Cambria, Paso Robles Wine Country host BlendFest

32 wineries pour best blends in sold out central coast event

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After walking along Cambia’s Main Street, enjoying its great shops, wine tasting, restaurants and art galleries, take the time to stroll the boardwalk along Moonstone Beach.

Within hiking distance of the Fiscalini Ranch‘s majestic Monterey pines, coastal oak forest and amazing bluff ocean views, Cambria hosted the ONLY wine festival dedicated to blended wines: BlendFest, Jan. 13-15. And with a second wine event at the end of the month, Cambria is heating up as a winter wine destination (More on that below).

The 3rd annual Paso Robles Wine Country BlendFest on the Coast was a blast, showcasing the scenic beauty of the central coast with the renowned wines of Paso Robles, only miles away. Over 400 tickets were sold over four blend-themed events, including the Grand Tasting, Winemaker Dinner and two Blending Seminars that pleased both Bordeaux and Rhone variety lovers.

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32 wineries poured their newest blends during the 3rd annual Paso Robles Wine Country BlendFest, Jan. 13-15, 2017.

BlendFest on the Coast partnered with Cambria and San Simeon lodging properties, Cambria Pines Lodge and the Cavalier Oceanfront Resort in San Simeon, who hosted the three-day event along with Stewardship Travel.

This year 32 Paso Robles wineries, pouring over 90 blends and hosts to local winemakers, winery personnel and wine enthusiasts from across the country, shared a passion for central coast red blends.

According to Christopher Taranto, communications director for Paso Robles Wine Country, the combined efforts were to create an event in the off season to get people out of the area to Cambria and San Simeon for a wine event that is both fun and a great consumer experience.

BlendFest is an event of our creation,” Taranto said, “to create a groundswell of excitement, travel to Cambria and San Simeon that turns people onto wine that they will take to their next trip to Paso but in the meantime have a great coastal experience.”

The event along with partner Highway 1 Discovery Route, offers wine lovers a chance to sip, savor and compare the artistry of blending and a chance to chat with winemakers and fellow blend enthusiasts. While we hoped to get tickets to the exclusive Winemaker Dinner, all 42 seats were snapped up pretty quick (Note: call, visit the Paso Robles Wine Country website early and check for 4th annual event by mid summer).

Taranto likes the winemaker dinner as it provides more of an intimate experience than the events later in the weekend.

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Robin’s Restaurant in Cambria hosted the BlendFest Winemaker’s dinner, pairing Paso Robles wine in a four-course meal.

“Each winery takes ownership of a table and leads a one-on-one dining experience with his/her guests, personally pairing the wines with the courses served by the restaurant,” Taranto said. “This is specially prepared meal and wine pairing: Real food and an honest experience with Paso wine. Each table had a different experience, reflecting the personalities of the winemaker and chefs.”

Seven winemakers met with guests at Robin’s Restaurant in Cambria for a four-course winemaker dinner and wine pairing, Jan. 13. Imagine Alta Colina Vineyard & WineryAncient Peaks WineryHarmony CellarsJ. Lohr Vineyards & WinesLone MadroneMCV Wines and Niner Wine Estates winemakers all pouring and sharing how their wines pair well with chefs Robin Covey and Shanny Covey’s culinary creations. Put me on the list for 2018!

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A docent-led hike in Cambria’s urban forest, ocean bluffs or other walks are wonderful ways to appreciate the central coast.

But before we settled in for a wine blending session, my wife and I decided to independently join in on a docent-led stroll through Cambria’s Fiscalini Ranch forest not far from the Cambria Pines Lodge. Our guide, Stephen Morgan, a long-time Cambria resident, walked and educated us on a 2 1/2 hour walk through the most gorgeous scenery.

He shared the area and ranch’s history, plant and wildlife, forest health and the most amazing vistas in and around the Monterey pines and oak trees. He also added loops through meadows and ocean bluff views that are better than the postcards advertise.

So after a rest and snack at our hotel, the Fireside Inn on Moonstone Beach, we were ready to enjoy the ticket holders ($65) for our first event of BlendFest: The second session of the Grand Tasting, Jan. 14, from 4:30 – 6:30 p.m. in the beautiful Cambria Pines Lodge on Burton Drive (The first session took place from 1 – 3 earlier that same afternoon).

The sold out BlendFest Grand Tasting event event gave 32 wineries a chance to meet with over 185 wine drinkers from across the country to meet, chat and discuss Paso Robles blends.

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The BlendFest Grand Tasting was split into two sessions with 32 wineries each pouring their latest three Paso Robles blends in the Cambria Pines Lodge.

Sandra and her husband, Tom, drove in from Pismo Beach for a getaway. Tom had planned a weekend away and surprised her with tickets to BlendFest.

“This has been a great weekend as I have spent quality time with my husband, enjoying beautiful wines, great food and visit my daughter nearby.”

With wine and cheese tables, various gourmet food bites (The Pairing Knife–SLO) and plenty of water to season our palate, we enjoyed a two-hour stroll through the wineries’ latest Bordeaux and Rhone blends from the Paso Robles wine region.

Jaclyn from Whittier, CA, heard of the event from Paso Robles Wine Country events. And after a friend, who attended last year, recommended the event, she bought her tickets online.

“I love Grey Wolf’s Soulmate because it is so smooth. I have had a great time tasting through about half of the wineries on our food, wine and romance weekend at the Cambria Pines Lodge. It’s great place to stay.”

Lorna from Santa Barbara was sent information to BlendFest by a co-worker and decided to make the weekend a Christmas gift to her husband.

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Set in a quiet, wooded setting, the Cambria Pines Lodge and Conference Center hosted BlendFest. Many attendees stayed at the lodge during the event.

“We are making this a romantic wine and food getaway,” Lorna said. “We went to the winemaker dinner last night at Robin’s and it was phenomenal. We ate foods we wouldn’t normally eat like duck liver sauce and bay scallops in a cream sauce. All four course were awesome. Go to Robin’s and eat there. The food is great.”

Winemaker Michael Barreto of Le Vigne Winery brought Bordeaux, Italian and Rhone-based blends to BlendFest.

“The wineries at BlendFest are creating and pouring the best possible wines they can make,” Barreto said. “BlendFest is a good way to taste the best blends that Paso wineries are pouring–in essence their best wines they make. Besides BlendFest is a great way for folks to see the central coast. This is on a three-day weekend in Cambria so there is plenty of time to taste, visit other wineries and still time to enjoy the area. It’s a great weekend event.”

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Whether on vacation or a serious wine connoisseur, BlendFest offers wine consumers a chance to swirl, sip and savor Paso Robles blends all under one roof.

Bret from Minnesota happened to be in the area on vacation two weeks ago and had never heard of a blending event before.

“We are wine drinkers back home and love blends,” Bret said. “We’ve been sipping and tasting but I prefer our first one: Zephyr from Zinaida. “It had a lot of flavor, complexity and was very soft. I know I’m gonna tell people back home about this blended wine tasting and how unique it is. But this feels like a natural event for me.”

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In an afternoon and evening session, 32 wineries poured three of their latest blends for wine enthusiasts at the Cambria Pines Lodge. Wine, cheese and gourmet food bites were also served.

Matt from Temecula had been planning an anniversary trip to the central coast and it happened to be the same weekend as BlendFest.

“We had gone to the Paso Robles website and found the information on BlendFest,” Matt said. “It seemed like a good idea to spend our 15th anniversary at the event.”

Matt’s wife Kerry said they were cab and cab blend lovers and this event seemed like a natural one to hang out in.

“We also plan on going to other wineries as the Grand Tasting is our only BlendFest event,” Kerry said. “We are headed to Justin, Daou, J. Lohr and Halter Ranch from here.”

Allison from Torrence heard about BlendFest because they are members of Hearst Ranch wine club and heard about the event through their social media.

“BlendFest is a great way to sample a bunch of great wines, there is a great vibe and good food,” Allison said. “Plus, we are staying at the Cambria Pines Lodge. This is so worth it because I don’t have to drive. We come and stay at the lodge a couple times a year and the rooms are great–plus they will take in our dog. They are so dog friendly. We always take in a tour in the area, watch the elephant seals, take a day and wine taste in Paso Robles.”

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The Cavalier Oceanfront Resort is right on the beach in San Simeon, five miles north of Cambria.

The final BlendFest event brought four winemakers to a two-part blending seminar at the beautiful Cavalier Oceanfront Resort in San Simeon, Jan. 15.

Emcee David Wilson, host of Grape Encounters Radio, not only supported the event but added a lively, personal and, at times, educational element which kept the 48 of us often laughing and relaxed. David celebrated with us the joy of wine and all “the fun that drinking it, and in this case, blending it, seems to stimulate!”

The great part of the blending seminar, also hosted by the Paso Robles Cab Collective, is that Wilson and three area winemakers shared their thoughts on the characteristics and properties of seven Paso Robles wines. During the two-part blending seminar, they also shared some ideas on how blending each wine into another changes the overall taste and aroma, providing tips and general tasting notes of each varietal.

Working in teams, guests choose to create their own Bordeaux-style blend, led by members of the CAB Collective. In a very short period of time, even wine newcomers became wine apprentices for the morning. Most of us had never considered creating our own blends from five varietals (Merlot, Cab Franc, Malbec, Cab Sauvignon, and Petit Verdot). With just a little math and chemistry, all of us were on our way to creating brand new blends of our own creation.

Wine lovers just like us sat at five tables of eight. They were from all over the spectrum. And like Tim and Nellie Perry of Inland Empire, we met individuals who made us feel very relaxed and comfortable.

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Seated at five tables of eight, budding winemakers used up to five varietals to create their own blend. After 40 minutes of testing, each table voted and submitted their “top blend” to the winemakers and host for judging.

“On the morning of the event, we were second guessing ourselves and thought,’Is this really our thing?'” Tim said. “We’re wine lovers, but definitely not experts. What does a Mortgage loan manager, and a Construction supply sales manager know about wine blending? However, despite being nervous or fear we would feel out of place, it ended up being the exact opposite for us.”

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The blending seminar included education and tasting notes and characteristics of five varietals.

The winemakers walked around the room, offering suggestions, answering questions and encouraging risk-taking at each table. Even the most timid created a blend fashioned around their preferences. It was really cool to taste the diversity of blends even at our table of eight. We truly created #drinkwhatyoulike and shared our creations with each other.

“The best part of the event for us was the assignment they gave us,” Nellie said. “We were told to individually blend our own wine from the bottles on table (Of course this was after tasting seven different wines,… yes I said seven!) and then our table group voted on whose wine blend would represent the table for the contest. To our surprise, my husband’s wine blend was chosen to represent table No. 4!”

I agree, this was a blast! We too met people from all over the state at the blending seminars and easily made new friends who had similar interests and fascinating stories. All of them. What a great way to spend a few hours. The bonus was the gorgeous coastal setting of San Simeon just minutes away from Hearst Castle.

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Host and emcee David Wilson of Grape Encounters Radio, left to right, and winemakers Steward Cameron (Ancient Peaks), Ben Mayo (San Antonio Winery) and Christian Tietje (Rotta Winery), educated and judged the blending seminars.

“At the end, we learned that it is okay to step outside the box,” Nellie said. “Go ahead and play with the wine. It’s okay to mix a few together and get the exact wine you are looking for.

“The extra bonus at the BlendFest event was the delicious BBQ lunch provided by (Higgies World BBQ) served afterwards. So delicious! All in all, it was a such wonderful and fun event that given the opportunity we will definitely do again and maybe invite friends to come along.”

I have to agree. All those who signed up for the two-part blending seminar had the same interests and varying abilities. After a brief education about the Bordeaux varietals on the table, we tasted were given about 40 minutes to create our own unique Bordeaux blend. Later members of each table voted on the top blend. Winners of each table then were judged and the winning table awarded an all-inclusive passport for visiting and tasting privileges at all 22 CAB Collective wineries.

Central Coast Wine Enthusiasts Next Events

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Cambria Art & Wine Festival, Jan. 27 – 29, 2017

One of the best things about a weekend getaway to Cambria on the central coast is the close proximity to all of the incredible wineries in the area.

Grapes grown in the unique coastal climate have a flavor unlike any other, attracting wine lovers from all over the world.

January is the perfect time to schedule your vino-vacation, too, because there are multiple wine-centric events happening in and around Cambria!


In true Cambria spirit, the Art & Wine Festival combines two major pieces of Cambria’s personality into one wonderful weekend.

From Friday, Jan. 27 through Sunday, Jan. 29, patrons can learn about local wine and local art all in one place. Festival highlights include shopping specials, wine tasting, wine pairing, raffle prizes, live demonstrations by artists, an art show/silent auction and more! Click here to purchase tickets, and don’t forget to book your stay, too, in Cambria area lodging!

Art & Wine Festival starts with Farm to Easel” event at the Cambria Farmer’s Market at 2:30 p.m., Jan. 27. For more information, check out the Cambria Art & Wine Festival details page. And keep up with the recent added venues as well. The event Kick-Off Party offers a five course wine & food pairing at Madeline’s Restaurant.  Entertainment, preview of the Art Show/Silent Auction and special raffle prize packages will be held at the Veterans’ Hall.

Cambria Art & Wine Festival tickets can be purchased online (recommended) and are also available at the Cambria Chamber of Commerce, 767 Main Street, Cambria, CA, or call  805.927.3624. Depending on the event(s), tickets range from $25-$105.

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Bonus Cambria wine lover event

Wine Pairing Dinner, Jan. 28

Pacific Coast Wine Trail is hosting their Wine Pairing Dinner in Cambria at Indigo Moon Restaurant, during Cambria Art & Wine Festival weekend, on Saturday, Jan. 28, at 6:30 p.m. Join Cayucos Cellars, Chateau Margene, Cuatro Dias, Harmony Cellars and MCV Wines for an elaborate five-course meal! All-inclusive tickets cost $100 per person, and they must be purchased in advance. For reservation questions, call Harmony Cellars at 805.927.1625 and book this and other Pacific Coast Wine Trail events.

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Next Event for Paso Robles Wine Country

Vintage Paso Weekend, March 17-19

Enjoy the wine that put Paso Robles on the map: Zinfandel, the first variety planted in Paso in the 1880s. Vintage Paso is a weekend dedicated to raise awareness of Zinfandel. Events include a  Zinposium, March 17: Master Sommelier, Peter Neptune, will lead you through a tasting of Zinfandel and Zin-blends at the Paso Robles Inn Ballroom in Downtown Paso Robles. Later on Friday, join 18 Paso Robles wineries for a Zinfandel walk-around tasting, complemented by a fantastic dessert selection for the Z After Party.

Other activities are planned so be sure and check winery activities page for up-to-date information as more than 140 wineries plan to participate. Join fellow wine enthusiasts for a selection of wine and chocolate pairings, winemaker dinners, vineyard tours, laid-back barbecues, barrel tastings, live music, and so much more! Tickets will be available on the Paso Robles Wine Country website.

Cambria’s Moonstone Beach at dawn along the boardwalk.

Be sure to read TalesoftheCork’s previous blog post, “DeLoach Vineyards on the table.” And if winemakers, wineries or restaurants are interested in a TalesoftheCork wine and/or food review on the blog, InstagramTwitter and/or Facebook, please send us a request via email: talesofthecork@gmail.com or use DM on social media. TalesoftheCork also offers social media seminars for businesses.

DeLoach Vineyards on the table

TalesoftheCork pairs Pinot and Chardonnay

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DeLoach Vineyards is the heart of the Russian River Valley on 17 acres producing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in one of the most prestigious appellations in the U.S.

After gourmet and countless meal pairing with heavier dishes, we were looking for a break in January and decided on two meals which offered elegance but lighter on the presentation. Our focus winery this week is DeLoach Vineyards.

At home in the Russian River Valley, DeLoach Vineyards tends to it 17-acre estate vineyard on the eastern bench of the Sonoma County’s Russian River. For decades this appellation has quietly established itself as one of the most prestigious appellations in the U.S. after Napa Valley. While tourists throng to their neighbor to the east, the region’s reputation has and continues to be built primarily on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

So with a new winery to try, a trip to the fish market was the next step. Fresh salmon lay in the iced case,  so we decided to create something different: Salmon with bubbly sauce.

Dinner No. 1

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We added a quinoa salad to the sparking poached salmon to create a tasty meal. Finish the bubbly and eat most of the meal with a glass of DeLoach Pinot.

At first I was skeptical but the more I read about poached salmon, the more sparkling wine seemed the perfect agent. Plus while we collected the ingredients on the kitchen counter, we could sip bubbly–Bonus!

In a large copper pan, melt butter and cook three shallots until they are transparent place salmon steaks on top. Add 1 2/3 cups of bubbly and bring to a simmer. Then cover the fish and simmer 8 minutes or until the salmon looks opaque.

Take the salmon and place on a serving dish, cover with aluminum foil and place in warming drawer or warm oven. Then on high heat, boil down the Champagne/sparkling wine, butter and finely chopped shallots mixture to half measure. Add 1/3 cup of heavy cream and boil until it reduces by half again or become thick and sticks to a wooden spoon. If time is an issue, slowly whisk in a 1/4 teaspoon of flour to help the process along.

Lastly, mix in rough chopped fresh dill in the simmering mixture. Immediately remove from burner and spoon on top of the salmon.

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The DeLoach Russian River Valley Pinot is Burgundy in a glass with a Sonoma Valley touch.

We added a quinoa salad with cucumber, tomato and herbs side dish to compliment the baked salmon. And when we roasted the quinoa before we began salad preparation, it took on the aromas and feel of a tabbouleh salad.

The next day we participated and took on a spirit of #talkandtaste, as TalesoftheCork participated in a Twitter chat with #WiningHourChat on Jan. 10, hosted by @TheWiningHour and DeLoach Vineyards. (Catch us each Tuesday 6P).

And as we tweeted/shared the next day, we also paired this entrée with a DeLoach Vineyards 2015 Pinot Noir. After each starting the meal with a glass of sparking wine, I switched to this lovely, fresh and elegant beauty from the Russian River Valley to finish the salmon and quinoa.

Aromas of cherry, raspberry, strawberry, clove and a touch of vanilla wafted in and out of the Pinot glass. Classic Sonoma County Pinot. Love the red fruit as well plum and baking spices. And like it cousins in Burgundy, France, an earthy, funky nose kept me swirling the juice. This wine could easily be a go-to Pinot for dishes ranging from roasted veggie pizza, pan-seared duck breast, glazed baby back ribs, to boeuf Bourguignon. Heck, grilled stuffed mushrooms and pork chops would be great, too.

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The Estate 2014 Russian River Chardonnay  has lovely honey, pear and apple notes and strong citrus finish. Warm this beauty up little and the Burgundy-style wine will smooth out and shine.

Hand sorted, fermented in small vats, hand punch-downs, aged 11 months in French oak barrels, the Deloach Pinot Noir continues its generational attention to terroir-driven craftsmanship. They use French open-top wood fermentors and practice hand punch-downs, known as pigeage — another Burgundian winemaking tradition.

DeLoach Vineyards has been a leader in rootstock, soil and clone development for 30 years. They continued to hone its two generation family-owned vineyards when the Boisset family purchased the winery in 2003, continuing the tradition of sustainable winemaking experience from Burgundy, France, in the Russian River Valley.

Dinner No. 2

Our second DeLoach Vineyards dinner highlighted  their Estate 2014 Chardonnay also from the Russian River Valley; it also continues in the same focus and tradition.

The 2014 DeLoach Chardonnay is a blend of the Old Wente Clone, Montrachet Clone and Clone 809. Whole cluster press and native yeast fermentation. Barrel aging in French oak (25% new) and 14 months in the barrel give complexity and rich depth.

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Top goat cheese mousse with pre roasted beets, micro greens and candied walnuts.

I think we cooled the Chardonnay down too much upon opening; the strong citrus flavors somewhat overshadowed the lovely honey, ripe pear and apple notes. However, as the wine warmed in the glass and in the bottle, the fruit released and the wine developed into old world excellence with a lovely hint of new world Sonoma.

We paired the wine with both our starter and entrée. We began with roast beets over herbed goat cheese mousse, Quandt Farms micro greens and candied walnuts. We loved making the goat cheese mousse by whipping up a half cup of heavy cream until it had stiff peaks. We set that aside and stirred then folded the goat cheese into a couple of table spoons of heavy cream until it had smooth paste consistency. Then combine the mixture with the whipped cream and added cracked pepper.

Tip: We actually made the beet salad ahead of time and kept it cold in the fridge while cooking up the pilaf and roast chicken.

The roast chicken topped a bed of pilaf and a side of broccoli seasoned by Walter Tangerine Wheat craft beer salt. It was so great to place a wine on the table which paired so well with the starter and entrée. Other pairing ideas include salad, white bean and kale soup, chicken curry, sushi, chicken and/or pork pasta, grilled fish and raw shell fish.

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The DeLoach 2014 Estate Chardonnay paired easily with the beet salad and roasted chicken over pilaf and a side of seasoned broccoli: Russian River Valley and Sonoma excellence.

In July 2008 the winery was awarded organic certification by the CCOF (California Certified Organic Farmers) and began the conversion of 17 acres of estate vineyards from sustainable to biodynamic farming methods, which involves the use of cover crops, the application of biodynamic specific preparations and composts, and the maintenance of biodiversity within the estate.

As with many of the area’s wineries, DeLoach Vineyards considers themselves stewards of the land, with responsibility to pass along a clean environment and revitalized, healthy soil to future generations. I love their mission to follow a Native American proverb that “We do not inherit this land from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.”

DeLoach Vineyards are a part of the Boisset Collection of wineries. The Boisset Collection unites the old and new world’s of wine with its Franco-American spirit and wineries on two continents. It is one of the world’s leading family-owned luxury fine wine companies.

Plan on visiting DeLoach Vineyards Friday through Sunday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. at 1791 Olivet Rd., Santa Rosa, CA, 95401. They can be reached via telephone: 707.755.3300 or email at customerservice@deloachvineyards.com. Visits are by appointment only Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Be sure to read TalesoftheCork’s previous blog post, “Boeuf Bourguignon with Deovlet ‘Sonny Boy’.” And if winemakers, wineries or restaurants are interested in a TalesoftheCork wine and/or food review on the blog, InstagramTwitter and/or Facebook, please send us a request via email: talesofthecork@gmail.com or use DM on social media. TalesoftheCork also offers social media seminars for businesses.

Boeuf Bourguignon with Deovlet ‘Sonny Boy’

Ryan Deovlet wine pairs well with traditional French dish

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Deovlet Wines 2013 “Sonny Boy” is a Bordeaux blend with 60% Merlot and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon.

For the third time in the last month, we have placed a Deovlet wine on our menu. Winemaker Ryan Deovlet has created a marvelous Bordeaux blend, and we paired it with Boeuf Bourguignon. New world wine meets old world passion.

We were introduced to Deovlet Wines by Shannon Westfall and her Vinfluence wine club. She handpicks/curates boutique wines and is dedicated to non-profit support; it is a wonderful combo. More below.

Ryan Deovlet is highly connected not only to his past but the properties he has helped develop and wines he has created. And we are thrilled to have tasted some of his handcrafted wines.

Our latest sips are from a Deovlet 2013 ‘Sonny Boy’. I opened the bottle early in the afternoon and decanted it, allowing the lush aromas and notes of black plum, dark cherry, cedar, tobacco and hints of dark chocolate to smooth out and develop further. I stole a sip and the lush, smooth tannins already offered a long finish.

The Bordeaux blend of 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet was aged for 22 months in 100% French oak barrels, 40% new. Additional Cabernet was blended in before bottling bringing the blend to a 60% Merlot and 40% Cabernet. Ryan sourced his fruit from  the Vogelzang Vineyard (Merlot) and the Dierberg Star Lane Vineyard (Cabernet).

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The name “Sonny Boy” is  a tribute to Ryan’s grandfather who used the phrase as a term of endearment towards his grandsons.

At each vineyard site, Ryan carefully manages vines and yields, which are restricted in an effort to achieve the ultimate concentration of flavor.  With respect to Mother Nature, harvest decisions are based intending to display the purest, most natural vineyard expression possible.

Ryan created his ‘Sonny Boy’ blend to push the envelop of blending wines. He began blending them at fermentation. His philosophy is that the “closer you make a blend to the crushed, the more seamless the integration.”

As per his website, he shares  that “as links in a chain, we understand the importance of working together with premium sites and talented winegrowers.  Fruit quality is essential to crafting memorable wines of elegance, balance, and harmony.”

Deovlet says he walks a fine line between Old World-New World wines. “I try to offer a kiss of California sunshine, but I have one foot in the Old World and one foot in California.”

Ryan’s focus on Merlot is a tribute to his father who drank a glass of red wine each night (on doctor’s orders) and became a devotee of the grape varietal.

The name “Sonny Boy” on the Bordeaux blend is a nod to Ryan’s grandfather who used the phrase as a term of endearment towards his grandsons. Ryan fondly remembers his grandfather “rattling his cocktail glass, and saying, ‘Sonny Boy’, I need a refill.”

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While Pinot Noir is often chosen for our Boeuf Bourguignon, we paired it with a Deovlet Wines 2013 ‘Sonny Boy’ Bordeaux blend.

While we often pair our Boeuf Bourguignon with Pinot Noir or a Burgundy from France, we decided to open up the Deovlet 2013 ‘Sonny Boy’ from Happy Canyon. We were trilled from the get-go and loved it.

I love how the house smells when thick sliced bacon and chunks of chuck steak sizzle and sear. Later we added beef broth, tomato paste, a good bottle of Pinot Noir and vegetables to slowly simmer in a cast iron Dutch oven for a few hours. The aromas of cracked black pepper, garlic, Cognac, onions and herbs fill the house all afternoon.

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The Deovlet Wines ‘Sonny Boy’ is age worthy and drinkable until 2030. Only 150 cases made.

During this time, the wine opened up and its juicy, smooth tannins filled the glass with aromas of blackberries, toasty vanilla, dark chocolate and spice. As the evening progressed, black currant and an earthiness settled in with hints of bell pepper and leather. This is a full-bodied age-worthy wine with velvety tannins and a lush mouthfeel. The flavors lingered long on the palate.

Foodie and wine lovers have known about Ryan’s prowess for good Pinot Noir and Chardonnay since 2009 when he landed a 90-point score from Robert Parker. While he initially sold his wines door-to-door to local restaurants, his wines are sought after bottles. Ryan is committed to purchasing his fruit only from the finest vineyards in Santa Barbara County that form the foundation of his elegant wines.

While his fruit does not always come from certified organic vineyards, Ryan is careful to manage his harvest with minimal invasive techniques. However, he continues to pursue biodynamics, considering for instance, how same lunar cycles affect tides could affect optimal timing for things like racking barrels.

Ryan has developed his winemaking prowess via under the tutelage of local and international winemakers. It is this kind of learn by doing and under the mentorship of skilled artisans that helped shape his passion, artistry, and intuition. His hands-on approach both in the vineyard and in the cellar is evident. Most all of his labels are small lot vintages (usually under 200 cases) with overall production of around 2,000 cases per year.

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Ryan Deovlet started in wine journey in Australia in 2004 on an organic farm. Wine & Spirits Magazine named Deovlet Wineries to their Top 100 list in September 2016.

Like many craftsman before him, Ryan continues to learn from the history of those who created wines before him: “those who went before us and showed us the way.”

His journey to create wines that reflect the property they are grown on actually began after he graduated from UC San Diego and a college trip to Hawaii. While there he tasted coffee on a coffee plantation in 2004 and a passion was born. His interest of the concept of farm-to-table was born and decided to educated himself by doing.

He joined a program called World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms and moved to Australia at 21. There he became intrigued with all aspects of farming grapes.

Ryan says he learned early on that winemakers cannot separate terroir from the people. His wines reflect his time spent in Australia working the 2004 harvest at Mornington Peninsula at Turramurra Estate and in New Zealand working with vineyard crews in Central Otago and Hawkes Bay.

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By 2005 he spent two years working along side Stephen Dooley, owner/winemaker of Stephen Ross Wine Cellars. Ryan attributes his foundation and focus to his time spent in the cellar at Stephen Ross. After a couple of years, Ryan took the assistant winemaking position at Red Car Wine Company in 2007. While there, he was able to learn from consulting winemaker David Ramey and top viticulturists Dr. Daniel Roberts and Ulises Valdez.

Later he ending up in Mendoza, Argentina, working with renown winemaker Paul Hobbs at Viña Cobos. By 2008 Ryan founded Deovlet Wines and established a reputation for making exceptional wines on California’s central coast. Today, Ryan is a much sought after winemaker and also creates wines for the Edna Valley’s Biddle Ranch Vineyards and Refugio Ranch near Los Olives in the Santa Ynez Mountains.

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Old vine Sanford and Benedict Pinot Noir is hand-sorted during harvest 2016.

Be sure to find Deovlet Wines on Facebook and Instagram. Currently the 2014 Deovlet Wines ‘Sonny Boy’ is for sale on their website along with their single vineyard Pinot Noir and Chardonnay small lot wines. The Deovlet Tasting Room is at 3750 Highway 46 in Templeton, California 93465 (Paso Robles). It is open Thursday – Sunday (11 a.m. – 5 p.m.) Call 805.712.8817. The Deovlet Winery is at 203 Suburban Rd., Suite 2, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401. Call them at 805.550.6300 or email them at info@deovletwines.com. The best way to get their wines though is to join their mailing list and wine club.

Special thanks to Shannon Westfall and her Vinfluencewine.com wine club for sharing a bottle with me. Please check out her site as she shares unique fine wines not available in stores. These are independent vintners, under the radar creating wines as true “craftsmen”, whose practices in the vineyard are sustainable and organic where possible.  Shannon includes a winemaker profile, stories and notes.

Vinfluencewine.com club members receive three or six bottles of artisanal wine from a different winemaker each month for $100/$200. Plus she donates to one of three causes with each shipment. Check them out.

Be sure to read TalesoftheCork’s previous blog post, “Yorba Wines: Sutter Creek’s premier label.” And if winemakers, wineries or restaurants are interested in a TalesoftheCork wine and/or food review on the blog, InstagramTwitter and/or Facebook, please send us a request via email: talesofthecork@gmail.com or use DM on social media. TalesoftheCork also offers social media seminars for businesses.

Yorba Wines: Sutter Creek’s premier label

Ann Kraemer crafts Italian, Rhone varietals on Shaker Ridge Ranch

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Ann Kraemer’s 2011 Barbera can be served with a host of entrees, including pizza. Love its easy drinking style.

With a family farming tradition, dating back to 1769, the Yorba name has been associated with cattle, grain and oranges. Today’s Sutter Creek Yorba Wines brand, while still linked to the cattle days by the brand on their bottle, is all about farming sustainability and remarkable wines in Amador County.

When Ann Kraemer and family bought the Shake Ridge Ranch in the Sierra Foothills region in 2001, the family took on the name for their Amador County label. They planted their first vines in 2003.

As owner and vineyard manager of the family winery, Kraemer applied her previous experience of vineyard management for wineries like Cuvaison, Clos Pagase, Swanson and Domain Chandon and has transformed the area’s Zinfandel success into a highly successful winery which includes Rhone, Italian and experimental varietals.

I’ve met up with Ann a couple of times in the past and, during a quick visit to Sutter Creek, I was again drawn to the tasting room the vineyard manager occasionally occupies. I was in luck; Ann was pouring.

Today’s post is to pique interest and encourage visitors to drive up California Highway 99 northeast of Lodi, California, and head toward Old Highway 49 to Sutter Creek. And while I could not stay long enough for a trip out to her 46-acre plot of vineyards, Kraemer’s passion for farming and fine tuning her Zinfandel and Barbera varieties clearly got me reacquainted with her grapes so many other wineries crave.

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Ann Kraemer and her family purchased the Shake Ridge ranch in 2001, planting vineyards by 2003. On this day I was lucky to taste her 2007 and 2010 Zinfandels side-by-side.

Of course we tasted through her Barbera and Italian varietals many times in the past and, even as she was pouring us a taste of the 2011 Barbera, I set a bottle aside to take home. I love its light spice, easy drinking and already smooth texture. It’s almost a Grenache-like mouth-feel. This wine can be served with most any food except for fattiest cuts of meat. I love its sweet berry jam, juniper, earthiness and spice beginnings to cranberry and rich blueberry and herbs on the finish. This wine is downright delicious and elegant.

As we chatted and reacquainted, Kraemer shared her love for her family and how grateful so many participated in the daily workings of Yorba Wines. As I listened, she shared how extended family members worked in the vineyard to the tasting room. And as they have grown, especially over the last few years, she admitted Yorba Wines and the Kraemer family will have to hire more folks. She beams sharing how her sisters, cousins and others all help out, creating memorable wines.

She then pulled out her 2007 Zinfandel and the 2011 version, her most recent release. The joy was all mine as we chatted about the intense dark fruit of the Amador County ’07.

I am a sucker for wines that are given time to relax and opportunity to smooth out, becoming silky with essences of chocolate, blackberry and cedar and a hint of coffee. The 2007 is lush, rich, balanced and plenty of structure. I slurped up the whole pour. And while the 2010 were so freshly minted, I loved the opportunity to taste the sheer skill Ann and Yorba winemaker Ken Bernards who also produces a private label: Ancien.

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Talking with Yorba Winery’s Ann Kraemer is so engaging. She drew me into discussions ranging from Graciano, Tempranillo and Greco di Tufo to expanding her efforts at Shake Ridge Ranch. I can’t wait to return for a vineyard visit.

The 2010 Shake Ridge Vineyard Zinfandel was brighter than the 2007 with notes of plum and raspberry. However, this wine is not for the faint of heart. There is so much depth awaiting to be realized. I grew up picking blackberries and raspberries as a kid and this wine is all about wild blackberries and its brambly and herb flavors.

The spice, bright raspberry flavors and cedar are there but subdued and not yet fully developed. Actually, many might prefer this wine now as it is fruitier than its 2007 cousin. In a very difficult year, Bernards and Kraemer have created an Amador County gem in the making. This Zinfandel would be perfect with roast chicken and turkey.

Her vineyards are right in the heart of Gold Rush country. Much of the land has quartz, volcanic rocks, ocean bottom, and metamorphic rock. Miners dug through the hills looking for gold and now Kraemer grows liquid gold.

Our chat veered off to her Rhone and other Italian varietals–Petite Sirah, Graciano, Sangiovese, Tempranillo, Greco di Tufo and others– and touched on her commitment to low- input, organic and biodynamic methods in the vineyard. Winemakers from all over California want her fruit and Ann sells up to 80% of it to wineries like Favia Wines, Keplinger Wines, Newsome Harlow, Turley, Dirty & Rowdy Family Winery, Gallica, Forlorn Hope and Buccella.

Our last tastes were from her Shake Ridge Amador County 2010 Red Wine–definitely a wine and taste of The Ranch. The 2010 version of Shake Ridge Red is like no other! The big, brawny structure of 50% Petite Sirah is balanced by 25% Graciano and 25% dainty Malbec. Kramer says imagine a sumo wrestler balancing two dainty ladies on his shoulders.

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Yorba Wines are one of nine tasting rooms in Sutter Creek on Old Highway 49 in Amador County.

She talked how Graciano is a fiery redhead on one side and Malbec is a prim lady on the other. I love the big flavors of black raspberries, juicy plum, black cherry and savory notes. This is to be enjoyed with earthy, savory meats and roasted veggies.

See what I mean? Who talks like this? Kraemer has creative story characters to help describe her wines.

So, I need to set aside another full afternoon or morning and meet Ann in her vineyards. I want to see her immaculate and almost cult-like rows that so many revere. She has such a passion and sets her standards so high that I know her wine is made in the vineyard.

In only 20 minutes of discussion beyond the tasting, I want, no need, to see the results of her crop management, irrigation practices, harvest timing and, more often than not, risk taking. She has earned the respect not only of her Amador County vintners but those over the hills to Napa, Sonoma down to Paso Robles and beyond.

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The Shake Ridge Amador County 2010 Red Wine is a blend of Petite Sirah, Graciano and Malbec.

Yorba Wines is one of nine tasting rooms in Sutter Creek. There is plenty of free parking nearby at a lot next to the post office. There are so many still to talk about and this post is just an introduction. Ask Kraemer about her Rhône—Syrah, Grenache, Viognier and Mourvèdre along with her Zins, Italian varietals and experimental vines. You will need to stay the night and return for a couple of visits. I need to return to know more about this respected Rhone Ranger.

Yorba Wines are located at 51 Hanford St., Sutter Creek, California 95685 in Amador County. Call the tasting room (209) 267-8190 or the vineyard (209) 267.5055, visit the Yorba Wines website and/or email them at info@yorbawines.com. Tasting room hours are Thursday – Monday noon-5 p.m.

Be sure to read TalesoftheCork’s previous blog post, “Changing Lodi Zin culture: Klinker Brick Winery.” And if winemakers, wineries or restaurants are interested in a TalesoftheCork wine and/or food review on the blog, InstagramTwitter and/or Facebook, please send us a request via email: talesofthecork@gmail.com or use DM on social media. TalesoftheCork also offers social media seminars for businesses.

Changing Lodi Zin culture: Klinker Brick Winery

Fifth generation farmers Steve and Lori Felton grow brand

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Fifth generation grape growers, Steve and Lori Felton, opened Klinker Brick Winery in Lodi, Calif. in 2000.

A Zinfandel stronghold and track record of over 150 years, Lodi, California, has long attracted lovers of Old Vine Zins. Since the early 1900s though today, generations of families have farmed and produced over 40% of California’s premium Zinfandel and the region has long been branded that way.

Steve and Lori Felton, fifth generation Lodi grape growers, continue this family farming tradition and now exclusively farm, grow and produce wine on land their ancestors planted. And while they worked in the industry for years producing Zinfandel for other wineries in Napa and Sonoma Counties on 16 individual vineyard blocks of Old Vine Zinfandel, today they produce premium Old Ghost Old Vine Zinfandel under their Klinker Brick Winery label.

However, Klinker Brick Winery, founded by the Feltons in 2000, continues to change the way wine enthusiasts view the Lodi wine region.

From their first vintage of Klinker Brick Old Vine Zinfandel in 2000  and their first vintage of Farrah Syrah in 2001, the Feltons and Klinker Brick have set out to produce world-class wines that move far beyond the Lodi growers who singlehandedly kept the American wine industry alive during Prohibition, sending out thousands of railcars each harvest full of Zin, Tokay and Alicante Bouschet.

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Old Ghost represents the best Zinfandel harvested each year at Klinker Brick Winery. This is lush excellence, perfect with prime porterhouse, grilled lamb or beef stews.

With a passion for producing exceptional wine and the vision and passion of winemaker Joseph Smith, Klinker Brick views themselves as stewards of the land and their ancient vines. They have also expanded and are creating award-winning Syrah, Petite Sirah and dry Rose among other wines. In addition to their own property, they manage a number of vineyards in the region with the goal of producing award-winning fruit.

Smith joined Klinker Brick in 2008 after starting his career in the nineties as an apprentice with Gnekow Family Wines. In fact, Smith actually made his first bottle with Felton as a consultant in 2000. Smith says his and the Felton family’s love for many varieties helped fuel their passion and they seemed to gel. The Feltons were ready to expand from just the farming aspect of the business and took Smith on to build Klinker Brick Winery as a label.

“While we are known as Zinfandel producers and branded as a Zinfandel region, we are wine drinkers and wine producers,” Smith said. “We like Zinfandel but we also like Rose, Cabernet, Cab Franc, Albariño and many others. I like all these wines and it depends on the occasion and where I am at as to what I want to drink.

“Kicker Brick has been very successful in creating world-class Zinfandels but I (we) wanted more,” Smith continued. “Five years ago, I knew I made a great white wine and Rose, and even though we started little by little, people have applauded our efforts. The wines have done very well in the tasting room. While this makes good business sense, it has been the love of our product that has grown the Klinker Brick brand.”

Klinker Brick concentrated on wine distribution first and then built up their tasting room. While they distributed a core three wines nationally, they used tried and true Lodi varieties  that had been forgotten by some. Consider their Carignane vineyard is over 108 years old and their Old Vine Zinfandel is harvested from an 90-year-old vineyard.

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Klinker Brick Winery owner Steve Felton (middle left) and Farrah Felton-Jolley (right) are now six generation grape growers in Lodi, California. Winemaker Joseph Smith (middle right) has led the winery’s production since 2008.

With the help of their daughter, Farrah Felton-Jolley and her husband, Stefan, the family now moves to the six generation of grape growers. Farrah joined the winery in 2009 after graduating from the University of the Pacific with a degree in Business Administration. With a passion for grape growing, organic gardening, cooking and a love for wine, she travels and promotes the family winery and wine as VP of marketing & sales. Stefan is the most recent addition to the Klinker Brick Family, managing winery operations, compliance, website and information technology.

“We are making wine that we love and believe in,” Smith said. “We don’t short change ourselves or the consumer. When we decided to make a Rose, it had to captivate me–a Rose from start to finish. We grow our grapes for Rose with all Rhone varietals (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre and Carignane). That’s our style of Rose. We are serious producers of a classic dry, crisp Rose.”

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Wine Enthusiast gave Klinker Brick Rose blend 90 points and a “Best Buy” designation for their 2015 version. It is a dry blend of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Carignane.

The winery distributes their Bricks Rosé nationally, producing 4,500 cases. The blend has is crisp, light with citrus aromas and flavors of ripe strawberries, grapefruit and subtle watermelon.

However, the winemaker believes they still produce an award-winning Rose because they do not shortchange the vineyard. They grow the grapes, cultivate the vineyards and are managed from beginning to end.

“The process is quality driven,” Klinker Brick owner Steve Felton says. This starts in the vineyard. We’ve got to have the highest quality right there. And that’s the tough part of growing grapes–maintaining the quality. Fortunately for us, not only are we a winery but we are also growers and we’ve been doing that for six generations. I guess you could say, we have a handle on growing grapes.”

Over the years, Steve has been growing grapes for some of the best producers in the State, so that keeps them in close to the heart beat of the land and the expectation high quality demands.

“We always over deliver wines for the price and that starts in the vineyard,” Felton said. “And of course our winemaking staff is outstanding. Joe is very hands on. He still makes sure he is there each step of the way.”

With a large winemaking staff, Smith’s challenge is to keep quality high despite a high case count with so many different varietals. And he definitely is the one behind what’s in the bottle.

“While I am in charge, and then collectively, nothing goes in the glass without the round table,” Smith said. “I am the guy in the cellar making the protocols. I haven’t changed how I make these wines from day one. I am physically in the winery and in the vineyard, making sure the wines are made the way we want it done.”

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The 2013 Farrah Syrah has ripe plum, blackberry, anise, pepper, exotic spices and earthy notes. Serve it with grilled meats, spicy tacos or mushroom risotto.

Of course the Klinker Brick is still widely known as a top shelf Zinfandel producer. Their  Old Ghost Old Vine Zinfandel ($37) is created with standout fruit, sourced from the best Lodi vineyards. Taste the blackberry, anise and exotic spices. Pair with your prime porterhouse or grilled lamb.

The winery owns or manages 18 Zinfandel-vineyard blocks that range from 50-125 years old in the Mokelumne River sub-appellation of Lodi. Wines from this warm climate and sandy loam soil create yields from gnarly, old vines with intense color and flavor. This region produces exceptional Zinfandel and Syrah.

Klinker Brick has access to Syrah vineyards over 125 years old in the same Mokelumne River region. Their award-winning Farrah Syrah and Farrah Syrah Grand Reserve are rich, vibrant and full of black fruit and spice flavors.  These are first class wines created for foodies and hearty wine drinkers. Both have amazing structure and balance with long, lingering finishes.

The 2013 Farrah Syrah exhibits aromas of ripe plum, cacao, and smoky oak with subtle earthy floral notes. The palate is greeted with bright and vibrant flavors of blackberry, anise and exotic spices. Supple tannins and superb balance lend structure to this full-bodied Syrah with a long, lingering finish. Enjoy with grilled meats, spicy tacos and Mexican dishes or mushroom risotto ($20).

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The Old Ghost Old Vine Zinfandel paired so well with the rich, herbed  earthy sauce of the beef stew.

Their Old Vine Zinfandel is their flagship and still their most popular wine. Wilfred Wong, Wine.com gave the latest release 94 points. It is a blend from 16 different vineyards with an average of 85 years. Taste these beauties as the dark fruit, spice and tannins with just a hint of pepper and anise will tantalize you ($19). This is a go to Zin for burgers, BBQ, hearty pizza or by itself.

While the farming aspect has long been a part of the Felton family’s history, an expanded Klinker Brick Winery from its modest beginnings is now an internationally-distributed brand of world class wines. And as Wine Enthusiast named the Lodi region their 2015 winner, isn’t it time you booked your next wine tasting trip to Lodi, California? There are 88 wineries to explore but be sure to put Klinker Brick Winery on your list.

For more information on the wines of Lodi, California, read Lodi Wine Country: Boutique winery innovation and learn more about the Lodi Wine & Visitor Center (LoCA).

Kinker Brick Winery is located at 15887 N. Alpine Road, Lodi, California 95240. They can be reached via phone: (209) 333-1845 or through email: info@klinkerbrickwinery.com. Their wines can be ordered online or find a retail outlet via the Klinker Brick website.

Be sure to read TalesoftheCork’s previous blog post, “Old Fig Wine Cellars: A Central Valley urban dream.” And if winemakers, wineries or restaurants are interested in a TalesoftheCork wine and/or food review on the blog, InstagramTwitter and/or Facebook, please send us a request via email: talesofthecork@gmail.com or use DM on social media. TalesoftheCork also offers social media seminars for businesses.

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The Klinker Brick Carignane is easy to drink and fresh with black cherry and black tea aromas. I love hints of leather and earthy dried sage notes. caption
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The Petite Sirah is rich and brooding with flavors of espresso, dark chocolate and blueberries that linger long on the palate.