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Style Magazine

Tasting Notes

Aug 31, 2009 01:16PM ● By Wendy Sipple

Photo by Dante Fontana.

Word on the street is that you’re in pour form, that you’ve absolutely reached your sipping point.

To help, Style went in search of the area’s top wine connoisseurs and buyers, those with a prime vintage point into what’s new and what’s next, and asked them to fulfill your grape expectations.


Contributions from lead server, Chad Stalzer, and mixologist, Johan Ericsson, 530-622-5222

Wine: Madrona Vineyards, Gewurtztraminer
Characteristics: Spicy, floral aromas with a crisp, clean taste of spice and stone fruit.
Pair with: Sequoia Crab Cakes
Expert Advice: “This wine also pairs well with scallops, Asian foods, and paella.”

Wine: Nello Olivo, Super Tuscan Style
Characteristics: Made from 75 percent Sangiovese and 25 percent Merlot, it has aromas of raspberry, leather and earth, and creamy berry fruit flavors with hints of spicy oak and tobacco.
Pair with: Steak Diane
Expert Advice: “Also pairs well with hearty meat dishes, roast beef, and cassoulet.


Contributions from Richard Righton, Owner and Wine Drinker, 916-984-7500

Wine: Chateau De Campuget, Rosé
Characteristics: A light, dry wine with a hint of strawberry; 70 percent Syrah and 30 percent Grenache Noir, easy to drink.
Pair with: A sweet corn and grilled zucchini salad with a lime vinaigrette; also great with summer barbecue or to sip around the pool.
Expert Advice: “From the Rhone Valley, France, dating back to 1640, this wine is easy drinking, dry and a great aperitif. Best enjoyed cold, it is also perfect with fresh salads and priced well. I recommend drinking this wine when you just want to have fun!”

Wine: Sobon Estate, 2007 Estate Syrah
Characteristics: Incredible aroma. Rich and silky flavors.
Pair with: Muscovy Duck Confit with sautéed red skinned potatoes, roasted sweet onions, baby French green beans and mixed berry compote.
Expert Advice: “This local wine is a Bistro favorite. It has a great price point, is rich but not over-powering, fruit-forward, and is made from organically grown Syrah and Carignane grapes.”


Contributions from Tista Visconti, Wine Expert

Wine: Mezzacorona, Merlot
Characteristics: Round velvety, berry, low tannin, low to no spice. Pleasantly herbaceous.
Pair with: Red meats, cheeses, flavorful soups and red sauces.
Expert Advice: “A smooth, easy-on-the palate wine for first-time Merlot drinkers.”

Wine: Justin Vineyard, Paso Robles, Cabernet Sauvignon
Characteristics: Round ripe grape, equal balance of spice and sweet. A well-respected Cabernet.
Pair with: Meats, poultry, and game; garlic and oil, and marinara sauces.
Expert Advice: “This is a well-rounded flavored wine to go with just about any meal.”


Contributions from Joseph Kaulbach, Northern CA Wine and Beer Buyer, 916-781-1357

Wine: BioKult, Gruner Veltliner
Characteristics: Dry, zesty, spicy and grassy.
Pair with: Pad Thai
Expert Advice: “This is a fantastic wine made from organically grown grapes in Austria. Sip it on its own, or pair with salads and seafood.”

Wine: Montresor, 2004 Nero del Nago
Characteristics: A food-friendly wine with cherry flavors and a soft finish.
Pair with: Grilled pork and/or aged Italian cheese.
Expert Advice: “It took nearly half a year to find this wine–one for around $5 that tastes good, with character but not masked by oak or overly ripe fruit.”


Contributions from Jeff Back, Owner, 916-986-9100

Wine: Maison Brillet, Pineau des Charentes Blanc Prestige
Characteristics: Fresh grapes, smoky, toasty and nutty, with a light sweetness.
Pair with: Fine cheeses such as blue or Brie.
Expert Advice: “The fermentation process for this wine keep its fresh, sweet grape character and adds extra depth and richness. Great served on the rocks with an orange.”

Wine: Yorba, 2006 Barbera
Characteristics: Medium body, not overdone. Bright cherry and raspberry fruit with light spice and soft texture.
Pair with: Lighter Italian dishes, especially pasta with light meat sauce.
Expert Advice: “An instant Amador classic. One of the best California Barberas I've ever had; extremely well made. It has classic Italian styling with plenty of ripe California fruit.”


Contributions from Shane White, General Manager, 916-789-2002

Wine: Domaine Tempier Bandol, 2006 Rosé
Characteristics: Hints of strawberry
Pair with: La Provence’s Aumoniere au Fromage de Cheve.
Expert Advice: “Combine this dish with the Rosé, which has hints of strawberry and just the right amount of acidity to complement the vinaigrette. Rosé is typically paired with cheese, so to me, the dish and wine make the perfect combination.”

Wine: A. Rafanelli Winery, 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon
Characteristics: A deep, rich, earthy structure with soft tannins.
Pair with: Entercote Sauce Chanterelle
Expert Advice: “This Cabernet brings out just the right amount of earthiness of the mushrooms, with artichoke notes that highlight sweetness of our grilled asparagus, letting you really get into that juicy New York.”


Contributions from Vincent Caggiano, Wine Judge and Connoisseur, 916-455-2422

Wine: Sea Smoke Cellars, 2005 Pinot Noir
Characteristics: Big, round and full, yet velvety on the palate with a long lingering finish.
Pair with: Grilled lamb, aromatic herb-crusted lamb chops.
Expert Advice: “If you want to splurge on wine, this is the one. It’s unbelievably great.”

Wine: Curran, 2007 Grenache Blanc
Characteristics: Dry white wine, unoaked, crisp and refreshing.
Pair with: Appetizer of pan-seared scallops.
Expert Advice: A sleeper wine that you’ll love, and it’s a bargain!”


Contributions from Ken Musso (Winemaker) and Jesse Mendosa (Chef), 916-624-3401

Wine: Due Vigne, 2005 Dolcetto
Characteristics: A classic northern Italian varietal with lovely red fruits on the nose that explode from the glass.
Pair with: Rubino’s Homemade Gnocchi Marinara, Chicken Cacciatore and Signature Grilled Salmon.
Expert Advice: “Spice in the middle is what makes this wine work extremely well with any tomato-based foods.”

Wine: Due Vigne, 2006 Nebbiolo
Characteristics: Nebbiolo is noted for its complex nose of cranberries, violets, rose petals, and bright red fruits, as it evolves in the glass.
Pair with: Rubino’s Chef’s Special Osso Bucco, braised short ribs, or a standing rib roast–each dish with its appropriate sauce.
Expert Advice: “Put yourself at Thanksgiving dinner after pouring a splash of this wine into a large bowl fine wine glass to immediately smell the fresh cranberries. Ask for this wine to be decanted to enjoy the best of all it has to offer.”


Contributions from Shelly Winzeler, Owner, 530-622-0516

Wine: Di Arie, 2008 Rosé Di Arie
Characteristics: Soft fruity aromas fill the nose of this beautiful Rosé. Light berry flavors with a lingering after-taste make for a delightful summer wine.
Pair with: Baked goat cheese, a fruit platter with apples and pears, and chicken potpie.
Expert Advice: “This is not your mother’s box wine. It is light and refreshing and truly a treat for the taste buds. Try it–you might really like it!”

Wine: Jeff Runquist Wines, Massoni Ranch, Amador County, Zinfandel
Characteristics: An outstanding Zinfandel full of lush flavors with a great splash of spice. It covers all bases of how a true Zin should taste.
Pair with: Camembert or English Cheddar cheese, barbecue beef brisket, and Hot Head Vindaloo at Café Luna in Placerville.
Expert Advice: “I have yet to try a Runquist wine that I didn’t enjoy. They literally fly out of my little shop! This Zin is sure to please a diversity of palates.”

Click here for even more wine recommendations in our online exclusive wine feature.


Organic and sustainable winemaking practices, which include abstaining from using man-made and synthetic chemicals, artificial fertilizers and pesticides, and reducing emissions harmful to the environment by using bio-diesel fuel, is becoming increasingly more common among today’s wine growers, and one day it may very well be the norm, even in local wine appellations such as Amador County and the Sierra foothills, where such methods has already cropped up. Far more than an agricultural system, biodynamic winemaking takes organic and sustainable grape growing a big step further, by treating the vineyard as a self-sustaining, fully alive system. Biodynamic wines are products of hand- or horse-plowed, organically produced grapes grown from pesticide-, herbicide-, and fungicide-free soil and fermented with indigenous yeasts. Even with shifts in climate, die-hard biodynamic viticulturists claim to have healthier overall vineyards and wines with longer drinkability that contain the correct balance of flavor and alcohol.

Although organic and biodynamic viticulture is more common to California’s best-known appellations such as Napa Valley and Santa Barbara, local wine growers are not far behind, and are in fact very much in the mix. All wines from Sobon Estate in Amador County’s Shenandoah Valley, for example, are produced from organically grown grapes; as are the Earth Friendly Organic wines produced by the eco-driven, “family farm operation” known as Fitzpatrick Winery in Fair Play. In South Placer County, the Auburn-based Green Family Winery also relies on sustainable farming to grow grapes for its premium wines. For more information on these organically producing wineries and others, contact the following organizations:,, and Or, just hop in the car for a weekend tasting tour. There are plenty of wineries to keep you busy, pique your interest, and dazzle your palate!