For the past few days, I have been under the weather. I do not know if it was due too excessive heat. Regardless, my bug has passed and I see a bottle in the refrigerator with a red label, which I recall purchasing (Intrinsic) from Total Wines.

“Hmmmm, let me see if this 2014 Intrinsic is still good before I open up this bottle of Horton Norton, which I have not had in years”. It appears that only a glass was previously consumed. I am greeted with a burst of fruity aromas and the color is rich and dark. I begin to salivate and the glass  is immediately brought to my lips, without sniffing. I know this is big no-no, but the urge to taste was too powerful-took over my senses and OH MY GOODNESS! THIS IS FANTASTIC!

I want to mentioned, to take the chill off, I waited approximately 30 minutes before tasting the wine. AGAIN, OH MY GOODNESS! (still sipping). I do not if the wine is as delicious as I am experiencing because I had a strong desire for a glass of wine..NO, this is not the case; Intrinsic is DELICIOUS! Intrinsic is AMAZING! I can not wait to taste this wine when it has not been sitting for days.

Intrinsic is fruit-forward with cherry and blackberries flavors. A perfect example of what a full-bodied red wine should possess. Intrinsic immediately reminds me of Orin Swift’s Palermo, The Prisoner, and Papillon wines. How the wines possess character, complexity and a magnitude of flavors. When your brain is flooded with senses that it can not catch-up to what you are tasting. Your hands are unable to transcribe every scent and flavor that is gracing your palate. So you sip and write, sip and write and sip and write, which I am doing write now.

Intrinsic is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon and ten percent of wine is fermented in concrete tanks producing an amazing complex wine with soft mineral notes.


Intrinsic went very well with Tobaccology, Haymarket, VA mystery cigar 

On top of this magnificent wine, the wine label, titled “The Lady in Red” is beautiful piece of art created by New York City, artist “ZIMER”. If you look closely at the wine label, the artist’s name appear in the gown.

Intrinsic made such an impression that I had to include the wine in a private tasting I was conducting (Treevinos – Up Close and Personal). Intrinsic was a HUGE success with the ladies; so much the next day, the host purchased two bottles and gave me one as a thank you gift. 🙂



Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast – 92 points
Total Wine (Virginia) – $23 (YUP, this is not a typo!)

visit Intrinsic Wine Co for information.

Salute! Sante!

VINOTERRA 2014 Rkatsiteli


A Georgian Orange Wine

I can not tell you how excited I am right now. So excited that I spilled a glass of wine, ORANGE WINE at that; trying to capture a picture. :/


Finally got my hands on a bottle of Georgian Orange Wine from my local Total Wines. Before I even share the vineyard information, I have to tell that I have NEVER EVER SMELLED ANYTHING LIKE Vinoterra 2014 Rkatsiteli – AMAZING!

As soon as I popped the cork, I am greeted with vibrant aromas that reminds me of a port, a liqueur; there’s honey and hints of licorice, not black licorice. The alcohol content appears to be high, but the bottle states it’s only 13%. The color is Orange, this is far from a Rose with hues of orange; this wine is Orange with Amber hues.

For some reason, I’m smiling, “I’m about to try my first authentic orange wine!” An orange wine fermented in clay vessels. I invite you to read my blog on “The Legendary Mr. David A. Harvey – ORIGINS OF MODERN USAGE OF ORANGE WINE“.

My palate is salivating; let’s begin!

Ok, a light-bodied, earthy, refreshing with a slight mineral and sweet tart flavors on the finish and soft tannins that slowly building then gracefully dissipates. Vinoterra Rkatsiteli your vibrant aromas and complex flavors have me intrigued – VERY TASTY!


Folks, an orange wine is far from a Rose. My blog “Orange Wine? that identifies Chrysalis Tximeleta as an orange wine NOT! Just a delicious Rose with light hues. 🙂

Vinoterra, you are my first and only, thus far, and you are GOOOD ; and no wonder….!

Vinoterra: A Leader in Qvevri Wine Making
Vinoterra is a Schuchmann Wine brand that is Georgia’s largest Qvevri wine producer. All Vinoterra wines utilize Qveveri, large clay jars buried underneath the ground, for fermentation maceration and aging. Started by famous Georgian wine Maker Gogi Dakishvili Vinoterra was one of the first commercial producers of Georgian qvevri wine on the international stage and has helped revive the industry. Since 2003 Vinoterra has been producing some of the highest quality and most appealing Georgian qvevri wines. Vinoterra’s whites are Amber or “Orange” wines since they all see close to 6 months of skin contact. Vinoterra produces three dry whites: Vinoterra Rkatsiteli, Vinoterra Mtsvane and Vinoterra Kisi. They also produce reds such as the Vinoterra Saperavi.

Wine & Spirits Magazine, 2011

The Vinoterra Rkatsiteli is a perfect intro into Georgian Amber qvevri wines. Vinoterra is now the largest qvevri producer after starting out as a family project in 2003. Wine Maker Gogi Dakishvili crafts this all natural wine with the western pallet in mind. His qvevri wines have all of the characteristics of authentic Georgian qvevri wine but with elevated acidity and more rounded tannin.” – (www.georgianwinehouse.com)



courtesy of lordofthedrinks.com

A typical Georgian wine cellar with the holes in the ground for the qvevri’s.

For more information or to locate a wine shop that sells Georgian Wine visit: http://www.georgianwinehouse.com, a wine and spirits importer.



Salute! Sante!

Trummer’s Coffee and Wine Bar’s Wine Flight


It’s sunny, hot and too late to drive to a vineyard. Desperately wanting to try something new, I remembered a coffee and wine bar that opened last year called Trummer’s Coffee and Wine Bar, Gainsville, VA; coffee and wine, my two main indulgences.

Wine Flight

(very small sample of available wines)

Trummer’s offers three wines in their wine flight for under $20.00. After being asked a few questions on my wine preference, which was for whites, nothing sweet and I like sauvignon blancs and for reds, big, bold with firm tannins.

Folks, this is not your standard tasting. The bartender begins to pour full glasses of wine. I whispered to my husband, “I said I wanted a tasting, right?” He nodded, yes. “Well, I’m about to have an expensive tasting”. I was presented with three full glasses of wine. I don’t know if this was an error, but this happy chic wasn’t going to bring it to his attention. 😀

Yes, you “Neggy Netties” could say, “Technically, you’re receiving at least eight wines in the tasting… they’re just doubling up on the pours.” 😛 WELL, I’m not at a winery and was VERY excited that I was getting THREE FULL glasses of wine for under $20.00 😀



Steininger Gruner Veltliner – Reminds me of a Viognier and a dry Petit Manseng, citrusy with a slight oaky creamy finish – VERY NICE! This is exactly what I wanted on this hot humid 81 degree day!

Enrique Mendoza “La Tremenda” – Mmmm… aromas of black licorice and hint of molasses. The taste is Friggin Fantastic! Fruit-forward cherry flavors and the tannins are subtle but present. Every sip is Delicious!! Magnificent! I’m officially in “wine utopia”. If you do not recall from my previous blogs, wine utopia is when your eyes close, head begins to sway and moans begin to escape your lips –YES, THIS IS WINE UTOPIA!

Luberon Grenache – spicy and earthy aromas. If I had this wine before the “La Tremenda”, I would say this is very good. Following the “La Tremenda”, Luberon is nice. 



To top off the wine flight, we are served Trummer’s Truffle popcorn, “Trés Bon!




You can clearly see which wine I enjoyed the most! One bottle turned into three (3) bottles :). I preached many times, always purchase in “at least” quantities of three’s. The first bottle, you are so excited you want to consume immediately. The second bottle, you share with your friends and the last bottle, you lay down in your cellar (this method is also an excellent way to establishing an cellar). When you need to replenish, you will save money because you only have to purchase two bottles :). 

I’m fascinated by the quaint little coffee and wine bar, Trummer’s.


Besides this sweet elder man, who I am presuming is the manager; tidying-up, staying in the background but has his eyes on everything (the thought of him makes me smile 🙂Trummer’s is named after the owners Stefan and Victoria Trummer, who lives in Clifton, VA and also the owners of “Trummer’s On Main” in Clifton, VA; formerly the The Hermitage Inn. By the way, Stefan was not that sweet elder man in the coffee and wine bar :). They’re a young couple who has an extensive restaurant background, met in New York and moved to Victoria Trummer’s hometown, Clifton, VA.

I have to mention I like the Trummer’s logo with the coffee and wine rings. GREAT CONCEPT!

(images courtesy of http://www.trummerscoffeewinebar.com)


We’re looking forward to having Trummer’s coffee.

If you’re in the Gainsville, VA area, I strongly encourage you to visit Trummer’s and don’t forget to order the Truffle popcorn.

Trummer’s Coffee and Wine Bar
Address: 14013 Promenade Commons St, Gainesville, VA 20155
Phone:(703) 754-0135
Menu: trummerscoffeewinebar.com


Salulte! Sante!



On February 8, 2016, I posted a blog title “Orange Wine”. The research material that was utilized for my blog had inaccurate information. It was reported that UK Wine Merchant David Harvey “accidentally” created the term “Orange Wine”. Well, Mr. Harvey himself contact me and provided accurate information. YES, MR. DAVID HARVEY! 🙂 I was ecstatic, like a school girl who was finally able to wear her new “black and whites” shoes for the first day of school.


I ran to my husband and excitedly explained, in response to my blog, the man who created the term “orange wine” sent “ME” an email. Softly smiling he replies, “Baby that’s good.” Of course, I had to read him the message. 😀

On May 30, 2016, I corrected the “Orange Wine?” blog post to read as follows:

The term “orange wine” was created by UK Wine Merchant David Harvey in 2004, which was purposefully created and others saw fit to use the term since that time.

Mr. Harvey bestowed upon me the honor to share his “ORIGINS OF MODERN USAGE OF ORANGE WINE”, which I am much appreciative. (And days later, I am still ECSTATIC!) 😀

Without further ado, I present you the: 

ORIGINS OF MODERN USAGE OF ORANGE WINE, by David Harvey (edited May 2016 for Tree)

I actively discussed this issue from first principles with Frank Cornelissen, when working with Frank on Etna in 2004, and started to use it thereafter. It was the year of making his Mongibello Bianco No.1 2004 (now Munjebel Bianco): we were daily drinking and talking about Radikon, Dario Princic, Gravner, Vodopevic, Castellada, pre-2002 La Biancara, Massia Vecchia, etc.

The quest for a name arose from my concern that there was no name, let alone category for these wines, which are visually, aromatically and structurally divergent from white wines, and would therefore risk rejection in both the on- and off-trades, having worked as Head Sommelier between 1993 and 2002.

The rational was that they should be labelled by the same criteria as white/rosé/red wine, i.e. by the final colour of the wine, and not the component parts (e.g. colour of grape,) nor the technique (e.g. sparkling, fortified, skin-contact, etc.)  All the other possible colour names were already used in specific appellations, e.g. Vin Jaune (yellow), Rivesaltes Ambré (amber) etc., or were too pretentious, like’ golden wine’, or were not common to key wine-production languages.

Skin-contact for example was not considered useful, as very brief contact in French is called maceration-pelliculaire, and, most all red wines receive skin-contact. So the term is simply not precise, nor unique.   

And, I admit that I did not take very seriously Orange state, Orange county, orange fruit, as origins or materials with potential conflict. (For which, the relevant Australian authorities have since publicly spoken out.) 

Georgia was also discussed at some point: someone (who?) told me that in Georgia, ‘red wine’ meant just that, ‘white wine’ ditto, but that ‘wine’, tout-court, meant macerated white grapes. Georgia does have claim to being an ancient wine country, with use of ancient vessel types, and possibly unceasing use of macerating white grapes. However, it does not have the oldest proven claim, the sole terracotta claim, the sole maceration claim, and certainly not the total quality claim. Yes, it did directly inspire the re-introduction of white grape maceration, for total quality dry orange wine-making in Italy. However, the great examples in the 21st Century hail from an epicentre of Oslavia in the Collio, produced since 1997, released this century. The renaissance (or emergence) of quality in Georgia postdates this period, and of the qualitatively top three or five orange wines, all are arguably made in Italy.

I used it ‘naturally’ in tastings or conversation with Jancis Robinson MW and Rose Murray-Brown MW in 2008, Jamie Goode, the Dressner team at Villa Favorita, Alice Feiring (at La Dive, in the Veneto, in London, etc.), Joseph di Blasi of Vinosseur, after which it was used for the first time. There is no prior mention I have come across, online or in print. I also used it with a bunch of winemakers.

As wine merchant sous l’nez, my early offers to private clients also went to some UK press, with orange wines labelled as such from 2006. L’Ortolan restaurant, whom I have helped out over the years, ran an orange wine section since about 2007 under Head Somm Stephen Nisbet. I believe that the first monographs were ‘Glass of Orange’ by Rose Murray Brown MW in The Scotsman, April 2008, and Jancis Robinson MW’s write up of the Contrade dell’Etna tasting online in April 2008. (Frank Cornelissen was in Belgium getting divorced, and so I flew down to man his table, and used the term naturally.) It has since been used in most all the major UK & US broadsheets, blogs and beyond.

So, we could now go back and say that traditional Tokaji, where the aszu berries are macerated in a base wine, is orange, whereas modern direct-pressed Tokaji, or pure free-run Essenzia, is white. Same for white port: foot trod white-grape port is orange, whereas direct press white-grape port is white (if perhaps coloured due to oxidative tendancies, or elevage, which does not count.

Of course, someone may have said it before. Isabelle Legeron MW subsequently found the Pliny quote about there being ‘white, yellow, red and bIack wines’. (My orange is almost certainly his yellow.) I was simply systematic about choosing the name ‘orange’ and using it, with a certain group of people at a certain time, with no ambition other than enhancing communication, which seems to have worked. There was no forced attempt to make it stick: it merely happened to stick. I cannot truly say that I now entirely agree with my choice, however: it is no coincidence that Cornelissen calls his wine white, and Gravner calls his wine amber…

In 2011, I wrote a concise article for The World of Fine Wine, and in 2015, the entry on orange wine for The Oxford Companion to Wine, 4th Edition, edited by Jancis Robinson MW.

David A.Harvey
Raeburn Wines, London Office

FANTASTIC!!! Very informative and an enjoyable read! Mr. Harvey, Thank You, Again!

Folks, I hope you enjoyed the article as much as I did. For a copy of the articles previously mentioned in Mr. Harvey’s article visit  The World of Fine Wine


Now, I’m on the hunt for some Orange Wines.

Salute! Sante!

Note. featured image from sloveniaforyou.com

Still in a Zin Mood – Brazin 2013 Old Vine Zinfandel


Goodness, I hope the scent of nail polish remover is coming from my fresh manicure that was done two hours ago and not from this Brazin 2013 Old Vine Zinfandel (Lodi, CA).


LAWD JESUS, let’s get this wine tasting started so I can decide if it’s going to be a Knob Creek evening :).

I’m still in my Zin mood from “The Federalist”. If you have not read my blog on  The Federalist and Tobaccology to the Rescue! check it out, the wine is delicious!

YIKES, this is harsh! Brazin needs some breathing time, even after aerating.

Twenty minutes later, I nervously sniff. Spicy aromas with a touch of turpentine; YUP, this is not a misprint, turpentine. Research states the scent of turpentine in wine is due to Volatile Acid, which is cause when bacteria create acetic acid, the substance that gives vinegar its flavor.

Once I get pass the turpentine aroma, I’m detecting blackberries flavors with hints of cocoa and the wine is young. I will chalk this up that I received a bad bottle, I hope :/ .

Curiosity got the best of me and I had to read the reviews on Brazin 2013 Old Vine Zinfandel, which were mixed. The Wine Enthusiast rated Brazin 85 points and described the wine as follows:

A sweet, syrupy aroma and candied fruit flavors, sprinkled with baking-spice notes from oak aging, make this wine attractive in a bubble-gum way. It is fruity, medium bodied, fresh and frothy.

I wish I purchased this bottle of Brazin.

My fellow Zinlovers, dare if you will; but remember “Life is too short to drink bad wine”.


Salute! Sante!

“Sunshine in a Bottle” – Cana Vineyards 2012 Rhapsody in White


Note. This blog was written during my “blogging block”. I had no trouble sipping just to lazy or tipsy to post. As an FYI, there are a few more wine blogs coming that was created during this temporary phase of blockage.




Cana Vineyards 2012 Rhapsody in White – I selected this wine because our stock of every day drinking red wine has depleted greatly. Plus, it is going to pair very well with the delicious pork chops and spinach salad my amazing husband and artist Amoxes (visit Amoxes Art page; gotta get that plug-in :)) has made for dinner.



Yes, he’s not only creates masterpieces on canvas, his talent extends to the kitchen and creates delicious gourmet meals. Teen: “How does he make gourmet meals with the food in our kitchen and you can’t?” Being the wonderful man that he is, he immediately replies “Your mom is a good cook.” Teen and I both know, he is being kind. I’m not bad, but I am nowhere in his league.

To be honest, I was disrespecting the wine and just pulled out anything and wasn’t expecting much. To my great surprise, I selected a beautiful shimmery golden Cana Vineyards 2012 Rhapsody in White. Rhapsody is airy (you can feel the breeze-wind) with flavors of pineapples and pink grapefruit with a touch of sparkle, which I am unsure what is producing the effervescent. Cana’s Rhapsody in White is a delicious semi-sweet white wine with low residual sugar; Elegant!

Maybe it is the name, the airy-windy aromas or soft sweet flavors, but I instantly imagine a woman in the middle of the open grassy field, her hair and dress blowing in the wind; this would be my wine label design for Rhapsody in White. You can guess what followed; “Babe, I need a quick illustration of …” what I just wrote and POOF! In approximately ten minutes, I was presented with “Rhapsody”, which was created utilizing an ink pen. HE’S AMAZING! 



Hmmm… (sipping) I may have to rethink the cancellation of my wine club membership at Cana. Even on the brink of the Washington, DC 2016 Blizzard, I’m having some sunshine, “Sunshine in a Bottle“. PERFECT NAME!


Washington DC area 2016 Blizzard


My first review of Cana’s 2012 Rhapsody in White was in August 2014, read the first blog at treevinos.com, “Cana Vineyards and Winery of Middleburg, Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover.

In 2014, I described this “Sunshine in a Bottle” as a semi-sweet white wine, 50% Riesling and 50% Traminette, floral and citrus aromas, 4.2% residual sugar – not heavy or sugary. GOOD, check mark. Two years later, Rhapsody has aged deliciously.

Folks, I have to share, I wasn’t spelling the word “effervescent” properly. So, I decided to speak the word and have my MAC record the word correctly. I selected the “Speech” option and began to say the word, at the monitor-into the invisible microphone LOL (hey, I thought all Apple products operate the same LOL). A male voice began to recite the blog. I have to admit hearing your words spoken by a male is an indescribable feeling. It also provides insight from the reader’s perspective. WIERD 🙂

Cana Vineyards 2012 Rhapsody in White is a fruity delicious wine that would be perfect for a brunch and pleasurable to wine novices and connoisseurs.

Visit Cana Vineyards and Winery of Middleburg 


at 38600 John Mosby Highway, Middleburg, VA 20117

Open on Saturday 11 am – 6 pm and Sunday, Monday, Thursday and Friday from 12 pm – 6 pm. Closed on Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Visit their website for more information: canavineyards.com 

Salute! Sante!

The Federalist and Tobaccology to the Rescue!



Don’t you love when your friends gift you with a good bottle of wine. My first experience of “The Federalist Zinfandel, 2014” was gifted during the Washington, DC area 2016 Blizzard.

Before I describe the wine, l first have to give applause to Tobaccology for being the Number One Cigar Shop and Lounge in Northern Virginia!!! (clapping hands).

From the first time my husband (fiancé at the time) and I entered the shop, we were greeted with warmth and we knew instantly that we found our “home shop”. The owners, Brett and Bubba support and generosity are beyond AMAZING!

On the aftermath of the blizzard, the infamous Tobaccology truck pulls up in front of the house, stepping out is the owner, Brett and girlfriend, Jesse asking if we needed assistance. We are stunned with surprise! 🙂



They are driving around checking on friends, clearing neighborhood fire hydrants and offering assistance with shoveling. TOP-CLASS ACT!

In addition, instead of us showing our appreciation, we were gifted with a bottle of The Federalist, a Zinfandel. YAY! 🙂

I enjoyed the wine so much the first time, I had to have it again.

Color and Aromas – Rich color and vibrant smoky, chocolate and prunes aromas.

Taste – The first sip has me perplexed; very complex, well-balanced flavors: hints of raisins, bold prunes with a slight herbal on the finish.

The second, third and fourth sips – I can’t stop sipping. I’m trying to identify the multiples flavors that has my palate doing cartwheels. Firm chalky tannins at the end of every sip, has a short finish. The wine is at proper temperature of 56 degrees… I will allow the wine to breathe a bit longer and see what flavors presents itself.

The fifth sipthe prunes are friggin amazing!” Prunes, cherry, woodsy flavors are emerging.

Time to locate the tasting notes and see what’s behind “The Federalist”; from federalistwines.com:

The Federalist Zinfandel has robust fruit with bright berry fruit character, and its lively acidity allows it to partner well with a wide variety of foods. 

Bottle Size: 750 ml
Appellation: Sonoma County
Sub-Appellation: Dry Creek Valley
Grape Varieties: Zinfandel; Carignane
Alcohol Percentage: 14.90%
Fermentation: Different blocks were
   fermented separately to preserve ideal
   characteristics of each. Each block spends an
    average of 12 days on the skins.
Aging: The separate blocks were blended post
   malolactic fermentation and aged for 16 months
  in 20% new oak barrels.”

I’m still sipping and the tannins has soften and I’m now tasting the skins of the grape.

The Federalist, you are one of a kind Zinfandel! Zinlovers this is a must try!

Brett and Jesse thank you, again for the wine!

Folks, swing by one of Tobaccology’s locations for premium cigars, tobacco products and accessories. Also, check out Amoxes’s frescos. 🙂

Address: 11001 Nokesville Rd, Manassas, VA 20110
Phone: (703) 330-1511
Hours: 12–10PM

Address: 6710 Madison St, Haymarket, VA 20169
Hours: 12–10PM

Salute! Sante!

Rome Anejo and Petit Verdot


ROME Anejo, at first puff, produces full peppery flavors with a hint of mineral that reminds me of Cabernet Franc. (I find myself continuously sniffing the cigar wrapper). This a smooth medium-full bodied smoke with a slight cocoa aroma and taste; very nice! 



Romeo y Julieta cigars, named after Shakespeare’s play, was created in Cuba in1875. In 1946 after visiting Cuba, Winston Churchill became a devoted fan of Romeo y Julieta cigars. Out of appreciation, Romeo y Julieta named a cigar size after Winston Churchill.

“After the Cuban embargo, production of Romeo y Julieta cigars moved to the Dominican Republic, where the medium-bodied cigars are more popular than ever and sought after for their flavor, construction, and consistency.” Today, the majority of Romeo y Julieta cigars are hand made at the renowned Tabacalera de García factory.” (romeoyjulietacigars.com)

ROMEO Añejo is created with the finest stalk cut, dark Connecticut broadleaf wrapper and double fermented 2008 vintage blend of Nicaraguan and Honduran sun grown tobaccos that are aged in special cedar cajones (yes, I had to research cajon, which is a drum/box made of cedar). The result of this aging process produced rich and robust smoke featuring coffee and dark chocolate notes. (romeoyjulietacigars.com)



Amoxes firing up a Rome Anejo


Now, let’s see how well ROME Anejo pairs with a 2013 Paradise Springs of Clifton Petit Verdot. I suspect the peppery flavors of the cigar to enhance the spicy and peppery flavors in the Petit Verdot



Petit Verdot is a full-bodied red wine and is one of the Bordeaux varietals (In case you were wondering, there are five Bordeaux varietals: Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc). Petit Verdot is typically used as a blending wine. However, it does very well in Virginia bottled as a single varietal. Virginia produces magnificent Petit Verdot!

Paradise Springs of Clifton 2013 Petit Verdot has rich dark color, blackberries aromas and just as I predicted a very nice match with the ROME Anejo. The spicy flavors enhance each other, creating long firm tannins.



I love Petit Verdot! I love so much; in 2010, I was barrel owner of Pearmund Cellars 2009 Petit Verdot. In addition to Paradise Springs and Pearmund Cellars, Virginia wineries, Chrysalis Vineyards produces an amazing Petit Verdot.

Petit Verdot is an exceptional wine to pair with a medium-full and full bodied cigars. Hmmm, I foresee a vertical tasting of Petit Verdot and cigar challenge :).


Salute! Sante’!

Varietals Pronunciation and Characteristics


Cleaning out my email, I came across an excerpt on “Varietal Characteristics” written by James Laube and James Moleworth that was posted on April 13, 1996.

I’m assuming I saved the excerpt from Wine Spectator magazine website or email. What is fascinating the authors demonstrating to the reader the correct pronunciation of varietals, at the same time providing some background on varietals.

My friends know that I can butcher the English language. You would think I originated from another country. You should hear me learning French; its become a comical show for my husband who says that I sound like a minion. Well, I blame this on my Gullah/Geechee mother and Jamaican father. My mother’s family are from Beaufort, South Carolina (born and raised on St. Helena’s Island, SC) and speak “Gullah/Geechee”. I invite you to listen to this wonderful woman, Caroline speak Gullah/Geechee and English, which  sounds exactly like the women in my family 🙂 :





With that being said, it was and still is important to know the proper pronunciation of varietals. James Laube, a Wine Spectator Editor, author of the following books:

  • California Wine, first and second editions
  • California’s Great Cabernets
  • California’s Great Chardonnays

and James Molesworth, a Senior Editor at Wine Spectator has done a fantastic job in educating us on the proper pronunciation of grape varieties and their characteristics.



Following is Laube and Molesworth April 13, 1996, post on proper varietals pronunciations and characteristics:


“In order to appreciate wine, it’s essential to understand the characteristics different grapes offer and how those characteristics should be expressed in wines.

Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Zinfandel are all red grapes, but as wines their personalities are quite different. Even when grown in different appellations and vinified using different techniques, a varietal wine always displays certain qualities, which are inherent in the grape’s personality. Muscat should always be spicy, Sauvignon Blanc a touch herbal. Zinfandel is zesty, with pepper and wild berry flavors. Cabernet Sauvignon is marked by plum, currant and black cherry flavors and firm tannins.

Understanding what a grape should be as a wine is fundamental, and knowing what a grape can achieve at its greatest is the essence of fine-wine appreciation.

In Europe, the finest wines are known primarily by geographic appellation (although this is changing; witness the occasional French and Italian varietals). Elsewhere, however—as in America, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand—most wines are labeled by their varietal names; even, sometimes, by grape combinations (Cabernet-Shiraz, for example). To a large extent, this is because in the United States, the process of sorting out which grapes grow best in which appellations is ongoing and Americans were first introduced to fine wine by varietal name. In Europe, with a longer history for matching grape types to soil and climate, the research is more conclusive: Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, for instance, are the major grapes of Burgundy.

Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petite Verdot are the red grapes of Bordeaux. Syrah dominates northern Rhône reds. Barolo and Barbaresco are both made of Nebbiolo, but the different appellations produce different styles of wine. In Tuscany, Sangiovese provides the backbone of Chianti. A different clone of Sangiovese is used for Brunello di Montalcino.

As a result, Europeans are used to wines with regional names.In time, the New World’s appellation system may well evolve into one more like Europe’s. Already California appellations such as Carneros and Santa Maria Valley are becoming synonymous with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, Oregon’s Willamette Valley is known for Pinot Noir and Australia’s Hunter Valley for Shiraz; back in California, Rutherford, Oakville and the Stags Leap District are all associated with Cabernet-based red table wines. Wineries with vested financial interests in these appellations and the marketing clout to emphasize the distinctive features of the wines grown in these areas will determine how the appellation system evolves and whether specific wine styles emerge. The appellations themselves will also determine which grapes excel and deserve special recognition.

Following are descriptions of the most commonly used Vitis vinifera grapes. American wine is also made from native Vitis labrusca, especially the Concord grape…

BARBERA (Red) [bar-BEHR-uh]
Most successful in Italy’s Piedmont region, where it makes such wines as Barbera d’Asti, Barbera di Monferato and Barbera di Alba. Its wines are characterized by a high level of acidity (meaning brightness and crispness), deep ruby color and full body, with low tannin levels; flavors are berrylike. However, plantings have declined sharply in the United States. A few wineries still produce it as a varietal wine, but those numbers too are dwindling. Its main attribute as a blending wine is its ability to maintain a naturally high acidity even in hot climates. The wine has more potential than is currently realized and may stage a modest comeback as Italian-style wines gain popularity.

BRUNELLO (Red) [broo-NEHL-oh]
This strain of Sangiovese is the only grape permitted for Brunello di Montalcino, the rare, costly Tuscan red that at its best is loaded with luscious black and red fruits and chewy tannins.

Increasingly popular as both stand-alone varietal and blending grape, Cabernet Franc is used primarily for blending in Bordeaux, although it can rise to great heights in quality, as seen in the grand wine Cheval-Blanc. In France’s Loire Valley it’s also made into a lighter wine called Chinon. It is well established in Italy, particularly the northeast, where it is sometimes called Cabernet Frank or Bordo. California has grown it for more than 30 years, and Argentina, Long Island, Washington state and New Zealand are picking it up.

As a varietal wine, it usually benefits from small amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, and can be as intense and full-bodied as either of those wines. But it often strays away from currant and berry notes into stalky green flavors that become more pronounced with age. Given its newness in the United States, Cabernet Franc may just need time to get more attention and rise in quality.

Much blended with Cabernet Sauvignon, it may be a Cabernet Sauvignon mutation adapted to cooler, damper conditions. Typically light- to medium-bodied wine with more immediate fruit than Cabernet Sauvignon and some of the herbaceous odors evident in unripe Cabernet Sauvignon.

CABERNET SAUVIGNON (Red) [cab-er-NAY SO-vin-yon]
The undisputed king of red wines, Cabernet is a remarkably steady and consistent performer throughout much of the state. While it grows well in many appellations, in specific appellations it is capable of rendering wines of uncommon depth, richness, concentration and longevity. Bordeaux has used the grape since the 18th century, always blending it with Cabernet Franc, Merlot and sometimes a soupçon of Petite Verdot. The Bordeaux model is built around not only the desire to craft complex wines, but also the need to ensure that different grape varieties ripen at different intervals or to give a wine color, tannin or backbone.

Elsewhere in the world—and it is found almost everywhere in the world—Cabernet Sauvignon is as likely to be bottled on its own as in a blend. It mixes with Sangiovese in Tuscany, Syrah in Australia and Provence, and Merlot and Cabernet Franc in South Africa, but flies solo in some of Italy’s super-Tuscans. In the United States, it’s unlikely any region will surpass Napa Valley’s high-quality Cabernets and Cabernet blends. Through most of the grape’s history in California (which dates to the 1800s), the best Cabernets have been 100 percent Cabernet. Since the late 1970s, many vintners have turned to the Bordeaux model and blended smaller portions of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petite Verdot into their Cabernets. The case for blending is still under review, but clearly there are successes. On the other hand, many U.S. producers are shifting back to higher percentages of Cabernet, having found that blending doesn’t add complexity and that Cabernet on its own has a stronger character.

At its best, unblended Cabernet produces wines of great intensity and depth of flavor. Its classic flavors are currant, plum, black cherry and spice. It can also be marked by herb, olive, mint, tobacco, cedar and anise, and ripe, jammy notes. In warmer areas, it can be supple and elegant; in cooler areas, it can be marked by pronounced vegetal, bell pepper, oregano and tar flavors (a late ripener, it can’t always be relied on in cool areas, which is why Germany, for example, has never succumbed to the lure). It can also be very tannic if that is a feature of the desired style. The best Cabernets start out dark purple-ruby in color, with firm acidity, a full body, great intensity, concentrated flavors and firm tannins.

Cabernet has an affinity for oak and usually spends 15 to 30 months in new or used French or American barrels, a process that, when properly executed imparts a woody, toasty cedar or vanilla flavor to the wine while slowly oxidizing it and softening the tannins. Microclimates are a major factor in the weight and intensity of the Cabernets. Winemakers also influence the style as they can extract high levels of tannin and heavily oak their wines.

CARIGNAN (Red) [karin-YAN]
Also known as Carignane (California), Cirnano (Italy). Once a major blending grape for jug wines, Carignan’s popularity has diminished, and plantings have dropped from 25,111 acres in 1980 to 8,883 in 1994. It still appears in some blends, and old vineyards are sought after for the intensity of their grapes. But the likelihood is that other grapes with even more intensity and flavor will replace it in the future.

CARMENERE (Red) [car-men-YEHR]
Also known as Grande Vidure, this grape was once widely planted in Bordeaux, but is now associated primarily with Chile. Carmenere, along with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, was imported to Chile around 1850. According to Chilean vintners, Carmenere has been mislabeled for so long that many growers and the Chilean government now consider it Merlot.

CHARBONO (Red) [SHAR-bono]
Found mainly in California (and possibly actually Dolcetto), this grape has dwindled in acreage. Its stature as a wine was supported mainly by Inglenook-Napa Valley, which bottled a Charbono on a regular basis. Occasionally it made for interesting drinking and it aged well. But more often it was lean and tannic, a better story than bottle of wine. A few wineries still produce it, but none with any success.

CHARDONNAY (White) [shar-dun-NAY]
As Cabernet Sauvignon is the king of reds, so is Chardonnay the king of white wines, for it makes consistently excellent, rich and complex whites. This is an amazingly versatile grape that grows well in a variety of locations throughout the world. In Burgundy, it is used for the exquisite whites, such as Montrachet, Meursault and Pouilly-Fuissè, and true Chablis; in Champagne it turns into Blanc de Blancs. Among the many other countries that have caught Chardonnay fever, Australia is especially strong.

Chardonnay was introduced to California in the 1930s but didn’t become popular until the 1970s. Areas such as Anderson Valley, Carneros, Monterey, Russian River, Santa Barbara and Santa Maria Valley, all closer to cooler maritime influences, are now producing wines far superior to those made a decade ago.

Though there is a Mâconnais village called Chardonnay, no one agrees on the grape’s origin—it may even be Middle Eastern.

When well made, Chardonnay offers bold, ripe, rich and intense fruit flavors of apple, fig, melon, pear, peach, pineapple, lemon and grapefruit, along with spice, honey, butter, butterscotch and hazelnut flavors. Winemakers build more complexity into this easy-to-manipulate wine using common vinification techniques: barrel fermentation, sur lie aging during which the wine is left on its natural sediment, and malolactic fermentation (a process which converts tart malic acid to softer lactic acid). No other white table wine benefits as much from oak aging or barrel fermentation. Chardonnay grapes have a fairly neutral flavor, and because they are usually crushed or pressed and not fermented with their skins the way red wines are, whatever flavors emerge from the grape are extracted almost instantly after crushing. Red wines that soak with their skins for days or weeks through fermentation extract their flavors quite differently.

Because Chardonnay is also a prolific producer that can easily yield 4 to 5 tons of high-quality grapes per acre, it is a cash cow for producers in every country where it’s grown. Many American and Australian Chardonnays are very showy, well oaked and appealing on release, but they lack the richness, depth and concentration to age and have in fact evolved rather quickly, often losing their intensity and concentration within a year or two. Many vintners, having studied and recognized this, are now sharply reducing crop yields, holding tonnage down to 2 to 3 tons per acre in the belief that this will lead to greater concentration. The only downside to this strategy is that lower crop loads lead to significantly less wine to sell, therefore higher prices as well.

Chardonnay’s popularity has also led to a huge market of ordinary wines, so there’s a broad range of quality to choose from in this varietal. There are a substantial number of domestic Chardonnays, which can range from simple and off-dry to more complex and sophisticated. The producer’s name on the wine, and often its price, are indicators of the level of quality.

This native of the Loire Valley has two personalities: at home it’s the basis of such famous, long-lived whites as Vouvray and Anjou, Quarts de Chaume and Saumur, but on other soils it becomes just a very good blending grape. It is South Africa’s most-planted grape, though there is called Steen, and both there and in California it is currently used primarily as a blending grape for generic table wines. Chenin Blanc should perform better in California, and someday it may. It can yield a pleasant enough wine, with subtle melon, peach, spice and citrus notes. The great Loire whites vary from dry and fresh to sweet, depending on the vintage and the producer. In South Africa, Chenin Blanc is even used for fortified wines and spirits.

DOLCETTO (Red) [dole-CHET-to]
Almost exclusive to northwest Piedmont, this produces soft, round, fruity wines fragrant with licorice and almonds that should be drunk within about three years. It’s used as a safety net for producers of Nebbiolo and Barbera wines, which take much longer to age. There are seven DOCs: Acqui, Alba, Asti, Dinao d’Alba, Dogliani, Langhe Monregalesi and Ovada.

see Sauvignon Blanc

GAMAY (Red) [ga-MAY]
Beaujolais makes its famous, fruity reds exclusively from one of the many Gamays available, the Gamay Noir à Jus Blanc. Low in alcohol and relatively high in acidity, the wines are meant to be drunk soon after bottling; the ultimate example of this is Beaujolais Nouveau, whipped onto shelves everywhere almost overnight. It is also grown in the Loire, but makes no remarkable wines. The Swiss grow it widely, for blending with Pinot Noir; they often chaptalize the wines.

California, meanwhile, grows a variety called Gamay Beaujolais, a high-yield clone of Pinot Noir that makes undistinguished wines in most places where it’s grown. In the United States the grape is used primarily for blending, and acreage is declining, as those serious about Pinot Noir are using superior clones and planting in cooler areas.

GEWÜRZTRAMINER (White) [geh-VERTS-trah-mee-ner]
Gewürztraminer can yield magnificent wines, as is best demonstrated in Alsace, France, where it is made in a variety of styles from dry to off-dry to sweet. The grape needs a cool climate that allows it to get ripe. It’s a temperamental grape to grow and vinify, as its potent spiciness can be overbearing when unchecked. At its best, it produces a floral and refreshing wine with crisp acidity that pairs well with spicy dishes. When left for late harvest, it’s uncommonly rich and complex, a tremendous dessert wine.

It is also popular in eastern Europe, New Zealand and the Pacific Northwest.

Drought- and heat-resistant, it yields a fruity, spicy, medium-bodied wine with supple tannins. The second most widely planted grape in the world, Grenache is widespread in the southern Rhône. It is blended to produce Châteauneuf-du-Pape (although there are some pure varietals) and used on its own for the rosés of Tavel and Lirac; it is also used in France’s sweet Banyuls wine. Important in Spain, where it’s known as Garnacha Tinta, it is especially noteworthy in Rioja and Priorato. Grenache used to be popular in Australia, but has now been surpassed by Syrah; a few Barossa Valley producers are making wines similar to Châteauneuf-du-Pape. In California it’s a workhorse blending grape, though occasionally an old vineyard is found and its grapes made into a varietal wine, which at its best can be good. It may make a comeback as enthusiasts of Rhône style seek cooler areas and an appropriate blending grape.

Also, Grenache Blanc, known in Spain as Garnacha Blanca, which is bottled in the Southern Rhône. It’s used for blending in France’s Rousillon and the Languedoc, and in various Spanish whites, including Rioja.

The most widely planted grape in Austria, it can be found to a lesser extent in some other parts of eastern Europe. It achieves its qualitative pinnacle in the Wachau, Kremstal and Kamptal regions along the Danube River west of Vienna. Grüner, as it’s called for short, shows distinct white pepper, tobacco, lentil and citrus flavors and aromas, along with high acidity, making it an excellent partner for food. Grüner is singularly unique in its flavor profile, and though it rarely has the finesse and breeding of the best Austrian Rieslings (though it can come close when grown on granite soils), it is similar in body and texture.

MALBEC (Red) [MAHL-beck]
Once important in Bordeaux and the Loire in various blends, this not-very-hardy grape has been steadily replaced by Merlot and the two Cabernets. However, Argentina is markedly successful with this varietal. In the United States Malbec is a blending grape only, and an insignificant one at that, but a few wineries use it, the most obvious reason being that it’s considered part of the Bordeaux-blend recipe.

MARSANNE (White) [mahr-SANN]
Popular in the Rhône (along with Grenache Blanc, Roussanne and Viognier). Australia, especially in Victoria, has some of the world’s oldest vineyards. At its best, Marsanne can be a full-bodied, moderately intense wine with spice, pear and citrus notes.

MERLOT (Red) [mur-LO]
Merlot is the red-wine success of the 1990s: its popularity has soared along with its acreage, and it seems wine lovers can’t drink enough of it. It dominates Bordeaux, except for the Médoc and Graves. Though it is mainly used for the Bordeaux blend, it can stand alone. In St.-Emilion and Pomerol, especially, it produces noteworthy wines, culminating in Château Pétrus. In Italy it’s everywhere, though most of the Merlot is light, unremarkable stuff. But Ornellaia and Fattoria de Ama are strong exceptions to that rule. Despite its popularity, its quality ranges only from good to very good most of the time, though there are a few stellar producers found around the world.

Several styles have emerged. One is a Cabernet-style Merlot, which includes a high percentage (up to 25 percent) of Cabernet, similar currant and cherry flavors and firm tannins. A second style is less reliant on Cabernet, softer, more supple, medium-weight, less tannic and features more herb, cherry and chocolate flavors. A third style is a very light and simple wine; this type’s sales are fueling Merlot’s overall growth.

Like Cabernet, Merlot can benefit from some blending, as Cabernet can give it backbone, color and tannic strength. It also marries well with oak. Merlot is relatively new in California, dating to the early 1970s, and is a difficult grape to grow, as it sets and ripens unevenly. Many critics believe Washington state has a slight quality edge with this wine. By the year 2000, vintners should have a better idea of which areas are best suited to this grape variety. As a wine, Merlot’s aging potential is fair to good. It may be softer with age, but often the fruit flavors fade and the herbal flavors dominate.

There is also an unrelated Merlot Blanc.

MOURVÈDRE (Red) [more-VAY-druh]
As long as the weather is warm, Mourvèdre likes a wide variety of soils. It’s popular across the south of France, especially in Provence and the Côtes-du-Rhône, and is often used in Châteauneuf-du-Pape; Languedoc makes it as a varietal. Spain uses it in many areas, including Valencia. In the United States it’s a minor factor now, pursued by a few wineries that specialize in Rhône-style wines. The wine can be pleasing, with medium-weight, spicy cherry and berry flavors and moderate tannins. It ages well.

MUSCAT (White) [MUSS-kat]
Known as Muscat, Muscat Blanc and Muscat Canelli, it is marked by strong spice and floral notes and can be used in blending, its primary function in California. Moscato in Italy, Moscatel in Iberia: This grape can turn into anything from the low-alcohol, sweet and frothy Asti Spumante and Muscat de Canelli to bone-dry wines like Muscat d’Alsace. It also produces fortified wine such as Beaumes de Venise.

NEBBIOLO (Red) [NEH-bee-oh-low]
The great grape of Northern Italy, which excels there in Barolo and Barbaresco, strong, ageable wines. Mainly unsuccessful elsewhere, Nebbiolo also now has a small foothold in California. So far the wines are light and uncomplicated, bearing no resemblance to the Italian types.”


This addition is for a tasting room manager who I will refer to “Pretentious Pete”. “Pretentious Pete” (who’s nickname is well-deserved) instructed his tasting room staff to pronounce Petit Manseng as (Petty Mansang). While in France, he heard a French man pronounce Petit Manseng, in this manner. My response, “So, do you pronounce Petit Verdot as Petty Verdot?” He was silent. Throughout our tasting he was rude and highly critical of another vineyard’s wines, which was very distasteful and 100% incorrect. “Pretentious Pete” became speechless when we shared we frequently visit said vineyard and the owner always shares the exclusive wines. The irony of the story is we heard this story before about a disrecptpful vineyard manager making demands. We just didn’t know the identity of the vineyard manager, until now…

For giggles: here’s one of many pronunciations of Petit Manseng I located:


So, if you are in the Southwest of France, you will hear the pronunciation as “pә/tee” and elsewhere “peh-TEET”. My husband who speaks fluent French informed it is also depends on dialect. Therefore, depending on where you are located you will hear both versions. “Pretentious Pete” Lightened Up!

To maintain the content structure of this blog, I will provide some background information on Petit Manseng. Petit Manseng is from South West France, the grapes are naturally high in sugar. “The grape has thick skins that inhibit the botrytis fungus. Its naturally low yields are further concentrated through “passerillage”, a technique in which the grapes are allowed to partially dehydrate on the vine. It is harvested as late as November” (Wines of South West France). Petit Manseng is commonly vinified as a sweet wine with characteristics of peach, apricot, citrus and sweet spice. Also, Virginia Wine Country is producing delicious Petit Manseng wines, many semi-sweet. I highly recommend Pearmund Cellars’ Petit Manseng, dry and fruity.


“PETITE SIRAH (Red) [peh-TEET sih-RAH]

Known for its dark hue and firm tannins, Petite Sirah has often been used as a blending wine to provide color and structure, particularly to Zinfandel. On its own, Petite Sirah can also make intense, peppery, ageworthy wines, but few experts consider it as complex as Syrah itself.

There has been much confusion over the years about Petite Sirah’s origins. For a long time, the grape was thought to be completely unrelated to Syrah, despite its name. Petite Sirah was believed to actually be Durif, a minor red grape variety first grown in southern France in the late 1800s. However, recent DNA research shows Petite Sirah and Syrah are related after all. A study done at the University of California at Davis determined not only that 90 percent of the Petite Sirah found in California is indeed Durif, but also that Durif is a cross between Peloursin and Syrah.

Just to make things more confusing, in France, growers refer to different variants of Syrah as Petite and Grosse, which has to do with the yield of the vines.

Often referred to as a poor man’s Chardonnay because of its similar flavor and texture profile, Pinot Blanc is used in Champagne, Burgundy, Alsace, Germany, Italy and California and can make a terrific wine. When well made, it is intense, concentrated and complex, with ripe pear, spice, citrus and honey notes. Can age, but is best early on while its fruit shines through.

Known as Pinot Grigio in Italy, where it is mainly found in the northeast, producing quite a lot of undistinguished dry white wine and Collio’s excellent whites. As Pinot Gris, it used to be grown in Burgundy and the Loire, though it has been supplanted, but it comes into its own in Alsace—where it’s known as Tokay. Southern Germany plants it as Ruländer. When good, this varietal is soft, gently perfumed and has more color than most whites.

Pinot Noir, the great grape of Burgundy, is a touchy variety. The best examples offer the classic black cherry, spice, raspberry and currant flavors, and an aroma that can resemble wilted roses, along with earth, tar, herb and cola notes. It can also be rather ordinary, light, simple, herbal, vegetal and occasionally weedy. It can even be downright funky, with pungent barnyard aromas. In fact, Pinot Noir is the most fickle of all grapes to grow: It reacts strongly to environmental changes such as heat and cold spells, and is notoriously fussy to work with once picked, since its thin skins are easily bruised and broken, setting the juice free. Even after fermentation, Pinot Noir can hide its weaknesses and strengths, making it a most difficult wine to evaluate out of barrel. In the bottle, too, it is often a chameleon, showing poorly one day, brilliantly the next.

The emphasis on cooler climates coincides with more rigorous clonal selection, eliminating those clones suited for sparkling wine, which have even thinner skins. These days there is also a greater understanding of and appreciation for different styles of Pinot Noir wine, even if there is less agreement about those styles—should it be rich, concentrated and loaded with flavor, or a wine of elegance, finesse and delicacy? Or can it, in classic Pinot Noir sense, be both? Even varietal character remains subject to debate. Pinot Noir can certainly be tannic, especially when it is fermented with some of its stems, a practice that many vintners around the world believe contributes to the wine’s backbone and longevity. Pinot Noir can also be long-lived, but predicting with any precision which wines or vintages will age is often the ultimate challenge in forecasting.

Pinot Noir is the classic grape of Burgundy and also of Champagne, where it is pressed immediately after picking in order to yield white juice. It is just about the only red grown in Alsace. In California, it excelled in the late 1980s and early 1990s and seems poised for further progress. Once producers stopped vinifying it as if it were Cabernet, planted vineyards in cooler climates and paid closer attention to tonnage, quality increased substantially. It’s fair to say that California and Oregon have a legitimate claim to producing world-class Pinot Noir.
RIESLING (White) [REES-ling]
One of the world’s greatest white wine grapes, the Riesling vine’s hardy wood makes it extremely resistant to frost. The variety excels in cooler climates, where its tendency to ripen slowly makes it an excellent source for sweet wines made from grapes attacked by the noble rot Botrytis cinerea, which withers the grapes’ skin and concentrates their natural sugar levels.

Riesling is best known for producing the wines of Germany’s Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Pfalz, Rheinhessen and Rheingau wines, but it also achieves brilliance in Alsace and Austria. While the sweet German Beerenauslese and Trockenbeerenauslese wines, along with Alsace’s famed Selection de Grains Nobles, are often celebrated for their high sugar levels and ability to age almost endlessly, they are rare and expensive.

More commonly, Riesling produces dry or just off-dry versions. Its high acidity and distinctive floral, citrus, peach and mineral accents have won dry Riesling many fans. The variety pairs well with food and has an uncanny knack for transmitting the elements of its vineyard source (what the French call terroir).

The wines from Germany’s Mosel region are perhaps the purest expression of the grape, offering lime, pie crust, apple, slate and honeysuckle characteristics on a light-bodied and racy frame. Germany’s Rheinhessen, Rheingau and Pfalz regions produces wines of similar characteristics, but with increasing body and spice.

In Alsace, Riesling is most often made in a dry style, full-bodied, with a distinct petrol aroma. In Austria, Riesling plays second fiddle to Grüner Veltliner in terms of quantity, but when grown on favored sites it offers wines with great focus and clarity allied to the grape’s typically racy frame.

In other regions, Riesling struggles to maintain its share of vineyard plantings, but it can be found (often under synonyms such as White Riesling, Rhine Riesling or Johannisberg Riesling) in California, Oregon, Washington, New York’s Finger Lakes region, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, South America and Canada.

SANGIOVESE (Red) [san-geeo-VEHS-eh]
Sangiovese is best known for providing the backbone for many superb Italian red wines from Chianti and Brunello di Montalcino, as well as the so-called super-Tuscan blends. Sangiovese is distinctive for its supple texture and medium-to full-bodied spice, raspberry, cherry and anise flavors. When blended with a grape such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese gives the resulting wine a smoother texture and lightens up the tannins.

It is somewhat surprising that Sangiovese wasn’t more popular in California given the strong role Italian immigrants have played in the state’s winemaking heritage, but now the grape appears to have a bright future in the state, both as a stand-alone varietal wine and for use in blends with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and maybe even Zinfandel. Expect sweeping stylistic changes as winemakers learn more about how the grape performs in different locales as well as how it marries with different grapes. Worth watching.

Another white with a notable aroma, this one “grassy” or “musky.” The pure varietal is found mainly in the Loire, at Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé, As part of a blend, the grape is all over Bordeaux, in Pessac-Léognan, Graves and the Médoc whites; it also shows up in Sauternes. New Zealand has had striking success with Sauvignon Blanc, producing its own perfumed, fruity style that spread across North America and then back to France.

In the United States, Robert Mondavi rescued the varietal in the 1970s by labeling it Fumé Blanc, and he and others have enjoyed success with it. The key to success seems to be in taming its overt varietal intensity, which at its extreme leads to pungent grassy, vegetal and herbaceous flavors. Many winemakers treat it like in a sort of poor man’s Chardonnay, employing barrel fermentation, sur lie aging and malolactic fermentation. But its popularity comes as well from the fact that it is a prodigious producer and a highly profitable wine to make. It can be crisp and refreshing, matches well with foods, costs less to produce and grow than Chardonnay and sells for less. It also gets less respect from vintners than perhaps it should. Its popularity ebbs and flows, at times appearing to challenge Chardonnay and at other times appearing to be a cash-flow afterthought. But even at its best, it does not achieve the kind of richness, depth or complexity Chardonnay does and in the end that alone may be the defining difference.

Sauvignon Blanc grows well in a variety of appellations. It marries well with oak and Sémillon, and many vintners are adding a touch of Chardonnay for extra body. The wine drinks best in its youth, but sometimes will benefit from short-term cellaring. As a late-harvest wine, it’s often fantastic, capable of yielding amazingly complex and richly flavored wines.

SÉMILLON (White) [SEM-ih-yon]
On its own or in a blend, this white can age. With Sauvignon Blanc, its traditional partner, this is the foundation of Sauternes and most of the great dry whites found in Graves and Pessac-Léognan; these are rich, honeyed wines. Sémillon is one of the grapes susceptible to Botrytis cinerea. Australia’s Hunter Valley uses it solo to make a full-bodied white that used to be known as Hunger Riesling, Chablis or White Burgundy. In South Africa it used to be so prevalent that it was just called “wine grape,” but it has declined drastically in importance there.

In the United States, Sémillon enjoys modest success as a varietal wine in California and Washington, but it continues to lose ground in acreage in California. It can make a wonderful late-harvest wine, and those wineries that focus on it can make well balanced wines with complex fig, pear, tobacco and honey notes. When blended into Sauvignon Blanc, it adds body, flavor and texture. When Sauvignon Blanc is added to Sémillon, the latter gains grassy herbal notes.

It can also be found blended with Chardonnay, more to fill out the volume of wine than to add anything to the package.

SYRAH or SHIRAZ (Red) [sih-RAH or shih-RAHZ]
Hermitage and Côte-Rôtie in France, Penfolds Grange in Australia—the epitome of Syrah is a majestic red that can age for half a century. The grape seems to grow well in a number of areas and is capable of rendering rich, complex and distinctive wines, with pronounced pepper, spice, black cherry, tar, leather and roasted nut flavors, a smooth, supple texture and smooth tannins. In southern France it finds its way into various blends, as in Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Languedoc-Roussillon. Known as Shiraz in Australia, it was long used for bread-and-butter blends, but an increasing number of high-quality bottlings are being made, especially from old vines in the Barossa Valley.

In the United States, Syrah’s rise in quality is most impressive. It appears to have the early-drinking appeal of Pinot Noir and Zinfandel and few of the eccentricities of Merlot, and may well prove far easier to grow and vinify than any other red wines aside from Cabernet.

TEMPRANILLO (Red) [temp-rah-NEE-yo]
Spain’s major contribution to red wine, Tempranillo is indigenous to the country and is rarely grown elsewhere. It is the dominant grape in the red wines from Rioja and Ribera del Duero, two of Spain’s most important wine regions.

In Rioja, Tempranillo is often blended with Garnacha, Mazuelo and a few other minor grapes. When made in a traditional style, Tempranillo can be garnet-hued, with flavors of tea, brown sugar and vanilla. When made in a more modern style, it can display aromas and flavors redolent of plums, tobacco and cassis, along with very dark color and substantial tannins. Whatever the style, Riojas tend to be medium-bodied wines, offering more acidity than tannin.

In Ribera del Duero, wines are also divided along traditional and modern styles, and show similarities to Rioja. The more modern styled Riberas, however, can be quite powerful, offering a density and tannic structure similar to that of Cabernet Sauvignon.

Tempranillo is known variously throughout Spain as Cencibel, Tinto del Pais, Tinto Fino, Ull de Llebre and Ojo. It’s also grown along the Douro River in Portugal under the monikers Tinta Roriz (used in the making of Port) and Tinta Aragonez.

TREBBIANO or UGNI BLANC (White) [treh-bee-AH-no or OO-nee BLAHNK]
This is Trebbiano in Italy and Ugni Blanc in France. It is tremendously prolific; low in alcohol but high in acidity, it is found in almost any basic white Italian wine. It is so ingrained in Italian winemaking that it is actually a sanctioned ingredient of the blend used for (red) Chianti and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. Most current Tuscan producers do not add it to their wines, however.

The French, who also often call this grape St.-Émilion, used it for Cognac and Armagnac brandy; Ugni Blanc grapevines outnumbered Chardonnay by five to one in France during the ’80s.
VIOGNIER (White) [vee-oh-NYAY]
Viognier, the rare white grape of France’s Rhône Valley, is one of the most difficult grapes to grow, But fans of the floral, spicy white wine are thrilled by its prospects in the south of France and the new world. So far most of the Viogners produced in the United States are rather one-dimensional, with an abundance of spiciness but less complexity than they should have. Still, there are a few bright spots.

It is used in Condrieu’s rare whites and sometimes blended with reds in the Northern Rhône. There are also a variety of bottlings available from southern France, most of them somewhat light.

ZINFANDEL (Red) [ZIHN-fan-dell]
The origins of this tremendously versatile and popular grape are not known for certain, although it is thought to have come from Southern Italy as a cousin of Primitivo. It is the most widely planted red grape in California (though Australia has also played around with the grape). Much of it is vinified into white Zinfandel, a blush-colored, slightly sweet wine. Real Zinfandel, the red wine, is the quintessential California wine. It has been used for blending with other grapes, including Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah. It has been made in a claret style, with berry and cherry flavors, mild tannins and pretty oak shadings. It has been made into a full-bodied, ultraripe, intensely flavored and firmly tannic wine designed to age. And it has been made into late-harvest and Port-style wines that feature very ripe, raisiny flavors, alcohol above 15 percent and chewy tannins.

Zinfandel’s popularity among consumers fluctuates. In the 1990s Zinfandel is enjoying another groundswell of popularity, as winemakers took renewed interest, focusing on higher-quality vineyards in areas well suited to Zinfandel. Styles aimed more for the mainstream and less for extremes, emphasizing the grape’s zesty, spicy pepper, raspberry, cherry, wild berry and plum flavors, and its complex range of tar, earth and leather notes. Zinfandel lends itself to blending.

Zinfandel is a challenging grape to grow: its berry size varies significantly within a bunch, which leads to uneven ripening. Because of that, Zinfandel often needs to hang on the vine longer to ripen as many berries as possible. Closer attention to viticulture and an appreciation for older vines, which tend to produce smaller crops of uniformly higher quality, account for better balanced wines.”


  • Excerpted from James Laube’s book “California Wine,” with additions by James Molesworth. 
  • Content appearing above in red is from Treevinos.

This an excellent resource and all of Laube books are located on amazon.com.

Salute! Sante’!

Wine Wednesday – Coronas 2012 Tempranillo


After playing with “snap chat” filters and trying to record a video, which took at least a hour. The girls had mercy on their mother and finally showed how to properly operate snap chat and record a video. This is the end product when you attempt to use the latest social media craze as your children. ROFL


I was so determined in becoming familiar with “snap chat” that my wine glass had already reached my lips and I was swallowing. DANG IT! I wanted to record a proper tasting. Well, based upon my initial response Coronas 2012 Tempranillo is DELICIOUS!

Slowly, I take a second sip. Mmmmm with every sip, a different expression escapes: (1) This Tempranillo is FANTASTIC! (2) OH MY GOODNESS! (3) So Juicy!

IMG_0199Okay, half of my glass is empty, it’s time to conduct a formal review. Paper and pencil are out (yes, I prefer writing with a pencil than a pen). Coronas 2012 Tempranillo is produced in Catalunya, Spain and posses bold fruity cherry aromas, fruit-forward, juicy, and berries flavors with a slight smokiness on the finish and long firm tannins. Twenty minutes later, I’m picking-up herbaceous aromas. Very nice complex wine! This spontaneous grocery shopping find has me intrigued.

The Torres family has been producing wine and brandy since 1907. Mr. Juan Torres trademarked Coronas on February 7, 1907. In 1928, the Torres family began wine distillation and aging brandy. In 1939, the winery was partially destroyed during the Spanish Civil War and reconstruction began a few years later. From 1996 to 1970, the family planted Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay grapes. I have to note, the Torres Family’s brandy was also becoming well-renowned and in1998, “Torres 20 Hors d’Age” brandy won the “Best Brandy in the World”. From 2000 to 2001, Wine Spectator labeled Bodegas Torres “The Most Important Winery in Spain” and was the only Spanish wine identified in the “Hall of Fame”. Fast-forwarding, Mr. Miguel Torres received the “Lifetime Achievement award by the International Wine Challenge (UK).

Bodegas Torres continues to receives awards and accolades throughout the years. For more information on the Torres Family’s wine and brandy visit:  http://www.torres.es/en/we-are/our-history

I predict there will be a large purchase of Coronas 2012 Tempranillo in the future. Most definitely need to get a taste of that award-winning Brandy. It’s time for a refill.

Salute! Sante’!