What grape is that….?

With an estimated 10,000+ varieties of grapes used to produce wine around the world, why are only familiar w/ a small portion of them. Some grapes grow in specific regions in the world, some are grown throughout the world. Some are used exclusively for blending and some are bottled by themselves. Some grapes are the same but called by different names in different parts of the world i.e. Shiraz & Syrah or Grenache & Garnacha.

In on going posts “What grape is that..” I will shed some light on lesser known varieties that are slowly making their way onto the international wine scene. Quite often we’ve tasted theses wines, but never knew what they were. Think about it, 10 years ago who knew what Gruner Veltliner, unless you were from Austria. Here we go……

GRILLO is a Sicilian white grape that is used in Marsala and some producers bottle it by itself and it makes for light, refreshing glass of wine. It should not be confused with the red grape GROLLEAU from the Loire Valley. This grape is often used for rose or blending. It also has a very unique taste profile.

TORRONTES from Argentina is white wine that is very aromatic on the nose and is starting to get some recognition in the U.S. after riding Malbecs coat tails.

Just a few wines for today. Continue to check back for other grapes/wines you may not have heard of.. yet!

06 Rotta Winery Dino Boneso Vineryard Cabernet Franc

With the winery dating back to the 1850s, the Rotta family has owned it since 1908. Grandson of founders, Mike Giubbini has been pulling the winery out of a dormant stage to revive some of the family traditions and replanted vines back in 1990. Planting mostly Zinfandel on their 20 acres of estate vineyards which is also dry farmed, they starting bottling under the Rotta name back in 2002 after years of selling grapes to nearby wineries. Focusing on mostly red wines they also purchase grapes from local vineyards mostly on the Westside of Paso Robles and Templeton area. I’ve been told that the following wine is the only vineyard designate Cabernet Franc from California.

The 06 Dino Boneso Cabernet Franc is light colored garnet to the eye and and pretty on the nose with hints of cherry fruit and spices. Spicy and soft on the palate, its medium tannins linger and are worthy of the many accolades this wine has garnered. Dry on the finish it has a nice mouth feel and is not to overpowering. Limited in production this wine would go well with both grilled and/or roasted meats and wild game. suggested retail should be under $25 for this treat. www.rottawinery.com

Who is Plavac Mali? Parent or Offspring?

As grapes are living, breathing organisms they have DNA just like us humans. And also like us humans, grapes have traceable ancestry. Parent grapes, going back to the country of origin and finding relative grapes have become a science. Plavac Mali (pronounced Pla-Vatz Malee)had been thought to be a parent of Zinfandel, but has been found to be offspring of Zinfandel. The Zinfandel grape which has been considered an “American grape” has been widely thought to be the same as Italian grape Primitivo, from the southern part of Italy. DNA testing shows that the Zinfandel ancestry relates to the Croatian grape Plavac Mali and grown in vineyards along the Dalmatian coast. All are related though none are identical.

With the help of Mike Grgich, owner of Grgich Hills winery in Napa Valley & born in Croatia, DNA testing shows that Plavac Mali and Zinfandel are not the same grape but related and that Zinfandel could actually be parent, along with Dobricic, to Plavac Mali. DNA tests show that Zinfandel is actually the Croatian grape Crljenak.

Plavac Mali translates into “small blue” and refers to the grape itself, which tends to be lighter in body than Zinfandel. Milos Plavac Mali is one of Croatia’s most respected producers of the grape. Making only about 2,500 cases of Plavac Mali, winemaker/owner Frano Milos doesn’t manipulate the wine and uses only natural yeast before aging the wine 1 year in oak then, 2 years in the bottle before release.Garnet to the eye it’s spicy with good fruit you can see the relation to Zinfandel. Cherry and currant flavors evolve along with a smoky flavor that screams for wild game or a beef roast pairing. With a 12.8% alcohol level it’s not over powering or “hot” as we say. It should retail for between $20-$25. With the popularity of Croatian wines in the United States in recent years don’t be surprised if you see this delicious wine on restaurant wine lists and wine retailers shelves.

Reference: Meredith, Dr. Carole “Looking for Zinfandel in Croatia” in Zinfandel Express January 2002.

The Search for the Perfect Bottle of Wine

Whether your a consumer, restauranteur or wine retailer you’re always on the search for the perfect bottle of wine, well I’m here to tell you like Santa Claus & the Easter Bunny, it doesn’t exist. Whether I was selling wine to consumers or wine buyers I’ve come across many who spend way to much time looking, tasting & researching for that perfect bottle. What I find interesting is many are those who are looking in the under $10 price point. With wine being subjective, everybody has their opinion on what a wine should be and what perfection is. I remember working with one restauranteur who was looking for a Pinot Noir for his by the glass list for months and tasted him on almost every one in my portfolio, and after he tasted with me and other sales people he finally made a decision. Fortunately for me it was one I showed him. Another was still considering a $6.50 bottle of red for over 6 weeks, that they had already mentioned they liked. Searching for the perfect wine is the motivation for many consumers & buyers.

Nowadays there are is an ocean wine on the market from all over the globe, and more on the way, so it’s no wonder that people think that perfection is somewhere out there a drift. So for those of you that are on the search, just keep in mind it’s not the destination but the journey.

Is Zinfandel Rose the same as White Zinfandel?

With the increasing popularity of rose wine in the last few years, I wondered if zinfandel rose’s are the same as white zinfandel. Are some wineries using the word “rose” to distance themselves from white zinfandel drinkers and white zinfandel’s reputation. Are they true roses’ with more complexity and tannins than white zinfandel?

White zinfandel’s tend to use “free run” juice, just using the weight of grapes on top & not getting skin contact and tannins from the skins. Rose’s get their complexity and character from the skin and tannins.

If you call it a ‘Rose of Zinfandel” is it bad marketing and/or too confusing?

Your thoughts are welcome.

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.

Crane Brothers 2006 Brodatious


Michael and Robert Crane have been making wine since 2001 using grapes from their families 9 acre Crane Ranch Vineyard in the Oak Knoll district of Napa Valley. The vineyards are on the valley floor and on the hillsides above and are overseen by Jon Anthony Truchard. Using organic and sustainable farming methods they produce less than 400 cases each of their wines.
Winemaker Al Perry has been making Crane Brothers wines since the beginning. He also makes wine for Robert Biale Vineyards where he is also co-owner. In his 25 year plus career, Al has made wine for some of the most well respected wineries in Napa Valley including Stags Leap Winery and Opus One as well as for Yalumba in Australia.

The 2006 Brodatious is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Syrah and is aged in French oak. Big and juicy at the beginning this wine has nuances of black cherry and berries. Spices and oak along with softer tannins gives it a nice lingering finish. ABV is 14.5% and should retail for about $35

2010 Kogl “Mea Culpa” Ranina


Back in 1542 is when Kogl Estates starting producing wine in the Podravje region of Slovenia, not far from the Hungarian and Croatian borders. It was dormant for quite a while until 1983 when the Svetko family bought the winery and vineyards and brought both back online. Using both old world traditions and new world technology Kogl specialty is white wines, with red wines having been recently added to their portfolio. Dessert wines are also being made.

The 2010 Ranina is rare grape and translates to “early ripening”. With a pretty nose of honey and wild flower, the wine is dry on the 1st sip and has a good mouth texture. Good acidity and fruit gives this wine a nice balance that could be paired with both hot and cold foods. It could also be drank by itself. This wine is an excellent example of a rare grape from an emerging wine region.

Wines of Croatia & Slovenia



Some of the most exciting new wines coming to the United States are the delicious and racy wines from Eastern European countries such as Croatia & Slovenia. Situated on the north and eastern side of the Adriatic Sea and across from Italy both countries have centuries of wine making tradition that has only recently become evident in the U.S. Making both wines from grapes only found in their respected countries and grapes that are internationally known, both Croatia and Slovenia wines are being widely accepted by great retailers and restaurants around the country. Many are practicing natural methods of wine making using only grapes and natural yeast, which allows for the terroir to speak through the wine. So don’t be surprised to see some of these wines at your local wine shop or restaurant. And more importantly give them a try.

Coronica Malvasia is a crisp, acidic white wine that offers good fruit, minerality and is a well balanced food wine. Grown in nutrient rich soil & near the sea, it benefits from the Mediterranean climate found in the Istrian region of northern Croatia. This wine would go great with both fish and lighter fare foods. Retails for about $20.

Kabaj Sivi Pinot is known as pinot grigio outside of Slovenia and is made by Frenchman Jean Michel Morel and his wife Katja Kabaj at there western Slovenian winery, not far from Collio Italy. The Kabaj family has been selling grapes for generations and only started making wine in the 1993 after Slovenia disbanded from Yugoslavia. With vineyards near the Italian border, Kabaj makes wine in a very old world style using clay vats (called “Qveri amphora”) for fermenting and aging in some of their wines.
This full bodied pinot is crisp, lively and dry also shows good fruit and complexity rarely found in pinot grigio’s. It is aged for a year in oak and held back 3 years prior to release. It would go well with shellfish, cheese’s and fruits. Retail is about $20.