Bacchic Reflections


                I often wonder what the Vintners buy

                One half so precious as the Goods they sell.

                                                Rubaiyat of Omar Kayyam, 1859

     Will legalized cannabis threaten wine-drinking...and thus the future of wine???
         Check out Brit wine writer Andrew Jeffords' view at:   
         What do you think?  Let me know


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NEW STAR on Wine Grape Horizon:   Petit Manseng    Horton Vineyards 2016 Petit Manseng won the 2019 Governor's Cup Award presented March 1 in Richmond, along with the Governor's Cup Case--the 12 top scoring wines in the 2019 Governor's Cup Wine Competition held at the Jefferson Hotel in Richmond in early February (  Petit manseng, a grape native to southwest France, thrives in  mid-Atlantic wine regions producing bold, exotically flavored white wines in a range of styles from dry to sweet.  The grape's high acidity adds an appealing edge and zest to lush tropical flavors of mango, pineapple, kumquat. Pioneered on U.S. soil in Georgia (Tiger Mountain Vineyard) and Virginia (numerous wineries, including Horton, Michael Shaps, Early Mountain), petit manseng is a variety to watch, expanding its reach in Virginia as well as in North Carolina (Jones von Drehle), New Zealand and California. Look for it on restaurant wine lists, especially Asian fusion, where its spicy flavors can hold their own with assertive oriental dishes.

                                                                                                                                                           Courtesy Sangiacomo Vineyards
FOCUS:  Sangiacomo Vineyards

Edging the southern end of Sonoma Valley near the quaint town of Sonoma stands a venerable vineyard of chardonnay and pinot noir: Sangiacomo's Green Acre Vineyard. Some years back a photographer and I walked among these vines in the pre-dawn chill for photos of night-harvesting. At one point we climbed a tower in the middle of the vineyard to get a better view as the sun rose over green ribbons of vine. On a recent trip to California I drove by that vineyard and was pleased to see the tower—sporting the red airplane propeller used for frost protection—is still there.

            Vittorio Sangiacomo came to San Francisco from Genoa, Italy, early in the 1900s, working in the salvage business until he could realize his dream of owning a farm. In 1927 he bought an orchard of fruit trees on the outskirts of Sonoma, planted to pears and peaches. In 1969, just as America's interest in wine was beginning to take off, the family switched to grapes and planted the Green Acre Vineyard. The Sangiacomos have since expanded their holdings to 1600 acres, most in Sonoma: the cool-climate appellations of Carneros, Sonoma Valley, Sonoma Coast and Petaluma Gap so accommodating to chardonnay and pinot noir.

            Wine lovers have undoubtedly tasted the fruit of these vines because Sangiacomo sells grapes to more than sixty wineries, including such top names as Chappellet, Domaine Carneros, Rombauer, Sonoma-Cutrer and Schramsberg. "Sourcing fruit from the Sangiacomo family," says Dominic Chappellet, "has given us access to some of the greatest vineyard sites in Sonoma." 

            In 2016 the Sangiacomos took another major step—making their own wine. This was exciting news to me, as I have admired and recommended numerous wines sourced from Sanagiacomo Vineyards. When Mia Sangiacomo Pucci came to Raleigh recently for the Triangle Wine Experience and invited me to taste the new wines, I was eager to try them. Over lunch at Glenwood Grill, we sipped the 2016 Carneros Chardonnay as Mia recalled growing up in a large Italian family. "Sharing hearty meals and good wine was the heartbeat of our family," said Mia. She watched as her grandmother cooked a wide range of traditional dishes—raviolis, tortellinis, roasted artichokes and the family favorite Pollo della Nonna, Grandmother's Chicken. (recipe: ) 

            Sangiacomo's production is a mere 800 cases total. But the wines are so good, already receiving high praise (critic scores of 95, 94), that I think they won't be able to resist increasing production.  "We'll continue to sell our grapes," Mia said, "it's our mainstay. But if there's demand, we may gradually increase."  Demand will grow, I suspect—and they have plenty to draw on. Right now the wines are only available online (

Sangiacomo 2016 Chardonnay Carneros  $65****  Opulent fruit with hints of kumquat, pear, citrus and an elegant accent of toasty oak, generous and full-bodied with a creamy finish that was a perfect match with crab cake and would be exellent with shrimp scampi.

Sangiacomo 2016 Pinot Noir  Sonoma Coast  $60***  The medium garnet hue of this wine is deceptive—richly aromatic, it packs a lot of flavor – ripe berries, raspberry, spicy touches of licorice and rose. Full-bodied but buoyant and lively, just right for grilled salmon and highly recommended for gamebirds, roast chicken or loin of pork.

Wine Buy(s) of the Week
Bourgueil 2017 Cuvée Beauvais   Loire Valley  $18-22** 
Made from cabernet franc, this Bourgueil (boor-gay-ee) has dark meaty fruit, earthy berry flavors and good balance. Excellent for meat stews and other hearty dishes. Served on its own, goat cheese softens its youthful punch.
Dry Creek Old Vine Zinfandel 2016, Dry Creek Valley***  $35  Average age of the vines that produced this wine:  95 years. This is Dry Creek Vineyard's signature Zin—and their best, in my view, among several very good ones. Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma is noted for Zinfandel with distinctive wild berry flavors (often called "brambly") and accents of black pepper. Dry Creek Heritage Vines 2016  $15-18**+  Dry Creek's most widely available Zin--meaty with spicy berry flavors; an excellent buy.

Regis Bouvier 2017 Bourgogne Rouge  Burgundy  $24**+  An excellent buy in young Burgundy--spicy Pinot aromas, solid cherry-berry fruit. Good choice for pork loin, chops or roast ham.


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