Tag Archives: Pinot Gris


I was invited to an industry-only tasting in London yesterday. Titled “Artisans of Australian Wines,” it featured 43 labels being introduced by 15 British distributors. Held during the day at Cargo, a trendy nightclub in the Shoreditch area of London, the event was both fun and very interesting.

I had heard of exactly none of the 43 labels before the tasting. Indeed, most are smaller producers who do not export to the U.S., and who are just trying to break into the British market. I spent about 3 hours exploring, tasting, speaking to the people pouring (sometimes someone from the winery/vineyard, but most frequently someone from one of the distributors). I did not taste everything (there were at least 200 wines), not even close. But I will give you my impressions of what I did taste and who I did meet. And I will list all of the labels at the end of the blog post, in case you happen across any of them.

General impressions: there were some very nice wines here; in fact, most were very good or better. That would make sense, as they had been vetted by the distributors. Australia has no restrictions on who can grow what grapes where, and no blending rules, like there are in France and Spain, therefore, there is a great variety of both the varietals grown and the blends that are produced. There were a couple of wines that did knock my socks off, but only a couple. That said, pretty much all of these wines could have a place in my cellar or on my table or both.

So with my apologies to those labels that I did not get to taste (mostly in that really crowded section in the front room), let’s see what I did taste.

Adelina and VineMind Wines: The winemaker, Col McBryde was here pouring wines from his two labels. He produces about 2,000 cases/year and has been exporting to the UK for 6 years. Of most interest to me are his Rieslings, one from each label – both nicely balanced with minimal residual sugar.

Yangarra Estate: Nicely polished, well-crafted wines from a producer owned by Jackson Family Wines of California. Winemaker Peter Fraser (Australian Winemaker of the Year for 2016), has crafted two wonderful McLaren Vale Grenache wines from single vineyards. The 2013 High Sands Grenache is of particular note.


Chalmers Wines: Kim Chalmers, daughter of the owner, was pouring the Chalmers Wines at the tasting. I tasted four of the ten Italian varietal wines (3 labels) on hand – a 2014 Vermentino, which was one of the best whites I tasted all day – smooth, velvety, with green fruit and a hint of minerality on the finishsimply excellent. The 2013 Fiano, a varietal I had not previously encountered, was like a younger sister to the Vermentino in character – which makes me think that the winemaker has a large influence on the wines. The red, I tasted, a 2015 Nero d’Avila, was well-structured but young – it needs some time. The 2016 Schioppettino, under the Chalmers Project label, was tannic and bold, with red fruit and a strong finish. Another varietal that is new to me.


Castagna Wines: The father and son team of Julian and Adam Castagna were presiding over their table with aplomb. Their Rhône-focused vineyard & winery deliver the goods. Their wines were consistently well made and nicely balanced. I tasted 8 of 9 wines available (choosing not to taste their Shiraz Vermouth). Standouts were the 2016 Rousanne, bottled a week ago, and already moving toward becoming a great white wine. The highlight, however, is their 2008 Sparkling Genesis Shiraz-Viognier, a dark red sparkler that delivers great taste and can be paired with just about anything, including meat. This is an amazing wine.

Bill Downie Wine: Apparently, Bill Downie is fairly well-known in Australia as a producer of small quantity, high quality wines. The lone representation of his work, sitting at the end of a table where about 5 other labels were being poured by distributor reps, would have been easy to overlook – in fact, I did on my first pass. Only after reading about it in the catalog did I return to try the 2015 Riverland Biodynamic Petit Verdot. This was my favorite wine of the day. I liked everything about it – the nose was beautifully balanced, inviting you to taste, the mouthfeel was like velvet, with red and black fruit, some leathery tones, and a smoothness that carried into the finish. If I could have purchased a case, I would have. Be on the lookout for this wine.


L.A.S. Vino: Aside from good marketing and design (something that was in abundance here – no doubt a reflection of the assistance that a good distributor can provide) this winery makes some good wine. I only tasted the 2013 ‘Portuguese Pirate’ Margaret River Blend made with Touriga Nacional, Tinto Cao, and Souzao grapes. I cannot honestly attest as to whether this blend is on a par in style or quality to a similar blend in Portugal, but I can say that this wine is of very high quality and would be an excellent companion to a leg of lamb, a steak, or a good cigar. Think smooth, a bit jammy (but not too much), and rich in black fruit. Very nice.


Vinteloper Wines: This Adelaide Hills winery is operated by winemaker David Bowley, who was present and pouring. I tasted three of his excellent wines, two Pinot Noirs – which were nicely crafted and very good, especially his 2012 OPN Lenswood Pinot Noir, a single vineyard beauty. We had a good discussion about Pinot Noir, and I told him about some of the great Burgundian style wines coming out of the Santa Rita Hills AVA in  California.

Bowley’s other wine, the 2015 ‘Urban Winery Project #3’ Shiraz/Malbec comes with a story. This nice table wine is the result of a project that Bowley undertakes every year at harvest time. He moves parts of his winemaking operation to a city and, for one month, opens the operation to the locals, who can do everything from stomping grapes to blending wines. It is a great marketing idea – and a great way to invite people into the winemaking process. Kudos to David Bowley.

Sami Odi Wines: Two wines from this small producer were available for tasting – both are a bit unusual in packaging and presentation. The distributor rep, a very nice young woman, spoke so fast that I did not get a lot of information from her (my issue, being an American – she was speaking The King’s English after all). But the wines were very good – a ‘Little Wine #5’ Syrah and a 2014 Syrah ‘XIV’. The former comes from a vineyard with vines planted in different years. Both bring out the best aspects of Syrah.

Chaffey Bros Wines: Producing in the Barossa and Eden Valleys, Chaffey Bros make a number of wines. I would say that their strength is in their whites. I tasted 5 of 7 wines available. Their Rieslings were very good, the best being a 2015 Tripelpunkt Riesling, with fruit from three vineyards – dry with a hint of sweetness, floral notes, and smooth finish – what I like to see in a Riesling. Of interest is a true field blend, called 2015 ‘Düfte Punkt’ with Gewürztraminer, Riesling, and Weißer Herold (Kerner). The field blend was nicely balanced – not a great wine, but of interest because of the willingness to experiment.

S.C. Pannell/The Other Wine Co.: Side-by-side on the tasting table, these wineries bring good tasting wines at value price-points. I tasted the 2014 S.C Pannell Adelaide Hills Syrah (McLaren Vale)  – very rich, even for a Syrah, almost jammy; but nice red and black fruit notes with chocolate and slate later on. Long finish. I tasted the 2015 The Other Wine Co. Adelaide Hills Pinot Gris (before the Syrah) – a decent table wine with notes of lemon grass and pear.

Again, I did not taste them all – my bad – but suffice to say that there were a range of good quality wines on display. Aside from a growing tendency to call Syrah by its original name, instead of Shiraz, the most remarkable thing about this group was the winesgood quality and individual character. The UK wine market will be looking up thanks to these Aussie newcomers.

As promised, a list of all of the producers present:

Lethbridge Wines      Deviation Road           Adelina         VineMind           Yangarra Estate     Mac Forbes          Chalmers     Gembrook Hill     Teusner        Eden Road        Ruggabellus   Eperosa        Strenua        Ochota Barrels       Jamseed Wines        Luke Lambert Wines           Timo Mayer        Delinquente Wine Co.      Si Vintners       Patrick Sullivan Wines           Xavier          Gentle Folk Wines           Castagna      Jauma        Bill Downie      La Línea           L.A.S. Vino              S.C. Pannell         The Other Wine Co.         Chaffey Bros                     Bellwether          Vinteloper           Bremerton Wines   The Pawn Wine Co.     smallfry        BK Wines Massena           Sami Odi           Byrne             CRFT            David Franz                     La Violetta           Ministry of Clouds

You may be seeing some of these labels in your area soon.

Copyright 2016 – Jim Lockard


I love the Santa Barbara County AVAs. Not only do they produce great wines, have lovely scenery, and a host of great winemakers and tasting rooms; they are easily accessible from the Los Angeles area.

On Tuesday, Dorianne and I were joined by Mary Stec and Richard Clark for a day trip to Santa Barbara County (LINK). We visited three wineries and had lunch at Industrial Eats in Buellton. Mary is a home chef and runs a cooking school & is a weight-loss coach (LINK) (LINK); Richard is the winemaker for the Conejo Valley Wine Co-op (LINK to previous post).

Our plan was to visit two wineries in the Santa Rita Hills AVA (LINK), have lunch, then visit two wineries in the northern section Stana Ynez Valley AVA (LINK), north of Los Olivos. The Santa Rita Hills are known for Burgundian varietalsChardonnay and Pinot Noir; the northern Santa Ynez Valley is Rhône varietals – especially Syrah, but also Mouvedre, Roussanne, Marsanne, Viognier, and Cinsault.

A late start and a few other things shifted out plans a bit, but we made the most of a magnificent sunny day in the 80’s.

Our first stop was Babcock Winery (LINK) along Rt. 246 near Lompoc. Babcock has been around for a while and they make some excellent wines, with Pinot Noir leading the way. Our tasting room host Jamie showed the four of us through two different tastings, one featuring their estate fruit, the other wines sourced from elsewhere in the Santa Rita Hills AVA. Babcock’s new and updated tasting room is filled with their wines mixed with places to sit, antiques and other items, some of which are for sale.

Babcock’s strongest suit is their Pinot Noir. They produce several estate wines and a blend of several vineyards. All of them drink well and show excellent craftsmanship, balance, and quality. We purchased a bottle of their 2013 Radical Pinot Noir, which showed the most character (to us) and will age well. We will be laying this one down for a while. Their Cabernet Sauvignon is notable as well, as is their Backroads Red BlendBabcock offers tours and you can have events there. It is a great winery to visit.

The next stop was lunch at the wonderful Industrial Eats (LINK) in the warehouse area of Buellton (of “Sideways” fame). This artisanal eatery also features a number of local wines on tap for $9 a glass, beer, cider, and more. You eat at common tables and can watch the pizza maker use the brick ovens.

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Menu Wall at Industrial Eats

As we were leaving the restaurant, we noted that the tasting room next door, Alma Rosa, showed the proprietors to be Thekla and Richard Sanford, well-known pioneers of the Santa Rita Hills. Richard is in the Vintner’s Hall of Fame. It turns out that I did not know that Alma Rosa was the Sanfords’ (relatively) new wine operation. So, our plans changed and in we went.

Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards (LINK) has been around since 2005. Like most in the Santa Rita Hills AVA, they specialize in Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, also producing Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, and a Pinot Noir-Vin Gris Rosé. They have two levels of tastings, so each couple had one of them. The wines here are uniformly well-crafted and each has unique characteristics. There are five Pinot Noirs (three are single vineyard/clone) and two each of the Chardonnays, Pinot Gris, and Pinot Blancs. We purchased some of the La Encantada Vineyard Pinot Gris and the Clone 667 La Encantada Vineyard Pinot Noir. We would have purchased more, but our wine locker is nearly full (really).

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The Tasting Crew at Alma Rosa
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Rena of Alma Rosa Wine

The tasting room staff included Rena, who is both knowledgeable about the wines and the process and very outgoing. This small wine tasting room is really lovely (and you can have food sent over from Industrial Eats to boot!).

Next, it was on up the 101 Freeway to Zaca Mesa Road near Los Olivos. Our destination was Andrew Murray Wines (LINK) and their new facility at the former Curtis Winery which was purchased and added to the Andrew Murray operation a few years ago. Long known as the producer of the best Syrahs along the Central Coast, Andrew Murray has expanded into some additional Rhône varietals plus a few others since taking over Curtis. Our tasting was a reminder that these are truly exceptional wines. Highlights of the tasting were, of course, the Syrahs, especially the 2013 Thompson Vineyard Syrah, and the 2014 Watch Hill Vineyard Syrah. Both had nicely balanced fruit and minerality, a beautiful bouquet, and a smooth finish.

Also notable were the 2014 Estate Grown Cinsault, and the 2013 Curtis Vineyard Mourvèdre. Both were very well crafted and balanced with minerality and fruit that alternately competed for your attention. We bought some of the Cinsault. And finally, the 2015 Espérance Rosè, a light and crisp rosé made of nearly 100% Cinsault. It results in a surprising rich and flavorful rosé reminiscent of the wines of the Tavel A.O.P. (LINK to previous post) in the Rhône Valley. This is one of the best rosés I have had in some time. Richard and I took a case of this beauty home. Well – it was on sale and I will find the space!

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That was our day – we headed home with wine in the trunk and some great memories that will be rekindled each time we open a bottle.

And a reminder – our amazing Wine Tour of the southern Rhône Valley and Provence (including Tavel) still has some space left. Visit (LINK – Deluxe Wine Tours) to get all the information and to register.

Wine Tour Online Image 1

Copyright 2016 – Jim Lockard


Dorianne and I spent our final four days visiting Oregon in Eugene, home of the University of Oregon and located in the southern portion of the famed Willamette Valley, the major “wine country” of Oregon. Our stay was both business and pleasure, as I had some speaking engagements here, but we did find some time to enjoy a bit of the local wine scene.

We dined at Café 440, Marche, the Market Food Court, and at King’s Estate Winery and Vineyards. We did a wine tasting and saw a Flamenco show at The Oregon Wine Lab, and we drank a few bottles at our friend’s home where we stayed.

Eugene is a college town, and on that side of the 5 Freeway, there is a downtown and quite a few restaurants, most of the kind that college students can afford; on the other side of the freeway there are the chain stores and some additional restaurants (like Café 440).

Let’s hit the highlights.

King’s Estate (LINK) is the largest of the area wineries – it would be a large operation just about anywhere. With over 500 acres under cultivation here and sourcing from a number of other vineyards in Oregon, some of which they own, they are large producers – the largest US producer of Pinot Gris, their flagship wine.

The estate is crowned by a hill, atop which sits the winery/tasting room/restaurant complex, designed to look like a Tuscan estate. Vineyards surround the complex. We had lunch in the dining room, which surrounds the tasting room. There are also tables outside on a large stone patio overlooking some beautiful scenery. You can get tasting flights with your meal if you like. I had the Pinot Noir flight, as did Dorianne. Our good friend, Linda Finley had the Pinot Gris flight. Our favorite among the Pinot Noirs was the estate Pinot Noir blend, which was the least expensive of the three wines in the flight.

After a very good lunch, we moved over to the tasting room and met Nicholas, one of the three gentlemen on duty. King’s Estate makes some very good wines – especially their  Pinot Gris and Pinot Noirs, but their Chardonnay is also exceptional – very light and crisp, more of a Chablis style, and at a price point of only $18, a great value.

On Saturday evening, we were joined by our local host, Carole Angius, for an early dinner at Marche (LINK), rated the #1 restaurant in Eugene by TripAdvisor.com. We stuck to appetizers, but everything was beautifully prepared and delicious. The wine list is also excellent – we had a French Macon Chardonnay by the glass, as we were going to a wine tasting afterward. I highly recommend Marche.

Flamenco in Eugene? Why not? The Oregon Wine Lab (LINK), a local urban winery and wine bar, was featuring a Flamenco show – more of a demonstration by a visiting teacher from New York and some of his local students. That part of the evening was fun (LINK to previous postings about Flamenco).

The wines made at The Oregon Wine Lab carry the William Rose (LINK) label. We tasted several during the evening. Our favorite was the 2013 Oregon Pinot Noir ($28). The whites that we tried were all very high in acid. There is also a 2013 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir ($48) that we did not taste. I would say that the wines here are drinkable but not outstanding – but the place is fun and there was a large crown enjoying the dancing and consuming a lot of wine.

Café 440 (LINK) is a reliably good place to eat. I had a dinner and a lunch there. The service is good, the food is good, and there is a decent list of mostly local wines and craft beers (plus a full bar). Worth a visit.

There is a nice wine shop in the 5th Street Marketplace (LINK) with a great selection of Willamette Valley Pinot Noirs and other wines from Oregon and around the world. You can also taste wines and have a meal from the marketplace deli.

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Display at 5th Street Marketplace

So that wraps up our five week visit to Oregon. We had a wonderful time, some really good wine and food, and saw the beautiful scenery. From Ashland and the Rogue & Applegate Valleys; to Roseburg and the Umpqua Valley; to Portland and the northern Willamette Valley; to Eugene and the southern Willamette Valley, there is much to see and many great wines to drink. We shall return!


Dorianne and I spent Easter weekend in Portland, Oregon, staying downtown at the Westin Hotel. This post is an overview of the food and wine experiences of our weekend. I realize that we only experienced a sampling of what this great city has to offer.

Upon arrival at the Westin Hotel (LINK) on Friday, we were greeted with a wine tasting in the hotel lobby. ENSO (LINK), an Urban Winery featuring varietals and blends sourced from Oregon, California, and Washington. The tasting featured a white blend, a 2012 Counoise (unusual for these parts), and a red blend. All were very drinkable, especially the red blend which had low acidity and a very smooth viscosity. The Counoise was heavier and more viscous, with nice notes of red fruit and a hint of minerality.

After chatting with Kimberly Parks, the Enso Wine Club Coordinator and a number of other hotel guests about wine and travel, it was time to go upstairs and change for our dinner reservation at Jake’s Famous Crawfish (LINK), a member of the Landry’s Group. We walked the four block from our hotel in the crisp evening weather, passing the iconic Portland Food Trucks surrounding the park nearby (almost all closed at night).

Jake’s is that quintessential downtown seafood house – lots of wood, excellent and experienced servers, a long menu of selections and a great wine list. We ordered a bottle of Ponzi Pinot Gris (LINK) (LINK to NOTES), one of the better known Willamette Valley (LINK) producers. We were not disappointed – light and crisp with balanced acidity, mushrooms on the nose, and pear and pepper on the palate. A very nice wine. It went well with our Kamiai oysters, with Dorianne’s halibut and with my horseradish encrusted steelhead. It was a wonderful meal in a great atmosphere – not really adventurous, but solid and everyone knew what they were doing.


Lunch on Saturday at Bamboo Sushi SW (LINK), one of four in Portland, for some really excellent food accompanied by a Sapporo draft beer. The lunch specials here are really a great value. We spent the afternoon on a city tour with good friends David Alexander and Patience Muanza and her son, Josh. The tour included walking along 23rd Street in Nob Hill (LINK) and sampling some food (dessert!) and a flight of Willamette Pinot Noirs at Papa Hayden Café (LINK).

Dinner on Saturday was with good friends Laura Berman and Craig Benelli (LINK) at Luc Lac Vietnamese Kitchen (LINK), a very busy place with more of a Portland feel to it. Crowded – with a system where you wait in line, order, then wait for a table, and they bring you your food – and loud, it was a fun evening very different from our other dinners in town. The Pho was great. Luc Lac has wines by the glass or 1/2 bottle only (!); we discovered a very nice Rosé from Tavel (LINK), the only AOP in France that produces only rosé wines. As an added bonus, we ran into Dorianne’s nephew, Brian Nelson and his wife, Krista, from LA.

Sunday we went to the New Thought Center for Spiritual Living (LINK) in Lake Oswego for Easter service, where Rev. Dr. David Alexander presides over a large and vibrant spiritual community. Then off to lunch/brunch at St. Honoré Boulangerie (LINK) near the lake. Amazing baked goods – very French – and wonderful sandwiches accompanied by a French Pinot Gris made for a nice repast.

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The Patisserie Case at St. Honore Cafe in Lake Oswego

After a relaxing afternoon of napping and surfing the web in our hotel room it was time for what would become the highlight of our Portland visit, food and wine wise. Our dinner reservations at Veritable Quandry (LINK), was a very special experience indeed. A friend recommended it to us (we had already made reservations) and noted that her brother, Matt, works there.  Matt made us feel very welcome indeed, as did our excellent server, but it is Chef Annie Cuggino who is the star of this show. The food was simply excellent – no other word will do. A wine list that is appropriately heavily Oregon-centric but with a good number of other global wine regions represented, rounded out a marvelous dining experience.

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Pork Chop in Cider & Ale Sauce
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Trout in Cannelloni Bean Puree

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Located in a lovely garden-style building of brick and steel near the river on the edge of downtown, Veritable Quandry is a local gem and has been since 1971. The garden seating is closed now, but we were seated at a table next to a floor to ceiling window. The long bar is also inviting – you pass by it as you enter. I was tempted to order a cocktail, but that wine list was simply too inviting. We selected a 2007 Stone Mountain Vineyard Reserve Willamette Valley Pinot Noir (LINK) from a list of about three dozen Oregon Pinots. It was an amazing wine – smooth, peppery, light enough to accompany Dorianne’s trout and enough body to hold up to my pork chop in a cider and ale sauce. Then house made sorbets and an Inniskillin Ice Wine for dessert. A truly delicious meal in every respect.

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The sad news: Veritable Quandry is slated to close in the next several months – the city is taking the land for a new court house and the owner has decided not to relocate. So get here soon! Some photos of the meal experience are above.

As we depart Portland after this short visit, I know that we will return – there is too much left undone and some things we want to experience again!