California Wine Tasting - Engelmann Cellars, Fresno, CA

Wed, 07/14/2021 - 12:00 -- johnk

California Wine Tasting at Engelmann Cellars, June 2021. 

The Experience -

While I had the opportunity to taste couple more that listed here during my last visit here are some quick notes on 3 of the wines. Kylie the wine club manager was pouring on this hot Saturday afternoon. While I tend to lean a lot towards the red wines, a couple of white blends were very welcome in the heat of the afternoon.  The first was Summer Quartet, a dry white blend of Chardonnay, Viognier, White Cab and Dry Muscat. Next was RS, another white blend of Chardonnay, Viognier, White Cabernet, and Sweet Muscat. Both wines were enjoyable and welcome considering how warm it was that day and the fact that tastings were all taking place outside. Summer Quartet, a dry white-blend that would pair well with fish and summer salads. RS being a sweet white would be great for a glass before or after a meal.


California Wine Tasting - Markus Wine Co – 2018 domo, Carignane Blend

Wed, 07/07/2021 - 12:00 -- johnk

California Wine Tasting - Markus Wine Co – 2018 domo, Carignane Blend

This wine has some fruit from vines that were planted in 1900 and the Carignane makes up 67% of the blend. That being said, the focus of this wine is the Spenker Ranch Carignane along with Borra Vineyards Gill Creek Ranch Merlot at 17% and 16 % Zinfandel grapes from the River Song Vineyard. 

As you look at this wine in the glass you will see your fingers through a delightful ruby red hue. This Markus Wine Co blend provides lots of sour cherry and red plum in and does so in a very pleasing dry style. Despite this wine’s light color in the glass is a surprisingly full-bodied experience with just enough tannins to support the combination of cedar and cigar box with a lengthy finish on the palate. 

It is said by some wine makers that Carignane is the wine that winemakers reach for when they want to have a glass of wine that presents pure enjoyment, because of the grape naturally retains good balance of acidity even with the fruit is fully ripe. This acidity of the Carignane along with the Merlot and Zinfandel make for a very food friendly wine that provides a wide range of uncomplicated food pairing. The winemaker makes a couple of suggestions of pairing with any roasted bird, such as duck in plum sauce. What else might I suggest helping you appreciate this wine? If you enjoy a Pinot Noir that is fully structured with a lot of character, this wine will grow on you. Try it and you will see. Markus and the winery team consider Lodi, CA home.

Tasting California Wines - Old 44 Cellars, 2018 Aglianico

Fri, 07/02/2021 - 18:32 -- johnk

Old 44 Cellars 2018 Aglianico Estate Grown – Estate Grown – 80% Aglianico – 20% Grenache

Don’t you just love it when you find a delightful gem of a wine that is kind of hidden away? I visited with the Nick winemaker at Old 44 Cellars at a wine event that took place in Redding, CA just before the Pandemic broke out. I enjoyed the visit and his invite to come visit him. Well, we did an outdoor private tasting together not that long ago, about a year and a half from our first meeting. One of the wines, actually several bottles, that I brought home with me was Nick’s estate Aglianico blend. This is a wine is a blend of Estate Aglianico and Grenache that provides a delightful glass of wine to those that have obtained it.

Grenache in this blend provides some white pepper aroma followed with red fruit flavors. Grenache is known for its flavors of strawberry and raspberry with spicy notes. Some Grenache wines can develop complex flavors of blackcurrants, black olives, coffee, leather and tar. The grape produces wines that are medium to full-bodied. Tannin and acidity are low and makes it a great fit as a blend. Although Grenache is a high-quality grape, often you will find it blended with other varieties, such as Syrah, Mourvèdre, Carignan and Cinsault. This is because it is very complimentary within a blend, as it adds body and fruitiness without adding tannin or acidity, which are both naturally low in Grenache.

California Wine Tasting - Markus Wine Co – Zip Sips Review

Thu, 03/11/2021 - 11:25 -- johnk

Markus Wine Co. 2018 – Sol, Lodi Red Wine Review 
California Wine Tasting - Markus Wine Co – 2018 Sol – Lodi Red Wine –


Our California Wine Movie – Zip Sips will focus on the Winemaker Markus Niggli and his 2018 Lodi Red. This wine is a blend of Petite Sirah 75%, Zinfandel 18%, and Petit Vedot 7%. This 2019 was made from the four best barrels of vintage reds at the winery. Sol is a dry red with exquisitely deep rich blend of mostly mixed black or dark wine grapes with those darker fruits being the focus of the wine. While the tannins are young, they are well integrated, and the result is a pleasing balance with luscious dark fruit.


Mon, 03/01/2021 - 11:40 -- johnk

Ficklin Vineyards wine review.

The clarity is lustrous and shimmering. As you take in the aromas from your glass of this ROSÉ PORT immediately comes to mind juicy red pear along with delightful hints of sweet floral. As you continue to enjoy those first few sips on your palate are flavors of mango and honeydew, ripe strawberry, and green apple. With all of this going on with the delightful bouquet and luscious flavors in between sips you detect a spark of banana. Incredibly pleasant, and enjoyable this wine. Light, refreshing, and yes, slightly tropical. Exceptionally easy to sip, but also complex enough to linger between sips. This is a delightfully well-balanced wine from Ficklin Vineyards.

Ficklin produces some wonderful California Port Style wines. Ficklin’s 1988 Vintage Port is grown-up, mature with spicy flavors and wonderful layers of leather, hints of tobacco all wrapped around dark cherry flavors. Right in the heart of California’s Central Valley wineries you will find that all of Ficklin’s Ports are among a handful of California wineries that consistently produce vintage port style wines.

The Winemaker

With 41 years of award-winning winemaking, third generation partner winemaker Peter Ficklin still guides the daily winemaking and oversees each step in crafting Ficklin's Ports. 

Ziveli Winery - 2016 Syrah

Sat, 02/20/2021 - 13:30 -- johnk

Ziveli Winery - Syrah

I have really enjoyed my visits to Ziveli.  This family winery is very homey, and the wines have such unique taste. I think I have interacted with all the members of the family on my visits and each of them is eager to make you feel at home. I recommend this winery for a little day trip for someone to take a relaxing drive out and to enjoy a glass of wine. Ziveli calls home about 7 miles east off 99 and Shaw. Your drive will take you through beautiful vineyards and the drive is spectacular. The winery is kind of hard to get to if you don’t know where you are going but easily found if you GPS. It is kind of hidden when you turn off the main road off Shaw. Don’t be fooled this place is one of the San Joaquin Valley’s hidden gems. If you would like to visit more than one winery that same day, I would like to suggest Moravia Wines which is only about a 5- or 10-minute drive from Ziveli Winery.

In an earlier I did a review of John Nale’s Alicante Bouschet, which I have honestly fallen in love with. However, this is not the only wine in the Ziveli portfolio worth trying.

Treasure Island Wines - 2016 Pinot Noir, Bennett Valley

Wed, 02/17/2021 - 07:00 -- johnk

Treasure Island Wines 2016 Pinot Noir, Bennett Valley

I really love the versatility of this wine grape. While all wines take on the terroir and just about everything in the winemaking process, Pinot Noir seems to provide a wide spectrum of flavors. From bright red cherry, cherry pie filling to earthy forest floor are very characteristic experience on the palate and at the nose. This makes a Pinot Noir one of my go to wines when dinning out with friends that are not big red wine drinkers but want to enjoy a glass with their meal but are not sure what to order. Treasure Island Wines is at the forefront of San Francisco's urban winery movement; a home for wineries and tasting rooms offering something for almost every wine aficionados' interest. This wide variety makes the Island a perfect place for Bay Area residents to take daytime wine tours at a location much closer to home than Sonoma or Napa. Among those pouring their wines for visitor is Treasure Island Winery.

Treasure Island Wines was founded in 2007 and is the first operational urban winery and tasting room on the former US Naval Base right in the middle of San Francisco Bay. Jim Mirowski winemaker and owner has full-filled his goal to create a place where skilled winemakers craft small batch artisan wines. 2016 Bennett Valley Pinot Noir is a wonderful Burgundian style Pinot with cherry, some vanilla and smooth finish. Good now or for aging.

Fäsi Estate Winery’s 2013 Malbec Reserva Review

Tue, 02/09/2021 - 10:00 -- johnk

Fäsi Estate Winery’s 2013 Malbec Reserva
While this wine actually does come for a vineyard that Ralph P. Fäsi is a partner with Argentina winemaker Karim Mussi. The vineyard is in the Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina. Ralph Fäsi does have a winery and vineyard here in California where some excellent Syrah wines are being produced.  More about that as we go on but let’s focus on our 2013 Fäsi Argentina Malbec.


This 2013 cellaring suggest that this wine would age well for up to 7 years, or 2020. Well, we are just into 2021 as we review this wine, and it has held up well. On the nose there is ripe plum, fig, red fruit, and a hint of cola about mid-palate. Earlier when I tasted this same vintage, I noticed plum and mocha, cocoa. This wine is still rich, creamy with a slightly chocolatey berry flavor. While the flavors are not a distinct as when I enjoyed this wine a couple of years ago, take your time with your glass of this Malbec Reserva and you will enjoy the syrupy-like feel, with just enough acid support to compliment the ripe fig and dark fruit. A beautiful blend of red fruits and lush supple tannins.

When pairing this wine, it would be difficult to go wrong with BBQ Meats, stews, grilled asparagus, and pasta dishes.

A bit of history for some of the folks that make up Fäsi Estate Winery

Toca Madera Winery - 2016 Malbec

Tue, 02/02/2021 - 15:24 -- johnk

Toca Madera Winery - 2016 Malbec review

Originally from the Bordeaux region of France, Malbec has most of its planting in Argentina, in the Mendoza region in 2011 represented 86% of all the Malbec plantings in Argentina.  In the United States, the majority of Malbec is planted in California, which in 2011 accounted for 84% of the Malbec plantings in the entire country, even though 84% of the Malbec plantings are in California, only 0.5% of all red grape plantings in California are Malbec.  In order words, while California has most of the Malbec in the United States, they have extraordinarily little compared to more “traditional” red varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel.

If Malbec is one of those wines people hear about, but often don’t take the opportunity to try… now is the time! This grape used to be mainly blended into Bordeaux blends, but now wine lovers are enjoying Malbec as its own varietal. If you’re just now becoming familiar with Malbec, it is good to know the difference between a North America Malbec and a South American Malbec. As Malbec is not widely planted in the United States, and again you will find the majority of the plantings in California. 

One of the most well-known and largest wine regions in South America is Argentina, specifically the Mendoza region, which produces mainly Malbec grapes. While both California and Argentina have regions with the perfect climate for growing these dark-skinned grapes, which love warm days and cool nights, there are distinct differences between the wines from each region. For example:

California Malbec Wines

Idle Hour Winery - 2016 Tannat

Wed, 01/27/2021 - 07:00 -- johnk

    Idle Hour WInery - 2016 Tannat


Tannat is a favorite variety of winemaker Anna Marie Dos Remedios, who has sourced it from Heringer for several years now.  The familiarity shows, with a gentle coaxing of full expression evident.  Bright blackberry and spiced plum flood the nose and the mouth, with notes of cedar chest and vanilla adding interest.  Delicious!  

A Platinum Award Winner at the 2018 Monterey International Wine Competition.  

The Tannat grape finds its main home in the Southwest France. There, it is used to make full-bodied, rustic and brambly reds, according to our Tannat Wine Reviews. Over the last several decades, Tannat has broadened its horizons and is now grown and vinified in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Italy, Peru, Uruguay, and the United States. In fact, it has become the most prominent and widely grown varietal in Uruguay and is used in every style from fortified reds to sweet rosés. However, in examining our Tannat Wine Ratings, it is the dry red wine style of Tannat that is held in the highest regard. Depending on where the wine is made and the amount of oak aging.

Idle Hour Winery's 2016 Tannat

This is a beautiful full-bodied red with delightful blackberry and dark plumb on the nose and the palate. The Tannat has gripping tannin, beautiful blackberry, dried fruit, black plum, and dark chocolate. This is wonderfully structured wine and it would pair well with dishes with high protein and rich in fat.

About Idle Hour Winery


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