2014 Taste of Howell Mountain Photos

The 2014 Taste of Howell Mountain was held at the Charles Krug Winery on Saturday, June 14th. Over 35 wineries were on hand pouring wines and guests were treated to some great finger foods. Guests also had a chance to bid on silent and live auction items. The live and silent auctions raised over $150,000 this year for the benefit of Howell Mountain Schools.

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One of the most interesting items ever auctioned at the annual Taste of Howell Mountain was a barrel of Dunn Vineyard sourced wine. The starting bid on the approximately 23 cases of wine was $19,000. The winning bidder paid $22,000 for this one of kind item.

The turnout was a new record as well. Over 400 people attended, paying $125 for a ticket and as much a
s $250 at the door. Next year’s event is sure to be sold out well in advance, so get your tickets well in advance!

Howell Mountain Vintners and Grower’s Association website

Arizona Stronghold Vineyards Announces Big Changes

Eric Glomski Assumes Control at Arizona Stronghold Vineyards

Arizona-stronghold-bottlesArizona Stronghold Vineyards (ASV)has officially confirmed the dissolution of the partnership between co-founders Eric Glomski and Maynard James Keenan.  The two formed their partnership back in 2007 and have both worked hard to build the brand and raise the profile of Arizona wines.  The label has won many awards at wine competitions across the country and was featured heavily (along with Keenan) in the 2010 film “Blood into Wine”.

Under the terms of the agreement Glomski will retain the ASV winery, brand, current inventory and the 160 acre Bonita Springs property.  Keenan will retain full ownership of the 80 acre Arizona Stronghold Vineyard which he has re-named the Al Buhl Memorial Vineyard.  Under the terms of the deal Keenan’s Al Buhl Memorial Vineyard will supply ASV with high quality fruit for the next 5 years.  This vineyard will also be the source of fruit for Keenan’s Merkin label.

Corey Turnbull (right) and Mitch Levy - co conspirators at Burning Tree Cellars

Corey Turnbull (right) and Mitch Levy – co conspirators at Burning Tree Cellars

Arizona Stronghold also announced that Corey Turnbull will be joining the wine making team along with Eric Glomski, Joseph Ranallo and Niles Johnson.  Corey is co-owner of Burning Tree cellars which recently received a 90 point rating from Wine Spectator for their 2010 Colibri Vineyard Syrah.

“I am excited to have the opportunity to rebuild Stronghold and guide it back towards its original, founding mission which was to bring Arizona wines to as many people as possible”  said Glomski in the recent press release.  He also stated:

“I’ve learned a lot in the last ten years about running vineyards and wineries efficiently, and I know that we have a real opportunity to continue making the high quality wines that our customers have grown to expect coming from the ASV label. With improvements made to the way that we manage the business and how our wines are distributed, we’re presented with an opportunity to make our wines available at a more affordable price point, both by the glass and per bottle.”




Review | Yaso 2012 Toro

wine bottle label

Yaso 2012 Toro

Yaso 2012 Toro

Blend: 100% Tinta de Toro (Tempranillo)

Aging: 6 months, French oak

Alcohol: 13.5%

Price point: $15-$20.  I bought this bottle at Costco for just under $10

In my most recent article I mentioned that I have been exploring a lot of Spanish wines lately.  I am still extremely fond of Napa, but my budget is really liking my frugal side, and actually my palate has been really pleasantly surprised.

This wine is no exception.  This is a really nice big bold, well-rounded wine.  I decanted for an hour and sampled the wine over a 4 hour period and then again after 24 hours decanting.  The wine opened up nicely after an hour.  The nose is predominantly blackberry with a hint of cherry pie.  The palate is big, robust and drier than I expected – a good thing.  This would be a Cabernet lovers Tempranillo.  A little spice, a little chocolate a little licorice a little ripeness.  Not too much of each, and some very nice texture on the back end that reminds me of “Rutherford dust”  a texture like fine dust or chalk that gives the wine a nice weighty mouth-feel. The 13.5% alcohol is really a nice change from a lot of the new world wines which are loaded up with a generally pretty crappy cheap port like sweetness from too much alcohol.  This wine rocks.  Especially for only $10.  This would be a decent bargain at $20.

Weekly Wine Journal rating: 94 points, awesome.

The back of this wine bottle has a little map and some interesting information about the climate and vineyard.

The vines are at about 2,200-2,400 feet in clay and limestone soil.  The average April to October temperature is 61.3F, which to me is pleasant because in Phoenix where I live the average temperature during that time is about 85F.  Annual rainfall in the Toro region is only about 16 inches, which makes it quite a bit drier than Napa Valley



Altovinum 2012 Evodia Garnacha Old Vines

photo(151)I  picked up this wine at Costco for about $7.  Doing a little online research I came up empty handed.  There is almost no information on the winery or vineyard.  Except that it is high elevation Garnacha (Grenache) and aged in steel tanks.I generally like the concentrated flavors and tartness of high elevation wines, and this wine is no exception.

The only thing I have to go off of is the wine experience, with no context.  I usually like a little context some back story when enjoying wine. Oh well.

I was actually blown away by this wine, especially on the second day.  This is a big bold, fruit forward wine with kick ass tannins and a nice supple mouth feel.  After decanting for 24 hours the wine showed no signs of weakening and actually the mid palate opened up to reveal more complexity,  a nice mineral component.

This is a straight forward, well made wine.  Not terribly complex but for less than $10 this is a ridiculous deal.

Weekly Wine Journal Rating: 93 points

Weekly Wine Journal | 2013 in review

2013 in review

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 27,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 10 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Fabre Montmayour Gran Reserva Malbec 2010

Fabre Montmayour Gran Reserva, Malbec 2010, Mendoza Argentina

Fabre Montamayour Gran Reserva Malbec100% Malbec

Aging: 12 months French Oak

Alcohol: 14.5%

Retail Price: $15-$20

The Fabre Montmayour winery sits at 3,800 feet just outside of Mendoza city.  The French owners acquired the vineyard in the 1990’s and built the winery thereafter.  The vineyards actually date back to 1908, and the vines used in the Gran Reserva Malbec are 60+ years old.

In tasting this wine I immediately noted a sense of terroir that was familiar but out of place.  In researching the owners French background it began to make sense.  This wine drinks much more like a Bordeaux or Cahors in terms of it’s unique characteristics.

This is a big dry wine, no mistake about that.  If you’re looking for a fruity Malbec you’re out of luck and should hit the backspace button immediately.  But if you like big Cabernets and Shiraz’s and want to try something different and relatively inexpensive then this is your wine.

On the nose: bouquet of wild berries, forest and cigar spice.  On the palate:  Robust tannins, black berry, anise and more spice.  No hint of alcoholic heat. The finish is where the earthy, funky terroir appears subtly.

Weekly Wine Journal rating: 88 points

Weekly Wine Journal “Best of 2013” List

Best of 2013

If you’ve been following the Weekly Wine Journal for a while, you’ll notice that there was no “Best of” list for 2012.  This was mainly a time constraint and not an oversight.  However, 2013 was a great year for the Weekly Wine Journal, too great of a year not to share a best of list! Highlights include a trip to Napa Valley and attending the Arizona Wine Grower’s Association awards banquet at Quiessence restaurant in Phoenix.  There were also a lot of fabulous wines and wine events.  The “Best of” list is a compilation of the best wines, wine bars, and restaurants from 2013.  The wines were not necessarily released in 2013, but were consumed in 2013.  The list reflects the best experiences in 2013.

Best Red Wine: Chateau L’Arrosee, 2005.

wine bottle

Weekly Wine Journal’s Red Wine of the Year

Chateau L’Arrosee  was acquired by Quintus SAS, a subsidiary of Domaine Clarence Dillon in October of 2013.  The merger will bring 28 hectares of prime vineyard under Quintus management and we should hopefully see a continuation of the L’Arrosee label.  This wine is absolutely fantastic.  I had this on new year’s eve, and I just new fairly early into the bottle that this was my “wine of the year”  This wine is still young.  It is BIG.  Complex.  A very nice balance of fruit (plums cherries) and minerality and terroir.  I only wish I had more of it, I’d love to continue to experience it throughout its life cycle.  See the links at the bottom of this article for more info on the Dillon family acquisition of this brand.

Best White Wine:  Sand Reckoner, 2012 Malvasia Bianco, Cochise County, Arizona


Weekly Wine Journal’s “White Wine of the Year, 2013”

This wine hails from Cochise County, Arizona.  Wine in Arizona?? you might be saying.  Yes.  And it’s damn good.  This wine has a beautiful nose of flowers,melon, and sweet lemon zest. and you’d expect it to be sweet but it isn’t.  The palate is medium bodied, ultra crisp, clean and very dry.   This wine did not undergo malolactic fermentation and was aged in neutral oak.  It’s 100% Malvasia Bianca, 13.6% alcohol and $28 a bottle.  Only 72 cases were made.  See the links below for Sand Reckoner contact info.

Best Buy and Hold: Charles Krug, 2010 Estate Selection, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley


The Charles Krug Winery does not always produce this wine.  In an interview I did with Peter Mondavi jr, he said that if the fruit/wine is not up to standard they’ll just skip a vintage or two.   This wine is still extremely young, but it is showing nicely right now and surprisingly approachable.  The nose on this wine is explosive, over the top and never ending.  I actually had a glass of this wine on a Monday night and 4 days later on a Thursday night I brought out the remainder of the bottle at the end of a wine tasting and this wine completely blew away everything that was being served.  Even after 4 days of being open!

Best drink now: Altamura, 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley

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This wine is ready to drink NOW.  Beautifully smooth and refined.  Huge and dense.  The color is black, but reddish brown on the edges.  Pair this with Prime Ribeye only.  Again, I wish I had more.

Best wine under $10:  Vina Eguia 2007 Rioja Reserva, Tempranillo, Spain.

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This wine retails for about $10 and I regularly find it at Costco for $7.99.  This is a ridiculously good value.  It’s a nice fruit forward every day drinking wine.  I’d stock up on cases of this for entertaining if I had the space to store it!

Best Wine Restaurant: Smith & Wollensky, Las Vegas

Old school steakhouse, new school wine list.  The prices are a bit high, you can expect to pay about 3X’s retail for wine, but that’s Las Vegas.  The service is great, the wine is served in appropriate stemware and actual wine list is extensive.

Best Wine Tasting:  The Taste of Howell Mountain, St Helena, Napa Valley.

Where else would you get to taste 40+ Howell Mountain wineries?  No where that’s as nice as the garden in front of the carriage house at the Charles Krug Winery in St. Helena thats for sure.  If you’re planning a trip to Napa in the summer months I highly recommend planning it around this event.  See below for more info.

Best Winery Experience:  TIE:  Failla, Napa Valley | Anderson’s Conn Valley Vineyards, Napa Valley.



Both Failla and Anderson’s Conn Valley offer intimate and unique tasting experiences.  Faila’s tasting room is really a little farm house with only enough room for 8 guests at a time.  You’ll have to pay close attention to find the place as it’s only marked by a white mailbox with “Failla” written on it on the east side of Silverado Trail north of the intersection at Deer Park road.  Call ahead for tasting reservations, you can’t just show up.

Inside the wine cave

Inside the wine cave

Anderson’s experience involves a stunningly beautiful drive into the heart of Conn Valley.  The road is tiny and winds through the hills, you should allow extra time to get there as it’s difficult to drive faster than 20mph most of the way.  Once there, you’ll go inside the wine cave which is dug into

Tasting table in the cave

Tasting table in the cave

the hillside.  Deep in the massive tunnel is a little alcove with a round table, with enough seating for 8.  Call ahead to see if winemaker/owner Todd Anderson will be there.  If he is, you’re in for one hell of a wine tasting!

Honorable Mentions:

It was very difficult for me to choose the best and I really feel that there are so many wines that were really amazing this year so I felt it appropriate to add Honorable mentions.

Caduceus Cellars, 2010 Anubis | | Cameron Hughes Lot 500 | | Anderson’s Conn Valley 2008 Eloge | | Robert Craig 2010 Affinity | | Robert Foley 2009 Cabernet, Howell Mountain | | Buccella 2010 Cuvee Katrina Eileen


Dillon acquires L’Arrossee

Sand Reckoner Vineyards website

Charles Krug Winery website

Altamura Vineyards website

Taste of Howell Mountain website

Contact Failla

Contact Anderson’s Conn Valley

A Taste of Howell Mountain Wines | 2013

A Taste of Howell Mountain Wines, 2013

charles krug property

The setting for the Taste of Howell Mountain 2013

If you’ve paid even a perfunctory attention to wine over the last 30-40 years you’ve noticed that wine is produced in Napa Valley and you’ve heard of Robert Mondavi.  And if you’ve taken a liking to wine you might know a dozen or more wine names and you might have seen the movie “Sideways”. The more you interested you become the deeper you dig until eventually (hopefully) you discover the taste of Howell Mountain wines.

These mountain fruit wines are not for everyone.  They’re big, they’re tannic, they need time to unwind, but given patience they can develop into something unique and mind blowing.

Throughout the year the Howell Mountain Vintners & Growers Association holds tasting events in the San Fransisco area.  The main event, however, is held every June on the grounds of the historic Charles Krug Winery in St. Helena.

Guests pay $125 to sample wines from over 40 wineries, all of which have wines made from Howell Mountain fruit.  $125 may seem like a lot, but when you consider than many of these wines cost $100-$200 a bottle, its actually a great deal.  In fact, you’ll probably even sample wines that are just not for sale!

At this year’s event I visited as many of the participating wineries as possible, but just like Disneyland, it’s just not possible to experience it all in a day.

Robert Craig wine-maker Stephen Tebb and director of retail sales Rachel Miller

Robert Craig wine-maker Stephen Tebb and director of retail sales Rachel Miller

My first stop was Robert Craig’s table.  I sampled the 2010 Howell Mountain Cabernet from his estate vineyard and the 2010 Howell Mountain Zinfandel which is made from fruit from the neighboring Black Sears Vineyard.  Robert “Bob” was also pouring an unreleased Rose which was really amazing.  The rose was dry and crisp with good floral aromatics.

rose wine bottle

Robert Craig Rose

I managed to get a quick video interview with Stephen Tebb, which you can see here. I also got to chat with Bob a little bit, which is always nice as he’s one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. Check back for an upcoming article on Robert & Lynn Craig’s 50th wedding anniversary…

Next up was Robert Foley. I sampled the ’09 Howell Mountain Cabernet. “Bob” wasn’t in town, so new assistant wine-maker Eric Reichenbach and Bob’s wife,

Eric and Kelly

Eric and Kelly

Kelly Kehoe were on hand pouring the wine.  Both were a little camera shy, so I couldn’t get them to agree to an outrageous YouTube interview about fine wine.  But I picked up the vibe that they had something to say or announce, something to do with an upcoming new release perhaps?  hmmm…  There will be an article in the near future on my visit to the Robert Foley Estate on Howell Mountain.

Tom Altemus, owner-Red Cap Vineyards

Tom Altemus – Red Cap

On the other side of Robert Craig was Red Cap Vineyards.  I’d heard about them through Instagram and noticed a number of people commenting on how great the wine was so I was eager to try it out.  Owner and grower, Tom Altemus was on hand pouring wines and giving a brief history of Red Cap’s brief history. I sampled both the 2009 Howell Mountain Cab and 2011 Rutherford Sauvignon Blanc. Red Cap’s production levels are also low, even by Howell Mountain standards.  Only 260 cases of the ’08 Cab were produced and only 150 cases of the ’11 Sauv Blanc were produced!  $65 for the Cab and only $22 for Sauv blanc, you’d better get some shipped to you before its all gone!

Napa wine maker

Alejandro Alfaro – Rutherford Grove, Pestoni Family

I ran into wine maker for Rutherford Grove and Pestoni Family Wines, Alejandro Alfaro, whom I’d met the day before at the winery.  I tried out the ’08 Pestoni Estate Reserve Howell Mountain Cab and was really pleasantly surprised. This is a REALLY nice wine.  With only 350 cases made and $65, this wine also won’t last.  I have to say Alejandro is also a very nice and friendly fellow, if ever you’re in Napa, stop by the Rutherford Grove (not to be confused with Rutherford Hill) tasting room and say hi.  Future article on that visit also coming up…

During my happy wandering it was suggested to me that I head over to the Aloft table.  I was filled in that there was quite a bit of buzz surround the new project.  And when I arrived at the table I knew why.  It was there I met and had a long conversation the Marc Mondavi.  He explained that they wanted to create a new project of exceptional quality, and not have it associated with the Charles Krug brand in any way.  So they went with a totally hands off approach.  The grapes come from the 21 acre Cold Springs Vineyard, the Mondavi’s hired Jim Barbour as vineyard manager and Thomas Rivers Brown as wine-maker!

If you don’t know Thomas Rivers Brown, just consider this feat:  In 2008 he scored two 100 point wines from the same vintage from Robert Parker and then in 2010 he scored another two 100 point wines from The Wine Spectator!  He is the youngest wine maker to receive a 100 point rating and also the first American wine maker to receive 100 points from Wine Spectator.  But wait, there’s more!  He received 3 consecutive 100 point scores for both the Shrader CCS and Shrader “Old Sparky”.  Ok, so the critics like him, what’s the wine like?Its remarkably approachable for a mountain wine.  It’s definitely big, but exceptionally smooth and complex.  Nice dark fruit and a hint of earth.  That’s what I wrote down on the back of a business card.  A third of a glass of wine is really not enough to give this or any of these wines a fair taste, I prefer bottle tasting.

The elusive Randy Dunn

The elusive Randy Dunn

Another highlight was when I spotted the elusive Randy Dunn!  Dunn Vineyards has been producing exceptional Howell Mountain Cabernet since 1981.  His wines are some of the most age worthy wines you’ll find in Napa.  Randy was pouring his ’05 Howell Mountain Cab.  This wine is still a baby and will evolve for many years to come.  I asked Randy: “How did you have the foresight to make and save magnums from every vintage so that you..”

He finished my sentence: “So I could give them away to charity?”


“Heh” he answered and continued pouring.

18 Magnums

18 Magnums of Dunn Vineyards wine

Randy donates verticals from every vintage he’s released so far to be auctioned at the Taste of Howell mountain every year.  This year he donated 18 magnums of his cab ’83 thru ’99 with a just a few years missing.  In 2011 he donated an 18 year vertical ’89 thru ’07.

Retro Cellars - Kara Dunn

Retro Cellars – Kara Dunn

Randy’s son Mike has his own label – Retro Cellars.  Mike’s wife Kara was on hand pouring and talking about the wines.  I tried out their 09 Howell Mountain Petite Sirah, and it was amazing!  Only 100 cases of this wine were produced, so this was a real treat for me to be able to try it out.  Look out for this wine in the future I think they’re really going to make a name for themselves

Some of the live auction lots

Some of the live auction lots

With all the talking and sipping time really flew by at this years event.  Before I knew it the clock struck 3 and the tasting wrapped up, and guests moved indoors, into the beautifully renovated upstairs dining room of the Charles Krug carriage house.  The live auction of some really amazing wines, wine dinners, and private tastings helped raise a lot of money for Howell Mountain schools and charities.  This year over $110,000 was raised with $73,000 of that coming from the live auction.  Live auction highlights:

Lot#5  Outpost Wine,Dine and Dance.  Table for 10 sold twice at $4000 each

Lot#9 Spence dinner and fine wine: 10 couples, $400/couple

Lot#15  18 Magnums of Dunn Vineyards wine: $7400 (assorted vintages ’83-’09)

Charles Krug carriage house

Inside the Charles Krug carriage house where the live auction was held

All in all, this was a great event.  It was nice to see more wineries and guests than in previous years.  It was also nice to meet Samuel Peters, executive director of the Howell Mountain Vintners and Growers association who was kind enough to petition the board on my behalf and secure a media pass for me.  (FCC disclaimer-I received a ticket to this event)

Next time you see a bottle of wine labelled Howell Mountain, give it a try!

See more photos from the event on the Weekly Wine Journal Facebook Page