Julia has been swirling, sipping and swilling wines throughout California and beyond for more than two decades. Her passion is discovering big wines in small places. So, come with her and fill your glass.

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The lazy days of summer are the perfect time to explore Medoc Cru Bourgeois vintages from France.

Here are two hot tips for sipping.

Chateau Rollan de By ($25) celebrates the environment and the return to traditional viticulture with some new technologies. This exciting wine is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot and aged 10 months.

Its sophistication shows off with aromas of mocha, licorice and black tea, opening the curtain for enticing blackberry and plum flavors.

Pour this with barbecued chicken, hearty cheeses and prime rib.

Haut—Logat Cru Bourgeois from the Medoc Appellation is an intriguing blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. This beautiful wine slept 15 months in oak barrels.

A beautiful garnet hue in the glass, cascades of plum and violet aromas excite the senses and delight the palate with toast on the finish.

Enjoy this with asparagus quiche and braised lamb.

The Wine Examiner panel met recently to sip and review St. Mayhem Craft Wine Cooler in a can.

Yes, really.

The four-pack ($25) includes 1 1/3 bottles of California Chardonnay perfect for on-the-go trips to the beach, camping and shopping (just kidding). It has an added surprise of peaches and freshly ground ginger.

Panelist A.F. said, “I like the packaging very much. It’s an unusual name and dark design for a wine. To me, the flavor and texture was more like a dark red wine,” he said. “It feels like the peach and the lack of bubbliness gave it a wine-like texture rather than a cooler.

“The tag line on the side of the can says, ‘This wine is not what you think,’ and it wasn’t. Overall, I liked it enough and wished there was more of it (small can),” he said. “I would have it again if offered to me.”

The panel agreed it should be served chilled.

Two recently released white wines from Portugal will entice tempt you to celebrate the summer and taste history in your glass.

Joao Portugal Ramos 2015 Alvarinho ($16) focuses on low yields, varietal character and sustainability. Built in the rambling Vinho Verde region, the winery benefits from perfect temperatures that allows the grapes to ripen harmoniously.

This exceptional varietal is medium lemon hued in the glass with succulent aromas of white grapefruit with white flower notes. Cascades of white peach linger on the palate in a long mineral finish.

Pour this slightly chilled with ceviche and goat cheese tarts.

Uinta do Monte d’Oira Lybra White ($20) comes from the Lisbon region and is a delightful blend of Viognier, Arinto and Marsanne.

Aromatic hints of apricot and watermelon open to ripe fruit and vanilla toast and whispers of herbs. Dried flowers and notes of tropical fruit and citrus sing on the palate.

Enjoy this with grilled shrimp and crab salads.

 

 

 

Hold up there, Buckaroo!

You think you have everything in place for your annual Fourth of July party.

You’re anxious to “break in the new barbecue” with all its bells and whistles. The menu are set and ready to go: blue cheese burgers with chopped jalapenos, chili dogs with minced scallions and barbecued chicken with your “secret sauce.”

But you forgot something – wine!

That muscular menu needs three muscular wines to compliment the meal.Lake Sonoma Winery has three reds that are perfect.

The 2013 Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel ($32) opens with berry and baking

chocolate aromas.  Blackberry pie, cinnamon and oak

seduce the palate with enchanting flavors that linger on the finish.

Sonoma Valley celebrates the Fourth with a 2014 Malbec ($35) that will certainly set off some fireworks. The well-balanced selection introduces juicy cherry and lilac aromas followed by red cherry, raspberry and hints of fresh roses on the palate.

The 20015 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($45) can stand up to any of the rich menu selections. Enticing aromas of dried blueberries, cloves, cassis and sweet tobacco embrace the senses with whirls of dark chocolate, plum and toasty oak.

Lake Sonoma Winery has three selections that will set off some fireworks this summer and beyond.

The winery exclusive 2014 Russian River Valley “Tributaries Blend” ($19) showcases varietals unique to their roots: Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. A gentle white wine, Pinot Blanc demonstrates florals and crisp citrus flavors, and brings almond and peach notes. Chardonnay provides structure and richness and Sauvignon Banc contributes crispness, green aromas and minerality.

Pour this unique blend with chilled crab salad and strawberry compote.

No heavy “butter bomb” in the enchanting 2014 Russian River Valley Chardonnay ($30)

. It shows-off the cool climate where the vines thrive. Enticing aromas of candied ginger and notes of crisp citrus and orange blossom. Cascades of lemon excite the palate and linger in a seductive finish.

Enjoy this with any poultry, freshwater fish and strong cheeses.

If a lush Pinot Noir is what you’re craving, the 2014 selection from the Sonoma Coast ($45) will satisfy that craving. Known as the drink of French Kings, this varietal is velvety with bright and generous acidity.  “Aromas of bright cherry fill the glass, with an accent of lilac, vanilla and subtle white pepper,” said winemaker Kat Doescher. “On the palate, this Pinot Noir begins with a soft entry of black cherry, plum and cinnamon and vanilla oak on the finish.”

Serve this with grilled wild salmon, beef stew and after dinner with bitter chocolate.

 

OK, you are feeling flush with extra cash in your jeans: the IRS surprised you with a fat refund, that lottery ticket’s numbers were on the money and you found $200 under the sofa cushions.

Your frugal side says “invest that windfall” but your wild side tempts, “buy a great bottle of great champagne and pop the cork.”

What a sweet dilemma!

After some research your choose the latter : Taittinger.

Champagne Taittinger, one of the last family-owned and operated Champagne houses in the worldfills the need.

Champagne can only be produced in the Champagne regions of France and can only be crafted from three grapes – Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Some producers choose to make their wine with only one grape. All Chardonnay champagnes are called Blanc de Blancs (white of whites) and all Pinot Noir wines are called Blanc de Noirs (white of blacks.)

Taittinger Champagne – aged for over five years – tempts the eye with an avalanche of tiny bubbles that dance wildly in the chilled flute. Inside the glass, the wine is elegant and sophisticated with aromas of brioche, white flowers and toasted nuts.

Pour this with cracked crab, caviar and mild cheeses.

Having a ‘Ruff’ day?

This beverage glass will ease the frustrations of the workday with smiles because it holds your favorite wine elixir.

Yes, at last there is a wine glass aimed at people who love dogs and for people who just love “cute” wine glasses. This puppy glass will delight those who include Newfoundlands, Beagles or tea-cup poodles in their family.

This unique glass holds 14 ounces of wine and is available on-line at www.bigmouthinc.com.

Pour a spicy syrah in the “puppy glass” along with a loaded, blue cheese burger and watch your four-legged family members gather for their barbecue dinner.

Or enjoy a chilled, frisky sauvignon blanc with a crab salad while ignoring with the furry family members panting nearby.

 

One sip of Sattui Winery’s 2014 La Merica robust wine and your taste buds are transported back in time.

The pre-Prohibition blend ($33) – Zinfandel, Syrah, Grenache, Petite Sirah and Alicante Bouschet – celebrates the bravery of Italian immigrants like Vittorio Sattui who risked everything to come to this country in the late 1800s, virtually penniless and speaking only Italian. In the dialect of their native tongue, they affectionately referred to their new home in America as “La Merica”.

“I want this wine to embrace the importance of immigration, not only as the foundation and building blocks of our great country, but also for our future and continued greatness as a nation of immigrants,” said Tom Davies, president of V.Sattui Winery.  “La Merica rejoices everything that is great about America: Freedom, transparency, opportunity, choice, due process, acceptance and diversity.”

For over 150 years Petite Sirah and Zinfandel have been planted side-by-side in California, and they are natural blending partners.  Zinfandel contributes its varietal distinctive dark berry fruit and aromas and Petite Sirah provides the color, spice and structure.  It opens with enticing aromas of blueberry and espresso. The wine seduces the palate with black cherry, dark chocolate, and dark fruit flavors.

Pour this muscular selection with rich Italian pastas with meat sauce.

 

Ever wonder why some wines have a rich, buttery taste similar to popcorn topping?

Well, the answer is surprisingly simple. Both have diacetyl, which during a wine’s milolactic fermentation, creates the same buttery flavor as in popcorn and margarine. This by-product occurs naturally in alcoholic beverages and is added to some foods to add buttery flavor.

Who knew?

According to a winemaker in the know, Chardonnay winemakers especially promote diacetyl as a “Butter Bomb” in their wine. When you are fermenting or aging in barrels this (malolactic) bacteria may or may not be present. So, winemakers have a choice to allow it to stay, introduce the bacteria or try to prevent it from happening.

For example, with the Sauvignon Blanc in barrels the goal is to put softness and roundness in the wine and avoid malolactic fermentation. With a red wine, winemakers want this to happen so many choose to add the bacteria in a controlled way.

But, white wine tastes have changed in the past years and balancing the fermentation has gotten a little tricky.

In the past, big buttery, oaky ‘California style’ Chardonnays were in vogue. Now many consumers are leaning toward a cleaner style of wine with more emphasis on fruit and away from the butter. The pendulum seems to be swinging back to a leaner style of wine.

 

 

 

 

This is the day Flora Springs Chardonnay wine lovers wait for all year; most take a personal day or make up outrageous excuses for missing work.

After all, celebrating the most popular and most planted grape in California –96,819 acres – is a big deal. Most California wineries produce this varietal.

Flora Springs’ Chardonnays are outstanding, rich and elegant.

The winery’s 2016 Family Select Chardonnay ($35) tempts with pale straw in the glass

that beckons with aromas of lemon rind, juicy apple and warm almonds. Bright flavors of honeydew melon, guava and pineapple linger in a hint of honey finish.

Pour this with grilled sand dabs and avocado and chicken salad.

Reward your accomplishments with a bottle or two of Jon Nathaniel Lavender Hill Vineyard Chardonnay ($75) from vines that produce low yields of concentrated fruit. This varietal seduces with layers of honey, vanilla, spice and pear. Wait a moment for Act 11 as toasty oak, Granny Smith apple and toasty oak flavors emerge.

Enjoy this exceptional Chardonnay with crab cakes with Remoulade sauce and roast chicken with fresh herbs.