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Archive for the Wine Category

[This article was written by Bart and originally appeared in the Nobleman Magazine.]


1. Nero d’Avola (Sicily)

Looking for a nice Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinotage or Syrah alterative?  Consider a Nero d’Avola from Sicily.  The largest of Italy’s regions has the largest area under vines.  Nero’s hometown, Avola DOC, is found in the extreme south-east corner where temperatures can often exceed 104 f.  Vineyards planted as high as 1100 meters yield tiny quantities of a pale, fragrant red reminiscent of great Burgundy.  This viticulture superhero must be included in the canon of great Italian reds as it manages, despite the heat, to produce balanced, elegant wines with fine tannins and a plum and mulberry character.

Pairs great with:

  • Beef
  • Roast Veal
  • Pan roasted pork
  • Palermo Style Tuna


2. Rioja (Spain)

Rioja is located in Spain and has a long association of viticulture and was the first wine region to gain DOCa status.  The principal city in Rioja is Longrono, on the river Ebro.  Rioja is a region of small growers, most of whom sell their grapes to merchants or to the co-operative cellars.  The primary varietals in a Rioja are Tempranillo, Garnacha, and Mazuelo.  A new style of Rioja began to emerge in the 1970s.  It was still blended but the wines underwent longer maceration times, particularly for Tempranillo, followed by shorter periods of oak aging.  There was a greater emphasis on new oak and French oak.  This gives a more deeply colored, tannic wine with primary fruit with obvious oak characteristics of vanilla, cloves, toast, and smoke.

Pairs great with:

  • Almost any kind of lamb dish
  • Many pork dishes, especially cooked Spanish style with beans.
  • Dishes with red peppers and/or pimenton or paprika
  • Paella
  • Cheese, especially hard sheep’s cheeses such as Manchego


3. Cote du Rhone GSM (Grenache, Syrah, Mouvedre) (Southern Rhone, France)

Headed South from Valence, where the last northern Rhone vineyards are located, there is a gap of about 60km before vineyards begin again.  From here the vineyards cover a wide area either side of the Rhone until the river passes through Avignon.  This is an enormous vineyard region producing an equally impressive range of wines from excellent everyday wines to super premium.  Grenache dominates most of the red wine of southern Rhone and is by far the most widely planted.  Grenache can develop very concentrated spiced red fruit flavors.  Syrah and Mouvedre play the most important supporting role to Grenache. Syrah provides blends with extra color and tannin.  Mouvedre on the other hand, is deeply colored and very high in tannins.

Pairs great with:

  • Shepards Pie
  • Kidney Pie
  • Macoroni and Cheese
  • Veggie Bakes
  • Lentil or bean based dishes


4. Willamette Valley Pinot Noir (Oregon)

Pinot Noir is the classic black grape variety that has it’s origins in Burgundy, France. Pinot Noir is a very old variety that mutates exceptionally easy, with the result that over the centuries many subtly different versions.  Classic Pinot Noir has red fruit flavors (Cherry, raspberry. Strawberry) in youth that evolve into vegetal and savoury, gamey notes as the wine matures.  Levels of tannins and acidity vary from medium to high according to vineyard, producer and the vintage, but tannins are rarely too astringent.

The Willamette Valley lies to the west of the Cascade Mountains and runs from the Colombia River in Portland south through Salem to the Calapooya Mountains outside Eugene.  The valley has cool, wet winters  Most of the rainfall occurs in the winter, rather than during the growing season.  It has warm, dry summers, temperatures are moderated by the cooling influence of the Pacific and during the growing season it enjoys warm days and cool nights.  The high sunny conditions and large diurnal temperature range encourage the wine grapes to develop their flavor and aromatic complexity while retaining their natural acidity.  I find this Pinot Noir to be “richer” and “fuller” than most California Pinots.  This Thanksgiving, put away the Oaked Chardonnay and reach for a Willamette Valley Pinot Noir!

One of my favorites:  Antica Terra

Also pairs well with:

  • Salmon
  • Roasted chicken
  • Pasta dishes
  • Beef Bourguignon



5. Albarino (Spain)

Rias Baixas is located in the North West corner of Spain along the Galatian coast.  The dominant grape varietal is Albarino.  The gentle handling and temperature control of modern wine making have allowed the emergence of the delicate varietal fruit character.  The most popular modern style takes advantage of the grapes high acidity and is a crisp, refreshing wine best drunk young.  Albarino has become very popular globally and this, combined with the challenging viticulture conditions posed by the maritime climate means these wines are never cheap.  I love to drink this wine with or without food, especially on a warm day on the deck or by the water.

Pairs well with:

  • Seafood!  (if it ever sported a fin or shell, it’s the right pairing!)


6. Torrontes (Argentina)

Torrontes has had a mixed past.  The origin of this grape is not fully understood with some saying that it was brought to the north of Argentina by Spanish Jesuits from Galicia in the seventeenth century.  It is mostly planted in La Rioja, San Juan and the northern province of Salta where it has become the dominant grape variety.  It is now Argentina’s signature white variety and has an intense fruity, floral perfume, with medium body.  Dominate flavors – Meyer lemon, peach, lemon peel, rose petal, geranium.  Think California Viognier.

Pairs well with:

  • Chicken Satay
  • Roast Chicken
  • Curried Shrimp
  • Feta, Gruyere, Swiss and Manchego cheese
  • Cilantro, Thai Basil, Mint, Parsley Cumin
  • Butternut Squash, yam, carrot, zucchini, snap peas, citrus frutis, coconut, mango


7. Chablis (France)

Chablis is a Chardonnay making wine region in the northwest corner of Burgundy, France.  Unlike other Chardonnay wines, Chablis rarely uses oak-aging, resulting in a very different style and taste profile.  Wines from Chablis are frequently described as having citrus and white flower aromas with dry, lean, light bodied flavors of citrus, pear, minerality and salinity.  Chablis rarely displays flavors of butter, an indication of oak-aging.  In fact, one of the most desirable traits in quality Chablis is a long, tingy finish of high acidity and flint like minerality.  Much of the lean and elegant taste of Chardonnay from Chablis is attributed to the qualities of the soil, climate and traditions in the region. On a recent trip to France I stepped out of my traditional Chardonnay comfort zone and ordered a local Chablis.  I have not looked back!

Pairs well with:

  • Chicken tarragon
  • Escargot
  • Clam chowder
  • Black truffle fricassee over creamy polenta


8. Riesling ( Austria)

Riesling is probably one of the most complex wines to discuss.  The general public know only of the sweet style of wine.  However, Riesling is excellent in the dry and off dry styles.  Riesling is the most famous German variety and is the most widely planted variety in Germany.  And while very good, I will direct you to try a Riesling from Austria, especially in the Wachau, Kamptal and Kremstal areas.  They are usually dry and quite full bodied, with ripe, peachy primary fruit.  Most is bottled to reflect the characteristics of a single, named vineyard.  Mineral flavors are common, and these wines can develop great complexity as they age.  Food pairing—think spice.  Because of Rieslings sweetness and acidity, it makes the perfect accompaniment to spicy food.  Strong Indian and Asian spices are a perfect match.  A classic pairing is with spice duck leg.


9. Rose (Southern France)

Once considered the “red headed step child” of the wine world (think Sutter Home!), Rose has made a formidable come back.  Heck, I’ll say it.  I drink Rose!  Rose has become popular to produce in Spain, California and Southern France and is made with either Garnacha, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, or Syrah Blend.  While on a recent trip to French Polynesia, Bora Bora, I was served the Whispering Angel Rose from the Provence AOC.  The primary grape is Grenache followed by Vermentino, Cinsault, Merlot, Mouverdre, Syrah and Tibouren.  It has the flavors of White Cherry, White Pepper, Red Pepper Flake, and lime zest.  Needless to say, it became a daily ritual in Bora Bora!  While it needs no food to enjoy, it pairs well with Vegetable Linguine, Tuna Nicoise Salad, Lemon Shrimp pasta, Paella, and Pulled pork sandwiches.


Favorite Wines for Thanksgiving Dinner 2016

One of the most frequent wine questions I get this time of year is “What wine should I serve for Thanksgiving dinner?” It’s tough for people to choose a wine for Thanksgiving for a couple of reasons. One, people have different tastes in wine, so it’s hard to please everyone. Two, there are lots of different types of food on the table, so people get confused as to what they should serve.

A lot of people make the mistake of serving Chardonnay. It’s not one of my personal choices, and most wine sommeliers would agree. Mostly because like I said above, there’s so much on the table: herby gravy, tart cranberry sauce, savory dressing, and sweet potatoes (obviously sweet!) Even an oaky Chard can’t stand up to all those flavors.

So, what are my choices?


Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is my #1 pick. One of the great things about Pinot Noir is that it makes almost anyone happy! Pinot Noir works well with turkey, which is pretty neutral to begin with. A good pinot is complex, which innately gives it an incredible range of food pairings; perfect for the bountiful Thanksgiving table.

Here are some reliable Pinot Noir Choices:

  • Fullerton Five FACES Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, OR 2014 ($33):

Beautifully balanced and polished with effusive notes of raspberry, warm spices and earth. The wine is a blend of pinot noir from three different vineyards in the Willamette Valley, and the young Alex Fullerton is a winemaker to watch in Oregon.

  • 2013 Melville “Estate” Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir (Santa Barbara, CA ~$30)
  • 2014 R. Stuart & Co. “Love Oregon” Pinot Noir (Willamette, OR $28)



If you’re not a fan of the Pinot Noir price point, but would like a wine with similar qualities, I would recommend a Beaujolais. It’s made with 100% Gamay, but will give you way more bang-for-the-buck. It pairs very well with cranberries, roasted squash and salads, and balances the high sweetness factor of your sweet potatoes or yams and other sweet-leaning dishes on the table.

One note: 2016 was a tough year for Beaujolais, so don’t choose this year’s vintage.

Here are some reliable Beaujolais choices:

  • 2015 Coudert “Cuvée Cristal” Fleurie (Cru Beaujolais ~$20)
  • 2015 Château Thivin Côte de Brouilly (Cru Beaujolais ~$23)
  • 2009 Savoye “Vieilles Vignes” Morgon Côte du Py (Cru Beaujolais ~$45 1.5L)


You just can’t go wrong with bubbly! Everyone loves it, it gives the day a festive flair, and it pairs well with just about anything. It’s a great choice for Thanksgiving!

Sparkling wines to try:

  • Mirabelle Brut by Schramsberg, nonvintage(California; $19)

Schramsberg was one of the first sparkling-wine makers in California, and is still one of the best.

  • Ferrari Brut NV Trentodoc ($24)

Awarded “World Champion Blanc de Blancs” and “Best Italian Sparkling Wine” at Champagne & Sparkling Wine World Championships. Dinner guests will love its decadent bursting bubbles, lemon-cream nose and polished structure.

Wine Barrels in Old Cellar in Mission Viejo, CA

Our culture is gadget crazy these days; like any other industry, the wine industry has a plethora of gadgets for your every need. You don’t need all of them though, so I’ve culled through and listed the ones worth buying right now:

The Kuvée

Kuvee - Smart Wine Bottle Device

The Kuvée is a connected, “smart” wine bottle. I mean, we have smart phones so why not smart wine bottles?? It’s been called the smartest wine bottle in the world and is supposed to keep your wine fresh for up to 30 days. This is definitely cutting edge technology!

You need to order special wine to fit the Kuvée, but they have a pretty good selection of wine, and amazingly the Kuvée will also provide you wine tips and recommendations. You can also order more wine directly from the bottle, since it actually has wifi.

It’s a bit hard to visualize, but if you visit their website you can watch a demo of how it works. Oh, and California is one of only two states where it’s currently available for purchase!

It’s reasonably priced at the moment; you get your Kuvée Smart Bottle and a four wine starter pack for $199, normally a $349 value.

Kim Crawford Wine Gems

These wine gems are basically a stylish reimagining of the “whiskey stone”, but for wine. They look like marbles, but are real, beautiful fluorite stone; keep them in your freezer and pull them out when you forget to chill that bottle of white. These limited-edition wine gems are designed your wine chilled for up to an hour without diluting the flavors. Whatever you do, don’t put ice cubes in your wine!

A package contains six beautiful stones for $76.


Coravin Wine Saver System Gadget

The Coravin system is the ultimate wine saver! Their proprietary technology uses a thin wall needle to allow you to pour a glass of wine while leaving the cork in place. Once the needle is withdrawn, the cork naturally reforms a perfectly airtight seal. This protects your wine from oxidation and essentially is like you never even opened the bottle, meaning you can enjoy that bottle for months to come (not that a bottle would ever last that long!) Bye bye corkscrew!

There are several models to choose from, ranging in price from $199.95 to $349.95.

Corkcicle Canteen

This one is not cutting edge technology; in fact, it’s basically a thermos. However, it made my list because it can keep your wine at the perfect temperature for up to 25 hours, according to the company. Which means that it’s perfect for the beach and tailgating! The Corkcicle Canteen is modern, cool looking, and comes in a lot of great colors.

The 25oz size should fit a standard bottle of wine and costs only $32.95.

DaCor Discovery WineStation

DaCor Discovery WineStation Automated Wine Dispensing & Preservation System

Okay, this one may not be in everyone’s budget, but it’s awesome. The Discovery WineStation is the first automated, temperature controlled, four-bottle wine dispensing and preservation system for the home.

Whether you just want a taste, a half glass, or a full glass – you choose and the WineStation dispenses. Plus, the WineStation keeps your wines fresh for up to 60 days without any loss of flavor!

The Discovery WineStation costs about $5,500.

Hope you enjoyed the list and found a gadget you can’t live without!

Houses & Coastline of Santa Barbara, CA

If you’re looking for a wonderful weekend getaway, I highly recommend Santa Barbara and the Urban Wine Trail. Whether you’re a serious wine aficionado or merely a weekend sipper, you can sip your way through Santa Barbara County without leaving the quaintness of downtown Santa Barbara.

The Urban Wine Trail is a collection of more than 25 tasting rooms from wineries located in Santa Ynez Valley, Santa Rita Hills and Santa Maria. There are two distinct neighborhoods on the Urban Wine Trail, not too far from the beach.

Most of the wines you will taste on the Urban Wine Trail are from boutique producers; varietal Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines are superb, while others like Chenin Blanc, Roussanne, Marsanne, Viognier Grenache Blanc, and Syrah wines are all enjoyable too.

Here are my recommendations for where to sip, eat, and stay while in Santa Barbara:


Margerum Wine Company in Santa Barbara, CA

Photo: Margerum Wine Company

Margerum Wine Company

Excellent Rhone wines and a great location in the historic El Paseo!


If bubbles are your thing, you’ll definitely want to make Riverbench one of your stops. Try the Blanc de Blanc and the Blanc de Noir, in addition to the Chardonnay and Pinot Noirs!


Hop on a bike and head over to Kunin for a taste of the Syrah, Grenache, and Viognier. It’s a fun little side excursion from downtown.

Deep Sea Wine Tasting Room

Some people come for the view, some people come for the wine! Either way, don’t miss the Deep Sea Wine Tasting Room on Stearns Wharf! Grab a tasting flight or share a bottle of wine with your favorite people and watch the incredible sunset.



The Lark Restaurant in Santa Barbara, CA

Photo via The Lark Instagram page

The Lark

One of the most talked about restaurants since it opened, The Lark serves up artisanal, seasonal creations served family-style and meant for sharing. It’s made Open Table’s list for the Hottest Restaurants in America for 2016. Much of the restaurant is a beautiful outdoor patio, lined with succulents and strings of lights. Definitely order the Brussel sprouts! I also recommend the House Made Gnocchi and Dungeness Crab and the Harissa and Honey Glazed Jidori Chicken (the half is enough for two people!)


This is wine country cuisine; Californian French cuisine made with organic farm-fresh ingredients & paired with local wines. Since their menu is seasonal, it changes depending on what foods are in season, but you’re always guaranteed an amazing meal here. Right now, try the Pan Seared Foie Gras, Maple Glazed Duck Breast, and Grilled Snake River Wagyu Center-Cut Ribeye.

Finch & Fork

A chic restaurant (think Restoration Hardware magazine) that offers comfort food with a twist. It’s located in the Kimpton Canary Hotel, but is definitely not your average hotel restaurant! Try the Carmelized Cauliflower, Rainbow Trout or the Sea Scallops.



Simpson House Inn in Santa Barbara, CA

Photo: Simpson House Inn

Kimpton Canary Hotel

A gorgeous hotel with an authentic Santa Barbara feel. It’s right in the middle of town and has a great on-site restaurant, The Finch and Fork. The rooftop area offers amazing sea and mountain views and has a pool, fire pits, and a lounging area and is superb for relaxing at the end of your wine tasting day!

Simpson House Inn

If you like more of a B&B feel, the Simpson House Inn is private and secluded while still walking distance from the heart of downtown Santa Barbara. The breakfasts are delicious and the whole experience here is just a really great one.

Spanish Garden Inn

The Spanish Garden Inn is also small and quiet, a peaceful oasis right in town and only about 3 blocks from State Street. Most of the rooms are gorgeous, open and airy, and there is a small pool on property as well.


Enjoy your weekend in Santa Barbara! Let me know what your favorites were – I’d love to hear about your trip!

Baja California: Valle de Guadalupe

The Baja California region, specifically Valle de Guadalupe, is one of the most alluring food and wine destinations in North America at the moment. It’s sophisticated yet genuinely rustic, traditional but wildly hip and innovative has a rustic feel that is completely different from the Napa region, but equally enjoyable, and is still mostly undiscovered by the masses. Oh, and it was rated as one of 2014’s wine travel destinations of the year by Wine Magazine!

So if you’re looking for an adventurous weekend with a bountiful selection of must-try limited-release wines and remarkable food from some of Mexico’s most talked about restaurants, head south of the border about 90 minutes.

Jesuit priests were the original winemakers in Valle de Guadalupe back in the 18th century. Tourists, however, didn’t start visiting until 2006, when the road between Ensenada and Tecate was paved.

The flood of visitors stopped in 2008, a time when the economic downturn and a rash of drug violence on the border caused people to stop visiting Mexico. But American visitors started trickling back in 2014, and the cartel wars have essentially ceased, so Americans looking for an adventure have begun coming back.


Where to Stay

Adobe Guadalupe

Adobe Guadalupe Winery & Bed and Breakfast

A grand hacienda style building houses both the winery and an upscale six bedroom bed-and-breakfast, and is surrounded by sixty acres of thriving vineyards. In the distance, impressively large, rocky, mountains rise toward the sky.

Adobe Guadalupe is also the largest breeder of Azteca Sport horses in the world, and a favorite visitor activity is a delightful horseback ride through the vineyards.


La Villa del Valle

La Villa del Valle in Mexican Wine Country

Perched on a hilltop in the heart of the Mexican Wine Country, La Villa del Valle is a small, luxury inn with 6 rooms. This secluded relaxing sanctuary lies in the beautiful Guadalupe Valley with commanding panoramic views of vineyards, olive groves, rows of fragrant lavender and mountains on all sides.

Relax under the shade of the olive trees, walk the labyrinth, explore the fruit orchards and vegetable gardens, visit the vineyard, and enjoy the pool and jacuzzi. You can even play bocce or just sit and soak in the sweeping views from the loggia, verandah or the comfort of your room.


Encuentro Guadalupe

Encuentro Guadalupe Luxury Eco-Resort in Baja California


Encuentro Guadalupe sits on over 200 acres of rugged hillsides and verdant vineyards; this is modern luxury meets eco-resort. In fact, it’s called an “anti-resort”, which means no kids or cars are allowed where the guests reside.

Perched in the midst of an ecological preserve, you’ll find 20 freestanding eco-lofts on stilts among mammoth rock formations, and one residential eco-villa. Encuentro Guadalupe has drawn global attention and was named Best Small Hotel on Travel + Leisure’s Design Awards list in 2012.


Where to Eat

Restaurants for Lunch in Baja CaliforniaFarm-to-table cuisine abounds among restaurants that rival anything you’ll find in Napa, yet at a fraction of the cost. An influx of talented chefs are fueling the Valle de Guadalupe’s status as a critical darling among culinary tourists from Mexico City to New York.

Corazón de Tierra, the restaurant at the six-room La Villa del Valle, was named Best Hotel Restaurant by T+L in 2012 and is consistently named one of the best restaurants in Latin America.

Laja, the restaurant food bloggers have dubbed Mexico’s French Laundry, offers just-picked vegetables, homemade bread and local olive oil, meat and seafood that are creatively and expertly cooked.

There may be no more unique dinner destination in all of the Valle de Guadalupe than Deckman’s at El Mogor. Drew Deckman, a Michelin star chef, cooks entirely with firewood (no gas) in traditional Baja style and the food is phenomenal. The “restaurant” consists of wooden tables under some pine trees and bulb lights are strung through the branches.  Truly a magical experience.

Finca Altozana, like Deckman’s has a kitchen and dining area that are kept almost entirely outdoors, under a thin metal roof. There’s no lack of seating, but reservations are hard to come by as this might be one of the most popular restaurants in the Valle at the moment.


Wineries to Visit

Baja California Wineries to Visit

Ask your hotel to recommend wineries holding special events and to check whether reservations are required; wineries often lack specific addresses and can be hard to find. Here is a list of wineries that I think you will enjoy:


Hacienda La Lomita

Viñas de Garza

Monte Xanic

Tres Mujeres

Enjoy your trip and don’t forget that you’re only allowed to bring back 1 liter per person into California!

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Bart A Zandbergen, CFP® is a Registered Investment Advisor with Optivest, Inc and a Registered Representative with Gramercy Securities, Inc. Investment advisory services are offered by Optivest, Inc. under SEC Registration and securities are offered through Gramercy Securities, Inc., member FINRA & SIPC, 3949 Old Post Road, Charlestown, RI, 02813, 800-333-7450.


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