Kaena “Ronin Red” 2016

Malbec Blend, Santa Ynez Valley, California

$35 (Wine Club Reorder – $30)

Mikael Sigouin started in the wine industry working harvest for Beckmen Winery in 1999. Later he moved to Fess Parker, and eventually came back to Beckmen in 2006 as their head winemaker. In 2001, he founded Kaena Wines as his personal project until taking it full-time in 2014. The distinctive Kaena logo on the wine labels is made up of four grape leaves forming a design reminiscent of a Hawaiian floral pattern.

Primarily focused on Grenache and Rhone-style blends sourced from Santa Barbara County, Mikael also makes outstanding blends, including this 2016 Malbec blend from Santa Ynez Valley – 60% Malbec, 20% Grenache, 10% Syrah, and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. Mikael works with quite a few grape varieties these days and makes a number of different wines with total annual production of around 5,000 cases.

Although wine was not an integral part of his childhood in Hawaii, the paradise of flavors, colors and aromas surrounding Mikael prepared his palate to understand the delicate nuances of fragrance and taste. Spending hours at his great-grandmother’s side while she cooked gave him an appreciation for the layered flavors and aromas. Mikael credits her for the name Kaena, which came from her nickname for him “Ka’ena’ai” – meaning “potential for greatness.”

In the 2016 Ronin Red Malbec blend, you may smell deep aromas of blackberry and blueberry, black currant, and plum along with dark earth, violet, vanilla, and oak. Flavors of plum, currant and mulberry are followed by earth, pencil lead, leather, violet, and spice. This wine finishes off with long structured tannins.

Malbec holds up well with dark meat poultry, roasted pork, and leaner cuts of red meat (such as sirloin, flap, hanger, filet, and skirt steak). If you like more interesting meats, you will be surprised at how well the fruitiness in Malbec can compliment more gamey and earthy meat cuts, such as buffalo burgers, ostrich burgers, or even venison. For the veggie lover, be sure to use porcini mushrooms, portobello mushrooms, or even cumin to amp up the umami factor in your dish to pair with the wine.

Jennie Kaplan Woodson – January 2021

Together Wine Co. Napa Valley Red Blend 2015

First and foremost, you need to know that this winery is no longer in existence. So if you take a sip of this Red Blend and you love it, which I hope you do, be sure to place your reorder now because we have the last little bit of it.

Together Wine Co. was a small, boutique family-owned winery owned by husband and wife Matt and Ryan Pruess. You might recognize Matt from his appearances on TV shows like HGTV’s Landscapers Challenge and Outer Spaces. His full time business is Landscaping down in Southern California.

Their winery was inspired by Matt’s late mother and the memories they made together over a glass of wine. She unfortunately was diagnosed with cancer, so they donate a portion of their proceeds to early stage women’s cancer research as an honorable mission to help others.

I love this wine because it’s unique, it’s not often you see a Napa Valley Grenache Blend, or a good one for that matter. It has those big, luscious fruit flavors that will warm you up on a cool winter evening and with a little extra bottle aging all those complex flavors that were hidden upon initial release are coming through beautifully right now. 75% Grenache, 20% Petite Sirah, 5% Mourvedre.

So, pop open this bottle and share it with someone you love – because there are few things better than drinking good wine together.

Taylor Morgan – December 2020

Paul Lato “Cinematique” Larner Vineyard Syrah 2017

Paul Lato’s Wine Philosophy: “From my experience of tasting the finest wines from around the world, all the greatest wines possess authenticity, harmony, and elegance. These are the qualities I constantly try to capture in my wines. The ultimate goal is to create wines that are seamless and textural with enough structure and balance to complement fine cuisine.” 

In order to make wines of the highest caliber, Paul selects unique vineyards that are cared for by talented vineyard managers committed to excellence. He strives to locate and source from not only the best vineyards but the best blocks within each vineyard. Since every vintage is different, Paul does not believe in recipes. 

Bob Miller, the late co-owner of Bien Nacido Vineyards, gave Paul a job as a cellar rate, and let him stay for free in a bunkhouse at the vineyard. Miller also encouraged Paul to make his own wines. Starting with the 2002 vintage, he made six barrels of wine. By chance he met Robert Parker who was intrigued by the young winemaker and wanted to taste his wines. Paul had made 3 barrels of Pinot Noir and 3 barrels of Syrah. Parker told him he was starting with the hardest grapes to vinify and he was going to tell him if it was s**t, but Parker was impressed by the wines and told him he had tremendous talent. 

The 2017 “Cinematique” Syrah scored 97 points. It comes to us from the Larner Vineyard in Ballard Canyon appellation, in the heart of Santa Barbara Wine Country. Sexy notes of black raspberries, vanilla bean, bay leaf, ground pepper, and hints of crushed violets all emerge from this incredibly seamless, elegant, ethereal Syrah. Medium to full-bodied, deeply colored, and concentrated, it is no small wine, yet always has graceful, elegant style that builds beautifully with time in the glass. It has enough tannins to benefit from a year or three of bottle age and will drink brilliantly over the following decade or more. 

Dark fruit and peppery dishes will bring out the spicy and juicy aspects of this wine. Lamb Shawarma, Gyros, and even Indian tandoori meats pair excellently with Syrah. The earthy notes in this wine will be elevated by the rich spices in Indian food. 

Jennie Kaplan Woodson – December 2020

UNTI Dry Creek Valley Vermentino 2019

30 years of incredible wine making make up the history of Unti Vineyards in Healdsburg, CA. As obsessive wine fanatics, this family-owned and operated winery specializes in Mediterranean style wines with vineyard personality. Mick and father George Unti co-founded the winery with the belief that the world’s best wine grapes come from vineyards where the vines are naturally adapted to their environment. This belief has led to planting several varietals that heretofore have not been grown in the Dry Creek Valley but are prominently planted in Southern Europe. Mick and George are avid consumers of Italian, French, Spanish, and German wine, which is the reason they are not afraid to make wines from grapes not commonly grown in California. 

Winemaker Jason Valenti’s interest in wine stemmed from his move to the Bay Area to return to the restaurant industry and pursue a degree in Viticulture and Enology from U.C. Davis. His first cellar job was with Paul Hobbs Winery which evolved into a full-time Enologist position. After a brief sabbatical he returned to become winemaker for CrossBarn by Paul Hobbs Winery and transformed it from a secondary label into a revered brand with dedicated vineyards, state of the art facility and staff. With meticulous technical experience under his belt, Jason breached into European varietals and joined Unti Vineyards in 2015. He looks forward to continuing top-tier winemaking and continuing Unti’s quest to produce Rhône and Italian varietals from the Dry Creek Valley estate. 

In 2004 UNTI first planted Vermentino as part of a small experimental block of white grapes. Vermentino is native to Mediterranean areas of Europe but the climate in Northern California might be better for Vermentino because of the cool evenings which help preserve the acidity and freshness. 2019 was an excellent vintage for UNTI’s white grapes and it really shows in this Vermentino. It’s a bit more fruity and textured than previous years, yet has the minerality and acidity that we expect from UNTI. This wine signals a new style of California white wine, rendering sweet, barrel-fermented Chardonnays passé. 100% Vermentino. 709 cases produced. 

Vermentino is a wonderful wine to pair with medium-weight dishes that play with rich herbs and spices. Due to its bolder intensity, you can easily match this wine with richer fish such as halibut or even meats as bold as fennel-spiced pork sausage.   

 Jennie Kaplan Woodson – December 2020

Brick Barn Santa Ynez Valley Albariño 2019

At Brick Barn Wine Estate they make the wines that they love and grow the grapes that inspire them. Founder, Norman Williams, originally purchased the land in Buellton California from the Buell family in 1968. The property then became home to an Arabian horse farm, replete with a 36-stall brick barn created by an Italian stonemason in the early 1970s. 

Norman and his wife Kathleen were drawn to the idea of growing grapes and ultimately making wine. They saw immense promise in their land and they knew that its distinct location could create exceptional wines. In 2012, they planted 35 acres of vines. The original brick barn has now been reimagined as a winery and gathering place, while other portions of the ranch continue to be dedicated to organic vegetable farming and cattle ranching. 

Winemaker Adrian Bolshoi grew up in the small Eastern European country of Moldova, home to the world’s top wine-producing regions. As a small child he assisted his grandfather making wine using grapes grown from the family’s own small vineyard. These cherished experiences inspired Adrian to study enology at the Polytechnic University of Moldova. In 2011, he landed an internship at a winery in Santa Barbara County’s Santa Ynez Valley and never looked back. Adrian joined Brick Barn Wine Estate as the winemaker just before the 2019 harvest. He is known for making wines with exceptional balance, depth of flavor, and sense of place. 

The 2019 Albariño is light, crisp, and fruity. It is a delightful balance of tart apple and pear on the nose with sweet fruits in the middle. Subtle hints of pineapple, pear, peach, and grapefruit dance on the palate and are followed by a finish of lemon, crushed rock, and sea salt. Fairly full bodied with a short finish. When I tasted this wine I was impressed, tons of fruit forward flavor with a creamy finish. As an introduction to Albariño, I was not disappointed! 

Albariño is a friend to all things from the sea. It pairs exceptionally well with white fish; my favorite is a nice juicy grilled fish taco. Fish, seafood, ceviche, oysters, mussels, clams all sing with Albariño next to them. The grassy notes of this wine also play well with fresh green herbs so put some salsa verde on your fish taco and enjoy! 

Jennie Kaplan Woodson – December 2020