Shafer Vineyards 2016 Red Shoulder Ranch Chardonnay

I consider it an honor to be able to taste what Shafer creates. I had no idea when I first came into contact with them what kind of high-caliber wine experiences I was about to embark on. From the TD-9 Bordeaux blend to the Relentless Syrah — not to mention the Hillside Select I’m selfishly cellaring for a special occasion. Well, when I shared my last two experiences, there was an overwhelming response about how much people have enjoyed Shafer over the years — each vintage providing a unique experience. But one comment captured my attention: a recommendation to try Shafer Vineyard’s Chardonnay. I am pleased to say I was able to do so. Here is my story…

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Frank Family Vineyards 2016 Pinot Noir

The new vintage of Frank Family Vineyards Pinot Noir was an exciting find for me. After having two excellent experiences with their Chardonnay, I was eager to see what their dual Napa-Sonoma vineyards had to say about Pinot Noir. In my experience, Carneros Pinot Noirs can be a bit harsh and lacking in any real substance — both texturally and flavor-wise. But maybe that’s because I always stuck to one side of the Carneros fence. Maybe the trick is to have a little bit of both…

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Frank Family Vineyards 2016 Chardonnay

My first sip of Frank Family Vineyards actually happened at a local restaurant, Scott’s Seafood. By that time I’d heard so much about the iconic Napa winery, but had never actually tasted anything from them. So I was delighted to see their Chardonnay on the menu, the perfect accompaniment to my seafood dinner. That was over a year ago already, and I still remember how much I enjoyed that wine. So here’s a peek at what the latest vintage has to offer…

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Fort Ross Vineyard 2014 Pinot Noir Symposium

With the exception of sparkling wine producers, wineries that focus on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay rarely play the blending game. But with Fort Ross Vineyard, there’s a not-so-secret third varietal that winemaker Jeff Pisoni gets to play with: Pinotage. While this ‘Symposium’ wine is labeled a Pinot Noir, there’s a little something extra blended in, giving the traditionally light, silky varietal, a hearty backbone and intense texture.

Spoiler Alert: The secret ingredient is Pinotage…

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Fort Ross Vineyard 2012 Pinotage

Pinotage was developed in South Africa in 1925 by Abraham Izak Perold who was attempting to combine the best of two varieties: Pinot Noir and what was then referred to as Hermitage (today’s Cinsault). Since that time the clonal creation has become somewhat of South Africa’s “heritage grape,” if you will. It’s with that sentiment that South African natives and owners of Fort Ross Vineyard, Linda and Lester Schwartz sourced Pinotage bud wood from the original founding blocks of their native homeland shortly after establishing their Sonoma Coast vineyard estate. They are, in fact, the first private growers to import such cuttings and, eventually, sell commercially. Their estate Pinotage consists of two Fort Ross proprietary clones, MM1 and MM3, developed at UC Davis from that originally imported budwood.

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