Flora Springs Trilogy Napa Valley 2014


Sitting down to write this episode of “Wine-Sum-More” I find myself in an unusual position. For some time I’ve been seeing those gargantuan wine companies gobble up winery after winery. Wondering to myself “Which one of my favorites will be next?”

Lately though, I seem to be stumbling (not due to my age) across many more wineries that are, and have been, the lifeblood of various regions (we’re talking mostly California here). Wineries that were started in the heyday of wine production, or even earlier. More surprising to me, is that they are still either owned by the original family or bought by others who have continued a family tradition of ownership. I feel a new dinner composed of “my words” coming soon! (If you need help on that one, it’s just “eating my own words”).

The winery that sparked my revelation this time: Flora Springs.

From their retirement in the mid-1970s and settling in St. Helena, Jerry & Flora Komes were the impetus of what was to be the winery named Flora Springs. Started by their children but with the love of the entire family, they have remained family owned for over 40 years.

Their flagship wine “Trilogy” to be my wine this particular evening. A Bordeaux style blend of 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Malbec, 6% Petit Verdot and aged for 22 months in 85% French oak and 15% American oak with all the fruit coming from their estate. Opening to a lush bloom of aromas rising from the glass, pausing for a moment to allow the full experience of the wine. That first drop, or maybe a few, assailing my palate with a complexity that showed depth, dark fruit, and true Bordeauxesque quality. Lingering on the finish as I savored each second until the next sip.

So once again I now face a family owned winery that has been producing wines of quality and distinction for many years. For me, that’s a good thing. (No that wasn’t meant to be a plug using Martha’s tag line).


O'Shaughnessy Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

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No pomp and circumstance for the wine I choose for the 4th of July at my house this year. Although it does have an Irish Immigrant sounding name: O’Shaughnessy! Immigration having something to do with how our great country came to be. Being a bit of a hot topic right now, I’ll leave my comments at that and focus on the wine as it should be for a wine blogger.

Beginning in 1990 with the purchase of land in Oakville, Betty O’Shaughnessy with her husband Paul Woolls continued to expand to other areas of Howell Mountain and then to Mount Veeder in Napa Valley where their focus is on Cabernet Sauvignon blended with up to seven additional blending grapes: Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Merlot, Malbec, Carmenère, Saint Macaire and Gros Verdot. In 1999 they hired Sean Capiaux as winemaker, where he continues his work to this day. The wines are all small production and high quality.

My choice for this particular wine on this particular day had only to do with the fact that I had multiple bottles of the wine and wanted something big and rich (it was that and more) than what to go with my Baby Back Rips (what else do you serve on the 4th?) and my Horseradish Mashed Potatoes. I would usually put a picture in about now, but as I was using paper plates (easy cleanup), I decided against it.

Gorgeous aromas lifting from my glass; the first sip assailing my palate with deep dark fruit combined with a slight rustic element. The wine; rich, lush, and full-bodied from the moment it was opened. While their Mount Veeder and Howell Mountain Cabs may benefit from a good decant, this wine needed no such prodding. It was the perfect pick for a relaxing and laid back afternoon while enjoying great food and wine.


Dancing Hares Cabernet Sauvignon 2016

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Like Alice falling through a rabbit hole to begin her journey, a certain “wonderland” happened back in 2004 when the original owners of a 30-acre plot of land at the base of Howell Mountain began making Bordeaux styled wine. Then in 2016 Tuck and Boo Beckstoffer bought 20 acres of that property and the winery. Throughout the adventure, there was no looking back and was certainly no dream; or maybe it was a dream come true!

Gaining exemplary notoriety for the wines produced, Dancing Hares and their second wine, Mad Hatter, under the guidance of such names as David Abreu (Vineyard Manager) and consultants Michel Rolland and more recently, Philipe Melka, released the newest wine of Dancing Hares for 2016, the first under the Beckstoffer ownership.

A blend of 95% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4.5% Petit Verdot, and .5% Merlot the wine sees 22 months in oak with 70% of being new barriques. From the first whiff, the wine puts forth a renaissance of aromas which continue onto the palate of dark black and rich fruit followed by sultry spice notes. This full-bodied wine still offers a certain softness even at its young age that will only continue to evolve and be fully engaged and integrated if you can stand the wait. In my case, it was the next day!

Not easy to come by, but if you find it, don’t hesitate, just like Alice, you’ll find the wine saying “Drink Me!”


Rhys "Horseshoe Vineyard" Chardonnay 2013


Situated just South of Palo Alto in the Santa Cruz Mountains lies a small but intriguing winery; Rhys Vineyards. Six of their Estate Vineyards being located just off the coast of California. For this tasting, I turned towards their production in Chardonnay, their other wines focusing on Pinot Noir and a small amount of Syrah, specifically, their Horseshoe Vineyard and the Chardonnay produced from the 2013 Vintage.

Santa Cruz finds many a top-notch winery; Ridge, Mount Eden and Thomas Fogarty (just had me a bottle of their Santa Cruz Mountain Chardonnay) to name but a few. With its shale soil, Horseshoe Vineyards produces a slightly more mineral wine. Never fear, however, the wine does not skimp on lovely stone fruit flavors and a rich buttery nuttiness (how’s that for throwing two flavors together?). The wine, litheness in body, but with firmness and generous mouthfeel. Alas, while this wine seeks to continue its journey to even better times given longer aging, I will have to settle for this bottle alone as is as this was my only bottle.

Rhys is one of those wineries whose wines are very hard to come by, generally selling only to their members. They do have a label that is more widely distributed and gives the mother winery a run for its money; Alesia. Splurge if you can, the attention and handcrafted quality is worth the price.


Tenuta San Leonardo 2008

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Once described as “the most successful Bordeaux blend of northern Italy” and “Blockbuster Bordeaux Blend from Trentino is clearly the Sassicaia of the North.” The famous wine of San Leonardo continues its success and tradition. The winery’s first release in 1968 was followed in 1982 with the inaugural release of the San Leonardo wine. Caretakers of the land for over 300 years in the Southern regions of Trentino and bordering with Veneto, this wine, bearing the same name, is a skillful blend of wines from different grapes that are fermented and aged separately: Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenère and Merlot. Maturation takes place in cement tanks and is followed by 18-24 months in new and pre-used barriques.

What made this wine so appealing to me now was the age of the wine. From the Good to Excellent Vintage of 2008, this wine exhibits a definite Bordeauxesque quality. From the deep dark dry and rustic fruit, along with tannins that, even now, are firm and give body to the wine, it is telling me that there is still time to wait to enjoy this wine when it is at its best. My long decant helping the wine reveal itself but knowing that more years in the bottle would be beneficial.

Enjoyed over a two day period, this wine deserved a better pairing than I gave it. Stuffed peppers one night and Pork Tenderloin the other. While nice dinners, this wine could have stood up to just about anything. Game meats or even duck with its fattier attributes would do well.

Newer vintages may be available and from the looks of things, those wines continue with the quality and beauty that this vintage brought as well.


Étienne Doué "Cuvée Sélection" Brut NV

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Couldn’t think of a better way to kick off a dreary weekend (it’s going to storm here in North Eastern Illinois all weekend long) than to imbibe in a little sparkler!

Just so happens that on Thursday evening I attended a Grower Champagne Seminar put on by one of the local wine shops and hosted by Robert Houde Wines. A very nice lineup of 7 Champagnes from different parts of the Champagne region. While they were all very good, I could have stopped (not really) at the first one. From the small area called Montgueux and a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, came the Étienne Doué "Cuvée Sélection" Brut NV.

Starting with bright brioche and honeyed aromas, the wine continued on the palate with vivid citrus notes and a creaminess that perfectly balanced the wine. A friend next to me compared the wine to the male/female comparison, this wine being the feminine others, bigger and bolder, the male version. Quite accurate.

I also learned something new! In the Montgueux region there is no classification system as in Champagne (Premiere and Grand Cru). South of Reims and Epernay, Montgueux is near Aube. I asked about its classification and learned that the area doesn’t use the same system. They have the “autre cru” (or “Other Cru”) classification. I don’t care what they call it, I called the wine delicious! As an area without the highfalutiness of Champagne, the wine was a bargain around $35. Clarification - I like Champagne’s highfalutiness!

So no matter where you are, take a weekend break, open a bottle of bubbly (obviously the Étienne Doué) and relax and enjoy!