Wine Council Gathers to Review a Medley of Oregon and California Wines

 The Southern California Wine Review Council started the year 2021 by tasting an assemblage of wines from Oregon and California — a solo sauvignon blanc, a solo red blend, a trio of pinot noirs, and a quartet of petite sirahs.  We once again gathered in the beautiful tropical backyard of Robin and Marc Simpson.  Each member was assigned a wine to research and to bring a food that would pair well with their appointed wine.

Vezér Family Vineyard Blue Victorian Sauvignon Blanc, Suisan Valley, 2019 (($26)

Vezér Family Vineyard was established in 2001with their first grape plantings in the Suisun Valley (pronounced sue-soon). Often referred to as Napa’s “little sister Sue,” the Suisun Valley Appellation has alluvium fan deposits of silty and clay loams, and a Mediterranean climate.

The Blue Victorian Sauvignon Blanc is made from 100% estate vines of the varietal, and fermented in stainless steel and 25% New French oak.  This wine has aromatics of both citrus and tropical fruit, flavors of grapefruit, lemon and a touch of minerality, with a bright acidic lingering finish.  Paired with a colorful beet salad with apples, arugula, and blue cheese, the wine’s crisp acidity was pleasantly enhanced. 


Tres Sabores Headline Red, Sonoma County, 2017 ($30)

Julie Johnson established this certified organic winery, Tres Sabores in 1999.  Tres sabores is Spanish for three flavors, and this family-owned winery focusses on the three “flavors” of terroir, vine, and spirit for their wine.  It is located in Rutherford, Napa Valley.  Johnson is one of the founders of Women for Wine Sense, and she conducts seminars on Women in Wine and Regenerative Farming. This wine is a blend of St. Laurent (90%) and Malbec (10%).  The St. Laurent small-sized grape originated in Central Europe, in the Austria and Czech region.  However, its parentage is enigmatic.  The leading theory is that it evolved from a crossing of Pinot Noir and another unknown variety.  Floral aromas greet the nose, and cherry/wild berry flavors grace the palate.  The addition of Malbec lends more structure and tannins to the blend, making it a perfect pairing with the earthy, richly-flavored spanakopita and mushroom tarts. 


Oregon Trails Wine Company (OTWC) Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, 2016 ($25)

As a native Oregonian, I’ve taken many a road trip along the Oregon Trail.  I can imagine the pioneers’ delight upon ending their journey in the bountiful Willamette Valley, with its rich, volcanic soils.  The delicate Pinot Noir grape enjoys the valley’s wet, cool winters, and dry, warm summers. After the winemaking takes place at Oregon Trails Wine Company, the wine is sent to Santa Rosa to be cellared and bottled.  This medium-bodied, fruit forward wine with berry and cherry flavors played well with an equally well-balanced Cuban potato purée filled with seafood ragout (calamari, shrimp, and scallop).


Left Coast Cellars Cali's Cuvee Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, 2016 ($24)

Another Pinot Noir from the pinot-friendly Willamette Valley, Left Coast Estate is a family-owned winery, founded in 2003. Located in the middle of the valley and less than 40 miles from the Pacific Ocean, the winery designed a Lewis and Clark Expedition map for their label that pays homage to the explorers’ trek to the Northwest.  Their vineyards benefit from the cool ocean air that flows through the Van Duzer Corridor in Oregon’s Coastal Mountain Range, tempering the heat of summer.  Cali’s Cuvee Pinot Noir is named after the family’s daughter, who is left-handed.  With aromas of berries and stone fruit, flavors of cherry and ripe plum with a hint of smoky forest, this wine amplified the flavors of the smoked salmon, capers, and cream cheese on bagels pairing. 


Anchor Valley Pinot Noir Estate Vintage, Rogue Valley, 2017 ($30)

What do you get when the owner of a fashionable clothing business and bass player in a punk rock band go wine tasting in the Rogue Valley and meet a winemaker, a sommelier, and a couple of restauranteurs? Answer:  An eclectic partnership of wine enthusiasts that founds Anchor Valley Wine in 2018.  Anchor Valley sources grapes for their wine from the Roque Valley AVA.  The Pinot Noir we tasted had a captivating bouquet of fresh raspberries and holiday cranberry sauce, flavors of pomegranate, tobacco, and vanilla with a smooth, satiny finish. The intensity of the paired Italian meatball’s tomato sauce lent a vibrancy to the wine’s tannins.

Our last four tastings were Petite Sirah.  Although related to Syrah (Shiraz), it is a distinct grape varietal.  In the mid 19thcentury, François Durif, a French botanist, discovered a cross pollination of two vines in his nursery:  Syrah and Peloursin.  Peloursin is suspected of originating in southeastern France, in the Rhône-Alpes region.  Petite Sirah is also referred to as Durif, after its discoverer.  This bold wine is known for its deep purple color, rich dark berry flavor, and strong tannins.

Theopolis Vineyards Petite Sirah Estate Grown, Mendocino County, 2016 ($39)

Theopolis Vineyards Petite Sirah Estate Grown, Mendocino County, 2017 ($39)

Theopolis Vineyards was founded in 2003 in by Theodora Lee, an attorney who became interested in winemaking when she moved to the San Francisco area from Texas in the late 1980s.  After taking several viticulture classes at UC Davis, she established her vineyard in the Yorkville Highlands of Anderson Valley.  When wine from grapes grown in her vineyard began to win critical recognition, she began bottling her own wine in 2014.  Nicknamed, Theo-patra, Queen of the Vineyards, she has served as legal counsel for the Association of African American Vintners.

The council enjoyed both of the vintages of the Petite Sirah, and both were wonderfully representative of the wine’s typicity (when a wine tastes typical to the characteristics of its grape varietal):  dark purple ink in the glass, luscious dark red fruit and with hints of chocolate on the nose, and dark cherry and ripe plum on the palate.  These wines were paired with equally bold and flavorful beefy pot roast cooked in Moroccan spices.


Merisi Wines Petite Sirah Diener Vineyard, Lake County, 2017 ($50)

Mandy Donovan established Merisi Wines in 2013.  Admiring the emotional intensity of 16th century Italian painter Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio’s authentic realism, Donovan named the winery after him. This Petite Sirah is sourced from the Lake Country vineyards of Diener Ranch.  With an elevation of 1,700 feet, the vines benefit from warm days and cool nights.  A bouquet of blackberries and raspberries greet the nose, flavors of dark berries and cappuccino mingle on the palate, with a touch of spice on the acidic finish.  A pairing of smoked brisket intensified the spice and fruit elements of the wine.


Berryessa Gap Vineyards Petite Sirah, Yolo County, 2017 ($28)

Co-owners Santiago Moreno and siblings Dan and Corrine Martinez credit the winery’s history to Dan Martinez, Sr. (the siblings Spanish immigrant farmer father) and his partner Ernest Peninou developing grapevine rootstocks in 1969 that established vineyards of Napa and Sonoma. 

Berryessa Gap Vineyards is situated less than a half-hour from Davis, and east of Lake Berryessa.  The vineyard benefits from ocean breezes that pass through a gap in the Coastal Mountain Range, cooling off the hot summer days.  Winemaker Nicole Salengo has produced award-winning wines and we were delighted to taste the 2017 Petite Sirah.  With a characteristically dark purple ink color, aromas of tart cherries, and heightened flavors of chocolate and ginger, the Asian taco pairing matched the wine’s intensity.  An umami mouthfeel of this wine was brought out by the hoisin pork, and led to a smooth, earthy finish.





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