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The Weekly Dozen - Winemaker Wines

People who spend their work day making wine often can’t wait to get home for the evening or the weekend to, well, make more wine. California is full of commercial wine producers whose head winemakers have their own small label on the side, and, to keep them happy, some owners even encourage them to use the winery’s equipment to do this.

Many of these winemakers are young and waiting for the opportunity to be their own owner/winemaker. But to others, making a wine on the side provides a personal satisfaction without having the fuss and bother of putting together a full-scale operation, employing people, buying equipment and handling sales and marketing.  As a wine person, I enjoy exploring these part-time projects whenever I can.

Genevieve Janssens has been part of the Robert Mondavi winemaking team, and for a time the one for Opus One as well, since 1979 and head winemaker since 1997. But she and husband Luc, an artist, have been producing their own brand – Portfolio Limited Edition Napa Valley Red Wine – since 1998. It is very small production sold mainly through the Portfolio site and direct shipped.

If you can get your hands on a bottle or two, I’m sure it will be worth your effort. See the review, the last one of the 12 below.

NV Cleto Chiarli “Cialdini” Grasparossa di Castelvetro Lambrusco Secco. ($15). This is a wine we snobs aren’t supposed to like, with its frothy, fat cherry flavors and creaminess, but it is saved by its dried-herb, tangy finish. Still, it’s a little sweet...

NV Cleto Chiarli Italy Spumante Brut de Noir Rosé ($16). Lots of candied cherries, well-rounded, a little creamy and a little broad in its finish.

2018 Sant’Antonio “Scaia” Trevenezie Garganega/Chardonnay IGT ($14). Unusual flavors for a northern Italian white, but good ones – similar in taste to a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc but with a creamier texture.

2012 Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage ($53). Always a bargain, and a satisfying one, for quality Champagne – flavors of crisp apples and quince with nice minerality and a touch of toast.

2017 Hess Collection Artezin Old Vines Mendocino County Zinfandel ($16). A bit sweet and jammy but with fresh zin flavors.

2016 Pagos del Galir Valdeorras Mencía ($17). From northeast Spain, Mencía is a grape we don’t see enough of – here it is a very food-friendly wine with crisp blackberry flavors.

2017 Bannister “Saini Farm” Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel ($36). A Bordeaux-style Zin with lots of berry aromas and flavors balanced by savory notes. A little closed on opening, so let it bloom in the glass or decanter.

2016 Mt. Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon ($37). Bright cherry flavors with savory tannins and fresh acidity.

2011 Somek Israel Carignan ($37). Spicy, a touch volatile and a little oily with red berry and savory dried spices flavor – perhaps not aging as well as it should.

2016 Frank Family Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($53). A complex, enjoyable, interesting pour – very traditional Cab with savory green touches blended in with classic cassis and blackberry fruitiness.

2016 Inman Family “Sexton Road” Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir ($68). Owner/winemaker Kathleen Inman continues to up her game with Pinot – we’ll taste a couple of more in the next Dozen – and this one has a very supple texture, lightly creamy cherry flavors and lightly spicy, savory notes.

2015 Portfolio Limited Edition Napa Valley Red Wine ($165).  Velvety suppleness with rich purple fruits, savory tannins and good acidity in the finish – it grows beautifully in the glass, mouth-filling without being fat, the type of wine you can take off in the corner to savor now or 20 years from now.

Prices listed are generally SRP or from

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