SIP Wines at Home: Sonoma Wineries Have You Covered

 

Sonoma County wineries have recently come up with two remarkable wine offers designed for home delivery. The special offers originate from two associations: Sonoma County Vintners Association and the Wineries of Sonoma Valley.

Each organization came up with lengthy lists filled with many hard to find, high quality wines as well as just downright delicious, priced-right wines to buy by the case.

What’s also noteworthy is that quite a few wines are from small wineries selling, until recently, exclusively via club membership. So you can test drive, say, a wine from “Three Sticks” or Kamen to see if the reputation is deserved.

Here’s the first website to browse, followed by the premise:

https://sonomavalleywine.com/sonoma-valley-wine-collective/

“In this unprecedented time, The Sonoma Valley Wine Collective offers access to wines typically only offered at the wineries with limited availability or production. Your purchase not only enhances your wine library, it supports the many family owned Sonoma Valley wineries and their employees who look forward to welcoming you back when we are able.

A percentage of sales generated from The Sonoma Valley Wine Collective will be donated to the La Luz Crisis Fund to meet the unmet and urgent needs of our community.”

Being able to sort by varietal and by region makes this site so easy to browse.

And of course, that’s what I’ve been doing all day. 

Here is my handy tipsheet and quick guide by wine type.

The Best Picks:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon: Kamen, Tin Barn Vineyards, and Laurel Glen Vineyards
  • Pinot Noir: Auteur, Donum Estate, Robledo, Walt, and Schug
  • Zinfandel: Jeff Cohn Cellars
  • Syrah: Kamen
  • Sauvignon Blanc: Beltane Ranch, Tin Barn Vineyards
  • Chardonnay: Bonneau Wines, Schug Cellars

The second awesome list is from the Sonoma County Vintners who opened with this background:

“Sonoma County Wineries have created a variety of special offers to alleviate the cost to ship wine directly to your doorstep. You can still purchase wines from hundreds of Sonoma County wineries that will deliver to you. Below is a list of shipping offers to consider during this difficult time. Consider a virtual wine happy hour with your friends and family to stay connected.”

check this one out at  https://sonomawine.com/sip-from-home/

Many many wineries are participating. A few are on both lists.

But the offers on this one focus more on shipping, pick up, and various delivery options. 

So you have to find a winery that interests you, and go from there.

Free shipping on Silver Oak Cellars and Sojourn Cellars are eye catching examples.

 Carol Shelton offers $5 case shipping but great discounts, such as:

2018 Rendezvous Rose, regularly $17 for 50% off, just $8.50/bottle

2018 Wild Thing Chardonnay, regularly $19 for 30% off, just $13.30/bottle

2013 King Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon, $40 regularly for 50% off, now $20/bottle (Only 6 cases left)

Several offer virtual tastings only.

Because there are so many variables, I’m listing my favorite wineries on this list that deserve your attention. Otherwise, good luck finding what you prefer.

Top 10 Wineries that stand out on this list:

  • Acorn
  • Alexander Valley Vineyards
  • Benovia
  • Carol Shelton
  • Collier Falls
  • Crossbarn by Paul Hobbs
  • Donelan Family Wines
  • Lynmar Estate
  • Freeman
  • Trentadue Vineyards

Franky, these are all so solid, it is hard to pick a favorite.

But if I had something like a birthday coming up, I would go with Donelan, so hard to find in normal times.

But have fun going over these choices.

Remember, I do this for fun.

You can thank me later.

Real Winemakers & Great Wines for SIP Home Deliveries

 

Silver lining? Purple Lining?

The longer we are sheltered in, we are seeing better and better offers coming our way from some of California’s super winemakers.  I don’t mean ego-driven winemakers hyped by the likes of parker wannabes. I mean real winemakers who know how to prune and drive a tractor. And make fabulous wine!

First up Jeff Runquist. Based in Amador, Jeff is best known for Zinfandel and Barbera, but he has the touch with all wines. Best Barbera from anywhere!  He also makes super Grenache from Paso and Viognier. A real sleeper is the Runquist Dolcetto.

The deal:  Jeff Runquist Wines is offering FREE SHIPPING on online orders of 6+ bottles, and half price shipping on orders of 1-5 bottles. This offer is valid for ground shipping to the 48 contiguous United States. Simply order online and they will adjust the shipping charges when the order is received. https://www.jeffrunquistwines.com

Scherrer Winery: Fred Scherrer, one of the best winemakers in Sonoma and anywhere for that matter, has put together a special Nepenthe 2020 collection at 50% below retail.

He explains:

“These wines offer different uses and  no need to cellar them in order to realize their potential, yet they will be in prime shape for years to come.  Just enjoy these in the weeks and possibly months to come and let some of the younger additions to your cellar creep into their adulthood. 

  • 2018 Dry Rosé  We sat down and tasted a vertical of 2017-2019 Dry rosé and were blown away by how lovely they all are.  While different kinds of good, we think the 2018 is perfect for drinking right now and during the next 20-30 months.  
  • 2012 Russian River Syrah  The 2012 Russian River Valley Syrah will have a very long life, being Syrah of course.  Yet this has opened up to a beautiful spot just like the Pinot Noir and will satisfy needs for richer red wines.
  • 2013 Russian River Pinot Noir The 2013 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir has emerged from its cocoon just over the past months.  I cannot think of a more gratifying glass to pop and pour before, during and after dinner.  It is our main Pinot Noir and prioritized production-wise as if it was our estate wine.

So here it is: Fred’s Nepenthe of 2020.  50% off regular price with free ground shipping* on 12 or more bottles.  You can always fill out the case or two or three with our other wines normally available.  While those additional wines won’t discount more than the usual rate of 10%, they will ship free with an order of 12 or more bottles.”

My assessment: a rare opportunity to enjoy wines absolutely impossible to get in normal times. Cant  make up your mind? Go with 4 of each.

Papapietro Perry Winery began in 1990 and has carved out a stunning reputation for small batch Pinot Noir and Zinfandel.  The 777 Clone Pinot Noir is on every collector’s radar. The winery is offering $5 shipping for 1 to 12 bottles AND they are donating $2 per bottle to Redwood Empire Food Bank.

 Alexander Valley Vineyards has been a personal favorite for, well, many, many years. The Wetzel family has always been all about quality starting in the vineyard. Highlights here are the estate wines, the Cabernets and the surprisingly terrific Cabernet Franc. For spring sipping, the Sangiovese Rose is hard to beat. Several lovely older Cabernet vintages are offered.

The deal: Order 2+ bottles and ship to your home for $1 per bottle + $1 order processing fee. Plus, there are numerous case special on their top wines: https://shop.avvwine.com

ACORN Winery

This unusual winery is offering  10% off 4-11 btls, with $10 shipping, and 15% case discounts, with $5 shipping. Continental US, ground only.

Looking for something different, while here’s your chance to see what Acorn Winery is all about.Owners Bill and Betsy Nachbaur have been farming their famous Alegria Vineyard since 1990. Winemaking is handled by Bill Nachbaur & Clay Mauritson.

In their words: “Our production remains small, at about 3,000 cases each year. All our wines are made from grapes we grow ourselves at Alegría. Every wine is a field blend, following the ancient tradition represented in the mixed planting that is our original 129-year old vineyard. Every wine is made by co-fermenting multiple varieties. We like to say that our wines are blended from the day they are picked. This is what sets ACORN wines apart.”

Look for the Super Tuscan, ‘Acorn Hill.”

There you have it.

Act fast.

You can thank me later.

 

SIP Wine: More Steals & Deals

 

“Free shipping anywhere in the US and 35% off retail.

Now that’s a headline that caught my attention. We all need to have something to look forward to during these sheltered in place weeks.

And to know we are helping small, independent wineries (the only ones I

focus on) stay in business during the closure adds to the enjoyment.

Turns out the headline was for the 2018 Greenwood Ridge Syrah, Mendocino. Heck of a deal on a case.

A longtime follower of Mendocino wines, I was thrilled to discover dozens of other Mendocino wineries had stepped up their game, suggesting while you stay at home they are offering “more steals and deals.”

Here is the website to explore….https://mendowine.com/taste-mendo-at-home

Many excellent offers but each is a little different. Some highlight low or no shipping; others push discounts. A few toss in an herb or plant. Pennyroyal offers a lovely Farm Box. Cakebread pitches a new Rose.

As an added bonus, the website’s photos are gorgeous. 

In Mendocino, because it is such a large county with so many micro-climates, you can find many, many super wines. Add in the fact that the winemakers tend to be rugged individualists “doing their thing,”  and you have lots of different wines in different styles.

For those seeking a little inside information, here’s my tip sheet:

Barra Family: one of the oldest and most highly regarded family vineyards. The Barra Petite Sirah is one of the best made anywhere.

Husch Vineyard: all about value, value, value. The Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc are of superior quality at everyday prices. The Pinot is a real steal.

Fathers & Daughters: Never heard of them? Well, the family’s vineyard is coveted by Williams Selyem and many others. So go with the Pinots but this vineyard makes super Sauvignon Blanc, and Gewurztraminer.

Graziano Family: Look for Monte Volpe and Enotria labels. An amazing roster of Italian wines from Greg Graziano who if he lived in Napa would be an icon. Dolcetto is my fav. But the whites are top notch as well.

Saracina: John Fetzer’s beautiful winery makes one of my favorite Sauvignon Blancs. The Malbec is a pleasant surprise.

Maggy Hawk: A relative newcomer to the Anderson Valley Pinot scene. One gorgeous Pinot is labeled “Unforgettable.” It is that and is included in the attractive 3-pack offering.

Scharffenberger: Still so underrated for its bubbly. Excellent value. Go with the Brut or Rose.  A case ships for $1.

Waits Mast Family Cellars: This Pinot specialist is my current exciting discovery. Now you too can explore this cult wine candidate with a 6 bottle pack or a 4-bottle vertical. Painless with a $5 shipping rate. 

Navarro Vineyard:  This is the family winery that pioneered direct shipping to consumers. It also makes terrific wines. It is offering Spring Samplers with savings up to 23% as well as One-Cent Ground Freight on all 12 bottle orders of wine or juice until May 31st. Pick any one sampler and you will be thrilled.

Goldeneye: Needs no introduction.  Just look at what is currently offered and go for it.

With such tiny, limited production wineries like Fathers & Daughters, Waits Mast and Maggy Hawk, this might be the time to join a club or two.

And yes, neither Goldeneye nor Scharffenberger are family owned. But they

are key players within the Anderson Valley family.

Today’s Top 5 Online Wine Deals

The first offer came in at 6:30 am and, wow, what a day it is turning out to be for those needing to stock up on wines during these sheltered in days.

Here are the top 5 picks of the day based as usual on high quality, good discounts, and special shipping offers.

Act quickly they won’t last. You can thank me later.

Cheers!

  1. 2016 Dashe Cellars Bedrock Vineyard Ancient Vines, Sonoma Valley

(Old vine Zin, Carignane, and Mourvedre)

www.winespies.com

$29 with free shipping on 4 or more

2. 2016 Fog Crest Pinot Noir, Laguna West, Russian River Valley

www.wineaccess.com

$30 a bottle

3. 2011 Qupe Syrah Bien Nacido Vineyard Hillside Estate

www.wtso.com

$16.99

4. 2017 Pedroncelli Zinfandel, Mother Clone, Dry Creek Valley

www.cawinecluib.com

$14.99, $1 shipping on 6 or more

5. 2017 Clark Estate Upper Awatere Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand

CinderellaWine.com 

 $13.88, plus free shipping on orders of 4 bottles or more!

 

 

 

Shopping the Best Wine Shipping Deals

 

Several online wine sellers are making a special pitch for buying a case of wine to be delivered to your door during the shelter in time.

Not every offer presented new or exciting wine deals, however. The only reason why I’d suggest buying wines by the case is when shipping is free and the wine is excellent and discounted at least 25%.

Better advice is to find those wine sellers offering free shipping on a few bottles. Besides, you dont need to stock up on one wine, unless you truly love it.

With that in mind, I studied the aptly named website, finalcase.com and found a few good case deals. However, the most appealing wine was the 2014 Miner named “The Oracle” which sells for $84.97. Buy 2 bottles and shipping is free.

The current hot website www.winespies.com is still coming up with great surprise deals. Now it is offering the 2015 Aiken Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast for $25. That’s $50 off! And there’s free shipping on 4 bottles.

Winespies also has a great Rose from Marlborough, the 2018 Spy Valley for $14.99, that would nicely fill out an order.

Sommselect.com just announced free shipping on any 6 bottles or more. This site is not a discounter, but focuses on finding super, high quality gems from around the world.

Listing several fine wines from Italy this week, www.wtso is holding firm to a free shipping on 4 bottles policy.

Saying it will ship free any order over $50, vivino caught my attention. While still over-hyping every new wine, www.vivino.com every now and then stumbles upon a great deal. Most recent is the 2015 Patz & Hall Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, $39.99. 

For a super deal on an everyday wine, vivino has the 2013 Gregory Graham Crimson Ranch Syrah, Lake County for  $17.99.

Vivino’s $50 offer of free shipping is definitely a big deal!

But with wine by the case, it is more difficult to locate a comfort zone.  After studying numerous online sellers, I kept coming back to one site, www.napacabs.com which despite its name, sells wines from all major parts of the wine world.  Free case shipping, it turns out, applies to 939 wines. Happily, it was easy to skip over the many supermarket wines like Cupcake, Josh and Fat Bastard. These along with the Kendall Jackson and 19 Crimes silly wines are pretty ordinary for getting through tough times.

Here are the best by the case deals from napacabs.com:

 All prices are by the case with free case shipping to CA, WA, AZ, OR, NV

2016 Niner Red, Paso Robles $184.97

2017 Castello di Volpaia Chianti Classico $269.98

2017 Argyle Winery Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley $287.98

2015 Carpe Diem Pinot Noir Anderson Valley $304.98

Better yet, napacabs just added a great Cabernet deal: 

 2017Domaine Bousquet Gran Cabernet for $17.97 a bottle.

Happy shopping these great shipping offers

Today’s Best Online Wines for Those Sheltered In

Wish this occasion didn’t exist, but happy to share my experience of following and rating online wine retailers who will ship directly to your home. 

As usual, my wine suggestions are based on high quality, generous discounts, and free or very attractive shipping.

And, no, I’m not an affiliate or sleazy influencer getting a commission…just happy to share what I’d be stocking up today.

www.wtso.com stood out in a big way today. 

Free shipping for 4 bottles

all at 35-65% below retail

The best wines offered by wtso:

2018 Pedroncelli, Dry Creek Chardonnay, no oak $13.99

2017 Bernardus Chardonnay, Monterey $19.99

2017 Michel-Schlumberger Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir $16.99

2017 Double Canyon Ciel de Cheval, Red Mountain, Red $24.99

 

www.winespies.com

When it comes down to finding unusal West Coast wines, seldom offered elsewhere, this website is one to follow daily. Great site for Rhone wine lovers.

2016 Summerland Winery Paso Robles Syrah $19.99

Free shipping on 3 bottles

 

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 www.sommselect.com 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, www.napacabs.com 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 http://www.lastbottlewines.com 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.   www.bonnydoonvineyard.com

(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 http://www.wine.com

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

www.dancinvineyards.com

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

www.sfvineyards.com

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

www.redlilyvineyards.com

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.

www.longwalkvineyard.com

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.

www.quadynorth.com

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.