organic wine

3 New Releases from Paul Dolan Vineyards

Paul Dolan Vineyards


Have you ever had any wines from Mendocino County?  Until recently when I took San Francisco Wine School’s CWAS program I had not been exposed to a lot of wine from Mendocino.  At many retail wine outlets the selection from California consists mostly of Central Coast and Napa/Sonoma, with very little from Mendocino.  The area has a rich wine history and if you’re looking to expand your palate, this is the first place I would recommend you start.

Paul Dolan Vineyards 2013 Sauvignon Blanc, Mendocino County

paul dolan sauvignon blanc bottle

Vineyards:  100% Potter Valley, Mendocino County

Aging: 100% stainless steel fermented and aged

Alcohol: 13.5%

Certified Organic by C.C.O.F.

This wine is an almost perfect blend of the Californian and New Zealand styles of Sauvignon Blanc.  The nose has distinct lemongrass notes while the palate is a blend of kiwi and grapefruit.  This wine has a very solid backbone of acidity, and just enough ripeness to dial that acidity back a notch.  Suggested retail is $18.  Weekly Wine Journal rating 96 points

Paul Dolan Vineyards 2012 Pinot Noir, Mendocino County

paul dolan pinot noir bottle

Vineyards:  100% Potter Valley, Mendocino County

Aging: 16 months in new and seasoned oak barrels (currently no additional information, I’ll update when I learn more)

Alcohol: 13.5%

Production: 2,000 cases

Certified Organic by C.C.O.F.

This wine has some nice notes of leather and red fruit on the nose.  The palate consists of crisp strawberry and cocoa.  This is a medium/light bodied wine with low tannins and a medium/low level of acidity.  Suggested retail is $30.  Weekly Wine Journal rating 88 points.

Paul Dolan Vineyards 2012 Zinfandel, Mendocino County

paul dolan zinfandel bottle

Vineyards: 100% Mendocino County

Aging: 16 months in new and seasoned oak barrels (currently no additional information I’ll update when I learn more)

Alcohol: 14.5%

Production: 4,000 cases

Certified Organic by C.C.O.F.

I really enjoyed this wine as it was a welcome departure from the overly ripe simplistic fruit bombs I’ve been running into lately.   Blackberry, black pepper, full bodied, medium/high tannins and medium acidity.  The wine evolved quite nicely over my 24 hour tasting period.  I recommend decanting for at least an hour or two on this wine as of right now (Oct 2014)  Suggested retail is $25.  Weekly Wine Journal rating 92 points.


I was pleasantly surprised by all three wines. Why?  I didn’t know what to expect, I had no pre conceived opinions of what these wines might be.  I know I’m supposed to do that with all wines, but if you put a $100 Napa Cabernet in front of me I can’t help it – I just know it’s going to be pretty good. More often than not, it is.   But with these wines I just didn’t know and now that I do, I have a new standard with which to measure all wines from the region.  The wines were interesting, a departure from the standard fare.  But not such a radical departure as to be weird and off putting.  Just enough to be interesting and delicious.

Another thing to note as that Paul Dolan Vineyards doesn’t seem to be making a big deal about their Certified Organic credentials by plastering it on the front label of the bottle.  The stewardship of the environment doesn’t just stop with being organic.  Special attention is paid to water reclamation and waste.  Tim Thornhill, chief operating officer and owner talks about changes he made at his other project, Parducci Wine Cellars in an upcoming PBS series titled Quest for Water.

Paul Dolan Vineyards website




Bright new packaging for Girasole Vineyards

california organic wineGirasole Vineyards unveiled new packaging for their 2010 vintage on May 1st.  Girasole, along with Barra of Mendocino are owned by Barra Family Wines. The Barra family has been growing grapes in the area since 1955.

“My family has been farming without the use of synthetic fertilizers or pesticides since the 1950’s” says Shelley Maly, VP of Sales & Marketing and daughter of founders Charlie and Martha Barra.  The family owns and farms more than 200 acres of CCOF certified organically grown grapes. All grapes are Estate Grown and hand picked.

The latest vintage (2010) includes a Pinot Noir and a Chardonnay.

The 2010 Pinot Noir has a nice ruby hue, reminiscent of cranberry juice.  The nose has hints of strawberry and spice. The palate is solid, while not terribly complex it is solid, strawberry bright red cherry and a little earthiness and the finish.  Alcohol weighs in at 13.5%, suggested retail price is $16

Weekly Wine Journal rating: 87 points

california organic wineThe 2010 Chardonnay is a light straw color.  The nose is a little difficult to detect at first, but after the wine opens up and warms up a little there are hints of tropical fruit and lemon.  The palate is light and creamy and fruit driven.  There is a bit of toasty oak on the back end.  There is a decent amount of acidity which really helps lift this wine, I think this could end up being a great value summer sipper this year.  Alcohol is 13.5% and suggested retail is $13

Weekly Wine Journal rating 87 points.

Twigs Organic Wine | Malbec | Cabernet | Merlot

Twigs Organic Wine’s 2008 releases feature a Cabernet Sauvignon, a Merlot and a Malbec.  All are certified Organic by the OIA, an organization which is accredited with the USDA.

Organic WineAlthough the Twigs name is new, the family behind the wine is not.  The Cecchin family has been farming grapes for 100 years, in the traditional way- with horse tilled fields and without the use of fertilizers and pesticides.

Originally from Italy,  the Cecchin family put down roots in the Maipu region of Argentina and in 1959 they founded the wine company Bodega Familia Cecchin.

Twigs 2008 Malbec is 100% certified Organic Malbec from Maipu, Mendoza.  The alcohol content is refreshingly light at 13.5%.  This is an unoaked, fruit forward wine.  Though it is not terribly complex, it is well balanced and quite approachable, and should satisfy a wide range of palates.  Retail price is $14.99

Twigs 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon is 100% certified Organic Cabernet from Maipu, Meondoza.  Once again the alcohol content is 13.5%,  the wine is unoaked and fruit forward.  This wine has a slightly peppery finish.  As with the Malbec it is approachable.  Retail is $14.99

Twigs 2008 Merlot is 100% certified Organic Merlot also from Maipu, Argentina. Alcohol is 13.5%, the wine is fruit forward and unoaked.  Retail is $14.99

All three wines are almost identical in style.  Uncomplicated, fruit forward, light on the alcohol and unoaked.  At $14.99 the wine is a decent value.  I think if it you can find it for under $10 it would be an exceptional value.

Twigs Wine is distributed by Potluck Wines

Twigs Wines

*This wine was received as a sample

Interview: Jim Wiskerchen talks about Granite Creek Vineyards Organic Wine

According to Jim Wiskerchen Granite Creek Vineyards is Arizona’s only certified Organic and Sulfite free winery. I ran into Jim at the Arizona wine tasting at the Whole Foods in North Scottsdale. Jim represents Arizona wineries through his business,

Granite Creek Vineyards Website

Wine review: Bonterra Vineyards 2006 Syrah Organic Mendocino County

I always scan the Costco wine departments for “Markdowns”.  On a recent trip I found Bonterra Vineyards 2006 Syrah Organic from Mendocino County.  It was $9.97.  I don’t know what the original price was but $10 bucks seemed like a good idea at the time.  I don’t know enough about Organic or biodynamic farming, at this point, to talk confidently on the proof of that.  I can talk about the taste and how it makes me feel, and how I am going to look into that, later.

So some technical stuff:

The Blend: 97% Syrah, 2% Petit Sirah, 1% Grenache

Aging: 18 months in French and American Oak.  44% New, 22% once used, 22% twice used.

Alcohol: 14.4%

Production: 6,500 cases

Price: $9.97 on markdown at Costco.  Normal retail is $17.99

On the Nose: berries, not a heck of a lot going on in the nose for me

The Palate:  The palate is a nice surprise.  Fruit forward. Dark berry fruit.  Cocoa, black pepper and nice strong tannins on the finish.  There is a fair amount of sediment in the bottom of the bottle.  I like to see that in a Shiraz/Syrah.

The verdict: 88 points.  There is nothing about this wine that I find out of balance or unpleasant, it would be a very decent daily drinker.

If this doesn’t sound like a glowing review, it isn’t.  But that’s not because I don’t think the wine is good.  I’m just guessing however you found this article, you’d probably appreciate the honest truth.  It’s good.  It’s something I would drink again, probably serve at a party, and will buy again if I see it in the $10 range.


Wine Review: Bonterra Vineyards 2007 Viognier – Organic

Bonterra Organic Wine


Price: $10.99 at Costco

Where from? : 65% Mendocino County, 35% Lake County

Certified Organically Grown Grapes

Alcohol: 13.64%

Blend:  Viognier 81%, Marsanne 10%, Roussane 4% and Muscat 5%

Aging: 4 months in 30% new French Oak.

Crisp and fairly light.  The nose was not really that present, very slight honeysuckle is really all I could pick up.  On the palate the dominant flavor is green apple with a little bit of peach, a very little bit.  I don’t know why, but I was expecting something different.  I suppose it’s because one of my favorite wines d’Arenberg’s Laughing Magpie is a blend of 90% Shiraz and 10% Viognier.  It must be quite a different Viognier because I can’t see how green apple would go with Shiraz?  I ended up not drinking much more than a glass of this wine on the first night.  It’s not the wine’s fault, I was having steak for dinner which calls for Cabernet.  But I did re-investigate Bonterra the next night while watching Olympic Hockey.  And actually I liked it a lot more.  I think I might have tried this one too close to the Grgich Hills Fume Blanc the day before.  As a stand alone wine it’s quite good.  Nice crisp green apple, virtually no oak, light.  Just a nice decent afternoon sipper.  With the added feel good bonus of having been made from Certified Organically Grown Grapes.  I would pick this up for summer parties as an alternative to Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.