Tuesday, September 13, 2016

A Book Review- A Perfect Score: The Art, Soul, and Business of a 21st-Century Winery


Pour yourself a glass of some of Napa’s finest, then settle in to take a vicarious ride with one of the valley’s most perfect scoring couples. You will feel like you’ve joined them at their table as Kathryn and Craig Hall take turns telling their tale starting in Texas before they met on through the building of their California wine country empire. 

A Perfect Score: The Art, Soul, and Business of a 21st-Century Winery is a story anyone can savor, it is one of two hard-working, determined people who come together first in love and, then together, dream a dream big enough for wine lovers everywhere to share with them. 

Available today on Amazon or at Hall Wines.

Monday, August 22, 2016

An Unadorned Taste of Lodi's Old Vine Vineyards


I recently had the opportunity to taste The Lodi Native Project wines after an old vines tour of the area. In 2012, the Lodi Wine Grape Commission asked winemakers to make a more naked style of 100% Zinfandel wine from designated vineyard areas. These vintners were asked to create low intervention wines made with native yeasts, no new oak barrels, no fining or filtering and no adding acid or water to the wines. The goal was to give a true reflection of these special terroirs.

Wegat Vineyard sits on the west side of the Mokelumne River AVA. The vines were field grafted onto St Augustine rootstock in 1958. This wine is made by Chad Joseph of Maley Brothers. The vines here produce loose clusters with an intense fruit character. This wine had a fruity blueberry/blackberry flavor with an earthy touch of mushroom.

Stampede Vineyard is on the east side in the Clements Hills AVA. The vines are on their own rootstock in sandy loam soil and range from about 80-100 years of age. This wine was crafted by Ryan Sherman of Fields Family Wines, it is more structured, more tannic with cherry and red berry aromas and flavors.

Trulux Vineyard is located on the west side of the Mokelumne River AVA. The vines were originally planted on St Augustine rootstock in 1940's and were head trained and are now over 6 feet tall. The vines produce long loose clusters. The wine is made by Michael McCay of McCay Cellars and also has red fruit flavors but is more savory with dried herbs and a spicy nutmeg note in the finish.

Marian's Vineyard was planted in 1901 and the vines remain on their own roots. It is also located in the Mokelumne River AVA. It is currently farmed by father/son team Jerry and Bruce Fry, the vineyard was named after Jerry's mother. The wine is produced by Stuart Spencer at St Amant Winery. The well draining sandy soil helps to create a bolder Zinfandel with more concentrated dark fruit flavors. This wine was more floral with a slightly peppery finish.

Soucie Vineyard is also located in he Mokelumne River AVA. It is the most western and enjoys more of the cooling effects of the Delta Breeze. Sourced from a vineyard block planted in 1916, the vines are on their own roots in a fine silt soil. This wine was produced by Layne Montgomery of m2 Wines, it was a bit more lush and a little earthier.

Schmiedt Ranch is an 8 acre site located in the bend of the Mokelumne River. It was planted in 1918 and the vines are dry-farmed and sit on their original roots in deep sandy loam. This wine is by Tim Holdener of Macchia Wines, it has concentrated fruit flavors with a silky smooth feel and a long finish.

The next release is the 2014 vintage in November. A six-pack containing one of each is priced at $180 at the Lodi Wine and Visitor Center. These wines are highly recommended.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Notes on the Livermore Valley AVA

The Livermore Valley AVA is situated in northern California’s Alameda County and has 3,400 vineyard acres. Terroir features include well-drained gravel-based soils and wide diurnal swings. These temperature shifts are created from both the early morning fog and the evening breezes that come in from San Francisco Bay which is located only 35 miles away. The valley is also distinctly oriented laying from west to east instead of the more typical north to south. This unique placement enables it to fully enjoy these daily maritime climatic advantages.

The AVA gets its name from Charles Livermore who planted the first grapevines for commercial production in the area in the 1840's. Recognition for the region would follow when Cresta Blanca Winery, owned by Secretary of the California Viticulture Commision, Charles Wetmore, won the grand prize at the 1889 Paris Exposition. This wine was the first from California to win in a tasting competition in France. Long before the Judgment of Paris was held, Livermore put America on the world wine map. 

Two other wineries founded during this same time period managed to stay in operation throughout prohibition and have continued to remain leaders in California wine production. They are Concannon and Wente Vineyards. Family members have run these without interruption to the present day. The contribution to California winemaking from each is tremendous. Currently, eighty percent of California's Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay plantings come from these two vineyards' clones.

Although more than twenty-five grape varieties are now being grown, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon remain the most important grapes in the region.

The valley now has over 50 wineries. The Livermore Valley Winegrowers Association hosts numerous events and tasting experiences for consumers to enjoy throughout the year. With less than an hour drive from San Francisco, Livermore Valley is an ideal destination for your next California wine vacation.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Rías Baixas Albariño

One of the most important white wine grape varieties in Spain is Albariño. It makes a light to medium body wine that is fresh, crisp and elegant. The wines are typically a pale gold or lemon-yellow color. They are dry and aromatic and loaded with sweet fruit flavors including ripe peach, apricot, melon, pineapple and mango. They often have a floral honeysuckle element as well. They all share good natural acidity and may have a light mineral note. They are easy drinking with a light to medium body and moderate alcohol. 

The most important region for Albariño is Rias Baixas (pronounced Re-ass By-shass) which is located up in the northwestern corner of Spain near Portugal. The area is known as “Green Spain”. The climate is generally cooler than much of the country with plenty of rainfall. The Albariño variety does well in this terroir. The climate and soil are heavily influenced by the Atlantic as the vineyards lie along the  long coastal plains of Galicia bordering the ocean. 

Although the region allows twelve different grape varieties to be grown, Albariño is the most heavily cultivated. If the label says Rías Baixas Albariño then it is made from 100% Albariño grapes. Enjoy these Rias Baixas wines with simple seafood tapas or take-out Asian cuisine. Served chilled, they make a great end of summer sipper for our balmy Houston evenings.

2015 Fulget Rías Baixas Albariño* - This wine is a pale straw color in the  glass with fresh fruity aromas of citrus, apple and melon with dried herbs and a light honeysuckle note with crisp acidity and a long fruity finish. This family owned winery has some of the oldest Albariño vineyards in the region dating back to the 1970s. 


2014 Vionta Rías Baixas Albariño* - This wine is a pale yellow color with hints of gold. It has intense tropical fruit aromas with melon, peach and green apple, softer than the above but still with a pleasant acidity, it has a long, slightly tart peach finish. Bodega Vionta lies in the heart of the Salnés Valley. They strive to blend tradition with the best of modernity.

*Media Samples