Archive for the 'Washington Wine' Category

Tasting – Marquis Wine Cellars presents Buty Winery at C Restaurant

First things first… I’d like to thank John Clerides and the staff at Marquis Wine Cellars for putting on this great tasting. The food and wine pairings at C Restaurant made my day.

From the left, that’s Graham, Caleb (the winemaker and co-proprietor at Buty), John and me (sporting a bit of a winter beard).

Last summer, when Graham and I were down in Walla Walla for the Wine Bloggers’ Conference, we ran into John and as I’ve already written, he said, “Do you guys want to taste something great? Come with me.” We headed out to Walla Walla’s airport wine area and made our way into Buty Winery’s tasting room. What we tasted were some of the highlights of the weekend.

So, when John decided to bring some of the Buty wines into his shop I was pretty stoked. I’ve grabbed a few bottles of the Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and  Muscadelle blend over the last month or so.

I’ll run through what was being poured, with a bit of a review of each wine. So, let’s go. Here’s they are:

  • 2009 Beast Sphinx Semillon
    This was the surprise of the tasting for me. It was a medium-bodied mouthful of honeyed lemon and mineral. So tasty. (4 stars – $24.99)
  • 2009 Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc/Muscadelle
    Personally, I love this wine. It has a crisp acidity that makes it a great food pairing wine along with beautiful melon, noney, citrus and stone flavours. What’s not to love? (4-4.5 stars – $31.99)
  • 2009 Conner Lee Vineyard Chardonnay
    Wow. This was another surprise for me – and was a perfect pairing for the delicious C Restaurant-prepared lobster. It had a really nice citrus-edged crispness with nice tropical and stone minerals on the finish. More Chablis than slutty Chardonnay. Very nice. (4-4.5 – $45.99)
  • 2008 Beast Wildebeest Red Wine
    This blend of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Syrah and 10% Malbec adds up to a really tasty deep cherry, berry fruit-driven wine with a pepper-edged mineral finish. Nice. (3.5-4 stars – $32.99)
  • 2009 Merlot & Cabernet Franc
    Well now… another surprise. I really liked this. It had wonderful dark fruit and a flintiness on the finish that I find really appealing, especially on elegant Washington State reds. (4.5 stars – $48.99)
  • 2008 Columbia Redviva
    Wow. This is the winner. This blend of 52% Syrah and 48% Cabernet Sauvignon was definitely the standout of the tasting for me. In a word, this wine is elegant. It has a tonne of dark red fruit, but not in an over-ripe sort of way. The berry fruit is almost perfect. So good! (4.5 – $59.99)
  • 2009 Redviva of the Stones
    This wine is a blend of 79% Syrah and 21% Cabernet Sauvignon. To me, this one needed a bit of time. It was pretty closed up. I’m thinking in a year or so its dark fruit and minerality will be more in balance. (4-4.5 stars – $59.99)

It was great to see Caleb again. I always love seeing talented folks who are passionate about what they’re doing. All wines are of course available for purchase or order from Marquis Wine Cellars. Head on over to their site for the contact information.

The folks at C Restaurant deserve a special mention for the fabulous food. Everything was delicious and reminded me that I should head there soon for my seafood fix. Amazing stuff.

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2006 Buty Winery Columbia Rediviva, Phinny Hill Vineyard Horse Heaven Hills

This summer, while Graham and I were at the 2010 version of the Wine Bloggers’ Conference, we spent some time hanging out with John Clerides, the owner of Vancouver’s killer wine shop, Marquis Wine Cellars. One of the days, John grabbed us and said something along the lines of, “Do you guys want to taste something great? Come with me.” We headed out to Walla Walla’s airport wine area and made our way into Buty Winery’s tasting room. Thanks, John!

He had been there the day before and wanted us to taste the wines that had grabbed his attention. So we did… and really liked them all. I grabbed a bottle (or 3) of each, so I’ll review them as I pop ’em open. This is the first of the reds that I’ve opened and, wow… it’s even better than I had remembered.

The nose has vanilla-tinged ripe dark red cherry/berry fruit with a floral cracked pepper edge. The flavours? Wow…. so much going on. The ripe cherry and blackberry fruit have a distinct bit of floral violet with a bit of coffee and black pepper in there too. The finish goes on and on – and on… leaving flavours of the fruit and pepper. The tannins are firm but soft; the proverbial iron fist in a velvet glove.

Overall, the wine is very balanced and pretty exceptional. It can easily be stuck in your cellar (or closet) for the next 5 years and would only be better for it.

$48 USD at the winery.

4    1/2 stars

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“Let the Vineyard Speak” – Musings on the Walla Walla Experience at the 2010 Wine Bloggers’ Conference

“Let the vineyard speak.” – I heard this phrase a couple of times during the whirlwind of experiences at the WBC 2010 in Walla Walla. To summarize what I learned about Walla Walla and the wine, I honestly believe that the artisans making wine in this region use this phrase as a guiding mantra.

In general, all the producers, growers and owners we met expressed a commitment to minimal intervention in the growth and path towards finished product. The results are an increasing number of organic wines that are really excellent examples of the region’s terrior.

I had some experience with Washington wines prior to visiting, and learned a great deal about the hallmarks and breadth of wine experiences available in the valley. Some but not all of the things that stuck with me are:

  • A commitment to elegant meritage style blends. Of the many we sampled, there was a distinct elegance characterized by beautiful floral hints, followed by in some cases the lovely graphite and rustic mineral finish often associated with Bordeaux.
  • “Letting the vineyard speak” was evidenced by the rocky, mineral soils we observed in the River Rock Vineyards, and tasting it in the fantastic Buty Wines grown there.
  • Balance was a hallmark through out the lineups of many of the wineries. There were very few “monster” wines; even the Syrahs and GSMs had nice balance and finesse. (The exception being the wines of Charles Smith, whom I sense wouldn’t have it any other way. – we wouldn’t want him to either, as they are such fun wines).
  • The whites were full of Old World-esque minerality (DeLille’s Chaleur White – wow!), and wonderful acidity. I loved the number of seafood beckoning Chenin Blancs, and gorgeously subtle Rieslings.
  • Another highlight was the handful of Rosés we sampled. Spicy, with light red berries, they are fantastic summer wines at even more striking prices. Barnard and Griffin, Mannina (made from Sangiovese) and L’Ecole 41 (whose is a Grenache rosé) all had delicious sips under $20.

Walla Walla is a fantastic place that is so welcoming for the wine enthusiast. The vineyards are beautiful and the vintners are warm and genuinely interested in sharing the work that they do. The town center of Walla Walla is also a great stepping off point to explore the wine, with dozens of tasting rooms, cool restaurants (tasty pizza at The Olive, by the way) and a fantastic mix of generations of architecture.

6 comments

2006 Chateau Ste. Michelle Horse Heaven Hills Sauvignon Blanc with D3TV

Yesterday, I headed over to the offices of D3 Security Management Systems to sit down with Clinton Kabler and taste a couple of wines. First up is this delicious Sauvignon Blanc.

$29 at Marquis Wine Cellars.

4 stars
(maybe even 4.5 – buy a bottle and decide for yourself)

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Best Damn Tasting Ever! presented by the Seacove Group and New World Wines

OK, so I’ve been really bad with posting lately… and rightfully so. I’ve got a life and a full-time, outside wine job. I’ve been feeling badly about the lack of posts, so I’ve resolved to writing at least a few of ’em a week for the next while. Not only does that accomplish the more-posts-in-a-month goal, but it also makes me document the wine I drink, which was the original idea behind this site.

Well, now that that’s out there, I’ll get down to the task at hand. A few weeks ago, I received an invite from my friend Paul Watkin, who works with the Seacove Group, a wine agency in town for a tempting-sounding trade tasting being held at the Metropolitan Hotel.

The tasting was put on by the Seacove Group and the New World Wines agencies – and featured a diverse selection of wines from pretty much everywhere. There were wines from Italy, France, Spain, New Zealand, Portugal and the USA. Graham and I made our way around the room and I can honestly say there wasn’t a single wine we didn’t enjoy. Both agencies have some stunners, so I’m just going to give you our top 5’s from each.

Graham’s picks from Seacove:

  • Champagne de Venoge Brut Milliesime 1995 – Stunning length with beautiful citrus and lees.
  • Livon Braide Alte 2006 – Loved this wine.  Superbly crisp with nice pear and lime and solid mineral finish.  I imagined this with mussels or clams.  Mmmmm….
  • Egelhoff Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 – A gorgeous Napa Cab with great black fruit.  This wine was like someone ground a pepper mill over the glass.  Excellent stuff.
  • Chateau des Graviers AOC Margaux “Quintessence” 2001 – Delicious.  Great nose of tea, marker and ground coffee.  Finishes up with some nice graphite and green leaf.
  • Moncellior Pinot Noir 2008 – I really liked this one.  Nice full raspberry nose with great acidity and some nice green stalk on the finish.  This is a great value in the Otago Pinots for $35.

My picks from Seacove:

  • 1995 Champagne de Venoge Brut Millesièmme -Wow. Just wow. So graceful and tasty.
  • 2006 Signorello Winery Padrone – OK, it’s expensive, but it’s also really bloody tasty. Massive black fruit and pepper are followed by equally massive tannins. This one needs time.
  • 2005 Van Zeller Douro CV “Curriculum Vitae” – Elegant dark plum and berry fruit lead to a loooong finish. Pretty wonderful stuff.
  • 2003 Egelhoff Wines Cabernet Sauvignon – Great dark fruit and black pepper flavours made me want to go back for more.
  • 2006 Quinta do Crasto Touriga Nacional – Dark fruit and chocolate with a finish that lasted minutes. I love this wine.

Graham’s picks from New World Wines:

  • Barnett Vineyards Merlot Spring Mountain 2006 – Amazing spice on this wine.  Anise and Cinnamon with gorgeous red fruit.  Loved it.
  • Darioush Winery Signature Series Shiraz 2005 – Deep intense black fruit with nice black pepper and firm tannins.
  • DeLille Cellars D2 2006 – This was soft and sexy goodness.  Gorgeous red fruit and silky finish.
  • Betz Family Winery Clos de Betz 2006 – Beautiful dark chocolate, black fruit and some nice mint on the finish. – Loved it.
  • Flowers Vineyard & Winery  Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2006 – Elegant, with beautiful cranberry and currant.  Great length with a bit a brown sugar on the finish.

My picks from New World Wines:

  • 2005 Darioush Winery Signature Series Shiraz – So good! Immense dark fruit, dark chocolate and black tea flavours lead out to a long-long finish.
  • 2006 Barnett Vineyards Merlot Spring Mountain – Dark chocolate and plum fruit with a toasty edge. So good.
  • 2006 Betz Family Clos de Betz – It may be starting to sound like a record on repeat, but dark chocolate and blackberry flavours made me want more.
  • 2006 DeLille Cellars D2 – Mouth-filling dark fruit. Yum.
  • 2004 Lail Vineyards Blue Print – This had a hint of bell pepper to its dark fruit and spice. Bloody good.
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2009 ZAP Festival Tasting in San Francisco

01312009I’m not going to make this a long post, but I just wanted to give a quick update to our SF trip. Today marked the third year in a row that both Graham and I have made the trek down to San Francisco for the Zinfandel Advocates and Producers (ZAP for short) Festival Tasting at the Fort Mason Center.

There’s a reason we head here every year – it’s FUN. The thing about Zinfandel seems to be that it’s the least threatening of the wine varietals. It tends to be jammy and fun, so the people who are drawn to it tend be unpretentious sorts. That was certainly true this year. Everyone from the winemakers to the volunteers seemed to have fun at the fest.

We hit the floor at 10am for the start of the media and trade tasting and stayed until around 2:30… a lot of that time spent up in the handy media lounge pouring our own samples and taking notes. We spent quite a bit of time hanging out with Shea Coulson from Just-Grapes – another Vancouver-based (but down in Berkeley for the next few months) wine geek and a heckuva’ nice guy.

We were all impressed with the quality of the wines this year. They seemed a bit more in balance and complex. Having said that though, I’ll be up-front and say that my favourites were hit-you-over-the-head fruit bombs. Mazzocco, Turley, Woodenhead and Ravenswood had standouts along with a bunch of smaller producers. The quality of the wine being poured was pretty bloody high.

Another thing that Graham just reminded me of was that all the big-boy producers were pouring full line-ups – from 5 – 10 wines and all of the were great. It was “Mmmm” after “Wow.” Ridge, Ravenswood, Renwood and Mazzocco had multiple wines on the table that just reminded me why I love this grape.

We did run into a few detractors of the wines’ styles, but you know what? If you don’t like your wines diverse – sometimes lean slky and complex but  sometimes huge and jammy, don’t go to the Zin tasting. ‘Nuff said.

I’ll be back next year… and here’s a little shout out to Julie Ann Kodmur and the ZAP folks for the great time we had at ZAP 2009.

3 comments

2008 – My Favourites in Wine and Music

It’s the time of year that the “best of” lists make their appearances. Despite what some folks may say, these lists are pretty fun to put together and it’s always good to hear what others liked the most in the past year. What better thing to do on a snowy Saturday than to sit down and make my list? :)

Music and wine are a natural match. I’m a music freak/I’m a wine geek. Almost every memorable bottle of wine I’ve had over the years was drunk while music was playing. With that bond in mind, I thought for fun that I’d put together a list of my most memorable albums of the year and pair them with the wines I loved most in 2008 (in no particular order and based only on full bottle samples).

mgmt12000 Paitin Barbaresco, Sori Paitin paired with Oracular Spectacular” by MGMT
I’ll lead off with this one because they were both my top choices for the year. The wine was memorable in a way no other matched and the album still gets regular play. There’s more going on with both than you get at first taste or listen. They both just get better as you go. The wine was, in a word, stellar. The album had standout tracks such as “Time to Pretend”, “Kids” and “Electric Feel” – great stuff.

tvontheradio2001 Yalumba The Octavius, Barossa Old Vine Shiraz paired with Dear Science,” by TV on the Radio
What can I say about these two?.. This was what I popped open on my fortieth birthday and TV on the Radio have put out three of my favourite albums. Both have layers and layers and make you think as much as they are just plain good. The more you taste the wine, the more it comes alive – the same goes for the album. It requires multiple listens to worm its way into your consciousness… and I’m glad it did. Standout tracks include “Halfway Home”, “Golden Age” and “Dancing Choose”.

boniver2003 Russell Creek Winemakers Select Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley paired with For Emma, Forever Ago” by Bon Iver
This is one of my favourite Washington State wineries, owned by a cantankerous and interesting guy, Larry Krivoshein. I bought this wine at his tasting room in Walla Walla and really liked talking and tasting with him. Both the album and the wine are the work of solitary guys in relatively remote locations – Justin Vernon in a remote Wisconsin cabin during a cold winter and Larry down in Walla Walla (seriously, do the drive some time). Both of them doing it their way. In 2008 they both put out products worthy of praise and enjoyment. Standout tracks on the intimate and beautiful album are “Skinny Love”, “The Wolves (Act I And II)” and “Blindsided”.

m831997 Bertani Amarone della Valpolicella Classico paired with Saturdays = Youth” by m83
Both the wine and the album had many layers… Hell, the wine was in the running for my wine of the year. Everyone who knows me knows that I love the Amarone.. and this is a helluva’ bottle of the Amarone. The wine was absolutely seductive – with raisins, plums, cherries, brandy and spice in its flavours. The album? Amazing. m83, aka Anthony Gonzalez, pulls off stuff you wouldn’t think anyone is trying these days. It’s symphonic in parts, with a sense of pop melody that leaves many of the songs in your head long after you’ve given it a listen. It’s also a “grower”, which is a good thing – it’s one of those albums you like more with each listen because you’re getting more from it. Strong stuff. I’d say it’s in my top 3 albums of the year. Tracks such as “Graveyard Girl”, “Kim & Jessie” and “Couleurs” help show why this album made my list.

elbow1999 H. Billiot Millésime Champagne paired with The Seldom Seen Kid” by Elbow
Classics… that’s what both of the wine and the album strike me as. The Billiot is amazing… and to me, is what a Champagne should be – toasty, complex and sexy, with an everlasting finish. The flavours were all about baked apples, along with some peach, honey and ginger spice. Onto the album – Elbow is one of those bands about whom I constantly marvel they’re not more popular. The singer, Guy Garver has an amazing voice that sounds like Peter Gabriel on a bender… and they consistently record strong albums. Great songs on the album are “Grounds For Divorce”, the cheery, hopeful and amazing “One Day Like This” and “The Fix” which just begs to open a British gangster film. I may have listened to this more than any other album this year.

fleetfoxes1998 Castello di Verduno Barolo, Massara paired with Fleet Foxes” by Fleet Foxes
Both of these choices were unexpected finds in 2008. I stumbled on the wine while having lunch in Verduno, Italy. It may have been the setting, but I loved this wine. The Marsala sherry, nuts, leather, cherry and flowers led to a sexy cherry brandy finish. Likewise for the album. At first it struck me as too softly harmonic and folksy (very Simon & Garfunkel-y)… but the more I listened to it, the beauty of the music won me over. It’s a mellow-day album that will leave you in a better mood for having heard it. I can’t say there are standout tracks. It’s a complete and round achievement that stands as an album.

hercules2005 Mazzocco Sonoma Zinfandel Pony, Dry Creek Valley & 2004 Mazzocco Stone Ranch Zinfandel, Alexander Valley paired with Hercules and Love Affair” by Hercules and Love Affair
These choices represent the good-times party choices of the year. If you’re at a party and drag these wines out, anyone who likes wine (especially a great Zin) will love them… and the album will get their booties moving. Both the Mazzocco Zins are made in that crushed blackberry syrup and briar style with balanced structures and finishes. Winemaker Antoine Favero does a great job there. I think they were my favourite Zins of the year – and that’s saying a lot. The Hercules album has the fantastic tune “Blind” that Pitchfork chose as their track of the year. I have to admit, it is pretty bloody good.

neonneon2006 Orin Swift Cellars “The Prisoner” paired with Stainless Style” by Neon Neon
Both of these choices are just plain unique and rock n’ roll. Dave Phinney heads a small (when we visited last January, there were 4 people doing it all) operation that turns out phenomenal wines. I first tried this wine in their offices and then gladly took one to enjoy that night. Graham’s review noted, “the Prisoner has a vibrant blackberry and ripe plum on the bouquet, which opens into briar and with some dark chocolate in the mix.” Loved it. Neon Neon grab you right away with their brand of tense early-80’s musical nostalgia and take it from there. It’s a lot of fun for someone who actually became an adult in the 80’s. I loved the tracks “Dream Cars”, “Belfast” and “Michael Douglas”.

lykkeli2001 Damilano Barolo paired with Youth Novel” by Lykke Li
I loved this wine… it was one of my finds at the Vancouver Wine Fest and was helping me set up for my forthcoming trip to Piedmont at the end of March. Like I wrote back then “…it’s a complex mix of brandied cherry, plums, leather, tar, and spice along with a violet-floral thing going on.” This family-owned winery located near the town of Barolo consistently turns out some of the best values (and wines) from the Langhe. Production on the album is provided by by Bjorn Yttling of Peter Björn and John and are just plain catchy – with Lykke’s sexily fragile voice. Standout tracks are “Dance Dance Dance”, and “Let it Fall”.

cutcopy2007 Seghesio Zinfandel, Sonoma County paired with In Ghost Colors” by Cut/Copy
An amazing wine and an equally impressive album. The Seghesio Zin was tapped by the Wine Dictator as their #10 wine of the year and given a hefty 93 points. I can’t disagree with them much. Personally, I enjoyed the Mazzocco Zins more, but I also loved this wine. We’ve gone through 6 bottles in the last while. It’s got ripe and juicy blackberry fruit long with a form and tannic backbone showing a brambly and spicy finish. Wow. The album is also a “Wow”. I loved it the first time I heard it and have listened to it countless times since then. It’s another 80’s-influenced wonder, is funky as Hell and makes you want to shake your ass. I’m still digging tracks such as “So Haunted”, “Far Away” and “Hearts On Fire”.

frenchkicks2007 Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough paired with Swimming” by French Kicks
I’ve drunk a helluva’ lot of this wine this year. It’s amazingly diverse in its food pairings and is mouth-wateringly tasty… and it’s the wine I ordered on my first date with Candace in 2008. We still drink it regularly. It’s got lots of tropical and citrus fruit, with a crisp backbone of acidity. It’s also a pretty amazing deal at $21.99 here in BC making it my value wine of the year. The album. I loved it. It’s one of those albums you put on and like pretty much every track. I’ve listened to it a tonne this year while preparing dinner, driving and working. It stands pretty strongly as an album, but also has great tracks with chiming guitar like “Sex Tourists”, “Abandon” and “Love in the Ruins”.

lsp2005 Lange Estate Winery and Vineyards “Three Hills Cuvée” Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley paired with The Age of the Understatement” by The Last Shadow Puppets
OK, last on the list, but certainly not least… I grabbed this bottle on a trip down to the Willamette Valley last year and had been saving it… for a Pinot craving. I popped it open after Candace and I visited Portland in October and it was all it should have been – blackberry, dark cherry, dark chocolate and earthy spice. The album? Again, I loved it. It’s a very stylish side project from the Arctic Monkey’s singer, Alex Turner and  good friend of his, Miles Kane, the guitarist of the Rascals. What they came up with is a stylish and catchy sound that’s like a 60’s garage band that has developed a sudden taste for martinis. I personally think it’s a crime that the amazing tune “My Mistakes Were Made for You” wasn’t the theme for the latest Bond film, “Quantum of Solace”. Other good tracks are “The Age Of The Understatement”, “Standing Next To Me” and “I Don’t Like You Anymore”.

Honourable mentions for wines in 2008 (based on me just really likin’ them):

5 comments

2005 Russell Creek Winery Tributary

OK folks, I’ve been busy and am plum out of the witty wine analogies. I’ll just get right down to it. I visited this winery in Walla Walla early last year and have drunk a few of their wines since.

Mmmmm… this one is a juicy, deep, dark and sexy New World Cab blend (56% Cabernet Sauvignon and 44% Merlot). Yes, it is. I gave it roughly 2 hours in the decanter to open up. Once there, it gave layers of intense dark cherry and berry fruit to go along with some dark chocolate and oak-driven spice on the medium-long finish.

I loved this wine. It just gave me exactly what I was looking for on Saturday. In a word, it was decadent. My mouth was left wanting more – and that’s never a bad thing.

$32.99 at LDB stores here in BC.

4 1/2 stars

2 comments

2006 Giant Wine Company “Sinner’s Punch” Red Wine, Columbia Valley

So many of the Columbia Valley wines I’ve tasted over the last while are big rich Bordeaux Blends.  I really love ‘em, but when I spotted this one on my recent trip to Seattle, I had to give the 90% Syrah 10% Cabernet blend a go.

Big and black in the glass, a sniff brought some fresh cracked pepper into play with nice black plum and bit of mint and brown sugar.  Definitely both grapes at work here.  A few tasty sips and I was in jammy black cherry and plum bliss.  Mouth-filling to say the least, it certainly belies the $13.99 price tag.  The finish was nice and full with more sweet spice and and a medium acidity.  Good stuff, complementing a nice burger on the BBQ while sitting in the backyard.

Summer’s not done yet and BBQ season never ends.

$13.99 at Esquin Wine Merchants.

3 1/2 stars
(leaning toward 4)

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2003 Russell Creek Winemakers Select Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley

I’ve had a good week – I started it off by finding a new apartment and that was followed by weather that allowed me to get out on my road bike 3 times after work. The way the weather has been in Vancouver, that was a total treat.

So, in my “once a day, every day, give yourself a treat” frame of mind, I decided to open this bottle that had been in my cellar since my trip to Walla Walla last year.

What can I say? It’s a great bottle of wine. It’s deep and dark… has a nose that offers up spice, candied dark berries and plum, with a mouthful of dark fruit that is like velvet on the tongue. It has a finish that lasts until the next sip.

I know I over-use it sometimes, but this, folks, is a sexy bottle of wine. I picked it up in the winemaker’s odd “winery” at the edge of the old airport in Walla Walla. I really liked the winemaker, Larry Krivoshien.. and obviously he’s turning out some bloody tasty stuff.

Wow. Yum. Try it if you can find it.

~$50 USD at the winery.

4 1/2 stars

1 comment

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