The Sordo Barolos from Eight Different Crus

The Azienda Agricola Giovanni Sordo is a family run vineyard with a century long history in Barolo. With 8 vineyards covering 53 hectares in 5 different municipalities, no other winery in Barolo has access to as many crus as does Sordo. The winery recently sent us their portfolio of wines, including the entry level Barolo Clasico blend and an Arneis white from Roero, for tasting. Our reviews follow. Continue reading

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Latest Releases from The Farm Winery in Paso Robles

 

The Farm Winery is one of a growing number of boutique wineries in the Paso Robles AVA that are producing limited quantities of outstanding, hand-crafted wines.  The winery is owned and operated by old friends and Stanford Business School alumni Jim Madsen and renowned Argentine winemaker Santiago Achaval. The Farm Winery launched operations in 2009.   After a long search, Jim and Santiago ended up negotiating  long term-leases of several vineyards located in the westside hills of Paso Robles   These vineyards have mainly calcareous soils at an average altitude of between 1700 and 1900 feet and are exposed to cool ocean winds, resulting in wide diurnal temperature variations that contribute to high quality fruit.  The vines are severely thinned and the use of green harvesting has kept yields very low, at around 1.5-2.0  tons per acre.  These yields are among the lowest in Paso Robles and are reflected in the wines’ concentration of flavors. Continue reading

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DAOU Vineyards: The Pursuit of Excellence

Daniel Daou

Daniel Daou and family have created one of California’s leading wineries for the production of Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux blends.  The story is by now well known—born in Lebanon, raised in France, educated at UC San Diego, founded a highly successful tech company, and then followed his dream of making world class wine.  A couple of years ago, Daniel showed us his vineyards and winery located in the Adelaida District of Paso Robles, and we’ve tasted his exceptional wines multiple times over the years.  This year we couldn’t travel, but Daniel sent us his wines, and we had a lengthy discussion over Zoom covering some technical issues such as yeasts, dealing with heat spikes, and determining ripeness of grapes. Our tasting notes can be found below. Continue reading

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Galicia’s Little Known Red Wines

 

Galicia is located in northwest Spain, just north of Portugal and east of the Atlantic Ocean.  It includes five wine appellations (Denominacion de Origen, or D.O.):  Rias Baixas, Ribeiro, Ribeira Sacra, Valdeorras, and Monterrei. Red wines are made in all five, especially in the latter three, which are located furthest inland.  In this article we review several very good, interesting and little known red wines from Galicia.  For more on the wines of northwest Spain see our recently published reports on The Wines of Bierzo and Rias Baixas: Albariño and More. Continue reading

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Treixadura from Ribeiro in Galicia

Treixadura is a delicate white grape grown mostly in the Ribeiro region of Galicia and in northern Portugal where it’s called Trajadura and is often a component of Vinho Verde.  It’s often used in blends where it contributes fresh aromas and flavors of citrus and orchard fruit as well as body and alcohol.  With 2500 hectares of vines and 115 wineries, Ribeiro is located just east of Rias Baixas [see map of Ribeiro below] in close proximity (just 45 km) to the Atlantic, so as with Rias Baixas, white varietals like Treixadura dominate wine production.  In this article we evaluate some of the Ribeiro wines we’ve tasted made with this variety.  For more on the wines of Northwest Spain, please see our recently published report on The Wines of Rias Baixas and the forthcoming report on The Wines of Bierzo.  Also, see our earlier article on Casal de Armán; the reviews of their Treixadura wines are repeated here. Continue reading

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High Value Wines from the Southern Cone

Argentina and Chile arguably produce the world’s best value wines priced at $10-$20.  Argentina has, of course, become famous for its Malbec, and Chile for its Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc.  [Chile has more plantings of Cabernet than the US and almost as much as France.] But many other varieties are grown in these two countries as well.  Below, we review several current releases from the Southern Cone. To read about the super-premium wines of these two countries, see our reports on Chile’s Premium Wine Revolution and The Diverse Wines of Argentina. Continue reading

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Dutton Goldfield Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from the Excellent 2018 Vintage

Northern California’s 2018 vintage was typical of vintages two decades ago. Summer temperatures were moderate, and harvest was 2-3 weeks later than recent years with long, slow maturation.  As a result, the 2018 vintage wines are phenolically ripe and superbly balanced, and it was a real pleasure to taste the Dutton Goldfield new releases from the 2018 vintage. Continue reading

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Paul Lato Wines: Artisanal Winemaking at its Best

Paul Lato is one of Santa Barbara’s finest artisanal winemakers.  Since 2002, he has been crafting outstanding wines from grapes sourced from some of the finest vineyards in Santa Barbara County.  To his good fortune, Paul was discovered early in his career by none other than the wine critic Robert Parker,  who liked his wines and rated them highly.  With Parker’s encouragement and other reviews, Paul has gone on to craft wines that are today highly sought after by knowledgeable consumers and critics alike.  Because of their limited production Paul Lato wines are relatively pricey and mainly sold to a mailing list, although some wines can be found at retail outlets and online. Continue reading

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The Organic Wines of BARRA of Mendocino

The Barra Vineyard in Early Spring

The son of grape growing, Italian immigrants from the Piedmont, Charlie Barra purchased 175 acres of vineyard land in Redwood Valley at the headwaters of the Russian River in the rolling foothills of Mendocino County [see map below] in 1955.  Charlie Barra went on to become one of the leaders of the Mendocino wine industry and founded the California North Coast Grape Growers Association. The Barra family now farms 350 acres of organically cultivated vines in the Redwood Valley and began selling wines under its own BARRA of Mendocino label in 1997, initially made by John Parducci.  In 2003, Barra added Girasole, a line of popularly priced, widely distributed wines.  All the wines are made with organically certified, estate grown grapes. Today, Martha Barra is owner and UC Davis grad Randy Meyer is winemaker at BARRA of Mendocino.  Randy was previously lead winemaker at Geyser Peak Winery; he also leads the winemaking at Redwood Valley Cellars, the Barra’s custom crush facility.

We’ve not yet had the opportunity to visit Redwood Valley, but we hope to do so soon.  We have been tasting wines from other parts of Mendocino County.  See our recent report on The Wines of Anderson Valley and our article on Jason Drew whose winery is in the Mendocino Ridge AVA.

The Wines

Girasole Vineyards 2019 Pinot Blanc Mendocino County ($14) 89  Made from organically cultivated grapes, the Girasole Pinot Blanc is an attractive, quaffing wine. It offers honeydew melon, pear and white peach scents and flavors and is full and round in the mouth. There’s good freshness and a nice, lingering finish. But above all else it’s an easy drinking crowd pleaser made for summer picnics and winter days when we wished we were at a summer picnic. The winery suggests pairing with crabcakes, and we couldn’t agree more. RS 2.5 g/L, 13.5% alc.

Girasole Vineyards 2019 Pinot Noir Mendocino County ($16) 90 It’s rare to find an inexpensive Pinot Noir that we would like to drink, but the Girasole Pinot Noir is delicious and an amazing value. The nose shows red berry, dark cherry and plum that are mirrored on a silky, smooth entry and an easy drinking palate. This would make a great bistro wine. A blend of 98% Pinot Noir and 2% Petite Sirah from hand harvested estate fruit, given a cold soak, destemmed, and fermented in stainless steel. Matured in French oak for 8 months. 14.2% alc

BARRA 2017 Petite Sirah Mendocino County ($22) 92  The first release from the Barra family in 1997, the BARRA Petite Sirah is an excellent wine and an outstanding value. It offers a dark fruited nose with notes of plum and huckleberry and is full on the attack with dark, concentrated flavors. It’s firmly structured with a silky texture and a sense of elegance. Handpicked from the estate’s 948′ high, Bella Collina hillside vineyard aged 18 months in 20% new French and American oak. 14.5% alc.

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Red Blends from Portugal’s Alentejo Region

Alentejo is Portugal’s largest region, extending from the Tagus River in the north to the Algarve in the south.   As a region, it is both scenic and historic.  Predominantly located inland, it is also hot, dry, and sparsely populated. It is also hospitable to many grape varieties of both Portuguese and French origin. Important red varietals include Aragonez, Castelão, Touriga Nacional, Trincadeira, and Alicante Bouschet. Most Alentejo red wines are blends of these varieties, and in this article we review several current releases of red blends from Alentejo.  For more on the wines of Alentejo, see our report on The New Wines of Portugal  and our recent article on The Alicante Bouschet Wines of Alentejo. Continue reading

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