Posts Tagged ‘syrah’

Under the influence of the wine label? Guilty as charged.

Monday, May 9th, 2011

Orin Swift - PapillonOh go ahead and call the wine police. I’ll confess. Have I bought under the influence of the wine label? Yes sir, officer! Guilty as charged.

But, admit it. We’ve all done it. Sure we research the vintage tasting notes, read the reviews online, keep current on the industry trends, and mine feedback on our apps. But when you’re running late for that dinner party, you’ve left your phone in the car, and there isn’t a soul to ask for a recommendation, what does it come down to? That’s right…the label.

And really, what’s wrong with that?

Chonic Cellars - Sofa King BuenoAfter all, we taste with our eyes first. We swirl the wine, pontificate its color, its brilliance, its opacity, its legs. It’s our eyes that set the stage ripe with anticipation, setting the expectations of what will soon roll over our tongue. And yet, we discard the label as unimportant, a decoration, a distraction, a rookie mistake. Isn’t the label really our first taste of the vino goodness to come? And if it isn’t, shouldn’t it be?

Still not convinced? Consider some of our favorite wine labels in the shop.

 Orin Swift PapillonOrin Swift - The PrisonerOrin Swift - Saldo

Orin Swift
Strong, bold and arresting with layers of complexity in the storytelling. From Papillon’s hands of third generation Napa Valley grape grower and winemaker Vince Tofanelli to Saldo’s striking red and white label maker label, Orin Swift’s labels offer a visual amuse bouche of what awaits inside.




Herman Story - On the Road, Nuts & Bolts, and TomboyHerman Story
Fresh and forward, saturated, and yet, balanced, Herman Story’s labels reach out and grab you without even a line of front text. It’s pure experience: lush, vivid and focused. And just when you think you’ve got the blend of vineyards figured out, it slaps you with a barrage of words and smirk on the back label.



Owen Roe - Sinister HandOwen Roe - Yakima RedOwen Roe
Conversation starter and finisher. Owen Roe visually tempts your taste buds with a master blend of historical richness and salt of the earth earnestness, all delivered with a wink and a smile. Look no further than Owen Roe’s Sinister Hand label. Ominous yet tempting, it tells the tale of a rowing race won by a competitor slicing off his hand and tossing it on shore to be the first to touch, and ultimately become king. Determined, focused, arresting…or at the very least, a great party conversation starter.

Sans Liege - ProphetessSans Liege - GroundworkSans Liege - Cotes-Du-CoastSan Liege
Tasting this Thursday (5/12) at The Wine Closet with the winemaker himself!
Seductive, enrapturing and powerful, San Liege promises an “anthology of sensory travels” from first glance. A visual feast rich with layers of emotion, temptation and longing, San Liege’s labels deliver that first bite of the forbidden bottled inside.

And with that your honor, I rest my case and give it to the jury. What wine designs have caught your eye and tempted your palate?

Davina DaVino


A taste of the Pacific Northwest – Owen Roe Winery

Monday, May 2nd, 2011

Owen Roe Tasting 5/5It’s hard to imagine, but not so long ago, wine experts turned up their nose at Napa. California wines, competing with their French counterparts? C’est ridicule! Yet, starting with the Paris Wine Tasting of 1976 where Napa swept the reds and whites, new meccas of wine goodness have been popping up all around the country. One of the latest hotbeds to hit the vino shelves is the great Pacific Northwest. Between its diverse regions of soil and climate favorable for producing fruit with low pH and on point acidity, the Pacific Northwest has burst into the wine scene with distinct flavor, power and personality.

Owen Roe Sinister HandOne of our favorite labels from the Pacific Northwest has to be Owen Roe from David O’Reilly. From its memorable labels (like the severed hand of Sinister Hand) to its complex layers and balance of fruits and spice, Owen Roe’s wines are silky on the palate and big on personality. Such a strong core can only be developed by the history and soil it comes from. Steeped in Irish heritage, the winery is named after Owen Roe O’Neill a 17th century patriot from County Cavan Ireland (where David is originally from) who led an army against Cromwell based principles of integrity and liberty, two ideals that inspire the wines at Owen Roe and are commemorated through images on each of the Owen Roe labels. Continuing the tradition of integrity in his vineyards in Oregon’s Willamette Valley and Washington’s west end Yakima Valley, Owen Roe’s grapes are hand harvested and bin fermented with manual punch downs and finally aged in French Oak bringing forth the best that the Pacific Northwest has to offer.

Yakima Red Owen RoeThe result? A powerful Pacific Northwest offering of some of the best Pinots and Syrah’s we’ve tasted.

  • Syrah Ex Umbris ’09: Latin for “out of the shadows”, this started as a one-off produced from the smoky grapes of a wildfire, but has become a signature Syrah. Deep plum and dark cherry greets you on the nose with a velvet palate of blackberry, peppercorn and black licorice against plush tannins.

Sinister Hand GSM ’09: Besides having one of our favorite conversation labels (depicting the result of a rowing competition between the O’Neills and O’Reillys where in order to reach land first and own it the lagging rower sliced off his hand, tossed it on shore, and became king), this Grenache blend brings a complexity that’s hard to pass up. 79% Grenache, 25% Syrah, 3% Mouvedre, and 2% Counoise.

Yakima Red Bordeaux-style Blend ‘09: Showcasing the world-class Merlot and Cabernet-Franc grapes of the Yakima Valley, the fruit is from several small vineyards from the cooler western end of the region, where the long days of sunshine and moderate temperatures in the evening conspire to produce lush aromatic grapes with lovely acidity and low ph. The result is a lush black cherry, bright red berry and cassis layers with a toasty spice finish.

Owen Roe Ex UmbrisDon’t have a weekend to jet up to the Oregon / Washington border? Never fear my wine enthusiasts, we’ll bring the Pacific Northwest to you (minus the weather). Join us this Thursday 5/5, Cinco de Mayo, to take a tour through Owen Roe’s great Northwest best paired with our own Southwest feast.

Davina DaVino

Bottled Passion – Bodega de Edgar

Monday, April 4th, 2011

Bodega de Edgar

What makes a good wine great and a great wine unforgettable? Passion. It might not be heading the tasting notes, but you taste it on the palate and you feel it on finish. It’s the culmination of every decision – from soil selection to aging – being driven by the winemaker’s unyielding commitment to pour every ounce of themselves, their experience, and their journey into bottled perfection. It’s both undeniable and unexplainable, but it’s present in the best. And there are few that it’s more present than in local winemaker Edgar Torres’ Bodega de Edgar wines.

Edgar Torres’ wines are handcrafted masterpieces. No surprise really, as Edgar started his journey surrounded by amazing wines as a waiter at the famous Villa Creek Restaurant, and developed from cellar rat to winemaker under the tutelage of McPrice Myers (McPrice Myers Wines) and Russell From (Herman Story Wines), two outstanding winemakers in their own rite. What Edgar pours into every vintage is his love of the art and of the land culminating in a passion for and commitment to small production, natural wines. Sourcing the same grapes as Meyers and From, Bodega de Edgar’s wines undergo natural fermentation (no yeast added), where the natural heat of Paso Robles and the yeast within the grape skin initiate fermentation, allowing the varietal and vineyard designate to pronounce itself from nose to finish.

Bodega de Edgar - BottlingAs with most masterpieces, they’re few in number and hard to come by. Bodega de Edgar’s lots are small and purposely so focusing on quality over quantity. Edgar’s Grenache/Syrah blend, E2, for example, has only 45 cases produced. His Garnacha? A select 100 cases. And his Albarino? 310 cases. But we’ve got all three, and we’re the only shop in the area that does.

This Thursday night (4/7) we’re pouring all three (E2, Garnacha, and Albarino) limited releases plus Bodega de Edgar’s newly bottled ’09 Tempranillo and ’07 Syrah. Come by and taste the passion!


Davina DaVino

Wine for St. Patrick’s Day? Why not?!

Friday, March 11th, 2011

St. Patrick's Day Wine PairingsPerhaps it’s the Irish red head in me, but I’m going rogue this St. Patrick’s Day. Don’t get me wrong, I love a great beer just as much as the next person (after all, we’re offering a great beer flight and $4.00 black-and-tans in the shop at our St. Patrick’s Day tasting), but I’m thinking, why not try something new this year? Why not wine?

We put our wine-o and foodie crew to work to come up with some not-so-traditional pairings for traditional St. Patrick’s Day dishes. Give them a go for your day of green, and who knows, you might find a pot of gold at the end of that rainbow!

Corned Beef and Cabbage? Pick a nice Pinot Noir.

An Irish-American version of the traditional bacon and cabbage, corned beef and cabbage takes its place as the King of St. Patty’s Day Plates. Created by brined beef boiled with cabbage, vegetables, and traditional seasonings, corned beef and cabbage pairs best with a Pinot Noir or a Grenache which brings fruit and acidity to the dish, but not overwhelmingly so.

  • Our recommendation: Melville’s 2008 Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir

    Sure it’s from famous Santa Rita Hills, but more importantly, it brings to the dish a aromatics of black rasberry, black cherry & fig mixed in with spice nuances of pink peppercornss able to stand up to but not bowl over your corned beef and cabbage.

Bangers & Mash? Bring on the Syrah!

Traditionally an English dish, these bold and spicy sausages and mashed potatoes need a bold and spicy wine. A Syrah or Zin with their combination of fruit and spice will match up nicely here, and complement the flavors in the dish.

  • Our recommendation: Jaffurs 2009 Santa Barbara County Syrah   From our local Syrah specialists, Jaffurs, the 2009 SBC Syrah offers a chewy mix of spice, wild berry, pepper and blackberry fruit ending with a long, zesty finish that will leaving you looking for a second sausage.

Fish & Chips? Lighten up with Pinot Grigio.

There’s nothing wrong with serving a crowd pleaser on a holiday. Lighten it up with a fresh Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc or a Riesling that cuts through the oils with citrus and mineral tones.

  • Our recommendation: Di Bruno’s 2008 Pinot Grigio

    Straight from our local Santa Rita Hills, this Pinot Grigio is fresh, bright and bold with forward citron and minerals and a strong finish.

Shepherd’s Pie? Hook a Shiraz.

This traditional meat pie made with beef mince and a crust of mashed potatoes may have started from humble beginnings, but today it graces the plate in many a pubs. If digging into this “formerly known as” cottage pie, try the bright fruit and spice of a Shiraz or Syrah to stand up to the crust.

  • Our recommendation: Mollydooker 2008 “The Boxer” Shiraz

    With 91 points from the Wine Spectator, this Shiraz offers a bright and jazzy cherry, pomegranate and spice flavors with strong aromas, density, but without the weight to balance even the heaviest of pies.

Potato Soup? Cool it off with a Chardonnay.

Soup for supper? Yes please! We recommend topping off the simplicity and sublime of traditional Irish potato soup with the butter and oak of a full bodied Chardonnay.

  • Our recommendation: Rombauer 2009 Chardonnay

    We tasted this in the shop at our special Fat Tuesday tasting the other day, and it was a definite crowd favorite. We recommend its rich palate of peach, apple and tropical fruit mixed with oak undertones to bring the brightness and butter to your dish.

Until next time wine fans…cheers!

Davina DaVino

Keep up with us on Facebook or meet up with us 3/17 at our St. Patty’s Day tasting!

2007 McPrice Myers Cuvee Kristina

Saturday, September 11th, 2010

2007 McPrice Myers Cuvée Kristina
The Wine Closet is featuring this wine as the wine of the month. Special pricing online at The Wine Closet (  Buy Now!! Retail price was $48.00, Now $43.50

98% Syrah, 2% Viognier
121 cases produced
23 months in French Oak, 80% new
Aging Potential: 6-8+ years
This wine is a blend from three vineyards:  Three Creek, Les Galets, Larner Vineyards
30% whole cluster fermentation, in small open top bins, followed by 30-35 days on the skins, with pump -overs during cold soak and punch downs during fermentation. 24 months on lees, in 228 and 265 liter barriques.

Super dark ruby-violet… incredibly sexy nose, blood orange, lavender field, milk chocolate, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, black cherry, tapenade… pomegranate, vanilla French roast, rose petal, lupine, orange rind…looooong finish. Rich, powerful, robust

Babcock Wine Tasting 4/8/10

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

Babcock Vineyards Wine Tasting this Thursday, 4/8 from 6-9pm. Fine Santa Ynez wines and appetizers $15/pp. Wines we’re tasting are the new releases of Identity Crisis Syrah (white), Naughty Little Hillsides Pinot Gris, Rita’s Earth Pinot Noir, Grand Cuvee Pinot Noir and Classic Rock Cabernet Sauvignon.

St. Patricks Day Party, RiverStar Vineyards, Friday Night Flights

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

We’re starting the week off early on Wednesday with a St Patty’s Day Celebration starting at 5:00pm with $5 Guiness, $5 O’Rielly wines (from David O’Rielly of Owen Roe wines and traditional Irish grub until 9:00pm. Note: nothing you’ll consume will be green, I promise, but please feel free to wear some green if you please.

This Thursday, 3/18 RiverStar Vineyards of Paso Robles will be visiting and educating us on their lineup of small production wines that are packed with flavor. I’m always in search of those small, family owned and operated wineries who made fab wines for everyday drinking – in other words, RiverStar is great wine that fits nicely into anyones budget.

Come out and taste for yourself 5 RiverStar wines and appetizers for $15, 3/18 between 6-9pm.

Flight night Friday from 5:00-9:00pm. Enjoy a different flight every Friday night for only $10. Pair with a cheese plate for $7 more. This Friday Night Flight (3/19): Santa Barbara County.

Remember, whomever comes to the most flight nights from now until May 31st will get a FREE seat on our Santa Rita Hills Wine Country tour in early June – dates yet to be determined, but let me know if you’re interested & I’ll put you on the list!

To view upcoming tasting events, visit us at

New Items:
Plumpjack Cabernet
Owen Roe Ex Umbris
Carina Cellars
McPrice Myers Kristina & Les

Looking for a great venue to have a private party? The Wine Closet can be yours for a night for groups of 25 or less. Call Linda for details 805.746.5708.

Pick up a bottle of wine from The Wine Wine Closet to enjoy with dinner at JJ Brewsky’s, Verona Trattoria or D’Amore’s Pizza and enjoy free corkage! Great wine deserves great food!

Check out our entire selection of wine online at

Retail store hours: Tues & Weds 11-7pm, Thurs & Fri 11-9pm, Saturday 11-7pm, Closed Sunday & Monday (for now).

We look forward to seeing you here.

Linda & Rob
The Wine Closet
Old Town Camarillo
2423 Ventura Boulevard

Day 3 Tahoe Food and Wine Report via Sonoma and Napa

Friday, February 19th, 2010

Courtesy of Mark Johnson who recently toured Sonoma, Napa and Lake Tahoe with his wife Kathie for a food and wine vacation.

Here’s Day 3 for your reading enjoyment :-)


We packed up early and hit the road to Tahoe, but of course we had to do a brief detour to Napa along the way. The Sonoma area fog gave way to a beautiful, blue sky morning in Napa Valley. We stopped first at the Mondavi’s new project called Folio . They were pouring several of their brands (Oberon, Spellbound, Medusa, Emblem) ranging in price form $20 -$70. They were just OK — at best. Not worth the stop. Next we went to Robert Biale Now we’re talking! We had 4 great Zins, a big Syrah and a fantastic extended barrel age Petite Sirah. They do it right. A short hop away we stopped at Darioush so we could nibble on their imported Persian pistachios while tasting. What a beautiful tasting room and an extremely profession tasting staff. We tried the 2007 Chardonnay (very good), the 2008 Viognier (tasty but too sweet for us), a 2006 Merlot (not bad), and the 2006 Cabernet (excellent). After a bit of schmoozing I got him to open the 2006 Cabernet Franc (very nice). So we bought some wine and pistachios to go. Great stuff, plus he waived the $25 tasting fee. We decided it was then time to finish on a high note and hit the long road to Tahoe.

Dinner tonight was at Kalani’s, a Pacific rim/Asian fusion restaurant. We have had some great meals here and some disappointing ones. Tonight fell flat. Other than a tasty appetizer of tempura crusted ahi bits with a teriyaki and eel sauce, all other items were uninspired, not even worth writing about. Thank God we brought a great wine, the 2006 Ramey “Ritchie” Chardonnay Big, viscous, buttery and like the Benovia, enough acid to keep it all in balance.

Check out day 4 tomorrow!

Day 2 Sonoma Food and Wine Report

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

This Sonoma Food & Wine Report is courtesy of my dear friend Mark Johnson, who took is lovely wife, Kathie Johnson on a food and wine vacation through Sonoma and Lake Tahoe.  Following is Mark’s review of the restaurants and wines they sampled on Day 2…


The next morning we went back to Carneros Bistro for breakfast. Great coffee! They are really into the Locavore thing so most of the meats and produce are sourced locally. The house-made pico de gallo was great as was the thick cut bacon. The local sausage though was very blah. Fortified, we headed off to our first wine tasting appointment at Sojourn, just off the square in Sonoma. It’s a nice set up, you sit down at a table in a small living room and they poured 4 different 2008 Pinots and 3 Cabernets. 3 of the pinots were excellent, but we liked only one of the Cabs. Still, much better odds than most wineries. Definitely visit if you get the chance.

Our next appointment was with Kamen, a very small producer of premium Cabernet and Syrah. This turned out to be a great tasting! At first he said we could open one wine and perhaps barrel taste one. However, after a bit of chatting while sipping their 2006 Cabernet ($75 and it will beat most Napa Cabs at twice the price) he also opened their very small production Syrah (80 cases, $70) and it was fantastic. We also tasted multiple barrel samples of future Cabs, Cab cuvees, and Syrah.

All other tastings were downhill from there:

Tin Barn boring

Anaba OK, but simple and basic

Schug watery and just bad

Charles Creek forgettable

Roessler surprisingly blah – and expensive

Eric James yuuuuk!

So we stopped tasting and did a bit of shopping. Just off the Square I came across this tiny food shop, maybe 200 square feet, called La Bodega It is an unusual little spot but the proprietor Rick Vargas is absolutely passionate about freshly foraged wild mushrooms and hand-made ravioli. We discussed for a while his different ravioli options, mail-order shipping, etc. As we were getting ready to leave he asked if we could stay a just moment and he would make us each a special ravioli. A few minutes later he presented us with a personally made wild mushroom (Black trumpet) ravioli drizzled with imported olive oil. It was sublime. I will definitely be contacting Rick in preparation for my next dinner party.

Finally we went back to our cozy cottage to relax, and I made Margaritas to “facilitate” the moment. Using blanco Tequila, fresh squeezed Meyer lemons (instead of lime juice), agave syrup, and a hint of Tuaca I made perhaps my best ever Margarita – perfecto!

We had reservations that night at Meritage Restaurant, in Sonoma, but over the cocktails we kept reminiscing about our great meal the night before, so we cancelled Meritage and booked a table back at Carneros Bistro — and once again we were not disappointed. First we opened a bottle of Ramey 2006 “Annum” Cabernet . This is their “best barrels” blend, and it is very good. Big, robust, and marvelous complexity. As for appetizers we succumbed to the siren call of the seductive crab dip again (YUM), and we tried something new: risotto fritters with a panko crust and truffle aioli. It was pretty good, but overall not that exciting.

Food service tonight from our friendly waitress was lightning speed compared to the previous evening and our entrees arrived quickly. Kathie had Sonoma duck confit & housemade duck sausage cassoulet. It was outstanding! Crispy skin duck, savory sausage, and tender beans all covered in a porcini and breadcrumb crust. I had the evenings special: a kobe/wagyu beef filet and a braised boneless short rib. The short rib was falling apart and had a red wine or port sauce (?), it was very good. The kobe was not as tender as I had expected, but it was quite flavorful, especially when dipped in the savory dark amber French onion “soup” mousse that came with the dish. We returned to our cottage quite sated.

Dubost Family Winery

Friday, January 15th, 2010

The Wine Closet had the pleasure of  co-hosting a wine tasting with Kate and Curt Dubost from Dubost Ranch Winery of Paso Robles last night. This winery is truly family owned and operated and the Dubost Ranch, located in the Adelaida area of Paso Robles (among the Far Out wineries of Paso Robles Westside), has been in the family for 5 generations. The winery is new, made of rice straw bale and represents the Dubost’s family values and respect for the land where they practice sustainable farming of a variety of vines including Tempranillo, Carmenere, Negret, Chardonnay, Syrah, Grenache ,Viognier and Roussanne. There’s probably more, but this is a good idea of the varietal range with which winemaker (and eldest son of Kate), Jacob Raines, who is a young 30 something, is stepping up and producing wines of distinction in this area.

Following are my notes from the 5 wines tasted last night:

’08 Alexandrine, 75% Viognier & 25% Roussanne – I love the aromas in Viognier, exotic floral and delicate citrus and apple in this one. It’s a crisper styled Rhone White, yet still benefits from the signature creamy mouthfeel. Flavors are all about stone fruits which carries on through the lingering finish. Nicely balanced between fruit and acidity. $22

’07 Homestead Red, Tempranillo, Grenache, Syrah and Petite Sirah – A fresh and fruity, crowd-pleasing blend that’s slightly masculine as well (probably from the Tempranillo and Petite). It’s medium to full-bodied with flavors and aromas of dark fruits, herbs, and subtle oak char that acts as a fruit tamer and balances out the wine. $16

’06 Syrah – This was one of the favorites among tasters, but not your typical over-the-top styled Central Coast Syrah with high alcohol, this one is meatier, aged 30 months in 60% new and 40% neutral French oak barrels. Loaded with pepper spice and a hint of spearmint making it a lovely wine to pair with grilled lamb. $20

’06 Tempranillo (100% Tempranillo) – Tempranillo is one of my favorite varietals these days, I find we make them very well here in California and look forward to trying more.  The fruit is pure and abundant, with great aromas of cigar, spice and chocolate…almost like enjoying a spicy espresso in a cigar bar – sounds strange, but it’s the best description I can muster. I enjoyed it thoroughly. $28

’05 Gran Reserva, 50/50 Tempranillo & Grenache – The ‘Gran Reserva’ label is reserved for those wines aged at least 2 years prior to bottling. This one was aged for a total of 4 years; the two varietals were aged separately for 2 years, Tempranillo in new French oak and the Grenache in neutral hogshead barrels, they were then blended and aged for another year in the neutral hogshead barrels – but wait, there’s more…once bottled, the wine was again aged for an additional year prior to release. That said, this wine is big, bold, smooth and elegantly styled. Loaded with dark plums that’s also meaty, leathery and nutty – love it!  $32

Kudos to this new little family winery. I’ll definitely visit the next time I’m in Paso Robles as the company of both Curt and Kate was such a pleasure, the evening went by so quickly. I’m looking forward to meeting the rest of the family.