This feature is the 2nd of a series, on winemakers and what's ahead for wine in 2019.
Jerold O'Brien of Silver Mountain Vineyards, Los Gatos
From the Summit to Sea, Jerold O'Brien has been crafting
Certified Organic wines for over 38 years.
When convenience was king a few decades ago, Jerold took the high road.
Since the beginning of Silver Mountain Vineyards,
he has been a leader in sustainable vineyard practices.
More important to him—even over selling his wines—is stewardship of the earth.
Jerold attended this year's Unified Wine and Grape Symposium in Sacramento.
In the middle of the big city, his genuine persona and smile shone as he shared with me
about Silver Mountain Winery.
Straddling the Santa Cruz Mountains' Summit, the tasting room, organic vineyards and energy-self-sufficient winemaking site are perched on the ridge. The property offers picnic tables, views, fresh air and nature. It's a calm place to enjoy life, just minutes from the haze of the Silicon Valley.
The "Alloy" is Jerold's signature Bordeaux red wine blend. By far, this is one of my favorite local wines! Comprised of: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petite Verdo. The Alloy is always made with these four varietals. Only the percentages change each year to suit the flavor profile Jerold's looking for.
Jerold prefers this Bordeaux blend's subtlety and complexity, vs. a Napa Cabernet Sauvignon which, he shared, can be too big and too heavy. With Cabernet being the front runner in the Alloy blend, I think he's brought out the best of this leaner, mountain grown Cab with the supporting varietals.
For In addition to Chardonnay, Jerold makes a Rose' of Pinot Noir (again, one of my local favorites.) It's crafted in the French Saigne'e Method, which naturally increases the blush Rose' color and strengthens its flavor profile. (For more on Saigne'e, see Wine Folly's article.)
All you canine fans will appreciate Silver Mountain Vineyards' (SMV) dog wines, a line of wines named after the winery's four-pawed companions, Oscar and Spencer. Oscar Wild is a Bordeaux Blend and Spencer's Choice is a Pinot Noir Blend.
While Jerold has been making organic wines for decades, now
more and more Californians and other wine fans are looking for healthier wine options.
The beauty of buying wines from your local vintner is that you can ask questions.
Where were the grapes grown? What farming and production practice are put in place?
A dialogue opens the door to finding wines that suit your style, ecological, and health needs.
And just taste darn good.
Here's to your palate and to organic wines!
For the 1st in my Unified Series, see my chat with Barry Jackson of Equinox Wines, Santa Cruz.
Cheese, wine, and chocolate are a friendly trio.
With so many delicious wine and food options,
keeping it simple over the Christmas and holiday season is ideal.
Cheese and wine make for a great starter, or dessert course.
Chocolate and wine, especially red wines, are best friends.
Aged, hard cheeses can be served along side wine and chocolate.
Cheese & Wine Pairing tips for the holidays
...and for 2019!
Brie & Bubbles.
Serve Brie with dry Champagne/sparkling wine. The yeast of the Champagne elevates the
musty-ness of the Brie. Expand the flavors with dried Slab apricots.
Try a Santa Cruz Mountain Champagne style wine...Equinox Wines (link)
locally crafts some of the best sparkling wines!
Pinot Noir & Bleu d’Auvergne.
Sharp and creamy, blue cheese is notoriously good sprinkled over grilled steak.
The tangy cheese pairs classically with a dried cranberry, walnut, spinach and bacon salad.
A Pinot Noir with a bit more body elevates these foods.
Go for a flavor explosion and add dates, honey, and dark chocolate.
Try Morgan Winery's Pinot Noirs (link.)
Chardonnay & Comte'.
One of my new favorite cheeses, Comte'
is produced in large wheels, up to 85-100 pounds.
Enjoy hints of stone fruit, toasted nuts, and cream.
Wrights Station Vineyard and Winery offers 3 local Chardonnays to choose from (link.)
Enjoy a Late Harvest Zinfandel (dessert wine) or Port with dark chocolate.
Try Storrs Winery's Late Harvest Zin (link.)
Or tuck into a glass of Merlot with chocolate cake.
Go for a cool weather Monterey County or Santa Cruz Mountains Merlot.
Bargetto Winery's 2016 Merlot, Santa Cruz Mountains, would be spot on with the cocoa flavors (link.)
Cheeses of Europe
hosted a cheese and wine pairing at the WBC.
Recently my lactose intolerant friend was in Portugal.
Being the gracious guest she is, she ate the local cheese and was fine!
But once back at home, she had difficulty with chain grocery store cheese.
I find that “cleaner” foods (natural, un-mucked foods) work better for our bodies.
Cheeses of Europe served cheeses that were from specific regions,
aged with natural methods, and made with natural, whole ingredients.
Qualities that make for an excellent product.
For recipes and cheese tips, visit Cheeses of Europe.
So find a local cheese producer or look for European cheeses made with all natural ingredients.
You may have success with that...and get back together with cheese!
Pair with Bay Area wines and celebrate the season.
Cheers to your Christmas season and to the love of cheese, wine, and chocolate!
For more flavor profiles, visit my Nose & Palate page and taste away!
Dads, and guys in general, most of you have your own favorites. Your go-to. If you run in the store, you know were to grab your favorite chips, coffee, power-bars, etc. Whatever's your staple, you know were to find it quick, and you want it on hand.
With that idea, a friend of mine was looking for his own house wine. I love sharing tastings at my home with others, so I was surprised when we went to a friend's house and he had a tasting all set up on our arrival. He was looking for a wine he could grab when friends came over, for holidays, or to enjoy with his microwaved left-overs after work. His own go-to wine.
But first, which wine to choose?
Four of us were tasting while the kids played cards. I was one of the lucky ones to taste and throw my two cents into the mix.
The Mission: to Blind taste six wines and help my friend choose a house wine.
1. The wines labels were covered so we couldn't discriminate or taste with our bias. Just taste the wine and evaluate it for what it is. None of this, “I don't like wines from this region.” or “I don't drink Cab.”
2. Choose a wine from California.
3. Find a red wine that would go with a variety of grilled foods and home cooking.
4. It needed to be in the $10 range.
5. The selection included Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, and a red blend.
6. Choose a wine to purchase by the case, get the case discount, and have it on stock.
We got down to the business of tasting and commenting. One of the tasters was a Pinot Noir fan and her favorite wine had some of the delicate flavors of a Pinot. Another taster liked Cab. He choose a wine mirroring the deep flavors, kind tannins, and medium acids of a Cab. I liked a wine with hints of spice, black pepper, a bit tart with high tannins.
And the topper, the host blind tasted and was surprised to find that he chose the latest vintage of the wine he'd previously been buying. The matter was settled. He'd keep buying his go-to wine by the case. I won't tell you which wine he chose because that's his story. But each of us had our own favorites and all would have chosen a different wine—our own go-to house wine.
It was an adventure blind tasting six reds—without knowing the varietal, the region, or the winemaker!
It was a chance to taste and decide which wine I liked purely on the basis of, “which wine
would I like to try again." I think drinking wine should be like that in general.
The story and the making of a wine are important, but
so is the simple question of whether you enjoy drinking it.
I know I go on about trying new wines, but sometimes we have our favorites.
Our go-to that just sits right with us. Those are the ones that make for a great house wine.
Here's to you Dads. Thank you for being there for us!
May your Father's Day be filled with your favorites!
For a look at my musings on Moms, please visit, A Toast to Moms.
Four bottles of local Santa Cruz Mountain Chardonnay were staring at me.
All in a row, side by side. I was looking through some wines I had, and right in front of me the Chardonnays had lined themselves up—almost begging for a side by side tasting.
Which is what happened.
I ran over to my neighbors to see if they'd like to do a tasting. In the evening, Laura and Dan come over, the bottles were poured, the food was out, the tastings began.
I've done vertical tastings and compared wines at events and tech sessions. But this was my first side by side tasting at my home. It took me a few minutes to figure out how many glasses to pull, if we should first taste wine alone, then add food...I was just over thinking it. So instead, we just jumped in.
Here's the line up...four SCM Chards, with four of us tasting...
2014 Woodside 13.5 % alcohol
2014 Cooper-Garrod, Gravel Ridge Vineyard 14.1 % alcohol
2013 Wrights Station 15% alcohol
2013 Silver Mountain, Estate 13.4% alcohol
2013 Wrights Station 15% alcohol.
From Wrights Station Vineyards & Winery, in Los Gatos off Summit Road.
2014 Woodside 13.5 % alcohol. From Woodside Vineyards, Menlo Park.
2013 Silver Mountain, Estate 13.4% alcohol.
Located on the Summit, Los Gatos. They also have a tasting room in Santa Cruz.
2014 Cooper-Garrod, Gravel Ridge Vineyard 14.1 % alcohol.
From Cooper-Garrod Vineyards, Saratoga. Where horses and wine harmonize.
My neighbor Dan was a super taster. He
reminded me of the classic Seinfeld episode when George was spotting raccoons on the side of the road left and right—how did he do that? We'd be tasting one Chard, and he'd say, 'this would
be good with smoked Gouda.' I ran into the house and grabbed some smoked Gouda that I happened to have in the fridge. The flavors did work! Or, 'try this one with the golden raisins.” Hmmm, a new thought.
It was great to explore the flavors of the wine and foods in different combinations! So have fun tasting and deciding which SCM Chardonnays you enjoy.
Best to you on your own Side by Side Wine Jaunt!
When I take a sip of Wargin Wines I imagine I'm drinking an Old World wine that was grown in the warm Mediterranean—only these wines are from California. Wine maker Mikael Wargin has an adventurous and fearless side to his wine making. He's willing to try new varietals and new styles. All of this is done in his wine workshop housed in an industrial building in Watsonville.
Enjoy wines made from grapes sourced from a small net of California growers:
Wargin Wines are both table friendly and dinner
friendly. They have heft and body to them and are
more dense and chewy. They aren't the lean coastal
wines often seen from the area. These wines are more
fruit forward and slightly sweeter, but not sugary or
The wines have panache, but so do their bottle labels.
Take a look at Wargin Wines' site, under“Shop.”
Browsing through the wine labels and wine
descriptions is a pleasure. Each label has a clever
character icon, representing the wine—from a
merman, to a classical woman, to a weightlifter with a
glass of wine. The appealing art is outsourced and
Mikael and Denise Wargin are the wordsmiths behind the
...the sculpture is by Denise.
Have a try of Wargin's:
California grown, visit Wargin's wines.
Join me at California Wine