Monday, May 30, 2011

Terre d Oro (Amador) 2007 Zinfandel- Great Review by Mike Dunne in SacBee

Mike Dunne could not be more complimentary about Terre D Oro's 2007 Amador County Zinfandel, part of his May 25 review on

The link to the full review is

but just in case you do not subscribe to SacBee's online edition (which is easy to do, and I recommend it!) , here are a few salient quotes:

"When we stopped by the winery not long ago, the Terra d'Oro 2007 Home Vineyard Zinfandel was especially likable for its earthiness, smokiness and length. Terra d'Oro's 2006 SHR Field Blend Zinfandel was a meatier and sweeter take on the varietal. And the Terra d'Oro Deaver Vineyard Zinfandel was the most voluminous and ripest representative of the varietal in the place, seizing the fully ripe flavors for which Amador County zinfandel is recognized without crossing into prune and raisin territory.

Our favorite of the four this day was the Terra d'Oro Winery 2007 Amador County Zinfandel. It was the first of the four in the lineup, acknowledgment that it also was the gentlest.
Still, it's a zinfandel packed with the fresh blackberry and raspberry fruit and the clove spiciness for which the varietal is recognized in Amador. Of the four, it was the liveliest and longest on the palate. It's rich and solid, more medium-bodied than heavy, and while accessible now could benefit by three to five years of aging.

It fully captures the warmth and sunshine of Amador County, but in a manner that, well, is more mannerly than more brash and intimidating interpretations. And at $18, it offers the best value of Terra d'Oro's zinfandels.

Terra d'Oro winemaker Chris Leamy credits the wine's clarity and complexity to the winery's rolling 400-acre vineyard, in particular how it gives him grapes from varied elevations ranging from 1,000 feet to almost 2,000 feet, and stretching north and south across the valley.
"This geographic range helps to bring a bit more complexity and to really showcase what zin from this area can produce," he said. "I think this wine's most pronounced character is the classic spice/fruit nose that you don't find as much in other regions. The dominance of the clove/allspice character really speaks to the area."

Read more:

Saturday, May 28, 2011

FLAGSHIP WINE: Lone Buffalo's "Where the Buffalo Roam"


"Where the Buffalo Roam” is our signature wine because the Rhone varietals from which it is blended thrive in our Mediterranean climate and our well drained, decomposed granite soil  We are all about making wines that showcase grapes that excel in Placer County."

Phil Maddux, Owner and Winemaker
Auburn, California   (Placer County)


This is a Rhone-style blend that was produced from Syrah, Mourvedre and Grenache grown in Placer County.  We harvested the grapes at optimum ripeness  and vinified as simply as possible. We cold-soak for 24 -48 hours before fermentation to ensure maximum extraction of fruit flavors, and allow for long skin contact during fermentation.  We barrel aged the wine for a minimum of one year, using both French and American Oak.  The wine is minimally racked(2-3 times) not filtered. The result is a wine that is concentrated but shows lively fruit, silky tannins, depth with a hint of spice, elegant and easy to drink.     WHY A BLEND?    Blending different varieties offers the ability to create a wine with more balance, the flexibility to compensate for differences in individual varietals and fruit sources from vintage to vintage, and to create a wine that is better than its individual parts.  It was a wonderful experience to select and blend the grapes and wines which make up this blend.    This is a very smooth red wine not high in tannins; it goes well with most meats from pizza and burgers to Filet Mignon.   Extremely food friendly!

Alcohol 14/6%           350 cases produced
Suggested retail: $22/bottle

Buy it at:
Lone Buffalo Vineyard wines are also available at the winery and fine wine shops and restaurants in Sacramento, Roseville, Rocklin, Granite Bay, Loomis, Newcastle, Auburn, Truckee, Squaw Valley, Tahoe City and Northstar.  Click here for a list.

Where The Buffalo Roam:  Awards, Reviews
" and concentrated, yet agile. Where the Buffalo Roam is all that, plus it's bright and juicy, with just a touch of peppery spice. Its build is sinewy, its texture supple, its tannins softer than buffalo hide. Mostly syrah, with backing from mourvedre, grenache and cinsault, the wine reinforces my belief that when varietals traditionally cultivated in France's Rhone Valley are blended they generally yield more expressive results than if they are released as individual varietals, whether in France or California." 
    -Mike Dunne's Wine of the Week/Sacramento Bee/ October 20, 2010

AWARDS -2009 Vintage

  • Silver Medal - 2011 West Coast Wine Competition
AWARDS - 2008 Vintage
  • Best of Class - Sierra Foothills Appellation, 2010 California State Fair Commercial Wine Competition
  • GOLD Medal, Best of Class- 2010 West Coast Wine Competition
  • Silver Medal - 2010 Grand Harvest Awards, Vineyard & Winery Management Magazine
AWARDS - 2007 Vintage
  •  Gold - 2010 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Excitement in Fair Play as new Skinner Winery/Tasting Room opens to the public

The Fair Play AVA is unbelievably beautiful right now, and the official Open House for Skinner Vineyards and Winery on May 22 is a perfect way to experience these delights.

Mike and Carey Skinner, owners, and Ryan Skinner, General Manager, are debuting the new Skinner Tasting Room located at their Stoney Creek Vineyard and offering a few tours through the state-of-the-art GreenTech winery and into the vineyards too. It's a celebration of the Skinner heritage in the wine business that goes back to 1861 in El Dorado County, and the Skinner family is there to tell you the story of their passion for winemaking in the Foothills and continuing the Skinner tradition. Their Rhone wines, too, are fantastic!

Skinner Vineyards prides itself in the care they took to design the new winery with many forward-thinking Eco features. Chris Pittenger is winemaker, and vineyard manager Bryan Rahn is proud of the Stoney Creek Vineyards, with the wonderful view all the way to Pyramid Peak.


The winery power needs are provided primarily by solar power; they’ve installed a 55 kW PV system. The Skinners also situated the building so the sun side (south) maximizes the solar-power generating potential, and assured that the solar panels line up to give the largest potential area for sun exposure.

They strategically situated the barrel rooms on the North more-shady side of the building for better energy efficiency. Their location here means this room requires less refrigeration and electricity, yet keeps the storage for Skinner's wines at ideal temperatures. Each of the 4 barrel rooms and the main cellar were built with temperature controlled sensors, which allows for sufficient cooling to be supplied by the cool outside air of the Sierra foothills evenings and mornings.

All of the fermentation tanks are located within the winery rather than being isolated outside. This simple design consideration reduces energy costs significantly. The result is use of much less electricity in order to keep the must and wines at a stable temperature in the tanks.


A large percentage of the steel for the metal winery building is recycled steel – almost 80%. The Skinners sought out drought resistant California heritage plants and shrubs to minimize water needs. They also used the highest R-Value insulation available in order to reduce energy needs and keep the barrel rooms at proper temperatures. And a final conservation detail concerns the wastewater from the winery: after treatment, the wastewater is spread out onto the property, and the grey water is used for the tasting room's landscaping too.


Bryan Rahn, vineyard manager, is proud of how the vineyard was designed as well as the farming practices used. The trellising systems optimizes fruit temperatures, and the rows are run up and down the hills to minimize soil disturbance during development (preserves the topsoil and improves erosion control). Before planting, they performed an intensive soil study to match the rootstocks to the soil characteristics. Rahn is proud of the plant mapping and irrigation management program, and the Skinner policy of only using materials that are the safest for the workers and environment. The Integrated Pest Management includes new owl boxes. Last but not least, they matched the clonal selections to the local climate.

It's worth the drive.

Skinner Vineyards & Winery
at Stoney Creek Vineyard
8054 Fairplay Rd
Somerset, CA 95684
Fair Play AVA / El Dorado AVA

For a map, please CLICK HERE to go to the contacts page on Skinner Vineyards’ website, and then click on the MAP (lower left)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

FLAGSHIP WINE: Terre Rouge's Ascent Syrah

"Ascent Syrah is our flagship wine because is offers great complexity and long term aging capacity. It represents the apex of of wine production from the Sierra Foothills region. First bottled in the 1999 vintage, it has consistently received stellar reviews from all major wine publications. It has fared well in world Syrah competitions, and was chosen as the top North American Red Wine in 2005 by Connoisseurs' Guide to California Wine."
       Bill Easton, Winemaker & Winegrower
       TERRE ROUGE and EASTON Wines
       Fiddletown, California  (Amador County)


Ascent Syrah represents the pinnacle of Syrah production at TERRE ROUGE. Twelve of our very best barrels of Syrah are selected from our cellar each vintage to make a meager 600/6 packs of this luxury cuvée. All of the grapes are grown in selected Syrah sites scattered throughout the Sierra Nevada in granite and volcanic-based soils. This is a deeply concentrated wine with dense layers of aromatic complexity. Loads of deeply concentrated and incredibly spicy fruit aromas fill your glass. In the mouth you’ll find thick concentrated and riotous meaty Syrah flavors, smoky wood tones, exotic spices, mineral tones, and fine tannins. Great structure and aging potential. The grapes macerated for two weeks in an open-top fermenter with punch-downs two to three times a day. The wine was aged for 23 months in French oak barrels (100% new François Frères - from four different forests) and lightly egg-white fined prior to being bottled unfiltered. A sublime treat!

2006 was a special year. It was a cool early season, with a heat spike in late July, and a cooler August. Harvest was about normal time for our Syrah vineyards and the finished wines have a plush, elegant, and silky texture. It will still benefit from several years in the bottle.

14.5 % alcohol by vol.; 3.85 pH; 6.3 gm./liter total acidity - 600/6 packs bottled
Release date: November 2010
Suggested Retail: $85 a bottle

Buy it at
Three Vintages Available:   2004: $95.   2005: $85   2006: $85

Ascent Syrah Reviews 
“You could look on both sides of the Atlantic and in Australia as well and not find a deeper, richer,more complete Syrah for the money. Sure, you could pay $300 for the top wines from those places,but, if $80 is more in line with your interests, this dramatic, age worthy wine should go to the top of your list.”
   -Connoisseurs’ Guide to California Wines - Charles E. Olken

2007 ascent syrah sierra foothills:
·         “92 points” - the Wine Spectator, January 31 - February 28, 2010   Firm and spicy, with a mix of white pepper, sage, mineral, and beefy berry fruit that’s taut, full-bodied, savory and layered, ending with a long, complex finish. Drink now through 2016. - James Laube
·         "92+ points" - Parker's Wine Advocate, August 2010
·         "95 points" - the Wine Enthusiast, May 2010
·         “93 points” - the Rhône Report, November 2010

2006 ascent syrah sierra foothills:
·         “92 points” - the Wine Spectator, February 28, 2009
·      "92 points" - First Place - the California Grapevine, Sept./Oct. 2009, "Very Highly Recommended"
·         "94 points" - CELLAR SELECTION - Top- Rated - the Wine Enthusiast, July 2009
·         Top 100 Cellar Selections for 2009 - Number 57 - the Wine Enthusiast, December 2009
·         “89 points” - One Star in Connoisseurs’ Guide to California Wine, July 2009
·         “88 points”- Tanzer's International Wine Cellar, May/June 2009

2005 ascent syrah sierra foothills:
·         “92 points” - the Wine Spectator, March 31, 2008
·         “90 points”- Tanzer's International Wine Cellar, June/July 2008
·         "92 points" - First Place - the California Grapevine, June/July 2008, "Very Highly Recommended"
·         “91 points” - Two Stars in Connoisseurs’ Guide to California Wine, July 2008
·         "90 points" - Parker's Wine Advocate, June 30, 2008
·         "93 points" - the Wine Enthusiast, May 2008

2004 ascent
syrah sierra foothills:
·         “91 points” - the Wine Spectator, January 31, 2008-February 29, 2008
·         “89 points”- Tanzer's International Wine Cellar, May/June 2007
·         "91 points" - First Place - the California Grapevine, June/July 2007, "Very Highly Recommended"
·         “92 points” - Two Stars in Connoisseurs’ Guide to California Wine, July 2007
·         "90 points" - Parker's Wine Advocate, August 28, 2007
·         "92 points" - the Wine Enthusiast, June 2007

Friday, May 13, 2011

What exactly makes a FLAGSHIP WINE?

When I asked various Sierra Foothill winemakers and winery owners to tell me what they consider to be their FLAGSHIP WINES, that caused a bit of confusion.  To a winemaker, every wine is his greatest wine, it seems.  To a winery owner, the wine that sells the best is the flagship wine.  To a consumer... who knows.. it is so much a matter of personal taste after all.  But here's the short list of what characteristics constitute a flagship wine: the factors that  this group of winemakers and winery owners considers when it puts that information in my hands for publication.
  • A wine that the winemaker feels is representative of his style
  • A wine that is expressive of the terroir
  • A wine that is true to its varietal characteristics
  • A wine that is consumer-friendly, ie approachable in price and amenable to food pairings
  • A wine that's won accolade after accolade
  • A wine that the wife serves to the family's cherished friends and important guests
The FLAGSHIP wines that you'll be reading about will be varied.  In fact, they'll be all over the terroir, style, varietal, price, and taste map.  But these Sierra Foothill wines are great wines, and the winemakers are proud of them.  I encourage you to use these blogposts for your center-of-table and your gifting lists!  Just search at the top left of the blog for "FLAGSHIP WINES of the Sierra and its Foothills" to get the list.


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

VineTalk TV Show: Why not Sierra Foothill Wines?

Ray Isle on the set in NYC
 Dec 2010 Vine Talk tapings
 Pasted below is a press release on the success that Paso Robles Wine Country's marketing efforts have garnered.  The latest is scoring an episode of Vine Talk, a new TV show on PBS.  I actually know the producer of the show and was in the invitation-only audience of the first two tapings, back in early December 2010.  I've been talking to him about featuring Sierra Foothill wines, but no joy so far.  Why?  Because this Sierra Foothill wine region which is so beloved of me is just too darn disorganized for a unified push to make the national-recognition thing happen.

Amador, El Dorado, Calaveras, Placer, Fair Play, Nevada County... all the winery associations there do great jobs for their counties and AVAs.  But to achieve true marketing success, there needs to be one umbrella organization.  With a budget. With goals and objectives and accountability. With at least a part-time executive director.  You know... an effort that is run like a business. 

Mike & Jeff from Wine Enthusiast;
fellow audience members Vine Talk
Let me get down off my MBA-highhorse for a moment and say that I know it is hard to organize an effort like this.  A bit like herding cats.  Winemaking in the mountains and Foothills has economic and other challenges.  The last thing any winemaker wants is another set of dues to pay, meetings to attend, energy-consuming events to pour at.

The reality, however, is that a rising tide floats all ships.  (Sorry for all the aphorisms).  That's one of the reasons I promote (re-promote?) the outreach of the Sierra Foothills associations. (SEE THE RESOURCE LIST ON THE RIGHT HAND SIDE OF THIS BLOG !) I blog their press releases to reach more eyes, Tweet and RT, Facebook and Link-In, because I believe.  I believe in this region, I support the winemakers and winery owners, and I'm here to beat the drum.

Surely there is a way we can all pull together on this? 

And yes ... Stanley Tucci is as good looking, compelling and sexy in person as he is on stage and TV.  I almost got to kiss his ring.
Relaxing at Boulod Restaurant w/
Bruce Marcus, Exec Producer of
Vine Talk, after tapings Lincoln Center
Elena Crespo, Chief Marketing
Officer, on the Vine Talk set

~~~~~~~~~ (below, courtesy of PR Newswire) ~~~~~~~~~

 "Paso Robles Wine Country to Be Featured on New Television Show – VINE TALK"
A-List Host Stanley Tucci and Panel of Celebrities Blind Taste Paso Robles Zinfandel

PASO ROBLES, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Paso Robles Wine Country continues a pattern of positive recognition in mainstream media as a featured wine region in the new television series, VINE TALK. Paso Robles Zinfandel wines will be showcased in the sixth episode of VINE TALK where celebrity A-Lister and long-standing foodie, Stanley Tucci, guides a panel of celebrity oenophiles through an on camera tasting. This new PBS show strives to break the mold of stuffy wine content programming by creating a fun and welcoming environment for viewers where even the studio audience is a part of the show. Paso Robles has been chosen as the region to highlight Zinfandel with six Paso Robles wine brands to be sampled, discussed, judged and unveiled including – Carina Cellars, J Dusi Wines, Peachy Canyon Winery, Steinbeck Vineyards & Winery, Turley Wine Cellars, and Victor Hugo Winery.

“VINE TALK stands to enthrall new wine consumers into discovering Paso Robles and our wines. The timing could not be better as we prepare to celebrate the biggest festival of the year in Paso Robles Wine Country.”

Each week a different wine region from around the world serves as the inspiration for a lively and engaging conversation which highlights the varietals or wine characteristic of that region. The Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance assisted producers from VINE TALK to compile a sampling of standout Zinfandel wines to be considered for the inaugural season. Mr. Ray Isle, executive wine editor of FOOD & WINE magazine provides his expertise on the show by answering questions about the wines and providing background on regions. Episode six features celebrity chef, Tim Love; former MLB All-Star pitcher, Ron Darling; and internationally acclaimed violinist, Philippe Quint, as they sniff, swirl, and sip while discussing their current projects and of course Paso Robles Zinfandel wine.

“It’s exciting for Paso Robles wines to be highlighted in this show with such incredible personalities,” said Christopher Taranto, marketing director of the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance. “VINE TALK stands to enthrall new wine consumers into discovering Paso Robles and our wines. The timing could not be better as we prepare to celebrate the biggest festival of the year in Paso Robles Wine Country.”   (etc etc)

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Getting Ready for the Summer: Rose from the Foothills ~ Terre Rouge Vin Gris d’Amador

It's 73 degrees and bright and sunny in San Francisco, and my thoughts are turning to summer wines and entertaining possibilities that combine something refreshing to drink with something interesting to pair with it.
Terre Rouge/Easton wines makes that fantasy easy to fulfill.  First, there was the note in the Amador Vintners newsletter about the upcoming events and a note about the one at the Terre Rouge/Easton tasting room in Plymouth ( a Rose' weekend, May 14-15).

There is also the upcoming RAP tasting in San Francisco on May where a few Sierra Foothill wineries will undoubtedly be pouring.

Bill Easton is so responsive to the press that he is becoming one of my all-time favorites.  I asked for a pairing recipe, and here it is. The recipe is created by Jane Riordan, chef-owner of  Domaine de la Terre Rouge, and it is designed to pair perfectly with the Terre Rouge Vin Gris d’Amador, a dry rosé that is excellent as an aperitif and with a variety of appetizers

Goat Cheese Spread with sun-dried tomatoes and capers:

Sun-dried Tomato Goat Cheese Spread
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tbl. sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil
6-8 oz. fresh-style goat cheese, Montrachet or California log
12 oz. cream cheese
1 Tbl. capers

In bowl of food processor fitted with a steel blade, puree the garlic and sun-dried tomatoes.
Cut the cheeses into small hunks and add to bowl.
Pulse/process until all the cheese is blended into a smooth spread with no white lumps.
Add the capers and pulse briefly to mix.
Scrape into a pretty serving bowl.
Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Serve surrounded by crackers, toasted baguettes or sliced bread.
Makes about 3 cups. Keeps 4-5 days in refrigerator.


Monday, May 2, 2011

A glass of Sierra Foothill wine on the beach at Tahoe in June

So today I set up a new Twitter account called @SierraFoothill.  The intent is to promote the wines of this exciting region that I like to refer to as "the new Napa".  I know I'll be blasted about that, but seriously, some darned good winemakers ended up there because Napa land was too expensive and they simply had a passion they couldn't deny:  the passion to make good wine. 

Now it's time to get serious about these wines and wineries.  Just how many wineries are there?  If you guess correctly by May 31, I'll personally pour you a glass of wine on a private beach on Lake Tahoe's West Shore.  A Sierra Foothill wine.  I'll even cook dinner for you, date TBD mutually in June.

Since I did my last count (, I've heard from a few new wineries.  Over the next few weeks, I'll be writing about them.  Keep track. 

There's a great fun time at Tahoe in store for you!