Tag Archives: Cabernet Sauvignon

Reyes Winery – the only Latino-owned winery in L.A.

18 Dec

About an hour’s drive north of downtown Los Angeles, the radio signal in my car begins to fade. Minutes later as I exit the 5 freeway at Agua Dulce Canyon Road, a country western station pipes in crystal clear.

The twangy guitar and folksy melody provide a fitting soundtrack for the winding country roads that lead to Reyes Winery, the only Latino-owned winery in Los Angeles County, and one of a few wineries 45 minutes away from the heart of downtown L.A.

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Robert Reyes, winemaker and general manager, warmly welcomes me and a crew from ABC-7, who are here to do a segment on Señorita Vino for their Sunday morning television program, Vista LA [NOTE: the show aired Nov. 17, but if you're in L.A. County, you might catch a re-broadcast in the late evening or early morning].

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Smile! You’re on Vista LA.

Besides making wine, Reyes, a native of the Dominican Republic, paints and scuba dives. Yet this Renaissance man’s passion for wine stems not from idyllic trips to Europe’s wine regions, but from a beloved aunt.

“I’ve loved wine since I was a kid in the Dominican Republic,” Reyes says. “My 92-year-old aunt would visit us in Santo Domingo and she’d bring a bottle of her homemade fruit wine. As kids, we’d get a taste.”

Reyes was smitten, and as an adult, he started making his own version of his aunt’s fruity concoction.

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Robert Reyes in his tasting room.

What started as a passion developed into a serious interest, and Reyes began schooling himself in the art of winemaking by reading books. He also consulted other winemakers and took courses at UC Davis, which has a world-renowned viticulture and enology program.

He planted the first vineyard at Reyes Winery in 2004, and harvested a small crop the next year. Today, the boutique winery produces 3,500 cases annually from five varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Chardonnay and Muscat.

On display in the tasting room are Reyes’ own paintings of the vineyard and scenes evocative of his homeland. Also visible are some of the awards his wines have garnered.

“Our wines have been on the market for the past two-and-a-half years, and in that time we’ve earned medals in every competition we’ve entered,” Reyes notes. To date, the winery has won 29 medals.

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Despite the honors, Reyes remains grounded. And he’s quick to dismiss wine snobbery. “There are a lot of people out there who, for whatever reason, have this attitude about wine knowledge,” he says. “If you taste a wine and like it, then it doesn’t matter what anyone else says about it.”

When asked about wine consumption among Latinos, Reyes observes that Hispanics are definitely upping their wine drinking. He attributes the increase to the fact that Latinos are becoming more affluent as they integrate into American culture.

Vines are planted on 16 acres of land.

Vines are planted on 16 acres of land.

“Where we once worked in the fields, we now have the means to be able to make wine and especially drink wine,” states Reyes. “It’s a social phenomenon that we’re all participating in.”

Reyes Winery. 10262 Sierra Highway, Agua Dulce, Calif. 91390. (661) 268-1865. Open for tastings Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Book a tasting and winery tour at www.reyeswinery.com.

Reyes Winery wines are available through its wine club, at certain Santa Clarita Valley restaurants and at Whole Foods Market. 

Happy National #CabernetDay!

29 Aug

Don’t wait ’til the weekend to start celebrating- today is National Cabernet Day.  Chicas y chicos, get a jump start on your Labor Day festivities and pour yourself a glass of juicy, fruity, bold Cabernet Sauvignon. Go ahead, do it!

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Since you’re probably getting ready to leave town or hit the beach this weekend, this post is short and sweet. Here are seven fun facts about Cabernet Sauvignon:

Passport, Please: Cabernet Sauvignon originated in France’s Bordeaux region, but today it’s one of the most widely planted red wine grapes in the world.  A cross between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc, it’s considered an international variety, meaning it grows well in a variety of conditions outside its natural habitat and still produces great wine.

Aromatherapy: Some of the typical aromas associated with Cabernet Sauvignon are black cherry, blueberries, dark chocolate, coffee, caramel, black currant, vanilla (from Cabs aged in new oak), cigar box (from well-aged Cabs), cinnamon, and bell pepper (typical of cooler climate Cabs).

Best in Show: Napa Valley and the Left Bank of France’s Bordeaux wine region produce some of the better-known examples of Cabernet Sauvignon.

Old World/New World: Cabernet Sauvignon made from grapes grown in warmer regions such as Napa Valley will have higher alcohol and more fruit flavors. Cooler climate Cabs, such as those from France, will be less fruit-forward, a bit lower in alcohol, and boast elegant, subtle aromas of bell pepper, earth and lead pencil.

Pucker Up: Cabernet Sauvignon is high in tannins, those flavor compounds that make your teeth feel dry after you take a sip. Some people refer to highly tannic wines as having “pucker power.” Tannins can add complexity and texture to a wine, and they protect the wine from oxidizing. If you age Cabernet Sauvignon (or any other highly tannic wine), the tannins will soften over time.

Mi Gente:  I have to give a shout-out to Latin American countries that produce some delicioso Cabs: Mexico’s Guadalupe Valley produces some big, bold, fruit-tastico Cabernet Sauvignons, and Cabernet Sauvignon happens to be the most widely planted red grape in Chile, although Chile is better known for its Carmenere.

Food,  Glorious Food: Because of its high tannins and ripe fruit flavors, you can pair Cabernet Sauvignon with roasted lamb, carne asada, rich, creamy cheeses (hello, Camembert!), and yes, hamburgers and French fries, so now you know what to bring to that end-of-summer Labor Day barbecue.

¡Salud!

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A take-along wine cheat sheet

17 Sep

On a recent visit to Señor Jim’s family in Seattle, I accompanied my amazing step-daughter-in-law (a.k.a. Miss Jenny) on a quick grocery store trip to buy wine for dinner. Miss J and I were  navigating the super-sized aisles of a super-grande market, where the wine section seemed to go on for miles. Miss J turned to me and said, “You should make a cheat sheet so that I’ll know how each type of wine tastes.”

Miss J, from your lips to Señorita Vino’s ears.

Here for your shopping pleasure are general aroma and flavor profiles for the eight most common wines you’re likely to see at a restaurant or in the wine section at the grocery store.

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 SEÑORITA VINO’S OFFICIAL WINE FLAVOR CHEAT SHEET 

1. WHITE WINES

Chardonnay - If you like buttery, oaky wine, choose Chardonnay. The wood notes come from the oak barrels used for aging Chardonnay. Keep in mind that some Chards  are aged in stainless steel and will not have the oaky notes. If the grapes were grown in a warmer growing climate, you’ll notice tropical fruit aromas. Cooler climate Chardonnays will have pear, apple and melon aromas.

Sauvignon Blanc - Grapefruit, grass and green pepper are aromas commonly associated with Sauvignon Blanc. If you buy a Sauv Blanc from France, you may notice some mineral notes such as flint. If the label says that the wine is oak-aged, you’ll get some toasty, smoky notes as well. Sauvignon Blanc has a crisp, acidic flavor profile, whereas most Chardonnays will feel more creamy.

Pinot Grigio (a.k.a. Pinot Gris) - Most Pinot Grigios are unoaked, so if you’re not a fan of  wood aromas, this is a good choice. You may notice hints of apple, peach, citrus and minerals. The acidity ranges from low to high. How to tell the difference? Pinot Grigios from cooler climates will be more acidic, while those from warmer climates less so.

Riesling - Floral aromas of jasmine and honeysuckle, with fruit notes of apricot and nectarine, characterize this wine. If you can detect a ‘petrol’ aroma, don’t worry – it’s normal! HEADS-UP: It’s a myth that all Rieslings are sweet. Sweetness depends on how the wine was fermented, when the grapes were picked, and other factors. If the bottle says ‘late harvest,’ it will taste sweet. Sometimes you’ll see ‘dry Riesling’ on the label. Remember that ‘dry’ is the word used to describe wines that are not sweet.

2. RED WINES

Cabernet Sauvignon - This wine is high in tannin, which means you’ll get an astringent, puckering sensation in the mouth. Some people are sensitive to tannins and can get headaches or symptoms similar to hay fever. Cabernet Sauvignon has black cherry aromas, black currant and blackberry. You’ll also detect dark chocolate and tobacco. Cabernets aged in new oak may display coffee and caramel notes.

Merlot – Less tannic than Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot has plum, blueberry and minty aromas. You may also get some coffee and chocolate notes. Merlot sales took a hit after the movie Sideways, but it remains one of the more popular red wines. Often you’ll see a Merlot-Cabernet Sauvignon blend, which will be less tannic than a Cabernet Sauvignon and have a broader range of flavors.

Pinot Noir - Naturally low in tannins, this is a good choice for people who don’t care for the puckering effect of tannic wines. Pinot Noir is known for its raspberry and strawberry aromas, as well as red flowers such as rose and carnation. Older Pinots will develop what are known as barnyard aromas. And yes, it smells like what you’d smell in the stall or on the floor of a barnyard. It’s nowhere near as asqueroso as it sounds. But if you’d rather avoid it, go for a younger Pinot.

Syrah (a.k.a. Shiraz) – Another highly tannic wine, but with aromas that are much different from Cabernet Sauvignon. Choose Syrah if you like hints of violets, black pepper, lavender, blackberry, anise and smoked meat.

Wine history: Farm workers and the vine

16 May

In one of my favorite scenes from the movie “Sideways,” Virginia Madsen’s character waxes rhapsodic about wine. Among the many things wine evokes for her are thoughts of  the people who picked the grapes.

This weekend, members of the United Farm Workers (UFW), the labor union founded by Cesar Chavez in 1962, will gather in Bakersfield to celebrate the UFW’s 50th anniversary. Among the attendees will be men and women who work in the vineyards of California, Washington and other states.

It would be disingenuous of me not to mention that the topic of labor unions is a touchy issue for some gente. Regardless of where you stand, we’re all rooted in the same vast vineyard of humanity, and this post is presented in the spirit of learning about one chapter in the history of a movement that has had an impact on the wine industry.

United Farm Workers members tend to grapevines and other agricultural crops. (photo courtesy of the UFW).

One historical point that many wine lovers may not be aware of is that Cesar Chavez himself was a fan of red wine. Perhaps even less known is that the UFW made its own wine four years ago to commemorate what would have been their founder’s 81st birthday. Black Eagle Wines takes its name from the stylized bird on the UFW’s logo.

Black Eagle Wines were created by the United Farm Workers in conjunction with a Napa Valley winery (photo courtesy of the UFW).

Although the wine is no longer available for purchase, the union has a limited reserve that it continues to pour at its banquets and special events. A Sauvignon Blanc, a Merlot and a Cabernet Sauvignon were released under the label. At the time the wines hit the market, a spokesperson for the UFW noted that their target customers were young Latino professionals whose parents may have been farm workers.

Today, Cesar Chavez is credited by some not only for establishing better working conditions for farm laborers, but for starting a movement that would inspire hundreds of thousands of workers across various industries in the U.S. to seek better lives for themselves and their families.

Photo courtesy of the UFW.

So the next time you raise a toast, take a moment to think of everyone who played a role in producing the elixir in your glass, a liquid masterpiece that has been enjoyed for thousands of years by billions of people, our predecessors in the great vineyard of life. ¡Salud!

Carmageddon Wine List – Wines Named after Highways

14 Jul

Route 246 in the Santa Ynez Valley

Carmageddon is one day away. Do you know where your GPS system is? Those of you living outside the Los Angeles area may not know that our fabled 405 freeway will close between the 10 and 101 freeways for three days starting tomorrow, an event which has caused weeping and gnashing of teeth-against-steering-wheels for the past two months.

Having spent 20-plus years on the highways and byways of this glorious metropolis, I’ve experienced my share of personal Carmageddons. Conclusion: Weekend freeway closures are for wimps. Try driving from Westwood to the South Bay on a weekday, during afternoon rush hour, in the rain, and then tell me about Carmageddon.

To my fellow Angelenas who are thinking the world will end because they’ll have to skip their nail appointment in Studio City, I have five words: Have a Glass of Wine. In fact, have a glass of wine named after a highway. That’s right chicas. Here for your sipping pleasure are five wines named after roads and highways in South America, California and Europe. The antidote to impending doom and gridlock.

1. Camino del Inca 2009 Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina

A wine after my own Peruvian-American corazón. The Camino del Inca, as you Spanish-speakers will know, refers to the Inca Road. Once the highway that connected the Inca empire, which spanned as far south as Argentina, Camino del Inca is the name of a vineyard in Salta, Argentina, whose estate vines grow on land that once formed part of the mighty kingdom.  A glass of Malbec is the perfect accompaniment to a car-free weekend.

2. D2 2008 Columbia Valley, Washington

Although this wine hails from Washington’s renowned Columbia Valley, it takes its name from the famous D2 highway in Bordeaux, France, which I fondly refer to as Appellation Highway, as it winds through world-renowned appellations such as Médoc and Saint Julien, among others. Sigh…the mere name takes me back to France, circa 2006, when crammed into a tiny Peugeot with my husband, we castle-hopped with a few stops at small tasting rooms in 500 year-old cellars. Oui, le D2. A highway I’d volunteer to be Carmegeddoned on any day.

3. Ruta 22 Reserve 2009 Malbec, Patagonia, Argentina

The Ruta 22 is the highway that runs east-west across Argentina about halfway between the Mendoza region and the town of Bariloche. Survive Carmageddon by throwing a gaucho-themed parrillada. A juicy, grilled steak will pair wonderfully with the firm tannins in this wine. Not a meat-eater? Pour yourself a glass and enjoy it with a cheese plate and olives. Ponchos optional!

4. Highway 12 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County

If you’d planned ahead, you could have spent Carmageddon on California State Route 12, the highway that travels east-west through Sonoma County.  Highway 12 is dotted with world-class wineries and surrounded by some of the most stunning scenery in Northern California. Notice how I’ve selected wines that go swimmingly with casual, summer foods. Hey, if you’re not going to be stuck in traffic, you might as well get outside and actually use your backyard or rooftop deck.

5. Ramal Road  2007 Pinot Noir Carneros, Sonoma County

Smack dab in the heart of Sonoma, Ramal Road is home to some world-class wineries and exactly 398 miles north of Carmageddon ground zero. My reason for choosing this wine, besides the fact that it’s named after a road? It’s a five-minute drive on surface streets to a wine retailer that sells it. 405? We don’t need no stinkin’ 405!

El disclaimer: Señorita Vino does not  – repeat – does not, advocate drinking alcohol and driving on highways or any other surface, closed or not. The goal here is to enjoy a full weekend of not having to get in your car but instead chill at home with your hombre and amigas.

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