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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Indulge yoursel

Flora Springs must have a crystal ball in the wine cellar to predict wines that excel.

From sustainable grown grapes from the Napa Valley, the 2015 sauvignon blanc ($25) is perfect way to relax in these “dog days of summer.”

(Here’s the fact about that term: the phrase doesn’t refer to languid days lying in the hot sun. It comes from the ancient Greek’s beliefs about a star. These “dog days” refers to the period roughly between July 3 and August 11 when Sirius (the dog star) and the sun rise at the same time.”)

But, here’s more about the fresh, crisp sauvignon blanc that evokes those lazy summer afternoons with the fragrance of fresh mown grass wafting in the air. This opalescent wine with just a hint of green tempts with minerality, white flowers and citrus aromas. Pink grapefruit, lemongrass  juicy citrus and zesty kiwi flavors add to the excitement.

Many argue they are the best California whites for serving with food because of their freshness.

Pour this selection slightly chilled with any shellfish, sushi and grilled white meat fish.

For a robust addition to your summer fun open a bottle or two of Floral Spring’s exceptional merlot ($30). The grape is thinner-skinned and more fruit forward than its famous cousin cabernet sauvignon. It has a lush floral bouquet with vibrant red to purple hues. This rowdy grape opens with enticing blackberry, cassis and plum aromas followed by robust baked cherries, licorice and dark chocolate flavors.

Pair this merlot with Mexican food and loaded burgers just off the barbecue.

 

 

They are affordable too.
They are affordable too.

Washington State winery founder Arvid Monson was looking for a perfect spot for his vision for a new vineyard. One night, over a campfire and wine, his friend and leading authority on Washington viticulture had some advice.

“Wherever you find tall sage, you will have a place that will sustain superior grape vine,” Walter Clore said, “A tall sage plant develops deep tap roots and sustains the life around it.”

Monson relayed this valuable information to Tall Sage winemaker Andrew Wilson who selected a few blocks with unique characteristics and intricate contributions for the wines.

The two 2015 varietals – both affordable at $10 each – reflect the Columbia Valley and the stewardship of this family – owned and operated vineyards.

The Tall Sage Chardonnay is clean and refreshing with enticing lime, jasmine and baked apple aromas. With a hint of sage, green apple, pear and pineapple flavors mingle with minerality and an apricot finish.

Pour this with a summer salad dressed with avocado wedges, feta and olive oil.

The hot growing season proved perfect for the 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon. It allowed an extended hang time in the vine and remarkable flavor development without over-ripening. Malolactic fermentation finished on oak to soften the wine. Elegant aromas of dark fruit combine with whispers of herbs and smoke. Dark red cherries and plums mingle with licorice and cedar for a lasting finish.

Enjoy this cab with grilled steak and loaded turkey burgers.

 

 

 

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Before hearing about two delicious blends from Murrieta’s Well Estate Vineyard in Livermore, here’s is some background about the vineyard’s storied history.

The namesake of the property is Joaquin Murrieta, dubbed the “Robin Hood of El Dorado” during California’s Gold Rush. Legend has it that Murrieta and his notorious band watered their horses at an artesian well on the grounds. Louis Mel purchased the land and built a gravity flow winery into the hillside and planted a vineyard.  Mel sold the property to Earnest Wente in 1930 and the property has been part of the Wente Family ever since.

In 2010, two blends – the “Whip” ($24)   and the “Spur” ($30) – became legend too.

“We believe in the art of blending,” said winemaker Robbie Meyer. “We have a small lot approach to growing and making our wines. All of our grape varieties are sourced exclusively from our estate; the composition of our wine blends will change year each to reflect this.”

The 2014 “Whip” add a subtle twist to the traditional white wine blend – a touch of sweetness from 29 percent Semillon. Other varietals in this succulent blend are 27 percent chardonnay, 18 percent sauvignon blanc, 12 percent orange muscat, 8 percent muscat canelli and 6 percent viognier.

The result is a bright, elegant wine that showcases juicy white peach, pear and melon notes with a creamy, toasty oak finish.

The other end of the spectrum is the 2013 “Spur”, a rowdy red wine blend of 40 percent petite sirah, 26 percent cabernet sauvignon, 10 percent petit verdot, 8 percent merlot, 8 percent cabernet franc and 8 percent Malbec.

Hold onto your hat before swirling and allow black cherry and brooding blueberry aromas to transport you back in time of Early California with sweet oak and earthy spice on the palate.

Three extraordinary crisp wines from Portugal are ready now; and you won’t need a passport to sip.DSC01382

Did you know that the Portuguese were the first to bring European wines to the Americas and to Asia? Another little known fact about Portuguese winemaking history is that in the 50s and 60s, the Portuguese government, under pressure from the wine industry, resisted the arrival of Coca-Cola and soft drinks. Vinho Verdes, with their light alcohol and slight carbonation were the soft drink du jour, the drink people would have for lunch.

Grapes for the Nortico Rose ($15) are farmed on the south banks of the river Minho in tiny plots in the northern border with Spain. This bright pink hued selection is a blend of three varietals: vinhao, alvarelhao and pedral. Juicy red berry and watermelon aromas bring minerality followed by delicate red fruit on the palate.

Lima Vinho Verde ($8) is named for the Lima River. During Roman times, soldiers avoided this river as it was said to be the incarnation of Lethe in Hades, the river from which the dead drank to forget their earthly lives. Today, grape vines flourish along its banks. This selection is pale yellow in color with aromas of lemon, lime and laurel with subtle notes of green apple and minerality. It is elegant on the palate with mouth-filling flavors of citrus fruits and crisp pear with zesty acidity that leads to a long finish.

Vera Vinho Verde Branco ($12) comes from vineyards in northwest Portugal, just north of the warm Douro River Valley. This selection is a unique blend of arinto, contributing bright acidity and aging potential; azal, bringing citrus and freshness and loureiro adding aromatics. The result is a wine with clean, lively flavors of lime, ripe pink and yellow grapefruit.

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.