Thursday, May 31, 2012


A lot is new since the last time we stopped by Carruth Cellars, an impressive urban winery on Cedros Avenue in Solana Beach. They've enlarged their space , there's lots more wine now, and they're offering several new releases to taste.

Barrels galore

Carruth's 2011 Lake County Sauvignon Blanc is pear essence in a glass from nose to finish. Of the five reds we tasted our favorites were the 2009 South Coast Barbera - medium-bodied with lots of dark cherry, and 2008 Paso Robles Petit Syrah - full-bodied with a nice, dry finish.

The tasting bar
This fall Carruth Cellars will open a second larger location next to the new Stone Brewery in Point Loma's Liberty Station. Most of the winemaking will take place there, leaving more space for tasting and relaxing around tables in the Solana Beach space.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


Last weekend Mahogany Mountain Vineyards and Winery invited wine club members and friends to try five new releases - all 100% varietals from the Ramona AVA, vintage 2009. A nice dry Barbera has the tannin structure to compliment red meats or rich pasta dishes. The Mourvedre, light and fruit forward, moved our palates in a different but also pleasant direction that led to a Merlot that is slightly sweeter, with fruit lingering on the finish. Our two favorites were the Zinfandel - dry and spicy, with a hint of black cherry, and a well-balanced Cabernet Sauvignon. Winemaker Michael Hargett has a strong hunch that this wine will be even better in three or four years.

Kim Hargett described each wine.
All of the wines in this release are estate grown except the Barbera, which was made with grapes from nearby Highland Hills Vineyard. The new wines are already available to wine club members and will be offered in the tasting room over the summer.

If you like red wines, this is a great place to taste.
Mahogany Mountain wines showcase the characteristics of each grape and vintage. It's always fun to see what's new! And lately it's been easier to do so; flags and signs now point the way to the tasting room, open 1-5 on weekends.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


We hadn't stopped by the Hacienda de las Rosas tasting room for six months or so, and found lots new when we did. For starters there's a clean, bright 2009 Santa Barbara Chardonnay. Next we tried the very unique estate-grown Mission-Grenache blend; these grape varietals go back to the earliest days of winemaking in San Diego County. The wine is light and dry with citrus notes.

Winemaker William Rimes with newly bottled Mission Grenache

We liked the 2009 'Rey de Rosa' Syrah and the 2010 Merlot - both fruit-forward with a dry finish. But our favorite was definitely the 2008 'Corazon' Cabernet Sauvignon. It's earthy and smooth with an interesting finish - a really fun wine to drink.

There are at least ten wines to taste
Inside the tasting room
Soon Hacienda de las Rosas will open a tasting room at their vineyard in Ramona. There'll be a hitching post for visiting horses too. Meanwhile, the tasting room in Fiesta de Reyes Plaza, Old Town San Diego is open daily from 11:30am - 9pm. 619.840.5557

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


Since 2004 Teri Kerns and Micole Moore have been transforming their property to incorporate a vineyard; a winery; a garden; a well tended menagerie of barn animals, working dogs, and housepets; and a comfortable home. They make it look easy. Soon their new tasting patio will be open and we'll all be able to sample and take home Micole's delicious wines.
Tickled Pink Sangiovese Rosé - from foot-stomped Ramona grapes!

Joined on the patio by Ramona Valley Wine Region Magazine publisher and designer Dave Billick, we sipped Rosé and talked about what's to come. Dave firmly believes that making wine in Ramona is "a collective and better learning environment." In the vast pool of California... wine, it makes sense for these winemakers to share their knowledge rather than compete with one another.

Test rows of different grape varietals

Next we tasted Ramona Ranch's 2009 Zinfandel made with grapes from Hatfield Creek Vineyards, about half a mile away. It was easy to see why this wine was awarded "Best in Show Red" by Amateur Winemaker magazine. After a fun visit with the outdoor animals: two horses, a pet steer, three goats, and a small flock of heirloom hens we moved inside to do some barrel tasting.


These wines are good! Our favorites: 2010 Petit Syrah (Hatfield Creek grapes) and a slightly grassy Cabernet Sauvignon (Adobe Vineyards grapes) that's fruit forward at first but shows nice tannins on the finish. We also liked the Super Tuscan blend, but after so much wine all we managed to write about it was "yum." 
Medals already!

Stay tuned for more news from Ramona Ranch, a welcome addition to the Ramona winery community. 760.769.1622

Thursday, May 10, 2012


461 Pacific Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94133

We sought out Barrique because we're interested in the ecological and cost-saving potential of serving wines straight from the barrels. But we didn't realize that Cellar Master Matt Weese has a hand in production too; all of the barrel wine is private labelled. With six reds and three whites on tap, ordering two flights was the perfect way to get a sense of what Barrique has to offer.

The 2010 Russian River Chardonnay tastes of oak but not butter and fruit but not sweetness. According to Matt, "This is what Chardonnay tastes like. It's all about the grape." Who would argue? Another Chardonnay from Yorkville Highlands was mildly spicy, with a tantalizing nose. We moved on to a toasty 2010 Russian River Pinot Noir - mid-range in weight and a bit sweet at first, with tannins that emerge slowly, and a 2009 Arroyo Seco Syrah - bursting with black cherry and peppery on the finish, and a special treat: 2003 Bordeaux style Merlot. There's an element of surprise in these wines. The first burst of flavor doen't tell what's coming next, yet in every case we noted an exceptional finish.

Matt studied winemaking in college and is clearly following his passion to offer high-quality wines at reasonable prices via a business that's sustainable for people and the planet. Barrique is a wonderful venue for tasting and learning, or just relaxing after work or on weekends. In addition to the barrel selections there's a nice list of Northern California and French wines by the glass or bottle and a well curated snack menu.

Barrique is open Tuesday-Saturday 10am - 12am, Sunday & Monday 3pm - 10pm


On a recent visit to San Francisco we were delighted to discover a cluster of wineries right across the bay, housed in buildings that were part of the now-decommissioned Treasure Island Naval Base. We spent a memorable afternoon at Fat Grape Winery, Bodega Wine Estates, and Treasure Island Wines.


Treasure Island Wines, established in 2007, is a spacious urban winery that houses four winemakers producing under their own labels: Treasure Island, Eristavi, Bravium, and Heartfelt. Hosted by expert pourer Deneane and master vintner Victor Eristavi, we started with a crisp, mineral-tinged Treasure Island Sauvignon Blanc. Next we tried Eristavi's Symphony - a lesser-know grape varietal that's a hybrid of Muscat and Grenache. The wine is dry, with a delightfully intense floral bouquet. A pleasant taste of Rkatsiteli was another first for us.

Moving on to the reds, we enjoyed the 2010 Bravium Carneros Pinot Noir and 2009 Eristavi Zinfandel, which is lighter and drier than most. Even more impressive: Eristavi's 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon and award-winning Syrah.

Lots of space, lots of wine!
Victor, who hails from the Republic of Georgia, is a chemist who has revived his family's winemaking tradition in a new setting, melding old-world techniques with modern technology. He enthusiastically sources unique grape varietals from Sonoma, Lodi, and Amador County where "the grapes are so good, it's hard to make bad wine." To be sure, we only encountered good wine, including some barrel tastes of what is to come.

Heartfelt will be bottling in July, which means that soon there will be even more to experience at Treasure Island Wines. The tasting room is open most Saturdays from 1:00-5:00 and sometimes on Sunday.

995 9th Street Building 201,
(Corner of 9th Street and Avenue I)
Treasure Island
San Francisco, Ca. 94130

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


Bodega Wine estates is "a collaborative artists' colony" where Northern California winemakers showcase their offerings. Warmly welcomed by the colony's president Robert Amox and his friendly Basset Hound Bentley, we tasted wines from his own Knightwood Winery (Morningwood label) as well as Stein Family Wines and Curveball Winery.

Standouts include Stein's 2010 "Vaquero" Chardonnay and 2007 Tempranillo, and Morningwood's 2005 Merlot (plum and spice!) and 2005 Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon (our favorite).

With Robert in the tasting room
Bodega Wine Estates' wine club offers several membership options. Members are invited to special events and receive a special holiday shipment.

The tasting room is open Friday-Sunday 1:00-6:30.
751 13th Street at Avenue I
San Francisco, CA 94130


Since 2007, Patrick Bowen has been making his all-natural wines in a former Navy brig on Treasure Island, just minutes from downtown San Francisco. The wines, some of which are sold straight from the cask, are 100% varietals and contain no added sulfites. Patrick started making wine in the 1990s. When he retired from his job as a contractor he thought about going to the mountains to look for gold, but instead started a winery. He sources grapes from Amador County and Lodi and ages in French, American, and Hungarian oak.

Tasting room in what was the brig's men's dormitory

We tasted nine delicious wines - all red - plus a few more from the barrels. Our favorites: 2008 Patrick Bowen Cabernet Sauvignon, 2008 Fat Grape Sangiovese, and award-winning 2008 Fat Grape Merlot.

Patrick telling us about his wines
Fat Grape Winery's tasting room is open Thursday-Sunday from noon-5:30. Tasting is complimentary.
1080 Ave M San Francisco, CA 94130