Pairing Pros/Recipes

Renteria Knittel Vineyard

Dec, 2007 Issue

Ask almost any winemaker, and he or she will tell you a great wine starts in the vineyard. So it only makes sense that Renteria Wines had just such a beginning—literally. Owner Salvador Renteria began his career in 1963 as a vineyard worker at Sterling Vineyards. By 1987, he started Renteria Vineyard Management, which is now one of the largest grape-farming companies in Northern California. Sal’s son, Oscar, assumed leadership of the company in 1993. It was his idea to begin making wine.

The Renteria family now owns 52 acres in Napa Valley. They launched their own wine label in 1997. Along with winemaker Karen Culler, they produce 2,000 cases of Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon annually.


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Renteria Knittel Vineyard

Dec, 2007 Issue

Ask almost any winemaker, and he or she will tell you a great wine starts in the vineyard. So it only makes sense that Renteria Wines had just such a beginning—literally. Owner Salvador Renteria began his career in 1963 as a vineyard worker at Sterling Vineyards. By 1987, he started Renteria Vineyard Management, which is now one of the largest grape-farming companies in Northern California. Sal’s son, Oscar, assumed leadership of the company in 1993. It was his idea to begin making wine.

The Renteria family now owns 52 acres in Napa Valley. They launched their own wine label in 1997. Along with winemaker Karen Culler, they produce 2,000 cases of Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon annually.


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Brogan Cellars

Dec, 2007 Issue

If—after the increase in Pinot Noir’s popularity—you haven’t heard of Brogan Cellars, you just weren’t listening. (And if you have, you know what I mean.) So perk up your ears, because this is some of the most luscious, velvety, well-rounded, sexy and flat-out wonderful wine you can find.

Winemaker/owner Margi Wierenga’s magic touch might possibly be in her genes (her father being Burt Williams of Williams Selyem). And much like Burt, Margi set up shop in a garage in Dry Creek Valley. She’s still there, but has since expanded her operation to Hopland, where she lives. She also sources all her grapes from her favorite Sonoma County growers, and even some from her father’s vineyard in Anderson Valley.


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MacMurray Ranch

Columnist: Julie Fadda
Nov, 2007 Issue

 

MacMurray Ranch

  Pinot Gris


  Stuffed Artichoke Hearts

 

MacMurray Ranch
Winemaker Susan Doyle Williams
 

    MacMurray Ranch is named after actor Fred MacMurray (of “My Three Sons” fame), who purchased the property from the Porter family (descendents of Colonel George Porter) in 1941. MacMurray raised his family there with his wife, actress June Haver. Their daughter, Kate MacMurray, now lives and works full time on the ranch, where its Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris are made.  

    Winemaker Susan Doyle, who hails from Australia, New Zealand and Tasmania, crafts MacMurray Ranch wines with a balance of art and science. The 2005 Pinot Gris has melon and peach aromas and flavors balanced with crisp citrus and spice elements. Its clean finish makes it the perfect pairing for this stuffed artichoke hearts recipe by Kate’s mom, June. 


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Hartford Family Winery

Special Wine Issue, Oct, 2007

Founded in 1993 by Don and Jennifer Hartford, Hartford Family Winery prides itself on making wines of character and constantly strives to uncover exceptional vineyard sources. Its 2005 Russian River Valley Zinfandel is a blend of six old vine (most are more than 90 years old), dry-farmed and low-yielding vineyards from the appellation’s eastern edge. The grapes are handled gently (in the same manner as the winery’s Pinot Noir), then aged in 100 percent French oak. Rich layers of dark berries, pepper and spice in both aroma and flavor round out its character with stunning and memorable detail. It’s paired here with a tri-tip recipe by Constantinos “Taki” Laliotitis, the winery’s executive chef.


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Storybook Mountain Vineyards

Special Wine Issue, Oct, 2007

The tale at Storybook Mountain Vineyards focuses on Zinfandel. Jerry and Sigrid Seps purchased the property (which included an abandoned 1880s winery and caves built into the mountain) in the 1970s and began paying homage to its original varietal right away. Since then, their wines have won widespread recognition and have even been served at the White House on several occasions. A founding member of ZAP, Jerry served as its president for five years.

Today the winery offers both Zinfandels and Bordeaux blends. We tried the 2005 Napa Estate Mayacamas Range Zinfandel, which is a bold offering of youthful zing and spice. Check it out with this chuck roast recipe by wine club member John Kane Hartnett. In Sigrid’s words, “Rare is it when the (former) owner of your distributorship, who also happens to be an excellent cook, is so inspired by your wine that he creates a recipe to go with one of his favorite bottlings. Here it is.”


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Miner Family Vineyards

Oct, 2007 Issue

Miner Family Vineyards was founded in 1998 by Dave and Emily Miner and Dave’s parents, Ed and Norma. It’s located at the eastern edge of Oakville, and offers many different varietals—each with its own distinct characteristics. Its 2005 Napa Valley Chardonnay was 100 percent barrel fermented and aged for 10 months in 40 percent new French oak. It has apple, mineral and citrus notes in both aroma and flavor, while its oak characteristics ride right into its lengthy finish. It’s a fun, food-friendly find.

According to Dave, “At Miner, we handcraft our Chardonnays in the Burgundian style, using carefully selected fruit from low-yielding, hillside vineyards for great natural acidity. The result is a clean, fresh wine that continues to evolve in the glass.”


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Inspiration Vineyards

Oct, 2007 Issue

A barrel of Zinfandel started Jon and Barbara Phillips on the road to making wine for friends and family in 1999. But shortly thereafter, they caught the winemaking bug completely and, in 2001, purchased a six-acre estate on Olivet Road in the Russian River Valley. In 2003, they announced their first commercial release of their 2002 vintage. Today, they produce about 500 cases of six types of wine on an annual basis.

The Chardonnay is grown on the Phillips’ estate, and is carefully harvested by hand. The grapes are fermented and aged in two- and three-year-old French oak barrels. The result is a crisp, delightful wine with apple, pear and citrus on the palate and hardly a hint of oak. It’s paired here with a grilled prawns/fruit salsa recipe. In Jon’s words, “I like this recipe with our Chardonnay because it has all the wonderful, tangy, tropical flavors of fruit, with a slight heat from the chili that really compliments both the prawns and the wine. Our wine has just enough acid that it creates a great balance between all of the tropical flavors.” Close your eyes while you’re enjoying this pairing, and it’s almost like you’re on vacation.


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Hook & Ladder

Sep, 2007 Issue

When you hear the name De Loach, you may think of the De Loach Vineyard winery, a huge contributor to popularizing the Russian River Valley appellation. And it’s true. Former owners Cecil and Christine De Loach (they sold the brand in 2003) began farming grapes in the area in the early 1970s. By the time they sold, the winery was producing 250,000 cases annually. But in 2004, they refocused their efforts on a smaller, family-owned winery they called Hook & Ladder.

What’s with the firehouse reference, you ask? Cecil was a San Francisco firefighter for 16 years. Today, Hook & Ladder Winery produces 11 different types of wine. Its Cabernet Sauvignon is made from grapes grown at its Los Amigos Ranch, located in the warm Chalk Hill appellation of the Russian River Valley. It’s deep and dark in both flavor and color and is paired here with a delicious recipe for beef ribs and smashed potatoes.


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St. Supéry Vineyards & Winery

Sep, 2007 Issue

The Skalli family began planting Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc in Napa Valley in 1982. Their first crush was in 1988, and they opened their doors to visitors two years later. Robert Skalli, who is a third-generation French winemaker and president of St. Supéry, acquired the Rutherford estate in 1986. The original home on the property is a Victorian built in the 1880s, now a living museum called the Atkinson House (after its original owners). The winery is named after the French winemaker, Edward St. Supéry, who once lived in the house.

Today, the winery offers various tours through its facility, two tasting rooms (one where you can taste Meritage, library, estate and small production wines), as well as an art gallery. Its 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon has been highly acclaimed and exhibits the classic, dense and balanced characteristics for which Rutherford is so well known. It’s paired here with a grilled flank steak recipe, courtesy of St. Supéry Vineyards & Winery Chef Ron Barber. Bon appétit!


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Imagery Estate Winery

Aug, 2007 Issue

At Imagery Estate Winery, it’s all about the thrill of finding something new. Winemaker Joe Benziger focuses on crafting small amounts of uncommon and site-specific wines from carefully chosen vineyards. His offerings include estate-grown Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Zinfandel, as well as Malbec, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, Sangiovese, Tempranillo, White Burgundy and Viognier. Like at the Benziger Family Winery (yes, they’re related), the estate grapes are biodynamically farmed.

Imagery also regularly releases an artist’s collection of wines, each featuring a label designed by an artist chosen by curator Bob Nugent. A gallery at the winery’s Glen Ellen tasting room (along Highway 12) holds the majority of the almost 200 original pieces. Each one has appeared as a wine label. Artists are given free reign, with one requirement: placing a depiction of the Parthenon somewhere within the artwork. Take your friends for a visit and have fun trying to find the Parthenons in the different pieces. In the meantime, go ahead and enjoy a bottle of Imagery’s Sonoma County Viognier (soft and rich, with aromas of peach and honey) along with this recipe by Michele Anna Jordan.


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Saddleback Cellars

Aug, 2007 Issue

Saddleback Cellars is nestled in the heart of Napa’s Oakville region. Owned and operated by Nils Venge, its first vintage was released in 1982. The estate is made up of 17 acres, and its modest winery produces some highly acclaimed bottlings. Most of the 6,000 cases of wine produced is grown on the estate, while a small percentage is purchased from select vineyard growers. The winery offers Pinot Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Viognier, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel.

Assistant winemaker Lars Bjorkman says Viognier is one of his favorite varietals to work with. He’s excited about the 2006 vintage in particular. Saddleback’s Viognier is grown in Clarksburg (an up-and-coming wine growing region in the Sacramento Delta area), where hot summer days are ideal for the varietal. The result is a palate-pleasing adventure, where apricot and floral aromas open into a bouquet of peaches, minerals and a deliciously long finish. It’s paired here with a recipe that’s part of a menu developed for Epicurious.com by Charles Phan, chef/owner of The Slanted Door restaurant in San Francisco.


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Williamson Wines

Jul, 2007 Issue

The first time I met Bill Williamson, my managing editor Alex and I were at his newly opened tasting room just off the square in Healdsburg. He left us with quite the memorable quote: “Wine is grape juice on its journey to vinegar, trapped by a cork.” Bill’s enthusiasm for his wines, coupled with his easy charm, wit and ability to come up with pairing ideas wasn’t lost on us, either.

Hailing from Australia, Bill (who is the winemaker) and his wife Dawn moved to their Dry Creek Valley estate in 1991 from Silicon Valley, where they’d lived since 1980. In the beginning, they sold their grapes to a local winery. But in 2002, they decided to venture out on their own. And good thing they did. The 2003 Amour Merlot is an outstanding example of their estate grown fruit. Part of their “romance series” of wines, it’s deep ruby in color, with a jammy nose and a complement of velvety fruit, vanilla and cocoa flavors. It’s a 100 percent Merlot that truly speaks for itself. Paired here with a chocolate soufflé, who’s to argue this isn’t the perfect combination for romance?


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Goosecross Cellars

Jul, 2007 Issue

Goosecross Cellars gets its name from the family name Gorsuch (Geoff Gorsuch is now the winemaker and winegrower). In an old English dialect, it literally means “where the goose crossed the stream.” In 1993, Geoff Gorsuch partnered with his friend and college roommate, David Topper. Originally, the winery was best known for its Chardonnays. Then in 1997, it acquired Bernard Pradel Cellars’ and its three Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards. Today, its estate grows Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. It has two tasting rooms, one in Yountville and another next to the Napa Valley Visitors Center.

Its 2004 Napa Valley Merlot is a blend of 90 percent Merlot and 10 percent Petit Verdot. It has a nose of cherries, berries and spice, with a smooth mouthfeel featuring dark fruit and toast on the palate. Pair it with Colleen Topper’s recipe for rack of lamb, and you’ll be in for a wonderful feast.


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Seleme Wines

May, 2007 Issue

Selene Wines, which is named after the Greek “mother goddess” of the full moon, is winemaking consultant Mia Klein’s personal label. Started in the early 1990s, Selene’s first offerings were a 1991 Napa Valley Merlot and a 1992 Hyde Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc. The 2006 Sauvignon Blanc (Musque selection) is the 15th anniversary bottling from that same Carneros-region vineyard. Selene also offers Cabernet Sauvignon and a Napa Valley Red Wine, labeled under “Chesler,” that’s an 84% Cabernet Franc, 14% Merlot and 2% Cabernet Sauvignon blend.

Klein strives to capture the vineyard’s vibrancy and uses minimalist winemaking techniques to create supple, balanced wines that have the complexity it takes to pair well with many types of food. The 2006 Hyde Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc features aromas of nectarine, pear, honeydew, papaya, pineapple and citrus. It’s paired here with one of Mia’s favorite Sauvignon Blanc accompaniments: Hog Island oysters. The balance and acidity of the spicy oysters, when combined with the wine’s creamy mouthfeel and stone fruit flavors, promises to refresh your springtime palate.


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Ledson Winery & Vineyards

May, 2007 Issue

When you’re driving along Highway 12 in the Sonoma Valley, it’s virtually impossible to miss Ledson Winery & Vineyards. First off, the 16,000-square-foot building looks like a gothic castle. Originally designed as a family home, the plans were eventually changed to house the family winery instead.
Open to visitors daily, Ledson has six wine tasting bars, a gourmet marketplace and beautiful grounds for picnicking. Take a look inside and marvel at the architectural details while enjoying their wines, which are focused on small varietal lots.
The winery’s 2006 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc recently won a gold medal at the San Diego Wine Competition. It’s a 100 percent Sauvignon Blanc that’s grown in Yountville. The 25-year-old vines are grown along the Napa River. They’re whole-cluster pressed and given a slow, cool fermentation. Aromas and flavors are sprinkled with refreshing citrus elements. Paired here with the winery’s Trois de la Mer (a delightful trio of seafood dishes that includes a lobster salad, ahi tuna roll and salmon tartar), you’ll find the wine’s crisp texture cleanses and refreshes the palate, while its acidic structure complements the citrus that’s added to the fish.


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GlenLyon

May, 2007 Issue

When Squire and Suzy Fridell first planted Cabernet Sauvignon in 1987, theirs was the first quadrilateral-cordoned, vertically trellised vineyard in Sonoma Valley. Grafted to Syrah in 2002, the vineyard is a consistent producer of multi-faceted red wines (planted on a hill, the grapes at the top have a markedly different character and flavor from those at the bottom). And while Squire is a successful actor (who’s portrayed Ronald McDonald, the Toyotaman, and has had starring roles on “Newhart,” “M*A*S*H,” “Adam 12” and “Ironside”), his wine is no act. GlenLyon wines are the real deal—and the Fridells, as you can surely see from their picture, truly enjoy making them.
GlenLyon Syrah is made entirely from estate fruit and is aged, bottled and cellared on the winery’s Glen Ellen property. Squire says the 2004 is his favorite of all the Syrahs they’ve put out thus far. It’s a dark, rich, smooth, classic Syrah that will undoubtedly cellar well. But if you don’t feel like playing the waiting game this time around, here’s a recipe to suit the occasion. It’s by Squire’s brother-in-law, Tom “Flambe” Flores (football fans may recognize the name of this coach—four Super Bowl rings and all).


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Ballentine

May, 2007 Issue

Betty and Van Ballentine’s story goes back to the early 1900s in Napa Valley when Betty’s grandfather (Libero Pocai of L. Pocai & Sons) settled and planted vineyards. Van’s father, John Ballentine, purchased his first vineyards and winery during Prohibition in 1922 (they had been abandoned and he bought them with the intent to wait out Prohibition) and released his first vintage in 1933. As of this year, Van has worked more than 60 vintages in Napa Valley. Today, Ballentine Vineyards owns 100 acres of vines and produces Chenin Blanc, Zinfandel, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Petit Sirah, Petit Verdot, Integrity (a Bordeaux blend) and a Zinfandel Port.
The Betty’s Vineyard Syrah is 100 percent Syrah, made from estate grapes that are grown at the vineyard adjacent to the winery, along Highway 29. So deep in color it almost looks black, its aroma is a mix of dark berries and spice. Silky, lingering and rich in the mouth, it develops gracefully with each sip. Pair it with this rosemary chicken recipe and you’ll be set for success.


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Beringer

Apr, 2007 Issue

In 1875, German immigrant brothers Jacob and Frederick Beringer purchased a 215-acre piece of Napa property—and thus was born the oldest continuously operating winery in the Napa Valley. Theirs was the first winery to offer public tours (in 1934, with tastings becoming available in 1956), and the entire property was designated a Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places in 2001. Today, Ed Sbragia is winemaster (he joined Beringer in 1976) and Laurie Hook is winemaker. In 2005, they created a Chenin Blanc of outstanding quality and value. Its palate-pleasing array of melon, pear, ginger and honey balances out with a smooth mouthfeel and clean finish. Paired here with this monkfish recipe from Beringer’s executive chef David Frakes, it’s an excellent match for the warm weather to come.


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Dry Creek Vineyards

Apr, 2007 Issue

When David Stare started Dry Creek Vineyard in 1972, he was inspired by France’s Loire Valley. So naturally, the winery’s inaugural vintage included a Chardonnay, a Fumé Blanc and, yes, a Chenin Blanc. Crafted in the dry-style of Loire’s Chenin Blancs, Dry Creek’s offering instantly stood out from the ones created by most other California wineries at the time, which leaned more toward Chenin’s sweet side. Today, Dry Creek’s Chenin Blanc is internationally recognized as one of the varietal’s best examples. And with good reason. Its signature tropical fruit aromas and flavors are sprinkled with hints of honeysuckle and rose petals. Its crisp, bright finish almost puts an exclamation point on the experience. And if that doesn’t do it, then this waffle and salmon mousse recipe by Kevin McKenzie certainly will.


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Suncè Winery and Vineyard

Mar, 2007 Issue

Suncé Winery and Vineyard’s Winemaker/Owner Frane Franicevic hails from the northern tip of Hvar, an island along Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast. Having grown up helping his father harvest Mali Plavac (a Zinfandel relative), making wine was a natural evolution.
When he was 17, his family immigrated to the United States, and an educational pursuit led him all the way to a Ph.D. in East-West philosophy from San Francisco’s California Institute of Integral Studies. While working on his dissertation at Camp Meeker, he found himself in the perfect location to reconnect with his roots. Suncé Winery is the fulfillment of his vision. His wife Janae joined him in 1995 to help develop the winery and estate, where they now live with their three girls, Zora, Suncé and Zemja.


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Cain Vineyard and Winery

Mar, 2007 Issue

The people at Cain Vineyard and Winery are dedicated to creating Cabernet/Bordeaux blends. Original owners Joyce and Jerry Cain planted Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot beginning in 1980. Now owned by Jim and Nancy Meadlock (who joined the estate in 1986), the winery’s three offerings include Cain Cuvée, a nonvintage blend of mountain and valley fruit that’s consistently smooth and versatile [one of my favorite everyday wines]; Cain Five, the signature offering and a stunning, classic five-varietal blend made entirely from the estate vineyards that are located atop Spring Mountain above St. Helena; and finally Cain Concept, which is, literally, a concept wine created largely from Napa’s famed Benchland fruit, an expression of that area’s terroir.
Cain Concept consists of 75 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 10 percent Cabernet Franc, 9 percent Petit Verdot and 6 percent Merlot. Alive with the food-friendly, layered and rich mouthfeel that characterizes Cain’s wines, Cain Concept is full of ripe, dark, earthy fruit. It’s paired here with a duck confit recipe by Cain’s chef, Dana Robbers. The recipe takes some advance planning, but the final outcome unmistakably proves that good things come to those who wait.


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Eagle Eye

NBB Top 500, Feb, 2007

When David Stare started Dry Creek Vineyard in 1972, he was inspired by France’s Loire Valley. So naturally, the winery’s inaugural vintage included a Chardonnay, a Fumé Blanc and, yes, a Chenin Blanc. Crafted in the dry-style of Loire’s Chenin Blancs, Dry Creek’s offering instantly stood out from the ones created by most other California wineries at the time, which leaned more toward Chenin’s sweet side. Today, Dry Creek’s Chenin Blanc is internationally recognized as one of the varietal’s best examples. And with good reason. Its signature tropical fruit aromas and flavors are sprinkled with hints of honeysuckle and rose petals. Its crisp, bright finish almost puts an exclamation point on the experience. And if that doesn’t do it, then this waffle and salmon mousse recipe by Kevin McKenzie certainly will.


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Stony Hill

Feb, 2007 Issue

With a name like Gewurztraminer (and that’s only one of many—this varietal has more names than any other), it’s no wonder this particular white wine sets itself apart in myriad ways. Often described as intense, complex and powerful, it dazzles the senses with ease. Its nose packs a floral punch that’s virtually impossible to mistake, and its taste is crisp, full-bodied and distinctive. Its deep color can range from peach to gold, and its flavor can be very sweet, entirely dry or somewhere in between.
Today it’s the dry Gewurztraminers that are gaining the most attention. Perhaps it’s because they’re more easily paired with a wider variety of foods. Or perhaps it’s because the wines in its most-famous growing region—Alsace, France—are known for their dry style. Luckily for us, the North Bay offers several cooler microclimates, where Gewurztraminer grapes grow best. And when vinted in the Alsacean style, their flavors are nothing short of amazing.


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Foppiano Vineyards

Jan, 2007 Issue

Founded in 1896 by Giovanni Foppiano, Foppiano Vineyards is the oldest continuously family-owned winery in Sonoma County. One of the most interesting stories in its history was when, in 1926, federal agents raided the estate and forced the family to empty more than 100,000 gallons of its 1918 vintage into the creek on the winery’s property. Word got out and people came from all around with cups, mugs and jars to drink from the “creek run red.” Thankfully, the winery survived even prohibition’s wrath.
Throughout the years, Petite Sirah has been Foppiano’s hallmark varietal, and its 2004 offering is as rich and full-bodied as its fans have grown to expect. Hospitality Director Susan Foppiano Valera has paired it here with a deliciously rich braised prime rib recipe.


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