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We learned several things in speaking with Mike on March 9th. The first thing we learned, was that Mike has worked alongside legendary vintner Josh Jensen for more than a decade, helping to guide winemaking at Calera.

We also learned that while earning his degree in viticulture and enology UC Davis, Mike worked at Saintsbury, where he began to develop a passion for Pinot Noir. After graduation, Mike spent a year as the wine chemist at Beringer, before moving home to the Central Coast to become the assistant winemaker at Chalone in 2004.

In 2007, Josh Jensen invited Mike to become the assistant winemaker at Calera. He jumped at the opportunity. Mike and Josh quickly discovered that they shared similar philosophies, palates, and approaches to growing and making wine. In 2009, Josh named Mike the winemaker for Calera. As you will see below, Mike was the right man for the job!

Below is a summary of all the impressive wines that we covered with Mike. The links are to our full reviews. If you are interested in ordering and trying these wines, you will find a few of them via your favorite wine shop or fine dining restaurant. The rest are available for order via the Calera website.

Calera 2020 Chenin Blanc “Central Coast” $38 (KWGTP 91.5)
Calera 2018 Pinot Noir “Mills Vineyard” (Mt. Harlan) $80 (KWGTP 93)
Calera 2019 Pinot Noir “Central Coast” $30 (KWGTP 89.5)
Calera 2019 Pinot Noir “Muns Vineyard” (Santa Cruz Mountains) $50 (KWGTP 92.5)
Calera 2019 Pinot Noir “Santa Lucia Highlands” $50 (KWGTP 91.5)
Calera 2019 Pinot Noir “Chalone Vineyard” (Monterey County) $50 (KWGTP 93)
Calera 2019 Pinot Noir “de Villiers Vineyard” (Mt. Harlan) $80 (KWGTP 94)
Calera 2019 Pinot Noir “Jensen” (Mt. Harlan) $105 (KWGTP 94)

You can find reviews of past and additional Calera wines that we covered on the KWG Calera winery page on our website.  Cheers! Ken

On February 16th, Three Sticks winemaker Ryan Prichard, joined the Tasting Panel on Zoom to cover 8 of his new release wines.

We learned several thing in speaking with Ryan. But one of the most interesting tidbits was that his passion for wine started with a senior elective wine appreciation class which he took when he was a student of Cornell University. Similarly, my passion for wine started with a wine appreciation course which I took at Syracuse University in my senior year.

Ryan completed the UC Davis Certificate Program in Winemaking and decided to move back to California and begin winemaking full-time. Since his return to California, Ryan has worked alongside many esteemed winemakers in various Sonoma County wineries including Williams Selyem, Copain, Custom Crush, Medlock Ames, and Graft Wines, and is concurrently the Winemaker at Flambeaux Wine in Dry Creek Valley.

Ryan joined Three Sticks Wines as Winemaker in 2015 alongside Director of Winemaking, Bob Cabral. His focus is crafting Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. As you will see below, Ryan makes many terrific Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines for Three Sticks.

Below is a summary of all the impressive wines that we covered with Ryan. The links are to our full reviews. If you are interested in ordering and trying these wines, you will find a few of them via your favorite wine shop or fine dining restaurant. The rest are available for order via the Three Sticks website.

Three Sticks 2019 Chardonnay “Durell Vineyard” (Sonoma Coast) $65 (KWGTP 93)
Three Sticks 2019 Chardonnay “Alana Vineyard” (RRV) $75 (KWGTP 92.5)
Three Sticks 2019 Pinot Noir “Walala Vineyard” (Sonoma Coast) $75 (KWGTP 93)
Three Sticks 2019 Pinot Noir “Durell Vineyard” (Sonoma Coast) $75 (KWGTP 95)
Three Sticks 2019 Pinot Noir “William James Vineyard” (RRV) $75 (KWGTP 93)
Three Sticks 2019 Pinot Noir “Cuvee Alana” (RRV) $95 (KWGTP 93)
Three Sticks 2019 Pinot Noir “Cuvee Eva Marie” (Sonoma Mountain) $95 (KWGTP 93)
Three Sticks 2019 Pinot Noir “Gap’s Crown Vineyard” (Sonoma Coast) $75 (KWGTP 95)

You can find reviews of past and additional Three Sticks wines that we cover on the KWG Three Sticks winery page on our website. Cheers! Ken

On February 2nd, Black Kite and Saxon Brown winemaker Jeff Gaffner, joined the Tasting Panel on Zoom to cover 9 of his new release wines.

We really enjoyed our session with him. Jeff began his career at Chateau St. Jean, under the tutelage of renowned vintner Richard Arrowood, who Jeff credits with teaching him the importance of being as passionate about growing the grapes as making the wine.

Jeff launched Saxon Brown in 1997. It is named after his favorite female literary character, from Jack London’s Valley of the Moon. He started it to focus on small single vineyard bottlings reflecting his preference for elegantly structured, well-balanced and age worthy wines. Jeff calls Saxon Brown his R&D brand. It allows him to take winemaking risks and experiment with ideas that he wouldn’t try with his clients’ production.

We were first introduced to Jeff via his impressive work at Black Kite Cellars. Jeff joined Black Kite as their consulting winemaker in 2005. As noted above, Jeff is as passionate about growing grapes as he is about making the wine. We also found out that Jeff really likes how wind effects the grapes and vineyards.

As you will see below, Jeff makes many terrific Pinot Noirs from its Kite’s Rest Vineyard in Anderson Valley. The terroir at the three levels of the vineyard are all so very different. This results in distinct and noticeably different wines in the separate bottlings. They have also recently planted a new vineyard on the Sonoma Coast called “Jasper Freestone.” Its young wines are also very impressive. You can read about the entire winery’s story and history here.

Below is a summary of all the impressive wines that we covered with Jeff. The links are to our full reviews. If you are interested in ordering these wines, you find a few of them via your favorite wine shop or fine dining restaurant. The rest are available for order via the Black Kite and Saxon Brown websites.

Black Kite 2019 Chardonnay “Gap’s Crown” (Sonoma Coast) $62 (KWGTP 93)
Black Kite 2019 Pinot Noir “Jasper Freestone” (Sonoma Coast) $82 (KWGTP 93)
Black Kite 2019 Pinot Noir “Redwoods’ Edge” (Anderson Valley) $65 (KWGTP 92)
Black Kite 2019 Pinot Noir “River Turn” (Anderson Valley) $65 (KWGTP 94 )
Black Kite 2019 Pinot Noir “Stony Terrace” (Anderson Valley) $65 (KWGTP 92.5 )
Black Kite 2019 Pinot Noir “Kite’s Rest” (Anderson Valley) $54 (KWGTP 93)
Black Kite 2019 Pinot Noir “Gap’s Crown Vineyard” (Sonoma Coast) $70 (KWGTP 93 )
Black Kite 2019 Pinot Noir “Angel Hawk Anderson Valley” $90 (KWGTP 95.5)
Saxon Brown 2019 Pinot Noir “Fighting Brothers” (Sonoma Coast) $60 (KWGTP 92)

You can find reviews of past and additional Black Kite and Saxon Brown wines that we cover on the KWG Black Kite and Saxon Brown winery pages on our website. Cheers! Ken

Ryan Rech BeringerOn January 26th, Beringer winemaker Ryan Rech, joined the Tasting Panel on Zoom to cover 9 of his new release wines.

We really enjoyed our session with him. We learned that in 2016, Ryan joined Beringer Vineyards as “Luxury Red Winemaker” and crafted wines from the Knights Valley estate. Since we are quite fond of the Knights Valley portfolio, we spent a lot of time speaking about how the Knights Valley wines have impressively evolved over the last 2-3 vintages.

Continuing with his story, in 2017 he was appointed Sr. Winemaker and General Manager and elevated to Chief Winemaker in 2021. It was quite cool to learn about his path to being the 9th Winemaker. We love interviewing these “science geek” winemakers, because we learn so much and quite frankly, they discover we are wine geeks as well!

Ryan philosophy is that he believes “the vineyard is where the important work is done, and that his job is to showcase the exceptional fruit he is fortunate enough to receive.” Based upon our tasting, I think you will find that he does a very good job with those grapes!

Below is a summary of all the impressive wines that we covered with Ryan. The links are to our full reviews. If you are interested in ordering these wines, you can find many of them via your favorite wine shop. Some may be club only wines that you will have to order via the Beringer website.

1) Beringer 2020 Chardonnay “Luminus” $39 (KWGTP 91)
2) Beringer 2020 Chardonnay “Private Reserve” $48 (KWGTP 93)
3) Beringer 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon “Knights Valley” $36 (KWGTP 92)
4) Beringer 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon “Knights Valley Reserve” $70 (KWGTP 93.5)
5) Beringer 2019 RB “Q Red Wine” $65 (KWGTP 94)
6) Beringer 2019 Merlot “Bancroft Ranch Vineyard” $90 (KWGTP 93.5)
7) Beringer 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon “Private Reserve” $170 (KWGTP 95)
8) Beringer 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon “Eighth Maker” $400 (KWGTP 97)
9) Beringer 2019 Dessert “Nightingale” $50 (KWGTP 94)

You can find reviews of all the Beringer wines that we cover on the KWG Beringer winery page on our website. Most of the wines that you can find at your favorite retail wine shop are located on this page. Enjoy & Cheers! Ken

On January 12th, DAOU and Patrimony winemaker Daniel Daou, joined the Tasting Panel on Zoom to cover 11 of his new release wines. This is the second time Daniel has meet with the Tasting Panel.

We really have enjoyed both of our sessions with him. His story is incredible and very impressive. You can hear all the details of this journey in this comprehensive Cork Talk podcast with Tim Atkin. His passion is also very impressive. And we loved his quote “chase your passion, don’t do it for the $.” That certainly rings true with for the members of the Ken’s Wine Guide Tasting Panel. We also learned a ton of details about his Patrimony project. How he is building his team with former members from the legendary Opus One winery. You can learn more about the Patrimony story in the Where The Wine Takes You podcast with Adam Montiel.

Finally, Daniel is convinced that the Adelaida District in Paso Robles is ideal for growing world class Cabernet Sauvignon. The proof is in the bottle and you should see for yourself. Below is a summary of all the impressive wines that we covered with Daniel. The links are to our full reviews. If you are interested in ordering these wines, you can find most of them on the DAOU website.

1) DAOU 2019 Pinot Noir “Solomon Hills” $90 (KWGTP 93)
2) DAOU 2019 Red Blend “Cuvee Lizzy” $85 (KWGTP 93)
3) DAOU 2019 Malbec “Estate” $100 (KWGTP 95)
4) DAOU 2018 Red Blend “Mayote” $100 (KWGTP 94.5)
5) DAOU 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon “Eye of the Falcon” $75 (KWGTP 94)
6) DAOU 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon “Reserve” $50 (KWGTP 93.5)
7) DAOU 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon “Estate” $95 (KWGTP 96)
8) DAOU 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon “Soul Of A Lion” $150 (KWGTP 96.5)
9) DAOU 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon “Family Cuvee” $130 (KWGTP 93)
10) Patrimony 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon $275 (KWGTP 98)
11) DAOU 2018 “Port” $100 (KWGTP 94.5)

You can find reviews of all the DAOU wines that we cover on the KWG DAOU winery page on our website. Most of the wines that you can find at your favorite retail wine shop are located on this page. Enjoy & Cheers! Ken

On December 8th, Alpha Omega winemaker Matt Brain, joined the Tasting Panel on Zoom to cover 10 of his new release wines. We learned a lot about Matt’s technical background and how he came to be Alpha Omega’s currant winemaker.

We also had a little fun talking about his former Baker & Brain project where I once scored a 2016 Gruner Veltliner he co-produced 92 points. It was fun bringing up that wine and to get the history on his relationship with Josh Baker.

Below is a summary of all the impressive wines that we covered with Matt. The links are to our full reviews. If you are interested in ordering these wines, you should most likely reach out to the winery directly. I am sure the concierge service team will be very happy to assist you.

  1. Alpha Omega 2020 Sauvignon Blanc “1155” (Napa Valley) $85 (KWGTP 91.5)
  2. Alpha Omega 2019 Chardonnay “Napa Valley” 100% $85 (KWGTP 94)
  3. Alpha Omega 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon “Napa Valley” $108 (KWGTP 93)
  4. Alpha Omega 2019 “Proprietary Red” (Napa Valley) $108 (KWGTP 93)
  5. Alpha Omega 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon “Cordes Vineyard” (Atlas Peak) $245 (KWGTP 96)
  6. Alpha Omega 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon “Drew Vineyard” (Mt. Veeder) $245 (KWGTP 95)
  7. Alpha Omega 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon “Sunshine Valley Vineyard” (Oak Knoll) $245  (KWGTP 95)
  8. Alpha Omega 2019 “Right Bank” (Napa Valley) $108 (KWGTP 92.5)
  9. Alpha Omega 2019 Petit Verdot (Napa Valley) $110 (KWGTP 96)
  10. Alpha Omega 2019 “ERA” (Napa Valley) $305 (KWGTP 97)

I was recently listening to the The Wonderful World Of Wine (WWW) podcast and I thought they were discussing a great topic:  Wine Holidays!  I found it really fun to listen to because each time I write the newsletter, I always look to see if their is a wine holiday coming up in the next two weeks. I reached out to Mark Lenzi who hosts the show with Kim Simone. I asked if he could share with me the list he compiled; he did.  It was quite extensive and well beyond just wine. It covered beer, wine, spirits, coffee, etc.  If you want to hear the entire list, please check our Episode 150 of their Wonderful World Of Wine podcast. I asked him if I could post just the Wine Holidays on the KWG Blog so my readers could plan to celebrate these fun events in the weeks and months to come. He agreed, and the wine list is below.  Please enjoy each Wine Holiday responsibly and with a KensWineGuide.com recommended wine.  Cheers!

Wine Days, Wine Months and Wine Holiday List

January Wine Holidays

National Hangover Day is January 1

Champagne and French Fries Day is January 10, 2021

February Wine Holidays

Wine Lover’s Day is February 14, 2021

International Syrah Day is February 16, 2021

Global Drink Wine Day is February 18, 2021 #DrinkWineDay

Open That Bottle Night (OTBN) is February 27, 2021 (The Last Saturday in February)

March Wine Holidays

Mulled Wine Day is March 3, 2021  #MulledWineDay; #MulledWine

Riesling Day is March 13, 2021 #RieslingBirthday; #RieslingDay

April Wine Holidays

Michigan Wine Month

World Malbec Day is April 17, 2021 – #MalbecWorldDay; #WorldMalbecDay; #MalbecDay

International Cava Day is April 23, 2021

Sauvignon Blanc Day is April 24

May Wine Holidays

Oregon Wine Month #ORWineMonth

Finger Lakes Wine Month

International Sauvignon Blanc Day is May 7, 2021 #SauvignonBlancDay; #SauvBlancDay

World Moscato Day is May 9, 2021 #WorldMoscatoDay

May 16th Official Mimosa Day

Pinot Grigio Day is May 17

May 24th: Anniversary of the Judgment of Paris.

National Wine Day is May 25, 2021 #NationalWineDay

International Chardonnay Day is May 27, 2021 #ChardonnayDay

June Wine Holidays

Ohio Wine Month

Idaho Wine Month

National Rose Month (Wine!)

National Prosecco Week, #NationalProseccoWeek (June 11–16)

National Bubbly Day is June 5, 2021 (First Sat In June)

National Rosé Day June 8th or 12th (Second Sat. In June also 4th Friday)

Drink Chenin Blanc Day is June 19, 2021

July Wine Holidays

Sparkling Wine Week (first week of July)

National Wine & Cheese Day is July 25, 2021

August Wine Holidays

Washington Wine Month

Rosé Month

World Albarino Day is August 1, 2021

National White Wine Day is August 4, 2021

International Prosecco Day is August 13, 2021

August 14th: International Rosé Day (Hotly debated, at least insofar as Rosé Days can be; some say August is Rosé Month, and some say Rosé Day is June 10th or 11th. Cut your losses and celebrate all.)

International Pinot Noir Day is August 18, 2021 #PinotNoirDay

International Red Wine Day is August 28

September Wine Holidays

California, Missouri, North Carolina, and Illinois Wine Month

Aussie Wine Month

International Cabernet Day (Thursday before Labor Day in the U.S.) #CabernetDay; #CabernetSauvignonDay

National Chianti Day is September 3, 2021

International Grenache Day is September 17, 2021- #GrenacheDay (Third Friday of September)

 October Wine Holidays

Texas, Virginia, and Pennsylvania Wine Month

International Pinotage Day is October 9, 2021

October 11-17th: Drink Local Wine Week

World Champagne Day is October 16, 2021 23rd  (UK) #ChampagneDay; #WorldChampagneDay

November Wine Holidays

National Wine Tasting Day – November 7, 2020 (First Saturday in November)

International Merlot Day is November 7, 2021

International Tempranillo Day is November 11, 2021

Wine Tourism Day is November 12, 2021

National Zinfandel Day is November 17, 2021

Beaujolais Nouveau Day is November 18, 2021 (Third Thursday of November

Carménère Day is November 24

December Wine Holidays

Cabernet Franc Day is December 4, 2021#CabFrancDay; #CabFranc; #CabernetFrancDay; #CabernetFranc

Repeal of Prohibition Day – December 5

Give a Wine Club Day – December 18

National Champagne Day – December 31

Deep within the Site Map on Ken’s Wine Guide are several fun sections and links that readers can explore. Many of these fun links used to be on the main website but is was getting too busy and cluttered. In this post, we will highlight one of my favorite collections and a perfect page to explore for the fall and winter. The Collection page is called Ken’s Favorite Red Wines Priced $17-$49. So, these wines are the Red Wine winners that I featured and cost more than the Practical Party Case wines (<$16) and the Collectible Wines that cost more than $50 per bottle.

At the moment, there are 60 wines listed in the collection. I periodically add new wines as I discover them and delete some older vintages once they are no longer available.

I hope you enjoy them and much as we did. Cheers – Ken!

The Taste LogoI love learning about wine and all that goes into it. The history, how it is made and the stories. Winemakers, wine and food people that are in the wine business are great story tellers. Doug Shafer from Shafer Vineyards does an excellent job capturing these stories on his podcast “The Taste.” In this blog post, I want to share with you some of my favorite podcasts from The Taste and why you should listen in.

Let’s start with some of my early favorites that got me hooked. In episode #2 Doug talks with vintner John Skupny, who started Lang & Reed winery with his wife Tracey. I loved the story and his path witch included working with Francis Ford Coppola at Inglenook, Bernard Portet at Clos du Val, and Charlie and Chuck Wagner at Caymus.

Episode #6 was with Pete Seghesio. Learning about his family’s wine history was fascinating. It was equaling interesting how he created his own two new wine brands on his own, along with a salumi business called Journeyman Meat Company. You will want to order a charcuterie platter after this one.

Episode #7 with Heidi Barrett is a must listen. In the episode, Heidi takes Doug through one of the most fascinating careers and life stories in the Valley. You learn about Heidi’s dad, Dr. Dick Peterson and the impact he had on the early California wine industry. Her path to Screaming Eagle and how she became a helicopter pilot. You also learn how she created her own wine brand called La Sirena, and another one with her husband, Bo Barrett of Chateau Montelena, called Barrett & Barrett.

Episode #8 features Michael Twelftree from Two Hands Wines in Australia. The stories from the road are funny. Michael also talks about how he travels the world and has been to all the great domains and been in all the cellars of the cult Napa cabs. He’s asked a million questions and taken a lot of notes and used that information to create a great wine operation for himself. He talks about how he classifies his grapes each year and offers a little bit of history about the Australian wine industry. It is a lot of fun listening.

In episode #11 Doug interviews Paul Hobbs. What a story! I got tired from listening to all the projects he has been involved with. The story travels through Napa, Sonoma, the Finger Lakes, Argentina, France, Spain, and Armenia. It includes his involvement with Robert Mondavi, Zelma Long, Larry Hyde and Michel Rolland. He also tells the story of how got access to Andy Beckstoffer’s To-Kalon Cab grapes and how Robert Parker awarded him 100 points on his 2002 Cab and after that everything was crazy. This one is another great history lesson and a fascinating podcast to listen too.

One of my favorite episodes is #14 with Chris Carpenter. Probably because he makes some of my favorite wines. He is the winemaker at Lokoya, Cardinale, Mt. Brave and La Jota here in the US and collaborates with Peter Fraser at Hickinbotham in Australia. In this episode, Chris talks about how he became a winemaker and landed his gig with Lokoya and Cardinale. He eventually became the Grand Poobah of winemaking for Lokoya, Cardinale, Mt. Brave and La Jota. It’s a great story and as I mentioned, he makes great wines.

There are many other great episodes on the play list and here are a few of my other favorites.

#22 Beth and Lindy Novak and how they created the Spottswoode Estate and turned it into one of the top wineries in Napa Valley.

#26 Tony Biagi – How he went from Duckhorn, to launching the winemaking programs at wineries including Paraduxx, Cade, Odette, and Hourglass. He was also with winemaker at Plumpjack and now also consults Jesse Fox the winemaker at Amici and for Lasseter. He has also started his own brand, Patria.

#27 Tim Mondavi and the fascinating Mondavi family story along with his creating Continuum.

#29 Bo Barrett and the history of Chateau Montelena and how the movie Bottle Shock came about.

#30 Randy Lewis and how an Indy race car driver came to be the owner of a well-known and successful winery. There are plenty of funny stories on the way to creating Lewis Cellars.

One Mind#32 Shari and Shannon Staglin – Everyone knows their wine, but I was touched when son and brother, Brandon, was diagnosed with schizophrenia, the family responded by creating an annual music festival that has raised $400 million for brain health research. You can read more about it at OneMind.org

#39 Laura Catena – How the Catena winery became an early pioneer of wine in Argentina and how Laura has worked to take over the family’s very successful wine business.

#41 Mark Beringer – His path to becoming Beringer’s winemaker. It is not what you think. Another great story about the history of another storied winery in the valley.

#42 Kim McPherson – This guy is a character. It’s a great and colorful story about the history of the Texas wine scene and how Kim and his family have contributed.

Even if you just listen to a few of these great podcasts, you will certainly learn more about the wine business. I have learned a lot and even Doug learns a lot in these interviews. It is fascinating stuff. So, if you are on the beach this summer or just walking around the neighborhood. Be sure to subscribe and listen to The Taste, I am sure you will enjoy it!

Recently, Ken was a guest with WBZ radio host Jordan Rich on his Connoisseurs Corner radio segment. Ken and Jordan discussed many topics over 6 radio spots just in time for the summer wine season.

Some of those topics included:

How Has the Pandemic Effected the Wine World?

Good Value Wines For This Summer
Pine Ridge 2018 “Chenin Blanc + Viognier” (89)
Susana Balbo 2018 “Crios Rose of Malbec” (89)

Rose Wine Winners
Pratsch 2018 “Rose of Zweigelt” (89)
Peyrassol 2019 “Commanderie de la Peyrassol” Rose (91)

Sauvignon Blanc Winners
Merriam Vineyards 2019 “Danielle” Sauvignon Blanc (91)
St. Supery 2018 Sauvignon Blanc (90)

Pinot Noir Winners
Ponzi 2016 “Classico” Pinot Noir (91)
Au Bon Climat 2016 “Knox Alexander” Pinot Noir (93)

Try Something New – A White Wine and a Red Wine
Boutari 2018 Moschofilero (90)
Ruffino 2016 “Modus” (91)

I hope you enjoy listening and hope you can find some of these very nice wines!

Cheers – Ken

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