A Friendly California Trio from Vinum Cellars

Brand: Vinum Cellars was founded in 1997 by first generation, California family winemakers, Richard Bruno and Chris Condos in Napa Valley. The duo met while students at UC Davis, and bonded over their love of Chenin Blanc. “Committed to experimenting and learning new winemaking methods while preserving an old world approach”, they combine unique methods such as experimenting with yeast strains, and using old French barrels for ageing.

The V Series is a line of “unique wines from classic regions for the every day”. All three wines are certified sustainable, small lots and hand crafted.

Philosophy: Winemaking begins in the vineyard, so they value their strong relationships with great grape growers, in order to develop the best fruit in the vineyard.

Vinum Cellars ‘V Series’ Chardonnay Monterey 2015

Winemaking: Grapes are from the famed Santa Lucía Highlands district. Fermented [full malo-lactic fermentation in barrel] and aged in 2 year old French oak barrels.

Tasting Notes: Deep gold in colour with aromas of fresh lemon tart, buttery toast and wildflowers. Vivid lemon and mango flavours are framed by bright acidity. Vanilla and traces of caramel linger on the long, creamy finish.

100% Chardonnay
13.5% Alcohol
$14 [average price]

Pairing Suggestions from the Winemakers: A fine aperitif wine, but really shines with grilled wild caught Salmon/Halibut/New England lobster, with a mango cilantro salsa and dusted with a pinch of cayenne. Serve it with steamed broccoli rabe with a squeeze of Meyer lemon, dust with sea salt along with roasted fingerling potatoes with rosemary.

Vinum Cellars ‘V Series’ Rosé Paso Robles 2016

Winemaking: grapes were grown by Tony Domingos at Seashell Vineyard in Paso Robles’ Geneseo district. Cold fermented for about 30 days to “capture the natural floral, strawberry and berry aromas of these varietals”.

Tasting Notes: Coral pink in colour, very aromatic, with prominent floral notes complimented by strawberries, dusty earth and light peppery spice. Delicate strawberry and watermelon flavors are given a squeeze of fresh lemon acidity. Soft spice and earth notes compliment the dry, fruity finish. Wonderfully gluggable, versatile at the table.

Blend of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre
13.5% Alcohol
$14 [average price]

Pairing Suggestions from the Winemakers: An excellent sipper on its own, however the acidity will stand up to most any dish. Try with roasted beet salad dusted with roasted almonds and goat cheese, seafood and fresh fish dishes.

Vinum Cellars ‘V Series’ Pinot Noir Monterey 2015

Winemaking: Grapes are from Monterey near King City, on the West side foothills of the lower Santa Lucia Highlands. Malo-Lactic fermentation and 9 months aging in used French barrels. Not racked, “because we like our Pinot Noir to ride the wave between oxidation and reduction”.

Tasting Notes: Transparent red-violet in colour with aromas of cherry, black cherry, earth and toasted oak. Cherry, strawberry, black cherry and a shake of white pepper glide atop silky tannins, wrapped in food friendly acidity. Vanilla, oak and baking spices linger on the dry, fruity finish.

100% Pinot Noir
13.5% Alcohol
$14 [average price]

Pairing Suggestions from the Winemakers: Drinks excellent on its own, or with cheese plates including Morbier, aged white cheddar, Stilton and Chèvre. Pairs well with wild mushroom risotto and shaved Reggiano with or without truffle oil. It’s a natural with duck breast, cassoulet or brick oven chicken. Earthy greens work well such as mustard, collard and beet greens as well as kale.



Samples submitted for review purpose.

Backyard Sippers: The Dreaming Tree Chardonnay 2015 & Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

Winery: Dreaming Tree Wines is the creation of legendary musician Dave Matthews along with New Zealand winemaker Sean McKenzie. The duo is passionate about crafting accessible wines that express “the unique characters and rich flavours” of California’s wine country. The portfolio currently consists of 6 wines, all sourced from various sustainably farmed vineyards in California.

A Certified California Sustainable Winegrowing winery, they strive for sustainability in all facets of wine production, including sustainable methods in the vineyard, bottles that are a quarter pound lighter and manufactured with clean-burning natural gas, 100% recycled paper labels, along with natural corks sourced from sustainable farms. The winery also utilizes solar energy, having the largest solar footprint in the US wine industry.

Philosophy: To make “wines for people to drink. I don’t make wines for people to put in their cellar.”

The Dreaming Tree Chardonnay California 2015

Winemaking: Grapes were harvested at night and early morning to keep the fruit cool. Fermented and aged for 8 months in a combination of oak barrels and stainless steel tanks.

Tasting Notes: Gold in colour with lemon, pear, peach, grass and white pepper aromas radiating from the glass. Vivid pear, yellow apple, pineapple along with a hint of pink grapefruit are accented by a clean herbaceous streak. Creamy lemon and buttery toast linger between each sip. Intense fruit, yet light on its feet this is fantastic summery sip on its own or with a wide variety of dishes.

Pairing Suggestions from the Winery: Delicious with grilled seafood, goat cheese and mushroom pizza, herb roasted chicken, or stone fruits, ricotta, and arugula.

100% Chardonnay
13.8% Alcohol
$13 [average price]

The Dreaming Tree Cabernet Sauvignon California 2014

Winemaking: The heat and dry conditions of 2014 “delivered big fruit expression, great tannin development and nice ripeness across all varietals”. Wines were aged separately in oak for 16 months, then blended to bring out the true character of the varietal.

Tasting Notes: Garnet in colour with aromas of dark berry fruits, a hint of vanilla and wisps of toasted oak. Black cherry, blackberry and plum are wrapped around a black pepper core. Soft tannins facilitate a seamless merge into chocolate, pink peppercorn, earth and black cherry on the plush finish. A fantastic balance of bright fruit and spice, friendly and easy to pair with all types of dishes, especially anything off a backyard grill.

Pairing Suggestions from the Winery: A fun start or end to any meal. Enjoy with grilled flank steak, BBQ ribs, grilled veggies, portabella and grilled onion burgers.

78% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Merlot, 4% Malbec, 3% Petit Verdot, 2% Cabernet Franc
13.6% Alcohol
$13 [average price]



Samples submitted for review purpose.

Château des Charmes Blanc de Blancs 2012

Estate: Paul Bosc, a fifth generation French winegrower who holds degrees in Viticulture and Oenology from the University of Burgundy in Dijon, France, founded Château des Charmes in 1978. Paul brought his young family to the Niagara on the Lake region of Canada in the 1960’s “with the idea that growing our own grapes was the best way to make fine wine”. The estate consists of 280 acres of vineyards in four locations all within the Niagara-on-the-Lake region.

Paul established himself as a pioneer in the region, from planting traditional French varietals to employing cutting edge techniques such as installing wind machines to protect the vines from the cold. In addition to being recognized for their progressive, groundbreaking work with traditional French grapes and methods, their wines have garnered accolades for their balance, finesse and quality. Paul Sr still has an active role in the vineyards, his son Paul Jr is President of the estate, and Paul Jr’s wife Michèle is the Director of Marketing.

Philosophy: “We are custodians of the land.” Crafting wines that are “food friendly and age worthy. We hope you will call them delicious”.

Winemaking: Committed from the very beginning to sustainable practices, the family is a charter member of Sustainable Winegrowing Ontario. Chemical treatments are never used, and sustainable methods such as hedge vine canopies, and under drainage are utilized. Naturally occurring yeasts are used for the majority of the wines. All by-products from the winemaking process [stems, skins, seeds] are returned to the vineyards as natural fertilizer. Their extensive cellars are geothermal and do not require any heating or cooling, especially impressive considering how cold Canadian winters can be.

Grapes were sourced from all 4 of their vineyard sites “in order to help maintain the consistency of aromas and flavours in the cuvée each year”. Produced using Méthode Traditionelle, aged on the lees for a minimum of 24 months.

Tasting Notes: Pale gold in colour with enticing aromas of lemon, honey and buttery toast. Flavours are delightfully consistent with the aromas; with creamy honey and lemon drizzled on buttered toast, surrounded by subtle, soft bubbles. A touch of minerality and citrus define the zippy finish. Fantastic on its own, or with a wide range of light dishes.

Pairing Suggestions from the Winery: This is a yummy wine for sipping while making dinner. It’s fresh and crisp so it will also pair with many appetizers; from smoked salmon to grilled scallops.

100% Chardonnay
Niagara-on-the-Lake VQA
Estate Bottled
12.5% Alcohol
$29 [Canadian Dollars]
Enjoy now

Kungfu Girl and Eve: Two Charles Smith Washington State Beauties to Welcome Spring

Winery: Renowned, self-taught pioneer winemaker Charles Smith is the founder and winemaker behind Charles Smith Family wines. His “kick ass attitude and bold packaging has earned him the moniker ‘rock star’ of Washington State Syrah”. With his many diverse brands [K Vintners, Wines of Substance, Sixto, Charles & Charles, Secco and Vino] he is able to offer a wide variety of wines varying in cost from budget friendly to highly rated, single vineyard Syrahs in the $100 range. Within all of his labels, Smith strives to craft sustainably farmed wines that “are full of flavor, balanced, and true to place of origin”.

Created in 2006, the Charles Smith Wines label was themed as “The Modernist Project”. Focusing on how people tend to drink wine today, which is immediately, the goal is to create approachable wines “to be enjoyed now, but with true typicity of both the varietal and the vineyard”. A fantastic concept; a Riesling that tastes like a Riesling from Washington State! Modern with a sassy edge, Charles Smith labels are renowned for their clean black and white artwork created by Charles Smith and artist Rikke Korffsure. Super eye catching and easily recognizable, the style has become synonymous with K Vintners and Charles Smith.

Philosophy: “It’s just wine, drink it.”

Winemaking: Both Riesling and Chardonnay grapes were sourced from the ‘Evergreen’ Vineyard. Planted in 1998, the vineyard stretches across steep cliffs above the Columbia River, within Washington’s newest AVA, Ancient Lakes. The soil is composed of fragmented volcanic rock, gravel, limestone and silt, and is known for producing “fruit with sublime mineral character and great acidity”. Kungfu Girl Riesling was aged on the lees for 2 months in barrels. Eve Chardonnay was fermented with partially native yeasts. Aged on the lees for 5 months in barrels [no new oak].

Charles Smith ‘Kungfu Girl’ Riesling Washington State 2015
Pale gold in colour with invigorating aromas of grass, apple, earth and petrol. Peach, green apple, pear and minerals are glazed with a touch of honey. Perfectly balanced, with an energizing play between acidity and subtle sweetness carrying thru to the clean, zippy finish. Super refreshing and easy drinking, the moderate alcohol contributes to what I would call “fantastically gluggable”.

Pairing Suggestion from the Winery: Thai or Chinese food, five spice pork or duck, fresh seafood.

100% Riesling
12% Alcohol
$12 [average price]

Charles Smith ‘Eve’ Chardonnay Washington State 2014
Gold in colour with aromas of lemon balm, orange blossom, anise and a trace of butter. Silky layers of lemon, apple, pear and a streak of minerality culminate in a delectable creamy finish. Sunny and cheerful, fantastic on its own or with a wide variety of dishes. [It was perfect with goat gouda grilled cheese with arugula.]

Pairing Suggestion from the Winery: Golden squash with sautéed Shrimp.

100% Chardonnay
13.5% Alcohol
$12 [average price]


Samples submitted for review purpose.

Trentino Winemaker’s Lunch at Del Posto: An Intimate Glance at Cooperation, Dedication, Stories and Superb Wines

I was honored to be invited by The Consortium of Trentino Wines to attend their winemaker’s lunch at DEL POSTO restaurant in October. The Trentino region produces about an equivalent amount of both red and white wines, using indigenous and international grapes. The focus of the lunch was to highlight the character driven sparkling and white wines, which have drawn significant acclaim. With its unique location and history of German influence, the area produces white wines that display easy drinking fruit and mineral flavours with a backbone of crisp acidity that are emblematic of the region.

The fundamental motif of wines presented was one of mutual cooperation amongst growers and winemakers. Cooperative wineries offer small family growers an opportunity to retain and work their ancestral lands, where otherwise there would be no economic opportunity to do so. The generally small plots of land these farmers own are on steep slopes of the Dolomites in the Alps, necessitating all vineyard processes to be done by hand. The cooperative provides the growers with the freedom to maintain their family cultivation traditions that have been passed along from generation to generation, along with the benefit of access to modern winery facilities and international marketing resources.


Matteo Mattei and Andrea Pedrolli at Del Posto, NYC, October 28, 2014

I was seated with Matteo Mattei, General Director of Cantina D’Isera and Andrea Pedrolli of Cantina Roverè della Luna. It was such an amazing experience to enjoy phenomenal wines and a lovely lunch in a relaxed atmosphere with Matteo and Andrea. I had the opportunity to seek their insight on their processes, and feel that experience reciprocated by producers on their first trip to the United States, exuberant to share their passion with a new land.

The highlights of our wonderful conversation [my Italian is rather rusty] revolved around the protection of the environment and the preservation of the culture of the generations of families that live and work on the land. Farmers know that they are passing the land down to their future generations, and therefore vineyard cultivation is done without the use of chemicals [although not certified and not advertised].

The wine that Matteo presented was a sparkling wine made solely of Chardonnay grapes in the Champagne method. This is his family’s “Sunday wine”, it is meant to be enjoyed throughout the long family meals traditionally held on Sunday. It is light, airy and its purpose is to be a palate cleanser for all of the wonderful food served. Every house [family] in the area has their own version, Matteo’s grandfather passed the tradition down to him. “It’s a story, not a wine.”

The inner workings of the co-op were presented in great detail from Andrea. She relayed how involved the individual growers are in all stages of the wine making processes. In addition to typical interactions of living and farming in close proximity, they hold a yearly “sharing of ideas” meeting, which becomes a very vocally democratic process for determining changes (if any) to all aspects of wine-making operations. Additionally, I received a sneak peak into next year; she said the summer of 2014 was very rainy, “luckily this didn’t damage the quality of the grapes, the vintage is safe” but they will unfortunately have a reduced production.

Andrea, with her English skills, reflected the spirit of the cooperatives, she was there to promote her wines, yet also was instrumental in translating for her fellow winemakers. Just as important to her was promoting and disseminating knowledge of the Trentino region, in addition to her wines.

Cantina D’Isera 1907 Riserva Brut Trentodoc

Winery: Cantina d’Isera was founded in 1907 under the name Cantina Sociale when the area was still under the rule of the Hapsburg Empire. Today there are over 200 members that cultivate 230 hectares of land. The cooperative operates under the principle that “A good wine is born in the vineyard”.

Philosophy: To “appreciate and love the wines created from the passion of man and the generosity of the hills of Isera”.

Tasting Notes: Pale straw in colour with a sparkling mineral aroma. Delicate apple and floral notes glided on an undercurrent of silky bubbles, whilst clean minerals comprised the elegant finish. Incredibly refined and easy drinking, this is a glass you keep reaching for.
100% Chardonnay
12.5% Alcohol
€8 [Average price in Italy, it does not have a US importer yet.]

La Vis Ritratti del Diaol Chardonnay 2012

Winery: Cantina La Vis is located in the Avisiane Hills and dates back to 1850 when the Cembran family began producing wine. Officially established in 1948, today the cooperative has 800 members that cultivate more than 800 hectares of vineyards. The label is the work of Giovanni Segantini, a Trentino born artist known for his landscape paintings of the Alps along with rustic scenes of people such as peasant, farmers and shepherds, working the earth. Noted for the connections people have with nature, the cooperative chose his paintings as they resonate with their own ideals and people, the growers are passionate and proud of their interwoven relationship with the earth.

Winemaking: The grapes were sourced from a single estate vineyard located on a steep hill. It is the highest quality wine they make, with only 9000 bottles produced in this vintage. Unoaked, each vintage is known to age quite well.

Tasting Notes: Brilliant gold in colour with aromas of lemon along with hints of pineapple. The lengthy finish of slate minerals complimented rich lemon and buttered bread flavours. A wonderful display of rich plush flavours that maintain a delicate edge.
100% Chardonnay
13.5% Alcohol
$55 [average price]

Roverè della Luna Winchel ‘Quaranta Jugheri’ Gewürztraminer 2012

Winery: The cooperative of Roveré della Luna was founded in 1919 by 14 winemakers passionate about crafting excellent wines. It is located in the most northern village of Trentino at the base of an “immense calcareous landslide” in an area known for its oak trees. Today the cooperative consists of 300 members cultivating over 420 hectares of vineyards in the DOC’s of Trentino, Alto Adige and Valdadige.

Winemaking: A dynamic, holistic approach is given to winemaking. The “extremely modern” winery is based on the people and the passion they have for growing and producing wines, respect for the land, along with a dedication to research and innovation. This is their first vintage of Gewürztraminer, grapes were sourced from the Winchel vineyard, and only 1480 bottles were produced.

Tasting Notes: Deep gold in colour with radiating aromas of juicy peach, rose and traces of petrol. Fresh apple and peach flavours harmonized with spicy ginger and crushed white peppercorn, whilst clean minerals lingered refreshingly between each sip.
100% Gewürztraminer
13.5% Alcohol
No. 0028 of 1480

Fondazione Edmund Mach Castel San Michele Moscato Rosa delle Dolomiti IGT 2012


A luscious pairing: Moscato Rosa with chocolate hazelnut mousse bar, spicy hazelnuts & citrus syrup

Winery: Fondazione Edmund Mach was founded by the Tyrolean Parliament in 1874 when they opened an agricultural school and research center in the former Augustinian monastery of San Michele in Trentino. They chose renowned Austrian Dr. Edmund Mach to run the center, with a goal of increasing agricultural production. Today the farm consists of 120 hectares of vineyards and apple trees, a distillery, and a wine cellar located in the 12th century Augustinian monastery. This blend of modernity and antiquity creates “an atmosphere suspended between history, where the art of winemaking has been practiced uninterruptedly for almost a thousand years”. In addition to the winery, the farm “promotes and carries out research, scientific experiments, education and training activities technical assistance and extensions services to companies”. The center strives to improve and advance “cultural and socio-economic growth in the agricultural sector”, using a model of sustainable agriculture and “low environmental impact”.

Winemaking: Grapes were sourced from 2 vineyards; Becchetti, which was planted in 1960, and Oberrauch, planted in 1988. Moscato Rosa is somewhat of a rarity, as there are very few vineyards planted with it, and yields tend to be low. It is not classified as late harvest or passito since the grapes “accumulate unusual concentrations of sugar, resulting in wines with high alcohol and natural residual sugar while retaining excellent levels of mouth-cleansing acidity”.

Tasting Notes: Brilliant red-violet in colour with radiant aromas of rose and red berries. Sweet raspberry and cherry flavours were complimented by candied roses and hints of spicy clove. A vivid acidity and wonderfully dry finish maintain a balance with the sweet notes, making this fantastic with desserts, especially chocolate.
100% Moscato Rosa
Vignetti delle Dolomiti IGT
12.5% Alcohol
$20 [average price]

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