1st Annual Rodney Strong Battle of the Blends

 A great afternoon learning about the art of the blend



Our first post of 2014! We’ve taken a well deserved break during the slow months to prepare for the spring releases and feel rested and ready. Rest assured though that we haven’t been just sitting around drinking hurricanes. The past few months have been put to good use in training for the First Annual Rodney Strong Battle of the Blends. Olfactory sit-ups, palate push-ups, and plenty of road and rope work was devoted to ensure our team was ready to take on all comers! Here, we describe the event in detail..

The Main Event

This past Saturday Rodney Strong held their first ever Battle of the Blends event at their beautiful estate in Healdsberg. 7 teams composed of Rodney Strong wine club members were pitted against each other to create the best blend out of 5 Bordeaux varietals presented. The event consisted of a brief overview of blending and the differences in the 5 varietals by winemaker Greg Morthole, the blend competition and a delicious lunch paired with some top notch Rodney Strong wines. Each team presented their best shot to the judges who then scored and tallied the winning wine.

The Varietals

As we sat down at our “work” table we found the tools we were to use to construct our masterpiece. A glass of each of the varietals, a beaker, spit cups, bread sticks, water, calculator, and a piper. In the middle, the final glass to present our wine to the judges. The varietals presented were 5 of the Bordeaux Six typically used in red blends:

2010 Cabernet Sauvignon (Brothers Ridge)
Normally the main ingredient of a Bordeaux style blend. Big, balanced, and opulent. The Rodney Strong Brothers Ridge was one of our favorite Cabs of the 2010 vintage.

2010 Merlot (Sonoma County)
In blends Merlot is used as a softener to balance out the power of the Cab. Adds color, silky texture and nuance to the blend as well as nice fruit aromas and flavors such as dark cherry, chocolate, black cherry and raspberry.

2010 Cabernet Franc (Brothers Ridge)
Has many of the same characteristics as Cabernet Sauvignon but with softer tannins. Silky mouth feel and strong hits of oak, cedar, and spice make this a great companion to add complexity to the blend.

2011 Malbec (Dry Creek)
Adds rich color and acidity to a blend. It’s floral notes on the nose adds complexity. In blends, Malbec softens the tannins of other varietals but also adds distinct jammy berry flavors.

2010 Petit Verdot (Brothers Ridge)
Adds strong tannins and intense spice flavors and aromas as well as rich colors. This is the most difficult of the bunch to get right. Must be used with care.

The Process

So how does one start to blend? By tasting of course! We immediately began sampling each of the varietals and making notes of their properties. Since our other two partners did not arrive until 10 mins prior to the turn in time, Mrs. Dvd and I were on our own to figure this all out ourselves.

Step 1: Evaluate

We sampled each wine individually and made notes. Already, I was also formulating rough percentages in my head as I went along.

Cabernet: As mentioned earlier this was the 2010 Brothers Ridge. A brilliant wine that quite honestly would have received the highest score all by itself.

Merlot: This Merlot was very soft and balanced with nice overtones of fruit. I was already thinking in the 10% range after my first taste.

Malbec: I love their Dry Creek Malbec. This was so good it could have been used as the base. However, when the Brothers Cab is handy this would have to play a supporting role. Had that great “pow!” finish and great fruit aromas and flavors as well as some delightful floral notes. The acidity was on par with a great Malbec. We knew this was going to play a big part in our blend.

Cabernet Franc: Soft tannins and big fruit with a silky mouth feel. Nice hits of oak that would be a nice add to our blend.

Petit Verdot: This was the most difficult one to judge. Great mouth feel and texture as well as some terrific spice on the finish but had very strong bitter green notes and way more earthy tones than I like. I tasted this one the most to try and see if it would be a plus or minus in our blend.

Step 2: Calculate

Now that we had all of our notes in order, it was time to make the tough decisions. The first question that needed answering was what kind of wine are we making here? A power blend such as the Joseph Phelps Insignia or Robert Craig Affinity or a kindler/gentler blend such as the Rodney Strong Symmetry. We decided “when in Rome” and went for a softer blend.

Our goal: big, food friendly, and age-able.

So how do we achieve this goal? We started with a big percentage of the Cab., added equal parts Merlot and Malbec to soften the big Cab and add complexity, aromatics, and a long finish then added a small amount of Cab Franc. Finally, after some agonizing, a pinch of Petit Verdot for the silk and spice characteristics.

Here’s how it broke down:

75% Cabernet Sauvignon
10% Merlot
10% Malbec
4% Cabernet Franc
1% Petit Verdot

We were tasked to make 200 ml for our turn in glass so it came down to some math and measuring to get the blend as we wanted it. As we headed down to our lunch we felt really good about our wine. It was really good and passed the “hey I’d buy this” test with flying colors.

The Verdict

We then went down to our lunch that featured a savory herbed chicken dish, braised short ribs, fingerling roasted potatoes, a tangy salad with soft cheese and a tasty sponge cake with fruit. The lunch was paired with their outstanding wines (Chard, Pinot, Cab). A great meal that allowed us to meet new friends and enjoy the atmosphere of their impressive barrel room.

Finally the verdict came down. The winners would each receive an engraved magnum of Symmetry and bragging rights until next year. Each team had to pick a name and ours was The Terroirists. The 3rd and 2nd place wines were announced and then the winning wine went to …

The Terroirists! Yes folks, DdV came to claim victory and did in fine fashion distancing the other entries by a large margin. Our little blend was a hit! The Judges loved the big fruit, subtle mouth feel, and balance of our wine and proclaimed it would easily do well in the cellar for 8-10 years. Exactly what we were shooting for.

Just for some comparison here’s our blend vs our three other favorites blends plus a blended Cabernet from O’Shaughnessy that we love:

2010 The Terroirist
75% Cabernet Sauvignon
10% Merlot
10% Malbec
4% Cabernet Franc
1% Petit Verdot

2010 Rodney Strong Symmetry
75% Cabernet Sauvignon
12% Malbec
10% Cabernet Franc
2% Merlot
1% Petit verdot 

2010 Robert Craig Affinity
84% Caberniet Sauvignon
8% Petit Verdot
4% Merlot
2% Cabernet Franc
2% Malbec

2010 Joseph Phelps Insignia
84% Cabernet Sauvignon
10% Petit Verdot
4% Merlot
2% Malbec

2010 O’Shaughnessy Howell Mountain Cabernet
88% Cabernet Sauvignon
5% Merlot
3% Malbec
2% Petit Verdot
2% St. Macaire


This was as much fun at a wine event as we’ve had these many years. To dig in and see what these brilliant wine makers have to work through to make their art was a wonderfully unique experience. This event is open to club and non-club members alike. Even though they are a very big winery, the folks at Rodney Strong have a level of hospitality that is reminiscent of very small wineries. They really do make you feel like family. Whether you attend events such as this or just pop in for some tasting, we can’t recommend a visit highly enough.

Of course we will be back next year to defend the title!

For more information:



Cellar Selections – 1998 Stags Leap Cask 23 Estate Cabernet

A truly magnificent Cab shows fine form in its 12th year after release

What could be a better pair for Christmas dinner than this wonderful red? Very few could be as perfect. One can imagine the Whos’ enjoying this with their roast beast and perhaps it was a pairing like this that grew the Grinch’s heart three sizes that day.


The Cask 23 Cabernet is a blend of grapes sourced from thier Fay and S.L.V. estate vineyards. Although these vineyards are within a very short distance of each other, due to their differing soil types, each vineyard produces distinct flavor profiles. The S.L.V vineyard has predominately volcanic soil and creates Bordeaux like flavors while the Fay vineyards alluvial soils create more traditional California style flavors namely big, bold, and fruit forward. Blending the products of these vineyards produces an amazingly big but nuanced wine that has been a favorite for many years.


1998 Stags Leap Cask 23 Estate Cabernet

DdV: 97
Price: $150.00
Blend: 93.5 % Cabernet, 4.1% Merlot, 2.4% Petit Verdot
Source: Stags Leap District – Napa Valley

One of our cellar favorites! On the nose dark currant, dark berry and sandlewood greet. Mid is elegantly nuanced with dark berry, black strawberry, and plum. Finish is long with hits of minerals, licorice, spice and cigar box cedar. Perfect with beef or grilled steak dishes or all by itself. Another great effort by the folks at the historic Stags Leap Winery!

Supermarket Finds 2013 – A Great Pizza Wine!

We score a great supermarket find for pizza from ..Spain!

Many of our readers will think we’re nuts recommending a Spanish wine for pizza but this Rioja from Campo Viejo is the perfect companion for a tasty pie. Why not an Italian wine such as a Chianti or Barbaresco you ask? Because the Chianti is too dark and will clash with pepperoni, onions, and bell pepper. Chianti is best with beef dishes. The Barbaresco will get blown out by all the big spicy flavors. Barolo? Actually not bad but a tad pricey for pizza. So here we give you a nicely priced Tempranillo that is right on target..

campoviejo07riojaCampo Viejo 2007 Rioja Tempranillo Reserva
DdV: 90
Price: $12.99
Blend: 85% Tempranillo, 10% Graciano, and 5% Mazuelo
Source: Rioja Spain

A truly delightful and surprisingly complex wine for under $15. Dark cherry and bright plum on the nose give way to more bright plum, black cherry, and blackberry on the mid. Finish is accented with oaky vanilla and sandlewood. The oak is subtle letting the fruit do most of the work. We paired this with a Round Table King Arthur Supreme (Pepperoni, Italian sausage, Italian dry salami, linguica, mushrooms, green peppers, yellow onions, black olives) and it truly complimented all the big flavors in this pizza. Great all by itself and with a myriad of pasta dishes or lighter grill fare. A new favorite!

Smart Shoppers Wine Guide To The New Thanksgiving

Forget Thanksgiving Dinner! Smart shoppers are embracing Thanksgiving Breakfast. We’ve got you covered for some wine suggestions!


Good Bye Thanksgiving, Hello Red Thursday!!

Still thinking about Thanksgiving dinner? Ok, go ahead, but you’re missing out on all of those sales. Let’s face it, by next year Thanksgiving will be gone and will be replaced by… RED THURSDAY!!! Even bigger bargains than Black Friday or Cyber Monday. Retailers will bend the space-time continuum to be open for 36 hours on Red Thursday. Yes!

Of course that means you won’t have time for silly things like family, football, and delicious meals. No! The smart shopper will slam all of those sleepy relatives into their chairs at the breakfast nook and serve a super speedy Thanksgiving breakfast.

Fortunately, we here at DdV have some fine suggestions for pairing your quickie breakfast with some tasty wine to keep the whole family happy!

Some Premium Suggestions

Dunn Vineyards 2006 Howell Mountain Cabernet
Price: $110
Blend: 100% Cabernet

This is a stunning Cab that will pair perfectly with your steak and eggs. This is our favorite of the bunch as the lower alcohol levels of this wine will allow us to be really aggressive securing that last parking spot at the mall without a trip to the drunk tank!

Plumpjack 2011 Syrah
Price: $45
Blend: 100% Syrah

The perfect breakfast wine. On the nose Italian roast coffee, vanilla, and .. bacon! Great fruit and nice pepper on the finish makes this a winner for any breakfast meal!

Smart Shopper Supermarket Finds Suggestions

Of course the smart shopper is looking for bargains so for those who need a deal try the Joel Gott Un-oaked Chardonnay or Joel Gott Sauvignon Blanc. Both will go great with those turkey fritatas or turkey mash potato waffles. Plus both use screw caps saving you valuable shopping time.

If You Must Pair for Dinner

Here’s a tip if you’re feeling sentimental about Thanksgiving dinner! Grab a bottle of Trefethen Dry Riesling, pour some in a travel coffee mug and hit the Costco as this wonderful white pairs perfectly with a Costco hot dog with extra mustard.

Happy Red Thursday Everyone!

Cellar Selections – November 2013

We bring you some huge amazing Napa Cab in our roundup this month


Our mail box has been very busy as of late with all the new releases pouring in! Because we still haven’t gotten around to building our wine cave, new release arrivals mean we need to clean out the cellar and drink our older vintages to make room for the new. With that in mind, we here at DdV have sacrificed our livers for the past few months to bring you these simply stunning Napa Cabs. Several of our high scores come from one of our favorite mountain AVAs: Spring Mountain. Saint Helena also makes a splash here. Aside from our beloved mountain AVAs, Saint Helena is quickly becoming a favorite. Our favorite valley producer Joseph Phelps sources their wines from here and we’re finding more and more wines that we love from this AVA as well. The character of this AVA is softer and more food friendly than those of Oakville, Rutherford, and Stags Leap to the south. Complexity is king here rather than pure power. We’ll be covering Saint Helena in more depth next year but until then, here’s some fantastic examples plus others that have impressed.

Sherwin Family Vineyards 1998 Cabernet Spring Mountain

DdV: 96
Price: $75
Blend: Cabernet Sauvignon 90%, Merlot 8%, Cabernet Franc 2%
Source: Spring Mountain – Napa

Huge and opulent wine that is a perfect example of the Spring Mountain AVA. Tannins are bold but feathery and are in perfect balance. Big mountain blackberry, licorice, and spice on the nose lead to lush plum, blackberry, and dark chocolate on the mid. Finishes long with hints of mineral, smoky oak, fresh herbs, and currant. This still has plenty left in the tank but is perfect now so drink em if you got em.

Rosenthal Malibu Estate 2000 Newton Canyon Cabernet

DdV: 92
Price: $40.00
Blend: 100% Cabernet
Source: Malibu-Newton Canyon

I never even considered that there would be and AVA in Malibu. Yes folks, that Malibu: swimmin’ pools, movie stars.  Only a few miles from where Babs chills out you will find the Newton Canyon AVA. This effort from Rosenthal is wonderful example of the AVA. On the nose hints of strawberry and bing cherry greet leading to black cherry, cola, and currant on the mid. Finish is clean with hits of sandalwood and red licorice. Fine balance and mouth feel. Great for grilled steaks or even smoked ribs.

Corison 2001 Kronos Vineyard Cabernet
DdV: 96
Price: $90
Blend: 100% Cabernet
Source: Saint Helena – Napa Valley

When this wine was released, Cathy Corison stated that this was her best Cab yet. Looking back on her very famous wine making career, that’s saying something. This is a pure and classic example of Saint Helena. Plenty of power but more denoted by subtlety. On the nose dark raspberry, leather, spice and coffee give way to lush plum, blackberry, huckleberry and dark chocolate. Finish is long with mineral, cedar, and black cherry notes. Perfect balance. Amazing.

Delectus 2005 Mutti’s Pride Cabernet

DdV: 96
Price: $70
Blend: 90% Cabernet, 6% Merlot 4% Petite Syrah
Source: Napa Valley

This is an absolutely huge power Cab in the true Cult Cab tradition. This is the kind of wine we like to call a “Dessert Wine” meaning it is best to drink this all by itself for dessert. This wine is so big it will overpower just about anything you would pair with it so have this with some friends and enjoy. Bold currant, cassis, and blackberry with subtle graphite on the nose urge you on to dark plum, black raspberry and blackberry on the mid. Finish is stunning with smokey oak, french roast coffee and more dark berry. Best to drink sitting down as it may make you a bit weak in the knees.

Owl Ridge 2003 Brigden Vineyard Cabernet

DdV: 94
Price: $50.00
Blend: 100% Cabernet
Source: Sonoma County (Sonoma side of Spring Mountain)

The only reason this is marked as Sonoma County instead of Spring Mountain is due to the county line that runs over the crest. This is a true Spring Mountain wine in every sense. Sourced from the Brigdon Vineyard on the wind-ward side of the mountain, this wine exhibits all the characteristics (feathery tannins, soft earth, big bold fruit) we love. On the nose, dark huckleberry, bright herbs, and hints of vanilla give way to bold blackberry, plum, and hints of smokey oak on the mid. Finish is long and balanced with spice, oak, and clean mineral. Perfect for BBQ beef dishes.

Hagafen – Prix 2005 Reserve Weir Family Vineyards – MJT Block, Cabernet Sauvignon

DdV: 95
Price: $60.00
Blend: 100% Cabernet
Source: Napa Valley

This is the Cab flagship of the Hagafen stable and is worthy of that position. Bold dark berry, espresso, and smooth balanced tannins are the rule here. Finish is long with a surprising hit of black cherry and graphite.

Chimney Rock 2004 Stags Leap Cabernet

DdV: 95
Price: $107.00
Blend: 100% Cabernet
Source: Stags Leap – Napa Valley

Hallmark dusty tannins of the Stags Leap AVA are present as is the elegant nature of this wine. Bold blackberry, dark raspberry, and dark chocolate are prominent on the mid with the nose and finish highlighting dark cocoa and subtle oak. Nice balance to this elegant wine. This still has plenty more time to cellar in it but is right on stride now.

Ehlers 2008 Estate 1886 Cabernet

DdV: 95
Price: $95
Blend: 82% Cabernet, 10% Cab Franc, 7% Merlot, 1% Petit Verot
Source: Saint Helena – Napa Valley

This subtle Bordeaux like wine is another great example of the Saint Helena terrior. On the nose bold lush blackberry, pine forest earth, and black licorice lead to rich plum, blackberry, and cocoa on the mid. Finish is wonderfully long and subtle with dark currant and oak with a perfect hit of graphite. Perfect for grilled steak. A new favorite.

2013 Howell Mountain Appellation Tasting

Perfect weather, amazing wines, music, and tasty bites marked this stand out wine event


Zinfandel Vineyard toward the top of the mountain at Outpost

The Howell Mountain Association held their 2013 Harvest Celebration at the V Wine Cellar in beautiful Yountville. 18 different wineries were pouring their wines sourced from the Howell Mountain AVA.

Nestled high above the Northern Napa Valley, the Howell Mountain AVA produces some of the best red wine in the world.  These wines do not yet have the cachet or notoriety of reds produced in The Valley, but it won’t take long for the public at large to discover that these wines stack up to the best reds produced anywhere.

Howell Mountain was granted its AVA in 1983 and has since grown in both stature and in the number of wineries producing wines from this region.  Vineyards here sit between 1,400 and 2,300 feet above sea level and are thus quite different in character from vineyards only a few miles away.  The growing season here begins much later than in the valley.  Early on, cool foggy nights and day time temps as much a 10 degrees cooler than the valley are common.  By mid-summer, however, the mountain enjoys much warmer temps as it is above the fog layer that dominates the valley in mid to late summer and early fall.  This produces big, bold, and very complex wines that have a unique character all their own.  Howell Mountain wines are truly unique and are among our favorites.  While the quality of these wines can rival any, their price points are quite a bit less than most top valley wines adding value to the list of reasons to try these fantastic wines!

The Event

howell2013-1On a beautiful sunny 75 degree day the confines of the V Wine Cellar in Yountville was a perfect setting for a showcase of 18 of Howell Mountain’s vintners. Tasty artisan breads, delicious cheeses, nuts, and meats were paired wonderfully with the wines by Winery Chefs. The winery booths were setup both inside and out allowing us to move about quite comfortably.

The Music


Our favorite wine event band The Hummingbirdz were tucked into the far corner of the patio. Their first two sets were acoustic renditions of some of our favorite blues tunes but then turned electric for the last half of the afternoon. Even though they were scaled down they brought their usual passion. The guests loved these guys as you could see them bopping about from winery station to winery station with quite few sticking around the patio to watch.

For more info: www.thehummingbirdz.com

The Wine

While we were disappointed our two favorite Howell Mountain wineries Robert Craig and O’Shaughnessy were not present, we did find some new favorites and reinforced our love for those that we discovered at last years tasting. Below we will outline some of our favorites but all the wineries listed below are exceptional and worth seeking out.

The Wineries

Atlas Peak
Blue Hall
Bremer Family
CADE Estate
Clif Family
Howell Mountain Vineyards
La Jota
Notre Vin
Red Cap
Retro Cellars
Rutherford Grove
Saunter Wines
Summit Lake
W.H. Smith

Top of the Tasting

Dunn Vineyards 2003 Howell Mountain Cabernet
Price: $110
Blend: 100% Cabernet

Randy Dunn founded Dunn Vineyards in 1979 and has been making exceptional wines vintage after vintage ever since. The Dunn style is “old world” in nature emphasizing ripe jammy fruit and nuance as opposed to the high-powered high alcohol wines produced by most in Napa. This concentration on balance and nuance rather than pure power makes these wines true classics.

Mike Dunn

Mike Dunn

The 2003 Cabernet is a perfect example of their classic style. This is a smooth and elegant wine that has aged beautifully and will continue to gain nuance for many more years. The 2003 came across as lighter to us than some of their other vintages and was our favorite of the tasting. Dark rich currant, blackberry, and nuanced hints of cedar and spice are the highlights of this wine. Very food friendly and will pair perfectly with grilled steak or braised beef ribs.

La Jota Vineyards

Named after the original 1844 Mexican land grant Rancho La Jota, this historic winery has been making outstanding wines since it’s inception in the 1890’s by Swiss immigrant Frederick Hess.

Sue Furdek - La Jota Vineyards

Sue Furdek – La Jota Vineyards

La Jota 2010 Howell Mountain Cabernet
Price: $75
Blend: 81% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 7.5% Cabernet Franc, 1.5% Petit Verdot

Blended from two different Howell Mountain estate vineyards, this elegant but powerful wine was a standout. Dark blackberry, huckleberry, juicy currant abound on the nose and mid. Finish is long with hints of licorice, spice, and cigar box cedar. This is a very age worthy wine and will cellar and gain nuance for many years to come. Their 2000 Cab was a top cellar selection for us. See our review HERE

La Jota 2010 Cabernet Franc
Price: $75
Blend: 94% Cabernet Franc, 6% Cabernet Sauvignon

Although Cab Franc is mostly used for blending, when done right, it can also be delightful all by itself. This is easily one such offering. On the nose nice floral and cedar notes greet with bold but elegant dark raspberry, black cherry, and plum on the mid. Finish has hints of red licorice and cedar. A smooth graceful wine that we really enjoyed.

La Jota 2010 Howell Mountain Merlot
Price: $75
Blend: 100% Merlot

We’ve been big fans of mountain Merlot for some time now. This is another for our list of favorites. On the nose dark blackberry and vanilla greet. The mid is full of lush dark fruit and finishes with subtle hints of chocolate and french roast coffee. Great for grill or braised dishes.

Outpost Estate 2010 Howell Mountain Zinfandel
Price: $48
Blend: 100% Zinfandel

As our readers know, we are huge Outpost fans. This 2010 Zin is yet another favorite from them. Winemaker Thomas Rivers Brown is a master of making mountain Zin. This wine is not as bold as the 2009 but has a soft elegant character to pair with the brambly tannins and spicy pepper on the finish. Lush mountain fruit is in full effect here. Our favorite Zin of the bunch for sure.

Notre Vin 2009 Howell Mountain Cabernet
Price: $150
Blend: 96 % Cabernet Sauvignon, 2 % Merlot, 1.5 % Cabernet Franc, 0.5 % Petit Verdot

A classic old world style wine but with big Howell Mountain fruit puts this firmly in the best of both worlds category. On the nose blackberry and dark cherry gives way to more of both on the mid. Finish is long with hints of dark stone. Great balance and elegance.

Saunter Wines 2010 Howell Mountain Cabernet
Price: $110
Blend: 100% Cabernet Sauvignon

Another stunning wine by winemaker Thomas Rivers Brown. This wonderful Cab is a fine example of its source – the Eagle Summit Vineyard toward the top of the mountain. On the nose dark mountain fruit and hints of oaky vanilla lead to big dark mountain blackberry and huckleberry on the mid. Finish is long and refined with hints of Italian roast coffee and cedar.

Red Cap Vineyards 2008/2009 Howell Mountain Cabernet
Price: $65
Blend: 100% Cabernet Sauvignon

Both vintages are fantastic and at $65 are a tremendous value for wines this polished. Big dark fruit and nuance abound with great balance and a lush mouth feel. A huge favorite.

Summit Lake Howell Mountain Zinfandel
Price: $30
Blend: 100% Zinfandel

This is our value pick for the tasting but don’t think for a minute that it lacks as much quality as the other offerings. Dark fruit with the right amount of jammyness for a Zin and a nice punch of pepper on the smooth finish highlights this terrific wine. We also loved the Emily Kestrel Cab. Another fine value and quality wine.

Some New Favorites

W.H. Smith 2010 Howell Mountain Purple Label Cabernet Sauvignon
Price: $64
Blend: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec

This is our first tasting of W.H. Smith wines and we were knocked off our feet! Bill and Joan Smith purchased the famous ghost winery La Jota in 1976 and began making wine with great success until selling it in 2001. Inspired to create new wine adventures they began the W.H. Smith Winery. The result is this truly stunning Purple Label Cab. Bold mountain huckleberry, plum, and blackberry come together in an elegant and lush wine. Finish is long and refined. This wine is amazing now on release but will gain nuance in the cellar as well. Decant to really make it sing.

Blue Hall Vineyard 2009 Camiana Howell Mountain Cabernet
Price: $75
Blend: 100% Cabernet

This was a surprise on several levels and we love surprises. Dark bold plum and blackberry on the nose with hints of cigar box cedar lead to big lush dark berry on the mid. The finish has a surprising pop of white pepper (unusual for a Cab) and dark chocolate with a nuanced hit of espresso. Fine balance. If you’re looking for a perfect pair to pepper bacon wrapped filet mignon (we are!) then here it is.

Other Favorites
All the wines we tasted were fantastic. We loved the Atlas Peak 2008 Cab, the CADE Estate 2010 Cab and the Clif Family 2010 Cab (a great value at $50). The Spence 2009 Cab is also amazing and is a staple favorite in our cellar.



To Sam, Bob, and all the staff we give our profound thanks for a terrific afternoon of wine music and food. The summer like weather really added the perfect touch to close out the tasting event season for 2013. Winery Chefs and The Hummingbirdz were also amazing and of course the wines were world class. Seems like it will be forever until next time but we’re counting the days until the spring tasting. Very well done everyone!

What We’re Drinking For The Zombie Apocalypse

Worried about what to drink in Zombieland? We got you covered


Were the Mayans Wrong?

Several articles caught our attention a few months ago that got us to thinking perhaps the Mayans got it wrong about the end of the world as we know it. One was an announcement by international scientists regarding the resumption of bird flu research which as we all know can lead to a mutated strain that turns us all into Zombies. The other was a funny article by wine writer W. Blake Gray about a future in which a virulent form of Brettanomyces called SuperBrett dominated the globe and destroyed the wine industry. In honor of Halloween, we decided to put both of these possible cataclysms together and see what the world might be like.

First, Bird Flu

In 2013 40 scientists from around the world announced that they would end a self imposed moratorium on highly controversial experiments with the H5N1 virus. This “bird flu” virus is extremely deadly when contracted by humans with 59% of victims dying. These victims contracted the virus through contact with birds but the scientists were concerned a few simple mutations could easily make it possible to be transferred from human to human. Experiments that involved determining this possibility began in June of 2013 in several labs in Brussels. Unfortunately, one experiment was mistakenly released into the human population. The synthetic mutations did make it possible for the virus to move from human to human but also had another side effect. It turned the host into a human flesh eating Zombie. The virus quickly spread throughout the globe until there were no places on Earth that didn’t have plenty of Zombies. In fact by 2016 the majority of “people” on Earth were Zombies


SuperBrett is a genetically enhanced form of Brettanomyces a genus of yeast that is often referred to as “Brett”. Brett is found in all wines and in most cases imparts desirable flavors when not in too high a concentration. However, when in high concentrations it imparts flavors and aromas of cat pee, sewage, wet skunk, and other nastiness.

Unfortunately in 2013 Swedish Bio-Chemists took a shot at creating a Brett on steroids for use in creating bio-fuel. It was a bust for creating fuel but did manage to spread world wide and dominate the natural forms of Brett. Thus by 2015 the wine industry was destroyed.

How Zombies Saved The Wine Industry

In 2016 an amazing thing happened. An entrepreneurial Zombie named Pugsly Mc Fiddle founded his Spring Mountain Estate by, well, eating the former proprietor. Mc Fiddle knew that humans hated wine once the SuperBrett took over but what of his fellow Zombies? His vision was to market his wines to the Zombie population who tended to seek out the foul and disgusting. It was a huge hit and thus began the Zombiewine movement. His inaugural 2016 vintage Chateau Eventrer (French for the house of disembowelment)  Cabernet is still considered the finest Zombiewine produced during this era. So if you want to know what the DdV staff is drinking during the Zombie Apocalypse this is it!

zombie-labelChateau Eventrer 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon – Spring Mountain

DdV: 100
Price: $150
Blend: 100% Cabernet
Source: Spring Mountain

This is simply the foulest most disgusting bottle of SuperBrett laden filth ever produced! Stunning in its complexity and nuance. On the nose, rotting flesh, grass fire, and bloody vomit abound. The draw and mid features burnt tire, feces, hog urine, and week old puss. Finish is long and glamorous with hints of burnt hair, exhaust fumes, and wet rotting dog carcass. A truly remarkable achievement for the ages.

2013 Mount Veeder Appellation Tasting

Rainy start and a sunny finish proved to be a great time

Courtyard at The Hess Collection

Courtyard at The Hess Collection

This past Saturday, Sept. 21st the Mount Veeder Appellation Association held their 14th Annual Fall tasting event at the Hess Collection winery.

Due west of the city of Napa lies the southern portion of the Mayacamas Mountains that separates the Sonoma and Napa valleys.  It’s high point is Mount Veeder which rises 2,700 feet above the valley floor.

Born of an ancient sea bed, the mountain AVA has a distinct mix of shallow volcanic and sedimentary soil that retains very little water. It is this soil plus the elevated rugged slopes of the vineyards that produces the small concentrated grapes typical of Napa’s mountain regions.

To the south, the strong influence of San Pablo Bay allows varietals such as Syrah and even Chardonnay to thrive. The center and North is exceptional Bordeaux varietal country producing stunning Cabernet, Malbec, and Cab. Franc.

As our readers know, we are huge mountain wine fans but it is Mount Veeder that has truly captured our heart. For more detailed information please see our recent AVA Spotlight that covers the history, terrain, and weather that combine to make these spectacular wines.

The Event

As we drove through Carneros in the biggest torrential rain we’ve seen since 2012, our thoughts immediately turned to the very poor weather forecast. What was supposed to be a few showers turned into a near winter storm. Of course the timing couldn’t be worse as we were heading to the 2013 Mount Veeder Appellation Tasting held again this year at the Hess Collection. This being September you would not think a rain out was possible but here we were slogging up the mountain in some very serious rain.

As we arrived we saw all hands on deck spreading tarps and trying to sweep off the standing water from the beautiful but soggy Hess courtyard. Despite the issues at hand, the staff had the event off to a fine start and on time.

As with last year, Hess Executive Chef Chad Hendrickson had some amazing small bites that paired perfectly with the Mount Veeder wines. A cornucopia of meats, cheeses, breads and dessert bites were brilliantly presented. Our favorite was a tangy shrimp cup that worked with both the reds and whites.

The tarps kept us dry while tasting

The tarps kept us dry while tasting

The Music

The Hummingbirdz Blues Band

The Hummingbirdz Blues Band

You could certainly understand if the band didn’t put on a very good show. Every time they got their gear set up and removed from the tarps the rain started again. The situation is similar to a baseball pitcher who warms up but doesn’t get in the game…  three or four times!

Finally the rain quit and the band was able to get going.. and get going they did. This was one of the best performances we’ve seen from them! Harmonica player and band leader Don Haag was brilliant turning out some very impressive solos and the band was right there with him. The patrons had a blast listening to these guys as you could see them bopping about from table to table. Although they lost an hour to the rain it was a great to get some terrific blues music to accompany the great wines.

Don told us he and the guitar player Bob White will be doing an “unplugged” set or two at the Howell Mountain tasting in November. Can’t wait!!

For More Info


The Wine


Some Wonderful Whites

We do like to stick to our routines and one is to hit the white wines first. There were some very good whites this time around!

2012 Hess Small Block Series Albariño 
Price: $28
A very nicely priced wine that tastes like pure luxury. Crisp floral and spice notes on the nose give way to tangy nectarine, citrus, and grapefruit. Finish is bright and refreshing.

Y. Rousseau 2010 Chardonnay Milady
Price: $36
Another great value considering that high quality Chardonnay is averaging around $50. Bright floral and citrus on the nose leads to more citrus and apple on the mid. Finish is crisp with some mineral notes. Balance is quite impressive.

2012 Yates Family Viognier
Price: $38
A very impressive and lushly opulent white wine. We’re huge Yates fans but have not had this one before. We most certainly will again! Wonderful notes of peach, nectarine, and honey combine to make a balanced and delicate wine. Grab your sushi and break out the wasabi, ginger, and soy with a bottle of this new favorite.

2011 Spotted Owl Chardonnay
Price: $45
Bright and focused citrus and hints of pear are the highlights of this nicely balanced and refreshing Chard. This is a rather light style that will pair perfectly with summer salads and white fish on the grill.

Malbec Rising

Although Malbec has been grown on the mountain for a while, it has mostly been used in blending for the delicious Cabs. However, several producers are now offering single bottlings and they are quite impressive.

2010 Mt. Brave Malbec
Price: $75
This is a simply stunning example of how Malbec should be done! Dark mountain berry is at the forefront with a rich mouth feel and a finish that can best be described as POW!

Hess and Lagier-Meredith are also making Malbec. We had the Hess Small Block Malbec at the spring tasting and it was fantastic. We’re very much looking forward to the Lagier-Meredith offering releasing next month and will give a full report after we try it.

The “Other Reds”

2010 Mt. Brave Merlot
Price: $75
This has been a standout at the last several tastings! Dark mountain blackberry and huckleberry on the nose and mid with subtle spice and black licorice on a smooth long finish. This will age nicely. Decant.

2009 Random Ridge Fortunata Sangiovese
Price: $35
This is a wonderfully dark and big Sangiovese. Composed of 70% Sangiovese and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon this was a huge surprise and hit for us at the Spring tasting event. Bright bing cherry and dark pomegranate abound with a lush hit of strawberry on the finish.

2008 Mount Veeder Winery Cabernet Franc
Price: $n/a
There was only one bottle of this at their table and fortunately we were the early birds and got a very nice worm! Raspberry and dark cherry flavors are perfectly balanced.

Lampyridae – Communication Block 2010 Red Wine
Price: $50
John and Ashley Derr are primarily farmers who sell the majority of their grapes to other wineries. That is until they came up with the idea to create a terrific wine to support a very good cause. Their Communication Block project supports the Napa Valley Kids Connect program (which promotes academic achievement for children who have severe communication needs) by giving 100% of the proceeds of the sale of this wine to the program. Local vintners and a local artist donate their time to produce this delicious Syrah. The 2010 vintage was made by noted winemaker Aaron Pott and is composed of 100% Syrah (previously this wine was blended with 30+% Cabernet) and exhibits lush bright cherry, plum, and a nice spicy finish.

2006 Marketta Red Blend
Price: $65
A true Bordeaux style masterpiece. This blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Merlot exhibits plenty of power but its superb balance and feathery tannins make it a perfect companion for the grill. A steal at $65.

2009 Spotted Owl Cabernet/Syrah Mountain Cuvée
Price: $45
2011 Spotted Owl Pinot Noir
Price: $50
Have to admit it was hard leaving the Spotted Owl table with the great Chard and these wonderful reds. The 2011 Pinot was the standout surprise hit at the Spring tasting with dark cherry, cola, and spice coming together with a fine balance and nice finish. The Cuvee was equally tasty with dark berry and currant notes.

Lagier-Meredith 2010 Syrah
Price: $48
This is pound for pound my favorite Syrah on the planet right now! Here’s our review from the spring tasting:

A stunning “claret like” wine due to the many complex layers of flavors and aromatics. On the nose a bright floral perfume and subtle white pepper lead to lush layers of huckleberry, blackberry, and plum. Wonderful soft finish. Unlike most Syrah offerings that finish with pepper notes, this wine’s nuanced pepper notes greet you immediately and guide you all the way through. Very drinkable now but will gain nuance in the cellar for as long as you can hold out. A new favorite!

I would like to report on the age worthiness of this vintage but I bought half a case on the spot at the Spring tasting and it is all gone. Too hard to resist with summer BBQ.

The Cabs

Our favorites from the Spring tasting also made best of show here.

Progeny 2007 Special Selection Reserve Cabernet
Price: $150
This wine is nothing short of pure brilliance. Made as a side project of DdV favorite O’Shaugnessy Vineyards, this is as close to the perfect mountain cab as one could get. Bold rich mountain fruit, opulent mouth feel, and stunning balance and complexity are the reason we really loved this wine. A truly impressive masterpiece by noted winemaker Shaun Capiaux

Robert Craig 2010 Mount Veeder Cabernet
Price: $70
Beautiful dark mountain huckleberry and blackberry abound with subtle hits of oak throughout. This has that softer mountain profile common to Mount Veeder with a long finish of graphite and a pinch of cedar. This will gain nuance in the cellar for 10+ years at least.

2010 O’Shaughnessy Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
Price: $100
Dark red berry and licorice blend wonderfully with hints of wild flowers, mint and exotic spice. Superior balance and refinement. Finish is very long making this an ideal candidate for the cellar but shows quite nicely now if decanted.

Anthem 2009 Mount Veeder Cabernet
Price: $95
Lovely floral and stone notes on the nose lead to rich opulent dark mountain berry on the mid. Great structure and balance with a long refined finish of smokey oak. Very impressive!

Mount Veeder Winery Elevation 1550 Cabernet
Price: $80
Mount Veeder Winery 2010 Reserve Red Wine
Price: $80

MV is among our favorite supermarket finds for their exceptional Napa Valley Cabernet that is nothing short of a steal. Their premium wines from Mount Veeder are even more impressive. Both of these wines are nothing short of stunning. Refined, complex and opulent. Both are very highly recommended.

Some New Standouts

2010 Mt. Brave Cabernet Sauvignon
Price: $75
Big bold dark berry, plum, and dark currant abound with great balance structure and a finish that is long with hints of oak. A wonderful wine!

2007 Renteria Cabernet Sauvignon Tambor Vineyard
Price: $50
This was the value winner of the tasting. Big bold dark berry with long finish. Great balance and tannin structure. Fire up the grill, open a bottle of this great wine and be happy.


The success of this event can be firmly placed on the shoulders of Sam Peters, his fantastic staff, all the folks at The Hess Collection, and of course the winemakers and reps of the participating wineries. On a day that weather wise looked to spell disaster, Sam and his staff pulled out a miracle. The event was every bit as enjoyable as last years that had perfect weather. Major props to all who made this day so much fun!

AVA Spotlight – The Mount Veeder AVA

It’s all about location, location, location for this diverse mountain AVA

Welcome to our second AVA Spotlight. This is a new series that will focus on different American Viticultural Areas including history, wineries, climate, soil, and other interesting facts. Here we bring you the Mount Veeder AVA.



Due west of the city of Napa lies the southern portion of the Mayacamas Mountains that separates the Sonoma and Napa valleys.  It’s high point is Mount Veeder which rises 2,700 feet above the valley floor.

Born of an ancient sea bed, the mountain AVA has a distinct mix of shallow volcanic and sedimentary soil that retains very little water. It is this soil plus the elevated rugged slopes of the vineyards that produces the small concentrated grapes typical of Napa’s mountain regions.

To the south, the strong influence of San Pablo Bay allows varietals such as Syrah and even Chardonnay to thrive. The center and North is exceptional Bordeaux varietal country producing stunning Cabernet, Malbec, and Cab. Franc.



Rev. Peter Veeder

Although the AVA did not receive its official designation until 1993, the mountain has a rich history in viticulture. The mountain was named after German born Pastor Peter Veeder, a Napa resident during the Civil War,  who enjoyed hiking on the mountain as it reminded him of the mountain forests back home. Other German born wine enthusiasts played an enormous role in the early days of Mount Veeder viticulture and were likewise privy to the mountain’s forested slopes and fresh mountain air.

Mount Veeder Resort

Mount Veeder Resort

Known primarily as a resort area the “Napa Redwoods” as it was called back then was not the most obvious place to grow grapes. Herman Hudeman owned around 2.500 acres and established a popular resort, a place of comfort and relaxation, for the wealthy. He did have a small winery and some vineyards that would later be acquired by Robert Jordan.

The first recorded wine sourced from Mount Veeder debuted at the Napa County Fair in 1864 by Captain Stellham Wing but it wasn’t until the 1880′s when two German born wine makers Ernest Streich and John Henry Fisher established the Striech and Fisher wineries. The Fisher Winery eventually passed through several hands before becoming the Mayacamas Winery in 1941 under the stewardship of Jack and Mary Taylor. By the 1890′s there were 20 vineyards and 6 wineries producing from the slopes of the mountain. Another German born man Theodore Gier established his winery in 1903 by buying the old Hudeman property. Gier originally came into the wine business as a retailer in Oakland but soon established vineyards in the Livermore Valley producing the then popular Sautern wines. Gier kept his Livermore operation but begain making Claret and Rieslings on Mount Veeder. Indeed, many of the early German wine makers found Veeder’s climate and soil ideal for Riesling. It was not until later that Gier and others discovered how great the Clarets could be. Gier’s Clarets, known as the “Sequoia Vintages” were a huge hit and had a big role in the early Napa wine scene. Mount Veeder wineries continued solid production and rave reviews until prohibition.

Theodore Gier

Theodore Gier

When the country went dry in 1920 so did production on Mount Veeder. That is except for the ever flamboyant Theodore Gier who ran afoul of authorities for breaking dry laws on numerous occasions. Gier was truly the first maverick on Mount Veeder. His post vintage parties were legendary and he regularly hosted friends, business associates, and politicians at his Veeder estate. He frequently wore colorful uniforms and at one point was appointed a Lt. Colonel of the Governor’s Militia staff. This despite his near arrest for singing Hoch Der Kaiser with some fellow German buddies as WW I broke out. In a region known for characters, Gier was its first and perhaps most noted. Gier sold his property in 1930 just a year before his death to what would become the Christian Brothers Mt. La Salle Estate which is now the present home of DdV favorite The Hess Collection.

The post prohibition renascence began in earnest in 1951 when Mayacamas Vineyards planted Bordeaux varietals on the mountain followed by the Bernsteins in 1964. The Bernsteins 1973 vintage Cabernet was the first to have the Mount Veeder designation on the bottle. One Bordeaux varietal Petit Verdot was introduced for the first time in California in 1975 by the Bernsteins and was part of the first true Bordeaux blend style wine ever produced from a California vintner. Almost all vines of Petit Verdot in California originated from cuttings from the Bernstein’s vineyard.

In 1978 Donald Hess purchased his Mount Veeder property and began the creation of the mountains most famous winery. Today Hess wines can be found world-wide and have received much acclaim both for quality and value as have many of the wines sourced from the mountain. From the 1980’s to the present Mount Veeder has gained an enviable reputation for outstanding wines including mountain wine legend Robert Craig (who started his wine career at Hess).

The mountain was granted AVA status in 1993 and now boasts roughly 1,000 acres under vine from the lowlands along Dry Creek Road up to 2.400 feet at Mayacamas Vineyard. There are now 37 member wineries and 8 growers on the mountain.

Topography, Climate, and Soil

Mount Veeder environment - courtesy The Hess Collection

Mount Veeder environment – courtesy The Hess Collection

Of all the Napa AVAs, Mount Veeder is clearly the most diverse. This is primarily due to the myriad of environmental conditions found on the slopes and valleys of the mountain. It is this diversity that allows a large number of varietals to thrive within a stones throw of each other. Noted Veeder winemaker Carole Meredith was quoted as saying “if your vines are not doing well where they’re at, move them over 5 feet”. There is no other place in Napa where you can grow Cabernet, Chardonnay, Mondeuse, and Albarino on the same property. You can on Mount Veeder. Let’s take a closer look at the magic of this mountain.


Mount Veeder has the coolest climate of any AVA in Napa. With average mean temperatures that rarely exceed 83 degrees (see map above), varietals that could not thrive on other mountain AVAs do so here. Chardonnay, Albarino, Sauv. Blanc and yes even a Pinot continue to impress vintage after vintage. Cool breezes from San Pablo Bay rush in from the South creating a climate that is 15 degrees cooler than the valley below. Temperature swings are minimal each day. These cooler temperatures allow for a much later harvest than other AVAs which significantly contributes to the concentrated flavors and fine feathery tannins of the wines produced here.

Soil and Terrain

Soils on the mountain consist of sandstone and shale that were derived from an ancient uplifted sea bed. This unique soil composition known as the “Great Valley Sequence” is also a prime contributor to the intense flavor profiles and tannin structures of the wines produced here. This soil has exceptional drainage with slopes ranging from 10 to 30 degrees. The topsoil is very shallow ranging from 12 to 24 inches. This terrain thus dramatically limits nutrients to the vines and creates stress conditions that produce small but intensely flavored berries.

The End Result


Wines here a truly like no other. We here at DdV have had many friendly arguments on the best AVAs especially our favorites: the mountain AVAs. Over at Robert Craig, that same discussion is ongoing. We asked Bob Craig which was his favorite as he makes exceptional wines from the Howell, Spring, and Veeder AVAs, as well as a Mt. George offering. He felt that Veeder was clearly the best and we’re not ones to argue. The tannins (fine, and feathery) are like no other. The reds have robust richness and great intensity but are so clean and smooth yet exceptionally age worthy. The whites have that same richness with lush floral aromatics and crisp minerality. While the styles of wine making differ, the magic Veeder profile is found throughout.

Tasting and Tasting Events

Rachael and Bob pouring the best of the best of Mount Veeder

Rachael and Bob pouring the best of the best of Mount Veeder

Only few wineries offer tasting and most are by appointment except for The Hess Collection. Click through to the Mount Veeder AVA website for information on tasting opportunities. The AVA does host several tasting events each year one in September and one in or around April. See the bottom of this section for some of our reviews of these events.


The next tasting event is in only a few weeks and tickets are still available. We can’t recommend this event more highly. This is your chance to sample these amazing wines that are not always available to the public to taste. For ticket info go to the Mount Veeder AVA website by clicking here:  Mount Veeder AVA

Our Reviews of Past Tastings
Spring 2013
Falll 2012

For More Information

You can find plenty of info on their site:  Mount Veeder AVA

Wine in Canada

We’re back from vacation with a look at wine (and beer, eh?) in the Great White North


Recently back from a magical several weeks in the Canadian Rockies has us missing the wonderful views, fresh mountain air, and wildlife encounters already. Although our goal was to get as many outdoor experiences as possible, we did manage to sample the state of wine in Canada as found in the the province of Alberta.

The First Thing About Wine In Canada.. IT’S EXPENSIVE!

Canada now has a decent amount of domestic wine that is slowly gaining some accolades (their Ice Wine is particularly gaining attention) but the vast majority is imported from the U.S., South America, and Europe. That is the first reason for the high price. The second is the taxes… as much as 19% of the retail price in some provinces. The final blow comes from the fact that all alcohol must be sold in liquor stores only and the distribution is mostly handled by the government.

When we arrived in Calgary, we immediately hit the Safeway Supermarket for supplies and found to our astonishment it did not sell wine or beer.  This single fact is probably the biggest contributor to the high price. Supermarkets, as much as their wine selections are derided in the U.S., keep prices down by being able to move volume. Add drug stores and big discount chains like Costco to the mix and it does keep good ol’ supermarket finds at a low price. Pure liquor stores in Canada (and in the U.S.) can’t match those prices especially because of the government monopoly on distribution in most provinces (Alberta now has some private sector inroads in this area but not to the point of greatly easing prices).

Most average value wines are no less than $11 or $12. Mid tier wines such as a Seghesio Zin is $28 versus $19 at Costco in the U.S. Rodney Strong Chard? Just under $25 compared to $8.99 here. So the moral is: If you want to drink wine you will pay for it. We did manage to find a few domestic Canadian value wines that were quite nice. We’ll also cover some the tasty beers we enjoyed.


Wayne Gretzky Estates 2012 Okanagen Chardonnay

DdV: 89
Price: $11
Blend: 100% Chardonnay
Source: Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys – British Columbia Canada

Since we don’t have any knowledge of Canadian wine we started with a familiar name:  Wayne Gretzky! Mrs. DdV and I are huge hockey fans (go Sharks!) so on a lark we decided to try an offering from The Great One.

Although known as the greatest hockey player ever, Wine has been a big part of his life as well. The story goes that his grandfather, a Russian immigrant, made wine in his basement in Ontario as a hobby. Gretzky Estates began in the Niagra region and has won numerous gold medals for both their reds and whites. We decided to try the Okanagan Chard from B.C.

This is a very tasty cool climate Chard similar in character to the Washington State offerings. On the nose citrus peel and pear greet. Plenty of lemon, bright apple, and pear on the mid with a nicely subtle hit of oak and mineral on the finish. Very nice find and paired great with our grilled citrus chicken!

Peller Estates 2009 Cabernet Merlot

DdV: 88
Price: $12.99
Blend: Merlot (48%), Cabernet Franc (27%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (25%)
Source: VQA Niagra Peninsula – Ontario Canada

This is a soft medium bodied red blend that did very nicely with some Alberta rib eye steaks. On the nose red cherry and smoked meat give way to soft plum, dark berry and dark cherry. Finish is a touch short with notes of oak and tobacco. A nice grill wine that will pair with a number of grilled food.


So How Boot Some Beer, Eh?

One thing we always look forward to in Canada is the beer! Long before U.S. breweries began making good beer the tasty stuff was only just across the border. Here’s some of our favorites..

kokaneeKokanee Glacier Beer
Columbia Brewery – British Columbia

This the most refreshing beer out there! A pilsner style lager that is super light and crisp but with plenty of body and nuance. Perfect after a long hike in the mountains.


Alexander Keith’s India Pale Ale
Alexander Keith Brewery Nova Scotia – Canada

A great IPA that is much different from those we’re used to in Northern California. This is a much lighter style than that of Racer 5 or Pliny the Elder but is still quite tasty and pairs with burgers, sando’s, and sausages perfectly.


Big Rock Traditional Ale
Big Rock Brewery – Calgary Alberta Canada

A stunning medium bodied brown ale in the old tradition. Creamy, nuanced and just the right amount of hops has made this a favorite for quite awhile.


Big Rock Warthog Ale
Big Rock Brewery – Calgary Alberta Canada

We had this on our first trip to Vancouver about 25 years ago and it has been a favorite ever since. The great deal for us is that BevMo routinely carries it so we don’t have to wait to visit Canada to enjoy some. A lighter shade brown ale that has plenty of nutty flavors with bright spicy hops and a great balance. Highly recommended.