2010 Madroña Riesling. El Dorado. 13.5% ABV. About $14. Pretty color; soft gold. Gentle nose; green apple and citrus. Honeysuckle, “petrol,” a hint of yeast, and minerals on the palate. Soft, round, and slightly creamy; gentle acidity. I would pair this with Tom Ka Gai.

2010 Madroña Dry Riesling. 13.5% ABV. About $14. Soft golden. Balanced, citrus. Perfect summer wine.

LABEL (for both of the above): Situated at 3,000 feet in the El Dorado appellation of the Sierra Foothills, Madroña’s hillside vineyards offer ideal growing conditions for the wide range of classic wine grape varieties we harvest. Years of growing grapes on this land have led us to a deep understanding of which varietals will thrive in the varied microclimates of this exceptional place. Each wine we produce exhibits a distinct character that comes from the perfect marriage of family, terroir and tradition. Our Hillside Collection wines are estate-grown varietals, perfect for everyday meals and special occasions. Madrona Riesling is fresh yet inherently complex, balancing both fruit and spice.

2008 Madroña Late Harvest Riesling, dessert wine. 11.5% ABV. 375ml, $24. 30% Brix, 10.4% residual sugar. Mid- to deep gold. A light-handed touch again on the nose and impression of acidity. The wine’s intensity comes from long hang-time and its dehydration from “Noble Rot” (see label notes, below). This is like drinking wild local honey, yet it is balanced and it is not “too sweet.” Enchanting and highly recommended. 127 cases made; this is produced only one out of every five years on average, depending on certain weather conditions.

LABEL: A richly concentrated dessert Riesling produced from botrytis-affected grapes.

Madroña is a family-run vineyard that was planted in 1972 by Dick and Leslie Bush, in the halcyon days just before California’s emergence as a leader in the wine world. Their son Paul, one of their four children, has been winemaker since 2002, with Hugh Chappelle serving as consulting winemaker since 2003. Paul’s wife, Maggie, serves as Madroña’s General Manager. Another son, David Bush, has been in charge of the associated 40-acre Sumu-Kaw parcel since its purchase in 1991. A graduate of UC Davis with a degree in meteorology, he is a consultant in the field of air quality monitoring. His wife, Sheila, is actively involved in the farming and management of the Sumu-Kaw vineyard.


Samples received for review.

Posted in California, Riesling | Leave a comment

New Branding: Pennywise (and an excellent Cabernet Sauvignon)

I don’t normally pay much attention to labels. (Kind of a contradiction, as I’m an artist and publication designer/editor.)

However, the Pennywise redesign caught my attention in a big way. The previous Pennywise label was okay. Reminiscent of a postage stamp in style and size, the wine’s vintage was “stamped” onto the labels, which were consistent across the brand save for differences in color.

Enter the new label featuring San Francisco’s historic U.S. Mint. The label looks like a stock certificate; although there’s a nod to the old penny with a dim image of it, the new label drips with the impression of strength and something valuable.

And that’s as it should be. The Pennywise wines, like the other offerings from The Other Guys, are solid, classic wines available at reasonable prices and with some fun attached to them. (Check out the Plungerhead for an example of their sense of humor.)

So how was this Cabernet Sauvignon? Excellent! 15,000 cases were produced of this 76% Cabernet Sauvignon/17% Sirah/7% Merlot. The grapes were sourced 44% from Northern Interior Valley, 42% from Paso Robles, and 14% from Lodi.

With a deep color, the wine’s complexity is explained by the blend. Sirah brought in delicious aromas and high notes. This Cab isn’t as jammy and thickly textured as many of the California big boys are. I get French oak, a hint of anise on the back of the palate, bing cherries, and a little bit of pipe tobacco. 13.5% ABV, $8.98 and up. An extreme bargain at this price.


Sample received for review.

Posted in Cabernet Sauvignon, California, Merlot, News, Syrah/Shiraz | 3 Comments

American Swallow-Tailed Kite

This post has nothing to do with wine, but everything to do with life. Today, as usual, I’m working in my home office—an added-on room with windows on three sides—and rejoicing in the beautiful weather and the views of the farm where I live. My two horses (pasture ornaments these days) are grazing contentedly, and a summer thunderstorm is rolling in.

About a year ago, I noticed a beautiful hunting bird—a pair of them—swooping and soaring along the distant back fenceline. The bird had a wingspan like an eagle, a short white head like a hawk or an owl, and a graceful swallowtail that it used for steering. Ever the Google wonk, I learned it was a Swallow-Tailed Kite.

I have enjoyed watching their adventures during all these months, and have gratefully watched their population grow. However, this week has brought a tremendous gift: for the first time, I’ve been able to see them up close. They have started swooping past my office windows!

With light undersides, they are even more beautiful close up. The bird’s duality is amazing: the body, coloring, and, for all I know, the temperament (they mainly eat bugs), resembles a dove, yet they wear the cloak of a large hunting bird.

Earlier this afternoon, at least 18 of them were here, taking turns perching in a nearby tree and then swooping into their soaring ballet. Dozens of times, one or two of them flew inches from my window—and with each experience of them just 10 feet away, I felt a joyful thrill of goose-bumps from the top of my head down to my toes. Just breathtaking.

A friend tells me these birds are harbingers of good fortune. I believe it with all my heart. May you, too, experience the joys of summer and the blessings of good fortune.

Posted in Art and Music, Travel | 2 Comments

Mother’s Day, Wine, Joy, Life and Death

Happy Mother’s Day. Random thoughts:

Why do I always weep when my college-age children leave to go back to college? I’m turning into my mother!

My Mom died on 3/3/07. In a strange synchronicity, 3307 was the house number of the first house where we lived in Arlington, Virginia. We moved there from an apartment, which I also remember, when I was two, and moved to Warrenton, Virginia when I was five or six.

My Mom played and taught piano. Her musicality was passed on to me, and in turn to my own children. My oldest daughter, a terrific soprano, is studying vocal performance at University of Central Florida, my oldest son is studying guitar performance at Florida State University, my youngest daughter is a massively gifted alto who is studying vocal performance and musical theatre in high school, and my youngest son enters middle school this fall and will be singing in the best middle-school choir in the area.

The first of five children, I remember family dinners as well as dinner parties when we were allowed to taste wines, which my parents called “Burgundy” or “Chablis.” That was in the ’60s and ’70s, when jug wines and Riunite-type wines were best-sellers before the emergence of California as a serious player in the world of fine wine-making.

A lot of fishing happened in my family. Dad often made a pilgrimage to Michigan to go trout or salmon fishing. Family vacations were to the wild, wonderful Outer Banks of North Carolina, where we kids would dig in the sand and play in the ocean waves while Dad went surf fishing. This was many years before “Jaws” scared the shit out of me and made it impossible for me to joyfully frolic in the ocean any more. I was literally dragged to see the film when I was in college by a guy who had seen it five times. That should have been a clue.

For the first time, this year my thoughts about Mother’s Day are not so much about my own late Mom, but about myself as Mom to my children, and also the concept of mothering myself. Sure, I’m a Mom, daughter, granddaughter, sister, lover, friend, and a community leader of sorts through the magazine I publish.

But the theme of this year has been about finding ways simply to be joyful; to grow as a person; to do what I want to do, such as travel; to stop doing what I don’t want to do; and to figure out how to achieve short-term goals including living oceanfront half the time (when the two youngest kiddos aren’t at home with me).

I finally figured out that life just keeps expanding, and all we have to do is simply keep picking new things to do in the Eternal Now. Ya might as well pick good and fun things to do. Children, love, trips, the ocean, house concerts, good wine, friends, doing a good job in all the things I do—these have become the most important components of my life.

I think Mom would approve. Play on, Mom—play on!

Posted in California, Family | Leave a comment

GOOD! Recuerdo 2012 Torrontés, La Rioja, Argentina. 13% ABV, $12

COLOR: Clear, pale straw-green.

NOSE: Roses, yeast rolls, stone fruit.

TASTE: Roses, salt, stone, minerals. Dry with crisp acidity. Suggested pairing: oysters on the half shell.

LABEL: Memoriesrecuerdosare timeless. With more than 300 days of sun each year, the Argentine landscape, at the foot of the Andes Mountains, is the sentinel of our memories. The Torrontés comes from a dramatic desert vineyard located at 3,298 feet above sea level in the north of Argentina. Created by The Vines of Mendoza with acclaimed consulting winemaker, Santiago Achával, Torrontés is a crisp, dry and intensely aromatic white wine that captures the fundamental qualities of high altitude terroir.


FOOTNOTE: In an interesting form of real estate development, 3- to 10-acre parcels are being offered by The Vines of Mendoza in a 900-acre area in Uco Valley at the foot of the Andes mountains. The mini-vineyards are professionally managed; owners, whether present or not, produce wine with winemaker Santiago Achával. Click here for information.

Sample received for review.

Posted in Argentina, Torrontes | Leave a comment

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED: 2011 Cave des Vins de Bourgueil Lieu-dit Beauregard, Bourgueil, Cabernet Franc. 12.5% ABV, around $10.

This wine is so stinkin’ delicious, I am heading to the wine shop later today to pick up their remaining stash. It’s the most exciting red wine I’ve had in a long time. It has the soaring high notes typical of a good Cabernet Franc, with alto floral notes, and depth from a foundation of black cherry and truffles.

The Cave is a cooperative that was founded in 1931; the Bourgueil AOC was approved in 1937.


The rest of this write-up is courtesy William Gladstone Imports:

Unlike most of the wine produced in France’s Loire River Valley, Bourgueil is red. Made from 100% Cabernet Franc, this wine is from vineyards in a small valley in Restigné, known as Beauregard, which used to belong to the St Martin’s church. The vineyards face south for maximum sun exposure. Top soils are alluvial flint and gravel which capture warmth and help ripening, while deep clay sub soils, allow the 40 year old vine roots to extend, drawing in minerals and nourishment. Grapes are completely de-stemmed and fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks to bring out the bright fruit character. 

Tasting note: Deep ruby-red. Very expressive, complex bouquet, featuring fresh fruit aromas (blackberry) with hints of violet, bitter chocolate and coffee. It starts out full-bodied and soft on the palate, following through with jammy red-berry fruit.

Food & Wine Pairing: Grilled or roasted red meats, game, flavorful roast poultry (e.g. turkey with cranberry sauce).

Posted in Cabernet Franc, France | Leave a comment

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED: 2011 Domaine du Tariquet “Classic” white blend (45% Ugni Blanc, 35% Colombard, 10% Sauvignon Blanc, 10% Gros Manseng), Côtes de Gascogne. 11.5% ABV, available for as little as $6.95 online.

APPEARANCE: Pale gold.

AROMA: Linden, citrus.

TASTE: Pear, apple, honey, lychee, grapefruit. Very faint Sauvignon Blanc edge is evident. Tart and refreshing, dry, yet with a round sweetness. Minerals, lemon. Good silky mouthfeel. Among the most intriguing wines I’ve tasted in a while.

LABEL: Serve chilled. A very refreshing wine to be enjoyed at any time as an aperitif, with charcuterie, fish and shellfish. Magnificent intensity for a dry fruity wine with floral and citrus aromas and a lovely touch of exotic fruit.


The grapes come from the Bas-Armagnac and Gascony region of southwest France, between the Atlantic Ocean and the Garonne River. Grown, produced and bottled by Domaine du Tariquet.

“In the past, all that mattered was the wine making process but over the years, we have gradually learned to make wine that is an honest expression of the vineyard.”–Yves Grassa, winemaker.


87 points Wine Enthusiast: “Celebrating 100 years of the domaine this year, Tariquet’s range of wines begins with this classic white. This has a crisp fruitiness, with a floral character and flavors of green plum, pear and a hint of pineapple. It’s delicious and ready to drink. Screwcap. Alcohol 11.5%. (Oct 2012)”


Sample received for review.

Posted in Colombard, France, Gros Manseng, Ugni Blanc, White Blend | Leave a comment

Expanding The Frugal Wine Snob’s Mission

Friends, I’ve been stuck. (Could you tell? No blog posts since January.)

Finally figured it out. This blog has grown in TOTALLY unexpected ways (and has grown me as well). Besides being interested in good, affordable wines, for me wine has become linked with travel. Last year’s trips to Portland, OR and Turkey to attend wine bloggers’ conferences and visit wineries changed my life. My favorite writing days, and my favorite Frugal Wine Snob blog posts, had to do with covering food as well as wine via winemakers’ dinners, and traveling to wine destinations. I’ve even become a travel agent and have organized a trip to Paris in April combining art, wine, and lots of walking. Among other visits, we’ll be touring the oldest winery in Champagne, Gosset House (1584).

So my new mission statement is “The blog about the good life lived creatively, with a special interest in wines that taste like a million bucks but cost a whole lot less.”

Coming soon: Barcelona and Priorat, Spain; Paris and Eparnay (Champagne region), France.

Posted in France, News, Spain, Travel | 2 Comments

“April in Paris” Wine and Art Tour, April 13-20

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know I’m an enthusiastic traveler. It’s great fun to explore new places, learn about different cultures, and meet new people. Did you know that by traveling you also change the structure of your brain? Besides getting those wonderful endorphins, your brain literally builds new synapses.

But I digress. I am excited to present a fabulous travel opportunity: our April in Paris Art and Wine Tour, April 13-20, 2013. $2,995/person double occupancy ($3,585/single — email me if you’re a single needing a roommate, and we’ll see if we can match you with someone) INCLUDES:

  • Round-trip airfare, Orlando-Paris
  • Double occupancy accommodations at Four-Star Mercure Paris Centre Tour Eiffel for the entire trip (no packing and shlepping from one place to another)
  • All transportation, including a Metro (subway) pass for the entire trip
  • Breakfast each morning at the hotel
  • Two exquisite Wine Dinners
  • Day trip to Reims/Champagne including full tasting at a Grand Cru Champagne château
  • Paid admission to all attractions (no waiting in lines!), including:
  • Trip to Versailles
  • Cathedrale Notre-Dame du Paris
  • Eiffel Tower tour
  • Seine River cruise
  • Musée du Louvre
  • Musée d’Orsay
  • Rodin Museum
  • Arc de Triomphe
  • Saint-Chapelle
  • Contemporary Art Museum Georges Pompidou
  • Basilique du Sacre-Couer
  • Walking tours of Montmartre, Paris Markets, Art Nouveau

Our tour will be fully escorted and guided by an English-speaking American who is a Wine Portfolio Manager with 12 years’ experience leading more than 100 groups on worldwide Wine and Art tours.

To make your reservation, CLICK HERE to fill in the form.
Scan and email to us (TheFrugalWineSnob at,
mail to Natural Awakenings, PO Box 1140, Anthony, FL 32617,
or fax to 352-351-5474.
Questions? Call 352-286-1779.

Posted in France, Travel, Visits to Vineyards/Winemakers | Leave a comment

“Single Malt,” oil/canvas 6″x6″ by Jelaine Faunce

“Single Malt,” oil/canvas 6″x6″ by Jelaine Faunce.

Check out Jelaine Faunce’s blog at http://jelainefaunce.

Posted in Art and Music | Leave a comment