The first of many – Head to Head Aerator Challenge

Yes it’s Thursday, and in all rights I should be typing up a sweet recipe for you to enjoy on another “Not Bad for a Thursday Night Dinner!”  Well, perhaps I’ll add a cooking tip at the bottom of this post…  Anyhow, Tonight we had some super delish, filet mignon steaks, so I wanted to have some good red to pair with my dinner.  I picked out a 2007, Valley of the Moon, Cuvee de la Luna.  This wine has held a lofty place in my “go-to” Bordeaux style blend list of yummy wines.  So, “the wife” said to me, “Oh, that’s young!”  I was thinking to myself that yeah but the 2007s are drinking like champs so go with it right?  But Wait!  I have my Soiree, and since Vinturi never hooked up a completely unimportant wine blobber named Norcalwingman with a free sample Vinturi, I had to pick one up on

Now in the left corner, weighing in at slightly more than its competitor:  VINTURI

A heavy plastic or some other clear material V-shaped funnel type thing, with a nice filter screen and resting stand.

And in the right corner, don’t call him glass-jawed Joe: Soiree

A gasket wearing glass bulb, with some etched swirl lines.

Soiree v. Vinturi
Soiree v. Vinturi

Well, it’s not really that exiting but in my completely unscientific test.  The nose on the glass poured with the Soiree seems to have a higher/more robust aroma.  The taste of the two are nearly comparable, but the olfactory sensation on the Soiree glass does seem to edge ahead of the Vinturi.

Round 1 Victor, by 1 point:  Soiree

Stay tuned for more head to head action.

Now, what you’ve all been waiting for, a great tip on cooking your Filet Mignon.

I used my gas grill tonight, I fired it up and brought the temperature up to about 350 F, on the built-in thermometer using the left two burners of my 4-burner grill.  I placed my two steaks on the right side, upper grill shelf and cooked for approximately 20 minuted, until an instant read thermometer read 120 F.  I removed the steaks from the grill, placed on a plate and covered with foil.  In the mean time, I turned up the heat on the two burners to high.  After about 5 minutes of rest, I returned the two steaks to the grill and placed directly above the flames.  I seared each steak on both sides for approximately 3 min/side and served immediately.

These steaks may be the best I’ve cooked yet!  They were medium/medium-rare in temperature and supremely browned, just on the outside.  I hope this tip might help you with your next steak, you have got to try this method!


2007 Peterson, Il Granaio, Sangiovese, Dry Creek Valley

Summer has pretty much passed us by without providing us the much needed heat that would be preferred to ferment those little grapes of the vitus vinifera that we love so much.  But here in Sonoma County we have this little thing we call “Indian Summer,” I’m sure this is similar to the “Indian Summers” across our great country, but let me tell you…  It was friggin’ hot this last weekend!  Especially in Dry Creek, just outside of Healdsburg, where it’s normally warmer than the majority of Sonoma County.

Family Wine Tasting
Family Wine Tasting

Anyhow, aside from the hot weather, this last weekend was really great because I got to meet one of the great celebrities (at least from my perspective) of the wine blogging world, Mr. Joe Herrig of  Along with Joe I met his lovely wife Heather and their beautiful 3-month old daughter Olivia.  We met up at the Family Vineyards tasting room area (or whatever you call it) where there’s five wineries tasting rooms: Family Vineyards, Papapeitro Perry, Amphora, Kokomo, and Peterson… oh and we can’t leave out Dry Creek Olive Co. {great olive oils BTW}.  We visited three of these and spent a couple hours chatting about wine and baby diapers, The NPA, Ben Simons, Ed Thralls, Tamara Belgard, WBC10 & 11, Atlanta and of course BBQing.  It was a great afternoon and I owe a very big special thank you to my 2 1/2 year old son for being a great sport, cooped up in his stroller and happy to watch the forklift in action as some of the wineries received their harvests.

Out of this whole thing I did buy some wine from one of my new favorite wineries, Peterson.  They were nice enough to open up their new release of Sangiovese, after I begged and gushed over their 2007, which I recently reviewed here:  We said hey to the winemaker and the other staff in the tasting room and enjoyed a sample of most of the current releases there, but this one caught my attention.

2007 Peterson, Il Granaio, Sangiovese, Dry Creek Valley

2007 Il Granaio
2007 Il Granaio

The Nose: Black cherries and nutty, savory hard cheese are herded together with some of “The Barn” funk (that’s what Il Granaio means in Italian).  Perhaps the goat on the label is influencing my olfactory senses.

The Taste: Tart and savory cherry fruits and spices predominate, sage and cedar come through thanks to the Dry Creek Cabernet Sauvigon in this blend.

The Mouth Feel: Smooth and pleasant front and mid palate.  Tannins and acid kick in mid and follow through the in the finish where Dry Creek river stone minerality lingers.

The Color: Deep and Dark!  Clearly a long extraction on this “Zero Manipulation” wine.

2007 Il Granaio
2007 Il Granaio

The Nitty Gritty:
Varietal / Vineyard Breakdown: Harvest Dates:
82% Sangiovese – Teldeschi Vineyard Sept. 1, 2007
18% Cabernet Sauvignon – Enos Vineyard Sept. 14, 2007
Appellation: Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County
Alcohol: 15.7%
pH: 3.51
TA: 0.726g/100ml
Barrel Aging: 23 months
Type of Oak: 18% new French oak barrels
82% older French & American oak
Bottling Date: August 11, 2009
Production: 150 cases
Release Date: July 2010
$28.00 at the Tasting Room

The Verdict: I think that the events of the weekend made this wine taste great, but as I’m sitting here, writing this review, sipping this wine, I have to say I dig it.  It’s a bit on the funky side.  There’s some barn characteristics, I’m not sure if it’s brettanomyces, or if it’s that this is a “Zero Manipulation” wine and the unfined and unfiltered thing gives it some gameyness.  I’d recommend you just get out there and buy a bottle, or at least give it a taste (if they’re still tasting it, it was down to slim pickin’s when I was there last weekend).  It could also just be that I’ve been on this Sangiovese kick lately, who knows!?

In vino veritas: Nitty Gritty Notes taken from Peterson Winery Tasting notes at

2002 Deerfield Ranch Winery, Super T Rex – plus Soiree

I have a little history with this wine.  The first time I had the pleasure of drinking this wine was at a great Italian restaurant in historic “Railroad Square” in downtown Santa Rosa, CA, named Portofino’s.  Unfortunately, Portofino’s is no more, however, I was pleasantly surprised to find some of this wine left over at a “meet-up” hosted by William Allen of Simple Hedonisms at Deerfield Ranch Winery on August 26, 2010.  It was a fantastic event, for multiple reasons, first off I got to meet a ton of folks who I interact with on twitter and facebook.  I was super excited to meet Ben Simons and Ed Thralls of and respectively.  Two great guys who inspired me to kick my blogging up a notch and who just happened to be in my neck of the woods!  Oh, and to top it off, my birthday was the very next day.  Enough of the intro, let’s get down to business, here it is:

2002, Deerfield Ranch Winery, Super T Rex, California North Coast

2002 Deerfield Ranch, Super T Rex
2002 Super T Rex

The Nose (without soiree): A little hot off the bat, but followed quickly by a sugar-plum cherry, Tuscan flavored pipe tobacco humidor with saddle leather and sage brush.

The Nose (with Soiree): More of the same but the heat is not predominant and other notes are slightly subdued.

The Nose (with Soiree): I roped the wife in for one!  “Baked plum pie, sweet caramelized wood, yeasty, hints of tire rubber, specifically ‘bicycle tire’.”

The Taste: Spicy plum fruits backed by cedar wood overtones, creamy vanilla finish.

The Mouth Feel: Mild acidity and medium tannic structure, lingering a tad but fleeting.  Finish has nice viscosity and leaves dry.

The Color: Brickhouse Red, the wine is clearly concentrating, thin clear edges.

The Nitty Gritty:
Varietal Makeup – 43% Sangiovese, Sonoma; 28% Sangiovese, Lake County; 15% Cabernet Franc, Lake County; 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, Lake County; 4% Dolcetto, Sonoma
Residual sugar: 0.0%
Barrel aged for 32 months in 80% French an d
20% American oak, 35% new
SO2 (sulfite) at bottling: 18ppm, SO2 at release: less than 8ppm1500 Cases Produced
ABV – 14%
$27 Retail/Online

The Verdict: As this wine opens up, it grows closer to my heart.  It is moving closer to resembling what I consider a true Tuscan wine.  It has many of the desirable characteristics that remind me of my trip to Italy and more specifically, the Tuscan countryside!  I’m still a big fan of this wine, it’s a bit spendy but there aren’t many super Tuscans available from Sonoma County and Deerfield does a good job with this wine.  They have a new Tuscan blend that’s available, but I didn’t buy one while I was at the meet-up and I don’t specifically remember any of my thoughts on the wine (but I’m sure I’ll have it in the future).  It was a great time, so many of the Sonoma county Social Media crew were out socializing face-to-face, so I was more into having a great time with great people.  It was awesome to finally meet both Ben and Ed in person, Cheers to both of you!  If you get a chance, you should stop by the Deerfield Ranch Winery, their cellar was beautiful and their staff were gracious and accommodating.  Oh, and if you’re lucky, they may have a few bottles of this wine left.

On the Soiree:  I’m still a bit of a skeptic of the “instant decanter” but this device does seem to be helping this wine open up and live up to the name “Super.”  I had “the wife” take a video of me showing how to use the Soiree to open up the wine, so check this video clip out on how to get the most aeration out of your Soiree decanter.

* Some Nitty Gritty Details provided by Deerfield Ranch Winery Website

2004 Smith-Madrone, Napa Valley – Spring Mountain District, Cabernet Sauvignon

After my terrible September 2nd experience in China, my hopeless and fruitless search for a #Cabernet worth drinking, I was exceptionally exited to be home, knowing that I had many options for good red wine drinking.  I recently received a sample set from a winery in St. Helena including a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Chardonnay.  Now, I have had  a recent change of opinion on Napa Valley Cab and was super stoked to be provided a cab for sample, needless to say one of the better samples I’ve yet to receive in my wine blogging experiment.  I hope (yet am open to admit) this cab can only be better than the screwed up wine I had in China.

Let us begin:

2004 Smith-Madrone, Napa Valley – Spring Mountain District, Cabernet Sauvignon

2004 Smith-Madrone, Napa Valley, Cabernet Sauvigon
2004 Smith-Madrone, Napa Valley, Cabernet Sauvigon

The Nose: Cassis and Black Licorice are all over this nose!  Cedar and spice are hanging around and making themselves known.

The Taste: The taste is not disappointing.  Everything represented in the nose is represented with some extras.  Black Cherry and more spice are present; mostly black pepper.

The Mouth Feel: Velvety kick off (it is football season now) with big chewy tannins kicking in mid-palate and following through all the way down to the finish.

The Color: Inky and deep dark ruby-garnet, looks very youthful for a 20o4!

The Nitty Gritty:
Varietal Content: Cabernet Sauvignon 82%,
Merlot 8% & Cabernet franc 11%
Time in oak: 22 months in new American
oak barrels
Alcohol: 13.9% Unfined and unfiltered
$45 per 750Ml Bottle, discounts for multi-bottle purchase on Smith-Madrone website
90.7 Avg. Score on Cellar Tracker

The Verdict: This is exactly the wine I needed on September 2nd for #Cabernet day.  Alas, it was here in California and I was 6000 Miles away in China.  I have to say though, this Cabernet Sauvigon really reminds me more of a Sonoma County Cab, rather than a Napa wine.  This has great “old world style” not that big Napa fruit bomb, it has great structure and complexity.

This wine was good with my filet mignon but I would say is better on its own, with nothing but glass to pair with!  Go find this wine and get some, its a value at the price point (for a Napa Cab).

2004 Smith-Madrone, Napa Valley, Cabernet Sauvigon
2004 Smith-Madrone, Napa Valley, Cabernet Sauvigon

In Vino Veritas:  This wine was provided as a sample

Nitty Gritty details obtained from”

2009 Big House White – Boxed wine, out on Good Behavior!

I had my first boxed wine worth drinking ever this last May, which was a great showing by a funky little wine company named Big House Wine Co. based in Ripon, CA.

Now for those of you unfamiliar with the greater San Francisco Bay Area, of which Ripon is barely a member.  It’s a small town where my sister-in-law grew up and is probably straddling the border between Bay Area and Central Valley, with 7/8ths of it in the “Central Valley.”  Again, unless you live here or grew up around here that may not mean much to you, but to me it means sweltering summers, crop dusters and big rigs towing two trailers overflowing with tomatoes.  One would not necessarily expect to find a little gem like good boxed wine, which is an oxymoron unto itself.

So take two with Big House Wine Co. and this time an interesting blend of some white varietals you may have never had or even heard of.

Big House White, 2009 California White Wine

Open Here
Open Here - No Corkscrew Required

The Nose: Tropical fruit shivs your nose and  you’re assaulted in the shower by Kiwi and Mango.  Slight reprieve with some orange essence and floral notes.

The Taste: Lucky for you there’s no riots in the mess hall today.  Green apple and star fruit with a second conviction of some perfumy flowery vegetative thing, like eating rose petals or something.  Finishes with citrus zest and/or lemon-lime rind.

The Mouth Feel: Soft and silky, no prison mattress here, nice mid-palate acid pop followed by dry lingering steely finish, probably from the Grüner or the Viognier.

The Color: Light pale yellow, like a Sauv Blanc or Viognier.

The Nitty Gritty:

13.5% ABV
Varietal Makeup:51% Malvasia Bianca, 14% Muscat Canelli, 13% Viognier, 10% Grüner Veltliner, 5% Pinot Gris, 4% White Riesling
$21.99 / 3L Octavin (equal to 4 750 Ml bottles)

2009 Big House White
2009 Big House California White Wine

The Verdict: This wine has some qualities of wines that are significantly more expensive.  Initially the nose of this reminded me immediately of A Thousand Flowers, from Hop Kiln Winery, and secondly reminded me of a Viognier I recently tasted from Pride Mountain that retails for $45/750 Ml bottle!  A lively and crisp white with a great nose and a super dry finish.  This will definitely pair up well with the Jerk Chicken that’s on my rotisserie.  It would also do well with firm white fish or shelfish dishes.  I’m suspecting that it would probably shine along side some spicy Thai or Indian too.

So once more the Big House Crew has surpassed the expectations of this wine drinker and continues to destroy the stereotype of “Boxed Wine.”  This wine should be acceptable to all and spectacular to many.  It gets a solid buy recommendation from me.

In Vino Veritas:  This wine was provided to me as a professional sample.

2006 Felta Creek Syrah, De La Montanya Vineyards, Dry Creek Valley

Oh man, I have been slacking like a pot-smoking sophomore High School kid.  I have been out of motivation like my Energizer Bunny up and died.  Anyhow, I just need to get back at this badness in a mean way!  So I grilled up a marinated pork loin on the Weber tonight and we all know smoky pork meat goes really well with some Syrah so I busted out a bottle from one of our wine club shipments from De La Montanya.

Here it is:

2006 Felta Creek Syrah, De La Montanya Vineyards, Dry Creek Valley

2006 Felta Creek Syrah, De La Montanya Vineyards, Dry Creek Valley
2006 Felta Creek Syrah

The Nose: Anise followed by marshmallow, mixed in with some sweet and sour ginger BBQ sauce, predominated by ripe plum.

The Taste: Ripe plum nose gives way to a tart plum taste with cherry fruit skins, finishing with a vanilla bean and chewy oak wood.

The Mouth Feel: Tart and a tad astringent shows good acidity (paired well with the juicy pork tenderloin) tame in the mid palate with decent tannins for a Syrah, definitely new world, and mild finish with subdued river stone.

The Color: This is definitely Syrah, Deep Purple, like Jimmy Hendrix himself brewed this concoction.  Thinning at the edges and showing its age a bit.

The Nitty Gritty:

14.5% ABV
$26 Original Retail Price
Does not appear to be available for  purchase

The Verdict:

As of late (past couple of years) I’ve been disenchanted by Syrah, but this is a damn fine drink of wine!  I thoroughly enjoyed this wine, both paired up with my dinner of marinated pork loin (marinated in garlic, Worcestershire, apple cider vinegar) and by itself.  De La Montanya rarely fails to impress me with the quality of their wines.  Again, I would recommend you get some of their product and drink to your heart’s delight!

I’m still in the mood for a Quickie – Wine Review that is…

Erik’s The Red

This is a red table wine sourced, apparently, from Paso Robles.  It says so right on the bottle…

I didn’t do much of a tasting on this here wine, but I do want to share it with you.  I do think that it’s worth sharing and drinking, and at $10.52 (as seen on it’s worth buying.

My first suspicion of this wine was that it was a Syrah based blend.  It’s non-vintage so I wasn’t exactly sure what would be entailed in the blend but I got some of the characteristic Syrah fruit and earthiness, and at second glance I got some more smooth easy red characteristics and I was thinking Carignane or Movedre, but I was wrong.  I checked out Toad Hollow’s site and discovered this blend has, well, for lack of a better description, everything but the kitchen sink.

Excerpt from Toad Hollow’s Description of Erik’s the Red:

The majority of the blend is Cabernet Franc, Petit Sirah and Zinfandel, with a modicum of Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Mourvedre, Refosco, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Primitivo, and Rubired only to be polished at the end with Barbera, Petit Verdot, Syrah, Counoise, Chardonnay, and Sangiovese.

Some of the additional details:

ABV 14.5%
Paso Robles Wine

Erik's The Red - Paso Robles - Red Table Wine
Erik's The Red - Paso Robles - Red Table Wine

Anyhow, we had this wine with a big plate of lasagna, Caesar salad and garlic bread.  It was very tasty and you should go find some if you have the chance.  It’s not earth shattering by any means, but it is a very good wine and a great value for what it delivers.


2009 Grooner, Grüner Veltliner

Well, it has been a long time coming, but I have been eyeballing this varietal for some time.  Ever since I started blogging I have read posts and reviews of this Grüner Veltliner but up until tonight I have not had the pleasure of acquaintance.  Tonight we had a nice chicken dinner with some garlic and ginger sauteed carrots and pasta.  This wine is as it claims, great with food, or on its own.

As an interesting side note, with tasting this varietal, I’m half way to my “Wine Century Club” membership.  Yeah, number 50!

2009 Grooner Grüner Veltliner

2009 Grooner! Grüner Veltliner

The Nose: Apple, melon, and citrus with a touch of spice, perhaps thyme or sage?

The Taste: Tart apple and lemon zest, tropical melon that comes into play in the middle.  There’s some spritz that pumps up the tart, crisp apple.

The Mouth Feel: For as tart as this wine is, there is definitely some body to it, good viscosity and creaminess.  Decent length of finish with good minerality.

The Color: I think the bottle is influencing my opinion but this is the greenest tinted white wine I can recall ever seeing.

The Nitty Gritty:
12% ABV
100 % Grüner Veltliner
6 g/l total acidity
3.3 g/l residual sugar
Cellar Tracker Average Score 87 Pts
$10 Average price, Google Shopping Search

The Verdict: What a nice wine for a hot day. This was my first experience with this varietal and I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect.  We had a white wine chicken with carrots sauteed in butter with garlic and ginger.  The spices really worked well with the wine and the crisp spritzy acidity really cut through the butter and brought out the flavor in the food.  I’m thoroughly pleased with my first Grüner Veltliner experience and would recommend this to someone looking for a light white that goes nicely with food or could be just as great well chilled on a hot summer day!

2009 Grooner!
Enjoy your Grooner Chilled!

New Thing: So I’m done with the point scale or letter grading.  I’m just going to tell you if I liked it and if I recommend it, I certainly don’t feel like me giving it a point score is adding any value to anyone.

In Vino Veritas: This wine was provided to me as an industry sample with the intent of review.

2007 Ravenswood Sonoma County Cabernet Franc

In preparation for Ravenswood’s second annual tattoo coming out party (which I am going to miss because of a scheduling conflict…Damn it!) I have to review one of the two wines I received courtesy of  Kristen Wastell the Ravenswood Visitor Center Manager.  I have been proudly sporting my Raven laden ink since my twenty-first birthday.  I had no clue about wine then I did however have an eye for a kick-ass piece of artwork (and the crow had just recently come out was inclined ink up with some black birds…)

Anyhow, I sent a pic over on Facebook and got a reply almost immediately.  They will be putting a nice pic of my ink on their wall of fame so I’ll at least be there in spirit.  And in that spirit, here it is:

2007 Ravenswood Cabernet Franc2007 Ravenswood Cabernet Franc

2007 Ravenswood Sonoma County Cabernet Franc

The Nose:  Full of spice and cherry this nose comes on assertively, it is backed up with some floral tobacco and then you are smacked with a cedar plank.

The Taste: Warm cherries with a dash of white pepper, this wine is full of great red fruit and the cedar cigar box is lingering out there, laying in wait.

The Mouth Feel:  Okay, In a sad attempt to mimic some of the sultry writing of Tamra Belgard at, this wine has some characteristics that would be best described in what I would consider her style (Tamara, sorry if I botch this up)  This wine starts out like slipping into silk sheets naked, then the tannins kick in and rip the sheets off and light the bed on fire!  Then it finished you off with a massive velvety release…  (now back to regularly scheduled blogging).

The Color:  Purplish-ruby and glass coating

The Nitty Gritty:
14.5% ABV
200 Cases Produced
$20 At the Winery ONLY (may be wine club only too)
Couldn’t find any other Scores

The Verdict:  Well, I have to say that this wine rocked my socks off!  I paired it up with my “Not Bad –  Dinner for One and a half” New York Strip Steak, sauteed Mushrooms, and fresh green beans, and it was a perfect match.  The acidity stood up to the butter from the mushrooms, fat from the steak, and olive oil on the beans, let it be known, Ravenswood makes no “Whimpy Wines.”  I highly recommend you call the winery and order up a few of these before they run out.

90 Pts. / A-

In Vino Veritas:  This wine was provided to me as a sample (and because I have the tat) pretty sure they wanted me to review this but just so you know…

2007 Ravenswood Cabernet Franc
2007 Ravenswood Cabernet Franc

2009 Concannon Central Coast Riesling, Selected Vineyards

To be honest I have been slightly dreading reviewing this wine, I had an unfortunate experience with my first of the Concannon “Selected Vineyards” wines, the 2007 Concannon Shiraz I reviewed previously was not so good.  Well, I’ve worked up the nerve to give the other sample, they so graciously provided, a try.  This time a 2009 Riesling from the Central California Coastal region.

2009 Concannon Riesling
2009 Concannon Riesling

2009, Concannon, Central Coast Riesling, Selected Vineyards

The Nose: Lovely tropical friut, papaya and spice with honeysuckle and crushed rock.

The Taste: Spicy honeysuckle is definitely predominant, the fruit is elusive and there’s an unfortunate bitter aftertaste that tries to come across like citrus peel, but gets lost in the steely finish…  Wait!  As this wine has warmed up (had it well chilled) there is a nice subtle asian pear finish and the fruitiness is definitely coming out to play!

The Mouth Feel: The mouth feel is not bad!  This wine comes on slippery and viscous, fading a bit in the mid-palate and lingers on the finish with steel and minerality.

The Color: Pale yellow and light.

The Nitty Gritty:
13.5% ABV
Acid: 0.68g/100ml
pH: 3.19

The Verdict:

Well it appears that redemption comes in white for Concannon.  This is a decent wine.  At $10 it is a exceptionally drinkable white wine that would probably go nice with some  spicy food.  It’s not bad even by itself.  I probably wouldn’t go too far out of my way to find it, I certainly wouldn’t turn down a glass.

79 Pts / C+

2009 Concannon Riesling
2009 Concannon Riesling

In Vino Veritas:  This wine was provided to me as a sample with the intention of review.