Monthly Archives: November 2013

Grace Patriot

So many locals recommend Grace Patriot Wines, your curiosity alone drives you there. The minute your feet hit the ground, you encounter the red dirt that give their bold wines character and intensity. Each wine in the line up was bright, bold, and memorable with long velvety finish.

Their rose of Tempranillo had big ripe luscious strawberry flavors but none of the sweetness. It could go with any food pairing. Theirs is the first Pinot Noir found in this region as many have said its one of the few that cannot grow here. Theirs is a wonderful holiday wine with spice and fruit of cherry, strawberry, and pomegranate yet restrained earth. Then, their Tempriano is a creative blend of Tempranillo and Graciano! Wow, the lux dark cocoa and leather from Graciano stand up to the plum and dark cherry of the Tempranillo. This is a biggie and matches up to your biggest richest meal. Finally, the Cabernet Sauvignon blend with Syrah was also a meaty well rounded combo.  Its tannins were present and slightly chewy but did not overpower. These two grapes are like a warm friendly couple. The backbone of the cab needed the body and fruit of Syrah and the Syrah’s blue velvety texture needed the structure of the cab. Well done!


Not a typo nor a play on words, Paul Toogood’s winery is the one to check out if you’re in Fair Play California looking for a rich velvety tawny port style wine aged 12 years. Toogood Estate Winery sells this liquid dessert in many bottle formats from the half bottle, 375 ml, to the medium, 500 ml sized format. But this is probably the first place you will find these cute port pony kegs that hold a gallon of port! That’s enough to last you a year. Not me but possibly you.


These cute little containers are also reusable. Return any time to refill them with this luscious liquid and get a discount.

Before you head there, check in on Facebook or post a picture at Toogood Estate to get a bottle of their wine for only $6. Which wine? That’s part of the fun! It is a blind bag purchase but everyone at the tasting room was happy with their 6 dollar purchase. Can you say the same for a six dollar burger?!

Cantiga Wineworks

The refreshing flavors in Cantiga’s wines represent equally refreshing ideas, methods, and commitments.  The idea is simple, produce the highest quality wines with fewer additives to enhance the natural flavors of each grape. Their methods include longer skin contact, which give wine its color and antioxidants. They also age wines longer to let the flavors concentrate and rich textures develop. Without additives like sulphites, their wines remain pure and full of fruit flavor with naturally lower sugar levels. You could say theirs are healthy wines.  Their commitment to the tradition of pairing wines with food is something everyone at the tasting room can experience. But in case you’re too far away from this paradise, imagine warm soothing chipotle chilli matching the long luscious Zinfandel while a smoky salty Spanish Chorizo brings you back to the bright sumptuous Grenache.

But taste for yourself when you travel to El Dorado county because nothing you read can be as good for you as wines that don’t make you hungover. Their Chardonnay has bright crisp acidity and a nice long finish. It begins with citrus flavors and the thick texture of banana. Due to their winemaking methods, this is a white wine you can cellar for up to 25 years! Its time in neutral barrels gives it a creamy creme brulee mouthfeel with a lively bit of lemon curd that balances it. Delicious! Their Grenache has a full body of strawberry, bright red cherry, and a tiny bit of raspberry earthiness. If truthiness is a word, so is earthiness. Their Petite Sirah has a clean crisp scent and a body full of tart blueberry, blackberry, and plum but soft silky tannins and a long warm finish.  If you’ve had it with jammy Zinfandels, theirs is a refreshing one to try. It has great berry flavor with a balance of earth and herbal aromas. Its naturally big bold fruit makes you think its sweet but it doesn’t have aftertaste because the sugar levels are low.

After the reds, they bring you back to a dry white called Semillon. It has the supple fragrance of tropical fruit like banana with the body of a nectar and a silky finish. They may say these wines European style but we say refreshingly delicious and better for you than most wines as well.


The spot for Italian wine lovers in Fair Play is Palissandro. They take the traditional Italian varietals like Sangiovese and Barbera and give them that California pizzazz. Their Pinot Grigio jump starts your taste buds with a slight floral flavor and fresh green bananas. It opens in your mouth with pear and pineapple that would pair wonderfully with chips and salsa or anything slightly spicy.  Then, Rosa is a rose made out of Barbera and Grenache, which was barrel fermented to give it a little vanilla and slight cinnamon with hazelnuts.

The reds were the most impressive in the flight. Sangiovese has big strawberry and hints of red cherry and raspberry. Mild tannins and high acids make it easy to pair with just about any food and the strong fruit characteristics make it easy to sip on its own. Their super Tuscan has many layers of berry and cherry with hazelnuts and firm chewy tannins that match its acidity. Their Barbera has a lovely mocha quality along with berry and cherry characteristics and a long warm finish. It is the one you can still taste after you drive out of the tasting room. Bellissimo!

Z Pie

If you’ve got to eat your veggies, and you know you do, why not eat them in a delicious pie:

Of course this place has other more meaty pot pies as well.  But, even the meaty pies have lots of veggies. So indulge at Z Pie Gourmet Pot Pies. They also have non-pie options like salads, soups, appetizers, and lovely looking desserts like cheesecake.

Charles B. Mitchell

Charles B. Mitchell definitely gets his winemaking inspiration from Europe. After visiting some of the world renowned wine regions, he has adapted their most impressive practices at his winery in Fair Play, California with delectable results.

All this research and traditional methods is probably why he decided to make a dry rose using Merlot grapes. It starts with strawberry and plum on the nose with crisp tart cherry that waves over the tongue. His Fume Blanc has that fresh crisp green apple nose that promises refreshment. Then, tart pineapple and citrus take over, typical for a Sauvignon Blanc. Yet, the extra-long finish is probably due to the smoke of the barrel; that’s the “fume” in Fume Blanc doing its stuff.

With respect to Tuscany, his Bella Rosa is a lively table wine made from a blend of Sangiovese and Merlot. This super-duper Tuscan has vibrant berry, cherry, and strawberry fruit flavors with big bold body and a hint of smoke. Its long velvety finish makes it a great pairing for meaty pizzas or succulent sauces over pasta, yet, unlike most Italian wines, it really doesn’t need food. Finally, their estate Merlot has a slight floral scent on the nose with a body of big plump cherry and a long warm finish.

Cascada Tada!

Got to love instant food! The food that arrives before you even order can make your day. What’s better than chips and salsa? Two salsas with a bean and cheese dip in between! Simple yet ingenious. They already have beans and cheese. Why not blend the two and serve them warm!?


One salsa has a standard cilantro lime for those who are purists. The other salsa has a slightly smoky flavor as though they used Chipotle or another smoked pepper for those of us who like a little pizzazz.


For those of us who do not speak Welsh, gwinllan means vineyard. It’s like those peeps in Wales have a different word for everything! And you didn’t think you’d expand your language skills reading a California wine blog!?

The proprietors of Gwinllan decided to honor their roots in Wales by choosing this name for their delightful winery. It is a small family owned and operated institution; their son is a UC Davis graduate in Viticulture and Enology and is responsible for making their intensely flavored wines. Their practices are also impressive; stressing the vines ensures they can extract more flavor and produce highly concentrated wines with elegance and character.

Their Chardonnay, which begins the tasting flight, has a nutmeg quality most likely achieved by a combination of stainless steel and French oak aging. But their combo goes both ways; I mean the aging process starts in stainless steel tanks, then moves to oak barrels and they return to stainless steel to finish. Their Winemaker Selection has big rich Grenache with lots of body and a brazen blackberry finish. It is delightful for the nose, mouth, and body. Their Petite Sirah has dark meaty cherry and berry with lots of chocolate and elegant mellow tannins. Bravo!

David Girard

In case the name of this winery doesn’t scream “French Styled Rhone Wines” please read further. You know who you are; you fancy the acronym blends of GSM on the dark side and RMV on the white side. And don’t forget the GB, that’s a good whitey. Actually, that is an elusive whitey to crave for its green apple crisp refreshing appeal. Believe it or not, it is better than beer on a warm sunny day.

Back to David Girard, the wines are not only French in style, sophisticated yet restrained and lean but not mean, they are memorable and refined. Worth a try for your travels from Tahoe to the Bay Area or Sacramento just to experience and appreciate the splendor of these blends, styles, and local grapes cultured to compete with the big F. Their winemaker seriously knows what she’s doing so a trip for the tasting room is a treat for your nose and taste buds while the vineyard views is a treat for the eyes. Enjoy!

DK Cellars

Dave and Kim Pratt, who I’m guessing are the D and the K in DK Cellars, are on to something big. They came to downtown Placerville, not far from their Fair Play winery to showcase a few wines with superior quality and appropriate pairings. They were all exquisite!

You rarely see a 100% Semillon and theirs is the one that raised the bar. Slight sweetness makes it a great pairing for slightly spicy or slightly sweet dishes. As you all probably know, like people, opposites attract and sames attract when it comes to pairing wine with food. Simple yet profound!

But their Barbera will knock your socks off or at least make them go up and down. It starts with bright cherry but has a blanket of rich concentrated flavors that make your mouth water while they make you thirsty. The two elements working in conjunction give the inside of your mouth a velvet feeling. This is what wine enthusiasts call velvety and theirs is a momentous one to use as a gauge.