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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black stallionNestled among lush vineyards and olive trees, Black Stallion Estate Winery was inspired by the property’s rich equestrian history and reflected in its exceptional wine.

Under the watchful eye of winemaker Ralf Holdenried select grapes from the region’s best vineyards with a concentration on site-specific winemaking. The cycle from grapevine to wine glass is a lifetime occupation.

“Once you start working with grapes, you never get bored,” Holdenreid said. “There is always something new to explore. I’m intrigued by the details, and no year is ever the same.”

The flagship Black Stallion Estate Winery 2013 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($30) is a thoroughbred.  It includes fruit from various AVA’s that contributes to the final selection: Napa Valley (ripe fruit flavors and velvety tannins); Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley (structure and elegance with cassis, tobacco and spice characteristics); Rutherford (provides mineral, earth and cherry notes); Atlas Peak (delivers dark berry fruit and acidity); Oakville and other Napa Valley AVAs fruit added to perfect the final blend.

This full-bodied varietal is balanced, albeit it complex, with rich aromas of blackberry, dark plum and toasted oak.  Flavors of cassis and dark chocolate embrace the palate and linger in a long finish.

Be sure to pour this with dishes as rich and powerful as this wine. Rare prime rib, rich blue cheese and loaded burgers with avocado.



Franciscan Estate Winery 2015.
Franciscan Estate Winery 2015.

A taste of Franciscan Estate’s outstanding white wines and you’ll wish the long, sunlit days of summer could last all year.

“While I enjoy drinking whites the year ‘round, their crisp, fruit profiles are especially well-suited to summertime pursuits,” said director of winemaking Janet Myers. “Three of my current favorites are 2014 Franciscan Estate Equilibrium ($23) and 2015 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc ($18) and 2014 Franciscan Estate Napa Valley Chardonnay ($18).

 Light gold in the glass, the chardonnay tempts with vibrancy and structure and entices the senses with clouds of ripe pear, lemon zest and baked apple aromas. The palate is rewarded with tasty apple, pear with notes of vanilla and cream on the finish.

Pour this with shrimp Remoulade and baked goat cheese tartlets.

Meaning “to come together in a state of harmonious balance,” Equilibrium is a white blend of muscat, sauvignon blanc and chardonnay. Muscat contributes beautiful aromas and floral attributes while chardonnay adds creamy body to zesty sauvignon blanc waiting in the wings. Appealing aromas of jasmine, orange and lemongrass make way for honeysuckle, lime and grapefruit flavors that are clean and round on the finish.

The perception of sweetness from the muscat enables it to pair delightfully with an array of foods such as spicy Thai, barbecue and even or chicken with a little smokiness.

The pale straw hue of the sauvignon blanc is like capturing sunshine in the glass.

“This selection marries the minerality and steeliness of the Loire Valley with the opulence and fruit intensity of Marlborough by way of the Napa Valley,” Myers said. “The small batch fermentation gives maximum fruit expression.”

Aromatic scents of lime, lemongrass and grapefruit rind invite the palate to have a sip. It is crisp with juicy lime and Myer lemon zest that lead to a long finish of grapefruit and vanilla.

Pour this slightly chilled with avocado and grilled chicken salad or savory tacos.