#Vinopanion #Wine Bits & Pieces: Holiday 2017 Edition

The winter sun, it burns!

The end of 2017 is nigh…that means really good reasons to drink #wine and, in particular, bubbles! And while the Lady and I are lovers and club members of our very local Domaine Chandon sparkling wines, we do have quite a tasty spot for Spanish Cava.  #Cava is the most renown sparkling wine from Spain and an actual DO (or appellation) in the Spanish Denominación de Origen system. Freixenet is one of the most common producers and always a solid daily buy, but we’ve tasted through a ton of good Cava over the years.


Another sparkling wine region that has been smokin’ hot the last few years has been Prosecco from Italy.  It has both DOC and DOCG appellations for its finer wines and has been really making a splash in the US market for the last 3 years.  I’m a Featured User for Vivino, and they’ve even put together a list of the 20 most scanned Prosecco wines of 2017 on their app, from thousands of users:

  1. La Marca Prosecco – 3.8 Stars
  2. Casa Vinicola Zonin Prosecco – 3.5 Stars
  3. Valdo Prosecco Valdobbiadene Superiore Marca Oro – 3.6 Stars
  4. Carpenè Malvolti Prosecco Superiore Conegliano Valdobbiadene Extra Dry – 3.7 Stars
  5. La Gioiosa et Amorosa Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore – 3.6 Stars
  6. Ruffino Prosecco – – 3.7 Stars
  7. Mionetto Prosecco Valdobbiadene Superiore – 3.6 Stars
  8. Mionetto Prosecco Treviso Prestige Collection Brut – 3.6 Stars
  9. Gancia Prosecco – 3.5 Stars
  10. Mionetto Prosecco Treviso Brut – 3.6 Stars
  11. Allini Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Extra Dry – 3.5 Stars
  12. Mionetto Prosecco Treviso Prestige Collection Extra Dry – 3.6 Stars
  13. Martini (Martini & Rossi) Prosecco – 3.5 Stars
  14. Cavit Lunetta Prosecco – 3.5 Stars
  15. Cantine Maschio Prosecco Treviso Extra Dry – 3.5 Stars
  16. Vini Santa Margherita Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore – 3.7 Stars
  17. La Gioiosa et Amorosa Prosecco Treviso – 3.5 Stars
  18. Nino Franco Spumanti Rustico – 3.8 Stars
  19. Plaza Centro Prosecco Treviso – 3.4 Stars
  20. Cantine Riondo Prosecco Spago Nero – 3.8 Stars

2016 Bervini 1955 Millesimato Prosecco DOC Extra Dry2016 Bervini 1955 Millesimato Prosecco DOC Extra DryThe Lady and I enjoyed a Prosecco on Christmas with her family and the 2016 Bervini 1955 Millesimato Prosecco DOC Extra Dry rather delighted the whole family with its mix of super tasty & zippy yellow apple and peach, alongside some nice yeasty and good floral notes. The wine is imported by Wine Trees USA and was a sample from Balzac Communications.

Hagafen CellarsAnother holiday favorite around the world are kosher wines, of course.  While Kosher wine has gotten a bad rap over the millennia, there are quite a few amazing wines produced in California, as well as around the world, that also happen to be kosher. As Jay Buchsbaum, Executive VP Marketing and Director of Wine Education at Royal Wine Corp states:

To be considered kosher, Sabbath observant Jews must supervise and sometimes handle the entire winemaking process, from the time the grapes are crushed until the wine is bottled. Any ingredients used, including yeasts and fining agents*, must be kosher.

Local favorite wineries in our valley of Napa include Hagafen Cellars, just down the road from Yountville on Silverado Trail. I’ve biked past it while training for my triathlons dozens of times…it’s a beautiful estate and producer of many great, tasty wines!

Short Pours:

  • Hello Penny Bar!
    Photo courtesy of Hello Penny Bar.

    Live in SoCal and need a bar for your party? The very cute, Hello Penny Bar will do just that, complete in a mobile and restored, 1946 vintage trailer.  Sweet!

  • Wines ‘Til Sold Out completed an incredible charity drive for #NapaFire and #SonomaFire victims, raising a total of $17,500 from WTSO members, equally matched by the wine flash sale retailer.  Bravo!
  • USGS geophysicists have recently completed a LIDAR study of Napa Valley vineyards that “suggests that earthquake-related deformation just below the Earth’s surface can be quite different from how it is expressed at the surface,” following the 2014 Napa Valley earthquake.
  • PG&E‘s Wine Industry Efficiency Solutions (WIES) program, in conjunction with its partner wineries, has “saved its customers more than 3.3 million kilowatt hours of electricity and 150,000 therms of natural gas – enough energy to power 246 average homes for one year. The average annual energy cost savings totaled $559,000 per year.”
  • The 33rd annual Winesong 2017 charity event on the Mendocino coast on September 8th & 9th in Fort Bragg was again a huge success, raising more than $700,000 for the Mendocino Coast District Hospital.

#Vinopanion's new wardkadel.com is live!

#Vinopanion: Domaine Chandon #wine

Well…the long wait is over!  If not for my fellow #Vinopanions, at least for my own incessant #wine cravings and the need to blast out my ramblings de vinos. WardKadel.com is finally live, as we are in the process of shutting down the long-running WineLog.net. With this relaunch, you will find more content combining my two passions of #triathlon & wine, as well as a newfound love of cooking and of course, the chronicles of our life in #Napa.

Indeed just last night, with the Lady (featured left in the vineyards of Domaine Chandon) in NYC for a fashion convention, I knocked out two very enjoyable recipes from Blue Apron, which has been a life-changer for me to finally learn and love to cook.

@BlueApron & #Beaujolais!

Cooking and first dinner (heh) was accompanied by the deliciously juicy 2015 Domaine des Quatre Vents Fleurie (review Vivino), from Beaujolais extraordinaire Georges Duboeuf. And since the journey of wine can never end (thank goodness, right??), I listened to my two favorite wine podcasts:


And so it with those two tasty #recipe‘s and these two brilliant wine podcasts, I will bid you adieu until my next Ward Kadel – #Vinopanion – @drXeNo post.

Vineyards of Domaine Chandon
Loving that #NapaLife!


Newton Vineyard: A Mountain's Secret Garden

Newton VineyardI have the great fortune of being invited to a number of wine events each year.  All of these events have their merits and many are very cool.  It is the more rare event that completely rocks my vinous world, however.  The annual Garden Party at Newton Vineyard (Facebook, WineLog), 600 feet above St. Helena on Spring Mountain was one of those rare events.  Standing atop the mountain, with a 360 degree view of at least 65% of the entire Valley, with some glorious weather to complement the elegantly balanced Newton wines, paired with nibbles from étoile and the Lady by your side, it’s a bit hard to *not* have a brilliant time.  I decided to suck it up and a have a great time (tongue comfortably in cheek).

Newton VineyardProprietors Peter and his wife, Dr. Su Hua Newton founded the winery in 1977 after selling off their iconic Sterling Vineyard in the mid-70’s.  Their new 500+ Estate (~1 square mile) was instantly notable as a pioneering estate in what is now the Spring Mountain District, with it’s current 120 acres planted in 112 distinct blocks, at altitudes ranging from 500 to 1600 feet and slopes as sharp as 56 degrees.  Come harvest Newton harvesters will go through each block up to 5 times, all under the supervision of winemaker Chris Millard and Madrigal Vineyard Management.  Do the math and you can begin to understand the amount of care that goes into the vineyards leading up to each harvest!  These blocks are necessary, not only to take advantage of widely varying über-microclimates afforded by the differing altitudes and sun exposure that each block receives, but also due to the variou ssoil types that proliferate across the mountain.  While most of the soil is influenced by it’s volcanic beginnings, each block could be dominated by iron-rich, chalky or gravel-based soil types, making the proper pairing of grape variety crucial for each planted portion of the Estate.

Newton Vineyard Winemaker, Chris MillardThe Lady and I were very fortunate to have 30 minutes of Chris’ time for a tour of the winery before he headed out to greet the rest of the day’s guests.  Chris is tall, rangy man, with kind, bearded features that appear quite younger than his 40-something years.  He smiles often while he speaks and is very careful to put his guests at ease with his calm, considerate cadence of speech.  Newton Vineyard has always been concerned about maintaining their estate and gardens sustainably and that philosophy extends all the way to Chris’ winemaking.  80% of the winery is actually underground, in caves dug out of the mountainside in order to keep land above as green and untouched by structures as possible.  Chris makes the flagship wines of Newton unfiltered and unfined, indeed the Estate line of their wines are called Unfiltered.  The insane, fanatical care found in the vineyards of Newton is continued in Chris winery, where there is a very cool system of 8 inline galleries where their highly regarded Unfiltered Chardonnay can ferment at 8 completely separate, independent collections of lots, at their own temperature and humidity.  It’s really quite a marvel and something that I’ve never yet encountered during my vinous travels around the world.

The garden at Newton VineyardStrolling the garden, one had to believe that Peter Newton knows how to craft a beautiful life, albeit, with all of the hard work that goes along with a lifelong vision.  Peter is the gardener of the of the duo, as illustrated by the gorgeous, more royal British garden, mixed with an Eastern influence.  Meanwhile, Su Hua is the devoted oenophile and the winery is designed with a clearly beautiful Chinese Pagoda flair.  The staff was very warm and friendly, happily manning the tasty wine and food pairings, incredibly constructed by étoile chef, Perry Hoffman.  The pairing for the 2008 Newton Spring Mountain District The Puzzle was particularly successful.  Perry took fresh star anise atop lightly sweetened, high cocoa dark chocolate mousse tartlets to complement the fresh anise, dark fruits, fresh garden herbs and wet earth.  An absolutely superb combo, where neither the wine nor the chocolate overpowered each other, but instead held hands and made each other whole.  Further good fortune in food and drink took place during the Ritual Coffee demonstration kicked off by Chris, clearly a very avid fine coffee lover, as you can see in the video below.

[winebadge id=”59219″]

While this wasn’t my first time tasting wines from Newton, I had only had one other wine of theirs, a Cab, quite a few years back.  I was very interested to try their wines after hearing for so long how the winery was insistent upon making balanced wines with plenty of complexity and a happy lack of bombastic character.  All of the wines lived up to their billing, from the Merlot to the Chardonnay (we only tasted the Unfiltered line that day, along with The Puzzle).   They had acidity and fine, coating tannin structure that had anticipated, but they also had great restraint with their use of toasty oak and feature plenty of wonderful mineral notes.  Perhaps the most striking feature was their ageability, however.  We had a 13 year old Unfiltered Chardonnay that was showing beautiful dried apple and floral notes with a gorgeous dark yellow and green color.  Then the highlight of the day and the wine that completely rocked my world and spoiled me possibly, for tasting any aged red wine in the near future: the 1992 Newton Napa Valley Unfiltered Cabernet Sauvignon.  The wine was decanted from a 6L Imperial and showed amazingly deep garnet color for a 19 year old red wine.  The nose exhibited savory leather, earth and flint, alongside deep black cherry fruit, but it was the palate that took me in.  Great acidity and the finest tannins perfectly supported the mix of black and red fruit and savory mushroom and leather for the deliciously smooth mouthfeel.  It was a sensational wine to complete such a day and one that showed just how well these wines can age, as its own life was still far from complete.

A very happy thank you goes out to everyone at Newton and Gregory White PR for our day atop Spring Mountain.  All of these elegant, well-balanced wines that we tasted last weekend in the Garden are tagged with “Newton2011Garden,”so that you can list them in your own WineLog.  All of our photos and videos from atop the mountain can be found on my Flickr in their own set, and also tagged with “Newton2011Garden.”  Cheers!

Newton Vineyard (Facebook, WineLog):

Newton Napa County Unfiltered Chardonnay 2008

OldWorldWK - WKBadges Newton Napa County Unfiltered Chardonnay 1998

Color: Deep and darker yellow green.

Nose: Dried yellow apple and some dried chamomile, light apple pie near the rim.

Palate: Getting towards orange wine tastiness with its age, dried apple here as well, still juicier finish. Good, from a magnum: OldWorldWK.

Newton Napa Valley Unfiltered Merlot 2008

Newton Napa Valley Unfiltered Cabernet Sauvignon 2008

AwesomeWK - WKBadges Newton Napa Valley Unfiltered Cabernet Sauvignon 1992

Color: Medium ruby and light brick core, light ruby edges.

Nose: Gorgeous earth and leather nose, with deep black cherry fruit and some light flint minerality.

Palate: Also amazing here, with deeper medley still of black and red fruit, savory black olive, mushroom and leather here to balance that, with the finest tannins and acid for a perfect balance. One of the best wines that I’ve had all year: AwesomeWK.

KeeperWK - WKBadgesNewton Spring Mountain District The Puzzle 2007

Color: Darker garnet, ruby edges.

Nose: Very complex, with great savory garden herbs to balance the all dark fruit right now, with a hint anise at the rim.

Palate: Medium bodied, with juicy acidity for the all black fruit here as well and very smooth mouthfeel. Garden herbs here too, fresh, with hints of fresh wet earth in the juicier, structured finish: KeeperWK.

Espiritu de Argentina Winemaker Dinner @ Destino SF

Espiritu de ArgentinaOne recent bright evening in San Francisco, The Lady and I had the opportunity to head below the border, as in below the Equator…to Argentina!  A new wine label is set to drop on our half of the Earth called Espiritu de Argentina.  Combining the efforts of the US-based Cecchetti Racke, Espiritu de Chile and Argentine winery Bodega Monte Real, it will feature a full line of affordable and Argentine wines.  Lady and I met in front of the resto Destino, where we would have the lucky opportunity of getting a  sneak peak at these quaffable wines paired with a one-time 7 course small plates meal, all courtesy of Balzac Communications.

Destino: Nuevo Latino BistroDestino: Nuevo Latino Bistro is the brainchild and unique tasty destination restaurant by Owner and Executive Chef James Schenk.  It’s really two spots in one, with a full wall separating Pisco Latin Lounge and the other a full service restaurant and wine bar.  I found the cuisine to be rather unique, with many a fresh take on Latin cuisine or with an unusual flavor pairing hitting the mark with every course.  James was clearly engaged in the event, pacing in the background at times as his servers brought out a new pairing.  Each one was eventually met with a warm and pleased smile however, as each dish brought new cherry murmurs to the table.

We arrived just in time to grab a glass of Domaine Chandon North Coast Pinot Noir Reserve Brut Rosé that Kathy Whaley (Twitter) of Cacchetti Racke was pouring to awaken everyone’s palate.  This bubbly, a really good domestic effort with great acidity and fuller, creamy qualities, was a hit and really started the night on a upbeat note.  Joining us that night were all three Brix Chicks Liza (Twitter), Xandria (Twitter) and Nesta (Twitter), all in effect.  Luscious Lush Thea (Twitter) was also there, as well as Jason Mancebo (Twitter) of 20 Dollar Wine.

Espiritu de Argentina winemaker Luis VillarrealWe trundled into the other half of the Latin food and wine duo and settled into our seats, just in time for Bodega Monte Real and Espiritu de Argentina winemaker, Luis Villarreal to have a surprise bottle of vino poured for our starters.  The ’09 Espiritu de Argentina Mendoza Malbec Rosé is quite possibly the first rosé that I’ve ever tasted that was made entirely of Malbec.  I found it to be solid effort, slightly sweet, but with good zesty citrus peel and strawberry to balance that mild sugar.  While discussing this just bottle wine and his efforts to bring it over on the plane, I got a chance to study Luis.  He is a stout and well-balanced man, who is very well spoken and seemingly quietly passionate about all of his wines. I discovered throughout the evening however, that his passion for Argentine wine runs deep and once started, he will show that fiery passion in his discussions about his home region.

Now it’s time to dive into the wine pairings and menu!  I’m going to bullet-point the fine, tastily extravagant meal for the 6 courses that we enjoyed (we had to leave before dessert).

– Scallop Tiradito: ’08 Espiritu de Argentina Mendoza Torrontés

– This is the signature white varietal of Mendoza and Argentina and I found that it had a wonderful floral nose that a Viognier lover would enjoy.  The palate was tropical and crisp with great fruit and acid.

-Roasted Apple Quinoa Salad: ’08 Espiritu de Argentina Mendoza Chardonnay

– A beautiful pairing, the lemon zest and chayote matched the spicy Meyer lemon in this zesty version of this varietal.  This is also a great sipper!

Espiritu de Argentina @ Destino SF– Chicken Chorizo: ’07 Espiritu de Argentina Mendoza Shiraz

– Another great pairing, the plummy, fruit forward type of Shiraz balances the hearty spices in the *outstanding* chimichurri that was also included as an item in our gift bags…YUM!  Made by interuppcion fair trade, it is made sustainably and socially responsibly right in Mendoza!

– Slow Braised Pork Belly: ’07 Espiritu de Argentina Mendoza Bonarda

– This Bonarda was very interesting and again, a phenomenal value.  It was tied for my favorite wine of the night, along with the Torrontés.  It has beautiful violets and roses on the nose with charred, earthy blackberry.  The palate has the same great fruit alongside some great black pepper in the long finish.  Ten bucks?  You’ve got to be kidding me!

– Ox-Tail Empanada: ’07 Espiritu de Argentina Mendoza Malbec

–  My favorite dish of the night was paired with the trademark varietal for Mendoza, Malbec.  Florals here as well, the earthy nose was different from the more fruit-forward palate that had great acidity to pair with the savory, mildly spicy empanada with a Malbec reduction…I stole the rest of the Lady’s as she chatted with Luis!

– Grilled Swordfish: ’06 Espiritu de Argentina Mendoza Malbec Reserva

–  The final dish of the night was perfectly prepared and clearly a very fresh steak of swordfish with wonderful texture.  The Reserva features a lot more oak and I’d say this one should be laid down for a couple years before revisiting this powerful wine, featuring both red and black fruit on the chewy palate.  This was a risky pairing, but one that was a slam dunk, between the toasty oak in the wine and the grilled char on the fish.  Tasty.

Espiritu de Argentina @ Destino SFOverall I couldn’t help but be completely impressed by the value and QPR found in these wines.  All of these, aside from the slightly more expensive Reserva will retail at $10 here in the US upon release.  While fruit forward, they also feature great acidity, generally tamed and oak that balances the rest of the components in these food-friendly wines.  James and his creations at Destino convinced me that Latin food is certainly an innovative and fresh cuisine that continues to be successfully reinvented.  I’d like to thank Monica, Kathy, Luis, James and everyone else from Espiritu De Argentina, Cecchetti Racke, Balzac and Destino who provided the dinner and wines that night

Dive in and check out the full reviews of all of the wines from Luis and Espiritu de Argentina that we had that tasty night, with the links below.  If you would like to list these wines in your own WineLog, they are all tagged with “Espiritu2009Destino“.  All of my pictures from that night are on my Flickr, and grouped in a set, as well as on my Facebook.  Enjoy!


Domaine Chandon North Coast Pinot Noir Reserve Brut Rosé NV

Espiritu de Argentina:

Espiritu de Argentina Mendoza Malbec Rosé 2009

Espiritu de Argentina Mendoza Torrontés 2008

Espiritu de Argentina Mendoza Chardonnay 2008

Espiritu de Argentina Mendoza Shiraz 2007

Espiritu de Argentina Mendoza Bonarda 2007

Espiritu de Argentina Mendoza Malbec 2007

Espiritu de Argentina Mendoza Reserva Malbec 2006

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