “Diamond Collection” are Claret, Pavilion (a Chardonnay), Oregon Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay (not the Pavilion), Red Blend, Malbec, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Noir (not the Oregon), Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel and the Syrah-Shiraz.




“Wine is sure proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy!” …. Benjamin Franklin

Two words: Kabaj (the producer) and Rebula (the grape) both from Slovenia.  The grape is better known elsewhere as Ribolla Gialla.  So, excepting when “Rebula” (Re-bohla) refers to the brand name on the label of the wine produced by Kabaj (Ka-bye), the grape will be identified here as Ribolla (and I’ll assume you’ll remember the Gialla part).

Regarding Slovenia, it abuts Italy on the north and eastern side of the Adriatic Sea. The grape originated in Greece and came to Slovenia (where it is known as Rebula) through Italy.  Ribolla is grown in Rosazzo and in Oslavia within Italy’s Friuli.  But even more (much more) is grown on the eastern side of the border in Slovenia within the areas of Vipava and Goriska Brda. Kabaj’s vineyards are in Goriska Brda, 15 miles from the Adriatic and on the foothills of the Alps.  Throughout Slovenia, Rebula is known as “The Queen of Brda” where the vines thrive in the slate and sandstone soil of the hilly, sun-enriched terrain where the remains of an ancient seabed enriched the soil with marl and flysch.  

Medieval records dating back to 1256 mention that Rebula had already been planted in Goriska Brda’s vineyards.  Later, under Soviet rule in the late 1940s, profitable family enterprise was not encouraged and vineyards had little motivation to modernize having become state run.  Slovenia gained independence in 1991. Indigenous grapes were replanted. But by then, Italy, just to the west, and many other countries both in the “old” and “new” worlds had long established a solid foothold in the global marketplace.  Wines from eastern Europe remained and remain today largely unfamiliar in the U.S.

Too bad. Because “Rebula” from Kabaj is such a versatile wine and so tasty.  It’s a white wine. And it is made with extended skin contact so you’ll find some that refer to it as an “orange” wine.  Ignore that. While I enjoy orange wine, most U.S. consumers do not.  It’s only within the last few years, after all, that we’ve come to gleefully quaff Rose in significant numbers. The extended skin contact (30 days) that Jean-Michel Morel employs in making Rebula presents a wine resulting more in texture than in color.  And despite the extended skin contact, this wine retains a freshness and lively acidity and offers a cleansing finish.
A Tasting of Different Vintages of Kabaj's Rebula

In the glass, it shows deep gold (think oaked Chardonnay).  Aromas of lychee, stewed apricot and orange pith dominate - accompanied by hints of straw, soy sauce and petrol. On the palate, expect a mélange of lemon and passion fruit with notes of saffron and unsweet peach. The wine is weighty: medium plus, again like an oaked Chardonnay.  But aging is in neutral wood (not new oak) so the fruit remains fresh and lively.  By all means, chill the wine, but I recommend that you allow it to warm some outside the refrigerator before serving (yet again – like an oaked Chardonnay). Doing this will introduce even more taste-treats particularly on the finish.  I enjoyed a compote of banana, black olive, clove and the slightest suggestion of mint on the end taste.  Other tasters note juicy pineapple, honeycomb, roasted hazelnuts, vanilla, chai tea and anise.  All palates are personal and correct for the person owning it.  Suffice to say, this is a complex wine.  
Versatile? Yes!  The Textured Body of Kabaj's Rebula
Pairs Well Against The Ranch Style Dip on
this Simple Crudites Platter.
Grilled Shrimp (Sometimes With Diced Ham, But Here
With Peruvian Peppers). Rebula Was a Perfect Pairing.
For good reason.  Bordeaux trained oenologist Jean-Michel Morel, after spending time also in cellars in Languedoc and Collio Italy, married Katja Kabaj of the Kabaj estate in Slovenia. And thus was blended a mix of French and Italian sensibilities into Slovenian vineyards that had withstood the test of time and had been producing quality wine for generations.  With his fondness of working with amphorae, Jean-Michel demonstrated that his agenda in Slovenia was simply to make the best wine possible.  Ribolla (Gialla) had been successful in Italy and Rebula was considered to be its ancestor.   

There are so many grapes that are not classified as “noble” or considered “international.”  The former seems to be those dictated by governing authorities as authorized for use in the making of wine from particular appellations. The latter applies to wine grapes grown worldwide; having benefited from marketing and winning popularity contests. In a which came first “chicken or the egg” fashion, was it the marketing that created the grapes popularity or the fact that the grape could be grown in so many areas that created its popularity?

Ribolla/Rebula is not an international grape, but for me has made a wine that is indeed “noble” in the glass.  And with so many indigenous grapes just wanting to become vinified, why limit your enjoyment and learning experiences to only those “international”?  Ben would be ashamed.

na zdravje!
Chicken Cordon Bleu and Couscos Prepared
in Chicken Stock With a Drizzle of Maple
Syrup and Finished in Threads of Saffron.
Kabaj's Rebula: Food Friendly & Versatile.

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A Different Producer's Rebula From Slovenia.
As You Can See From Its Color, This One Is

Country:                                 Slovenia
Appellation:                           Goriska Brda
Vineyards:                              Belo-Vhr & Neblo-Vhr
Altitude:                                 500-820 ft.
Slope:                                     South
Soil:                                        Sandstone, Slate, Marl, Flysch           
Climate:                                  Sub-Mediterranean
Varietal:                                  Rebula, 100%
Age of Vines:                         40 Years
Farming:                                 Sustainable
Harvest:                                  By Hand, End of September
Fermentation/Aging:              With Wild (Native) Yeast
In 2400 Liter Neutral Oak, 30 Days Skin Contact, Followed
By Malolactic in Barrel and 12 Months Aging old Barrique and
4 Months in Bottle.
ALC:                                       12.5%
RS:                                          2.1 g/L
Acidity:                                   5.54 g/L
Imported by:                           TerraneoMerchants
ARP:                                       $22. (U.S.)
Ageing Potential:                    7-10 Years (Varies by Conditions)      
James Suckling:                       92
Wine & Spirits                         93
Wine Enthusiast:                     89
“Rebula” literally means “re-cooking,” a reference to the grape’s natural tendency to participate in secondary (malolactic) fermentation and contributing to the wine’s creaminess with a rounded mouthfeel.  In malolactic fermentation, which can be induced or just naturally allowed, tart malic acid is converted into softer tasting lactic acid.  


“The thing about champagne, you say, unfoiling the cork, unwinding the wire restraint, is that is the ultimate associative object. Every time you open a bottle of champagne, it’s a celebration, so there’s no better way of starting a celebration than opening a bottle of champagne. Every time you sip it, you’re sipping from all those other celebrations. The joy accumulates over time.” …. David Levithan (American Writer).

With an average retail price of $70 U.S., (though you can find it, occasionally in the $50s), I’ll concede this is not my everyday Champagne, albeit my favorite.  Ruinart is the oldest established Champagne house, exclusively producing champagne since 1729.  This “Blanc de Blancs” (white of white) is 100% Chardonnay.  Champagne, however, IS WINE and it presents itself, as does other wine, in many forms. “Blanc de Noirs” (White of Black – white wine from red grapes) can be a blend of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, or simply Pinot Noir.  It may come as vintage or as a blend of several years (non-vintage).  And then there is the dosage – the measurement of sweetness injected into the wine after disgorgement that determines its finish as an unsweet to sweet dessert wine with gradients in-between.  So, while I must admit this Ruinart Blanc De Blancs is, for me, a special occasion wine, it is so only because of its price and my economic status.  Many Champagnes cost less (though, for me, few deliver more).

The point being, it is wrong to categorize Champagne (mind lock it) as celebration wine.  With all the styles in which Champagne may present itself, one could easily serve different styles of Champagne throughout each course of a grand meal: from the aperitif to and including dessert just as you do with wine.  It’s Champagne’s association with celebration that has stunted its sales growth here, limited its appreciation and given rise to that horrid image of pop, cheer and laugh as the wine foams out of the bottle and then gets served.  

In fact, Champagne’s natural acidity makes it a natural for food pairing.  Try a rose with salmon.  Try a Blanc de Blancs with chicken (even fried), oysters, creamy cheeses, shellfish, linguine with white clam sauce, caviar and appetizers containing caviar, salty foods and dishes made with cream sauces, steamed, fried or grilled seafood (as long as the sauce is not overpowering).

I recently enjoyed this wine with a “crab fest” of steamed King Crab Legs and Dungeness crab clusters, grilled shrimp, saffron dusted scallops (a mistake) and a spinach soufflé.   


To begin, Ruinart opens with a soft pssst, not a loud pop – the mark of well-made Champagne (be certain to chill any bottle so as to reduce the pressure when opening).  Pour this luminous, glistening Champagne – the color of golden straw – into the glass and notice that the mousse is not aggressive.  Such excessiveness – for me – just gets in the way.  No, everything about this Champagne is finessed. Bubbles are extremely fine and shockingly persistent, carrying to the glass’s rim all the aroma and palate pleasing tastes one could hope for.

The unique chalkiness of the soil that these Chardonnay vines grow in and the cool climate of the area assure perfect expression of the acidity in these grapes from Ruinart’s estate vineyards in Sillery and Brimont (the ancestral home of the Ruinart family) and from premiers crus only in the Cote des Blancs and the Montagne de Reims. Using only the best of recent vintages, these are blended with 20-25% reserve wines.     
Ruinart maintains chalk quarries deep underground the city of Reims where the wine rests after first sitting on its lees for four years after the second fermentation.  The result is a crisp but rounded and creamy wine that is a study in elegance.  Malolactic conversion provides rich creaminess to the mouthfeel, but the wine remains crisp and cleansing.  For a Champagne, it is surprisingly full bodied, while yet being lightened by its citrus character and delicate mousse kept fresh with the most persistent of very fine bubbles.  On the nose: hints of toast, honey, butterscotch and almond play with notes of white flower and green apple.  The palate delights in brioche, lemon crème, and hazelnut.  Lychee adds an exotic touch. While apparent, none of these flavors are brutish, instead they are suggested.  A hint of cantaloupe? The fruit emerges through the sharp acidity which, itself, is opposed by amazing creaminess.

Other tasters refer to poached white peach, lemon meringue pie, angel food cake, butter cookie, lemon peel hints and jasmine.   Different words, I think, for essentially the same experience.  All appreciate the minerality in the finish of this wine.

If you still believe that Champagne is fit only for celebrating occasions, perhaps you’ll begin to consider that Champagne can make any occasion special and any meal an occasion. 

……………. Jim

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Ruinart, founded by Nicolas Ruinart in the Champagne region in the city of Reims in 1729, is now owned by luxury goods conglomerate LVMH (Louis Vuitton, Moet Hennessy).

James Suckling                  93
Wine Spectator:                 92
Wine Enthusiast:               92
Robert Parker:                   90
Munis Vini 2014:               Gold
Munis Vini 2015:               Silver
Munis Vini 2016:               Gold

Producer:                            Champagne Ruinart
Imported By:                      Moet Hennessy USA, Inc. (NY, NY)
ALC:                                  12.5%
Dosage:                              8g (Brut)


“Great wine is about nuance, surprise, subtlety, expression, qualities that keep you coming back for another taste.  Rejecting a wine because it is not big enough is like rejecting a book because it is not long enough, or a piece of music because it is not loud enough.”  —  Kermit Lynch   Adventures on the Wine Route”.

Think of Bordeaux and wine in the same thought and likely it’s red wine that immediately comes to mind.  But if I include the words Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle next to Bordeaux, you’re likely to pause just a moment, and then try to remember the various white wine regions of France.  The whites of Bordeaux fell off our national attention span in the late 1980s.  And with some exceptions, the extraordinary price escalation of the region’s reds kept publicity focused on that color.   Add in that it’s such a global marketplace that even regions within the same country compete for our attention.  Sauvignon Blanc?  The Loire.  The Rhone produces delicious white wine.  So does Burgundy. So too does the Cotes du Roussillon and Alsace, as does Italy, Australia, Spain and the U.S.   It’s easy to forget that of “before” when so much of the “now” is pushed between our ears.
Plating With Fresh Dill, Organic Red Grapes,
Satsuma Mandarin & a Slice of Blood Orange.

So when I was putting together a very simple lunch recently and my “new” favorite white Rhone was out of stock, I brought along a very nice Cotes du Roussillon instead.  But it wasn’t nice enough.  More expensive, yes. But not acidic enough to be palate cleansing with a simple lunch of salmon and cream cheese on bread with various accompaniments.  My brother came to the rescue with this Graves from his collection.  More specifically: a white wine of Herve Dubourdieu of Chateau Graville-Lacoste in the Graves AOC.  Not Sauternes or Barsac or the Loire, but Graves – how easy to have forgotten and how sad to have done so.  And thanks to Herve Dubourdieu and my brother, Bill, who rescued the lunch.

A dry white, with delicious minerality and cleansing acidity, the Chateau Graville-Lacoste is unusual in its proportion of Semillon (75%) in the blend. It’s finished with 20% Sauvignon Blanc and 5% Muscadelle.  Fermented to dryness, the wine finishes crisp and cleansing, pairing well against the oily Salmon and fat of the cream cheese while yet remaining rounded.  Fruity, with some herbal character, the wine offers lychee, citrus zest and lemongrass opposed by baked apple and lemon butter in a Wallenda of balance.   Its ARP is $19. What’s not to like about this?

I’d like to enjoy this wine again, paired with a platter of seafood: crab, shrimp, oysters and scallops, maybe some broiled and crusted white fish along with a green salad and a crusty baguette.  Pair it also with cheddar or several semi-soft cheeses., but try it.  Not something I instinctively thought would do well with Cheddar, I later made some flourless gnocchi and a sauce of various aged cheddar along with crumbled bacon and broccoli and paired it with this wine.  It was delicious. In your quest for new regions and varietals, perhaps you’ve been away from the whites of Bordeaux for too long and it’s time to reacquaint yourself with them.  They might just surprise you with nuance, subtlety, and an expressive quality that will keep you coming back for another taste.                            


…………. Jim

Follow and “Like” Wine Mizer on Facebook for mini-reviews, industry news and more. does not accept any advertisements, nor is it affiliated with any winery, vineyard, importer or distributor.  You may be assured that any opinions are not economically biased (though they may not be appropriate to your individual and unique palate.

Varietals:                     Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc & Muscadelle (see Above)
Appelation:                       Graves, Bordeaux, France
Soil:                                  Clay & Limestone on Fissured Rock
Age of Vines:                   45-48 Years
Vinification & Aging:      Stainless, 6 Months
Bottled Unfiltered
ARP:                                 $19 U.S.
ALC:                                 12%
Imported By:                     Kermit Lynch* (See Quote Above)


Wine is like a liquid representation of who [the winemakers] are and what makes them tick. It's also all about making memories. Your olfactory senses are intrinsically linked to memory, so when you're sharing a bottle of wine, and then having it again, you're dredging up memories. And for me that's just a super romantic, beautiful, poetic thing.” …. Brie Roland, "How to Drink Wine Without Looking Dumb or Going Broke"

Thanks go out to the winemakers at Lynfred Winery (Andres Basso previously of Concha y Toro and Rodrigo Gonzalez with experience from Casa Lapostolle) for producing this 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon.  In the process, they unknowingly saved my dinner.  Having some basil pesto made and saved from my summer’s harvest, I prepared wild caught, pink shrimp and finished them in warmed pesto.  Some spiralized zucchini with aglio y olio finished with grated Parmesan Reggiano and a petite filet mignon basted in herbed compound butter completed the meal.    

It was one of those rare occurrences where everything came out nicely.  The problem was the wine. I had at the ready a red blend from Napa Valley assuming my guest would prefer it. She didn’t, nor did I. Much too fruit forward.  But I had a backup: a Barbaresco – no expense spared. An Italian Nebbiolo against a meal structured to be somewhat Italian should work. And actually, it was delicious but didn’t pair well against the filet.  Not taking any chances, I also had the Lynfred 2015 opened.  The Cab happened to be their monthly release (December).  Cab works, of course, with beef.  But shrimp?  Well, I had the bottle anyway, so “no harm”.  A Somm at Lynfred (now at a satellite location though still with the winery) talked of pairing Cab with lobster and it was a standing disagreement between us.   Now I think he’s on to something. Then again, I’m not sure I would sauce a lobster with pesto.

The reason for the red blend was that my guest often finds Cabernet Sauvignon too tannic.  But this rendering of Lynfred’s (90% Cabernet Sauvignon / 10 % Merlot) was eminently drinkable.  Sourced from the Jones Vineyard in the Wahluke Slope of Washington and Lodi (Central Valley California) and vinified at the Roselle (Illinois) winery, the Cab was not tannic (which was my guest’s concern).  And with Washington fruit, the wine was better restrained; for me – more elegant, when blended, than the heavier and too fruit-sweet wine of the more prestigious area within California.  My concern with Lodi grown grapes has subsided over the years, tasting what Zinfandels this appellation has produced.  With 110,000 acres in size and producing more wine grapes that any other California appellation, Lodi’s claim to fame was also its marketing “boat anchor”.  Bigger is not best.  And bigger, by definition, means numerous micro-climates, plots of different soil, and different exposure within the behemoth AVA.  An experience that delivers less than expected blemishes the entire appellation.  (Another reason for more earnestly considering dividing this appellation).
A Glass I Enjoyed (And Yes, Paid For)
While Doing "Research" At
The Winery

As I like to say, “What’s inside the bottle” tells a better story (when selecting from such an appellation) than what’s on the label. And what’s in this bottle is – and worked – perfectly.  Cassis, green pepper, cherry on the nose in a wine that appears deep garnet in the glass.  Forrest berries and baking spice on the palate. Some grip makes itself evident, though moderated and the tannins soften and gentle even more with air.  Air, not needing to be excessive, is nonetheless this wine’s friend.  Decant and appreciate aromas that now add violet and sweet tobacco (unlit cigar) to those already mentioned. Add in slight hints of mocha, vanilla and black pepper.  The taste benefits also with the addition of blueberry, toasted oak, cedar and dark (unsweet but not bitter) chocolate.

And then there is the spice.  Not spice as in “hot”.  Spice as in “tasty”.  In fact, this wine is made so deliciously complex with spice that I continue to buy and taste bottles of it to better understand.  The winery’s promo refers to “sage,” but I find it much more complex and intriguing. In fact, one of the reasons I so enjoy this wine is its spice:  enjoyable while yet being difficult to narrow down.  Clove, black licorice, black pepper intermingled with vegetative tastes of green bell pepper and eucalyptus and dried green tea.

But I’m getting lost in describing this wine without getting to the point that it served so well against the shrimp in pesto. Cleansing and complimentary.  The acidity cleansing the palate of the oil in the pesto, the wine’s spice complimenting the basil, cheese and spice used in making it.  I so enjoyed this wine that I will be making this dish again as an excuse to open another bottle and revel in its complex spice.  Needless to say, it paired well against the petite filet mignon, but that was no surprise. Thanks, Lynfred.  I suspect whenever I open a bottle of your 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon, I’ll remember the moment.


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Lynfred Winery 
15 S Roselle Rd
Roselle, IL 60172
(630) 529-9463
Tastings Rooms Also in: Wheaton, Naperville and Wheeling

Sourcing:         See Above
Blend:              See Above
Brix:                 24.5
Aging:              American Oak, 24 Months
RS:                   0.4%
Ph:                   3.7
TA:                   6.75 g/L
Cases Produced: 507
Release Date:  12/1/2018 (See Note)

Lynfred’s 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon will be available to the general public on March 1, 2019 priced at $25.25.   It is available presently to members of either the “New Release” or “Red Wine” club and discounted at $20.