Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Winery Spotlight: Krupp Brothers Estate


Krupp Brothers Winery

About ten years ago, Jeff blindly reached out to Krupp Brothers winery to introduce himself as a fledgling wine blogger.  The winery was kind enough to send Jeff a few bottles to review, and the rest, as they say, is history.  We have been very enthusiastic fans of Krupp Brothers wines and have enjoyed sharing these wines not only virtually with their readers, but in person with their friends.  And, just as it should happen, it did.  Those friend started buying Krupp Brothers wines and eventually some of them became wine club members.  

In late August, we had the opportunity to travel with close friends to Napa and Sonoma for an amazing wine adventure.  This was our second visit to the Krupp Brothers estate in as many years and we were excited to share this special place with a new couple joining us on our trip this year.

The Porsche tractor at Krupp Brothers
"Napa Scott" posing with the Porsche tractor outside of the tasting room.  We believe that this is an obligator picture for anyone visiting the estate.

Our visit started with estate director Tyler Hinsley and our wine educator/tour guide Sierra Fiddler greeting us at the end of the picturesque drive.  I'd like to think they were eager to see us (which we know they were) but it might also be because we were running about 10 minutes late since we had just landed and headed straight to the estate from the Sacramento airport.

Cabernet grapes at the Krupp Brothers estate
The grapes were looking amazing and about to burst! 

Because our trip was late August/early September, harvest was just around the corner.  Overall, the grapes this year looked, smelled and tasted extraordinary and the consensus in Napa Valley is that 2022 would be another vintage for the record books.  

Cabernet Sauvignon sign
Cabernet Sauvignon at Krupp Brothers estate

Sierra showed us around the estate and guided us to the veranda overlooking the manicured and beautiful vineyards.  She told us about the history of Krupp Brothers, Stagecoach Vineyard and the story about finding water in an area that was believed to be desolate.  Sierra was a breath of fresh air and incredibly enthusiastic and knowledgeable about "everything" Krupp Brothers.

Sierra Fiddler of Krupp Brothers
Sierra Fiddler, tour guide extraordinaire

Much to our surprise, Dr. Jan Krupp, showed up and greeted us out back.  To say that I was over-the-moon would be a gross understatement.  While we met Dr. Krupp previously, it really meant a lot for him to take time out of his busy scheduled to entertain our questions for nearly an hour.  Believe me, I'm sure he's heard them all before!  Maybe our next tasting can be at his house?  (Hint, hint Dr. K!)

Dr. Jan Krupp in tasting room
Dr. Jan Krupp fielding the group's questions and telling us stories

If you ever have the opportunity to sit down with a wine maker or a vintner, do NOT pass up the chance.  We learned so much from our time with Dr. Krupp and we had a lot of laughs on the way.  This is time that we will treasure forever!

Krupp Brothers tasting line up
Incredible setting and gorgeous wines at the Krupp Brothers estate tasting room

Our tasting included five (no, make that 6 because of a 'bonus' tasting) Krupp Brothers wines and charcuterie.  Each wine was unique, elegant and incredibly special.  It's so tough to pick a favorite.  We were determined this year to cellar some of our purchases away so we can enjoy them for many years.  All too often we drink the wines young and don't appreciate the aging capabilities of these gems.  We WILL be sharing our thoughts on these wines on the blog and social media at a later date.

Tyler Hinsley, estate director
Tyler Hinsley, estate director for Krupp Brothers

Another highlight of our visit was our new friend and estate director, Tyler Hinsley.  Tyler's genuine kindness, enthusiasm and excitement about the Krupp Brothers label was infectious.  He even helped us locate a couple of library wines that we can open at a much later date.  Tyler was incredible nice on the phone and via email, but became an immediate friend when we met him in person.  We also had the chance to hang out with Tyler later that evening when we visited the Krupp Brothers downtown tasting room for a fun time.

The California Wine Group at Krupp Brothers
The "Cali Wine Trip" crew with Dr. Jan Krupp

There are literally hundreds of wineries you can visit in Napa and Sonoma.  In fact, the toughest part of planning any trip is narrowing down the list and then narrowing it down again.  While wish we could visit them all, visiting the special places like Krupp Brothers completes our adventure and creates memories of a lifetime.  Krupp Brothers is definitely a "must re-visit" destination for us and we think you will love it too!

For more information about Krupp Brothers, their story, their history and those incredible wines, please check out https://www.kruppbrothers.com

Dr. Jan Krupp and Jeff Lawson
You didn't really think I wasn't going to get this picture, did you!?

Posted by Jeff

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

2020 Bells Up Winery Jupiter Pinot Noir


2020 Bells Up Winery Jupiter Pinot Noir

Rounding out our tastings of samples from Bells Up Winery is their 2020 Jupiter Pinot Noir.  This comes from an estate vineyard in the Chehalem Mountains.  Three words.... It is fantastic.  Too often we have been slightly underwhelmed by Pinot, often getting the "same old" dusty, overly sweet rose petal vibe.  But not with this.  This Pinot Noir is built differently and if this is testament to the Chehalem Mountains AVA, then we can't wait to visit some day.  Cherry pie, tobacco leaf, graphite and forest floor on the nose.  Solid medium purple color makes an introduction to rhubarb, cherry pomegranate and a subtle hint of pepper, leading to a finish that leaves you yearning for more.  This wine should be in your cellar and with such a low production, you'd better act fast.  This is drinking wonderfully now and should for another 5-7 years.

2020 Bells Up Winery Jupiter Pinot Noir label

ABV:  13.5%

Chehalem Mountains, OR

Production:  94 cases

Suggested retail price:  $48.00

Drink The Bottles score:  94/100

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

2021 Bells Up Winery Rhapsody Pinot Blanc

2021 Bells Up Winery Rhapsody Pinot Blanc

The 2021 Bells Up Winery Rhapsody Pinot Blanc wine from this small, family-owned winery is our second introduction of unique and flavorful wines from David and Sara Specter.  Pinot Blanc is not a dominant varietal and if you haven't tried it, this is the one you need to get.  Aged on lees for six months, this has a fuller body feel than many white Pinot grape varieties and the terroir of Willamette Valley is evident by the wet stone, crisp fruit flavors and dollops of soy sauce lurking in the background.  There is just the right amount of baking spices mid palate and a memorable finish that includes a noticeable acidity and mineral notes.  We love when you taste a wine and just smile from ear to ear, knowing that you've discovered a fun, memorable bottle.  This wine is drinking very well right now and should for another 4-5 years.  

2021 Bells Up Winery Rhapsody Pinot Blanc label
Medium golden color and very fragrant.

2021 Bells Up Winery Rhapsody Pinot Blanc with Popcorn

We generally don't taste wines (when reviewing) with food.  After we scribed our thoughts on paper we could just tell that this Pinot Blanc would be a great wine to compliment a snack.  We tasted this with popcorn from Northern Neck Popcorn Bag and the pairing was a-MAZ-ing!

ABV:  12.9%

Willamette Valley, OR

Production:  114 Cases

Suggested retail price:  $32.00

Drink The Bottles score:  91/100


Monday, August 22, 2022

2021 Bells Up Winery Prelude Estate Rosé of Pinot Noir


2021 Bells Up Winery Prelude Estate Rosé of Pinot Noir

Kicking off our series of Oregon wines, we started with this inviting Rosé that is as gorgeous in the glass as it is on the tongue.  The 2021 Bells Up Winery Prelude Estate Rosé of Pinot Noir first captures the eye with the stunning reddish hue, darker than many other Pinot Noir rosé on the market.  It was intriguing and immediately mouth-watering.  We tasted this wine both on its own merit and with food (which is unusual for us, but we had to prove a point to ourselves).  With ample time in the glass, we began swirling and collecting pleasant, but not overpowering, aromas of strawberry and pomegranate.  The fruit is more noticeable on the palate and the acid is in check and doesn't even begin to overpower this easy-drinking wine.  The finish is subtle and enjoyable.  While we don't always taste wines with food, there was something here that was urging us to do so. We tasted this with a variety of salty cheeses and the pairing was absolutely incredible.  This is definitely a "food" wine and one of the best Rosé of Pinot Noir that we have tasted in recent memory.  

2021 Bells Up Winery Prelude Estate Rosé of Pinot Noir Label

ABV:  12.9%

Chehalem Mountains, OR

Production:  101 Cases

Suggested retail price:  $28.00

Drink The Bottles score:  92/100

Friday, July 22, 2022

2020 Penny's Hill Malpas Road McLaren Vale Merlot


2020 Penny's Hill Malpas Road McLaren Vale Merlot

Situated in McLaren Vale which happens to be one of Australia's most exciting wine regions, here are things you would want to know about the Penny’s Hill Winery.


Established in 1988, this promising winery is named after the hill at the base of which it is located.

Considering this winery has all the elements of a great vineyard in place, the vines were planted in 1991 at the property in a unique narrow-row configuration to amplify vineyard productivity along with grape and wine quality.

In the year 1993, the newly-planted Malpas Road property was purchased, followed by an adjacent highly prized hay-producing paddock in 1996 that was planted to vines and named Goss Corner.

After wo years, the original Goss family homestead, ‘Ingleburne’ was added to the Malpas and Goss properties to reconnect to make it an entire holding.

Ownership & The Team

Founder Tony Parkinson passed on the ownership and management of the business to his good friend and fellow South Australian winemaker Warren Randall.

The team at Penny’s Hill is committed to growing outstanding fruit across their vineyard sites to deliver the finest wines possible. They reflect upon the site where the vines are planted. They are passionate enough to make sure that optimum flavour, balance and ripeness are present in the fruit during harvest time.

Winemaker at Penny’s Hill

A passionate and experienced winemaker, Alexia is a group winemaker for Penny’s Hill, The Black Chook & Thomas Goss brands, and a champion for the McLaren Vale wine region; in particular its Shiraz and Grenache varietals.

She has been in the winemaking in McLaren Vale since 2004 and has undertaken vintages in both France and Italy. Accountable for the production of many acclaimed wines, and no stranger to medals, trophies, awards and accolades both domestic and international, she has the ‘World’s Best Cabernet’ in 2016 for Penny’s Hill 2014 Edwards Road Cabernet accredited to her name.

She works closely with the viticulturist to maximise fruit quality and vine health. Her style includes crafting elegant, fruit-driven, single-vineyard estate-grown wines to best express the varying terroir of the three key sites: Penny’s Hill, Goss Corner and Malpas Road, with more company-owned vineyards now being used to source more fruit.

Winemaking at Penny’s Hill

The winemaking process at Penny’s Hill includes each fruit parcel harvested separately in small batches and individually nurtured throughout. The proximity of the vineyards to the winery ensures the selection and hand-picking of particular fruit parcels for a “small batch” approach to winemaking, enabling more options at final blending.

At each step of the winemaking process, the wines are gently guided to bring out the ultimate balance of texture, complexity and interest.

The Malpas Road and Goss Corner vineyards have black Bay of Biscay clay that helps produce wines that are rich and luscious with a soft, round finish. However, the Penny’s Hill vineyard with sandy loam over clay soil produces wines with a perfumed bouquet and a high level of fruit intensity and fine tannin structure.

The red wines at Penny’s Hill are natured in the finest French oak barrels before blending. The presence of optimum quality vineyards in the nearby Adelaide Hills allows the creation of fresh, vibrant, balanced white wines of aromatic intensity and regional expression.

Sustainable Winegrowing

A proud member of Sustainable Winegrowing Australia, the Penny’s Hill winery contributes to the sustainability program which minimizes environmental impacts and encourages best viticulture practices.

Remember, it all begins in the vineyard.

Now that you know how this winery is going above and beyond to make the experience count for you, here’s a recommended wine from them. Give it a shot.

About the Wine

This vibrant Merlot unfurls aromas of plum, dark cherry, black olive and tar, with nuances of chocolate.  A medium-bodied wine with zingy minerality, light acidity and silk tannins leads to a smooth finish.  This splendid red wine tastes great with food such as light meats, chicken or slightly spiced dark meats.

ABV:  14.5%

McLaren Vale, Australia

Article contributed by guest writer, Hugo Brown

Monday, July 18, 2022

2017 Patland Estate Vineyards Chardonnay

2017 Patland Estate Vineyards Chardonnay

We all know that Napa Valley is home to some of the most amazing full-bodied red wines in the world.  But it would be a shame for wine lovers to overlook the throngs of high quality white wines that are also available from this region.  When we first visited Napa in 2009, we found one of our favorite wines (a Chardonnay from a now defunct winery) and we have again found one of our favorite Chardonnay in this bottle.  The 2017 Patland Estate Vineyards Chardonnay is a prime example of delicious and age-worthy Chardonnay that we feel is a "must have" wine for your portfolio.  Much of the fruit in this offering is from the Stagecoach Vineyard (one of our favorite) and the wine is absolutely singing right now!

Vanilla, baking spices and pear on the nose with hints of lychee fruit.  As always, we tasted this wine at room temperature and were introduced to flavors of homemade apple pie, toasted marshmallow and almost no oak.  While we tend to lean towards more oak-framed wines, the fruit in this bottle is the star of the show and each sip is a dive into pure bliss.  It's absolutely stunning. 

Most people are used to paying $12 - $15 for grocery store Chardonnay.  Do yourself a favor and try something outside of your comfort zone and budget.  Try this exquisite Chardonnay from Patland Estate Vineyards and you can thank us later.  We think you'll love this with grilled chicken and asparagus with a lemon cream reduction sauce or with sashimi.  Enjoy!

2017 Patland Estate Vineyards Chardonnay label

Did we mention that after the initial tasting....

We enjoyed this with some salted dark chocolate carmel popcorn from Northern Neck Popcorn Bag?  It was a WINNER!

Chardonnay and Popcorn?  Yes, please!

ABV:  14.4%

Napa Valley, CA

Suggested retail price:  $60.00

Drink The Bottles score:  94/100

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

2019 The Shepherd Sauvignon Blanc


2019 The Shepherd Sauvignon Blanc

Hot days are made for cooler wines and Sauvignon Blanc almost always fits the bill.  But when you have a Sauvignon Blanc like this one that is so pure, straightforward and extremely easy to enjoy, you know you have hit the jackpot.  Don't mistake this as simple, because it isn't.  It is just very well made and exactly how we enjoy SB.  Shepherd Wines, aka Truchard Vineyards, presents a fine California example of this wildly popular grape.  Aromas of cooked pear, grapefruit and crisp linen resonate throughout the glass and intensify as the wine begins to warm.  Delicious and crisp citrus flavors lead to a zippy and memorable medium acidic finish.  Absolutely and easily a daily drinker!

ABV:  13.9%

Napa Valley, CA (Carneros Region)

Suggested retail price:  $18.00

Drink The Bottles score:  90/100

Friday, May 27, 2022

2019 Dawn's Dream Winery Frances Jane Chardonnay

2019 Dawn's Dream Winery Frances Jane Chardonnay

There's no question that a quality Chardonnay really pleases the palate and is one of the world's most diverse and celebrated white wines.  We recently had the opportunity to taste this exciting wine and we know that you will love it.  This is the 2019 Dawn's Dream Winery Frances Jane Chardonnay and like most wines that we love, it has a back story.  The Frances Jane name comes from Dawn's granddaughter and the fun label comes from the love that Frances Jane has for the four-legged fur babies.  In fact, $5.00 of every bottle of this wine is donated to Peace of Mind Dog Rescue.  We love this!

This wine is on the drier side but welcomes the palate with toasted ciabatta, lemon cream and crisp pear.  It opens up the senses and warms the mouth with candied apples, hints of oak and bright acidity, leading to a lingering and satisfying finish.  While we tasted this wine without food (like we do all of our wines), we think this selection would be a lovely accompaniment to hard breads, smoked Gouda and a variety of seafood selections.  Delish!

2019 Dawn's Dream Winery Frances Jane Chardonnay label

ABV:  13.4%

Monterey, CA

Suggested retail price:  $55.00

Drink the Bottles score:  93/100

Monday, April 25, 2022

2018 Hamel Family Wines Isthmus

2018 Hamel Family Wines Isthmus

We were recently introduced to Hamel Family Wines and their 2018 Isthmus red blend.  This wine is comprised of Cabernet Sauvignon (64%), Merlot (18%), Cabernet Franc (14%) and Petit Verdot (4%).  This wine is very rich up front with dominant blackberry, plum and pomegranate fruits.  Clove, grilling spices, river rock and ripe dark fruits blend to create a stunning and memorable wine that is approachable now and will also drink very well for the next 15+ years.  Wonderful texture with the medium to heavier mouthfeel.  We decanted this wine for about 90 minutes prior to tasting and that helped bring this selection to a compelling and delightful finish.  Ruby red in the glass to the rim.  While we don't often taste wines with food, we do think that this would be a delicious accompaniment to a bone-in ribeye steak.

2018 Hamel Family Wines Isthmus label

ABV:  14.5%

Sonoma Valley, CA

2,698 cases produced

Suggested retail price:  $90.00

Drink The Bottles score:  93+/100


Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Winery Spotlight: Trefethen Family Vineyards


Trefethen Family Vineyards

In the heart of the Oak Knoll District in Napa Valley, California, sits a winery that is beautiful, welcoming and is also the home of incredible wines.  Trefethen Family Vineyards is a third generation, family owned and sustainably farmed winery that has deep roots in Napa Valley.  The best way to describe the founders, Katie and Gene Trefethen, would be as true pioneers of the area.  Their touches are still evident daily at the winery by the Napa Valley Agricultural Preserve and the amazing gardens that are intertwined throughout the grounds of the estate.

Second generation family members and co-founders Janet and John Trefethen created their own footprints in the wine world.  John was the founding president of the Napa Valley Grapegrowers and later led the charge for the Napa Valley Vintners during the early critical years.  For 25 years, Janet hosted the Napa Valley Cooking Class and became an ambassador not only for the winery, but also Napa Valley as she became a leader in establishing the now famous Oak Knoll District.

Entrance to Trefethen Family Vineyards

The entrance to Trefethn is impressive, awe-inspiring and welcoming.  The long drive also has an interesting history behind it.  We won't spoil the secret but there is a great story about this long drive, a pilot and a cowgirl that you have to hear from your winery tour guide!

Trefethn Family Vineyards fountain

Everywhere you look, you see manicured grounds, clean lines and beautiful gardens.  You could spend the better part of a day walking around here and taking in all of the beauty.

Large tree at Trefethen Family Vineyards

Huge trees create a canopy in many areas of the Trefethen property, providing shade, a gorgeous setting and a natural nature preserve for Napa's smallest residents.

Tour guide at Trefethen Family Vineyards

Each winery ambassador is extremely knowledgeable about "all things Trefethen" and their passion is evident in the stories that they tell.  You learn about the history, the family, the wines and the future of Trefethen.

Taste the Estate Menu

Trefethen offers many tasting experiences.  We were blessed to enjoy the "Taste the Estate" tasting on the porch of the old house.  We tasted five unique and wonderful wines accompanied by delicious food.

Cucumber Poké paired with 2020 Dry Riesling

The foods that were served with our tasting featured estate-grown ingredients, which was as equally impressive as the wine.  We stepped outside of our comfort level and despite any preconceived notions we may have had (we are not cucumber fans), we thoroughly enjoyed all of the food pairings.

Trefethen Family Vineyards white wines

It's no secret that Napa Valley and red wines are synonymous.  But don't discount the fact that you can enjoy breathtaking white wines as well!  Pictured here are the 2020 Dry Riesling and the 2019 Katie's Acre Chardonnay.  These wines were both over the top delicious!

Chilled Summer Melon Soup

The Chilled Summer Melon Soup with tarragon goat cheese, sunflower and compressed melon introduced all of us to flavors that were unique and extremely pleasing.

Hen of the Wood Mushrooms

Winery Chef Chris Kennedy and his team construct dishes that were absolutely mind blowing at times.  The Hen of the Woods Mushrooms with roasted white corn cake and créme fraiche was one of the best dishes we have ever tasted in our lives!  Chris is a culinary genius!

Trefethen Family Vineyards Red Wines

Pictured here are the three red wines from our "Taste the Estate" tasting.  They were all fabulous and we bought them all to bring home!
  • 2017 Cowgirl and the Pilot
  • 2018 Dragon's Tooth
  • 2017 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
Winos Group at Trefethen Family Vineyards

Wine tasting is fun. Wine tasting with friends is more fun!  Wine tasting in an intimate setting creates memories that will last a lifetime.

The beautiful gardens at Trefethen

You could get lost in the gardens (on purpose, of course) across these sprawling grounds.  These beauty of this place reminds visitor of Katie Trefethen's influence on what would become a magnificent winery and a favorite place to visit.

Despite being one of the larger, family owned wineries in Napa Valley with about 500 acres currently planted, Trefethen makes you feel welcome and like an extension of their own family.  The attention to detail, the kindness and the remarkable wines display the embodiment of the vision that was started decades ago.  So what does the future look like for Trefethen?   There is no doubt that the visionaries of Trefethen have helped them succeed for three generations.  They are eco-friendly, sustainably farmed, and keenly aware of how nature helps them thrive.  

Cover crops aid in decreasing carbon dioxide in the vineyards.  Nesting boxes for predatory birds help control varmint population.  Only the actual juice from the grapes leaves Trefethen's property.  All other parts of the grape (stems, seeds, skins) are used to form a compost that is re-entered into the vineyard soil annually.  Trefethen takes sustainability very seriously and they have been a role model for other wineries in both Napa Valley and around the world to learn from.

Earth Day Joy Box

Recently, Trefethen released their very limited JOY BOX in honor of Earth Day.  This box included their OKD Four wine blend, a cotton tea towel with water based ink, white flake salt and an olive pinch bowl.  The Joy Box is a wonderful and special gift idea that any wine lover will enjoy.  We strongly encourage you to sign up on Trefethen's web site to be notified when these boxes become available, as they sell out very quickly!

If we could say how we feel about Trefethen Family Vineyards and the people behind the label, it would simply be expressed as "Visionaries with a love for wine, the environment and Napa Valley who create beauty through grapes, food and beautiful gardens".   

We strongly hope that you will consider connecting with Trefethen Family Vineyards during your next trip to Napa Valley.  You will create memories and enjoy experiences that you will talk about for years!

Monday, April 11, 2022

2019 Patland Estate Vineyards Napa Valley Syrah


2019 Patland Estate Vineyards Napa Valley Syrah
Just released from Patland Estate Vineyards

Just released!   We are always excited to share wines from Patland Estate Vineyards, as we have become really big fans over the past couple of years.  Their Syrah has consistently provided consistent quality with anticipated deliciousness and the 2019 vintage is hanging right there with previous ones.  Gorgeous, deep garnet color with dominating aromas of dark ripe plum, crushed blueberries and Portobello mushroom.  With some additional time in the glass, cracked pepper, Asian spices and sweet smoke appear and combine together with damp earth for a memorable finish.  This wine is a real treat and with only 110 cases produced, it is priced right.  While it is very young now, it is starting to come into its own.  We recommend holding back a bottle or 2 and enjoy this for the next 15-20 years without any second thought.

2019 Patland Estate Vineyards Napa Valley Syrah label
Drink now or hold for even more enjoyment

ABV:  14.8%

Napa Valley, CA

110 cases produced

Suggested retail price:  $85.00

Drink The Bottles score:  91/100

Two James Spirits Johnny Smoking Gun Blended Whiskey

  We're not going to lie.  We know that a perk of this project is the ability to taste unique and extraordinary spirits that we may not ...