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Jul 04th
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Wine Reviews

Food & Drink - Wine Reviews

Pleasant Valley Vineyards

Pleasant Valley Vineyards

Syrah 2008, Sean Boyle Family Reserve

Pleasant Valley Vineyards is making some splendid wines these days. Their Sean Boyle 2008 Syrah Family Reserve is absolutely top notch – and, at $40, is worth the splurge.

The grapes for this luscious beauty are grown at Lester Family Vineyards in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The Lester property is well worth a visit (see event info below) when the opportunity arises. Their acres and acres of perfectly tended vines – which, in turn, produce perfect grapes – is an awesome sight, indeed.

But back to the Syrah: As it says on the label, it is handcrafted from nurtured, hand-trained, de-leafed and harvested vines. It is then aged exclusively in small oak barrels, and bottled unfiltered and unfined – giving a richer and denser mouthfeel.

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Food & Drink - Wine Reviews

Cycles Winery

Cycles Winery

Chardonnay 2009


If you haven’t seen Cycles Gladiator wine on supermarket shelves, then you haven’t been paying attention. It’s most definitely out there—and in great quantities. The belle époque label of a naked woman on a winged bicycle catches my eye every time I walk by grocery store shelves when I’m looking for a new bottle of wine to write about. This time, I was shopping in New Leaf when—there it is again, the ubiquitous Cycles Gladiator. It is very reasonably priced for around $12, but happened to be on sale for only $7 at New Leaf.

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Food & Drink - Wine Reviews

Soquel Vineyards

Soquel Vineyards

Zinfandel 2008

The grapes for this gorgeous Zinfandel come from century-old vines—one of the reasons why this Soquel Vineyards’ 2008 Zin is so darn good. Another reason is expert winemakers knowing exactly when the grapes are at their peak and ready to be picked; and the whole process of getting wine into bottle when the time is right. It all sounds easy enough, but it takes expertise and dedication to get everything in balance.

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Food & Drink - Wine Reviews

Tulip Hill Winery

Tulip Hill Winery

Merlot 2008


My husband and I often take a trip to the Palm Desert area. Even when it gets mighty hot, we always find plenty to do. The whole area from Palm Springs to La Quinta is growing rapidly and new constructions are springing up like mushrooms. At a water-feature complex in Rancho Mirage called The River, Tulip Hill Winery has an off-site tasting room that is well worth a visit. It’s a cool little enclave in the desert that showcases Tulip Hill’s award-winning boutique wines—and the tasting room also features an olive oil tasting bar and an interesting line of wine accessories, specialty foods and chocolate.

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Food & Drink - Wine Reviews

Bargetto Winery

Bargetto Winery

Pinot Noir 2008


One of my very good friends was celebrating a milestone birthday at Au Midi restaurant in Aptos, so I took along an excellent bottle of Bargetto Reserve Pinot Noir ($40) wine to share. With about 20 people sitting down to dinner, the bottle didn’t go very far, but those who tried it most certainly loved it. And I made sure that my birthday friend and I got a healthy pouring. Fortunately there was plenty of champagne flowing as well, and many bottles of wine were ordered from the restaurant’s list. As well as carrying some good French wines, Au Midi has a pretty good selection of local wines as well. As I took my first sip of the Pinot Noir, I savored each fabulous drop and the lovely experience of sharing it with friends.

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Food & Drink - Wine Reviews

Fortino Cellars

Fortino Cellars

Almond-Flavored Champagne

Not that long ago, I was wine tasting with a few friends at some of the wineries over Hecker Pass in the Gilroy area. One of the places where we stopped was Fortino Cellars. They have a lovely tasting room—and our little group was well taken care of and given a tour of the property.

Although we tasted some interesting wines that day, I was really taken with an almond-flavored Champagne they produce—although officially it really should be called sparkling wine. True Champagne comes only from the Champagne region of France—and the top dogs such as Taittinger and Bollinger are pretty expensive. Bollinger, as you may remember, was always drunk by the outrageous duo in the British series “Absolutely Fabulous.” They always referred to it as “Bolly” as in “Got any Bolly, darling?”

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Food & Drink - Wine Reviews

Vino Tabi

Vino TabiCabernet Franc 2008

A couple of weeks ago I was in the Surf City Vintners complex tasting wine at Vino Tabi. It was a fundraiser for the O’Neill Sea Odyssey program and winery owner Katie Fox was donating a percentage of sales that evening to this worthy cause. The turnout was great and everybody had a good time, especially listening to the beautiful guitar playing of Jay Alvarez.
Fox had her usual excellent wines lined up for customers to enjoy, but then she pulled out her latest Cabernet Franc and asked me to try it. So newly bottled it didn’t even have a label on it, I was completely bowled over with this dark beauty. Chock full of rich flavors and deliciously seductive, this 2008 Cab Franc, Mannstead Vineyard, Gilroy ($22), is a really impressive. It’s quite the best Cab Franc I have tasted in some time—full of ripe plums and rich cherries, and with a gorgeous aroma of peppery spice.
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