Mi Sueño — My Dream

While Napa Valley has grown, there is still an interesting fact that remains true: 95% of Napa Valley wineries are family-owned. This is an amazing fact when considering that the number of wineries in the valley is over 400. In an even smaller number of wineries, the owner and winemaker are one and the same. Such is true for Mi Sueño: Rolando Herrera is both proprietor and winemaker.

I first drank Rolando’s wine when visiting Vintner’s Collective – a small boutique tasting room in the heart of the city of Napa. It is here where I was impressed with the richness, lushness, and balance of his big cabernets. The cabernet, though, is only one of the excellent wines that Rolando crafts. The line-up of Mi Sueño includes Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Syrah. All are well-structured and a pleasure to drink.

While Rolando’s wines are impressive, his story is inspiring. Rolando moved to the Napa Valley with his family from Michoacan, Mexico. As a young boy, he grew to love the valley; and, even when the family returned to Mexico when his father retired, Rolando committed to return to Napa Valley for a better education and future. Upon his return to the Napa (yes, he made that happen), he started as a dishwasher and then moved up to a line cook at Mustard’s Grill. At the age of 17, he went to work at Stags Leap Wine Cellars, building a stone fence. The owner of the winery was so impressed with his work ethic that he took Rolando under his wing to work in the winery.

Here is where the real dream takes shape. To own a winery and craft great wine – that became Rolando’s commitment. After Stags Leap, he spent many years mastering his craft while working at Vine Cliff, Chateau Potelle, and with Paul Hobbs. Each experience contributed to the knowledge, skills, and expertise that have led to the wines of Mi Sueño. It is through hard work and great effort that, today, Rolando owns his own winery, consults for several other wineries, and delivers excellent wine every vintage. The Dream is alive.

Visits to Mi Sueño are by appointment only, and the winery is located in the southern part of the valley. Here, they are set in an industrial park, yet the feeling and experience are quite warm and welcoming. This is truly a working winery, and the visit will leave you well informed and much wiser on how wine is made. This is the chance to sit, explore, and learn. The wine is well-crafted, and the experience warm and inviting. I do recommend a visit and encourage you to experience the Dream.


A Cabernet for $20? Yes!

For many people, Cabernet is king. It is one of the “go to wines” for many, yet finding one that is well-crafted for less than $30 can be a challenge. As you can imagine, I read many articles and reviews and found this value bottle mentioned in my reading. This comes from Antonio Galloni, who used to be associated with and reviewed wine for the Wine Advocate. More recently, Galloni started his own publication called Vinous, which is solely web-based. I follow him and appreciate his palate and his views.

Below is a bargain worth pursuing. I have not tasted it; but I think for that price, it is a fun adventure.

2012 Bodega Catena Zapata Cabernet Sauvignon Mendoza, 91 points, $20
Catena’s consistently excellent cabernet sauvignon is suave and plush yet light on its feet in 2012, showing a restrained sweetness to its sappy redcurrant, plum, mocha, graphite and spice flavors. Fine-grained tannins will not get in the way of enjoying this outstanding value now. (ST)

I am not sure what the flavors will yield, yet would love to hear from those who find this bottle. Please share your views.




Chardonnay, Please…

The top-selling white wine in the United States today is Chardonnay. There are many good reasons for that — it is an easy-going, pleasant, fruity, sometimes creamy, and sometimes spicy wine. With all that going on, it hits the right spot on many, many palates. In the beginning of my exploration of wine, my favorite one was Kendall Jackson Chardonnay. It was lush and approachable at any time. As it turns out, today it is the number one selling Chardonnay in the country.

Chardonnay is grown in many places in the world. Major plantings are found in California, Australia, Burgundy, and Languedoc-Roussillon in France. As you can imagine, these very different climates provide varied growing seasons and temperatures. Chardonnay will deliver a serviceable wine whether grown in a colder climate or a warmer climate, as evidenced by the vast array of growing regions. It will deliver entry-level wines that are easy drinking to the greatest white, the Grand Crus of Burgundy. (Yes, Chardonnay is the grape also known as White Burgundy.) Because of the wide variety of growing climates, Chardonnay becomes a great vehicle to express terroir and a great canvas for the winemaker.

Chardonnay provides a broad spectrum of flavor and styles. It can vary from steely with cool climate austerity to tropical and luscious. There is a Chardonnay for almost every occasion. It pairs well with roast chicken and other white meat. With a full, rich, new world wine, try rich seafood. Oaky Chardonnay pairs well with smoked fish and garlicky dips such as guacamole. Another friend of Chardonnay can be spicy, coconutty, South East Asian food.

Here are some well-crafted value wines for you to explore and try:

2012 Smoking Loon, Steelbird Unoaked, $8
2012 Amici, Olema Chardonnay, Sonoma County, $15
2012 Beringer Chardonnay, $18
2012 Columbia Crest, Grand Estates, $12
2011 14 Hands Chardonnay, Washington, $12
2013 Jacob’s Creek, Adelaide Hills Reserve, $13

It could be party time!