About     FAQ     Contact      Advertise With Us      Press   

Thursday, May 5 is Cinco de Mayo Day!

Danza del Sol celebrates Cinco de Mayo

Danza del Sol in Temecula celebrates Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo  is widely celebrated in the US today. This special day commemorates the victory of Mexico’s army at the Battle of Puebla. The battle was just one of the events of the 1861 to 1867 Franco-Mexican War.

Depending upon where you live there are a selection of activities to celebrate including festivals, marathons, fiestas and winery events.

If you are interested in specific winery events check out these listings below. Always check ahead with the wineries in your local area to see how and when they are celebrating Cinco de May.

At Spring Gate Vineyard in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, the winery will be releasing their Margarita hard cider. Details are available on Facebook.

Celebrate Cinco de May at Danza del Sol Winery in Temecula, California. The winery  is featuring tacos and burritos on their tasting room patio. Also listen to live music by Sean Wiggins. Wine, beer and margaritas will also be available for purchase. If you haven’t visited Danza del Sol, check out my article about this southern California winery online.

Another winery in Temecula is hosting a Cinco de Mayo Dance Happy Hour. At Lorimar Vineyards & Winery attendees will discover teacher-interactive dancing and sangria.

Tassel Ridge Winery in Iowa is celebrating Cinco de Mayo day with their wines and special Cinco de Mayo small plates.

Another winery, this time in Napa Valley, is offering a Cinco de Mayo celebration on Saturday May 7, a weekend day that may be more conducive for people to celebrate. Mi Sueño Winery’s celebration includes: authentic Mexican cuisine, wine and live Mariachi music. Check the winery’s website for details.

If these ideas, don’t appeal to you why not invite a few friends over for a glass of sangria and perhaps some Mexican cuisine? If you need a recipe for sangria, check out this one, Savoy-Lee Sangria.


Wilted Greens with Pinot Noir Pears

43016IMG_9781Spring time is a great time for chard. In our garden the chard over-wintered from last fall and now it is thriving. If you have a good supply of fresh chard or other greens, try this recipe provided by Mirassou Winery in California. You may want to try this recipe for Mother’s Day!

Wilted Greens with Pinot Noir Pears

Prep time: 10 minutes.
Cook time: 25 minutes.


2 strips bacon
2 pears, cored and cut into wedges
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
1/2 cup Mirassou California Pinot Noir
6 cups chopped greens such as red Swiss chard
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese


  1. Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove from skillet and drain all but 1 tablespoon fat.
  2. Add pears, honey and vinegar; cook for 5 minutes or until lightly browned.
  3. Stir in wine; cook until wine is absorbed by pears.
  4. Stir in chard; cook and stir until they are just barely wilted.
  5. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  6. Transfer to plates and top with crumbled bacon and blue cheese.

Makes 4 servings.

Pairing Suggestion: Pairs with California Pinot Noir Wine

Recipe provided by Mirassou Winery in Modesto, California

Wines of South Africa

Wines of South Africa

Wines of South Africa

This week we went to the Four Seasons located close to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor for a Wines of South Africa tasting. Jim Clarke, a sommelier and a wine ambassador for South Africa’s wines, offered a very good two-hour presentation including a multimedia presentation that included 12 wines from different regions of South Africa.

Twenty-four wine enthusiasts attended the presentation held in a room with six round tables. Schott Zwiesel stemware were used for the wine tasting.

The wine tastings included descriptions, maps and photos of the wine regions in South Africa.  Jim explained that the climate in the wine growing region of South Africa is similar to a Mediterranean climate.

The eight wine regions include:

  • Western Cape
    Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge
  • Elgin
  • Stellenbosch
  • Oversberg
  • Paarl
  • Coastal Region
  • Franschhoek (French Corner)

Jim is well versed with the South Africa wine regions and wines. He included details about South Africa wines including:

  • There is not a signature variety to drive the awareness of wines from South Africa
  • The first wine made with South African grapes was made in February 1659.
  • From the mid 1700s to the end of the 1700s South Africa wines were famous in Europe.
  • The wine industry was halted in the early 1900s due to phylloxera and World War I.
  • The wine industry opened up to world markets for exports in 1994.
  • 95% of the South Africa vineyards are certified sustainable.
  • Locations of vineyards are divided by regions, districts and wards which are like AVAs.
  • The United States is one of the targets for marketing the wines from South Africa
  • Labeling regulations are restrictive in that if you want to use region, district or ward on the label 100 percent of the grapes must be from that area.
Wines of South Africa

Wines of South Africa

Sparkling Wine

Our wine tasting began with the Colmant Brut Rosé NV W.O. Western Cape which retails for $25. In the US this is a fast growing category. The sparkling wine was an orange with a pink hue color. The wine had multiple columns of small beads forming a small surface mousse. The wine offered a light red berry fruits and mineral. The mouthfeel was fresh and lively. “method cap classique” During production the wine spent 28 months on the lees.

White Wines of South Africa

La Vierge ‘Las Temptation’ Riesling 2015 W.O. Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge retails for $18. Jim noted that Riesling is not a common grape grown in South Africa. The Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge is located along the coast which receives cold currents from Antartica. The vines grow in shale soils. The wine was a light yellow color and the wine offered notes of lemon, grapefruit with a trace of peach. The wine was crisp with a finish of fruit yielding to mineral.

Paul Cluver Sauvignon Blanc W.O. Elgin 2015 ($16) is from Elgin which has the coolest climate for a growing region. The wine was a light yellow color. The taste had notes of vegetable and lemon grass. Lemon and tropical fruits were noted on the taste. The finish was fruity with veggie aftertaste yielding to mineral.

Capensis Chardonnay W.O. Western Cape 2013 retails for $80. This wine was a yellow color with notes of pear, apple and caramel. It had a medium-full body.

Stellenbosch Vineyards ‘Credo’ Chenin Blanc W.O. Stellenbosch 2010 retails for $25. Jim mentioned that there is more Chenin Blanc growing in South Africa than anywhere else in the world. The wine was a dark yellow color. The wine offered notes of citrus and apple with a touch of caramel. The finish was crips yielding to mineral aftertaste. It had a medium-full body.

Alheit ‘Cartology’ W.O. Western Cape retails for $60. This was a blend of Chenin Blanc and Semillon. The wine was a yellow color. The wine offered notes of citrus, mineral and tropical fruits. The wine had a medium-full body. The finish was crips with layers of fruit and a hint of caramel.

Red Wines of South Africa

Over the Mountain Pinot Noir W. O. Overberg 2012 is available at $17. The Overberg region has a cooler climate that is suitable for growing Pinot Noir. The wine was a translucent ruby with sienna hue color. The wine offered notes of raspberries with a bit of leather. The wine had medium tannins and was medium/full-bodied. The finish had fruit yield to mineral notes.

Simonsig Pinotage W.O. Stellenbosch 2010 retails for $24. The wine with 14% alcohol was an opaque dark purple to black color. The wine with a full body offered notes of black fruits and bold tannins.

Noble Hill Syrah W.O. Paarl 2013 sells fro $17. The Paarl region is shielded from breezes and water tends to be warmer. This wine was an opaque ruby color. The notes for this wine included smoke, dark fruit including plums and leather. The wine had medium/bold tannins and was full-bodied.  The fruit and leather yielded to spice.

Secateurs Red 2013 W.O. Coastal Region (Swartland) 2013 retails for $17. This was a blend of Cinsault, Shiraz, Grenache, Mourvedre and Pinotage. The wine was an opaque dark ruby color. The wine had notes of black raspberries. The tannins were bold and drying. This wine was full-bodied and crisp. The wine was fruity and earthy.

Raats Cabernet Franc W.O. Stellenbosch 2012 retails for $38. The wine was an opaque dark ruby with black hue color. Notes included leather, and black fruits. This wine was full-bodied with very bold tannins. The wine finished with fruit, spice and earthiness.

Chamonix Rouge W.O. Franschhoek 2013 was a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec. The wine was an opaque dark ruby color and offered notes of blackberries, cassis and leather. The wine was full-bodied with bold tannins. The aftertaste had fruit, earthiness and mineral.

South Africa Food and Restaurants

Jim finished his presentation with notes what people of South Africa like to eat. They love to barbecue which is known as braai. They like to braai everyday. Find out more about National Braai Day here. The types of entrees they enjoy include: seafood, game (antelopes, ostrich), lamb and sheep. Jim added that many of the best restaurants are located at the wineries.

For more details about the Wines of South Africa visit their website.

A Proper Pink Wine from Bonny Doon Vineyard

A Proper Pink by Bonny Doon Vineyard

A Proper Pink by Bonny Doon Vineyard

Last night we had a typical summer-type dinner that included grilled chicken, homemade potato salad and a spinach salad with bacon and hardboiled eggs. What wine pairs with such a feast? Our decision was a rosé wine produced by Bonny Doon Vineyard in California. Bonny Doon had graciously sent us this bottle of wine a few weeks earlier and this was the perfect time to open it.

The name of the wine A Proper Pink lets you know that this wine is likely to be a rosé and so it was. In actuality the color might be described as a light red color. There was a slight orange hue. A Proper Pink was crisp with strawberry and raspberry notes. The crispness makes it an ideal wine for food pairings but the wine would also be excellent for pairing with a warm summer day sitting on a porch or deck with a book in hand.

A Proper Pink was a blend of Tannat and Cabernet Franc. The front label reminds one of a stained glass window that showcases a figure in a garden chair surrounded by pink flowers. The back label is rather tongue-in-cheek prose that includes, “The modern term for a proper red wine derives from the poxy French word, “clairet,” or light, “clear” wine (Vinum clarum, as the Schoolmen would have it), designating a certain style of darkish pink wine much favored in the Middle Ages, not so very dissimilar to the wine you are currently holding in your hands, as you behold the majestic figure of moi-même, taking his ease sur la pique-nique.”

The easy-to open-bottle with a screw cap also makes this a great wine for picnics or anytime you don’t want to fuss with a corkscrew. You might even want to consider A Proper Pink for Mother’s Day!

If you don’t know about Bonny Doon Vineyards, check out their website. Want to know more about Randall Grahm? Discover the online interview with Randall Grahm on Wine Trail Traveler.

Cass Vineyard & Winery Recipe

Cass Winery

Cass Vineyard & Winery

After attending the CABs of Distinction event last week in Paso Robles’s wine country, we have been visiting each of the wineries that  are members of the CAB Collective group. The recipe below is from Cass Vineyard & Winery and calls for 1/2 cup of their Cass’13 Backbone Syrah. I would suggest reading the complete recipe ahead of time.

When visiting Paso Robles’ wine country be sure to stop by Cass Winery to enjoy the atmosphere while tasting wines and enjoying foods created by Chef Lovejoy.



Mushroom Duxelles with Roasted Garlic Goat Cheese on Crostini 

by Jacob Lovejoy, Executive Chef at Cass Vineyard & Winery

Makes 8 servings

For the Cheese:


6 oz fresh goat cheese
10 cloves roasted garlic
salt and pepper to taste


Using the flat edge of a knife, smash the garlic cloves into a paste.  Combine the garlic, Chevre, and salt and pepper in a small bowl and beat until combined.  Refrigerate, but remove from fridge 1/2 hour before serving to allow time for it to soften.

For the Duxelles:


1 pound assorted mushrooms (Cremini, Oyster, Chanterelle, etc)
3 tablespoon unsalted butter
¼  cup shallots
½  cup Cass ’13 Backbone Syrah
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper


Place 1 pound of assorted stemmed and quartered mushrooms in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a blade attachment and pulse until very finely chopped. Melt 3 tablespoons unsalted butter in a large frying pan over medium heat. When the foaming subsides, add 1/4 cup finely chopped shallots and cook until softened and translucent, about 4 minutes. Reduce heat to low, add chopped mushrooms, and cook, stirring occasionally, until all the liquid has evaporated and the mushrooms have formed a thick paste, about 25-30 minutes. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste, and add the Cass ’13 Backbone Syrah.  Cook until evaporated, about 5 minutes.

For the Crostini:


16 slices (1/4 inch thick) sourdough baguette
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Arrange bread on a baking sheet and brush both sides with olive oil.  Lightly season one side with salt and pepper.  Bake for 10-15 minutes until golden brown and crunchy throughout

To Assemble:  Spread a healthy layer of the goat cheese mixture on the crostini and top with a spoonful of the mushroom duxelles.  Garnish with fresh chopped parsley

Reflections on a Winery

French champagne

French champagne

This post is more of a complaint that we seldom encounter. Yesterday, our hotel sponsored a wine tasting during the late afternoon. The representative from a local winery immediately poured a glass of sparkling wine. She told us that it was made from Chardonnay. All was well until another guest called it champagne. The winery rep quickly told him that it was a sparkling wine and not champagne. Again all was well. Then the guest asked what was the difference between sparkling wine and champagne. Her answer was, “the size of the bubbles.” I mentioned that this was not accurate, but my comments fell on deaf ears. She did not want to hear that only sparkling wines made in Champagne may be called champagne. She did not want to discuss bubble size. She simple said, look at the bubbles in your glass. They are small. That’s a sparkling wine.” We did not bother to try the other wines from the winery since the experience was rather sour. Wineries should realize that their staff is a reflection on the winery, for better or worse.

This wasn’t the first time we encountered a lack of information. Visiting a winery on Long Island, the person pouring the wines did not want to answer any of our simple questions such as what grapes were in the wine. Instead, he said, “I just volunteer to pour wines on the weekend and don’t know anything about them.” This was another negative reflection on a winery and we left.

It is important to point out that a negative experience is seldom experienced. We can count our negative and lack of information on two hands. What is more often the case, especially with staff that are new, is to be asked to wait a moment while they can find someone to answer the question. Then they stay and hear the answer. This is a good example of a teachable moment. At our hotel, the pourer had no interest in a teachable moment.

Then there are the hyperboles that we seldom hear. We were in a Virginia winery when a staff member conducting the tasting declared to a group of visitors from California that Virginia had almost as many wineries as California. In mathematical analysis around 250 is not almost as much as around 3,000. Just think of money instead of wineries. Another whopper came in Texas when our tour group was informed that American oak barrels are much larger than French oak barrels and hold much more wine.

Again these experiences seldom occur, but when they do, they do not place the winery in a positive spotlight. There is so much to learn about wine, a truly interdisciplinary subject, that one should always be opened to a teachable moment.

The more people learn about wine the more they will want to ask good questions and in return they should receive good information. If they do, they will undoubtedly want to return again and again to your winery.


Cabernet Clones in Paso Robles

Cab Clones

Know Your Cab Clones

One of the intriguing panel discussions at the CABs of Distinction event last week was “Know Your Cab Clones.”

The moderator was Matt Kettmann with Wine Enthusiast and The Santa Barbara Independent. He also writes for several other media outlets. Matt knows more than many wine writers as he, like us, also makes small lots of wine. Matt easily asked pertinent questions and moved the discussion along between the four participating winemakers. It was noted that there are numerous Cabernet Sauvignon clones available and not all clones make good wine.

Panel at CABs of Distinction

Panel Discussion at CABs of Distinction

The panel of winemakers included:

Sterling Kragten from Cass Vineyard & Winery
Steve Peck at J. Lohr Vineyard & Wines
Anthony Riboli from San Antonio Winery
Kevin Willenborg from Vina Robles Vineyards & Winery

The wine tasting with different clones began with the 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon Clone 8 from the Paso Robles Geneseo District. Cass has 70 acres planted with Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine was an opaque dark ruby with dark fruit notes including blackberries. It also include spice notes. The wine had medium tannins and was full-bodied.

The second wine was from San Antonio Winery. The 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Clone 337 was from the El Pomar District. This wine was an opaque dark ruby to black color. The wine offered dark fruit notes including cassis. This wine was full-bodied with medium to bold tannins.

Vina Robels Vineyards & Winery offered the 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon Clone 169 from the Creston District. Vina Robles has five vineyards with 12 Cabernet Sauvignon clones. This particular wine was an opaque dark purple to black color that offered blackberry notes. The wine was full-bodied with bold, kissing tannins.

J. Lohr Vineyard & Wines was the final wine for the tasting and featured Clone 7. The wine was an opaque dark purple to black color. The wine offered light, dark fruits with bold tannins and a full body.

As we tasted the wines and the winemakers talked about the wines they also emphasized what they saw as the importance of clones. It became very obvious that clones do make a difference to the winemaker and to the grower. Certain clones are better for resisting grape viruses. Other clones may produce more fruit and even the clusters of fruit may differ. By the time the grapes reach the winemaker, he will use different winemaking protocols depending on the type of grape clones. Some may be slightly higher in sugar or acidity.

However, many of the differences we noticed in the wines could be attributable to different rootstocks, different soils and different weather conditions. The panel discussions would have been improved by comparing Cabernet Sauvignons from the same vintage and the same sub AVA.

Later in the week I asked a Paso Robles winemaker, does the general wine consumer care about what clones their wine is made with? He echoed my belief that consumers are looking for good wines and wines that work well with food. Seldom do consumers ask about clones.

My advice to wine drinkers is: if you are visiting a winery and see a wine labeled with a specific clone, try it and ask questions about it. If possible taste the same varietal wine produced with a different clone from the same region and the same vintage.


CABs of Distinction: The Judgement of Paso

CABs of Distinction blind tasting of Cabs from Paso, Napa and Bordeaux

CABs of Distinction blind tasting of Cabs from Paso, Napa and Bordeaux

I was invited to attend the session “The Judgement of Paso.” This was a blind tasting of wines from Paso Robles, Napa and Bordeaux. Rather than emulating past prejudices, I refrained from trying to tell the regions the wines were from.

Kathy and I have made barrels of Cabernet Sauvignon at wineries in Maryland and Virginia. We sourced grapes from both Paso Robles in 2009 and Napa in 2012 and 2014. We visited the Bordeaux region of France a few years ago. I was interested in discovering the wines that I liked the best during a blind tasting and in particular the ones that I would like to emulate making.

After tasting eight wines, two had high scores so I had to differentiate between the two. The panel of sommeliers revealed the producers for the wines. Two wines were from Bordeaux and my average score for those wines were 1.0. This was low and I wonder how well those wines represented the Bordeaux region. Both wines had an influence of bret, something I do not appreciate and think of as more a fault than a desirable. I was surprised that these wines were tasted. During our travels to Bordeaux, we did not encounter wines that had hints of bret at the wineries we visited. I have a left bank and right bank wine at home and will taste those to see if they exhibit the same characteristics that the two wines in the blind tasting showed.

That left the other six wines, three from Paso Robles and three from Napa. Surprisingly both areas had an average score of 3.0. For those that like statistics, Napa’s range was 1.0 and Paso Robles’ range was 2.0. The two wines I though that I would like to emulate were from both these two regions. My final selection was a wine from Calcareous, a Paso Robles winery. It was their 2012 Signature Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine barely scored higher than a Mondavi Cab. As far as making wine, I am happy that I have selected grapes sourced from both Paso Robles and Napa. Both areas are growing grapes that I like using to craft wines.


Discover Paso Robles “Other Cabernet”

"The Other Cabernet"

“The Other Cabernet”

Paso Robles wineries want you to discover “The Other Cabernet.”  At the CABs of Distinction event,“The Other Cabernet” was one of the panel sessions. This panel focused on Cabernet Franc. Bob Bath, from Napa’s famed Culinary Institute of America (CIA) led the discussion and introduced the session by speaking about the excitement generated by Cabernet Franc. Bob also pointed out that some people simply associate herbal and bell pepper characteristics with Cabernet Franc. Bob believes that this is a mistaken concept; herbal and bell pepper notes are characteristics of underripe fruit. Bob noted that “”herbal tends to polarize people.” With 3,500 acres of Cabernet Franc in California, how should wineries approach consumers with Cabernet Franc wines?

Winemakers of Paso Robles

Winemakers of Paso Robles

Other members of the panel discussion included four Paso Robles winemakers.

  • Damian Grindley, winemaker at Brecon Estate
  • Michael Mooney, winemaker at Chateau Margene
  • Anthony Riboli, winemaker at San Antonio Winery
  • Jeremy Weintraub at ADELAIDA Cellars

Each of these winemakers introduced their own Cabernet Francs.

The 2013 Cabernet Franc Viking Vineyard Signature Series was from ADELAIDA Cellars. This wine was an opaque dark purple to black color. The medium/full-bodied wine offered notes of black fruits and spices with bold tannins.

The 2013 Cabernet Franc from Brecon Estate winery was a barely opaque, light ruby color. The wine offered notes of perfume, black fruits and spices. This was a medium/bodied wine with medium/bold tannins.

The 2012 San Simeon Cabernet Franc was an opaque dark ruby color wine. The wine offered notes of perfume and black fruits. The wine had bold tannins and was full-bodied. This Cabernet Franc was very crisp.

Chateau Margene offered two Cabernet Franc wines. The 2013 Margene Cabernet Franc was an opaque dark ruby to purple color. The wine offered notes of perfume, black raspberries, black cherry. The mouthfeel was full-bodied and smooth. The wine had chewy bold tannins. Terry and I both enjoyed this wine the most.

The 2012 Cask 7 Cabernet Franc was an opaque dark ruby with a sienna hue color. The wine offered notes of earthiness, black berries and black cherries. This full-bodied wine had medium tannins with a smooth mouthfeel.

During the panel discussion several informational comments were made by the winemakers. Jeremy Weintraub reminded attendees that it was in 1991 that ADELAIDA cellars planted 1.5 acres of Cabernet Franc.

Anthony Riboli noted that winemakers need to make a decision. How badly do you want the Cabernet Franc to do well? You must consider the economics of planting Cabernet Franc or Cabernet Sauvignon in a wonderful vineyard block. This brings into the discussion, is it better to grow quality Cabernet Franc or Cabernet Sauvignon? Will you produce as many bottles of wine with the Cab Franc as with the Cabernet Sauvignon and what will be the price per bottle difference? One challenge wineries have is, “How do you market Cabernet Franc?” The obvious answer was to pour it in the tasting room.

The presentation by the winemakers and moderator was insightful and brought out some of the many questions winemakers must consider when considering the different grape varieties available to plant in any winemaking region of the world.

When visiting Paso Robles wineries, be sure to ask about Cabernet Franc.


CABs of Distinction Walk Around Tasting

Terry tasting an Opolo Cab

Terry tasting an Opolo Cab

Yesterday Kathy and I attended a walk around tasting of Bordeaux varietal wines, mostly Cabernet Sauvignon. This was a session in the Paso Robles Cab Collective’s event called CABs of Distinction. Taking the advice of New York Times wine writer Eric Asimov, I wrote haikus for several of the wines rather than traditional wine notes.

Opolo winery haiku:
Ruby Opolo
Very fruity soft tannins
A kiss from the vine

Parrish Family winery haiku:
Parrish Family
Black fruited Petite Verdot
Bold kissing tannins 

Rotta Winery haiku:
Rotta Winery
Cabernet Franc black fruited
Bold luscious tannins

Walk around tasting

Walk around tasting

San Antonio haiku:
A Meritage blend
Cabernet Franc is missing
Fruity with leather

Sextant wines haiku:
Sextant el Pomar
Very lucious Cabernet
Bold tannins and fruit

Vina Robles haiku:
Estate Cabernet
Dark color, black fruits, tannins
Great expression 

The Farm Winery haiku:
Opaque dark purple
Leather, black fruits, delicious
Bold kissing tannins

Eberle  Winery haiku:
Black fruity forward
Kissing tannins makes for friends
Pairing with wild boar

Daou haiku:
Soul of a lion
Blend two cabs, Petit Verdot
Black color and fruit

Halter Ranch haiku:
Berry fruit salad
Velvet for an Ancestor
Nice chewy tannins


info@winetrailtraveler.com            Sitemap                      Privacy Policy

Copyright: Terry and Kathy Sullivan 2006-2013