Author Archives: The Fermented Fruit

Crane Family Vineyards | A Tradition of Family Winemaking in Napa

Crane Family Vineyards | A Tradition of Family Winemaking in Napa

Crane Family Vineyards

The view from Crane Family Vineyards, overlooking Don Raffaele Vineyard

There simply aren’t enough Napa Valley producers you can visit where you’ll be greeted by the proprietor themselves, at their home, to discover their unique story and the wines produced as a result of their own hands-on efforts. But that was just the case when I visited Crane Family Vineyards on a crisp, sunny late summer morning.

Proprietor Tom Chiarella was quick to greet me and welcome me to his cozy, rather idyllic front patio which overlooks much of the 7 acre Don Raffaele Estate Vineyard surrounding his home, as well as commanding views of Browns Valley. It was here in 1990, on this beautiful property nestled in the foothills of Mount Veeder, that Tom’s parents Peter and Frances decided to build their home in one of the most beautiful places in America.

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Lake County Cabernet | The Other Other California Cabernet

Lake County Cabernet | The Other Other California Cabernet

Lake County Cabernet

If you’re not familiar with Lake County, that’s okay. Most aren’t yet aware of the potential of this sleepy section of Northern California wine country. But that’s about to change, as one of Napa’s power players just made a Warren Buffet style investment in these sun-drenched hills.

What’s interesting is that up until 1861, Lake County and Napa County were actually the same county – yet this quiet community with deep farming roots has mostly missed out on the fantastic wine industry successes of neighboring Napa and Sonoma counties to the south – and with it all of the tourism and hospitality fueling those economies today.

Though still quite small in comparison to Napa, vineyard acreage is on the rise, with around 9,000 acres now planted to vine, up from just around 100 in 1965. Compare that to over 45,000 in Napa and 60,000 in Sonoma, and you’ll see that Lake County has room for growth – and none other than Napa grape-grower extraordinaire Andy Beckstoffer has taken notice, in a big way.

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Perliss Vineyards | Expect Big Things from this Small Producer

Perliss Vineyards | Expect Big Things from this Small Producer

Perliss Vineyards

When you think of Calistoga, you would be correct in thinking that this sleepy locale nestled within the Northern stretches of Napa Valley is known for its relatively warmer temperatures than those areas of the valley located further south, with their proximity to the cooling influences of the San Pablo Bay.

Yet on the beautifully clear August morning when I visited Perliss Vineyards, I pleasantly surprised by the cool, persistent breezes serenading me as I explored the organically cultivated, gently sloped 2.6 acre Raven Vineyard with vintner Anthony Perliss.

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Fall for Merlot this October | Merlot Month is Here!

Fall for Merlot this October | Merlot Month is Here!

Merlot Month

Did you know that October is International Merlot Month? Woo hoo! That’s right, not only does Autumn bring with it brisk weather and the stunning fall foliage, but a reason to celebrate this polarizing, often misunderstood varietal. I can’t get enough of these wine holidays!

But what if you dislike Merlot? Do memories of limpid, poorly made Merlot’s linger in your memory with the indefatigability of a coarse finish? If so, then you’re probably thinking that entire month of Merlot is entirely too long and wholly unnecessary, especially when other varietals must suffice with merely a day of festivities. But I would argue that this noble varietal deserves an entire month of attention, as it has been unfairly punished…

How you might ask? By what I call the ‘Sideways Effect’. Released in 2004, Sideways took us along for the ride while the unsuccessful writer and depressive middle-aged lead character played by Paul Giamatti joins his best friend for a weekend of wine tasting and fraternizing throughout scenic Santa Barbara wine country. Garnering serious accolades including an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, it went on to gross over $100 Million at the box office. You could say it was a hit, and it undeniably left an impression.

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Your Virtual Visit to Lodi | Uncorking My Favorites!

Your Virtual Visit to Lodi | Uncorking My Favorites!

Fields Family Wines Cinsault

In my recent post, A Renewed Perspective on Lodi Wine, I enthusiastically raved about my recent visit to this often underappreciated region. Meeting the innovative, down to earth winemakers and tasting the fruits of their labor amongst the very vines responsible for their production was enough to convince me that Lodi is doing something right.

But I realize that not everybody is able to hop on a plane and travel to Lodi (though do I hope that you’re able to make it there, eventually!); which is why I put together this compilation of the most compelling, interesting wines I tasted in Lodi. Consider this list the itinerary for your virtual visit. You might even find, as I did, that you wish to revisit a glass or two of these beauties!

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Bodega Teso La Monja Almirez Review | Tantalizing Toro

Bodega Teso La Monja Almirez Review | Tantalizing Toro

Teso La Monja Almirez

If you’re a looking for rich, layered, broad-shouldered wines at bargain prices, dare I suggest a tangle with this bull? The Toro Bravo, or Spanish fighting bull, is prized for its aggression and stamina. Oddly enough, the wines of the Spanish Toro appellation share similar characteristics – yet us wine lovers can rejoice in that they don’t share quite the same level of notoriety as the venerable Toro Bravo.

A few years ago, I read an e-mail advertisement for the 2011 Bodega Teso La Monja Almirez touting a huge 94 point Parker score. The review was nothing short of glowing, even going so far as to say that “At this quality level, one would expect the price to be three digits or more.”

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Murrieta’s Well | “The Spur” Red Blend Review

Murrieta’s Well | “The Spur” Red Blend Review

Murrieta's Well

For me, Summer is all about burgers on the grill and debating who has the best pork BBQ in town. The dress, the cuisine, and the attitude are all about being relaxed and casual – so the question becomes finding a well-crafted, flavorful wine that can stand up to hearty summer fare yet isn’t so expensive that you have to take it too seriously. After recently tasting the 2013 Murrieta’s Well The Spur Red Blend, I’m convinced it’s the perfect wine to savor during our last few days of Summer.

Murrieta’s Well produces exclusively estate-grown wines from their 500 acre estate in California’s Livermore Valley. At Murrieta’s Well, acclaimed Winemaker Robbie Meyer takes great pride in identifying key microclimates on the estate and crafts each vintage from a unique blend representing the best of what the estate has to offer. In his nineteen year experience as a winemaker, his wines have earned over ninety 90 point ratings, yet still manage to offer a lot of bang for the buck.

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A Renewed Perspective on Lodi Wine Post WBC16

A Renewed Perspective on Lodi Wine Post WBC16

Borra Vineyards Rose

Sharing a bottle of Borra Vineyards Rose with Winemaker Markus Niggli

As many times as I’ve made the arduous but worthwhile cross country trek to explore Sonoma and Napa, I had never been to Lodi – despite it being a relatively easy hour and a half drive from Napa.

I regularly stay in Sonoma and scale the switchbacks of the Mayacamas (this is how I wake myself up for those early morning visits) via Oakville Grade to visit producers in Napa, and vice versa. Depending on where they’re located, that in itself often consumes the better part of an hour. So why hadn’t I made it to nearby Lodi?

The answer is that I didn’t think I would enjoy the wines. Lodi primarily forged its reputation as more of a grower than a producer, and with over 700 growers in Lodi, much of its fruit is still sold to bulk producers. With grape growing serving as the lifeblood of the region, its understandable that Lodi has faced challenges cultivating its brand as a source of premium wine production.

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Castello d’Albola Chianti Classico | Costco Chianti Score!

Castello d’Albola Chianti Classico | Costco Chianti Score!

Castello d'Albola Chianti Classico

There’s just something special about Chianti. When I first started getting into wine, I was turned off its telltale core of tart, earthy fruit which always seems brought to life by zesty, palate cleansing acidity. Now? I simply can’t get enough of these quaffable, food-friendly wines.

So when I spotted the $14 Castello d’Albola Chianti Classico in my local Costco Wine Section with a self-talker touting it’s recent recognition as #46 of the Top 100 Wines of 2015 per Wine Spectator, I knew I had to investigate…

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The Unusual Suspects | Beyond California Cabernet

The Unusual Suspects | Looking Beyond California Cabernet

Kobler Estate

I’m definitely guilty of writing a lot about California Cabernet. I freely admit that I have a real penchant for the sturdy varietal, particularly when it’s built to last. In California, Cabernet is king and sadly many of the best examples fetch a princely sum.

But if the myriad of interesting, lesser-known and even esoteric varietals I encountered on my recent trip to Napa and Sonoma are any indication, Cabernet isn’t all that’s thriving here in Northern California. Not only was I surprised to find Spanish and French stalwarts like Albariño, Tempranillo, Grenache and Malbec being produced at wineries I visited, but I was surprised by just how good they were. Oh, and did I mention I encountered an Aglianico?

The best part? These wines don’t command the regal prices of Cabernet. They lack the cachet, and are often the ‘pet’ projects of winemakers – who produce them because they are passionate about the varietal and love drinking them, while their bread and butter Cabernet and Pinot Noir offerings keep the lights on.

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