Domaine Della 2018 Terra Del Promissio Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir.

Domaine Della 2018 Terra Del Promissio Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir.

(click for larger image)

We opened this goodie for Thanksgiving.  Domaine Della continues to impress with extremely high quality.

On the nose, aromas of dark fruit, forest floor, and brambleberry. The palate opens with bright acid plus cranberries, followed by red raspberries, and cherries. There are still some tannins. This baby could probably age another few years with no problem.


Two Cépages From RN Estate

RN Estate Cuvée des Trois Cépages Vertical

(click for larger image)

Just because we felt like it we opened the 2018 RN Estate Cuvée des Trois Cépages and 2019 Harmonie des Cépages. Both were excellent, with similarities and differences. If you’re not in a hurry, both are likely to improve in the next two years. But they’re excellent right now. (If you look closely at the photo, you’ll notice that the 2018 bottle is empty. We decanted it – highly recommended.)  This is our review of two Cépages from RN Estate.

The 2018 Cuvée is 66% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Cabernet Franc and 11% Merlot. And it shows. This baby opens with aromas of dark fruit, brambleberries, and forest floor. On the palate, the wine is lighter than you might expect. It opens with a hint of spice, developing into cherries and raspberries. The finish is long with smooth tannins. This wine is currently not on the winery sell list.

The 2019 Harmony is 54% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Cabernet Franc, 18% Merlot, 8% Malbec, and 5% Petit Verdot. As expected, this wine is darker and richer. On the nose, delicate aromas of raspberries and rose petals. The palate is lush, opening with flavors of blackberries, plums, melding into spice. The tannins are a bit more noticeable on the finish, with great acid balance. On the website, $65.

The last time we visited Roger, we asked him about zinfandel. He used to grow it for blending. No more. It’s traditional European grapes all the way.

We belong to the wine club. And never once have we regretted our membership. Thanks, Roger!


Lando 2020 Truth and Valor Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

Lando 2020 Truth and Valor Sonoma Coast Pinot NoirLando 2020 Truth and Valor Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir. We featured Lando Wines in our review of the Palm Springs Pinotfest.  Today we opened this baby.  It has aged nicely.  And it’s probably going to continue to improve over the next five years.

Lush, rich aromas of dark fruit and forest floor.  On the palate, more dark fruit with a delicious chocolate note.  Long, wonderful finish with nice tannins.  In another few years those tannins should smooth out nicely.

Artisan Visits France

Our friends at Artisan Wine & Spirits invited us to a tasting of ten French wines.  We eagerly accepted. The wines were a good sample of the many wine-growing regions of France.  But technically only eight were French. There were two Gruner Veltliners from Austria!  We won’t quote prices in this review because there were special tasting deals.  Also, Artisan almost certainly will only stock a few of these.  Happy hunting!

Eurocave RoyaleArtisan Visits France

Eurocave Royale

And we found a few interesting wines.  Two are ready to drink now.  Three more need several years in your Eurocave.

Stadt Krems 2020 Gruner Artisan Visits France

(click for larger image)

Our favorite was one of the Austrian Gruner’s.  The Stadt Krebs 2020 Gruner Veltliner ‘Stein’ from Kremstal, Austria is delightful. We cannot say it better than Artisan’s tasting notes:

Subtle aromas of elderflower are overtaken by an expressive palate, which features notes of white peach and green apples. It’s almost velvety in feel, with medium-to-full body texture, but the mouth-watering acidity keeps it intact.

We brought home three bottles, our sole acquisition from this trip.

Quaffable Reds

Our quaffable choice among the various reds was the Domaine Tollot-Beaut 2020 Aloxe-Corton from Cote De Beaune, France. Naturally, this is 100% pinot noir.  The nose is black plum and cranberry scents The palate is medium-bodied with cherries and red raspberries. This wine is tight on opening.  Either decant it or let the bottle breathe for 30 minutes or so.

There was one other interesting white, a Domaine Louis Moreau 2019 Chablis Grand Cru ‘Valmur’ from Chablis, France. The wine opens with aromas of Meyer lemon and a little bit of white peach. The palate is more white peach with a hint of lemon zest. We were ready to buy until we saw the price, $99.97 a bottle.  We own a few bottles of pinot noir in that price range, but our palates are apparently inadequate for appreciating expensive whites.

Put These on the Bottom Shelf of Your Eurocave

The best choice to buy and hold was the Domaine Michel Magnian 2020 Morey-Saint-Denis from Côlte de Nuits. Of course, another 100% pinot noir. You’re greeted with aromas of fresh red berries with notes of violets and spice. On the palate, tannins with a good underlying structure will keep this wine improving for at least five years.

Similarly, the Château Batailley 2018 Pauillac from Bordeaux needs some time. Aromas of currants and smoke followed by a bomb on the palate.  A ton of fruit matched by 2,000 pounds of tannins.  Give it at least two years.


This was a lot of fun.  We hope to be invited again.  And we hope James picks a larger room the next time!




Domain Della Sonoma Coast Vertical

A few weeks ago, we decided to try two bottles from Domaine Della: the 2018 and 2019 Sonoma Coast.  Here are the results of the Domaine Della vertical.

Normally, we like to hold wines from David Hejl for at least a few years.  We made an exception here because these are not single vineyard pinots.  Besides, we were celebrating something and wanted to drink some exceptional wine.  It turns out we were half right.

Both wines are $72 from the winery. You’ll have to register on the website and wait for David to announce that allocations are open.  Normally we don’t like systems like this, but we’ve made an exception here because, well, the wine is just so darn good.

The 2018 is eminently quaffable.  You could probably cellar it for a few years, but we’re old and impatient.  The wine opens with aromas of cherries and rose petals. Right after opening the bottle, the palate is on the acid-forward side, a little harsh. Either decant the bottle or let it breathe for 15 minutes.  Since we were using our new Coravin wine preserver, we didn’t have to remove the cork.  We settled for measuring half a bottle of each wine and letting it breathe in the measuring cups. After an hour or so, we returned to the 2018 and found it very drinkable. The tannins and acid smoothed out nicely without destroying the flavors.  The palate is bing cherries and strawberries.  A nice long finish with silky tannins.

The 2019 has aromas that are darker: black cherry and rose petals. The palate is dark fruit and forest floor with a nice long finish. Hang on to this baby for another two or three years.


Dusty Nabor’s Occasional Pinot

Dusty Nabor is a character, completely appropriate for the Garagiste festival.  Working with Karin Langer, his eponymous winery produces mainly syrah, grenache, cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, and the occasional pinot noir.  They source grapes mainly from nine vineyards in the Santa Ynez Valley. He was kind enough to share a pinot with us.

Dusty Nabor Dusty Nabor's Occasional Pinot

Dusty Nabor

The Wine

The 2020 Radian Vineyard Santa Rita Hills AVA pinot noir is pretty terrific. We were greeted with aromas of black cherries, blackberries, and blueberries with a hint of mineralogy. The palate is rich, almost a filet mignon.  Flavors of forest floor, more black fruit, with assertive tannins and acid.  If you have this in your cellar, give it a few more years.  If you don’t, I hate to bring bad news, but the winery is out of stock. In fact, they have no pinots currently available.

Dusty pouring Dusty Nabor's Occasional Pinot

Dusty pouring

The Story

Dusty’s first vintage was 2015. He is the owner, winemaker, and chief chemist.  Current production is 1,000 cases.  He got started at a local custom crush facility where he “figured it out.” The custom crush went out of business, Dusty acquired their equipment and went into business.  Today, he works with Karin Langer to produce excellent wines.  From the website:

Dusty Nabor Wines is a project born out of passion for producing site specific, terroir driven California wines. Our singular focus is crafting wines of distinction. Sourcing fruit from premier vineyards in Santa Barbara County including the Sta. Rita Hills AVA, Ballard Canyon AVA, and Los Olivos District AVA, we strive to create wines that express their place and vintage. 

Dusty and Karin Dusty Nabor's Occasional Pinot

Dusty and Karin

New Mexico Green Chile Stew

Just in time for New Year’s day, a recipe to warm your heart (along with other organs), as well as an option to bring luck in the New Year: New Mexico Green Chile Stew.  I first tried this recipe about 30 years ago in the heyday of the long-gone Chile-Heads email list and website.  The recipe calls for poblano chiles.  If you can find Hatch green chiles, the recipe will be better. We recommend a zinfandel or robust pinot noir to accompany this goodie.  Serve over rice.  Enjoy!

[pdf-embedder url=””]


RN Estate Vertical 2016 and 2018 Harmonie des Cépages

Harmonie des Cépages 2016 RN Estate Vertical 2016 and 2018 Harmonie des Cépages

(click for larger image)

The day after Garagiste 2022 Paso Robles, we spent a pleasant afternoon with Roger Nicolas, proprietor of RN Estate Vineyard. After a lot of tasting and quite a bit of conversation, we brought home a case of wine, a mix of vintages and styles.

A few days ago we opened the 2016 and 2018 Harmonie des Cépages. And we learned a valuable lesson. This blend needs to sit for a few years before opening.

The 2016 (may be available if you visit the winery) was just about perfect. Aromas of black cherries and other dark fruit with a hint of earthiness. The palate is lush with blackberries and raspberries and a nice touch of spice. A long finish with a good acid balance makes for a truly outstanding wine.

Harmonie des Cépages 2018 RN Estate Vertical 2016 and 2018 Harmonie des Cépages

(click for larger image)

The 2018 ($55) opens with aromas that are very subtle with a bit of floral scents. The palate is lighter than the 2016 with more acid but the same lush mouthfeel and the same black raspberries. There is a good long finish with silky tannins. If you have a bottle of this, consider giving it another year or two.

Technical Details

Both wines are Paso Robles AVA. And both feature the classic Bordeaux grapes. The 2016 is 33% cabernet franc, 26% cabernet sauvignon, 24% merlot, 14% malbec, and 3% petit Verdot. The 2018 is 33% cabernets sauvignon, 29% cabernet franc, 29% merlot, 8% petit Verdot, and 1% malbec.

M. Nicolas retains his title “genius.”


Garagiste Returns to Its Roots in Paso Robles

And not a minute too soon! In the last few months we’ve managed to break two of our Garagiste glasses. That made attending the Paso Robles event an imperative. So we did. This is our overview. We will post reviews of individual wineries over the next few weeks.

Along with several hundred of our best friends, we witnessed Garagiste returns to its roots in Paso Robles. For those who don’t remember, this is a key event to discover new, small wineries. Some will go on to great success. See Pence Ranch and Lazarre Wines. Many are happy producing below the 1,500 case limit for Garagiste participation. Virtually all have online ordering and shipping to states that allow it.

Garagiste crowd Garagiste Returns to Its Roots in Paso Robles

Garagiste crowd. Click for larger image.

Pinot Noir

We tasted eight wineries’ pinot noirs:

Name and Link to Winery Page Review Link
Amrita Cellars
Cayucos Cellars
Demeter Family Cellars
Dusty Nabor Dusty Nabor Review
Entnyre Wines Etnyre Review
Hayseed & Housdon
Seven Angels Cellars
Volatus Winery Volatus Review

Our favorites were Volatus, Entnyre, and Seven Angels. But you will be happy with pinots from any of these folks.

Best Labels

The award for best labels goes to Innate Wines. Sadly, they do not produce a pinot noir. We made a mistake not tasting their wines because it looks like they distribute exclusively in South Carolina with no direct sales. Luckily, we picked up a business card from Nathan DeCamps, owner, winemaker, and likely chief bottle-washer. We’ll contact him to get his story.

Innate best labels Garagiste Returns to Its Roots in Paso Robles

(click for larger image)


This was the surprise of the event. We like chardonnays with minimal oak and no butter. (We’ll make an exception for the rare butterscotch.) Every single one of the chardonnays we tasted has nice notes of honeydew melon in the aromas and on the palate. They vary with the amount and type of citrus, with an occasional note of herbs.

Name and Link to Winery Page Review Link
Hayseed & Housdon
MEA Wine
Optio Vineyards
Seven Angels Cellars
Torch Cellars Torch Cellars Review
Volatus Winery Volatus Review


Goodbye to another Garagiste Garagiste Returns to Its Roots in Paso Robles

Goodbye to another Garagiste. Click for larger image.

This was one of the most exciting Garagiste festivals we have attended. We look forward to drinking their wines over the next few years.


Torch Cellars is Best Chardonnay by a Hair

All the chardonnays we tasted were very good. We thought Torch Cellars was the best, but the decision was awfully close. 

Mark Welch Torch Cellars Torch Cellars is Best Chardonnay by a Hair

Mark Welch, Torch Cellars winemaker and Alya

We were greeted by winemaker Mark Welch and his pal Alya. Along with owner Greg Jelstrom, they produced their first vintage in 2013. Their annual production is 800 cases. This fits their stated goal:

… [producing] annual releases … from renowned vineyards in the Willow Creek, El Pomar and Templeton Gap regions of Paso Robles.

Mark Welch and Greg Jelstrom Torch Cellars is Best Chardonnay by a Hair

Mark Welch and Greg Jelstrom


The Torch 2021 San Luis Obispo County – Paso Robles chardonnay ($36) is a winner. Opening with butter on the nose, followed by crisp flavors of green apples, with subtle notes of Meyer lemon and baking spice. Get it quick – only 50 cases were made.

Why Torch Cellars?

This story is too good to rewrite.

The inspiration behind the Torch brand is two-fold. Mark’s nickname at Wild Horse Winery, where he worked in the nineties, was Torch, thanks to his blazing-blond and unruly hair. The Torch Cellars’ logo visual design, featuring the amber hues of California sunlight, (and not Mark’s golden locks), honors Mark’s grandmother, Doris Schultz, a talented artist from Santa Cruz. Decades ago, she crafted a beautiful, sun-shaped mosaic serving tray, made from shells, coral and coins. For years, Doris used this tray for special occasions and when entertaining guests. In tribute, her grandson’s wines now grace the tables of Torch customers, each bottle showcasing Doris’ sun design, radiating her warmth every time friends and families gather to celebrate life’s joys and bounty.

An homage to the present and past. Here’s the logo you’ve been waiting for.

Torch Cellars Logo Torch Cellars is Best Chardonnay by a Hair

Torch Cellars Logo. Click for larger image.


Etnyre Wines

Etnyre Wines is a close second for best pinot at Garagiste 2022 Paso Robles.  They make pinot noir and syrah. We were greeted by Ethan and Karen Etnyre. Both were charming. Ethan’s knowledge of every detail of the grapegrowing and winemaking process was impressive (to say the least). You can learn a lot about grapegrowing and winemaking from their “Our Story” page.  We really appreciate the time they took with us.

 Etnyre Wines

Ethan and Karen Etnyre. Click for larger image.

Their wines are San Luis Obispo County AVA, Quin’s Vineyard. Quin is their son, now 22 years young. Sadly, he wasn’t there. In fact, he has never worked behind the table at a wine event. Come on, Quin! You get to meet interesting people like us!

The Wines

The Etnyres were pouring their Quin’s Vineyard 2017 and 2018 pinot noirs. Both are $40. The 2017 opens with aromas of forest floor and Bing cherries. The palate is very earthy with more forest floor and a nice acid balance. This one could use a few more years in the bottle. Jeb Dunnuck gave it 91 points

The 2018 reveals the difference between vintages. Aromas of strawberries and spice with more forest floor notes. The palate has notes of earth and raspberry, with less earth than the 2017. Mr. Dunnuck rated it 90 points, probably because this vintage is unlikely to develop as much over time as the 2017. 

The Story

The Etnyres planted the first vines in Quin’s Vineyard in 1998. They’ve been making wine since 2005. Originally, they planted only the 2A clone. Later they added clones 114, 667, and 777. John Alban of Alban Wines to plant their first vines. Also props to them for taking UC Davis viticulture and enology classes. They learned very well.

In a recent experiment, they planted … well, let them describe it.

A single row of own-rooted Torrontés, an Argentinian white varietal, was planted within the original Syrah block. These grapes are harvested and co-fermented with the Syrah, producing our own spin on one of the finest regions of the Rhône – the Côte Rôtie.

Torrontés is the most popular white wine in Argentina, sometimes called the chardonnay of Argentina. Unlike chardonnay, this grape has floral quality similar to vioignier. We look forward to trying their first bottling of their new blend.

Ethan has a non-traditional family history. Let him describe it:

Enjoying wines with friends and family are some of my best memories growing up in the Chicago suburbs. These wines were often accompanied by very tasty foods. When my wife and I moved to the Central Coast of California in 1992, we found ourselves living in an extremely high quality viticultural area of California. Twelve days after arriving on the Central Coast, we were fermenting grapes in a 32 gallon food grade plastic barrel in the basement. We were hooked. After 13 years of home winemaking and UC Davis Viticulture and Enology classes, we released our first vintage of Etnyre Wines in 2005. We remain a micro winery with clear focus on our 2 acre estate vineyard producing the finest small volume lots on the Central Coast of California.

Jeb Dunnuck has also reviewed the 2015, 2019, and 2020 vintages. At $40, the wines are a bargain. Please don’t tell Ethan and Karen!


Volatus Wines is TOPGUN

Apologies for the all caps in the title. You’ll soon see why.

Volatus had the  best pinot at this Garagiste. Added bonus: they also have a chardonnay. Hal Schmitt, owner and winemaker, is a TOPGUN instructor. We thank him for his service, but are very happy he started making wine. Somehow he’s still an instructor. Here’s why it’s TOPGUN:

Volatus TOPGUN Cuvee Volatus Wines is TOPGUN

(click for larger image)

And here’s Hal in his day job.

Hal's day job Volatus Wines is TOPGUN

(click for larger image)

The Wines

We were greeted by Chris and Brenna who were friendly, knowledgeable, and informative. Hal could not be there. His son had a soccer game. TOPGUN, winemaker, and a dad. What more could we ask for? The answer, of course, is great wine!

Chris and Brenna Volatus Wines is TOPGUN

Chris and Brenna. Click for larger image

The pinot noir is Paso Robles 2021 Adelaida District ($40). Spice and earth palate, mild acid finish typical of Adelaida pinot grapes. Give this one a few years to grow up. But it’s very nice.

Volatus’s chardonnay is the 2021 “Charlie” ($32). It features aromas of butter and oak, a palate of pear and green apple, with a few tropical notes and a good citrus balance. The finish is long with good acid and hints of minerality.

How much did we like these wines? We are now members of the Volatus “Ready Room” wine club.

The Story

Volatus contracts for a lot of facilities. Their wine is made at Midnight Cellars. Most of their grapes are sourced, but they’re starting a vineyard. The grapes come from a number of vineyards. They also look for unusual grapes, recently discovering Brun Argenté (Vaccarèse). They’ve actually been making wine since 2004. How did we manage to miss them?

The website has the full story. Hal was stationed at Naval Air Station Lemoore, about 80 miles northeast of Paso Robles. He regularly visited the big city to taste wine. One day in the late 1990s, he met Rich Hartenberger, owner and winemaker at Midnight Cellars. Rich and his wife Michele started making wine in 1995. My guess is that Hal and Rich learned from each other. And – bonus – Hal met his wife Victoria in the Midnight Cellars tasting room.

Victoria and Hal Schmitt Volatus Wines is TOPGUN

Victoria and Hal Schmitt (click for larger image)

Fast forward today. Volatus produces about 800 cases per year. Hal, Chris, Brenna, and (important!) Victoria all look like they’re having fun. We sure hope so!

Hal at work Volatus Wines is TOPGUN

Hal at work (click for larger image)

Wine For the Road

The Darwin Awards are awarded to people who have died because they made an incredibly stupid mistake.   They have essentially removed themselves from the gene pool, giving evolution a big assist.  They also give honorable mentions for good (but failed) attempts.  One of those went to Labile (name changed for obvious reasons), who found an innovative way to consume vast quantities of wine at a price of zero. He invented wine for the road.  I cannot count the number of ways he could have died.  Forthwith, the tale of the crafty wine slurper.

[pdf-embedder url=”” title=”2020 Honorable Mention: Wine For The Road”]


RN Estate 2019 Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir Horizontal

RN Estate bottles RN Estate 2019 Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir Horizontal

(click for larger image)

As regular readers know, RN Estate Winery in Paso Robles is one of our favorites.  We have been wine club members there for longer than we can remember.  Last night I discovered two 2019 pinots from the Santa Rita Hills.  This provided a rare opportunity for an RN Estate 2019 Santa Rita Hills pinot noir horizontal.

The two vineyards are La Encantada and Fiddlestix. We learned that terroir matters. A lot.

The Wines

The La Encantada opens with notes of cranberry, bing cherry, and undertones of rose petals. On the palate, bright acid with notes of red raspberry and black cherries. Terrific mouth feel, you’ll want to slosh this one around a little. Long, complex finish with silky tannins and layered acidity.

Fiddlestix actually could use another year in the bottle. It’s bigger and more tannic. Swirl vigorously to bring up the subtle notes of cherries and raspberries. The palate is cranberries, black cherries, and forest floor. Another one to slosh in your mouth. The finish is longer and more pronounced than the La Encantada. The Fiddlestix has less acid than La Encantada, but the same nice layering finish.

The Vineyards

Santa Rita Hills AVA map osmaller file size RN Estate 2019 Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir Horizontal

(click for larger image)

Both vineyards are on the south edge of the AVA.  Ironically, they are closest to the ocean:

Santa Barbara County AVAs RN Estate 2019 Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir Horizontal

(click for larger image)

That location gives them cool nights and warm days.  The two vineyards are virtually adjacent.  There is more to terroir than climate.  It would be interesting to compare soil composition, altitude, slope of the vineyard, and other factors.  But these two bottles show that terroir matters.

I would be negligent if I did not mention a book I’m proud to have reviewed.  John Buechsenstein and Tim Patterson wrote “Wine and Place: A Terroir Reader.” This book is a must-own for any serious wine fan.  Highly recommended.

What Wine Pairs With Pickled Beets?

What wine pairs with pickled beets? That question came to mind when I fielded a request for a pickled beet recipe.  I’d say a zinfandel, preferably something that can stand up to the acidity.  Zichichi might be a good choice.

But the real point is the recipe.  Forthwith,

[pdf-embedder url=”” title=”Pickled beets”]