Brie and Nikki Bella pair their wines at Hearth ’61 cuisine

Since their not body slamming their opponents in the wrestling ring anymore, twin sisters Brie and Nikki Bella are stomping grapes at their Napa Valley winery, Belle Radici. They launched the winery with partner Ryan Hill in 2017 and is Italian for “beautiful roots”. Belle Radici wines along with wines from Hill’s Hill Family Estate Winery will be poured on Sunday September 15th at Hearth ’61.

The dinner is part of the Mountain Shadows Resort’s Sunday Supper Club with food prepared by Chef Charles Wiley. Chef Wiley will be joined in the kitchen by Elements at Sanctuary executive chef Beau MacMillan. The pair worked together at Element’s when Wiley was executive chef and mentored MacMillan.

They’re collaborating on a four-course menu that includes Black Garlic Braised Beef Cheek and Honey Crisp Apple and Daikon Radish Salad.

The monthly Sunday Supper Club pairs wines or spirits with Chef Wiley’s modern cuisine. Upcoming dinners include Rombauer Vineyards on October 20th and Champagne Henriot on December 8th.

Dinner starts at 6 p.m. and each seat is 474 plus tax and gratuity. Reservations are required and can be made by calling 480-624-5400.

Mountain Shadows Resort is at 5445 E. Lincoln Dr. Paradise Valley 85253.

Lunch with Russ Weis, President of Silverado Vineyards

I recently sat down for lunch at Hearth ’61 with the President of Silverado Vineyards, Russ Weis, when he was in Phoenix. We tasted 3 wines while Russ told us the Silverado story, about life in Napa Valley surviving recent wildfires and about the wines.

Russ was practically born into the wine business as the son of grape growers in Madera, California. Russ started his career in Napa Valley in 1987 at Christian Brothers Winery then went on to Robert Mondavi Winery in 1993. He joined Silverado Vineyards in 2004.

The Silverado Vineyards story

Silverado Vineyards was started in 1981 by Diane Disney and her husband, former football player and movie producer Ron Miller. The 6 historic vineyards owned by the winery date back to the 1800s and are located throughout Napa Valley. The winery is currently owned by Ron and his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, with plans to keep it in the family for several more generations.

The wines are made by winemaker Jon Emmerich and associate winemaker Elena Franceschi. All wines are “Grown, Produced and Bottled by” the winery, one of a few Napa Valley wineries that can say that. A small portion of grapes are sold to other wineries.

With over 300 acres of vineyards the wines express the differing terroirs, giving each wine its unique complexity and character. The winery and home vineyard are in the Stags Leap District along the Silverado Trail.

Tasting the wines

During our lunch we tasted the 2016 Carneros Chardonnay and proprietary Cabernet Sauvignons GEO and SOLO from the 2014 vintage.

The chardonnay comes from the Vineburg and Firetree vineyards in the cooler southern part of Napa Valley. The wine is aged in French oak barrels with some in new oak. The wine is clean and well-balanced with oak and acidity. Bright fruit that the Carneros region is known for makes this a great wine to drink by itself or paired with food. It made a nice complement to our shrimp cocktail. The chardonnay is the winery’s second largest produced wine, at just under 10,000 cases.

The GEO Cabernet Sauvignon uses grapes grown on the Mt. George vineyard in Coombsville. The Millers bought the vineyard in 1987 and was the first vineyard planted to grapes in the Coombsville AVA. A splash of Petit Verdot is blended before the wine was aged for almost 2 years in mostly French oak. The wine was soft and enjoyable with good tannins giving you the typical Cabernet mouthfeel taste of blackberries and cocoa and drinks well. Only 2,200 cases are made.

The SOLO Cabernet Sauvignon was the last of the 3 wines we tasted. Made with 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, the wine is named for the fact it’s made from a single clone. The Silverado- Disney Heritage clone was given “Heritage” status by UC Davis because the new clone was carefully observed and had adapted to the unique soil of the Stags Leap District. It’s one of only 3 Cabernets with this status and the only one from Stags Leap District.

The bold fruit comes from the Silverado Vineyard and offers currants, cassis and plum nuances. It’s aged in 100% French oak with 38% new oak. The wine pairs well with grilled red meats and roasts. 2,400 cases were produced.

Visiting the winery

Silverado Vineyards is open daily by appointment. The winery is at 6121 Silverado Trail, Napa CA. 94458. For reservations call 707-257-1770 or visit their website.

Dom. de la Patience Chardonnay

                                                                           
This family estate located in the Costières de Nîmes takes its name from a wild, aromatic herb “La Patience” that can be found throughout the vineyard. Costieres de Nimes is where Languedoc and Provence meet and is along the right bank of the Rhone River. In 1994, after a decade of managing the winemaking at the local cooperative Christophe Aguilar decided it was time to make his own wine. Today Christophe farms 60 hectares of vines, fifty-years ago his grandfather farmed the same soil, with a deep respect and understanding of the terroir. The winery is in the process of converting to organic having been sustainable. These Vin des Pays des Coteaux du Pont du Gard wines comes from the Southern Rhone valley known for its quarries and it’s stones that were used to build Roman aqueducts. In addition to making several blends using Syrah and Grenache they also make a Merlot and 2 Chardonnays, 1 aged in oak and 1 not. Below is some information on the  non- oaked Chardonnay.
The Chardonnay vines are 13 years old and the wine wine is vinified in tanks and aged in concrete for 3 months.On the palate the wine is dry and crisp with a sense of minerality. Citrus and peach show through and the the acidity makes this a great food wine to pair with salads, seafood, grilled vegetables and soft cheeses. The wine is meant to be drank in the next 3 years. This wine should retail for under $15.

2005 Smith-Madrone Spring Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon

Brothers Charles and Stu Smith started their 37 acre vineyard a top Spring Mountain in 1971. With vineyards planted to Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling and most recently Cabernet Franc and Merlot they produce about 4,000 cases combined. One would expect them to build their reputation on Napa Valley staples of Cabernet Sauvignon or Chardonnay, but at Smith-Madrone their known for their Riesling. The Riesling is considered to be on par with celebrated Riesling producers from around the world and is often on wine writers “best of” list each year. With breath taking views of Napa Valley the dry farmed vineyards are anywhere from 1,300-2,000 ft. above the valley floor. Doing almost everything themselves around the vineyards and winery Charles and Stu deserve the accolades they receive.

With 13 acres planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, the 2005 is a blend of 82% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Merlot and 9% Cabernet Franc and saw 22 months in new American oak. It is neither fined or filtered. Soft and lush at the beginning, with good black cherry and currant fruit and medium tannins this wine has nice character and complexity. A long lingering finish on the back of the palate, “this is one of the best Cabs I’ve had all year” said my drinking companion. This is not a big Cab, with huge tannins but a Cab. with finesse and structure. With less than 1,500 cases of the 05 produced this bottle is a steal at approximately $45. If you can find it make sure you grab a bottle or 2 and while at it if you can find their Chardonnay or Riesling one should stock up on those too. www.smithmadrone.com

2008 Flowers Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir


Started in 1989 by transplanted east coasters Walt & Joan Flowers fulfilling their dream, have made Flowers Winery into a staple on the northern California Chardonnay and Pinot Noir scene. From high a top their vineyards in Sonoma, Walt & Joan and their team, make wine from estate vineyards, Flowers Ranch and Camp Meeting Ridge and other vineyards from throughout the Sonoma Coast.

Using several different clones the 2008 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir is light in color, yet bold on the palate. Aged in French oak and coming mostly from Flowers estate vineyards it’s made in a Burgundian style, as it has good toasty oak and good fruit, along with mild tannins it offers balance and complexity. Leather and spice make for a nice finish. This wine will be at it’s best in the short term. Pairs well with roasted meats and salmon. 13.8% Retails about $45.

My thoughts on some Rodney Strong wines.

In the past few days I’ve had the opportunity to taste 3 wines from Rodney Strong Vineyards. First a brief history of Rodney Strong Vineyards. Rodney was former dancer who in 1959 retired from dancing and set off on a new career in winemaking. He was one of the 1st to plant vineyards in Sonoma County and its sub appellations of Russian River, Chalk Hill and Alexander Valley. Prior to that most of Sonoma was planted to fruit orchards. In 1970 Rodney started to build his winery in Sonoma County and in 1979 he hired Rick Sayre as winemaker, and to this day Rick still makes the wines. Fast forward to 1989 when Tom Klein purchases the winery from Rodney and expands the winery and starts to put the winery on a path to going green and sustainable winemaking practices. Rodney stayed on with the winery after he sold it and passed away in 2006 at age 78. I had the opportunity to meet and join Rodney for lunch early in my wine career when he was in town, a memorable experience. Now to wines.

2009 Estate Charlotte’s Home Sauvignon Blanc- Sonoma County
Named after Rodney’s wife this wine offers a delightful combination of crisp acidity and fruit structure. A lighter style wine it has a beautiful nose and seems to get better after it’s been opened for a day or two. Nice hint of minerals on the finish. Perfect to compliment a salad or sandwich or by itself on a hot summer afternoon. $9-$11. 4 out of 5 corks!

2007 Estate Chalk Hill Chardonnay- Sonoma County
A medium bodied chardonnay, this wine offers a balance of toasty oak and a buttery finish. A French oak presence is noticeable with a hint of vanilla along with some apple. A great wine for someone who is not a big fan of chardonnay’s(me). $16 3.5 out of 5 corks!

2007 Estate Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon- Sonoma Valley
This medium bodied cabernet is blended with a little bit of merlot, malbec and hint of syrah. It offers a nice mix of tannins and good dark fruit. A mix of French and American oak is used giving it the satying power to be drank over the next few years. $18 3.5 out 5 corks!

All wines were tasted over a few days and seem to get better after being opened for a day or 2.
So look for Rodney Strong wines and see what a winemaking pioneer’s philosophy can do with some of the lands great appellations and the grapes the land gives him.