Due Regazze Vineyards (JPB's Vines in Cameron Park, CA)

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Cheers to Charity!

Thanks to Mother Nature, I’m another two weeks away from harvesting my second vintage. While I’ve been patiently waiting for higher sugar levels like an expecting father, I have been fortunate enough to taste some fantastic wines this month. And of all the places, a charity fun raiser was where I found some great wines at affordable prices.

I’ve come to find out, many new wineries and winemakers will use a charity event as a way to market themselves. It makes complete sense; most people who have disposable income will be at a fundraiser and it’s a great write off! Earlier this month I was fortunate enough to have our friends Pat and Kathy invite me to the Wine and Wedges event that benefits the Shriners Hospitals for Children. For me, it was like being a kid in a candy store. Several of the wineries represented had the winemaker or owner of the winery pouring their wine! The sense of pride and passion they expressed for what they had created was truly inspiring. I didn’t have my designated driver for this event (the lovely Mrs. Wineologist) and it was a Sunday so I didn’t go full throttle. However, below are some notes and background on some wines tasted. It was a great event and it left me hoping that someday, with a little luck and determination, I’ll be the person on the other side of the booth pouring my wine.

Nello Olivo Wines- I will start by saying I’m a little biased about this winery. Nello is a neighbor and his grapes are grown about a mile from my vineyard. However, the 24 awards he has received this year alone at various wine competitions speak volumes about the quality of the product. The highlight was a coveted “Best of California” designation for his 2007 Sangiovese entered at the California State Fair. I tried the 2007 Barbera and the 2007 Super Tuscan and they were both wonderful. Most of the wines are priced between $20.00 to $25 dollars and that is more than reasonable. As with most small family operations, the quantities are limited. For ordering, go to www.NelloOlivo.com

Mark West 2007 Chardonnay-Those of you that have read my previous blog posts know I’m not a huge fan of Chardonnay but I’m here to say this might have been the sleeper value wine of the evening. It may have had something to do with the fact that it was over 90 degrees in the building for the event and I was looking for ANYTHING cold. That said, I had a few of my white wine drinking friends confirm this find. The fruit is from the Monterey California area and it was aged in 40% new French Oak. I found this wine to be well balanced with a citrus like aroma. Once it hits your palate, you pick up peach and mango flavors with a hint of apple. Here is the best part, it retails at $15.00 dollars and you can find it all over the internet for less than that. At that price, you could have a glass or two and pour the rest out and not feel bad (although I’m not suggesting that)!

Moniz Family Wines- If late night TV were ever looking to replace pitchman Billy Mays, they would have to look no further than Rod Moniz. His enthusiasm for his wines was simply awesome. Yet his excitement is warranted. The three Moniz wines I tasted were flavorful, well balanced and displayed a true representation of what I like to call Bordeaux Blending done with California panache. Moniz started me off with his “Cuvee Olivia” which was a Cabernet/Merlot blend with a touch of Malbec, Petite Verdot and Cabernet Franc. This wine offered classic dark berry flavor with a touch of earthiness. All of the grapes came from the Sonoma Valley. The next pour, the “Cuvee Alexandra” was a similar blend except the fruit was from Napa Valley. Again, there was plenty of depth and perhaps a tiny bit smoother than the Olivia. To me the wines truly illustrated the difference in “terrior” between the two Valleys. If I had to choose, it would probably be the Napa blend. However, if I had the will power to actually let a wine age, the Sonoma blend could turn into the first choice. The final wine was the 2007 Park Avenue. This was a straight Cabernet that offered lush black cherry flavor with a touch of spice. This wine would stand up to wines offered at twice the price. Speaking of price, Moniz says all of his wines are under $20 dollars! That’s right; UNDER $20 dollars! Hurry and order now and he might just throw in a set of steak knives! www.monizfamilywines.com

Mellowood Vineyard-2008 Syrah-This was Linda Neal’s first release of her new winery located in the hills of El Dorado county. Although this winery is in its infancy, our brief conversation led me to believe Neal was clearly a seasoned veteran of the wine industry. She was also offering a 2008 Zinfandel but I had reached my capacity that would allow for a safe ride home so I only tried the Syrah. Plenty of fruit flavor, depth and hint of licorice. I really liked the wine and for a boutique winery $28 dollars a bottle was reasonable. However, with so many quality wines on the market at discount prices, I just feel like I could find a better value. www.mellowoodvineyard.com