#WW – A Bold Blend w/ @ChalkHillEstate

Straight from the winery, last Memorial Day weekend  2011, we transported this extremely special bottle of wine from Russian River Valley’s renowned and unique winery Chalk Hill.  This wine was the inaugural release of their Estate Red that was inspired by the proprietor, Frederick, P. Furth’s vision of a wine authentic to Chalk Hill, as it blends and represents the lay of the land that Chalk Hill resides on. Made with 51% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Malbec, 13% Merlot, 11% Petit Verdot, and 1% Carmenere makes this beautifully smooth red wine full of vibrant fruit.  By looking at the varietals and the burgundy color and ‘young’ looking wine in the glass, my first thought was, “this is a heavy wine that absolutely needs a meaty meal to pair with.”  However, after pouring two glasses in 80 degree weather in NYC, in these wonderful Italian wine glasses from Fishs Eddy {here} I might add, my fiancé and I enjoyed this outside (perfectly chilled for a red wine) with light salads and were blown away.  With beautiful tannins that aren’t overbearing and amazing blackberry flavors with many other fruits bursting on our taste buds, the 2007 Chalk Hill Estate Red {here} was an experience and recommended for all red wine lovers to enjoy.  

To my fiancé’s point – “For such a bold looking wine, this really hit the spot on a hot day.  It wasn’t chalky and the fruit really came out in the hot weather…” Oh how I’ve taught him well… Just kidding!

Overall, definitely worth the splurge ($70) to bring to a wonderful dinner party outside on the terrace!  Enjoy!

For more on Chalk HIll
Sunday Sips {here}
Off-Roading In Sonoma {here}

Nostalgia with Tin Barn

I always love when a bottle of wine has a nostalgic memory behind it.  This bottle of Red Zinfandel is from our first trip to the Russian River Valley together as you may remember from {here}.  Tin Barn was my first time (probably will be the only time)  climbing into a steel barrel with a 4 year old {here}!  Sipping on this bottle with close friends and reminiscing about our time in the RRV, I think we enjoyed this wine right per it’s instruction on the bottle.

Tin Barn Vineyards 2008 Zinfandel Russian River Valley, Gilsson Vineyard

On the bottle: “Tin Barn is the fruit of five friends’ passion for the grape.  Our wines are crafted from vineyards specifically chosen for their unique soils and optimal growing locations.  Please drink with pleasure this quality wine we have produced.”

Winepug’s Tasting:  A lighter red with hints of vanilla and raspberry’s.  This wine is a great drinking wine that truly speak to it’s roots! A must with dark chocolate.  A casual yet seductive wine! – Try it and you’ll understand!

Off Roading in Sonoma – Day 2

Day 2 of Off Roading! For Day 1 click HERE

Saturday May 18, 2011

11AM- What a way to wake up with some sparkling rose, pastel shorts, bow ties and sear sucker jackets at Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards.  With a magnificent view on the terrace that looks out upon its vineyard, this vineyard was one of the most breathtaking visions I’ve seen, not to mention their 2007 Brut Rose with tangy raspberry, apple, and citrus flavors was one of the best sparkling’s I’ve tasted.

  • Bought: 3 bottles of 2008 Carneros Pinot Noir Rosé for $25
  • Fun Fact: Has one of the best terrace’s good for enjoying with a big group, watching gorgeous views and drinking excellent bubbly and rose!


12:30PM – The next stop, Jacuzzi Family Vineyards, was filled with my first Olive Oil tasting (tried an orange olive oil, it was, well, interesting) and full-bodied reds complete w/ chocolate wine shots!

  • Bought: 2008 Late Harvest Aleatico (what we did the chocolate shots of) intense plum and floral-licorice in taste; great for after dinner; 2009 Barbera (won 2011 SF Chronicle Wine Competition); crisp and vibrant raspberry and cherry filled with tobacco notes – delish
  • Fun Fact: Not only are the chocolate wine shots fun, Jacuzzi’s label is the wedding picture of winemakers, Giovanni and Teresa Jacuzzi


1:40PM- Lunch pit stop at the most amazing sandwich shop I’ve tried out there… Sonoma’s Best. They have the best Panini’s with so much olive oil that one person in the groups Panini slipped off  his plate and fell to the floor… He wasn’t very happy, woops! Even so, I would HIGHLY recommend this place for a bite in your wine journey!

3PM- Arrived at Tin Barn Vineyards and tried out a steel barrel… You’ll see what I mean in an upcoming post…  Tin Barn is a very unique and ‘off the map’ vineyard that offers up a twofer as a tasting room and cellar space. Their wines are authentic to the ‘wine country’ and presents a nice variety of fruitful and well balance wines.. Not to mention you get that ‘homey’ feeling and hands on experience when you first step in the door.

  • Bought: 2008 Zinfandel Russian River Valley (lush with fruit); 2007 Syrah Sonoma Coast, Coryelle Fields Vineyard
  • Fun Fact: Not only are their wines GREAT, they offer bite size dark chocolate disks to taste with your wines… although dangerous (bc you cld eat way too many of them) they add a nice extra to the experience.  Great ‘off the beatin’’ tasting room!

4PM- We ran right next door to Tin Barn in the rain to Kamen Estate Wines tasting room.  Definitely known for it’s high quality Cab’s, this tasting room was very quaint and a nice way to end our wine tasting experience… Might as well go out with BANG with heavy hitters!

  • Fun Fact: The winemaker of Kamen Estate Wines is the acclaimed Robert Kamen, screenwriter of such films as Taps, The Karate Kid series, The Fifth Element, A Walk in the Clouds, The Transporter series and Taken.. Cool!

6PM- After our lovely day with good company, we ventured into the downtown of Sonoma county where we visited the Swiss Hotel Bar in Sonoma Sq… Such a cute little town, it almost reminded me of Edgartown in Martha’s Vineyard (without the water nearby)!
**However, on our way to the bar, we heard a BEEP and it was the sommelier who conducted our tasting at Jacuzzi… apparently he remembered us, we said hello, and he pulled out another bottle of 2009 Nero d’ Avola from his backseat and said “take this, it’s one of my favorites, enjoy” WOW!


7PM- We then went a BBQ at a friends house in Sonoma, filled with fire pits, cheeses, meats, a wonderful steak dinner, and of course lots of excellent wine….. So many laughs and great company ended our Sonoma trip with perfection!


Don’t know how we survived Day 2, but we did and we did it well experiencing lots of unique places and tastings all over Sonoma! Our last day was a magical day at a vineyard I’ve been following and been amazed with for a while now….But you’ll have to STAY TUNED!

Off-Roading in Sonoma

I had the great pleasure of spending my Memorial Day Weekend tasting wine at some of the most beautiful and tucked away vineyards in Sonoma (aside from one special pit stop on our way home in Napa Valley, but I’ll get to that later).  With a map in hand and no real itinerary, aside from our few favorites, we set out and crafted our own wine adventure to some of the most hidden treasures on and off the map.  With characters met along the way and enjoyable experiences, here is our road map to our “off-roading in Sonoma” or ‘off the beatin’’ as some like to call it.  Not to overwhelm you, I divided everything by day so you will have to check back for Day 2 of “Off-Roading in Sonoma”.  Beware, do not drive while reading…..

Friday, May 27th 2011

10:30AM – Premeditated first stop in the Russian River Valley; Chalk Hill Estate Vineyards & Winery.  The beautiful and diverse terrain started our trip off in a magical way. We were the first ones to enter and were treated like kings! They make a 2007 Estate Red which evokes a wonderful red wine that is true to Chalk Hill.

  • Fav Tasting: 2007 Estate Red (51% Cab, 24% Malbec, 13% Merlot, 11% Petit Verdot, 1% Carmenere)
  • Bought: 2007 Estate Red and 2008 Estate Sauv. Blanc (great price)
  • Fun Fact: They do their vineyard tours in a hummer and you should ask for Rich S. when you get there!
11:43AM- J Vineyards stop for some morning bubbly
  • Fav Tasting: Brut Rose (what they are known for) and the entire champagne tasting we did there. Highly recommend!
  • Bought: Brut Rose (there is no way I was leaving without a bottle)
  • Fun Fact: Really cool looking bottles and you can’t help but stop and gaze at the exquisite entrance with bridge running over a lily pad filled pond.
1:20PM: Pit stop in Healdsburg Burger Bar and Grill (best burger in town) washed down with Damnations Russian River beer (Belgian Strong Pale Ale) brewed in Santa Rosa, CA.  TRY: GET A BURGER, IT’S WORTH IT!

2:30PM: Returned to car and found a stranded cell phone by the car, it rang, we answered, and we received a free bottle of wine for returning the lost phone! Pays off to be nice! :)

3:39PM: Entered Dry Creek Valley

4PM- Looked up on yelp “wineries that serve chocolate with their tastings”, Truett-Hurst Winery came up, we went and were disappointed that they didn’t have free chocolates.  They did however have the spiciest and highest in alcohol wines of the day… TRY: RED ROOSTER & DARK HORSE GPS.. Some of the most unique tastes I’ve had.  EXTREMELY INTENSE WINES!

4:45PM- Bella Vineyards and Wine Caves was the next stop down the road that added a nice change of atmosphere. Great cave tasting experience with top-tier Zins and Syrah’s (their specialty). This is a must stop for a nontraditional experience and tasting

  • Bought: 2009 Zin – rich, rustic and the perfect ‘all-purpose Zin’!
  • Fun Fact: They have the most amazing cheesy breadsticks to clean your pallet with and great Adirondack chairs outside on the grass to chill out in!
6:15PMLongboard Vineyards, the last stop that we randomly stumbled upon and had them reopen the tasting room for us which was an interesting concept of WINE and SURF!  Not only (as you can imagine) do they have surfboards hanging from the walls, t-shirts, glasses, basically everything branded with a surfboard, they also have a ‘Surf Speak’ glossary somewhere around their tasting room.  Drink up and surf’s up BRO!
  • Bought: 2007 Syrah (complex wine with dark berries and coffee notes.)
  • Fun Fact: “Stay loose, trust your own palate, get wet often and spread more time surfing and sharing life with friends and family and less time reading the back copy of wine bottle” – as I’m reading the back of the wine label… SURF’S UP!”

Day one completed and survived… Stay tuned for what’s to come for Day 2 (SPOILER: chocolate shots, olive oil tastings, and fire pits ahead!!!)

@ The Plaza w/ Mitch Hawkins from Hawk and Horse Vineyards…

Hidden in the hills of Lake County, CA lives 18 acres of a picturesque naturally wild vineyard of rolling hills that looks on to infinity. What once was overgrown and untamed land inhibited from growth is now a miraculous field of wildlife, greenery and vines.

I had the pleasure of meeting and having a lovely chat with the vineyard manager/partner, Mitch Hawkins, of this fascinating biodynamic vineyard, Hawk and Horse Vineyards.  We met at the Plaza Hotel in NYC where he was just getting back from the New York International Wine Competition tasting.  With his 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon, a gold medalist at the 2011 Tasters Guild International Wine Competition, in hand, he poured me a glass and took me through his remarkable story of getting to where he is today.

Coming from stopping at a few parties way back when with the likes of Santana and the Grateful Dead and bartending in San Francisco to now living on this beautiful vineyard (owned by renowned attorney, David Boies and fam), Mitch and his wife Tracey (Boies’ step-daughter) have created an oasis so special that can only be established with tender loving care, which is what makes his wine SO perfectly balanced and delicious.

The farming is done by hand mainly with the help of their small herd of Scottish Highlander cattle to create natural preparations which omit chemicals. “The cornerstone of our Bio-dynamic program is production of our own vineyard preparations. Cow dung is the key ingredient in our most important applications. This necessitated the addition of cattle to our ranching operation. After careful research, we selected the Scottish Highland breed. The Highland is an ancient breed known to have grazed the rugged Scottish landscape since the sixth century. They are the oldest registered breed of cattle with the first herd book being established in 1884. These striking creatures are highly desirable animals and are noted for their ease in calving, high quality beef and superb hides. They are also known for their gentleness and intelligence as well as their distinctive and beautiful appearance. They add a sense of true loveliness and grace to the landscape” as Mitch describes in an excited and imaginary way.

They take pride in and treasure their old world practices and even take orders personally by offering their phone number on their website where either Mitch or Tracey will greet you hello and take your order. To add to the magic that happens at the ranch, his two lovely daughters Nina and Francesca Hawkins train in their indoor ring to compete in traditional rodeo’s in Northern, CA and beyond.

To end our lovely chat he exclaimed that they also make a stunning Port and I mentioned to him that I love a nice port paired with 80% dark chocolate! He told me to wait right there and went up to his hotel room and brought down a bottle of Latigo, a fortified wine produced in Port style, 2006 vintage.  This wine is of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes fortified with varietal high-proof Brandy (he uses the best of the best).  How nice  and I can’t wait to try it!  What a lovely boutique-y type winery that produce bottles filled with extremely special and elegant red wines!!

Be sure to visit their website and purchase a delicious bottle of what they are most known for, Cabernet Sauvignon.  You will not be disappointed and will most definitely feel giddy and special when you sip on this wine! Spread the word!


Wine Essentials #5 – Nor. Cal.

It was a night of the top dogs, heavy hitters, powerhouses at Wine Essentials Class #5.  We ventured through Northern California, Washington State and Oregon, experiencing some of the deepest, darkest reds I have ever tasted, and boy were they elegant and delicious!  Fortunately, I will be in Sonoma this weekend to experience these lovely wines first hand!  Take a look into our journey but beware for the high levels of alcohol within the California region! TAXI!

Tastings (wines I liked bolded)

Willamette Valley, Pinot Gris, Benton-Lane 2009 – Retails $16 (Alc. 13%)

  • Notes: Smells of bright young and fruity apple; tastes very light, clean apple-y with a very nice acidic balance to it.  A very simple wine
  • Pairings: A great wine for this warm weather!  Use as an aperitif wine or enjoy with clams and oysters

Santa Ynez, Viognier, Zaca Mesa 2008- Retails $26

  • Notes: Smells of fresh grapefruit, ripe/heavy stone fruit; Bitter and spicy in taste with little acidity, a bit peppery with a long lasting woody finish
  • Pairings: Pair with a roasted chicken with herbs or great with brie and an assortment of medium aged cheeses

Columbia Valley, Reisling, ‘Eroica’, Dr. Loosen, Chateau Ste. – Retails $23 (Alc. 12%)

  • Notes: Young green grape, fragrant with a hint of petroleum in smell; tastes light, sweet/sour with a fresh and fruity hint and strong acidity
  • Pairings: Great for an afternoon with cheese and grapes; spicy fish apps

Napa, Chardonnay, Grgich Hills Estate 2007 – Retails $40

  • Notes: Oaky with smoky vanilla and apple in smell; apple-y, pear, wood with calm acidity in taste.  A very elegantly balanced wine
  • Pairings: Roasted chicken or grilled shell fish

Chalk Hill (Russian River), Sauvignon Blanc, Chalk Hill Winery 2007 - Retails $27 (Alc. 14.5%)

  • Notes: Smells of ripe/sweet pineapple; Tastes very heavy and ripe in fruits, long lasting fruit finish
  • Pairings: Great with fish w/ butter and herb sauce; roasted chicken

Willamette Valley, Pinot Noir, Argyle 2008- Retails $24

  • Notes: Smells of light red fruits, strawberry and bright fruit; Tastes of bright cherry, little acidity a bit of tannin, strong taste but fades fast
  • Pairings: A lovely cob with a salad w/ raspberry vinaigrette on a sunny afternoon

Carneros, Pinot Noir, Acacia 2008 – Retails $22 (Pinot Noir, 2% Syrah) (Alc. 14.4%)

  • Notes: Smells of cherry, jammy, rich/dark fruits; tastes of rich wood, tannin, spicy, peppery and a little cedar
  • Pairings: Great with Duck!

Monterey County, ‘Le Mistral’, Joseph Phelps 2006 – Retails $40 (Alc. 15%)

  • Notes: Smelly of deep fruits and plums; Spicy plumy, dark fruit with light finish in taste.  A balanced wine
  • Pairings: Great with a stew, Pork Roast or lamb

Russian RIver, Zinfandel, Dolinsek Ranch, Mara 2005 – Retails $40 (Alc. 16.4%)

  • Notes: Ripe in fruit smelling; tastes of sweet/heavy fruit, blackberries, raisins, long lasting dark fruit finish
  • Pairings: Hard to pair with food but would be great with a BBQ or a nice dessert like cheesecake – nothing too sweet

Oakville (Napa), Merlot, Swanson 2006 – Retails $21 (Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon)

  • Notes: Smells of dark plums.berries, wood in background; tastes of dark elegant plums, candy tannin, very supple and elegant wine
  • Pairings: Pair with a steak and light sauce or heavy spaghetti bolognese
Napa, Cabernet Sauvignon, ‘Georges de Latour Private Reserve’, Beaulieu Vineyard 2007 - Retails $106 (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot) – 14.8% Ac.
  • Notes: Smells of concentrated berries, very jammy; a powerhouse wine that tastes of dense berries, cedar, and strong tannins
  • Pairings: Great with steak

Swanson Vineyards – My Obsession!

How fabulous are these bottles of wine!?  A great gift for your next dinner party! I have not yet been, but Swanson Vineyards is on my list to visit the next time I am in Wine Country, CA!   Swanson adds a pleasant ‘girly sophistication’ to all of their bottles and products which makes them prominent and striking to the eye!  A great example of a winery taking the reins on their creative vision and bringing it to life in a very expressive and extremely unique way!  Click on the bottles to see the winery come alive!

About Swanson Vineyards 

Founded in 1985, Swanson’s Napa Valley winery crafts wines that elevate and glorify any occasion. Every bottle of their Oakville Estate wine charms the senses with velvety, luscious and distinctive character.
Fun Fact: Today Swanson Vineyards is one of the most recognizable and reliable Merlots, known for making a “Cab lover’s Merlot,” respectably priced!

Wine & Spirits Magazine Presents The 3rd Annual Top of the List Tasting

An amazing NYC wine event for all of my wine lovers and yet ANOTHER reason to sign up for a free newsletter from BlackboardEats.com to get the best deals on food and drink! Should be fun!

From BlackboardEats (exclusive discount):

Wine & Spirits Magazine is holding its 3rd Annual Top of the List Tasting on Tuesday, May 10, at the Metropolitan Pavilion in NYC. This top-notch walk-around wine-and-food tasting event features great vino from more than 99 wineries (wineries listed below) and bites from 10 hot restaurants, including ABC Kitchen, Ai Fiori, and Ciano—plus oysters from Grand Central Oyster Bar, cheese from Artisanal, chocolate from La Maison du Chocolat, and lots more.

Tickets, normally a bargain at $65 per person, are being offered for to BBE subscribers exclusively for 30% off. And the ticket price even includes a one-year subscription to Wine & Spirits Magazine! But you have to act fast, as the discounted tickets are limited in quantity, and a passcode does not guarantee a ticket or discount!

List of Participating Wineries:

Acacia Vineyard
Alexander Valley Vineyards
Beaulieu Vineyard
Belle Glos
Beringer Vineyards
Brancott Estate
Cakebread Cellars
Castello Monsanto
Charles Krug
Chateau St. Jean
Chateau Ste. Michelle
Chehalem Winery
Craggy Range
Domaine Drouhin
Domaine Ramonet
Domaine Serene
Domaine Spiropoulos
Duckhorn Vineyards
Elk Cove
Evening Land Vineyards
Ferrari-Carano Winery
Fournier Père & Fils
Frank Family Vineyards
Freemark Abbey
Frog’s Leap Winery
Gai’a Wines
Groth Vineyards
The Hess Collection
J. Lohr Winery
Jordan Vineyard & Winery
Joseph Phelps
Kendall-Jackson Vineyards
Kim Crawford
La Crema
Le Salette
Livio Felluga
Luigi Bosca
Maison Joseph Drouhin
Maison Louis Jadot
Marchesi Antinori
Marchesi di Barolo
Marqués de Cáceres
Merry Edwards
Nicolas Feuillatte
Nickel & Nickel
Obsidian Ridge
Orin Swift Cellars
Quinta do Noval
Ramos Pinto
Ridge Vineyards
Roederer Estate
Rombauer Vineyards
Santa Margherita
Silver Oak Wine Cellars
Simi Winery
Smith Woodhouse
Sonoma-Cutrer Vineyards
St. Innocent
Stags’ Leap Winery
Sterling Vineyards
Taylor Fladgate
Trefethen Family Vineyards
W. & J. Graham’s
William Fèvre

Moon Mountain Cabernet Franc – Delightful

My first pick from the Moon Mountain Vineyard Finest 2006 Reds Sample Case was a Cabernet Franc Estate Grown 2006 from Sonoma Valley.  I have never tried a Cabernet Franc by itself as I’ve always enjoyed the varietal blended in with a nice bordeaux.  I was extremely excited to open this bottle and was VERY pleasantly surprised!  The verdict – an amazing sipping wine that is casual yet very elegant in taste with it’s smooth finish and very luscious berries. Apologies for using the word “luscious” too often in this post however, it is the perfect word to describes the dark fruits that make up the taste of this wine.  Cab Franc – a great start to my exploration of Moon Mountain reds!


Smells of darker fruits plums, blackberries, and violets. In taste, plum, blackberry, smooth with tannins, very smooth mouthfeel. The luscious fruits most definitely stand out in this evenly complex wine. A very nice wine that you could sip on for hours.

Compared to a Cabernet Sauvignon, Franc has a slightly less tannic taste and tends to be much smoother.  Cabernet Sauvignon’s usually have a stronger finish with a much bolder taste.  Franc adds a nice balance of fruit and has that bold taste that is not too overpowering.

Notes from Wine Maker Carol Wilson:

High on the rugged Sonoma side of Mount Veeder, our volcanic soils, warm sun and cooling nighttime breezes are ideal for Bordeaux-style varietals.  They develop rich, complex flavors and deep color.  Cabernet Franc is ideally suited for out rocky hillside Estate Vineyard.  In the bright sunlight above the fog-shrouded valley, struggling mountain vines concentrate the ripe luscious flavors of each precious cluster.  We farm our Estate vineyard with intensive methods, producing the purest fruit to organic standards.

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