California Women of the Rhone

Many times I get asked what wine is my favorite. I playfully answer, “It comes in a bottle.” I do not want to limit myself! The great expanse of beautiful wines continues to unfold as I explore different regions and wines. I do, though, often find myself coming back to the Rhone varietals.

Rhone wines are those that are made from grapes characteristic of the Rhone Valley in France. Syrah is the dominant red grape in the north. In the Southern Rhone, one finds red blends, which are made of Grenache and Mourvedre. I have enjoyed these wines many times over and over again. They bring great complexity of flavor and rich fruit expression.

Fortunately, these same grapes grow well in California, making California a great source of Rhone varietals.

I want to share with you a video from Wine Spectator, which presents some of my favorite winemakers known for making Rhone varietals with grapes sourced from various regions in California: Paso Robles, Sonoma Coast, Knights Valley, and Amador County. In this video, Helen Keplinger, Annie Favia, Anne-Marie Failla, and Jordan Fiorentini share their perspective on Rhone varietals and talk about their California sources. Their wine is wonderful!


Washington Wines: A Real Value

A few years ago, I tasted a red blend from Washington State called Ursa. It was produced by a small winery named Baer Winery in Woodinville, WA.  Interestingly, Ursa is Latin for the animal bear. The wine itself was a blend and a pure pleasure to drink. In fact, that year this wine was Wine Spectator’s #6 wine of the year. The price, at that time, was a mere $35 a bottle for an outstanding wine.

More recently, I purchased their 2010 Ursa for about the same price, and it scored 91 points. When Wine Spectator released their top 100 list again this year, Baer’s 2012 Ursa ranked at the #28 spot. I suspect there is a trend here. This is a consistently well-crafted wine that delivers year after year. Here is the best part – it is still available from the winery for shipment to most states. (Sorry, to my friends in PA!) I just searched their website to confirm, and they still have wine to sell and ship. Now is a great time as the weather is cool, and there is no concern regarding temperature.

Here is what I just took from the Baer Winery website:

2012 Ursa
40% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Franc, 12% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Malbec
1219 Cases Produced
To Be Released November 2015
Harvest: Hand-picked, 10/4-10/20/2012
Vineyards: 100% Stillwater Creek Vineyard
Yield: 2.02 to 4.16 Tons per Acre
Fermentation/Maceration Length: 7 to 14 days
Oak Aging: 100% French oak (Demptos, Saury, Sylvain)
Time in Barrel: 22 Months
Date Bottled: 8/6-8/7/2014
Ranked #28 in Wine Spectator’s Top 100
Wine Spectator: 94 point
Wine Enthusiast: 92 points
Stephen Tanzer: 90+ points

The price per bottle is $39, and it is worth it. I am amazed that this wine is still available. I recommend it highly.

The bigger trend here is the value wines coming from Washington. The most recent finds that are a real bargain have come from there. The state is growing in quality and increasing production year to year with new wineries cropping up. It is time to get to know Washington State wines!


Ursa Baer


To Our Health!

I still remember the slide show presented by the cardiologist that night. He compared the impact of beer, white wine and red wine on blood lipids. His slide depicted a clear advantage for red wine. That was over 25 years ago and that information still resonates for me to this day. It opened the door for greater reading and seeking to understand the effects of drinking red wine – both positive and negative. Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor and not making any recommendations here, just sharing what I’ve read!

Today there is a growing body of medical information with regard to the health benefits of wine consumption, predominately red wine, on health and well-being. More and more research is being done and the findings are interesting to say the least. The list includes reducing the risk of depression, preventing some cancers, providing anti-aging properties, preventing dementia, and other beneficial effects. Other possible health benefits include raising levels of omega-3 fatty acids and possible benefits in reducing prostate cancer.
One thing that is clear in all the literature is that the amount matters. The cited effects are related only to moderate drinking. According to “Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010”, published by the US Department of Agriculture: “If alcohol is consumed, it should be consumed in moderation – up to one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.”

So what is moderate wine consumption? That is an important point for us all. The National Health Services, UK, writes, “Men should not regularly drink more than 3-4 units of alcohol a day. Women should not regularly drink more than 2-3 units a day.” One unit equals 10 ml of pure alcohol. A 250 ml (large) glass of 12% red wine has about three units of alcohol. This is approximately 8½ ounces. A 175 ml (medium) glass of 12% red wine has about two units, which translates to about 6 ounces. Check the label; because as the alcohol goes up, the volume should be decreased.

It is also good to recognize that how much wine you can drink in one sitting before the health benefits turn into negatives depends on many factors. Those include a person’s size, age, sex, body stature and general health. It also matters whether you are consuming with a meal or on an empty stomach. Just a note as well, women absorb alcohol at a faster rate than men based on body mass and have less of an enzyme that breaks down alcohol. (Advantage men!)

As we start the New Year and put those resolutions in place, it is good to keep in mind that old adage that rings true here: All good things in moderation!

Happy New Year!