6 Wines from Livermore Valley, CA

Hi everyone, and Happy #WineWednesday! Today, I’m unboxing my latest Nottingham Cellars and Vasco Urbano Wine Company shipment.  Wine is sent 4 times a year — February, May, August, November – and there are 12, 6, and 3-bottle membership options.  The monthly cost depends on the wines included in the shipment, but usually it ranges from $95-$130.

The wines mentioned were:

Question of the Day: What do you think of Bordeaux grape varietals versus Rhone Valley grape varietals?  Does it matter to you?  Or, do you just enjoy good wine?

WBC16 Pre-Conference (Part 5): Last Day in Livermore Valley

Las Positas Vineyard

Las Positas Vineyard

The final vineyard stop on the Livermore Valley pre-wine bloggers’ conference excursion was to Las Positas Vineyard. The gracious hosts not only had space for us to taste their wine, but also the wines from several other wineries in the area. There were also several booths from local businesses. Our schedule up until this point had been crammed full and a little rushed (although I wouldn’t have wanted to cut anything off the schedule!), so it was nice to have a little bit of time to relax and enjoy the gorgeous scenery.

2012 Las Positas Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve – At $68, this California red wine is very non-intrusive. It has medium body, a mix of fruit and spice characteristics, and is definitely meant for food. Rating: 3 out 5 | AGlassAfterWork.com

2012 Las Positas Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve

2012 Las Positas Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve (winery)
Price $68
Dark ruby color
Plums, cherries, and a hint of spice on the nose
Plums, cherries, tobacco, and hints of clove in the mouth
Medium body and tannins, high acid
I know this wine won the Double Gold at the 2015 San Francisco International Wine Competition and the Silver at the 2016 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, but I was really underwhelmed, particularly at such a high price point.
3 Corks

2013 Heine Petite Sirah by Vasco Urbano Wine Company – At $48, this California red wine is the epitome of big, bold, and beautiful. Just give it a little time to breath and the wine will be one to spend an entire evening getting to know. Rating 4.5 out of 5 | AGlassAfterWork.com

2013 Heine Petite Sirah by Vasco Urbano Wine Company

2013 Heine Petite Sirah by Vasco Urbano Wine Company (winery)
Price: $48
Grapes: 100% Petit Sirah
Cases produced: 100
Dark inky purple
Blueberry, blackberry, and boysenberry syrup on the nose
Add chocolate to that in the mouth
Big, grippy tannins, full body, and good acid
This wine is the epitome of big, bold, and beautiful once it has a little time to breath. There is a lot going on, but its so well balanced that it’s the type of wine I want to spend an entire evening getting to know.
4.5 Corks

2013 Dante Robere Estate Syrah – At $38, this California red wine is one that is a food-friendly wine that you should feel comfortable ordering at a restaurant or grabbing in the store. Nothing crazy different, but solidly enjoyable. Rating 3.5 out of 5 | AGlassAfterWork.com

2013 Dante Robere Estate Syrah

2013 Dante Robere Estate Syrah (winery)
Price: $38
Grapes: 100% syrah
Cases produced: 115
Medium-to-dark ruby color
Blackberries, smoke, and cedar on the nose
Blackberries, dark plums, smoke, cedar and baking spices in the mouth.
Medium-to-full body, tannins, and acid.
3.5 Corks

And with that, my final thoughts on Livermore Valley…

Collin Cranor, the winemaker for Vasco Urbano Wine Comapny and Nottingham Cellars

Collin Cranor, the winemaker for Vasco Urbano Wine Comapny and Nottingham Cellars

WOW! There is no doubt, I’ve fallen in love with wine from the area. Admittedly, my favorites were Murrieta’s Well, which I reviewed here, and Vasco Urbano Wine Company, which we didn’t visit, although we tasted their wines at a variety of stops throughout the Livermore Valley trip (my thoughts on their wines are here). Vasco Urbano specializes in Rhone styles (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Petite Sirah, and the delicious blends that can be made from those grapes), so it’s not a surprise that I enjoyed their wines as those tend to be the grapes I gravitate towards. That said, their winemaker, Collin Cranor, does amazing things with grapes, as I also really enjoyed the wines we tasted from Nottingham Cellars—Vasco Urbano’s sister winery. Nottingham Cellars wines are all Bordeaux-style red blends made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Merlot and Petit Verdot.

All that said, if you aren’t drinking wine from the Livermore Valley, you should be. Whether it’s the larger producers or the smaller producers, the wines are mostly reasonably priced and they are ridiculously good.

Question of the day: When you pick wine for yourself, would you go for the Rhone styles or the Bordeaux styles?

Sunday Baking: Kosher Petite Sirah & Candied Bacon Bourbon Chocolate Chip Cookies

2009 Carmel Winery Petite Sirah– At $18 a bottle, this kosher red wine from Israel offers a lot of wine for not a lot of money. It’s luscious, easy to drink, and food-friendly…everything a red wine should be. Rating 4 out 5 | AGlassAfterWork.com

2009 Carmel Winery Petite Sirah– At $18 a bottle, this kosher red wine from Israel offers a lot of wine for not a lot of money. It’s luscious, easy to drink, and food-friendly…everything a red wine should be. Rating 4 out 5 | AGlassAfterWork.com

Carmel Winery CorkI’ve wanted to experiment with putting bacon in my cookies for a while, but I felt there was something intimidating about putt

ing the sweet and savory, particularly bacon, together in my cookies. Since the “My Chocolate Chip Cookies” started me off with a good chocolate chip cookie base, though, I decided to make some tweaks to that underlying recipe and bite the bullet by adding bacon to my cookies.

Tidy Mom’s Candied Bacon Bourbon Chocolate Chip Cookies seemed like the perfect place to start.  Since I didn’t have any bacon fat to use, first I made bacon (with a little extra for breakfast), then I candied it and let it cool, before finally being able to make the dough and letting it chill for several hours in the refrigerator.  It was a bit of a process and learning experience, but candying the bacon actually wasn’t too difficult.

2009 Carmel Winery Old Vines Petite Sirah

2009 Carmel Winery Old Vines Petite Sirah

Thinking through the flavors in the cookie, I really wanted a deep, bold red wine to match the spices and savoriness, and I was looking for something with a little bit of acidity to help cut through the fat.  So, I grabbed the 2009 Carmel Winery Old Vines Petite Sirah.  As someone who is Jewish but doesn’t keep kosher, it wasn’t until after I opened the wine and started taking pictures and notes that I realized I paired a kosher wine with a bacon cookie. Eeeek!  That said, while my kosher readers won’t be able to indulge in the pairing, the two went together very nicely.

The 2009 Carmel Winery Appellation Old Vines Petite Sirah (winery, snooth) is made in the Judean Hills of Israel with 100% Petite Sirah grapes.  The wine was a deep, inky purple with flecks of ruby throughout.  On the nose, there were blueberries and violets with a hint of something that reminded me of a freshly paved driveway.  On the mouth, there were blueberries, violets, with a hint of black pepper.  The wine was full-bodied, with medium-to-high acidity, and firm tannins.

2009 Carmel Winery Old Vines Petite Sirah and Candied Bacon Bour

2009 Carmel Winery Old Vines Petite Sirah and Candied Bacon Bour

Is this worth a glass after work? Definitely!  If you see this wine in the store, grab it; you won’t be disappointed.  At $18 a bottle, this Petite Sirah offers a lot wine for not a whole lot of money.  This wine takes every stereotype of kosher wines and throws them out the window.   Instead, it’s luscious; it’s easy to drink; it’s food friendly, but also enjoyable on its own; and, ultimately, it’s everything I look for in a red wine.

As for the Candied Bacon Bourbon Chocolate Chip Cookies, there was a lot going on with this cookie…and I think it was a little too much.  While I understand the flavors that were being attempted, I will simplify it when I make another batch—definitely eliminate the cayenne pepper and the bacon grease, probably eliminate the bourbon, and add a few more strips of bacon.

Overall, the cookies and the wine were a success.  Regardless of whether you’re looking for a kosher wine, this is one to grab…and if you eat bacon, I recommend pairing it with a Candied Bacon Chocolate Chip cookie.

Question of the Day: Do you like to mix your sweet and savory flavors?  Do you like pairing those flavors with wine?

Candied Bacon Bourbon Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe*


Ingredients for Candied Bacon Bourbon Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients for Candied Bacon Bourbon Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 5 slices bacon, raw (Next time, I will use 7 or 8 slices)
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 1/3 cups bleached all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (Next time, I will eliminate)
  • 9 tablespoons butter (1 stick plus 1 tablespoon) or 7 tablespoons if you don’t plan to clarify the butter
  • 1/4 cup bacon grease, chilled (Next time, I will eliminate)
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 large eggs
  • 2-3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon (Next time, I might eliminate)
  • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips

For Candied Bacon

  1. Preheat oven to bake at 375°F.
  2. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. Toss bacon in maple syrup; I put the bacon in a Ziploc bag and pour the syrup in to evenly coat without breaking the bacon.
  4. Lay bacon on prepared pan.
  5. Bake for 20 minutes.
  6. Remove bacon from oven, allow to cool, then crumble candied bacon and set aside.

For Cookies

  1. Clarify and brown the butter.   Measure out 7 tablespoons of butter, scrape in the browned solids, and let it cool to below 80 degrees F before combining other ingredients.
  2. In medium bowl, combine chocolate chips and crumbled bacon.
  3. In second medium bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, salt, and pepper (if you use it).  Set aside.
  4. In mixer fitted with paddle attachment, combine butter, bacon grease, brown sugar, and granulated sugar until very light, between 3-5 minutes.
  5. Add eggs one at a time, mixing after each addition.
  6. Add vanilla and bourbon, mixing until combined.
  7. On low speed, add dry ingredients and mix for 30 seconds.
  8. Add chocolate chips and bacon, mixing on low until just until evenly incorporated.
  9. Divide dough in half and wrap each piece in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 24 hours.
  10. Preheat oven to 375F.
  11. Remove each batch 5 to 10 minutes before shaping it.
  12. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat.
  13. Take a rounded tablespoon of dough and roll between the palms of your hands to create 1 to 1/2 inch balls.
  14. Place the dough balls onto the baking sheet 2 to 3 inches apart and press them down so that each is about 1/2 inch high.
  15. Place in oven and bake until golden brown, about 9-11 minutes.
  16. Remove from oven and place the baking sheet on wire rack for 1 minute before transferring the cookies onto another rack to finish cooling.

*Recipe adapted from Tidy Mom’s Candied Bacon Bourbon Chocolate Chip Cookies and Rose Levy Beranbaum’s My Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Price: $18
Purchased at Kosherwine.com
Overall: 4 Corks

A Slightly Too Petite Petite

Long-time readers are not surprised that I love big red wines.  Sure, my special occasion favorites tend to me more of the complex, medium-bodied Chateauneuf-de-Pape type instead of the fruit-forward, sink-myself-into type of a California Cabernet or Zinfandel, but the California Cabs and Zins are my everyday loves.  You just have to look at my tag cloud for proof.  That’s why I’m always surprised at myself for giving more love to Petite Sirah.  Maybe that should be my New Year’s resolution–to drink more P.S.?  Nothing makes me quite as happy as sipping on that full-bodied red and just getting lost in the way the wine feels and tastes, the way the flavors fill up my nose and mouth, the smoothness of the wine as it goes down, leaving a bit of tugging at my gums that begs me to take another sip…really, the way the wine comes alive as I drink it.  The problem is, Petite Sirah is hard to find in stores on the East Coast, and good Petite Sirah is even harder to find.

 2010 Shannon Ridge Petite SirahThat’s why I was excited to find Petite Sirah in the local wine store while we were in Duck on vacation.  Hubby and I were there at the end of August, and it was unusually cold weather, so the idea of having a big red wine was perfect.  I’d hoped it would not only go well with dinner, but also be a great evening companion as I sat on the deck in my jeans and long-sleeved shirt, reading and listening to the sounds of the ocean below.

The 2010 Shannon Ridge High Elevation Petite Sirah (winery) is from Lake County, California and is made with 100% Petit Sirah grapes.  The wine had a deep, inky purple color.  On the nose, there was blueberry pie, blackberries, and hints of vanilla and cream.  In the mouth, there was blueberry pie, blackberries, and hints of vanilla, mocha, and pepper.  The wine had medium body, tannins, and acid.

Is this worth a glass after work? Sure…you won’t be drinking anything out of the ordinary, but you’ll have a decent, reliable glass of wine.  At $25, I admittedly had hoped for more from this wine.  Don’t get me wrong…it wasn’t a bad wine, but it didn’t have the chewiness or the complexity that I was looking for in a Petite Sirah.  That said, it went nicely with our cheeseburgers and grilled corn, and, as you can tell from the picture, I didn’t have any trouble drinking it.

Question of the Day:  Have you ever had a Petite Sirah?  Are you a fan?

Price: $25
Purchased at Tommy’s Gourmet Market and Wine Emporium
Overall: 3 Corks

Nothing Small About HandCraft’s Petite Sirah

*** I received this wine as a sample. ***

There is something about a short workweek that makes it so much slower than a regular workweek.  That was particularly true for me during the first week of January.  I had to work on New Year’s Eve, but had New Year’s Day off.  Then, I was back in the office Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.  The problem is, I was one of the few people working.  I sent emails and tried to set up all the meetings necessary to starting the New Year off right, but I mostly received “out of office” replies in response.  Not only that, there were only a couple of people in my office, so there wasn’t even anyone around to gossip with.  So, the week was quiet and slow.  I thought Friday was never going to come, but when 5 o’clock finally arrived, I was out the door and ready to sink into a glass of a nice, big red wine.

2010 HandCraft Petite Sirah

2010 HandCraft Petite Sirah

The 2010 HandCraft Petite Sirah (winery, Amazon) is a blend of 82% Petite Sirah, 7% Petit Verdot, 5% Sangiovese, 3% Syrah, and 3% Zinfandel grapes.  The wine is made in California and was a deep, vibrant purple with flecks of ruby throughout.  On the nose, there was IHOP Boysenberry syrup and plums mixed with nutmeg and black pepper.  In the mouth, there were boysenberries, blueberries, and hints of dark plums and black pepper.  The wine had big tannins, high acidity, and a fully body.

Is this worth a glass after work? Definitely!  If you see this wine in the store, grab it; you won’t be disappointed. At an SRP of $12, the quality-price ratio on this wine is almost impossible to beat.  Was it quite as elegant as the Clarksburg Wine Co’s Petite Sirah I’d opened a couple of nights early?  No, but at half the price (and with a little aeration both by using an aerator and letting the wine sit in my glass), the HandCraft was still very enjoyable.  It was a big, bold, jammy red that I could just sink myself into.  It was perfect for the first Friday night of 2013.

Hubby made a lemon pepper chicken with a cucumber salad and olive oil dressing for dinner on that Friday night, which was an ok pairing for the wine.  It’s definitely food-friendly, I just think I didn’t do the best job pairing it.  Admittedly, I enjoyed the wine best on it’s own while relaxing with Hubby, my knitting, and re-runs of Love-It-Or-List-It.  In fact, I actually enjoyed the wine over two nights.  Not only did it hold up really well over the two days, but I actually enjoyed it slightly more on day two.

If enjoying good wine at an affordable price isn’t enough of a reason for you to grab a bottle of HandCraft Petite Sirah, maybe the fact that the proprietor, Cheryl Indelicato, donates a percentage of the sales proceeds is.  According to their website, Cheryl donated $100,000 to breast cancer research and prevention.  As many of you know, not only do I have a family history of breast cancer, but also one of my Wine Ladies was diagnosed with breast cancer in late 2011.  Thankfully, she has been cancer-free for more than 6 months, but being able to buy a good wine that helps an important cause and share that wine with this amazing group of women…well, it means this wine will likely become a regular attendee at wine night.  How could it not?

Suggested Retail Price: $12
Received as a sample.
Overall: 4 Corks