Classic Wines for Winter Solstice Celebrations


Coincidence maybe but three e-commerce wine sites I follow are offering classic wines. 

Good reason to celebrate changes and longer days.

By classic, I mean wines true to the type and region, and with some history. Not the over-blown bombastic style often referred to as “hedonistic” made by an unproven twit.

Classics, not wannabe cults.

Real wines, folks.

Like the offer of this one:

2017 School House Vineyards Syrah Blend, Spring Mountain, Napa $29.00

Now this is a coup! 

From one of Napa’s truly legendary vineyards. Owned by John Ganter. Google him.Read the story. It was made at Pride Mountain which knows how to make Syrah. 

I can’t believe this is offered anywhere, let alone online.

Next, scored big with two quite different classics:

2017 Castello di Volpaia Chianti Classsico $15.97

2017 Catena Malbec, Mendoza High Mountain Vineyards, $15.97

Hard to find a better example of classic, classico Chianti. Drink now or hold. Volpaia has been at it for 100 years or so.

Catena is “the” name in Argentinian Malbec, but in my humble opinion, Malbec has its limitations. It can be pushed into a hedonistic cookie cutter style, but then it doesn’t taste like Malbec.  

There is a reason why Malbec is the 4th variety in Bordeaux: the other three are more essential and capable of more complexity.

But Malbec can be a perfect, widely appealing, easy drinking red.

This Catena is a pure expression of Malbec. 

And not to be left out:

The fun guys at found this gem:

2016 Bien Nacido Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Valley, $49.00

Bien Nacido was at the forefront of the Pinot revolution thanks to Sideways. And it remains one of the standards of Santa Maria/Santa Barbara Pinot Noir.

A classic!!

Re-Visiting An Icon: Randall Grahm

When I recently caught up with Randall Grahm, the man who created Bonny Doon Vineyard and led the charge for Rhone wines back in the late 1980s, he was focused on the changing wine market. 

The main topic was the new style of Bonny Doon’s white Le Cigare Blanc and red Le Cigare Volant, his flagship Rhone-based wines for over 30 years.  Both wines were inspired by Chateauneuf-du-Pape and other wines from the Southern Rhone Valley.

“Wine drinkers today are fickle. They don’t want eloquent style wines, they want blockbusters. They don’t want wines that need long explanations.”

Whatever the reason may be, the fact is both newly re-designed wines are excellent and, better yet, super deals.

And as he later added, “I still want to make wines that matter. Wines that are originals, not copies.”

So here are my reviews. (Spoiler alert: these wines are definitely originals.)

The 2018 Bonny Doon Le Cigare Blanc combines Grenache Blanc with a newcomer, Vermentino. Not a well-known grape here, the latter, says Randall,”contributes good acidity and a salty tang to the blend.

The 2018 Bonny Doon Le Cigare Volant brings together Grenache, Cinsault, and Syrah.

And it is a gorgeous red with berry fruit and a rich, smooth texture.

Using Cinsault rather than, say Mourvedre, creates a “more youthful, more approachable style.”

Best News: Both are priced at $20 a bottle, before any discounts. 

Before the day was over, we tasted another dozen wines during a visit to the Bonny Doon tasting room in Davenport. That’s a tiny coastal town about 10 miles north of Santa Cruz.

Neither flashy nor funky, the tasting room is set up for drop-ins and winery club members. 

So, if you are adventurous, love to try new wines, and are looking for a club that has it all, then consider joining. Members get 20% off the current featured club wines when signing up.

(And, full disclosure, I’m independent, not one of those influencers, reviewers, or bogus bloggers getting paid somehow to solicit new subscribers.)

Now let’s take a closer look at some of the exciting, unusual Bonny Doon wines.

First up, a 2018 Picpoul from the cool-climate Arroyo Seco region. Picpoul? It is an old, minor white grape in France and is known for being lively and a little brisk. The name literally translates as “lip stinger.”   This wine is bright and delicious. Price: $18.

A few days later when I was visiting Sarah’s Vineyard,  the owner proudly poured his version of Picpoul. So, something is going on with the lip stinger!

Back to Bonny Doon:

2018 Vin Gris de Cigare which is an interesting variation of a Rose. Dry and wonderfully spicy and fruit filled, it has great palate presence, rich texture and slightly creamy. Randall credits extra batonnage, lees stirring as the reason behind the 2018’s texture. Mostly Grenache and Grenache Blanc. $18. But as low as $13.99 at

The 2016 Vin Gris de Cigare Is again lively but with a delightfully long finish. Floral with peach.plum fruit, this is not your grandpa’s white Zinfandel! This would be an excellent Thanksgiving wine. $18.

So too would the next unusual wine:

2018 Bonny Doon Cinsault  Grown in Lodi, this is a refreshing, medium-bodied drink now red. Cinsault is often used to produce Rose wines, This is serious red. $42.

2018 Bonny Doon Grenache which is now grown in Monterey. Again, lots of ripe attractive youthful fruit in a medium bodied package. Not wood aged at all. $20. Also versatile enough for holiday fare.

Syrah, of course, is the best known Rhone grape and Bonny Doon now zeros in on cool-climate sites for this challenging grape. 

We tried 2 Syrah from 2013, the Central Coast and the Bien Nacido Vineyard in Santa Barbara. 

Both are deep, dark, rich and fascinating.

The Bien Nacido Syrah came across as slightly more complex, more layered as it changed in the glass. A wonderful wine for $25, a special price.

Randall Grahm was one of the first winemakers to use screw caps for all his wines. I think he began around 2000, 2001 when it was considered risky.

So it comes as no big surprise that in addition to the 50 or more wines offered in the tasting room, he also has wines in cans. The can brand is “La Bulle-Moose.”We’ll leave the story behind that name for another time.

Exploring the Most Diverse Wine Region


Good news! Turns out my last post wasn’t a dream. Happy to report there really is a wine region offering a wide range of excellent varietal wines and unique, exciting blends, all at down to earth prices.

It remains one of the best kept secrets in the wine world. Until now.

Ready to explore this wine region?  Good, but first there are several fast moving rivers to cross and it is surrounded by mountains.  Some of you may have to cross the border. But there is no wall.

Several miles north of California lies the Southern Oregon Wine Region, consisting of the Rogue Valley and Applegate Valley. The area runs from Ashland in the east to Grants Pass in the west.

Today, this high elevation (1,000-2,300 foot level)  growing area contains a little over 4,000 acres and is home to about 75 wineries.

What separates this region from the rest of Oregon is that Pinot Noir is just one of, hold on, 70 different varieties cultivated here. And other facts:

  • Many of the wineries were founded after 2000. 
  • Most are small and family owned by real farmers. 
  • No corporations involved. 
  • No mass produced cookie cutter wines.
  • Most wineries have well-organized, inexpensive tastings and active wine clubs.

So, if you like diversity and new stuff, as millenials are said to do, or if you want to catch a wave of truly exciting wines, then you can start your google search today and thank me later. (Honestly, I don’t expect anyone under 30 to text a thanks.)

Sure, you might now be wondering after hearing the 70 different wine varieties fact if the winemakers are smoking something or really onto something special. 

This is Oregon, so both can be true at the same time. It may help to hear why such diversity is possible. (Hint: think mountains, rivers, elevation.)

As Dan Marca, owner of Dancin Vineyards,  says,

“Growing seasons vary dramatically in the Rogue Valley! It’s been said that this region has one of the most diverse topographies in the US, if not the world!”

 Winemakers have seized the opportunity and are taking full advantage of this diversity. Quady North, established in 2004, has 15 acres under vine and grows 12 different varieties. Most are Rhone grapes, but it also farms Cabernet and Cabernet Franc.

On its 40 acres under vine, Schmidt Family Vineyards in Applegate grows 14 varieties, and produces 6,700 cases a year. It also makes 25 different wines at astonishing good quality.

In the Rogue and Applegate Valleys, “terroir” is the real deal, not a promotional concept or talking point. In certain parts of Applegate Valley, the Rhone grapes fare well. Cowhorn Vineyards, a leader in Rhone wines has 25 acres planted. Its owner explains: 

“While our latitude is a bit lower than the Rhône, and our growing season is shorter, other qualities are similar, especially to Châteauneuf-du-Pape: river-side bench-land with little rain, hot summers, and rocky soils that don’t hold much water.”

A few miles to the east, Dancin’s estate vineyard is planted to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Marca provides detailed background:

Our site was created for Pinot noir and Chardonnay with its north, northeast facing aspect, 1800 foot average elevation and shade occurring beginning at 5:45pm (depending on the Block) throughout the growing season. We are finding that we can produce delicious Pinot Noir with great flavors and balance at alcohol levels in the mid to upper 12’s to the very low 13’s. Our wide diurnal swings allow for flavors and ripeness to occur during the day with acids retained during the overnight hours. We can see daytime highs to overnight lows vary by 40 degrees!” 

And he adds that the same Pinot Noir clones ripen later at his site than they do in McMinnville or Dundee.

Representing the Spanish side, Red Lily Vineyards is located along benchlands of the Applegate River and has vines located on three distinct sites.  Winemaker/owner Rachael Martin tells us her “new vineyard site planted to Tempranillo “has a predominantly northern aspect on a varying slope surrounding a knoll, and sits at an average elevation of 1500 feet.” And the third vineyard site “has a predominantly western aspect on a 12% average slope that rises to an elevation of 1630 feet.”

Label it diverse terroir, diverse topography  or whatever, the fact is that on recent visits here, I discovered fascinating Syrah, Grenache, Tempranillo, Viognier and world-class Pinot Noir and GSM. The wines support the diversity story.

 I also was re-acquainted with Chardonnay that emphasized fruit over oak and butter and Pinot Noir below 14% alcohol that was elegant and complex. 

Two other points need to be raised to help better understand wines from this area. Because most of the vineyards were developed after 2,000, many wines, Rhones, Spanish, or Italian, are likely made from relatively new vines. Typically, vineyards are de

No wonder the wines are so different than what you’d expect from Old World, old vines. And old thinking.

If you aren’t familiar with the Rogue Valley name you can take comfort in the fact that the wineries in the area finally formed a promotional Vintners Association in 2018.

Here’s a Quick Tour of the Wineries:

Dancin Vineyards, Rogue Valley

Amazing across the board. Six Pinots, all lovely. The 2016 Pinot Noir Septette, made from several clones is a real sleeper, possibly the finest made in Oregon. Three Chardonnays, all balanced and delivering layers of flavors. One Syrah for wine club members…outstanding.

Great Views

Full restaurant with inside, outside seating

Schmidt Family Vineyards, Applegate Valley

In the middle of nowhere, here are beautiful gardens, wood-fired pizza and a mind-boggling range of wines. All wines are solid.  Standouts include “Amuse” (75% Viognier, 25% Chardonnay), “Cal’s Blend” (50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 50% Syrah), and deep, ripe Syrah. But excellent Albarino and Tempranillo can’t be overlooked.

Exceptional gardens, picnic area, plenty of space for special events.

Good restaurant

Awen Winecraft, Applegate Valley

Founded in 2016 and sourcing grapes from both valleys, Awen caught my attention with its 2017 Chardonnay. It combines apple and citrus fruit and yeastiness to present itself as Chardonnay without the built-in butter and spicy oak. Bright fruit, crisp finish, Chardonnay that taste like Chardonnay.

On my list of must try wines is its Grenache Blanc wines, a variety the owners, transplants from IT work in Silicon Valley, are backing in a big way.

Simple Machine

Started in 2010 by Brian Denner who brought tons of experience from Paso Robles and elsewhere. Simple Machine adheres to a non-intervention winemaking approach which includes crushing red grapes by foot, and bottling wine unfined, unfiltered.  It seems to work, based on his lovely 2017 Simple Machine “Leverage,” Rogue Valley, $28. (50%-Marsanne, 50% Roussanne), 90 cases produced.

 Makes me want to go through the entire line of small batch Rhones.

Tasting room in Talent, a real place on the map. Oregon’s got Talent!

 Red Lily Vineyards, Jacksonville

Focusing on Spanish varieties, winemaker Rachael Martin hits the bullseye with Tempranillo made in 3 styles. The “Red Blanket” with a splash of Cabernet delivers lots of character for $22.  But all 3 are classy Tempranillos.

Picnic grounds near the peaceful river. small plates. Fun wine flights

Long Walk Vineyard, Ashland

A newcomer to the scene that opened a mountain top tasting house in 2018. Main emphasis on Rhone varieties and a range of Rose wines. The bright 2016 Mourvedre Rose is a great summer sipper. Another standout is the 2016 “Orchard Red,” a smooth, spice-filled raspberry tinged blend of Syrah, Grenache, and Cinsault.

Quady North, Jacksonville 

Young generation of Quady Port settled in to focus on Rhones and Cabs. The Viogniers and GSM are the leaders. The 2016 Viognier “Steel-Ox” Applegate was a favorite at $24. Solid 2016 GMS, Rogue Valley.

Tasting room in central Jacksonville is no frills.

Cowhorn Vineyards, Applegate Valley

With biodynamic and Demeter approved farming, Cowhorn has attracted some well-deserved media attention for its Rhone wines. Only home grown grapes are used and vines are densely planted at 2,600 vines per acre.  A little pricey for the area, but good to high quality. Of those tasted, the 2015 Sentience (100% Syrah) was loaded with fruit and peppery notes and lovely rich texture. The 2018 ”Sprial 36”, the flagship white Rhone blend, is delicate, beautifully textured and sells for $28.


Planning My Next Visit

High on my “must visit” list are the following wineries:

Pebblestone Cellars, Talent: insiders rave about the Viognier

Plaisance Vineyard, Williams: makes 20 wines. Gotta check out the Petit Verdot

Grizzly Peak Winery, Ashland: Only wine tasted, the white Rhone, was very good.

Irvine & Roberts Vineyard, Ashland: The Pinot Meunier, the unsung grape of Champagne, could be surprising.






Going Rogue on the Wine Tasting Trail


“Pinch me, pinch me! I must be dreaming.”

A reasonable estimate is that I’ve visited hundreds of wineries over my career. Often with an appointment; most often as a drop in.

I am also compelled to disclose that my favorite play is A Midsummer Night’s Dream. 

You see I may have been under the influence of Puck during a recent visit to a wine country. So if you don’t believe any of what follows, maybe we need to get the Puck out of the conversation.

My first stop also had a good restaurant and superb valley views. Enjoying a small plate of delicious mushrooms, I sample 3 Pinot Noirs, all good with different personalities. Make that really good. Wandering inside the tasting room, I’m offered a bright, lovely Chardonnay, followed by a magnificent Pinot Noir from 7 clones, and then end with a stunning Cornas-tasting Syrah.

Turns out the well-informed tasting room guy was the owner. “Only in your dreams” you are probably saying.

Or, maybe you are curious about those mushrooms.

Next stop, a few miles away, A small winery focusing on Spanish varieties. Wait! Spanish. I definitely must be dreaming. We start with the 2017 Verdejo…bright and lively with crisp citrus flavors. Who in their right mind would make a Verdejo?

Well, it was followed by a Rose, mostly Tempranillo with Grenache and Graciano blended. In a word,”Lovely.” Next were two Tempranillos, the first with 19% Cabernet and the second, 100% Tempranillo. Well, both were excellent, beautifully made versions, one to drink now, the other to age.

After some polite chit-chat, we figure out the woman talking about the wines is the winemaker, the woman pouring, her sister. They are the owners. 

The tasting fee was waived.

Third winery was a distance away but on the other end of the pretty valley. A valley with vineyards on steep hillsides and a year-round river. Not knowing what to expect, my eyes immediately go to the manicured grounds and picnic area set up for concerts and /or weddings. We walked through the brilliant flower garden which is adjacent to the herb garden. Inside, the tasting room doubles as a restaurant. The outdoor tasting bar overlooks the picnic area and vistas. Families are picnicing; kids are playing.

We begin with a spicy, minerally Pinot Gris followed by a Viognier, ripe, rich, and powerful. Next up is a blend of 75% Viognier with 25% Chardonnay, which is more subtle, more complex, more complete. The wine is named “Amuse” and although when in a waking state I’m suspicious of wines with cutesy names, I’m in love. (Damn you, Puck!)

This dream was sure to end with a glass of 2014 Barbera plunked down before me. Nobody ever thinks of a sturdy, plummy, herbal, Barbera with definite acidity today. Unless it is complementing my last piece of pizza.

 Perfect match!

Better yet, a 2016 50-50 blend of Syrah and Cabernet was so appealing with a touch of leather with black cherry fruit and great structure, that I decided to buy a few bottles before I depart. 

That’s the big clue.

Now you too must suspect this has to be a dream because when would a wine writer ever buy a wine?

Or was it? 

The wine-cup is the little silver well,
Where truth, if truth there be, doth dwell.


The Best Online Wine Shop?

So, I have to confess my picks for the Sweet 16 college teams did not fare well. Each one has, alas, gone home.

My game is online wine shopping, and here is my choice for one of the Final Four is the most peculiar online retailer I follow. One reason is that its founder Jon Rimmerman who has been offering wines for over 20 years often presents his daily offers late at night.  He is based in Washington State which may explain some things.

He sometimes seems a bit chatty and becomes so excited and enthusiastic that he might belabor a point about a particular wine or region.

He is also insistent about when he will ship your wines and specifies the required temperature and humidity for proper shipping.

But these minor quirks are greatly offset by the pluses.

  • He seeks out wines that are organic, biodynamic and farmed sustainably  
  • He favors small artisan producers and family owned wineries
  • He obtains many wines direct so truly cuts out the middleman
  • He doesn’t use inflated scores from Somms
  • His wines are attractively priced
  • And he is unpredictable, sometimes offering olive oil, nutella, or food items. All high quality.

I enjoy reading his detailed notes because he truly knows his stuff. His background insights about vintages and regions are extremely useful. He is particularly on top of the vintage variations in France’s Burgundy and the Rhone.

He provided a detailed report on 2016 and 2017 based on travels and tastings throughout France and it is spot on. His remarks about 2015 and 2016 Bordeaux are the most reliable in the wine trade.

His analysis of 2016 in Burgundy and of the 2017 Northern Rhone are some of the best I’ve read.

And to this fellow Loire Valley lover, he has the inside track on Loire Valley wines:

“2018 is one of those “pinch me, this can’t possibly be true?” red wine vintages in the Loire. I can’t really compare it to anything else – it has the ripeness of a vintage like 1989 but the freshness of 1996 (another classic year.”

He also looks closely for super wines from Washington, of course but also Oregon. A recent Washington Tempranillo was remarkable.

He often locates super wines under $15 a bottle.

Here are examples of recent offerings:

  • 2018 Bourgueil, Domaine Cotellergie, $16.76
  • 2016 Scott Paul Pinot Noir, Chehelam Mts, $19.71
  • 2014 Rioja Riserva, Burgo Viejo, $13.98
  • 2017 Sancerre, Dezat $19.99
  • 2016 Renvoise “Jasmieres,” dry Loire Valley Chenin Blanc $16.70
  • 2015 Domaine de Cambes, Bordeaux $33.71
  • 2016 Ribbonwood Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough $7.99

He recently offered a lovely Provence Rose for sale at $9.99.

He found “the best Bordeaux you’ve never heard of” from 2011.

He comes across as frank, as in these recent notes:

“This is fastidiously produced Chardonnay without a smidge of pretense but the stuffing and expression to, well, pummel just about any other example from outside the Burgundian reach under $30. In addition, the impact is from fruit, stone and clarity, not from alcohol, wood or from winemaker strategic manipulation/enhancement.”


“If you think “bargain” wine is devoid of potential pleasure or cannot be in the league of top-drawer entrants, guess again. This wine can easily compete with Sauvignon Blanc at 2-3 times the $ and many of its competitors are not as delicious to drink.”

Sometimes to keep prices low, he suggests buying 6 or 12 bottles or more which may seem like hype and hustle, but I think he is sincere and honest in his emphasis on offering value.

A maximum number of bottles a person may purchase is always listed, ranging from 6 to 60.


Wildly eclectic selection not found elsewhere.

Excellent prices

Seeks out biodynamic and other green products.


Complicated shipping procedures and delivery dates but only to assure wines arrive in fine condition.

Setting the Bar High for Wine Clubs

  • Yes, there is one wine club that is near perfect and it is the Silicon Valley’s best kept secret.

  • It is family-owned, and has been a successful winery since 1992.

  • The winery setting is fantastic and, for added points, it is Certified Sustainable.

  • And, for me, the clincher is the wide range of excellent wines, all nicely priced

Clos LaChance is the winery and is located in the Historic Santa Clara Valley

In addition to several visits, I was recently there for the membership pick-up and special tasting day.

Even on an overcast Sunday, the place was bustling, people were happy, and the live music only added to the atmosphere.

Typically three levels of membership are offered. But you can enjoy most of the perks in the basic Platinum Club, with 4 wines shipped 4 times a year and 25% discounts.

The setting, once you drive passed the long, unexciting entry road, is beautiful. Frequently, a site for weddings, it has super vineyard views with a golf course and mountains off in the background.  

It is the setting for a summer music series which I’ve attended and, along with the sold-out crowd, enjoyed the lively, fun-filled event.

But I’m a wine guy and here’s where Clos LaChance scores bigtime.

(All prices quoted are before member discounts.)

The 2016 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon($25) and the 2015 Reserve Cabernet ($40) are richly flavored and are on a par with Napa’s at only half the price.

The 2016 Viognier Reserve ($20) and 2014 Syrah Reserve ($30) are excellent Rhone-types.

The 2016 Malbec Reserve and 2015 Cabernet Franc Reserve, both at $36 are stunning examples of  each varietal.

For casual entertaining and fun sipping wines, the Grenache Rose and Sauvignon Blanc are hard to beat.

I could go on about other wines, but by now the point has been made: if you are thinking about signing up for a highly-rated wine club, you should visit and check out Clos LaChance.

Clos LaChance

1 Hummingbird Lane

San Martin, CA 95046

(408) 686 1050

Two Great Direct from Winery Deals!


Special January sales

From 2 top-tier, limited production wine producers. Not the typical online wine stuff. Both wineries have amazing track records.

Act Fast if you love Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Testarossa’s specialties

And no one else makes Zinfandel and Syrah, better than Easton/Terre Rouge 

#1. Terre Rouge/ Easton Winery: Special Case Sale. The bottle prices are phenomenal. All the wines are excellent, 90+point calibre.

You can mix and match any 12 to qualify for the case sale.

Here are the Wines:

  • 2011 TERRE ROUGE Enigma ~ $25 reg. / $13.25 sale
  • 2012 TERRE ROUGE Tête-à-Tête ~ $22 reg. / $14 sale
  • 2014 EASTON Zinfandel, Amador County ~ $22 reg. / $14 sale
  • 2007 TERRE ROUGE Syrah, High Slopes  ~ $40 reg. / $23 sale
  • 2008 TERRE ROUGE Syrah, DTR Ranch ~ $40 reg. / $23 sale
  • 2008 EASTON Zinfandel, Estate ~ $35 reg. / $18 sale

Email the winery for inquiries:

#2. Special sale from Testarossa Winery: Special 1 cent shipping on 4 bottles or more

Check the website for availability and price. The prices are not discounted, but the

shipping deal is extremely attractive for wines of this quality.

My choices:

2016 Chardonnay, Santa Lucia Highlands, $41.00

2017 Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands, $51.00

Not on a budget, then check out the other beauties at

Orders can also be placed by calling (408) 354-0797, emailing, or by visiting our Los Gatos or Carmel ValleyTasting Rooms.

Promotion expires January 31st, 2019. Penny shipping is UPS Ground.

For more tips for buying wines direct, go to:


Mind the Gap: Wine Marketing 101

Selling Wines Online: Two Different Approaches

Wines under the Wind Gap label are being unloaded. offered several a few weeks ago, and today, two websites offered a Wind Gap wine at $15 a bottle.

As we start the New Year, which would you buy based on the website’s offer?

Here are your choices:

  1. Buy a wine associated with a guy in prison for fraud who claimed to be rich, spent lots of money, not always his own and also made by an excellent winemaker. And it was “millions” of dollars. And you are led to believe he, the guy in prison, spent tons of money on the wine.
  2. Buy a wine described in bright, uplifting terms made by an excellent winemaker.

#1 A Wind Gap Pinot Noir as offered by

“What you are about to read may be the most significant cloak and dagger event in the wine industry ever!

June 27th, 2017 Wine Industry Tycoon Charles Banks was sentenced to 4 years in prison for fraud after excessively overspending to craft the best wines in the world.

The Players:

Charles Banks – His Resume:

✔️Screaming Eagle / Jonata: former co-owner / co-founder

✔️Managing Partner: Terroir Capital – $200 million in winery assets (including Wind Gap)

✔️Defrauds two NBA stars out of millions: (somewhere around $22 million)

Pax Mahle – The Winemaker:

✔️100 point superstar – founder of Pax Cellars and Wind Gap

✔️Possibly more 94-100 point scores than Heidi Barrett and Philippe Melka combined”


#2 A Wind Gap Syrah offered by

“BIG, bold, in your face Syrah from none other than Pax Mahle (yes, the guy who just scored 100 points for his $50 Sonoma Hillside bottling under the Pax label) that is made in a drink-me-now-with-gusto style. Bright, perfumey and juicy, this isn’t real heavy or meaty at all, just a warm, friendly, lovely, MIND-BLOWING DEAL if we have EVER seen one. Pax and his wines are all the buzz these days, so it’s particularly thrilling for us to have a little (little!) parcel to sell. PLEASE don’t miss! WILL sell out in the blink of an eye!

(oh, and Happy New Year, also, please hurry on this as Pax Mahle’s Wind Gap is more popular than a roomful of newborn kitty cats and we don’t have very much)”


So please cast a vote.

Shameless or frivolous?


Making Wine Tasting Great Again


Sensible and Informative

Just when I was about to give up the search for an online wine site that not only offers good wines at good prices but also serves as a vehicle for educating and teaching about wine, I found one.

The Weekly Tasting, a relatively new site related to,  is refreshingly sensible and informative. No membership requirements or hard sales tactics involved. No superficial program or pretend algorithm to create your tasting profile. Just two sommeliers working hard to select wines and to help you learn more about wine.

Such a change from the many sites that use sommeliers to shill for some overpriced wine by their rambling wine descriptions, overflowing with buzz words and baloney, to lead up to a rating of 95-100 points.

Each week, The Weekly Tasting usually offers 4 wines organized around a theme, and the packages are selected by two sommeliers, Elizabeth Schneider and Laura Maniec. Both are the real deal.

The themes are usually on a region or a varietal. As someone who has taught wine classes for many years, I can say It is not as easy as people think and so much comes down to selecting the best wines to illustrate the point or points you are trying to get across.

So, to get to my point, I find the wines selected for the different weekly tasting themes to be first-rate and reasonably priced. The package includes a video, tasting notes, wine pairing suggestions, all arranged in the box containing the bottles.

Let me cite a few examples to demonstrate why this is a vast improvement over the other so-called “curated” packages found elsewhere. The current weekly package focuses on Cru Beaujolais, a type that is probably not known to many, is not sexy or trendy, but might just appeal to red wine lovers looking for something different and delicious.

The current package is brilliant and performs a real service to those who truly want to learn about wine.  Here is it:

“Cru Beaujolais. Do not confuse the Cru of Beaujolais with Beaujolais Nouveau or even regular Beaujolais – these are serious wines. In fact, the region of Beaujolais has officially designated these villages as the best of the best. Many people compare Gamay, the grape in Beaujolais, to Pinot Noir in Burgundy. They have similar textures, but Gamay has softer acidity and is more plush on the palate. At this price point, I’d go so far as to say these four wines have more finesse and elegance than any Pinot Noir.” -Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan, MW

The price is $69.99 but with free shipping.

Then, I suspect many new wine drinkers buying Malbec by the boatload are curious about the difference between Malbecs from Argentina and France. So, here’s what is selected in another package:

What Elizabeth Schneider Has Picked For This Tasting

  • Domaine Des Bateliers Cahors 2009
  • Château Vieux Poirier Bordeaux 2014
  • Pascual Toso Reserva Malbec 2014
  • Famiglia Bianchi Malbec 2014

The price for this is $59.99, with free shipping.

Though everyone reading this is a wine expert, if you happen to know someone who would like a solid introduction to different wine varietals, consider this 6 bottle package:

See What Laura Maniec Has Picked For This Tasting

  • Seven Hills Oregon Pinot Gris 2015
  • Bernardus Monterey County Griva Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2015
  • Domaine Les Chenevieres Mâcon Villages Blanc Chardonnay 2015
  • Windmill Valley Vineyards Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon 2009
  • Metz Road Pinot Noir Mesa del Rio Monterey 2013
  • Château Tour du Moulin Les Terres Rouges Fronsac 2014

While unfamiliar with Windmill, I can understand how the other 5 are typical examples of the respective varietal.

Now don’t get me wrong; this is not master sommelier classwork. But the site and its packages are excellent starting points to wine education. The list of terms is solid as in the breakdown of the major wine varieties.

And yes, the point is to sell more wine.  Learning about the wine before you buy it is not a bad thing.

Time to Harvest Great Wine Deals

The first major online September wine sale is at   

And is a wonderful way to kick off the harvest season.

And stock up on all types of wine because this sale turns out to be a bargain hunter’s paradise with excellent wines from real wineries.

Take advantage of terrific discounts, a few over 50% off.

And the sale includes $1 shipping on 6 or 12 bottles. Shipping a case normally runs $38-40.

Check out this exciting “Harvest Wine Sale” which ends on September 30, 2018.  Prices listed are per bottle.

My top 5 Great Value picks under $15

2016 Cambria Monterey Chardonnay  $8.99

2013 Tangent Grenache Blanc Edna Valley $9.99

2013 Zaca Mesa Syrah Santa Ynez $12.99

2014 Kieu Hoang Cabernet Sauvignon Napa $11.99

2016 Clos LaChance Central Coast Red $13.99

Top Scoring Wine

94 points, (tasted at the winery 23 August)

2016 Clos LaChance Central Coast Red $13.99

Combines Merlot, Cabernet, Malbec and Petit Verdot from home vyd in Santa Clara and nearby estate vineyards.

Crafted in a smooth, rich classy style. Classic blackberry, tea leaf, spicy aromas and flavors with light touch of oak. Serve this Meritage red to your snobby Napa Valley friends and they will think it is a $100 bottle.

Drink now or age this one for a few years This is the old Clos LaChance label that is being replaced next vintage which might explain the exceptional deal.

Best of the Rest under $50

2015 Morgan Winery Pinot Noir, Double L, Santa Lucia Highlands $38.

This is the top of the line and is fabulous Pinot at any price.

See more at

Check out more online deals and honest, detailed reviews of wine clubs at