Santa Barbara,Santa Barbara County,Sauvignon Blanc,Wine,Wine tasting,Wine Travel

What I learned about Santa Barbara County, is what I learned from Sideways. Now it’s from Lucas & Lewellen

Today, I have the pleasure of exploring one of their wineries, which also has vineyards: Lucas & Lewellen Vineyards. I received a great sampling of their wines; and, through these flavors, I can now begin to understand Santa Barbara’s American Viticultural Area (AVA) a bit more. Remember Sideways?

Quoting wine writer Allison Levine of Please the Palate:

“Santa Barbara wine country is diverse and amazing wines are produced here. The only transverse mountain range in north America, the cool air and fog roll in off the coast thru the valley. Santa Maria and Sta Rita Hills AVAs are cool climates for Burgundian varieties. Each mile you move east, it gets a degree warmer. As you move eastward, Ballard Canyon is for Rhône varieties, and Los Olivos and Happy Canyon AVAs are for Bordeaux varieties. Enjoy exploring the region!”

Could the use of “sideways” give us a clue to its actual naming,

or is it just a coincidence?

Her reference to “The only transverse mountain range in north America” is very important in defining this region, because this isn’t usual… it’s sideways: “The cool air and fog roll in off the coast (west) thru the valley (eastward).” In all other instances, mountain ranges in California have a north to south alignment, not west to east.

This west to east distinctions clearly help to define Santa Barbara’s air flow terroir, as defined by the mountains’ structure. Most cool air moves itself around corners and bends. This is a direct influence and helps me to understand that – even though Santa Barbara is much more south that Napa and Sonoma – it’s still cooler there (close to warmer Los Angeles), due to the direct coastal flow. While the Petaluma AVA also gets a direct flow from the Pacific, the mountain ranges in Petaluma are still north to south. You can see the east to west in this purchased image, by David Methven Schrader.


Lucas & Lewellen

The company has three estate vineyards. From their Website:

The vineyards of Lucas & Lewellen are located in the three wine growing valleys of Santa Barbara County:
Santa Ynez Valley, Los Alamos Valley, and the Santa Maria Valley.

These valley vineyards benefit from a rare transverse mountain range topography, an east-west orientation which channels the cool ocean air of the Pacific into the coastal valleys, allowing warm days and cool nights, to produce a long, gentle growing season.

A family owned and operated winery, Lucas & Lewellen Vineyards practices old world and sustainable farming methods, our responsibility as stewards of the land for future generations.

I’m so pleased that vineyards around the globe are thinking in terms of sustainable practices. I’m very aware when everything possible was sprayed with hazardous, and I worried. Finally, it’s clicked with other: Put poison into the vineyards and you’re also poisoning your wine. We not only are what we eat, we’re also what we drink, n’est ce pas? And, Lucas & Lewellen have got that understanding. (Check!)

I have another quote, from wine educator Brianne Pergola Cohen. She just published a story about Santa Barbara on her blog: BrianneCohen.com. I really enjoy her back story about Louis Lucas’ grape growing passion and diversity of grape varieties.

Toccata: A World Apart

In the 70s, Louis studied the world of wine and identified what he believed were the 27 best vineyards. There was no rhyme or reason to the number 27…that’s just how many he identified. He then spent five weeks in Europe two summers in a row to visit and learn from all 27 of these vineyards. This process gave him a love of the classics, and Italian wines are now some of his favorite. Toccata celebrates Italian varietals. In fact, they have a Nebbiolo rosé that has shocked everyone with how good it is!

Never having been to Santa Barbara, I’ve had to rely on other info offered to me, by my wine pro friends, and by purchasing the above quality vineyard image, to enhance our reading experience. Very tricky, indeed, since there are very few images for purchase, I learned, at a reasonable rate. (I need to get down there with my camera, and take some great landscape pictures of my own.)

Of the three regions where Lucas and Lewellen have vineyard locations, the tasting room is located in Santa Ynez Valley.

Two admirable founder biographies, from their Website:

Louis Lucas: Originally from the Central Valley of California, Louis Lucas is one of California’s premier grape growers. A proud graduate of Notre Dame, his partnership in the 1970’s in Tepusquet Vineyards marked his name in the history books as one of the first commercial grape growers in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties. His vast knowledge and viticultural expertise span over four decades making him a sought after speaker, consultant, and advisor.

Royce Lewellen: Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Royce Lewellen graduated from the University of Missouri and U.C. Berkeley’s Boalt School of Law.  A retired Superior Court Judge, businessman and community leader in Santa Barbara County, the courthouse complex in Santa Maria, CA was officially named the The Lewellen Justice Center in his honor. “The Judge” embarked on his latest venture in 1996 with renowned wine grape grower Louis Lucas. With their long time love of wine, Royce and Louis have set out to produce the finest wines in Santa Barbara County.


Lucas & Lewellen 2018 Sauvignon Blanc

I’m going to start with just one wine for now… the one I’ve sipped through this story, Lucas and Lewellen’s Sauvignon Blanc.

How I evaluate Sauvignon Blanc’s aromas, by bringing in the 4MMP factor (4-mercapto-4-methylpentan-2-one). In kitty aromas and in Sauvignon Blanc, 4MMP is the same chemical aroma, since it’s the same chemical compound… True story… In this wine, on my scale of 1 to 5, is actually a two. This is a blessing for those who only want a hint of their favorite kitty:

  • One Claw = Commodity SB
    • “Did I order water, Ms. Sommelier?”
  • Two Claws = This one is headed toward a middle ground, but it’s not quite there.
    • “This has hints of being a Sauvignon Blanc. I can live with it, because I don’t need another cat in my house.”
  • Three Claws = The scale is now enough of the 4MMP factor, but please do go any further.
    • “Ah, I’m back working at Robert Mondavi Winery, and having a SB from the Tokalon ‘old vines’ block. Yes!” (It’s a really clear memory.)
  • Four Claws = Just a bit off, and headed toward the litter box.
    • “I can take it, but I wish I didn’t have to. Make a note to self, empty that box as soon as possible.”
  • Five Claws = It’s over the top with capsicum like 2-methoxy-3-isobutylpyrazine, or 4-mercapto-4-methylpentan-2-one.
    • “Call in the paramedics, I can’t breathe.”

TWO CLAWS: This Lucas & Lewellen 2018 Sauvignon Blanc was as smooth as any solid Sauvignon Blanc I’ve ever enjoyed. Perfectly balanced for my palate’s pleasure, I had the entire bottle over a few day period. It held up the entire time. With my husband away on the East Coast, he didn’t get to enjoy it, but I certainly did.

Wines that are poorly made do affect me. Jose calls me the canary in the coal mine. In many ways I am. So, having a wine that’s this pleasurable makes me want to get myself down to Santa Barbara County. Like Miles in Sideways, I’ve found a new passion. Unlike Miles, it’s not Pinot. I got that long before Miles. Lucas & Lewellen have turned me onto their Santa Barbara’s Sauvignon Blanc.

I’ll be tasting the rest of the bottles; my partner returns today. I’m looking forward to opening the rest of their samples and tasting together this time.

One more thing I’ve learned… Affordability is really happening Santa Barbara. It’s a hidden California gem, but not for long, I’m thinking.

Sample from Quintessential Wines.



Art in Wine,Beaujolais,Contest,France,French Wine,Gamay,Nouveau Beaujolais,Wine

Calling All Fanciful and Creatives ~ Your Opportunity as a Label Designer, to Join the World Ranks, has just arrived

This blog post is dedicated to dreamers and artists

Let me just start with the fanciful background… Last Summer, I had one of my greatest honors. I’ve been working with winery doctors, lawyers, and CEO chiefs, since early 1993. In the process, some have come along with whom I’ve easily aligned. Each has serve a unique purpose in my life. These kinds of parallels cannot be denied. This is what I felt, when I was introduced to Georges Duboeuf, in his living room. Words weren’t important, instinctively I knew Georges Duboeuf was one of those.

[Pay special attention to colors I’m using with my photos, if you’re a visual artist.]

So many people in the wine business have come from generations of already established successes. Vintner Georges Duboeuf was not one of them. Yet, Georges childhood was magical, as shaped by his creative intelligence. He started as a farmer in the vineyards, which then came to be a segment of his related wine talents. This began with the passing of his father, when he was only two years old. Imagine, then, the odds of his actually achieving international successes, in his 86 years, which he did.

When his father passed, Georges, his brother, and his mother went to live with his maternal grandmother, on neighboring land to the Duboeuf property, which his mother had inherited. Georges’ life, as tough as that was for a child, was still allowed the luxury of having time to fantasize, in an adjoining shed. This is where he created a fantastical, miniature hamlet, from which he would one day create in real life form… Hameau Duboeuf.


[I’m using my photos, just absorb the colors, if you’re a visual artist.]

Hameau means “hamlet.” And so, Georges Duboeuf was able to slowly create the life-sized version, at his winery. It includes a train station and an engine, a museum, theaters, and carnival type ride (similar to the tilt-a-whirl), a photo booth (which puts your image on a bottle of Gamay), delicious French cuisine, a small wax museum of French dignitaries, wine artifacts, glass creations, on and on. The Hameau Duboeuf is an amazing, life-size representative of that tasteful and fanciful child’s imagination. It’s a “must do” in Beaujolais.


[These colors are the successful color palette for the 2019 creative label, of Nouveau Beaujolais.]


A label design, befitting this joyous endeavor, celebrating Nouveau Beaujolais, one of Georges Duboeuf’s gifted introductions. Recognizing creativity in others, each year, a lucky artist is chosen for his or her label design. Will YOU be the next person? In 2019, Laura Runge (below) was that inspired and lucky person. Following her journey made me wish I had taken up painting, another one of the loves in my life… Probably Georges,’ too.

My photos are the colors of last year’s label; flowers in my neighborhood, and greenery with a blue sky in Beaujolais; the colors which inspired Laura Runge, the 2019 winner.

How will YOU interpret a Nouveau Beaujolais wine?

If you’d enjoy reading more of Georges Duboeuf’s life, from his biography. Meanwhile…

RULES AND REGULATIONS ~ Opens For Submissions

Eagerly Anticipated 2020 Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau Label Competition

Record Number of Submissions Expected in Competition’s Fourth Year

On Monday, March 2, 2020 at 12:01 a.m. (EST), the Georges Duboeuf Artist Label Competition officially began accepting submissions, from talented artists online at, www.NouveauLabelContest.com.

Since its inception in 2017, more than 2,000 aspiring and established artists have vied for the honor of seeing their work on over one million bottles of Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau each year (as well as Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau and Beaujolais Nouveau Rose).  Now in its fourth year, the competition is poised to be the biggest one yet as artists present their original works for the chance to adorn the iconic wine bottles upon their release this November.  In addition, the winner and runners-up will receive grants totaling nearly $5,000.

Artists who are legal residents of the U.S. and over the age of 21 are invited to submit label designs that reflect the fresh, youthful and vibrant nature of Beaujolais Nouveau, celebrated as “the first wine of the harvest” – a bright, juicy, fruit-forward wine that is released on the third Thursday of November each year (this year on November 19, 2020).

According to Dennis Kreps, who with his father, Stephen D. Kreps, co-owns Quintessential Wines (the family owned-and-operated exclusive importer of Les Vins Georges Duboeuf in the US),

“We’re very pleased with the growing popularity of the Georges Duboeuf Artist Label Competition, and have been amazed by the creativity of entries… many of them… reflect the essence of the wine and the legacy of Georges Duboeuf, Beaujolais’ ‘merchant of happiness,’ who first brought Nouveau to the world.”

Georges Duboeuf is a family owned-and-operated winery in the heart of the Beaujolais region of France with a rich history of collaborating with artists to create iconic labels.  The 2019 Artist Label winner from Texas, Laura Runge, drew her inspiration from the celebratory feeling that Beaujolais Nouveau embodies.   Her “Joyous Crush” painting featured beautiful, bold colors with fruit names such as grape, tangerine, peach and cranberry to depict the harvest in France with deep pinkish-red and purple tones mimicking the colors of the wine, and greens and blues to reflect the earth and sky.

“It has been a dream come true seeing my art displayed on over a million bottles of Georges Duboeuf wines,” says Laura. “Since winning the competition I’ve reignited my passion for art and welcomed so many new opportunities that I may not have had before.”

The Georges Duboeuf Artist Label Competition was created to support the creativity of emerging artists all over the U.S. The complete list of rules and regulations are on the competition’s website (www.NouveauLabelContest.com). Making a submission indicates that the artist has agreed to all the terms of the competition. Once the submission period ends, a panel of art experts will select no more than 15 finalists, taking into consideration “comments” and “likes” on each entry from visitors to the site.

The finalists’ works will be incorporated into the Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau wine label format and returned to the site on or about April 15 for voting by consumers via Duboeuf’s Social Media platforms, through April 30, 2020. The artwork receiving the most “likes” wins the top prize. Artists are encouraged to post the submission to their own social media channels to maximize voting.

For further information on the 2020 Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau Artist Label Competition, please contact Quintessential via www.quintessentialwines.com, customerservice@quintessentialwines.com, or call 707-226-8300.



Education,France,Italy,Wine,Wine Ed,Wine Education

Just Released Second Season of Wine Masters: ITALY

For anyone studying wine for any accreditation in the world of wine, this would be money well spent. I don’t represent this company, but I do appreciate what they’ve produced, so I’m sharing. If you can’t get to any these places, you’ll feel like you were there, learning first hand, from reliable sources. It’s now a great series developing.

The first Wine Masters was about France (trailer is at the end of this posting). This second video, now making this a series, has just been completed and is about certain regions in Italy.

Italy has a very special place in my heart, after my visits to Castello di Meleto in Gaiole, the Chianti Classico region of Tuscany; and, Colonnara Viticultori in Cupramontana, of the Le Marche region. Memories are the best part of travel, and now here’s how I get to enjoy even more, stateside.

The Italian wine stories of Piedmont, Tuscany, Veneto, Campania, and Sicily are told by Sarah Heller (MW), Richard Hemming (MW) Burton Anderson, and by the families Gaja, Boscaini, Antinori, Mastroberardino, and Tasca. Watch the new second season of Wine Masters ‘Italy’ now on: Wine Masters Vimeo, on Amazon, or on Google play. The price for each video is about $10, and is well worth the money, especially if you’re working toward a wine accreditation.

FROM THE PRODUCERS: The production visited all the Italian wine areas three times; during winter, summer and harvest time. Important story lines are about the Etna, Pompei, the renaissance of the Italian wine, the appassimento hype, and the competition between Barbaresco and Barolo. But there is also a critical note about mass production, where popular Italian wines were and still are victims of their own success.

Comments on YouTube: from the first season in France

  • Amazing series which let you feel every spark of passion from those amazingly talented wine(making) people! Keep on doing. It’s great stuff where I cannot get enough from. Want more 🙂
  • As an oenologist, it’s so good to watch this, satisfying, all subjects are been taken care [of] very beautifully in a simple way..keep up the good work..Cheers..!!!

Check out these trailers. They’re very compelling. This series is not a freebie (nor should it be), and buying the two seasons are very reasonably priced. Prices range from $25 to $40; and it’s money well spent, wherever you can find the best pricing for you. (Shop around for the best deal.)

Also, sharing the link for the first Wine Masters ~ Season 1 ~ France. Here’s that trailer, too.

If you’re a student of wine, these videos are really valuable. If you can’t get to Italy or France, they will still give you a sense of being there.


France,Merlot,Napa,Red Wine,Rhone,Sample,Wine

Heartwarming Wines ~ I’m Going for The Reds ~ Part 2

I’ve written about winter white wines, in Winter Wonderland Whites: Think Wine, Regionality, Food, and Umani Ronchi Vellodoro Pecorino. I also want to pay homage to winter reds as Heartwarming Wines, because they just are. National Heart Month is February, as you probably remember. Focusing on reds now, most especially, is very evocative for anything to do with red: red wines, Valentine’s Day, and heartiness food (yes, I deliberately misspelled hardy).

So, here were go. Lately I’ve had quite a few noteworthy red wines, and these are some of my favorites. And, these wines are either samples, or – in the case of St. Supéry, I was at the winery.

Part 1 (link)


Part 2 (today)



~ Heartwarming Red Wine Reviews ~

Ferraton Père & Fils Côtes-du-Rhône “Samorëns” Red

When Ferraton Père & Fils samples arrive, it’s always time to celebrate. These wines are reliably delicious and are also great value wines. Flavors from France are now settling on my palate as familiar. I’m eternally grateful to Ferraton Père & Fils , Georges Duboeuf Wines, and Chateau Roubine Cru Classé to thank for that part of my wine education. Terroir is terroir is terroir. Anyone who wants to debunk that, let’s do a simple tasting… tiny Maine, coastal blueberries versus California or New Jersey’s. I can tell you right now that Maine is going to walk away with the prize, and you – my doubting friend – will be rethinking your doubt.

So, the Ferraton Pere & Fils sample arrived and we shared the joy with friends, knowing ahead of time it wouldn’t disappoint… and it didn’t.

WINERY: Ferraton Père & Fils in Tain-l’Hermitage reliably delivers beautifully made, competitively priced Rhône Valley wines. GM Damien Brisset has overseen winemaking and viticulture at Ferraton for over 15 years, and enjoys an intense, yet friendly rivalry with Ferraton owner Michel Chapoutier. Where Ferraton is concerned, Chapoutier is careful to take a markedly hands-off approach, concentrating instead on his family’s own eponymous Rhône winery and other winemaking ventures around the world.

Besides consistently delicious wines, let’s talk about this one in more depth. While this seems like a playful relationship, it’s delivering high quality for their affordable prices.

“GM Damien Brisset has overseen winemaking and viticulture at Ferraton for over 15 years, and enjoys an intense, yet friendly rivalry with Ferraton owner Michel Chapoutier. Where Ferraton is concerned, Chapoutier is careful to take a markedly hands-off approach, concentrating instead on his family’s own eponymous Rhône winery and other winemaking ventures around the world.

Being in the wine business for nearly 30 years, as a consultant, there is nothing more delightful than having a relationship with an owner, who pretty much lets one do the job she or he has been hired to do. I so respect Michel Chapoutier for his respect for Damien Brisset. This allows for consistency and hose good vibes are are actually reflected in the wine… Again, terroir… This is part of it. (Imagine making a cake while you’re angry and hurried…)

This info was crafted for Ferraton Pere & Fils, so I’d consider the wine for tasting. Back-up material in a request to send a sample is so helpful, and when it’s this good, I’m not going to re-craft the message. It’s just worth sharing as is.

With an annual production of about 350,000 bottles, a slew of top-rated wines from the area’s most prestigious appellations, plus classic, over-performing values for everyday enjoyment, Ferraton gives Rhône’s well-known “big guns” serious competition. In recent decades, wines from this modestly sized producer-négociant have developed an outsize reputation among an inner circle of Rhône wine faithful as the standard by which others are judged.

Twenty percent of Ferraton production is estate wines. All are biodynamic and, since 2015, Demeter-certified, with fruit coming from the domaine’s 37 acres of prime vineyards in the northern Rhône’s Hermitage, Crozes-Hermitage and St. Joseph appellations.

Ferraton’s négociant range, sourced entirely from sustainably farmed fruit, includes bottlings from the northern Rhône’s Côte Rôtie, Condrieu, St.-Joseph and Cornas appellations, plus Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Côtes du Rhône-Villages Plan de Dieu and Côtes du Rhône in the southern Rhône.

For vegetarians, my food recommendation is something French with lots of cheese and onions, Mashed potato pie baked in rustic pan with onions and Parmesan cheese… simply delicious.


St. Supéry Merlot, Rutherford Estate Vineyard, Napa Valley

It all began with Premier Napa Valley. I’ve known about it for years, but never quite understood what’s going on. I can’t keep up with all of it. I could be away from ho9me everyday, but I don’t know how I would get work done, so I shy away from most events.

I was just speaking with Patrick Connelly,  general manager of Quixote Winery, who gave a bit of history of it’s evolution. Marketing for premier Napa Valley wines was originally for intense consumers, searching for the best of the best. In the beginning, there were many consumers in attendance, with some media allowed to have access. It culminates in an auction for high lots. Now, some big buyers of wine are in the mix, and they also buy big! There are many more details, which you can read, by clicking on the link above.

I was just at the Rutherford Dust Society’s preview event with a media pass, and enjoyed some really scrumptious wines. Even though the emphasis of what I was tasting was about epitimous Rutherford Cabs, I’m going to write about this St. Supéry Merlot, from their Rutherford Estate Vineyard, in Napa Valley… Because this created a huge paradigm shift for me.

Quick digress to Maine in the 80s and me “trying” to like Merlot, as my first wine adventure. This went on for years, then I let it go for all these years; because if it’s not for you, there’s so much more that is and we move on, right?

But… big but… At St. Supéry Estate Vineyards & Winery, when Jose and I arrived, CEO Emma Swain was standing at the top of the stairs, greeting everyone. We met a couple of years ago. Then, out of the blue, she sent very special St. Supéry wines to Jose and me as a follow-up. She’s so adept at leading her staff, so well respected… dare I say loved?  She’s managing the winery’s financial success, any and all hiccups that comes along, high powered meetings, you name it, she’s doing it… including surprising us. And, for two years I thought about her marvelous energy. There’s something girl-friendly about it that’s hard to explain. It’s just who Emma Swain is.

So, Merlot, Emma wanted me to taste her 2016 St. Supéry Merlot, Rutherford Estate Vineyard, Napa Valley. I decided to open my mind this time, she was just so friendly. What an unbelievable experience, when you haven’t tasted one specific variety with one’s own personal baggage, since the 90s.

The WOW Moment

Swirled, sniffed, looked intently into the glass, swirled and sniffed again, then tasted. It was so soft and welcoming, I had an epiphany, a new perspective emerged about how this St. Supéry would now define Merlot for me. This was what I expected way back when. It’s been a long road getting here, Merlot, but now I know where to find you. So yeah, I really loved it, Emma. Still do. Have you ever had one of those WOW moments, too?

Lots of raspberry fruit, like the joy of picking summer red raspberries on Sabattus Lake of days gone by. Between the raspberries and dark cherry notes, I fell in love with Merlot… if they can keep up with St. Supéry’s. If I were going to open a bottle for dinner, I’m going with Coq au Vin.

Imagine this Coq au Vin, braised with wine, herbs, mushrooms and vegetables, and served with your favorite Merlot.

And then there’s…

2016 Exitus Red Wine

It calls itself a “badass wine with a bourbon soul.” Every been to Bourbon Street in New Orleans? Yeah, it’s like that. Aged in Bourbon barrels, I put my big girl pants on for this one.

This wine is from Batch Number 1. (Suddenly, I feel very special! What took me so long?) Aged for three months in Bourbon barrels, you can expect complexity, unlike wines aging in oak without the flavors coming from barrels used to age spirits, and there’s lingering pleasure.

It’s 15.9 percent alcohol, so I was expecting an immediate buzz, and it delivered! The label reads BOLD & FEARLESS. Yup, it’s all there, and then there’s this cedar finish that lingers and lingers, with hints of bourbon. This wine is a very special treat, and I’m ready to pull out yesterday’s beef stew that simmered to perfection. Had I tasted this yesterday, I would have infused my beef stew, seriously. Plums and spice, if you love living on the edge, take this one with you.

This Exitus, with a sweetness all of its own, has been aging right here since it arrived, years ago. And, it’s so joyous to open it.

“With bourbon-soaked barrels in our cellar, Barrel Road uses them for aging; bringing in warm spice and additional layers of complexity to our red blend. This wine is a deep, brilliant red and opaque. On the nose, notes of black cherry, molasses, and toast create a strong, inviting aroma. The palate is smooth, showing ripe notes of blackberry and plum, followed by toffee, maple syrup, and a hint of caramel on the finish. The finish is soft and long lasting.”


EXITUS is an intentional departure from the ordinary.

Going far beyond the subtle “toast” of traditional wine barrels, Bourbon barrels are set ablaze, which creates a visibly blackened interior, known as a “char.” When introduced to a high proof moonshine like Bourbon, the caramelized wood sugars of the charred barrels react to deliver Bourbon’s signature mellow, smoky smooth profile – a nuance that we were determined to crossover into wine.

Aged in mature Bourbon barrels, Exitus boldly challenges convention to craft a distinctive red blend that stands apart. Exitus rests for three months in charred American oak barrels previously drenched in Kentucky Bourbon, resulting in a whole new level of depth, flavor and smoky intensity to the final blend. The payoff is a concentrated, statement red wine with rich layers of dark fruit, toasty oak and spice.

I think I need to have just a l-i-t-t-l-e… bit… more…


Beef and Sausage Stew, with a hearty wine… Takes me right back to my home state of Maine. I used to cook on our Jotul wood stove; all day for this one; to thicken and be ready for a hearty wine, this one…


Argentina,Australia,California,France,Lodi,Mendoza,Oregon,Red Wine,Rhone,Sample,Wine

Heartwarming Wines ~ I’m Going for The Reds ~ Part 1

I’ve written about winter white wines, in Winter Wonderland Whites: Think Wine, Regionality, Food, and Umani Ronchi Vellodoro Pecorino. I also want to pay homage to winter reds as Heartwarming Wines, because they just are. National Heart Month is February, as you probably remember. Focusing on reds now, most especially, is very evocative for anything to do with red: red wines, Valentine’s Day, and heartiness food (yes, I deliberately misspelled hardy).

So, here were go. Lately I’ve had quite a few noteworthy red wines, and these are some of my favorites.

Part 1 (today’s blog post)

Part 2 (is the next blog post)


~ Heartwarming Red Wine Reviews ~


2Hawk Tempranillo 2016 Rogue Valley, Oregon

This is my second go-around with 2Hawk wines, and I’m still enamored. Their wines are estate grown, so this is vine to glass with no one in-between to interpret what the wine should taste like, given all of their unique characteristics an terroir. The whites go down easily; and the reds are intriguingly different for what we traditionally think of being grown in Oregon. Tempranillo (for instance) versus Pinot Noir? (They do also make a Pinot, we just to think “Oregon? Tempranillo.” in a word association game.)

Yeah, from southwest Oregon, where they’re located, don’t even try to compare the flavors to – say – Willamette Valley. I use this reference, because – by now – people associate Oregon with Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris. These wines are unique, expressive, and easy to enjoy.

WEBSITE: Our mission at 2Hawk Vineyard & Winery is simple. To be the best we can be. Period. The pursuit of quality guides everything we do in growing fruit, making wine, and providing exceptional guest experiences. Ross and Jen Allen, along with Winemaker Kiley Evans, combine over 50 years of experience in agriculture, winemaking, and customer service. Together their talent, experience, and determination have propelled 2Hawk to the forefront of wine quality, site stewardship, and hospitality. 2Hawk’s production of luxury-class estate wines is focused on Malbec and Viognier with smaller amounts of Tempranillo, Pinot noir, Grenache, Sauvignon blanc, and Chardonnay. Oregon’s wine industry is adventurous and filled with exciting opportunities to broaden expectations. 2Hawk Vineyard & Winery is blazing the trail.

This was a really delicious wine. I do enjoy a good Tempranillo, and I relished this one.

The Tempranillo variety is Span’s main, red wine grape. ¡Rioja! ~ Right?

This wine has a medium to full-bodiness about it; lots of figs and dark cherries. Get ready for some tannins, which means it will age well, easily for at least 5-10 more years. Like Syrah, it’s got a leather-quality about it, being really earthy. This one is begging for prime rib that’s marbleized with some fat, which will soften the tannins quite a bit.

Homemade Grass Fed Prime Rib Roast with Herbs and Spices… My mouth is watering already!


Henry’s Drive 2017 Magnus Shiraz ~ Australia

Welcome to a really tasty Australian Shiraz! Wine fans the world over are now doing our part to help the Australian wine industry get back onto its feet, after their horrific wild fires. The past two northern California wild fires (2017 and 2019) have been within six miles of my home, both times. Looking out our glass, back door window, each time in the wee hours of the morning, the terror of what we saw would be enough to straighten naturally curly hair, when you’d look upon a close mountain range that’s totally ablaze. I still completely empathize with Australia, about this.

Since last September, at least 27 million acres of Australia have burned, 2,500 homes were destroyed, and 1.25 billion animals were lots. So, to the wine, to help rebuild their county, is a really important world of wine effort. The good lord only knows how long it will take to recover what they had.

When I opened this 2017 Henry’s Drive Magnus from Vintage Longbottom, I had all of these statistics in mind. Although this winery is half a world away and the other half of the world’s hemisphere, I felt so close to it, knowing the panic.

FROM THE WINERY: Henry’s Drive Vignerons (78 percent Padthaway and 22 percent McLaren Vale) ~ Named after the proprietor of the 19th century mail coach service that once ran through their property, Henry’s Drive Vignerons is the wine operation established by Kim Longbottom and her late husband Mark. During the nineteenth century establishment of the farming and wine industries of south eastern South Australia, only horse drawn coaches provided the transit of mail and passengers. The coach drivers reigned supreme on top of their coaches and won the respect and admiration of their passengers.

The flavors of this Shiraz were of juicy berries, mint (neighboring eucalyptus trees add to the terroir’s flavors of the soil, and hints of lavender… It’s a great balance of red fruit, and the herbs of mint and lavender polish off this very evocative Shiraz. Totally yummy and given the location of origin, I chose a venison dish to share. Coincidentally, the winery has the same food recommendation. Venison Goulash Stew with Fresh Herbs Surrounded by Evergreen Sprigs and Deer Antlers.

HINT: If you cook a recipe like this, you can forego the bay leaves. McLaren Vales is already known for hints of bay leaves in the wine… (Flavors of bay can be overwhelming for me. If you’re the same, just use caution.


Mendoza Argentina, Domaine Bousquet Gaia

From Oregon, to Australia, to Mendoza, Argentina, reds from around the world are very captivating. Step outside of your neighborhood once in a while, and you’ll discover delicious treasures.

As the Girl Scouts sing, “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other is gold. So, off to meet a new experience, until this is already on the gold list for you – like it is for me.

French winemakers in Argentina ~ expect the elegance…


The Bousquet family hails from the city of Carcassonne, in the South of France and have 4 generations of history in the winemaking tradition. Our passion is to produce wines of superior quality, and this is what lead us to Argentina to begin a new chapter.

A 1990 vacation in Argentina was all it took. For third-generation winemaker Jean Bousquet, it was love at first sight. The object of the Frenchman’s desire: the Gualtallary Valley, a scenic, remote, arid terrain high in the Tupungato district of the Uco Valley in Argentina’s Mendoza region, close to the border with Chile. Here, where the condors fly and not a vine in sight, Bousquet discovered his dream terroir, an ideal location in which to nurture organically-grown wines.

With altitudes ranging up to 5,249 feet, Gualtallary occupies the highest extremes of Mendoza’s viticultural limits. Fast-forward to the present and wine cognoscenti recognize it as the source of some of Mendoza’s finest wines. Back then, it was virgin territory: tracts of semi-desert, nothing planted, no water above ground, no electricity and a single dirt track by way of access. Locals dismissed the area as too cold for growing grapes. Bousquet, on the other hand, reckoned he’d found the perfect blend between his French homeland and the New World (sunny, with high natural acidity and a potential for relatively fruit-forward wines).

The winery is spectacular and so are the wines. This 2018 Gaia Red Blend is an organic wine, from the Tupungato region of Mendoza, Argentina; and, is the northernmost sub-region of the Uco Valley, in Mendoza. This region’s name comes from the Tupungato volcano, so we can expect red soil filled with iron oxide. Iron oxide is known for putting a pepper spice into wine… think Dry Creek Zinfandels. (I’ve never met a Dry Creek Zin I didn’t love, because of that recognizable spice.)

When Gaia comes knocking, I get really excited to enjoy this wine again. First of all… the Gaia label is one of my most favorite labels of all time, for its distinctive art work. The wine is also as exciting as its colorful, stimulating label.

This 2018 Gaia red blend of  Malbec, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon is richly purple in color. Expect lots of berries – boysenberries dominated for me, when I swirled and sniffed. With its French winemaking style, I was wowed by its velvet feel and flavors on my palate. This was due to its delicate tannins. The spiciness on the finish is accented by notes of black winter truffles, now cultivated in Argentina from June through August (think southern hemisphere – during their winter). The finish on this wine, as always, left me craving for more.

To pair this with food, I’ve paired it with a recipe for Homemade Barbecue Baked Beans in a Black Skillet~ don’t forget to add some salt pork. The fat from salt pork continues to soften the tannins of this wine, just for added enjoyment.


Wine,Wine Business,Wine tasting,Wine Travel

In the Days of Wine Social Responsibility ~ Do You Need Travel Insurance, Especially for Abroad?

When I read an email to me, I had to stop and take a serious pause.

Shannon O’Keefe with Consumers Advocate — we do our best to take complicated subjects and make them understandable.

I just found [one of] your [wine] article[s] while dreaming of far, distant, and magical wine flights for my wife and I. 🙂 What a smart piece of writing!

Our team just discovered a bit of information I wanted to run by you, though.

In revamping our guide to travel insurance, we discovered a person almost always voids insurance coverage if they’re inebriated in any way …Basically if you’re drunk and get hurt, you’re not covered.

[Purchased images]

My story was about a business trip, and I was being chauffeured from one place to the next, so there would be no inebriated collisions to report. But, insurance for when I might fall and break a leg, or some such unexpected occurrence? The thought just never occurred to me. Along came the email that made me sit up and take notice. I do travel in my wine writing work, including abroad… Still, I hadn’t even thought about that twisted ankle (mentioned in the article below) and what would happen next.

So, Let’s Explore Why

This really caught my eye, and makes me want to spit more than ever, people…

From Consumersadvocate.org

A Note On Alcohol Use

What about the rest of the trip? Your visit to the hospital for your twisted ankle? The missed flight in Fiji?

Unfortunately for you, you voided the rest of your coverage by being drunk. Standard in most travel insurance policies is a drug and alcohol exclusion that won’t pay out if you’re intoxicated. You were drunk when you twisted your ankle, which means that your hospital visit was not covered. And because your injury caused the delay which caused you to ultimately miss your connecting flight, that most likely wouldn’t be covered either.

This is the closest thing to that mythical “get out of paying all claims free” card as you’re likely to find in a travel insurance policy. And, to be frank, it makes sense not to cover incidents that happen while the insured is intoxicated. Of course there is some wiggle room in what constitutes intoxication. If you had a glass of wine with dinner and injured yourself somehow, your medical coverage will probably be honored. But if you sprain your throwing wrist by playing four straight hours of beer pong, you’re on your own.

…For the final word on what to look for in a travel insurance policy, we asked Megan Cruz for an insider’s perspective of what she looks for when she buys travel insurance (yes, the Executive Director of the US Travel Insurance Association buys travel insurance almost every time she travels). She answered: “I’m going to look at what’s covered and I’m also going to look at the limits of the insurance offered by the carrier, and I always read the fine print. I know those coverage limits so I’m not surprised later. I think about other costs in addition to my flight.”

Sobering, I know. I’ve been in the wine business since 1993, been to 43 of our 50 states and to Europe (Portugal, Italy, and France) and the Caribbean. I’ve been very lucky. But, since I ruptured the meniscus in my right leg this past August (tripping over something, carrying my yoga bucket, and landing HARD on both knees on a hardwood floor… surgery suggested), what would I have done away from my home? My torn ligament meant that I was bedridden for a month, for starters, and the next month was spent learning to walk again. How could anyone have handled that from afar?

I’m going to call my primary insurance provider… That’s my solution. I hope you think about it, too. If you’ve also traveled for work, you know; but have you also thought about “what if?” and not done anything about it yet? If not, please think about it.