Savoring the Sweet Life!

 

 

Photo credit: dolcevitasafari.com
Photo credit: dolcevitasafari.com

Recently I had the opportunity to participate in DolceVita Safari’s first Sonoma Day Camp. I had previewed the itinerary on my blog a few weeks ago. Now it’s time for the scoop.

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The day of the event could not have been more beautiful, sunny and breezy. We began at Tin Barn Vineyards, which is one of Sonoma’s Eighth Street wineries. We were greeted by winemaker and co-owner, Michael Lancaster, and the director of communications and operations, Amy Bess Cook, whom I had met five years ago at the 2011 Wine Bloggers’ Conference. Tin Barn Vineyards wines were part of our swag bag that year.

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Amy poured for us two vintages of their Joon Rosé of Syrah, paired with Melon Skewers with prosciutto and mint and Smoked Salmon crepe, egg, red onion, dill, and capers, all provided by the Girl and the Fig’s Suite D. I’m fairly confident I can say that the skewers were our favorite. We also tasted their Hi Vista Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc.

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Michael then led us into their barrel room for a tasting of their Coryelle Fields Syrah in different barrel types, to show everyone the difference a barrel can make with regard to aromas, flavors, and mouthfeel. Returning to the tasting room, we tasted additional vintages of the syrah – 2005, 2011, and 2012 – paired with mini quiche Lorraine with bacon. They had me at bacon and I really didn’t want to leave. And in fact, we didn’t leave immediately, as they poured us tastes of more of their wines such as their Desnudos Merlot and Sonoma Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Mind you, this was all before noon. What a start!

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Our next stop was Stone Edge Farm Winery and Vineyards with a tour led by sales and marketing director, Dorothe Cicchetti. I didn’t know this until the day of the event, but the farm and part of their estate vineyards are located on the owners’ private property. Leslie and Mac McQuown purchased this land in 1995 and in 2004, along with winemaker, Jeff Baker, and organic viticulturist, Phil Coturri, created the organically-farmed Stone Edge Farm. The farm produces wine, fruits, vegetables, olives, herbs, chicken, and even beehives. I must admit I felt both strange and special roaming around someone’s private property. I knew that this was a visit that not many people have the opportunity to experience.

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After our farm tour, we traveled to Edge in downtown Sonoma, which is the culinary home of Stone Edge Farm, to enjoy a three-course, farm-to-table lunch prepared by culinary director and chef John McReynolds, who was there to not only cook for us, but walk us through each of the courses, while Dorothe told us about the three accompanying wines. What made this meal exceptional (besides the chef!) was enjoying the produce we saw growing on the farm. Lunch was nothing short of fantastic and included:

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A spring salad of lettuces, asparagus, leeks, radishes, and burrata (cheese) paired with the 2014 Stone Edge Farm Sauvignon Blanc

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Sonoma lamb with potato rosti and ember-cooked vegetables, roasted morel mushrooms with red wine and green garlic butter, paired with the 2012 Stone Edge Farm Surround (Bordeaux-style red blend) and the 2011 Stone Edge Farm Cabernet Sauvignon

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Almond cake, Watmaugh strawberries, rhubarb compote, crème chantilly, and strawberry sorbet

The salad was the best I’ve ever had, quite frankly. The Sonoma lamb course paired perfectly with both wines, although my favorite was Surround, which sees less time in a smaller percentage of new French oak, allowing the wine to demonstrate intensity of red and black fruits with a softer mouthfeel and approachable tannin structure. For a brief time, we did indeed live life deliciously in the company of Stone Edge Farm.

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After our amazing lunch, we traveled a short distance to The Donum Estate in the Carneros AVA of Sonoma, where we were joined by two more group members and our host for the visit, Laura Micciche. The Donum Estate, led by president and winegrower Anne Moller-Racke since 2001, is a producer of one Estate Carneros Chardonnay and multiple, single-vineyard pinot noirs from 70 acres of vines at the estate in Carneros, the 16-acre Winside Vineyard in the Russian River Valley, and Angel Camp Vineyard in Anderson Valley, Mendocino County.

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Laura poured for us a glass of the Carneros Chardonnay and led us on a brief tour of the property, which includes magnificent art curated and brought to the winery by its investors. The tour ended at the barn, which, by the way, opens to a splendid view of Carneros vineyards. We sat at a long table tasting the menu of the day, which included four of their premium pinot noirs. As we tasted each, it seemed as if each one were better than the next, although all of them were beautiful expressions of their single-vineyard sources.

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The day concluded with a focus group meeting, this being the first Sonoma Day Camp. During the discussion, I discovered that at least four of the participants did not consider themselves to be very knowledgable about wine, but enjoyed immensely the day that they described as immersive, a breath of fresh air, a conversation about wine, and like being at a friend’s house. I told them that analyzing wine doesn’t mean anything, really. What is most important is did you like it, not the why or what you tasted (or didn’t taste). I hoped I was able to reassure them that at the end of the day, it is the experience, the happy feeling, the enjoyment of a day spent with new friends, that ultimately matters. Life is too short to not savor the sweet life. Viva la dolce vita!

*For more information about DolceVita Safari and its off-the-beaten path excursion options, please visit their website! *

Domaine Carneros

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A Domaine Carneros Bubbles Flight!

It’s wine club pick-up month at Domaine Carneros, which reminded me that I neglected to share with you my first comprehensive review of the winery over at American Winery Guide. Domaine Carneros has been producing traditional method sparkling wines as well as pinot noir and other varietal grapes in the Carneros AVA for almost 30 years. My first visit was Labor Day weekend 2012 during one of my many visits to the Napa Valley I moved here a little over two years ago. I never tire of the experience.

*CLICK HERE TO READ*

My May Sips

Finger Lakes Wine Selections
Finger Lakes Wine Selections

Yes, I know it’s June already, but these are some of the wines I tasted last month. Oh, and if you have a better title for my occasional collection of wine reviews, please post it in the comments. I could use some help with blog post titles.

Anderson's Conn Valley Vineyards Estate Reserve Cabernet 2012 (Bottling Party Label) paired with DripTeez and OPI's The One That Got Away
Anderson’s Conn Valley Vineyards Estate Reserve Cabernet 2012 (Bottling Party Label) paired with DripTeez and OPI’s The One That Got Away

Anderson’s Conn Valley Vineyards Estate Reserve Napa Valley California Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 (employee allocation, $75.00 at the winery; Robert Parker 93-95 points)
This wine is super young, but oh, so delectable. The mouthfeel is incredible and the succulent, black fruit aromas and flavors leap from the glass. I just hope I can hold a bottle or two for later. This is going to develop quite nicely.

Passaggio Wines Pinot Grigio 2014
Passaggio Wines Pinot Grigio 2014

Passaggio Wines Pinot Grigio 2014 (tasting room sample, $25.00 at the winery)
This Pinot Grigio, whose grapes are sourced from Lodi’s Manna Vineyards, is fermented in all stainless steel. It has floral aromatics on the nose, a mélange of tropical and tree fruits on the palate, and finishes with good acidity.

Cuvaison Estate Napa Valley Carneros Syrah 2012
Cuvaison Estate Napa Valley Carneros Syrah 2012

Cuvaison Estate Napa Valley Carneros Syrah 2012 ($38.00 at the winery)
I promised myself I wasn’t going to write tasting notes about this wine, but I couldn’t help myself. The 2012 Cuvaison Syrah expresses concentrated dark berry flavors right out of the gate. This wine is textured and lush on the palate. The fruit lingers on the finish, the curtain call being a burst of peppery spice.

Chateau Montelena Chardonnay 2011
Chateau Montelena Chardonnay 2011

Chateau Montelena Chardonnay 2011 ($50.00 at the winery)
Bottle Shock aside, I love this Chardonnay. Fresh apples and citrus explode on the palate, accompanied by a juicy mouthfeel and a hint of smokiness from the oak. The finish is long, with lively, lingering acidity.

Thirsty Owl Wine Company Finger Lakes Dry Riesling 2014
Thirsty Owl Wine Company Finger Lakes Dry Riesling 2014

Thirsty Owl Wine Company Finger Lakes Dry Riesling 2014 (sample, $14.95 at the winery)
If you’ve never tasted an example of Finger Lakes Riesling, this is a great one to try. It’s pale yellow, crisp, and dry, barely a hint of sweetness, with loads of juicy citrus flavors, and vibrant Finger Lakes acidity.

Red Newt Cellars Finger Lakes Gewürztraminer 2013
Red Newt Cellars Finger Lakes Gewürztraminer 2013

Red Newt Cellars Finger Lakes Gewürztraminer 2013 (sample, $15.00 at the winery)
This wine is floral, dense, spicy, with a round mouthfeel, sumptuous aromas and flavors of honey, lemon, and orange. It packs a lot of punch for the price point. My go-to pairing with Gewürztraminer is a spicy, Asian dish like Kung Pao Chicken.

Knapp Finger Lakes Dry Rosé 2014
Knapp Finger Lakes Dry Rosé 2014

Knapp Finger Lakes Dry Rosé 2014 (sample, $15.99 at the winery)
This rosé comprised of 85% Cabernet Franc, 15% Pinot Noir, is bone dry. The grapes for this wine were cold-soaked for 16 hours to give it a light salmon color. It displays aromas and flavors of grapefruit, melon, and strawberry, then finishes with ample, food-friendly acidity.

Lamoreaux Landing Finger Lakes T23 Cabernet Franc 2013
Lamoreaux Landing Finger Lakes T23 Cabernet Franc 2013

Lamoreaux Landing Wine Cellars Finger Lakes T23 Cabernet Franc 2013 (sample, $19.99 at the winery; 90 points, Wine Enthusiast)
This 2013 Lamoreaux Landing unoaked Cabernet Franc is lighter in color and body, but big on aroma and flavor. Think floral aromatics, with baked cherry and cinnamon on the palate. Even my friend who doesn’t typically like red wines likes this one. T23 in the name is the abbreviation for the stainless steel tank in which it was fermented, Stainless Steel Tank #23.

Old York Cellars Pinot Gris 2013
Old York Cellars Pinot Gris 2013

Old York Cellars Pinot Gris 2013 (sample, $18.00 at the winery; Gold Medal – San Francisco Chronicle International Wine Competition)
This Pinot Gris from New Jersey is a pale lemon-green color and refreshing on the palate, with flavors of tropical fruits, melon, orange, tangerine, and a bright acid finish. As it warms to room temperature, the fruit flavors become sweeter, more like candied fruit.

Old York Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
Old York Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Old York Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 (sample, $21.00 at the winery; Silver Medal – San Francisco Chronicle International Wine Competition)
This New Jersey produced Cabernet Sauvignon has bright, red berry aromas, black fruit and spice flavors, and a tannin structure that will allow this wine to age a few more years in the bottle, although with some decanting, is drinkable now. Enjoy this with creamy, pungent cheeses or a steak.

*The two Old York Cellars’ wines can be purchased as a package with a 20% discount at this link.*

Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon 2010
Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 ($53.00 at the winery)
This 2010 Cabernet far exceeded my expectations for a larger production wine. The black fruits, baking spices, and mocha/chocolate flavors are welcoming and persistent throughout the palate, yet the wine finishes with bright, red fruit acidity. I wish I’d purchased more upon release.

Rauenthaler Baiken Riesling Spätlese Trocken 2008
Freiherr Langwerth von Simmern Rauenthaler Baiken Riesling Spätlese Trocken 2008

Freiherr Langwerth von Simmern Rauenthaler Baiken Riesling Spätlese Trocken 2008 (gift from a friend, $31.99, currently on sale for $18.99 at select PLCB stores)
Thank you to the friend who gave me this 2008 Freiherr Langwerth von Simmern Rauenthaler Baiken Riesling Spätlese Trocken, Rheingau, Germany! We don’t have too many German Rieslings in Napa. This wine bursts with golden delicious apples on the front of the palate, tropical fruits mid-palate, then finishes with blazing acidity. Or as he would say, “This Is f*cking good Riesling!” I paired this with red chile chicken enchiladas.

Happy sipping!
Beth

Destination Cuvaison

Cuvaison
Cuvaison

Cuvaison Estate Wines was founded in 1969 and produces Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Syrah from its Carneros estate as well as Bordeaux-style reds and Zinfandel from the historic Brandlin Estate Vineyard on Mount Veeder purchased in 1998. A Swiss gentleman, Thomas Schmidheiny, and his family purchased Cuvaison in Calistoga plus 400 acres of land in Carneros in 1979. Cuvaison was named Wine & Spirits‘ Winery of the Year in 2012. I had the opportunity to visit the Carneros estate location (built in 2004) and its gorgeous, modern tasting room (built in 2009).

Kite's Tail Chardonnay
Kite’s Tail Chardonnay

The tasting room incorporates wood, metal, and glass to create an architectural wonder overlooking the winery’s rolling vineyards and gorgeous Carneros views. The glass opens to create an open-air atmosphere on warmer days, creating the feeling of being one with the vineyard. The tasting fee is $20 for four wines, not waived with purchase due to the upscale experience offered, and tastings are by appointment only.

Spire Pinot Noir
Spire Pinot Noir

During my visit with a friend, I had the opportunity to taste eight wines, including the single-block Kite Tail Chardonnay, the winery exclusive ATS Chardonnay, the Vin Gris of Pinot Noir, two vintages (2012 and 2013) of the single-block Spire Pinot Noirthe estate Syrah, and two wines produced from the Brandlin Estate Vineyard: the Cabernet Sauvignon and Harry’s Keep Proprietary Red. Our host, the tasting room manager, was very hospitable and detailed in his explanation of the wines and their sense of place. The tasting experience lasted about two hours. My preferences were the Vin Gris and the reds, especially the 2012 Spire Pinot Noir, the Syrah, the Cabernet, and Harry’s Keep. I purchased the Syrah, which my companion and I described as a “wine geek’s Syrah,” with lots of gamey, meaty aromas and flavors coupled with blackberry, black cherry, and peppery spice. It would be a great wine to pair with grilled meats.

View from the tasting room
View from the tasting room

If you’re planning a trip to Napa Valley, I recommend a visit to Cuvaison’s Carneros estate. I’d love to create an unforgettable day in Carneros for you and your guests that you will never forget. For more information about travel to Napa Valley and Carneros, please contact me.

Twelve Wines of Christmas and Beyond

The Patio at Pulenta Estate, Mendoza, Argentina
The Patio at Pulenta Estate, Mendoza, Argentina

My blog is a mélange of wine and travel experiences, but sometimes we just need some wine recommendations for upcoming holidays like Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day, or for everyday consumption. Below are some of the most current wines I have tasted this year, along with some of my favorites from throughout 2013, reviewed for my blog and Plum Deluxe. I hope you find something you enjoy!

Charles Gardet Brut Tradition Champagne, France, $53.00 (tasted at a wine dinner, originally published here)
For December’s holiday celebrations, such as Hanukkah, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve, Charles Gardet Brut Tradition Champagne ($53) is the perfect choice. The wine is comprised of 45% Pinot Noir, 10% Chardonnay, and 45% Pinot Meunier grapes. The predominantly red grape blend yields a creamy, rich mouthfeel, with good acidity and flavors of stone fruits, hazelnut, and toasted bread.

2012 Frank Family Vineyards Chardonnay, Carneros
2012 Frank Family Vineyards Chardonnay, Carneros

2012 Frank Family Vineyards Chardonnay, Carneros, Napa Valley, California, $34.75 (sample provided by Jarvis Communications)
If you enjoy a balance of fruit and oak from grapes fermented nine months in a mix of new, once, and twice-filled French oak, this Chardonnay is for you. It has a rich, buttery mouthfeel, with good acidity and aromas and flavors of butterscotch, stone fruits, tropical fruits, tree fruits and toast.

2011 Frank Family Vineyards Zinfandel, Napa Valley
2011 Frank Family Vineyards Zinfandel, Napa Valley

2011 Frank Family Vineyards Zinfandel, Napa Valley, California, $36.95 (sample provided by Jarvis Communications)
Zinfandel lovers, this one is for you! This Zinfandel spends 18 months in 35% new oak, 65% once and twice-filled French oak. The aromas are complicated and enticing: berries, pepper, and spices, while the flavors of baked black cherries and oak are intertwined on the palate.

2010 Garnet Vineyards Pinot Noir, Rodgers Creek Vineyard, Sonoma Coast
2010 Garnet Vineyards Pinot Noir, Rodgers Creek Vineyard, Sonoma Coast

2010 Garnet Vineyards Pinot Noir, Rodgers Creek Vineyard, Sonoma Coast, California, $29.99 (sample provided by the winery)
The grapes for this Pinot Noir come from a cool-climate, low-yield single vineyard on a ridge between Petaluma and Sonoma, where winemaker Alison Crowe and her team control production from vineyard to bottle. This Pinot Noir has a velvety mouthfeel and ample acidity, with concentrated aromas and flavors of rich black cherry, spices, and violets. Garnet Vineyards has made this wine easily available through the amazon.com wine portal.

2011 Gary Farrell Chardonnay and 2010 Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley
2011 Gary Farrell Chardonnay and 2010 Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley

2011 Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery Russian River Selection Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, California, $35.00 (sample provided by Folsom + Associates)
Another creamy, decadent Chardonnay thanks to seven months in 40% new French oak and extended time on lees during malolactic fermentation, this wine possesses aromas and flavors of citrus, honey, and stone fruits.

2010 Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery Russian River Selection Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, California, $42.00 (sample provided by Folsom + Associates)
This wine, whose grapes hail from the famous Rochioli and Hallberg vineyards in the Russian River Valley, sees eight months in 40% new French oak. Aromas and flavors include cola, dark berries, spices, tea, and violets, accompanied by nice acidity.

My Union Wine Co. tasting,
My Union Wine Co. tasting

2012 Kings Ridge Riesling, Willamette Valley, Oregon, $12.00 (sample provided by Union Wine Company, originally published here)
The Riesling grapes for this wine are sourced from some of Oregon’s oldest vineyards, dating back to 1968. Like the Pinot Gris, the vineyard is located in a cooler area of the Willamette Valley with similar temperature swings. It is aged on lees in 100% stainless steel tanks to give it more texture and weight. When I tasted this wine, it was so reminiscent of the Rieslings I’ve tasted from the Finger Lakes. It had amazing acidity, which I love, along with succulent aromas and flavors of peach and tart green apple.

2012 Passaggio New Generation Pinot Grigio
2012 Passaggio New Generation Pinot Grigio

2012 Passaggio Wines New Generation Pinot Grigio, California, $19.00 (sample provided by the winery, originally published here)
This wine is sunshine in a glass, a gorgeous pale straw color, with very inviting floral and fruit aromas. On the palate, there’s a veritable burst of sweet, ripe melon, peaches, pears, and tropical fruits. I paired this wine with a combination veggie and meat pizza as sort of experiment, instead of going with an Italian red or Pinot Noir, and it worked perfectly. There was enough acidity to complement that of the tomato-based sauce and veggies, while the sweet fruit flavors were enhanced by the salty meats, such as pepperoni and sausage.

Schramsburg Mirabelle Brut Rosé NV, North Coast, California
Schramsburg Mirabelle Brut Rosé NV, North Coast, California

Schramsberg Vineyards Mirabelle Brut Rosé NV, North Coast, California, $25.00 (purchased for myself, originally published here)
This sparkling rosé is made of a blend of 51% Pinot Noir and 49% Chardonnay grapes from vineyards in Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino, and Marin counties. It is made in the méthode champenoise like wines from the Champagne AOC of France. It has floral, spicy, and yeasty aromas. On the palate, it has great acidity and a creamy mouthfeel, with flavors of apple, cherry, and citrus.

2012 Silkbush Mountain Vineyards Viognier and 2009 Lion's Drift Pinotage
2012 Silkbush Mountain Vineyards Viognier and 2009 Lion’s Drift Pinotage

2009 Lion’s Drift Pinotage, Silkbush Mountain Vineyards, South Africa, $16.99 (sample provided by the winery)
I haven’t tasted many examples of Pinotage, which is a hybrid of Pinot Noir and Hermitage, but it seems that one either loves it or doesn’t. However, in this case, there’s a lot to love. This wine has aromas and flavors of dark and red berries, vanilla, spices, and a meaty, smoky quality. The wine is drinking well now, but has the potential to age for 10-20 years.

2012 Silkbush Mountain Vineyards Viognier, Breedekloof, Western Cape, South Africa, $16.99 (sample provided by the winery)
The cool mountain climate of the vineyards has allowed for the production of this lovely Viognier. It’s fermented in stainless steel, but spends some time on lees. It has a creamy mouthfeel, with aromas and flavors of honey, melon, stone fruits, and tropical fruits. Ready to drink now, it has the potential to age for up to five years.

2011 Willamette Valley Vineyards Estate Pinot Noir
2011 Willamette Valley Vineyards Estate Pinot Noir

2010 Willamette Valley Vineyards Estate Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon, $30.00 (tasted at Willamette Valley Vineyards)
As a follow-up to the 2013 Wine Tourism Conference in Portland, Oregon, I had the opportunity to participate in a four-course wine dinner at Willamette Valley Vineyards in their new tasting and event space. The winery was founded 30 years ago by Jim Bernau, who was in attendance along with the winemaker, Don Crank III, and Chef Eric Nelson. One of the courses, grilled Anderson Ranch lamb loin, was paired with the estate Pinot Noir. The wine was earthy and meaty, with aromas and flavors of herbs, truffles, red berries, spices, and tea, and paired perfectly with the lamb. It was one of my favorite pairings of the evening.

Cori, me, and one of our amazing guides
Horseback riding in the Andes, Mendoza, Argentina

As part of my personal commitment to soul searching and finding my path, I plan to take a break from writing to enjoy the holidays and savor life’s deliciousness without note taking and photos. I want to thank everyone who has read my blog this year. It’s been another year of tremendous change and growth. I am eternally grateful for those of you who have continued to follow my both literal and figurative journeys. I wish you a wonderful holiday season filled with wine, food, family, friends, and of course, travel.

Wishing you love and happiness in 2014!
Beth

Josh Cellars Partners with Operation Homefront

Joseph Carr of Joseph Carr Wine and Josh Cellars (http://www.eatdrinkri.com/)
Joseph Carr of Joseph Carr Wine and Josh Cellars (http://www.eatdrinkri.com/)

In his former life, Joseph Carr was a 10-year sommelier and 10-year wine industry executive who decided to strike out on his own and create his own brand. In 2005, Joseph Carr Wine was born, producing wines from Napa Valley, Carneros, and the Sonoma Coast at Larson Family Vineyards. In 2009, Eric Asimov of the New York Times named Carr as a “producer to watch” and described his offerings as “wines of balance and restraint.” Carr has since partnered with Tom Larson to bring us his self-proclaimed “vin de garage,” his second label wines named Josh Cellars after his father. As states Carr, “A wine I made for Josh, my dad and my hero.” Grapes for the wines are sourced from sustainable and organic vineyards throughout California, including Sonoma and Mendocino counties. The wines are produced using traditional French winemaking techniques and are both approachable and affordable, with prices ranging from around $9.00-$15.00 per bottle (wine.com and snooth.com).

Operation Homefront Logo (http://www.operationhomefront.net/)
Operation Homefront Logo (http://www.operationhomefront.net/)

This holiday season, Josh Cellars has partnered with Operation Homefront. For every bottle sold between November 1 and December 31, 2013, Josh Cellars will donate $1.00 per bottle up to $50,000 in support of the members of our military and their families. According to the Operation Homefront website, “To get RELIEF during a crisis, a place to RECOVER if you need it and a little bit of RECOGNITION for a life of sacrifice. That’s what we do at Operation Homefront… and it’s making a difference.”

I had the opportunity to sample a couple of Josh Cellars’ offerings due to the generosity of Josh Cellars and their communications company, Cone Communications. Below are my thoughts.

Josh Cellars Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc
Josh Cellars Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc

2012 Sauvignon Blanc (SRP $13.99, screw-cap closure): This is a very nice, affordable option for those who prefer a light, citrusy, and fruit-forward Sauvignon Blanc. It’s a pale straw color with citrus and floral aromas, flavors of lemon and lime followed by a kiss of melon, stone fruits, and tropical fruits, and mouthwatering acidity. If you want more of the sweeter fruit flavors to come through, allow the wine to warm a bit before serving. I’ve had quite a few Sauvignon Blancs at higher price points, but this Sauvignon Blanc is right up there with those in terms of quality and varietal characteristics.

2011 Merlot (SRP $14.99, cork closure): This Merlot is a great price-to-quality wine. I could not believe the price when I researched it. It’s garnet-colored with medium body, luscious, juicy flavors of bing cherries, black cherries, and raspberries, chocolate/cocoa/mocha undertones, and nice acidity on the medium finish. Put the bottle in your refrigerator for about 20 minutes and more of that chocolate quality is revealed.

As someone on a budget, I appreciate quality wines that I can afford to bring to my table and share with family and friends. Josh Cellars is that kind of producer, one who creates handcrafted wines for all of us to enjoy. The experience is multiplied greatly when I know I am contributing to a worthy cause. So why not enjoy some Josh Cellars wines and pay it forward to our military heroes this holiday season?