Lou's Wine Tours
Lou's Wine Tours

Lou's News

August 27, 2014


Hello Friends!

                    I know it's been a year since my last article, but Lou has been a very busy boy! I'm sure you've all heard about the 6.0 Quake in southern Napa and Sonoma, but know that we are open for biz and harvest and crush are here! Our hearts go out to those who lost property or were injured, but thank God no lives were lost!

                         RAMAZZOTTI WINES


Local growers since 1979, Joe and Norma Ramazzotti started their own winery in 2002. In February of 2012 they opened their tasting room (which they share with our good friends at Mercury Wine!) in downtown Geyserville. They now produce approx. 4,000 cases annually in 200 to 300 case lots. Ramazzotti Wines has 13 different wines from Frizzante (sparkling) to an excellent Zinfandel Port! 
                The Wines!
2013 Pinot Grigio $19 btl/200 cs - First vintage, nice fruit and acidity will make a great food wine.
2013 Rose of Zinfandel $14.50 btl/200 cs - Nicely aromatic with body of strawberry and finish of light raspberry. great afternoon on the porch wine!
2012 Barbera $42 btl/130 cs - One of only a few Barbera producers in Dry Creek, I get earthy aromatics with white pepper, bright and smooth on the palate and a long dark fruit finish. Beautiful!
2012 Sangiovese $32 btl/300 cs - This estate Dry Creek Valley wine is Lou's new favorite Sangio! Luscious and super juicy with hints of cherry and vanilla.
2009 Cabernet Franc $46 btl/130 cs - Dark fruit, touch of cedar, spice, and olive. full bodied with lingering finish. drink now until 2020.
2011 Raffinto $35 btl/130 cs - Super Tuscan! 60% Sangiovese blend gives juicy cherry/berry with velvety finish. Great with meat!
2010 Ricordo $36 btl/200 cs - 75% Zinfandel blend. Huge Italian style Zin. Dark fruits with tobacco, chocolate finish with a touch of anise. Delightful!
In summation, Ramazzotti Wines is a great stop in Geyserville. Full bodied Italian varietals with a knowledgable friendly vibe, you'll have a great time with great wine! That's all for now, be back in September with a new article for ya!
Lou  8/27/14 

Thursday, June 20, 2013


Mmmm Mmmm  Muscardini Cellars! .... Revisited!!

Hello again fellow wine lovers! We are back at Muscardini Cellars in Kenwood. I wrote about Michael and his wines back on 4/15/2010 (go to Lou's News on my website and scroll way down for the article) and here's the changes - Muscardini now has their own tasting room, they moved in January 2013 to the Red School House in Kenwood (formerly occupied by Family Wineries). The structure was built in the 1800's and has been beautifully refurbished. The tasting room is big and roomy with an outside patio and gardens. Jennifer Kosko is Hospitality Manager and runs the tasting room. They have excellent events and live music every other Friday at 5:00 (watch for The Hax late July or Early August).


What's not changed - Excellent small batch wines and wonderful hospitality. Muscardini Cellars is becoming THE go to winery in Sonoma Valley! Now, let's talk about the wines. Muscardini currently has 11 wines on their tasting menu, they charge $10 for 6 tastes waived with wine purchase. For brevity I will comment on my personal faves, although I have tasted them all and there isn't a loser in the bunch!


2012 Rosato Di Sangiovese, Sonoma Valley - $22 btl/340 cs. A refreshing Rose, Strawberry and rose petal aromatics, full tangy citrus and watermelon on palate, strawberry finish.


2010 Sangiovese, Sonoma Valley Monte Rosso Vnyds - $36 btl/398 cs. Blackpepper and smoke on the nose, ripe berries with soft tannins on the palate with long smooth finish.


2009 Tesoro, Sonoma Valley - $49 btl/494 cs. Lou's personal favorite! A wonderful super Tuscan blend of Sangiovese, Cab Sauv, and Syrah. Cassis and cherries on the nose, full yet balanced palate with chocolate spice finish. Won 3 gold medals!


2010 Zinfandel, Sonoma Valley Monte Rosso Vnyds - $42 btl/253 cs. What a beautiful wine! A light fruit nose belies a robust, balanced Zin.


2008 Fortuna, Sonoma Valley - $49 btl/522 cs. Mike's flag ship wine is 55% Syrah, 30% Cab Sauv, with some Merlot and splashes of Cab Franc and Petite Verdot. Rich aromatics of cherry and coffee/cocoa,rich and full bodied palate with lingering smooth finish. Drink now thru 2020.


2010 Ranch Salina, Sonoma Valley - $59 btl/470 cs. This 70% Cab Sauv. 30% Merlot blend is a winner. Vibrant aromatics with big juicy dark fruit and anise on the palate. Lush lingering finish. 5 gold medals.


Mike also makes a Pinot Grigio, Barbera, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon. I always bring wine tour clients to Muscardini when in Sonoma Valley to rave reviews. The great wines and excellent hospitality make it a must visit.

Until next time!


Wednesday April 17, 2013




When out wine tasting and you sample a wine you particularly enjoy, the proper etiquette to get another taste is to ask to "revisit" that wine. You probably see where I'm going with this: Lou is updating articles from the past, hence "revisiting" some of my favorite wineries and discussing changes, new releases, etc.  What better place to start then Mercury Winery in Geyserville! I previously wrote about Mercury on December 11th, 2010. If you scroll down from here on my web page, you can read the original!


Changes - Still at same address but share the space with Ramazzotti Wines, Joe and Norma are wonderful folks and make excellent wines, but that's for a future article! Brad Beard (the owner/winemaker) is now the sole owner, and the tasting room is manned by Brad, his brother Grady, and of course Freddie!! Who is now much bigger but is always a hit with everybody. It's always big fun at the Mercury tasting room!


Before we discuss the latest Mercury releases I would like to tell you about a wonderful wine experience I had recently at Mercury. While going thru my wine cellar I discovered a 2005 Mercury Messenger (Brad's Cab blend, 1st vintage). Now this wine was sold out in 2010 when I wrote the original Mercury article, and even Brad is our of it! So I brought the bottle to Mercury and Brad added an 07 Messenger (sold out!) an 08 (current release) and a pre-release 09!  Huzzah!! a killer vertical tasting! (there was no 06 Messenger)  It was a once in a lifetime thing to hang out with my friends and fellow wine geeks enjoying a 4 year vertical of Brad's excellent cabs. I made a full page of scribbled tasting notes, but all I can say is WOW what great wines. The 09 Messenger is gonna be a crowd pleaser with it's forward fruit, so buy a lot early as it will sell out quick. So on to the current releases!


 2010 Sauvignon Musque - 125 cs/$24 btl.  Light lemon color with passion fruit and slight plantain on the nose. Slightly tropical with gentle citrus on the finish. A great food wine.


2010 Chardonnay "Orange" Alexander Valley - 80 cs/$24btl.  Beautiful golden orange coloration (Brad left skins on during 2 week fermentation). Unlike any Chard I've ever had, this is a red drinkers white wine. Complex with minerals and stone fruit, light pear on the finish.


2006 Bordeaux Blend "The Rocket" Alexander Valley - 150 cs/$45 btl. Blended then aged 5 years in neutral oak, super smooth and complex like the 05 but bolder. It's like playing your favorite song, only LOUDER! I'll be buying deep on this one.


2009 Malbec "The Bastard" - 80 cs/$45 btl. This blend got it's name because the Malbec grape's parental lineage is unknown. Fruit forward and bold with no rough edges. Toffee and caramel nose and the smoothest Malbec I've tasted.


 2008 Cab Blend "The Messenger" - Alexander Valley 125 cs/$38 btl. See above about the vertical - the 08 lights up the palate with currant, dark cherry, and plum. Balanced spice and tannins on the finish.


2009 Petit Verdot Blend "Heavy Metal" - Alexander Valley, 75 cs/$55 btl. This world class wine ROCKS! Full, bold and beautiful from start to finish. Brad's down to about 20 cases left so get yourself some and enjoy it on a special occasion.


Mercury is still a great place to visit - great people, wine, and atmosphere. See you out there! Cheers!


Friday March 1, 2013



Greetings and Happy New Year! A happy, healthy, and prosperous 2013 to all! Now let's get to talkin' wine! Those who have known me over the years are aware of my fondness for big, full bodied wines. Especially Cabs, Merlots , and Bordeaux blends. After all, it was a 1983 Steltzner Estate Cab Sauv ( Stag's Leap district, Napa Valley) that ignited my passion for the grape. I found lighter wines rather dull and unfulfilling. Now that I am older and mature (keep the jokes to yourself!) I find enjoyment in a lighter, genetically deficient grape, Yes, Pinot Noir. And for my turnabout lay the blame on Russian River valley district, who produce world class Pinot's. Speaking of world class Pinot's (and other varietals) brings us to our featured winery -
                  DUTTON-GOLDFIELD, Sebastopol, Ca.
Located In the cool climate of the Russian River Appellation, Dutton-Goldfield Winery sits on the corner of The Gravenstein Highway (116) and Graton road. They moved to their spacious new tasting room in March of 2010. The new room is tastefully appointed, has  lots of bar space with comfy sofas and some tables to relax at. The patio in front has tables for picnicking, and LIVE MUSIC on Sundays resumes in April. Look for The Hax (Lou;s band) to be performing late April.  Dave, Bob, et al man the tasting room and everyone there are very friendly and outgoing, have excellent wine knowledge and enhance your wine experience when visiting. The winery began in 1998 founded by Steve Dutton (grower) and Dan Goldfield (winemaker). They currently produce Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, several vineyard designate Pinot's, Zinfandel, and Syrah. Before we get to the featured wines I need to mention that Dutton-Goldfield's wines are generally very small batch and can sell out quickly. Their Pinot Blanc is always outrageously good, but the 2011 has been sold out for months. Not to fear the 2012 will be out in a few weeks. I also love their 2010 Morelli Lane Zin, alas it is also sold out, What I'm trying to tell you is if you like these wines buy enough to get through the year. Don't make the same tragic mistake I did!
                              FINALLY, THE WINES!!
2011 Chardonnay, Dutton Ranch RRV. 3,286 cs/$35 btl - Lemon and tangerine on the nose, luscious lemony orange cream palate with tropical hints, bright acid and   mineral finish. A great food chard.
2011 Pinot Noir, Dutton Ranch RRV. 2,486 cs/$40 btl - Smooth low alcohol, red berries on the nose and bright full cherry on the palate. Lingering finish. One of my favorite Pinots!
2010 Pinot Noir, McDougal Vnyd Sonoma Coast. 239 ca/$58 btl - A full bodied Pinot with bing cherry and cranberry on the palate. Overtones of spice and black licorice,
2010 Pinot Noir, Fox Den Vnyd RRV.392 cs/$58 btl - soft but substantial with raspberry, dark cherry and violet aromatics that carry through to the palate. low alcohol and moderate tannins will allow this wine to cellar well.
2009 Syrah, Cherry Ridge Vnyd RRV. 330 cs/$45 btl - Anise, black pepper and blackberry on the nose. Full mouth feel with a lingering finish.
Dutton-Goldfield Winery is a must stop for lovers of Pinot and Chardonnay, I have never had a client who hasn't enjoyed stopping there.
Til next time!   Lou  


Tuesday, June 19, 2012



Hello Everybody and welcome to my new
website - Lou's Wine Tours and we will get going with one of my favorite
wineries and wine makers - Amphora Winery in Dry Creek. Rick Hutchinson,
owner/winemaker, started Amphora in 1996 with the first vintage of zinfandel and
petite sirah in 1997. In 05 Rick added Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese,
and Chardonnay to his line up. Since 2007 the winery has been located at 4791
Dry Creek Road in Healdsburg. Rick's wines are small production and hand
crafted  mostly under 300 cases. Rick is also an accomplished artist (pottery -
he likes to make amphoras, which are clay jars of varied size that the ancient
Greeks and Romans used to store wine) and musician (he's a damn good bass
guitarist which is high praise coming from a drummer!). The tasting experience
is wonderful at Amphora. Either Rick or one of the friendly and very
knowledgable staff make your stop there memorable. It's time for me to stop
blathering and get on to THE WINE!
08 Chard. Peters Vnyd, RRV - $30 btl/417 cs - A beautiful mature Chard,
honeydew and peach aromas, lemony on the palate with nice russian river
mineral/flint finish.
08 Pinot Noir RRV - $36 btl/207 cs - Ready to drink, cherry and tea nose,
spice palate and cherry plum finish. good body for a pinot.
07 Cab Franc - $35 btl/572 cs - Cherry vanilla nose, medium bodied with
smooth finish.
08 Zinfandel Dry Creek - $26 btl/557 cases - a blend of 4 vineyards, plums
and sweet spices rule the palate, ez drinking with spice finish. Rick's zin
never disappoints!
09 Zinfandel Forchini/Watson vnyd - $34 btl/150 cs - This is a wine club
only wine, but WOW! Rich deep zin that will charm the palate from start to
finish. I think I will be drinking as many of these as I can get my paws
07 Merlot Dry Creek - $28 btl/225 cs - I am a serious fan of the Merlot
grape and Rick's Merlot is right in my wheelhouse. Full bodied and voluptuous
with a lengthy finish, this is one of my favorite merlots.
06 7 Sisters Red Blend - $55 btl/285 cs - This blend has it all, dark fruit
and cocoa nose, intense yet smooth on the palate with a supple finish.
06 Petite Sirah - $32 btl/560 cs - This wine has a beautiful color and a
floral berry nose. A dark chocolate and sweet spice finish lingers. Ready to
Rick also makes Sangiovese, Malbec, Petit Verdot, and Teroldolgo (a spanish
grape). Amphora also has great events like the annual grape stomp (only women
touch the grapes, men drink and watch) which supports the Sutter Women's Health
Center in Santa Rosa. I highly recommend a stop at Amphora and take most of my
Northern Sonoma clients there. Check it out, you won't be sorry! And as Rick
says "Think Inside The Bottle:!

Friday, November 11, 2011



Yes, I've missed you too!! I know it's been way to long since my last article, but I have been BUSY, BUSY, BUSY doing wine tours. This is the best time of year here in God's Country, so get your end of year tour booked soon! See the grape leaves turn colors! See them fall to the ground!! See them be raked together and set on fire! The excitement never ends!!

Speaking of excitement, have you heard about Moondance Cellars in Glen Ellen? No! Well let Lou tell you all about it! David Cohen (winemaker) and his lovely bride Priscilla (the boss) founded Moondance in Sebastopol with their first vintage in 1992. They operated a tasting room in Kenwood from 2008 thru early 2010, then moved to their present location on Arnold Drive Glen Ellen in May 2010. They currently produce about 1,500+ cases per year. They produce under the Moondance label, plus Orchard Station (sauv blanc and chard) and The Friendly Dog Winery. I have been drinking Dave's wines for years and they are consistently excellent. I highly recommend stopping by when driving thru Glen Ellen.

Now let's talk about Dave's delicious wines!

2010 Sauvignon Blanc - 150 cs/$20 btl - Crisp and clean with no caffeine!! no grassy minerals, just yummy fruit with pink grapefruit nose. Nice acidity will make it a great food wine.

2010 Sonoma County Chardonnay - cs/$24 btl - Pear and apple flavors with just a hint of oak and np butter. This Chard is right up my alley!! Imminently drinkable!!

2008 Napa Reserve Merlot - 215 cs/$24 btl - Life Unleashed! the label says. Dave has always made beautiful Merlots, and this is no exception. Rich berry flavors coat the palate with a nice lengthy finish. 15% of proceeds from each bottle sold donated to Canine Companions.

2009 Sonoma County Zinfandel - 150 cs/$32 btl - Major blueberries all over the mouth!! Super Smooth Zin! Hand selected from 3 small vineyards it's a winner. Get some before its all gone.

2009 Napa Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon - 215 cs/$30 btl - A killer Napa Cab for thirty bucks!! Nice berry nose with bright cherries on the tongue. Smooth balanced finish. A Winner!

I must say Moondance is my favorite stop in Glen Ellen with consistently excellent wines. You can also sample ports from Sonoma Portworks, amazing mustards, Olive Oil and next door is the chocolatier Wine Country Chocolates making fresh truffles and other chocolate delights daily!! It's a can't miss on your wine tour!

Moondance Cellars 14301 Arnold Drive, Glen Ellen, ca


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Return of the Charbono!

It's another perfect day here in God's Country and I have the mighty Lincoln headed West towards Russian River Valley, where the climate and terroir are perfect for Pinot's, Chards, Sauv Blancs and some very elegant Zins! Cruising down the Gravenstein Highway to the lovely hamlet (not a breakfast sandwich) of Forestville where today we will go to Russian River Vineyards and sample their wares!

Russian River Vineyards was established in 2008, when the partners purchased the property from Topolos. The tasting bar is located off the entrance to their restaurant "Corks" on a beautiful vineyard property (a great place for weddings). Corks does an excellent brunch (the dungeoness crab eggs benedict are awesome!) with fantastic service. Every one I have recommended Corks to has given glowing reviews. You can also order sandwiches, charcuterie and cheeses at the tasting bar!

Enough blather, lets get on to the Vino!! Russian River Vineyards serves 11+ wines to choose from, so I will just discuss my favorites.

2009 Russian River Valley Chard - $22/btl - crisp and balanced Chard with hint of minerality. Good example of classic RR Valley Chard.

2009 Russian River Valley Sauvignon Blanc - $25/btl - Full citrus and melon with a touch of lemon grass. Very drinkable!!

2008 Syrah Anthony Austin - Sonoma - $30/btl - smooth seamless structure with a full mouth feel and pleasant, smoky finish. Ready to drink Now!

2008 Syrah - Bella Sonoma Vineyard - $30/btl - Tobacco and leather nose, big tannins, this will be a beautiful Syrah when the tannins fully integrate in 3 plus years.

2009 Mendocino County Charbono - $34/btl, 480 cases produced - Every Charbono I have ever tasted (prior to RRV's) has been a tannic leathery nightmare. Not this one!! The Fruit is Beautiful!! The wine is elegant!! If every Charbono was like this one, there would be more than 85 acres planted in the USA. RRV hit a Grand Slam with this one, I personally plan on drinking a great number of these!!

Russian River Vineyards also has Pinot's, a Reisling, Cab, Zin, and desert wines. The restaurant is excellent with great service. The staff is friendly and knowledgeable. So, when in Russian River Valley stop and taste at RRV and have some grub at Corks, you'll thank me later. Until next time,



Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Twenty Rows - Napa

TONIGHT'S EPISODE - Wine Nuts Unite or How I learned to stop worrying by drinking more of "THE GRAPPLER". Why? Because it's THE BOMB!!

Hello again my friends, Isn't it supposed to be Summer? I for one am getting a wee bit tired of the constant precipitation. The Grape Vines NEED SUN!! I managed to slog my way to visit the only winery and tasting room in Downtown Napa, and it's a winner! VINOCE (which means "wine nut" in Italian divided by German) Winery is our subject today and you get 2 wineries in one! Vinoce produces a Sauv Blanc, a Mount Veeder Estate blend, and a reserve Cab Sauv. Their other label, Twenty Rows, produces a Sauv Blanc, a Napa Valley Merlot, a Napa Valley Cab Sauv, and THE GRAPPLER. We'll just call everything Vinoce until I get to tasting info, to make things easier on me.

The Nuss family, Brian, Lori, and son Tim planted their Mt Veeder Estate in 1989 and began producing Vinoce in 1996. They started Twenty Rows in 2003 to bring to market a quality affordable wine for everyday drinking. Twice they won Best Cab for $20 and under and I have to give them a lot of credit for staying the course and continuing to produce excellent, yet affordable wines. The tastings are usually handled by Tim or Lori in the barrel room, or you can do a sit down in the foyer. This is a great place to sit down, relax and enjoy the people, wine, and pleasant atmosphere they provide. Now let's talk about the wines!

2009 Vinoce Sauv Blanc - $22 btl/1200 cases - a very rich SB with melon and grapefruit tones and easy to drink.

2009 Twenty Rows Merlot - $20 btl/2000 cases - Spring Mountain and Oakville grapes this Merlot sports a nice blueberry and spice nose, slight smoky chocolate mouth with a soft finish.

2009 THE GRAPPLER - $20 btl/800 cases - 75% Napa Valley Zinfandel/25% Amador (Sierra Foothills) Syrah blend. Powerful ripe spicy cherry with tobacco hints and full mouth feel. Lingering dark fruit finish with a touch of raspberry. This wine smacks you right in the kisser and doesn't let go! I Like It!!! A definite for my top wines under $20 list(coming in September) and a great value. I'm buying a case.

2009 Twenty Rows Cab Sauv - $20 btl/10,000 cases - 90% Mt Veeder and Yountville Cab, with 10% Oak Knoll Merlot. Light tannins with luscious dark fruit notes. Very accessible, enjoyable Cabernet.

2007 Vinoce Mount Veeder Estate - $60 btl/450 cases - a blend of 60% Cabernet Franc, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 15% Merlot. Has a cornucopia of flavors! Dark berry, mineral, and cedar all well integrated. Beautiful texture and lingering finish. Will age well.

2007 Vinoce Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve - $75 btl/120 cases - 90% Cab Sauv, 5% Cab Franc, and 5% Merlot. Great nose dark fruit, chocolate, and tobacco. Medium tannins. Great flavors but still a little tight. I would drink 2014 thru 2020.

What more can I say? A great wine tour stop with outstanding affordable wines and hand crafted family Estate wines. Lou highly recommends you check this place out!! Check out their websites:www.vinoce.com and www.twentyrows.com


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Michael Bernard Wines


Oh it 's one of my favorite times of the year, bud break. The grape vines are beginning to sprout their little green leaves which means a new and exciting year for the grapes to grow into delicious wine!! Well. I'm leaving out a few important steps but you catch my drift. Speaking of new and exciting, today's ramblings will be about Michael-Bernard Winery, which opened their tasting room on Westside Road in Healdsburg in September of 2010. MBW is located about 3/4 mile southwest of Healdsburg Plaza (Near Madrona Manor). It has a beautiful, new tasting room with a large wrap around deck, tables for a pleasant picnic lunch overlooking the brand new vineyards. Christine and Allison do a wonderful job pouring and educating in the tasting room. MBW has a number of different labels being poured, and I will try to lay it out for you so as not to confuse.

Michael-Bernard is owned by 2 growers, Mike Kuimelis and Bernie Orsi and they custom crush their (1)Michael-Bernard label. (2) Orsi-Papale is Bernie Orsi's grapes and Lawrence Papale the winemaker. (3) Mantra and (4) Mobius are Mike Kuimelis' grapes with Mike Kuimelis Jr. the winemaker, Mobius is his 2nd label. (5) Orsianna is Bernie Orsi's grapes with the wine made by 2 of has friends. Got all that? I'm so confused I need a drink!! Speaking of drinking, here's the lowdown on some of their wines:

MBW 2008 Sparkling Wine $25/btl, 130 cases - Organic certified bio dynamically farmed Mendocino County grapes, this is an easy drinking smooth blend of Pinot & Chardonnay grapes.

MBW 2009 Sauvignon Blanc $18/btl, 290 cases - Russian River grapes, notes of grapefruit and citrus, light and refreshing.

2009 Mobius $20/btl, 400 cases - Russian River grapes all stainless steel fermentation makes a very crisp drinkable Chard.

2009 Orsianna $15 btl, - Mendocino grapes, stainless steel fermentation, well balanced apples, pears with a clean finish

2009 MBW $25/btl, 385 cases - Russian River grapes, 50% French Oak. Nicely balanced apples, melons and light oak. A nice food Chard.

Cabernet Sauvignon
2006 Orsianna $23/btl, 1500 cases - Mendocino grapes. Red fruit nose, bright strawberry on the palate with smooth finish. Good value and ready to drink now!

2008 Mobius $24/btl, 850 cases - 90% Cab with 5% each Merlot and Zin. Nice currant aroma with touch of white pepper. Nice and full in the mouth with medium finish. Aged in Hungarian Oak, this is an incredible value!

2006 Orsi-Papale $40/ btl, 100 cases - Shining example of a Dry Creek Valley Cab! One of my faves with generous fruit and a dry finish. Excellent structure, I am looking for to drinking this from now thru 2017

2006 Orsi-Papale La Mescalanza $45/btl, 50 cases - Cab/Merlot blend of Sonoma and Napa grapes. Soft yet full mouth feel, medium finish - a very nice wine!!

Michael Bernard offers more wines, but you will just have to discover them for yourself on your next trip to Healdsburg! Michael-Bernard Winery has become a staple on my SoCo tour because its a great place to visit with very good wines at reasonable prices. Enjoy!!! 


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Hawkes Winery - Alexander Valley


Hello Again, 

It's the dead of winter here in the wine country which means the sun is shining and it's a balmy 65 degrees in the valleys, and The Lou is out doggedly doing research for your wine tour enjoyment!! Today I will be extolling the virtues of Hawkes Winery in Alexander Valley, right after this LATE BREAKING NEWS!!!

1) Congrats to winemaker/owner Don Payne of Cahill Winery. Now, you read in Lou's News months ago as I made a BOLD PREDICTION that Don would either win some MAJOR medals or someone way higher on the wine chain than humble me would write a glowing review or give his wine a high number. Well, Don entered 16 wines and won 14 MEDALS AT THE 2011 SF CHRONICLE COMPETITION, INCLUDING DOUBLE GOLD FOR THE 2008 CAHILL PETITE SIRAH!!!!!! You read it here first people!

2) Paradigm 2007 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is to be released march 1st! Jennifer Harris turned Stacy and I on to a pre-release taste and it is PHENOMENAL!!! At Sixty something bucks a bottle, this Heidi Barrett made Oakville Cab is going to go fast!!

3) Steltzner Family Vineyards (Stags Leap Appellation) released their 2007 Estate Merlot, and after enjoying a bottle with friends I can firmly state that this may be winemaker Tim Dolven's best effort to date. This is a world class Merlot!

4) Mercury update - Brad released the 2007 THE FATHER Cab Franc blend and its a winner. They also released a late harvest Pinot Blanc that may be the most delightful dessert wine I've tasted yet. At $30 bucks per 375 mml bottle get some before its all gone.


Stephen and Paula Hawkes bought their first of 3 Alexander valley vineyards in 1971 and sold all of their grapes until 2002, when they made their first vintage of Cabernet Sauvignon. Their 3 vineyards are Stone (aka Home), Pyramid, and Red Winery Road. The original Hawkes tasting room in Alexander Valley is located right next to the Jim Town Store on HWY 128 and they have opened an additional tasting room right off Sonoma Square next to The Girl and the Fig Restaurant. Their son Jake mans is the next generation of wine making and general mans the day to day operations of the winery. Jake and his father Stephen pour pure love into the making of their wines. The Alexander Valley tasting room is generally manned by Alex and the tasting room in Sonoma Square is manned by Corrine, with Jake and a few family friends filling in at both locations. Both locations have a homey atmosphere to relax and enjoy some excellent Sonoma County Wines. Speaking of the wines, HERE WE GO!

2008 Home Vineyard Chardonnay - 380 cases/$20 btl - no malo or new oak, nice fruit nose of pears and apples, nicely balanced acids make this a great food wine.

2006 Red Winery Road Merlot - 450 cases/$30 btl - Aged in 40% new french oak this BIG Merlot will benefit from at least 1 more year of bottle age - then look out - it will be a monster Merlot!

2006 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon - 800 cases/$40 btl - This is a 100% cab with grapes from all 3 of the Hawkes Vineyards and....DING DING DING!!! WE HAVE A WINNER!!! Great fruit and light oak on the nose, a luscious full mouth feel with a lingering finish, this is a great example of a beautiful Alexander Valley Cab! You gotta taste it!! A bargain at $40 bucks.

2006 Red Winery Road Cabernet Sauvignon - 150 cases/$60 btl - slight pepper and tobacco nose, smooth mouthful of leather and dark cherry with a little dust on the finish. A fine example of a 100% vineyard designate Cab.

The 2006 Stone and pyramid vineyard designates will not be available until March 1st. I did taste the Pyramid about 4 months ago with Jake Hawkes and have to say it will be a big bold Cab, right up my alley!! When in Sonoma downtown or up in Alexander Valley if you miss tasting at Hawkes, You are missing out!! 



Monday, January 3, 2011

Paradigm Winery - Oakville Appellation

Hello Again!! Happy New Year!! As promised the news articles are coming at you fast and furious!!

I get alot of questions about how I choose wines for purchase. Well for starters I do ALOT of tasting, and this is the best way to find out what you like, and also what you DON"T like. You will taste the most wines when either out on a wine tour or at a tasting or promotional event. Remember many moons ago when speed dating was big? Big wine tastings are kind of like that, you only get to spend a brief moment or two with a small taste, then on to the next one, etc. Now say if you really like what you see and taste, you will want the opportunity to get to know the wine better. at this point I will purchase a bottle or two for later, when my palate and other senses are not being bombarded. After spending an evening with a friend and savoring the wine, I can form a decent opinion if this a) wine I want to buy. b) Is this wine to drink or cellar? c) how much to buy? This depends on your personal budget, storage capacity, etc.

Speaking of wines worthy of taking home for Mom, today's winery is Paradigm!! Located in Oakville, Napa, Paradigm is owned by Ren and Marilyn Harris. The Harris' started growing grapes in 1975, with their first Cabernet vintage being 1991. Their winemaker is Heidi Barrett and she has been at the winemaking helm since the first vintage. The Harris' have 55 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Zinfandel, and Petit Verdot grapes which yield approx. 220 tons of fruit. Their annual case production is about 6,000 cases.

Now let's get on to the wines, shall we?

2005 Cabernet Sauvignon - $68/btl, 4900 cases - 88% Cab Sauv, 10% Merlot, & 2% Cab Franc. This cab starts with an excellent aroma of chocolate and fruit. A full mouth feel, lush and velvety. Well balanced with solid finish. Start drinking now through 2015.

2006 Cabernet Sauvignon - $62/btl, 4,100 cases - 94% Cab Sauv, 4% Merlot, & 2% Cab Franc. Big fruit, spicy oak nose. Full, voluptuous feel with cherry, slight wood vanilla tones. Much like the 05 but with a little more structure and firmness that makes Lou say hold until 2013 then drink thru 2020.

2006 Merlot - $44/btl, 1,200 cases - 92% Merlot & 8% Cab Sauv. This is an excellent drinkin', medium bodied Merlot. Nice spicy plum nose, soft on the palate with a slightly dusty finish that I find appealing (I drank a lot of Rutherford Cabs in my mis-spent youth).

2007 Merlot - $44/btl, 1,239 cases - 90% Merlot, 6% Cab Sauv, 2% Cab Franc, and 2% Petit Verdot. DING DING DING!!! This one rings my bell!! This is a beautiful, big, fat slap you in the face wine with luscious fruit flavors all along the palate. Me thinks '07 is going to be a great one for Merlot lovers.

Paradigm also produces limited quantities of Zinfandel $38 a bottle and Cab Franc $48, but current vintages are almost sold out, so you better act quick or you will have to wait for the new releases.

Lou's News gives Paradigm WAY HIGH marks for producing excellent quality wines, and having a knowledgeable, friendly staff doing the tasting and vineyard tour. I also commend the Harris Family for keeping their prices reasonable (Very Reasonable considering their prime Oakville location, and a "Rock Star" wine maker). Other Napa "labels" charge Two and a half times Paradigm with out the quality. Great Job Paradigm!!! I will keep bringing my tours here as long as they keep letting me in!! Happy New Year Everybody!!!!


Saturday, December 11, 2010

Mercury Wines - Geyserville, CA

Hello Again!!
It's getting wintery here in the wine country. There is a brisk chill in the air and the vineyards have turned from green to yellow to purple to brown. The next phase is what I like to call the "post-apocalypse" period - when the leaves fall off and all there is to see is vines and sticks for miles on end... so that means it’s time to stock up on Vino for the winter hibernation! 

Speaking of wines for the winter, what could be better than Mercury Wines!! Located centrally in the thriving metropolis of Geyserville, Mercury opened in December of 2009, with their first vintage being 2005 and has fast become my favorite stop in Geyserville. 

Mercury is owned and operated by Brad Beard and Jake Hawkes (Jake is assistant winemaker for Hawkes Wines, but that is for a future article). The tasting room is themed all things Mercury - such as Mercury automobiles, records, spacecraft, and Freddie. Brad, along with making wine, runs the tasting room and is always charming and knowledgeable. One of my favorite things about Mercury wines is that each varietal is in a unique bottle, which Brad describes during the tasting. Now, onto the wines!

2009 Pinot Blanc - $18/btl, 45 cases - Wonderful full bodied white wine with delicious peaches, honey, and nectarine. This is simply the best Pinot Blanc I've EVER tasted. You better get some before Brad and I drink it all!

2009 Albarino - $18/btle, 75 cases - This a Spanish grape grown in Paso Robles. This wine has an aroma like a cool breeze with melon and honeysuckle. A slight, yet pleasant tartness completes this food friendly wine.

2009 G-Vertz - $18/btle, 75 cases - Citrus pear nose, with low residual sugar, this bone dry G-Vertz is crisp and refreshing.

2008 Sonoma County Pinot Noir - $25/btle, 150 cases - Now you know that Lou is not a Pinot Guy, but if I had to drink one, this would be it. This is a peppery, spicy pinot, with dark cherry and a smooth earthy finish.

Non-Vintage Red Table Wine - $10/jug – Bottled monthly and is a field blend of 05 & 06 cab sauv, cab franc, merlot, petit verdot or whatever is available. Comes in cute little 500 ml jug.

The Messenger (Cab Sauv blend) and The Sister (Merlot blend) - ALL SOLD OUT! I demand you make more NOW!!!

2006 The Father - $45/btle, 75 cases - Cab Franc based blend. This is a world class blend with great structure that can easily go 10 or more years with proper cellaring. Layers of leather, chocolate, tobacco, and earthy dark fruit. YUM!!

Brad is also soon to release a Rose of Cabernet Franc and a late harvest Pinot Blanc dessert wine, which I plan to taste later today so check out Stacy’s Wine Stop wine forum tomorrow!!!!

Till next time!! Lou


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Return with Harvest Moon

Yes, its really me. I apologize for my absence these last 6 weeks or so since my last confession, oops, I mean article. But I was abducted by aliens and unable contact anyone. What! you're not buying it!! Either did my ex-wives, back in the day when I would occasionally disappear for days at a time. Oh well! Anyway, I have been terribly busy doing wine tours but have managed to do a bit of professional RESEARCH for your wine reading enjoyment. So let's get to it, shall we? 

HARVEST MOON - Not just an excellent Blue Oyster Cult Tune (it;'s on Curse of the Hidden Mirror) but an excellent local Russian River winery! The Pitts family purchased the land on Olivet Lane in Santa Rosa in 1976. They sold their grapes for many years(to wineries such as Deloach) and did their first commercial vintage in 2002. Randy Pitts is the affable owner/winemaker who is often found in the tasting room, discussing his unique wines with tasters. Erin is the Hospitality manager, and everyone there is friendly and knowledgeable. Harvest Moon produces about 3,000 cases annually - now onto the Vino!

2008 RRV Dry Sparkling Gewurztraminer - 48 cases/$38 btl - a cool dry bubbly, very limited production. I could drink this all day and I am not much of a sparkling wine kinda guy. A Lou Proclamation!!! - Gewurztraminer will now be known as G-Vertz, as it is easier for me to spell!

2009 Estate G-Vertz - 300 cases/$24 btl - very dry with an apple pear nose. Clean melon finish. I like it!

2007 RRV Zin - 650 cases/ $30 btl - spicy pepper with full mouth feel, bright raspberry finish. Drink now.

2007 Pitts Home Ranch Estate Zin - 410 cases/$38 btl - Nice white pepper nose with deep strawberry and blackberry. I'd love to try this one with some age on it.

2008 Randy Zin Blend - 625 cases/24 btl - 80% Zin, 10% syrah, and 10% Sangiovese blend thats a great drinker - spicy with berries and pepper this is a given for BBQ's.

2007 Estate Late Harvest Zin - 900 cases/$32 1/2 btl - Very smooooth, not sweet. low in alcohol for a dessert wine - very approachable.

2009 Estate Ice-Style G-Vertz Dessert Wine - 300 cases/$30 btl - ridiculously tasty pears in honey with juicy tropical fruit. It's worth a trip to Harvest Moon just to taste this!!

Harvest Moon is a must stop on my Russian River Tour - you should go to!! Or better yet call Stacy at 707-322-3837 and set up a tour.

Till next week when we visit Mercury Wines in Lovely downtown Geyserville!!

Lou 9/29/10

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Cahill Winery - Sebastopol


I'm talking about Cahill Winery in Sebastopol. They produced their first Sauvignon Blanc (see wine review) in 2005. They are located on Ross Road off Ross Station Road near Iron Horse. Several times a month for the past 3+ years my rock & roll band, The Liquid Science Diet, has rehearsed at the jam shack on the corner of 116 and Green Valley Rd (near Dutton Estate Winery) and you can literally hear us across the vineyards at Cahill! That would be the under my nose part. This is a true family outfit - Donald Payne is the winemaker and his wife Romey runs the office (2 guesses who the boss is). Don & Romey's moms' both work the rustic yet comfy tasting room, and Duke & Daisy (their short haired German Pointers) work the crowd for attention and/or treats. Cahill makes a boatload of wines and dessert wines (Don is also a master at distilling but I'll save that for another time). Their current releases include the aforementioned 2005 Sauv Blanc, 2006 Sonoma Mountain Sauv Blanc, 2008 Chardonnay, 2008 Rose, 2005 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, 2008 Zin , 2007 Cabernet, a Pinot port, a Syrah port, and a late harvest Sauv Blanc. WHEW!!!! Thats allotta wine!! and I haven't started barrel tasting yet!


2005 Sauvignon Blanc Russian River - 800 cases $10.00 bottle. - Balanced fruit and acidity, lemon grass aroma, this unfiltered wine pairs well with food.

2006 Sonoma Mountain Sauvignon Blanc - 500 cases $15 bottle - Light on the nose, full flavored with sweet apple and honeysuckle, this is a full bodied Sauv Blanc that will stand up to time and spicy foods.

2008 Sonoma County Chardonnay - 80 cases around $20 bottle - lightly oaked, solid fruit and well balanced. A very drinkable chard!!

NV Bed of Roses Rose - 200 cases - Made of Syrah and Petit Sirah This wine DOES NOT have the "anti-freeze" aftertaste found in most Rose wines I've tasted. A bargain at $10 bucks.

2008 Zinfandel California - 200 cases $18 bottle - actually the grapes are 50% Alexander Valley and 50% Lake County and this is one of the best Zins I've ever had for under Twenty Bucks! Full fruit flavors envelop the palate with a long and slightly dusty finish. I am looking forward to trying again in 2-3 years.

2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Cole Ranch Mendocino - 200 cases $15 bottle - I sampled this Cab about a month ago prior to bottling and was very impressed with its bold fruit, structure, and complexity. I'm holding mine until 2012 and I'll keep you posted.

Barrel Tasting Notes
2008 Carignane - I have barrel sampled this fabulous Carignane and if Don enters this in ANY wine competitions it is sure to win BIG. TIME FOR LOU TO MAKE A BOLD PREDICTION --- CAHILL WINERY WILL EITHER WIN A MAJOR WINE COMPETITION OR RECEIVE A "HIGH NUMBER" FROM ONE OF THE BIG TIME WINE RAGS IN THE NEXT 2 YEARS. Remember that you read it here first! Back to wine - I also tasted his 2008 Petit Syrah from the barrel and its a stunner. Both are scheduled for release this month.

Oh Yeah, they also make killer ports and dessert wines so I try to make this the final stop on the tour. This is a place you need to check out - call Stacy and we'll hook you up.

Till next time - Lou

Cahill Winery - 
4950 Ross Road, Sebastapol, CA
Tel: 707-823-1335


Monday, May 17, 2010

Reynold's Family Winery

Hello Again!! The weather here is spectacular, its a great day to fire up the Lincoln and cruise over to Napa county for some Vino!! Today's destination is Reynolds Family Winery, located on the Silverado Trail in Napa, just south of Soda Canyon Road.

Winemaker Steve Reynolds and wife Suzie purchased the property in 1994 and planted 10 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon in 1996. Their first vintage was 1999, with the tasting room opening in 2001. The winery is Tuscan style, with a lovely pond and deck with a background of the vineyards. Reynolds Family Winery has a nicely appointed tasting room, a well trained hospitality staff of Julio, Curtis, and Noelle. If you are lucky you'll see Burt the cat (get it? Burt Reynolds).

This boutique winery produces approx. 7500 cases annually from their 10 acre estate and other sources. The tasting fee is $20 and you can sample 6 or more wines. RFW produces a Chardonnay, 2 Pinot Noirs, a Merlot, a Blend, and 2 Cabernet Sauvignons. Steve Reynolds and the Winery received both " Best Winemaker" and " Best boutique winery in Napa Valley" in 2004,05, & 06. Now on to the Wines!!

2007 Napa Valley Chardonnay- $29/btl, 1,100 cases - Nice zesty lemon nose, very crisp with solid oak.

2005 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon - $45/btl, 1,500 cases - Cassis, cherry and plum. Nicely balanced with smooth strong finish. Nice earthy nose. A good value.

2005 Persistence - $50/btl, 1,480 cases - A Bordeaux blend with Syrah replacing Malbec. A nice blend that is beginning to harmonize. Deep fruit with a slight chocolate finish with a little spice. Also a good value.

2006 Stags Leap Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon - $89/btl, 780 cases - An intense, complex wine with earthy leather and spice. With its structure, I would cellar until at least 2015.

Reynolds Family Winery is a great start to your journey up Napa Valley. They have become a favorite of mine and my clients.

Lou 5/3/10

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Muscardini Cellars - Kenwood

Back to Sonoma County for the latest installment of LWTN. This week we will be discussingMuscardini Cellars in Kenwood. If you enjoy Italian varietals, Michael Muscardini's wines are simply the very best I have tasted in my 20+years in the valleys. I savor a good Super Tuscan, go bananas for Barbera, and, shout out loud for a great Sangiovese.

Michael bought his Sonoma Valley property and started planting grapes in 1997. In the beginning he made wine just for family and friends. Michal planted his savory Sangiovese in 1999. In late 2007 Michael opened his tasting room with another great wine maker Ty Caton (who I will be writing about in a couple of weeks). George and Jennifer man the tasting room and both have extensive wine knowledge and always make a visit To Muscardini/Ty Caton a memorable experience for my wine tour clients. It is no surprise that Muscardin Cellars and won the best Red Micro winery for 2009. Now, onto the Vino!!!

2009 Rosato Di Sangiovese - $22/BTL - 325 Cases produced - New Release. Grapes are from the famed Monte Rosso Vineyard. A bone-dry Rose' with bright strawberry aroma and light grapefruit finish. This is one of only 3 Rose' wines I've ever liked.

2007 Sangiovese - $42/BTL - 396 Cases - Simply the best 100% Sangio I've ever tasted. White pepper on the nose, elegant fruit with a hint of chocolate on the finish. Super smooooooth and has won a boatload of medals. 

2008 Barbera - $42/BTL - 298 Cases - Light menthol on the nose, good body with slightly smokey finish. I'm putting my down for 1-2 years as this wine should benefit from additional aging. 

2007 Unti Vineyard Syrah - $28/BTL (End of vintage special) - 200 Cases - Peppery nose, with big fruit and full mouth feel. Get it before it is all gone! 

2007 Gracie Creek Syrah - $42/BTL-210 Cases - Lush berry fruit flavors with a long silky finish. This wine would go great with a New York Strip medium rare. 

2007 Tesoro Super Tuscan - $49/BTL - 454 Cases - Michael's multiple award winning blend of 58% Sangiovese, 21% Syrah, And 21% Ty Caton Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is a Super Tuscan at its best. This is Muscardini's flagship wine. And is definitely world class. Well balanced fruit and tannins will allow this wine to age gracefully.

What can I add? The wines are superb and the hospitality staff are excellent. Most days Michael Muscardini or Ty Caton are in the tasting room and always happy to discuss wines or sign bottles for patrons. Not just a great wine, but great people make this a must visit. 

LOU 4/15/10

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


Madrigal Vineyards - Calistoga Appellation Napa


Hi!! IT"S ME!! I"M BACK!!!

Yes , spring has sprung in all its glory here in the wine country and I have returned from my winter hiatus to regale you with more tales of the grape, new and exciting releases, and great places to visit. Speaking of great wineries to visit, Hows about Madrigal Vineyards in lovely Calistoga.

The Madrigal Family goes back 3 generations farming the Napa Valley. Their first vintage was 1995 when they produced the wine at Napa Wine Company - or as we know it - Cult Wine Central. The Madrigals opened their winery and tasting room in Calistoga in 2007. The tasting room is manned by Ozzie & Mike and is located on the family vineyard right off highway 29 north of St Helena and is open daily from 10 to 4. The winemaker is Bruce Regalea and after 2 full menu tastings 2 months apart, I have come to the conclusion that Bruce knows what he's doing. Tasting fees are $15 for Cordon Tasting (5 wines) and $25 for the Crown tasting (5 Reserve Wines). 

And now to the wines -

2009 Sauvignon Blanc Estate - $25 btl, 220 cases - Crisp sauv blanc with good fruit nose, melon and guava hints, solid body. 

2008 Napa Valley Chardonnay - $35 btl, 100 cases - Great food Chard, crisp with great balance and smooth finish.

2007 Napa Valley Zinfandel - $21 btl, 500 cases - a classic polished Zin, lively fruit and great finish.

2006 Napa Valley Merlot - $24 btl, 300 cases - Great nose and full mouth flavors - a bargain at $24.

2006 Cabernet Franc - $50 btl, 100 cases - Solid Cab Franc - this was Stacys favorite and she continues to constantly rave about it.

2006 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon - $30 btl, 250 cases - Full bodied Cab with Structure - I 'd hold 2 yrs minimum.

2006 Atlas Peak Cabernet Sauvignon - $50 btl, 100 cases - Nicely balanced fruit and oak, drink now to 2015.

There are also some excellent blends, petite sirahs, and pinots available at Madrigal. I HIGHLY recommend a stop at Madrigal whenever in the north end of Napa Valley, better yet give us a call and we will take you to all the best Boutique Wineries in Napa. Reservations at Stacy's Wine Stop call 707-322-3837. 



Lou 8/19/09

Wednesday, February 17, 2010



Steltzner Family Vineyards

At Last, another research day! Time to cruise the Town Car over to Napa for a wine tour and article #2. It's a beautiful day in the valley as I head up to the Silverado Trail to the Stags Leap District for a tasting at Steltzner Family Vineyards. I have been a fan of Steltzner's big, bold red wines (especially the Cabernet) for over 20 years, and have taken at least 100 tours there for tasting, so I'm on familiar ground (and have always gotten very favorable feedback from my clients).

The tasting room sits amid the 100 acre vineyard in the heart of Stags Leap. Planted in 1965 by Dick Steltzner which they produced their first Cabernet in 1977. They now grow all the Bordeaux varietals plus Sangoivese and Pinotage. Annual production is 20K cases. The winery operations are now run by the founder’s daughter, Allison Steltzner. Tim Dolven took over winemaking duties in April of 2004 (after 2.5 years as winemaker at Bouchaine).

2006 Estate Malbec $42/bottle - Slightly floral strawberry aromas. Medium bodied with good fruit and spice. Soft tannins on the finish. One of the smoothest Malbecs I've tasted. 400 cases produced.

2005 Estate Pinotage $32/bottle - This is a rare grape of South African Heritage. Only produced by 5 vintners in Sonoma and Napa. It is a flower cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault. It has the fruit and spiciness of a Pinot, but with a fuller body and mouth feel. 500 cases produced.

2005 Estate Sangiovese Riserva $38/bottle - This is a fine, drinkable Sangiovese. Great nose, medium bodied with cherries, strawberries, clove & spice. A long finish with a hint of chocolate. YUM!! (I have barrel sampled the 2007 predict it will also be a winner) 500 cases produced.

2006 Claret $20/bottle - This is a Bordeaux blend made to be enjoyed young. Full nose, bold fruit with a full mouth feel and lingering finish. This is a wine you can serve with confidence while aging your Estate Cabs. The Steltzner Claret is a great value at $20.

2005 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon $40/bottle - Cabernet is the king at Steltzner and the 2005 vintage is no exception. This is a rich full bodied Cab with full & luscious fruit and excellently balanced with oak and tannins. This is a personal favorite of mine and should even improve with age.

2005 Estate RMS Reserve Cabernet $100/bottle - This wine embodies everything I enjoy in a Steltzner Cab and takes it to the next level. This is a true reserve wine, the best they have to offer and limited production. Last week I enjoyed a bottle with a fellow wine aficionado (It was a gift from a friend, Thank You Dr Jimmy!!) who said "this is like drinking velvet" and I whole heartedly agreed. This wine drinks well now but has exceptional aging potential to improve for the next 10 + years. 300 cases produced.

The tasting fees are quite reasonable (for Napa) at $10 for the tasting (Lou has 2 for 1 coupons so its $5 per person) and $25 pp for the tasting plus a cave tour that includes barrel sampling and blending different cabernet lots. The cave is actually a wine tunnel - it is 300 yards long and goes thru the hillside. The hospitality staff (Aaron & Gretchen) are friendly and knowledgeable and well versed in the history of the area.
If you enjoy big, well balanced reds - Steltzner is a must stop on your Napa wine tour.

 Monday, January 11, 2010


Envy Winery, Calistoga

Welcome to fall in the wine country. The grape leaves are turning from green to red, yellow, and brown. The days are still warm with evenings growing chilly. Now is a great time to visit Sonoma and Napa valleys as the crowds are smaller and there are great new releases and closeout specials of many fine wines. It is also time to pick up great wines for the Holidays or just to beef up your wine collection.
This week’s featured winery is Envy Wines - located in Calistoga (North end of Napa Valley). Envy Wines is off the beaten path, a couple miles north of downtown Calistoga, on Tubbs Lane (West of Chateau Montelena). Envy Wines is owned by Mark Carter (Carter Hotels) and Nils Venge (Saddleback Winery).  Mr. Venge was winemaker for Groth in the 80's when he received a 100 point score from Robert Parker at the Wine Aristocrat for their Chardonnay,
Envy is a great place to taste and enjoy the beauty of the north valley. The winery sits amid the vineyards with wonderful views of the mountains. It is also a really nice place to bring a picnic lunch and relax and be out of the traffic on 29.  Richard Carter is the cellar master, and Phil handles hospitality - they are always outgoing and knowledgeable and take great care of their guests.
There are 3 labels available at Envy Wines:
1) Envy Wines - The main label has an emphasis on Petit Sirah (3 types) and Cabernet.
2) Carter Wines - Mark Carters label offers high end Cabernets and blends.
3) Vine Haven - Nils Venge's label from his Oakville grapes.

My personal favorites tasted (the Carter wines are only available to taste by appointment) are:
2007 Envy Petite Sirah Estate @$45 Bottle - This is a wonderfully full bodied wine that was my fave of the 3 Petite Sirahs. I would cellar for 3+ years then enjoy.
2007 Envy Cabernet Sauvignon @$55 Bottle - Young forward fruit and light tannins make this cab very approachable and it is always a favorite of tasters.
2005 Vine Haven Chardonnay @$22 Bottle - I am not a big Chardonnay drinker but this one knocked my socks off!!  Beautiful fruit and acidity balance, at 22 bucks this ones a steal.
2006 Carter Hossfeld Red Blend @$75 Bottle - Luscious and Velvety, cant wait to try more!!
The big ending - Envy wines is a great stop whenever you’re in North Napa, Calistoga area. It is also a quick jaunt from Alexander Valley in Sonoma County. Envy is a young winery and I am looking forward to future vintages,


Lou  12/1/09

Saturday, February 6, 2010


White Oak Winery, Alexander Valley


It is now winter in the Wine Country!   With the cold weather coming we all need lots of good Vino to get that warm and fuzzy feeling.  And speaking of excellent wineries to visit, our featured winery today is White Oak Winery in Geyserville, Alexander Valley in Sonoma County. 
Founded in 1981 by Bill Meyers, White Oak began making quality Chardonnay, Zinfandel and Sauvignon Blanc. They own over 750 acres of prime vineyards in Alexander Valley, Russian River Valley, and Napa Valley. A small production winery of 22,000 cases, White Oak sells 90% of their grape harvest to well known prestige wineries.

The winery sits among the Estate Vineyard of Old Vine Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc vines. The Mediterranean style building houses the Winery and tasting room. On the 3rd floor there is a dining room and deck which have a great panoramic view of the Alexander Valley and surrounding mountains.

Highest marks and kudos to John Fisher and the entire hospitality staff as they are always warm, friendly and knowledgeable. They always make a visit to White Oak Winery a memorable experience. Now onto their wines, made by Winemaker Bill Parker:

1) 2008 Sauvignon Blanc Russian River Valley  $16/bottle  -   Beautiful nose with hints of apples and pineapple. Flavors of pear, grapefruit and lemon grass make this a very appealing wine.

2) 2008 Chardonnay Russian River Valley $24/bottle 8,000 cases  -  Classic chardonnay with pear and tropical fruit on the nose. Great balance of oak and fruit lead to a long, creamy finish.

3) 2005 Syrah Napa Valley $26/bottle - This is a Lou fave!! Aromas of cranberry and coffee, this full bodied Syrah has nicely balanced pepper, chocolate and earthy tones.  Drinks well now and up to 2015 or so.

4) 2005 Merlot Napa Valley $26/bottle - This classic Merlot is very complex for such a drinkable wine. I got cherry, vanilla hints with a slight chocolate finish. 

5) 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley  $30/bottle  -  Taste this one for yourself. It is a very good Napa Valley Cab FOR THIRTY BUCKS!!!  A bargain say I.

6) 2007 Zinfandel Alexander Valley $40/bottle 400 cases  -  This is a rich, spicy Zin with flavors of cherry, chocolate and spice and a long satisfying finish. A little pricey for a Zin, but a darn good wine.

7) 2005 Reserve Alexander Valley $50/bottle 400 cases  -  This blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc is a bold tasty wine with a long finish. I would hold this 3 - 5 years and then drink to realize its potential.

8) 2005 Reserve Napa Valley $50/bottle 400 cases  -  This 50/50 blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot is lush and velvety. Ready to drink now but should hold for 5+ years.

To sum it all up, White Oak makes some great wines and decent prices and give you a great experience when you visit. I highly reccomend you stop by when in Northern Sonoma.


Till Next Time   -  Lou

Lou - 10/7/09

Sunday, November 8, 2009


Truet Hurst Winery


It is harvest time again!!  This is the best time of year to visit Napa or Sonoma Valley. Warm days, cool nights and crush in full swing. The aroma of fermenting grapes filling the air, which is way more pleasant than the time of year they are fertilizing. This is also the time of year for New Releases, such as Steltzner Family has released their 2006 Stags Leap District Estate Cabernet Sauvignon (tasting notes coming as soon as I get the chance to research).
Which brings us to this weeks wine tour review Truett-Hurst Winery in Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma. This is a new winery (The new owners bought the property in November of 2007), which was formerly Martin Winery. The tasting room is spacious and tastefully appointed with 2 tasting areas. There is a comfortable patio area to have lunch or a snack, or you can take a brief walk down the path to the banks of Dry Creek and relax with a taste of vino. The setting is beautiful and has become a favorite stop on a Healdsburg area wine tour.
The Truett-Hurst staff gets my highest marks. They are friendly, outgoing and knowledgeable. On Saturdays they serve fresh munchies (BBQ, Pizza, etc)  and have live music too! On October 24th they will be having a new Zinfandel Release Party and offering their 2006 Three Vineyards Zinfandel at 50% off per case. What a deal!! Call Cindy (707-433-9545) for details.

And now, onto the wine! There are now 3 labels available for tasting and purchase. There are 7 wines and a dessert wine under the Truett-Hurst label. The winemaker, Virginia Lambrix, offers 2 limited production Pinots under the VML label. I enjoyed the Swicegood Vineyards (Green Valley) the most. 100 Cases produced. They also offer (usually only on weekends) A Stonegate Petite Verdot and Reserve Cabernet from the Napa Valley.

Lou's Faves
2007 Dark Horse - This is an elegant blend of Mourvedre, Grenache, Petite Sirah, & Syrah. Floral aroma with Cherry and licorice hints in the finish. I would age this an additional year or 2 to reach full potential. 180 Cases produced - $40 a bottle.
2006 Red Rooster Zinfandel - This is a full bodied tasty zin with forward fruit and hints of tea & spice. It has become one of my favorite zins. 2084 Cases produced - $29 a bottle.
2006 Rattler Rock Zinfandel - Not as forward as the Rooster, has nice cherry and spice notes and smooth finish. 984 Cases produced - $29 a bottle.
2004 Stonegate Petite Verdot - This varietal is usually part of a Bordeaux blend, but stands very well on its own. Fully flavored and well balanced, this has been a favorite of everyone I've taken to taste it.  $60 a bottle.
I highly recommend a stop at Truett-Hurst next time you are in Sonoma, you won't be disappointed!Or better yet, book a wine tour and I will take you to some other great wineries too.www.truetthurst.com

Contact Us:

Lou's Wine Tours

Sonoma and Napa Counties
Phone: 707 373-3954



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