Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Great Eight Wines from Quarter One 2017

by Frank Mangio
The first few months of any wine year are always fun and exciting  as road shows and other grand events are presented with a multitude of new wine releases to become familiar with. Aside from a few rainouts and a  bout with a severe virus, I attended and tasted most all invites that came my way.
Every few months I open all the wine notes and share my picks with the column faithful.  This time there are 4 from Napa Valley , 2 from Oregon , one from Paso Robles and one from Argentina . There are 2 blends, 2 Pinot Noirs, a Zinfandel, Chardonnay, Malbec and a Cabernet Sauvignon.
Prices are best available and the list is alphabetical. All are equally excellent values.

Acumen Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley , 2013.  $60.  Inhale violets and fresh rosemary.  Catch the fresh turned earth tones. Must be the Rutherford dust in this part of the valley. 2,500 cases produced. Visit

Argyle Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley , Oregon , 2013.  $27.  This reserve is classic Burgundian powerful Pinot with a silky texture.  Willamette Valley is more old world than new world.  Small batch handling and gentle aging for 16 months in French Oak. See

Biale Vineyards Black Chicken Zinfandel, Napa Valley , 2014.  $46. Dark, ripe aromatics and juicy acidity.  Muscular with 15.3% alcohol. Vibrant cherry berry flavors and aged 14 months.  Black Chicken was a secret code from the Depression days.  Read about it at

Conundrum Red Blend, Napa Valley , 2014. $20.  A scent of alluring German chocolate, rich berry and lavender.  Lush flavors of candied cherries fit nicely in the front palate.  The finish is that of cocoa. Serve more chilled than a normal red.

Celebrating the Grgich Hills Estate 40th Anniversary Chardonnay:  Founder Mike Grgich, Co-proprietor Violet Grgich and winemaker Ivo Jeramaz.

Grgich Hills Estate Chardonnay, Napa Valley , 2014.  $50.  A special bottling from a key vintage, that celebrates the 40th Anniversary of the founding of Grgich Estates in Rutherford, Napa Valley in 1977.  It showcases Mike Grgich’s style that made him famous at the 1976 breakthrough Paris Tasting. View more at

San Simeon Stormwatch Blend, Paso Robles, 2013.  $70.  A rich, mouth-filling wine of dark cherry and raspberry. French oak barrels add a sense of elegance to the presentation.  This is a Bordeaux style blend prominently Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, with touches of Malbec, Petit Verdot and Cab Franc. Made by the renowned Riboli family, well known for their stewardship of  San Antonio Winery in downtown L.A. since 1917.  Visit

Trivento Golden Reserve Malbec, Mendoza Argentina , 2012. $21.  Grapes from the Lujan de Cuyo vineyards planted in 1912.  This is very high altitude viticulture from over 3 thousand acres. Look for more at

Willakenzie Pinot Noir, Willamette  Valley Oregon , 2013.  $16.99.  Here’s a low-ball price from another  lovely Pinot from the Willamette Valley . Ruby red and purple with a juicy rasberry flavor.  Should even get better with some age.  Pairs great with salmon and roasted poultry.

Ramona Valley Wines Awarded Gold in San Francisco
The 2017 San Francisco Chronicle competition, judging over 7,000 entries, awarded two silvers to the Ramona Ranch winery for its 2012 Reserve Sangiovese and a Tannat 2013.
Two bronze and a gold medal were awarded to Altipiano vineyard and winery.  The bronze went to its 2014 Petite Sirah and the 2014 Estate Sangiovese.

 Altipiano Vineyard and winery co-owner Peter Clarke pours a Super Tuscan
for columnist Frank 
Mangio. The wine was a recent gold medal winner.

The big prize of gold went to the 2014 Super Tuscanmade with the Estate Sangiovese Grosso, Brunello clone of Montalcino. Denise Clarke is the winemaker.  She also makes Baerbera, Petite Sirah, Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cab Franc, Zinfandel and Pinot Gris. Details at

Wine Bytes
Tasting Room Del Mar has an Ole’ Imports Spanish Wine Tasting, Wed. March 29 from 6 to 9pm. Everything from the bubbles of Cava to the fortified Sherry will be tasted.  Cost is $25. for seven wines.  Call 760-212-7826.

Brews, Beats and Eats is the theme at Chandler’s in the Cape Rey Resort in Carlsbad Fri. March 24 from 5:30 to 8:30pm at the poolside beer garden.  Brews from Stone Brewing, beats from the Ottopilot band and eats from the Cape Rey Taco Bar. 10% of proceeds go to the Ca. Surf Museum . Tickets range from $15. to $35.  See

The Barrel Room Rolls Out New Wine Concepts – Hosts Laird Family Estate

by Frank Mangio
It’s customer first for the many happy guests who have discovered all there is to know about The Barrel Room in Rancho Bernardo, a vintage wine bar and bistro that is raising the bar skyward with some grand plans for the future. They started the year our right by bringing in the legendary Laird Family Estate from Napa Valley. The last time I saw Rebecca Laird she was holding court in Del Mar at a dinner years ago. She hasn’t aged a bit but her wines have. Laird wines are simply in great demand, especially from other wineries. Confusing you say?  Not really.

 Rebecca Laird brought her brilliant Napa Valley wines to The Barrel Room in Rancho Bernardo.  She is shown with GM Brett Preston and Exec Chef Trevor Chappell.

After founding Laird in 1970 by buying 200 acres, her father Ken Laird and his wife enlisted the help of the one and only Robert Mondavi. He mentored them to specialize in Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay.  The first few years, they did 3,000 cases, and in the boom in production in the valley that followed, wineries were coming to them to buy all the grapes they could produce. Today, the Laird empire owns 2,400 acres with 40 vineyards. They count the legendary winemaker Paul Hobbs and Merryvale/Starmont as star customers for their grapes.

I asked her about all the rain this season and the affect on the grapes. “This season the rain has been vey beneficial for the grapes, but”…she hesitated.  “Any more rain, we may have a big problem with the crop.” She wound up the presentation at The Barrel Room with a vertical flight of three years worth of her Jillian’s Blend of Cab, Merlot, Syrah and Petite Verdot:  2011, 2012 and 2013. My vote went to the 2013, a carefully prepared vintage with subtle, elegantly mixed grapes. Most of the rest of the room thought so too.

I didn’t know a lot about the Barrel Room until I witnessed the professionalism and the fun of the Laird wine dinner. The team has worked hard to make it a retail wine shop, a wine bar, full casual dining restaurant, and I would add, a source of memorable wine dinners.

The Barrel Room Executive Chef Trevor Chappell offered a main entrée of Oxtail Terrine, Espresso Elk Striploin and Braised Short Rib, to go with the vertical wine threesome of Laird Jillian’s Blend.

To match the Laird offering of a 3 vintage vertical tasting of their most popular blend, The Barrel Room came up with 3 connected entrees:  an Oxtail Terrine, an Espresso Elk Striploin and a Braised Rib. The next extraordinary wine dinner is scheduled for Tuesday March 21st at 6pm.  It’s a 90+ point Argentina Wine Dinner with Marcos Mizzau, a wine expert from the country.  He will showcase the diversity of Malbec, the signature wine from Argentina . Cost is $75. per guest.  RSVP at 858-673-7512.

I sat down with the GM, Brett Preston, who enthusiastically revealed plans for an expansion into Carmel Valley soon.  “Our new location will have a full bar, amazing patio dining and a sister concept, Brother’s Provisions, next door.  Another restaurant is close to opening.  It will be called Urge Common House and is a full service restaurant, brewery and bowling alley.”  He also confirmed that “all of our 250 + wines at The Barrel Room are also sold for guests that want to buy them for take home purchase, at a discounted price.”

The Barrel Room is in The Plaza, off Bernardo Center Drive , just east of the I-15.  Find out more at TBRSD.COM.

Cabernet Sauvignon – the Classic Red Wine

by Frank Mangio
In Napa Valley , the reviews are in for the 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon harvest.  The judgment  is this is the 5th consecutive year of  exceptional wine grapes for this iconic varietal. The only regret is they didn’t get enough fruit due to 5 years of drought conditions. Well, as a Calilfornian, I can assure all that in 2017, all of our wineries will be producing more than enough wine grapes this year. The drought is over!

 For the last 12 years of writing on wine, I have marveled at how Cabernet  Sauvignon has dominated the world of wine.  With the exception of the terrible years of the” Great Recession,” Cab producers have cranked up prices and its adoring public has bought more and more.  California and Washington are America ’s Cab capitals, emulating the French Bordeaux style cabs that are the reverential  kings of the castle.  If I asked my readers for a show of hands as to whether

The 2012 vintage Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley
has been just released to rave reviews.

Cabernet is their favorite red wine, it would be Cabernet overwhelmingly.  Cabernet buyers base their purchases on the optimistic notion  that there is a greater Cabernet just over the horizon, and that perfection is just ahead with the next brand discovery, unlike most other wine varietals.  What other varietal would be so coddled and prized in a cooler for several years, maybe a decade, before being carefully opened at a birthday, anniversary or other special event.

Cabernet is one of the most tannic of red wines. The skins need aging for a certain power and elegance in the “royal” wineries that  know how to get the most out of these complex wines.  The   Napa  “country club” lineup would include:  Silver Oak, Lewis, Far Niente, Opus One, Caymus, Harlan, Hall, Joseph Carr, Chappellet, Joseph Phelps, Screaming Eagle, Shrader and Grgich in Napa Valley .  In Washington, turn to Leonetti, Pepper Bridge and Columbia Crest premiums.

The greatest vineyard producing California Cab would be To Kalon vineyard in Napa ’s Oakville , where grapes go for upwards of $60,000. a ton.  It is where Opus One is harvested, along with other very high- end Cabs.

New Cabernet releases are celebrated in Napa Valley about this time of year.  One of my contributing writers just returned from events at Far Niente and Silver Oak.  Both are estate bottled Cabernets. The 2014 Far Niente ($160.) and the 2012 Silver Oak ($125.) were both critically acclaimed.

Far Niente of Napa Valley celebrated its new release 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon at the luxurious Meritage Resort in Napa .  From left:  Executive Chef Dana Hicks, guest chef Miller McRae,
and Far Niente winemaker Nicole Marchesi.

The 2015 Far Niente was offered directly from the barrel and showed complexity and elegance. Winemaker Nicole Marchesi has crafted her talents at Far Niente since 2005 and has been chief winemaker since 2009, working with the vineyard sites and blocks to capture place and vintage excellence.

The Silver Oak release party was, as always, an original event at their Oakville winery.  It was a celebratory day of new release Cabernet, food pairings and bottle signings with the proprietors, the Duncan family. Oakville is considered central to Napa Valley world-class Cabs. Over 80 wineries dot the district with over 5 thousand acres under vine including Silver Oak and Far Niente.  Others include Heitz Cellars, Paradigm, Plumpjack, Girard, Nickel and Nickel, Turnbull, Ramey, Screaming Eagle, Cakebread, Bay, Opus One and Robert Mondavi.

You can almost always get a Cabernet  Sauvignon in a blend as most Napa Valley blends are Bordeaux style, which mandates a Cab as lead varietal.  If an authentic single vineyard 100% Cabernet Sauvignon is your style, be prepared to pay up for the real deal. Visit and

On the Wine Map: Washington State has Unique Global Position

by Frank Mangio
A look at a wine map of the state of Washington and the light bulb goes on. It’s really two states of weather. One has over 240 inches of annual rainfall and a ton of population in the Puget Sound district, including the Emerald city of Seattle , resting west of the Cascade Mountains .  The other, known as the Columbia Valley, is protected from wet weather systems by these same Cascades plus the Olympic Mountains , and sees only about 8 inches of rain per year.

Some 900 wineries come out of Washington state from 14 appellations, the largest being the Yakima Valley with its 13,500  wine grape acres.  Washington is the northern-most wine country in the U.S. with over 16 hours of sun in the critical summer growing season. If you drew a line around the globe from the middle of Washington, it would travel between Bordeaux and Burgundy in France, both legendary wine countries for Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay, a direct link of new world vineyards with old world tannin and acid structure. This is America ’s 2nd largest  wine region with over 50,000 acres under vine and 40 varietals led by Cabernet Sauvignon.

Washington state wines were on display in San Diego with Columbia Crest’s
winemaker Juan Munoz Oca unveiling his new Intrinsic wines ($19.99).

With this backdrop, Washington wines with newly won respect in the wine world, came into San Diego to say hello.  They have done so before but this year there were more wineries and their two best known brands, Chateau Ste. Michelle and Columbia Crest, were in attendance.

I have written a lot about these two wineries and their accomplishments.  They have a knack for marketing lovely tasting wines at value prices, and their talent for premium wines is up there with the best that the state has to offer.

In 2009, Wine Spectator shocked the wine world by awarding the Columbia Crest Cabernert Sauvignon 2005 vintage ($25.) “the #1 wine in the world.” It was the first time a wine from Washington state had received this honor.

At the road show, Senior Director of Winemaking Juan Munoz Oca introduced the newest wine in the collection, Intrinsic. ($19.99).    My personal favorite of the group is a maximum value H3 Les Chevaux Red Blend from the Horse Heaven Hills appellation ($9.).  The current vintage is 2013, a banner year for west coast wines. La Chevaux is a French word for horses.  Circulation is very high and you can find it just about everywhere.  Visit

Another dual collaboration is Amavi Cellars and Pepper Bridge , in the Walla Walla district. National Sales Manager Mark Melia had his Amavi Cellars 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon ($34.); and his Pepper Bridge Trine Red Blend 2013 ($65.) with Cabernet, Cab Franc, Petite Verdot and Merlot, turned some heads at the show.  By the way, downtown Walla Walla has the highest concentration of tasting rooms in the state. and

Washington state will surprise you when you open a bottle from their state.

San Diego Winemaker Challenge Awards Gold to Thornton Winery
Thornton Winery in Temecula is scheduling its next Champagne Jazz concerts for Spring, Summer and Fall of this year. But today, they are celebrating a prestigious 4 gold medals for their wines!  The Winemaker Challenge, an International Wine Competition, held recently in San Diego, awarded 4 gold and 3 silver medals for 3 sparkling wines, 2 Chardonnays, a Petite Verdot and my favorite from the winning group, the 2014 Cabernet Franc. ($39.)

Thornton Winery in Temecula, known for its Champagne Jazz concerts, picked up
4 gold and 3 silver medals at the San Diego Winemaker  Challenge.

This one has flavor notes of violets, raspberry and cedar, with velvet-smooth tannins.  The word is out so I would advise you to contact the bottle and gift shop at Thornton at 951-699-0099 xt 3113.

NOTE:  Many thanks for the dozens of e mails to the TASTE OF WINE column, commenting on the new, noisy restaurants that are being passed off as happy dining establishments. Many were unhappy with the conditions that make it impossible to peacefully dine and hear their guests who are sitting next to them. 

Lots of Wine Open Spaces in Temecula

by Frank Mangio
The Temecula Valley Wine Country’s special occasional events are always full of value and offers visitors focused knowledge about wineries of their choice.  Its recent two day Barrel Tasting Event offered a “drop-in to your favorite winery” format with a passport ticket  for admission to a number of wineries of your choice.  There, you could be assured of visiting with the management team or the winemaker, with tasting from barrels as well as newly released bottles.

This wine country was the first I covered as a newly minted wine journalist some 12 years ago.  Joe Hart was my first interview.  I threw him a few softball questions abut his winery and some 30 minutes later he was still engaged in convincing me that Temecula had a lot going for it.  The Wiens brothers had just come in and set up a trailer while they tended their new crop of vines and John Thornton was operating the best and most successful Champagne Jazz Concert series in Southern California.

Wine columnist Frank Mangio samples a Zinfandel blend from the new Avensole Winery 
with Hospitality Manager Jennifer Capps and Marketing Manager Stephanie Swinton.

 He still does with his son Steve, now the President of the winery, and his long-time special events manager Tonya Wake.  And 12  or so years ago, Robert Renzoni, then a sales manager for Leoness Cellars, convinced his father Fred, that the time was right for their own winery in an area that would later be called the De Portola Wine Trail, an important link with the Temecula Valley wineries.
My entourage and I had planned this day with  a set number of wineries  to visit, topped by the “newest kid on the block,” Avensole Winery, occupying what used to be Van Roekel winery, then La Cereza.  In 2013 the Lytton Family saw that the property was for sale and purchased it in 2014, naming it Avensole.  It’s a word comprised of “aventura” ( Italian for adventure), and “sole” (meaning one of a kind).

Avensole has been open since April 2016 and its first bottles are a fascinating potpourri of wine varietals:  Cabernet Sauvignon, Muscat Canelli, Gewurztraminer, “new vine” Zinfandel  and “old vine” Zinfandel, plus some relatable blends.  Avensole’s energetic Marketing and Business Development Manager is Stephanie Swinton who pointed out that the vines are still young
with the important exception of the old vine zin.  “We can trace their origins to the hills of Croatia,” she said pointing to the 2013 Aventura, a robust wine with 95% Zinfandel and 5% Syrah. “We have them on the property because some of the early pioneers in the late 60’s planted them, along with Muscat Canelli and Cabernet Sauvignon.”  The 2013 Aventura ($46.95 at the winery) is a classic old vine zin and I recommend you enjoy a bottle.  The newest release should be out this Spring.  Visit the winery first on line at it also has a full service restaurant, Marketplace, with a beautiful terrace and pond with occasional live music.

Sonoma’s Ferrari Carano has Wine Dinners at Seasalt and La Gran Terraza
 Fume’ Blanc, SIENA and Tresor.  These are household names at Sonoma ’s best-known Ferrari Carano, due in large part to the efforts and hospitality of Michael Hurst, the voice for this winery in Southern California .

La Gran Terraza Manager Emma Van Dusen with Ferrari Carano Wine Manager Michael Hurst.

 “Fume’ Blanc ($12.) is our biggest seller by far,” Hurst pointed out. “Tresor is a deluxe Bordeaux style blend ($34.) that sits 18 months in a barrel before release and SIENA is an Italian Sangiovese-based red blend with supple tannins and a delicious strawberry jam flavor ($16.).  The SIENA label is really unique.  It was designed by Rhonda Carano.  She took the red soil of Sonoma and artfully swirled it across a label.  The latest vintage is the 2014.  It pairs beautifully with Italian food.”

Leading restaurants like Seasalt in Del Mar and La Gran Terraza in San Diego have great success on the wine menus and at the bar with this label. See more at

A Coastal Festival of Wine & Food Fresh Daily

by Frank Mangio

At first glance, the entrance to Seaside Market in Cardiff appears more a promenade of relaxed coastal beach colors and culture that have attracted the beach community for years.  A large signature logo in inviting blues, a lively entrance in wood décor that links with similar looking patio and cafe seating and a multi–hued stone walkway leading to fruit and veggie stands, is as attractive, relaxing and comfortable a natural food market as you can discover.  Once inside, Sinatra music, and a festival of eye-pleasing imagery of coastal beaches, fishing and surfing  are presented in larger-than-life vivid photography.  Another wall reveals a historic collection of surfboards and a 4 panel super sized video board of special products and an outside weather station.

Seaside Market in Cardiff, serving this North San Diego community since 1985, recently underwent significant improvements with a festival lifestyle of coastal excitement

Each department in Seaside Market is bustling, attractive and well-stocked with fresh food, health products and services, beverages, baked goods, floral and gift, meats, seafood, cuisine to go and a charcuterie of cheeses and cold cut meats.

I was on assignment to meet the wine department buyer, Steve Ark, who is the  architect  of a vastly expanded wine department that has grown some 50% since the market improvement projects were put in place. The  well-lit, soft circle department, invites  consumers to surround themselves with a world of choices, exciting to review familiar favorites as well as new discoveries.  Ark has been involved with Seaside and its wine department for some 15 years and has seen it all. He has a self-assured confidence in all the names and wine countries chosen, and keeps up to date with wine trends.

The talk of Seaside Market in Cardiff is its complete wine department under
the expert direction of Wine Buyer Steve Ark.

I asked him what was moving off the shelves these days.  “Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay are still kings of the reds and whites we sell,” he revealed. “We also see a lot of Pinot Noir being sold.  Argentina and New Zealand  are up and coming countries with quality wines. We get solid sales from France , Italy and Spain .  When it comes to California,  I personally love the wines from the Central Coast ( featured recently in TASTE OF WINE), and the Russian River district of Sonoma. I watch the wine vintages each year for any weather concerns that might lower the quality of each country’s wines.  Quality of production for our inventory is first priority.”

I noticed that the wines offered were in most price ranges and were stable, well marked and in easy to read categories.  Ark commented that “we have a full range of customers from value to premium that know their wines and what they like. We don’t play with pricing.  Our most popular wines are easy to find at eye level.  We have some great relationships with suppliers over the years and can get some special brands and vintages that our customers appreciate greatly.”

Seaside Market has a famous Burgundy Pepper Tri Tip, infused with a secret  tumbling process that only Seaside presents.  At $16.99 a pound, it quickly sells out daily.  I put the question to Ark about pairing it with wine.  “I would recommend a big red like a Zinfandel or a Syrah,” he offered.
Moving closer to me and pointing to an Oregon Pinot Noir with a decidedly Burgundy flavor, his personal choice became evident.  “But that’s the one I would have with it.”

Just above the wine department sits an upstairs mezzanine with a kitchen for food preparation.  Wine tastings and full courses of wine and dinner events are in the planning stages.  More than ever, Seaside Market will be more of a community gathering place of special of  importance.  Visit

Wake Up Call from Via Guadalupe Wines

by Frank Mangio
Is there bias in the wine business?  You bet there is!  Taste  and companionship are two big reasons why we have favorites in life.  With wines as in our other close-to-the-heart precious subjects, you fall in love and you tend not to change your choices. I believe that  the wine experience should also include discovery.

I have written more than a few times about budgeting some of your wine dollars for new selections, and that brings us to  the vineyards and surprisingly great wines coming from our friends to the south of San Diego , in the Guadalupe Valley , near Ensenada . Back in the 90’s, word was spreading about a pristine but primitive valley about 2 hours drive from San Diego that made some nice Cabernet, Merlot and Chardonnay, maybe a dozen or so vineyards, and if you were vacationing in Ensenada or Cabo San Lucas, or maybe on a cruise ship around Baja, you might see a few of the Baja wines.  Fast forward to 2007 and the dozen or so wineries were now up to a few dozen and producing about 85% of the wines in all of Mexico .

Fernando Gaxiola is the major spokesman for the wines of the Guadalupe Valley in Baja,
seen at the San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival.

The valley caught the attention of TASTE OF WINE and a visit  to see for myself.  The beauty of the valley was unmistakable with the perfect weather patterns and coastal breezes for plump, dynamic grapes. What I found was a setting perfectly aligned for Italian grapes such as Sangiovese from Tuscany and Nebbiolo from Piemonte.  A master from the old country, Camillo Magoni, was chief winemaker for LA Cetto, at that time the largest winery in Mexico. His Nebbiolo was 3 years in a barrel and sold for just $15.

Today, there are over 80 vineyards in Via Guadalupe with 20 thousand plus acres under vine, and 12 luxury boutique hotels. It’s estimated that over 600 thousand visitors come to the valley to taste and purchase the wines.

Fernando Gaxiola knows as much about the wines of the Gudalalupe as anyone.  He is a tireless promoter of the wines and has connections with tour companies, restaurants and events in San Diego that allow him to present his Guadalupe Valley wine clients.  On a recent day, we met and spoke over a lovely wine dinner at the popular rustic-style Bracero in San Diego’s Little Italy district.

This restaurant, and Coasterra, a “Modern Mexican” food format on Harbor Island , have many great Baja wines on their wine menu.  I asked him what  he does to promote the Guadalupe wines. “I am working hard to produce tours of the valley to show first hand where and how these wines are made and the quality of the producers.

Bracero in San Diego ’s Little Italy is a hot spot for rustic country style Mexican cuisine, and a showcase for Via Guadalupe wines.  A favorite on the menu is “Nana’s Lentil Soup”

We also present wine tasting at the biggest events in Southern California .  A name to know is Monte Xanic ( shah-neek), with 50,000 cases of wine  a year. They do a blend, the Don Ricardo, with only the best grapes from Cabernet, Merlot and Petit Verdot. ($50.)  I also recommend the Rafael from Adobe Guadalupe Vineyards and Inn , a blended wine of great elegance and intensity with Cabernet and Nebbiolo. ($40.),” Fernando concluded.  Rafael was so flavorful, it landed in the TASTE OF WINE Top Ten Tastes for 2016.

 For more visit

Here and There in the Wine World

by Frank Mangio
2017 is off to a speedy wet start for wine events, like our “atmospheric river” of seasonal rains here on the west coast. Word from the Napa Valley is that flooding is causing great concern for the 2017 vintage. On the bright side, the 6 year drought is done and over with in California .

You have to know the rainy season is getting extreme when rain is in its 3rd week in the Palm Springs desert in Southern California, where I spent time with my close friend Mike Grgich, the pioneer winemaker who created the foundation for Napa Valley wine greatness.
Grgich has been my hero since I began writing on wine in 2005.

Wine columnist Frank Mangio visits with Napa Valley wine pioneer
Mike Grgich and samples his new release 2013 Merlot.

His rise in the 60’s and 70’s as a premier winemaker is well known. This year Grgich and family are celebrating their 40th anniversary  since founding Grgich Hills Estate in the Rutherford district in 1977. His current release 2013 Merlot is one to taste. ($43.)  Consistent sunshine and temperatures  created a complex, excellently balanced wine.  As Grgich determined, “this is a Cabernet lover’s Merlot.”

Croatian born and raised, Grgich and his daughter Violet, established a Croatian winery in 1996, Grgic’ Vina , overlooking the Adriatic Sea at Dubrovnik. See more at

How long can wine last once the cork is opened?
Like many wine topics, this one is subject to a lot of discussion.  Variables abound.  The easy answer is drink it all as soon as it’s opened, preferably with a friend. With a standard .75 ltr. bottle, the rule of thumb is 3 days before the oxygen intrusion begins to turn the taste toward vinegar. Use a pump and stopper to get the air out of the bottle before it accumulates and you can extend the time in a bottle to four days.  If the bottle has a twist cap, you can get a week out of it. Another thing that will help longevity is to keep it in a refrigerator after opening and buy quality wines whose tannins will help preserve its life to a week.

Did you know that one of the foremost Port and Sherry style wineries is in Vista, in San Diego County ?

Eric Brooking took us back to pre-prohibition days in the city of Vista and other North San Diego hubs that were making wine, especially fortified wine.  With a climate and topography that was distinctly Mediterranean and looked for all the world like a hillside in Portugal , some 120
wineries were producing  fortified wine before Prohibition.  When that hideous law swept across America , most of the wineries in San Diego County were wiped out and swept into the history books.

 Brooking Vineyards in Vista is an oasis of top quality Cream Sherry and Port style
wines, one of which, the Old Fashioned Angelica,
won gold at the San Diego 
County Fair.

Eric Brooking and his family survived and mastered the technique of fortification, where grapes grown in a warm Mediterranean climate like Vista , were fermented and interrupted by the addition of grape brandy, retaining the natural sugars. The grapes used are Tempranillos, those used in Portugal and Spain , generic homes for Sherry and Port.  He also makes Muscat Canelli Angelica on his 6 acre estate. Wines are $49. per bottle. See