WanderCurtis Wine

Wine tastings, corporate events, reviews and recommendations

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California Central Coast(2) – Carmel Valley, Santa Lucia Highlands

Route 101 South from San Jose took us through the fertile plains of the Salinas Valley known locally as  the ‘salad Bowl’ of California. We were greeted by fields of endless ripe orange pumpkins, lettuce in pristine rows and the sulphurous aroma of fields of brassicas. Then a turn South on the route 68 and we climbed into the Santa Lucia mountain range. Most of the  tasting rooms are in the small town of Carmel Valley one of the eight sub AVAs of Monterey AVA. In the 1960s A.J Winkler and Maynard Amerine from UC Davis produced the Winkler scale, a classification system describing the climate of wine regions. It characterised Monterey County as comparable to Burgundy. Due to its proximity to the Pacific and Monterey Bay it is blessed with cool days throughout the growing season.

Talbott Vineyards

Wines tasted

Sarah Case Chardonnay 2014

From Sleepy Hollow Vineyard thirteen miles South of Monterey Bay, Santa Lucia Highlands AVA, Golden colour, very oaky nose, coconut, butter, some stone fruit, brioche butterscotch 90% new French oak barrels. Delicious but this one is for the full oak lovers.

Diamond T Chardonnay 2014  

A vineyard site in SL Highlands closer to the ocean eight miles from Carmel Bay and more cool climate in character. Crisper more mineral and Burgundian some Meyer lemon notes, Crème brûlée finish.

Audrey Chardonnay 2014

From a highly selected parcels of the Diamond T Vineyards deep honeyed colour Creamy buttery oaky.

Sarah Case Pinot Noir 2015

From exceptional parcels in sleepy hollow Vineyard lovely notes of ripe red fruits red cherries strawberries soft tannins long length like a concentrated cherry bonbon

Diamond T Pinot Noir 2014

Cherry plum spice more spice than Sarah case crisp soft tannins.


We dropped in to other tasting rooms and also liked some of the Pinot’s from Bernardus. The Wine House is a good place to go and relax in their gardens and have wines by the glass recommended by their sommelier they also have some interesting bin ends from around California.




I was  impressed with the Pinot’s which showed the high quality which can be obtained from the cooler areas of Central Coast such as Santa Lucia Highlands. The Chardonnays were perhaps over buttery and rich, but I still enjoyed them as the fruit still showed and the quality was obvious.





For evening entertainment we headed to the old Cowboy bar ‘The Running Iron’. The locals were very welcoming and entertaining. Their 805 beer went down well with a six dice game called One Four Twenty Four introduced by Katy and Casey.  When one of the regulars turned up with a version of  Le Nez De Vin with forty aroma essences I was in my element!

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California Central Coast (1) – Santa Cruz Mountains

This much overdue return to California with my longstanding Kiwi mates took us  south of San Francisco. A decade earlier we had indulged in the well known excesses of Napa, Sonoma and Russian River. The plan this time was to explore the main Central Coast wine regions including Santa Cruz Mountains, Carmel Valley, Santa Barbara County and Paso Robles. What better place to start than Ridge Vineyards, Monte bello.

Ridge Vineyards, 17100 Monte Bello Road, Cupertino


In with the vines which produced the famous 1971 Ridge Monte Bello.

Not far from the town of Santa Cruz over the Santa Cruz mountain range and overlooking Silicon Valley we arrived at the iconic Ridge Montebello Vineyards at 2,300 feet altitude. Dr Osea Perrone first planted vines here in 1885 but the vines were abandoned during prohibition. Famed for the Ridge Monte Bello 1971 which was one of the top wines at the famous 1976 ‘Judgement of Paris’ tasting organised by Stephen Spurrier.
Since then they are known as producing some of the best wines in California.
In a re run of the competition to mark it’s 40th anniversary in 2006, Ridge Monte Bello 1971 came top. Ridge also has an estate in Sonoma, Lytton springs.

Wines tasted

Monte Bello Chardonnay 2015
Sourced from the lower altitude Klein Vineyards
Very Burgundian in style nicely balanced with good acidity, malolactic with lees contact generating lovely texture and clear minerality. Delicious Chardonnay.
Limestone and greenstone subsoil with sandy loam

Geyserville 2016                                                                                                                                                            Zinfandel Carignan Petit Verdot Alicante Bouchet spice, herbs, good acid

Lytton Springs 2016
Zinfandel Carignan Petit Verdot Mataro, Black fruits savoury concentrated

Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2015
Green pepper cool climate feel, restrained.

Ridge Monte Bello 2015
77% Cab sav 11% Merlot 7% Petit Verdot 5% Cabernet Franc
Cedar mint good structure blackcurrant long finish smooth tannins

Ridge Monte Bello 2006
Left bank Bordeaux style with some tertiary developments, would be hard to tell from a classed Bordeaux in a Blind tasting.

Ridge Monte Bello 2007
More complex than 2006
Cedar liquorice spice cocoa good structure and long  finish

The wines whet our appetites and we headed down the mountain  to San Jose’s Western suburb of Cupertino to the impressive ‘Counter Burger’. Here you can tailor make your own burger. Highly recommend the Half pound Bison burger with gouda.





Beauregard Vineyards

It’s a  Scenic drive along West Cliff road onto Route 1 from Santa Cruz followed by a climb up into the Ben Lomond mountains parallel to Santa Cruz Mountain range. Our oversized Cadillac SUV led us comfortably to the beautiful Beauregard Vineyards in the coastal redwood forests of Bonny Doon.
This winery was Started in 1945 they possess 65 acres in this area on mainly sandy loamy soils. We took a leisurely  stroll in their redwood forest and picnic gardens.

Wines tasted

Beauregard Sauvignon Blanc 2016
Very sharp acidic lacking florality, some minerality lees aged

Beauregard Sauvignon Blanc 2017                                                                                                                                    hints of tangerine less tart nice texture

Beauregard Pinot Noir rose 2017
Touch of colour raspberry cherry aftertaste good acidity

Beauregard Pinot Noir 2013 Santa Cruz Mountains
Red fruit sharp oak coconut stands out

Beauregard Pinot Noir 2015 Beauregard Ranch Ben Lomond Mountains
Red fruit forest floor savoury more complex perfume

Beauregard Zinfandel 2016 Beauregard Ranch Ben Lomond Mountains
Dark raisins dry fruit prunes oak chocolate coffee peppery

Beauregard Syrah 2014 Zayante Vineyards Santa Cruz mountain range
Dry farm organic Syrah
VA dark fruit pepper violet


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Grape Treading in the Douro Valley – September 2018


I’ve been fortunate to have visited many stunning wine regions, but there’s always been one I’ve been itching to explore.Since my father and I were celebrating big birthdays, it was ample excuse to finally visit the spectacular Douro valley with vineyards  painstakingly carved out over centuries into the impossibly steep schist slopes. 



Our first stop was to the towering Graham’s Port Lodge in Vila Nova de Gaia, set on the banks of the River Douro. Part of the Symington family holdings, started by two Scottish brothers in 1820, from the wealthy textile family Graham’s. 


A magical place where for hundreds of years ‘rabelos’ traditional wooden Portuguese cargo boats have shipped people and goods up the valley to deliver the port barrels here where temperatures are favourable for slow maturation.

This was a most perilous voyage and many lives were lost, as the river, now tamed by dams was full of ravaging torrents.


Wines tasted

Graham’s ‘six grapes’ reserve

Graham’s Vintage Port 200

Graham’s10, 20, 30 year old Tawny

Colheita single vineyard ‘the Apprentice’1994




Quinta Do Bomfim

The following morning we took the train from Porto Sao Bento following the river. This is a magnificent journey, most scenic after Regua, in the heart of the worlds oldest demarcated wine region. After a short walk from Pinhao train station we arrived at Quinta da Bomfim, one of the many Symington family wineries in the Douro Valley. The Grape harvest had started the day before and we were lucky to see the automated grape treaders in action


 Wines tasted

Altano Branco DOC Douro
Quinta do Ataide DOC Douro
Quinta do Vesuvio DOC Douro

Warres Quinta da Cavadinha vintage 2001
Graham’s Quinta Dos Malvasia Vintage  2004
Dows Quinta Do Bomfim Vintage


Quinta Nova De Nossa Senhora Do Carmo

Only a short 1.2 km ride from Ferrao train station we arrive at Quinta Nova winery hotel. It’s set in a truly stunning location with panoramic views up the river and miles of vineyard paths to explore. The winery on site Dates back to 1764.Their Conceitus Winery restaurant serves some of the best food in the valley. After a refreshing swim in the infinity pool we were ready for dinner with the winemakers selection at Conceitus.







Wines tasted

Pomares Branco 2017 three white Portuguese grape varietals Viosinho Rabigato Gouveio fresh hints tropical fruits

Grainha 2016 Branco Gouveio, Viosinho, Rabigato and Fernão Pires aged 7 months in oak with batonage
More silky smooth texture

Quinta Nova terroir  Reserve 2016 Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional, Tinto Cão, Tinta Roriz
 Intense color , aromas of wild berries, cassis and blueberries good concentration.

The wines in general give a big bang for their buck, rich concentrated fruity but with depth and complexity.


Quinta da Roeda

A long term ambition to stomp grapes in the Lagares brought us to Crofts flagship Estate in the Douro. Luckily harvest had started the day before. It’s a short taxi 2km from Pinhao station

A Lagares full of red grapes awaited us.We excitedly immersed ourselves- wonderful, warm, fermenting, squishy sensations underfoot which led to some spontaneous albeit not very synchronized dancing!


I highly recommend a trip to this region. It has everything an oenophile can wish for and more.

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Famille Hugel Wine Dinner with Charlotte Hugel – Thursday November 1st

Hugel & Fils were founded in 1639 in picturesque Riquewihr, Alsace, France.

The Hugel family are pioneers of winegrowing in Alsace and their distinctive yellow label has commanded world-wide recognition for excellence. They are still run by the same family.

This evening will be hosted by Charlotte Hugel who is Thirteenth generation! 

Over a matched three course dinner, we will be tasting a range of the brilliant Hugel wines, from the best-selling Gentil range, Classic range, Estate range, and Grand Cru “Grossi Laüe”.




Hugel Gentil 2016


Hugel Pinot Gris Estate 2015

Main course

Hugel Riesling classic 2014
Hugel Riesling Grossi Laüe 2011


Hugel Vendange Tardive Gewürztraminer 2007


Please book now for what promises to be one of the highlights of our events, for Thursday November 1st

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Cantina di Mogoro, Tiernu, Bovale, 2016, Sardinia



Not many bottles have me reaching for Jancis’s tome, Wine Grapes.

 On a recent holiday to Sardinia the villa manager very kindly left us a bottle from a friends winery. I was deep in cynicism when I opened this local red from Cantina di Mogoro.

 The grape, Bovale Grande. as I discovered is Mazuelo (Carignan) which probably arrived in Sardinia during the period of Aragonese domination from approximately 1400 to 1700.

 It’s a very vigorous vine with large leaves and compact clusters of small berries,  rich in colour.

 On tasting, I was pleased to find it  full of ripe red fruits, cherries and raspberries, Mediterranean herbs and a savouriness  with balanced acidity and freshness, soft tannins and good length.

 Lovely with the sun setting over the Mediterranean with local chicken gently sizzling on the barbeque.

 I promptly ordered a case which Alessandro delivered, each bottle was as good as the last.

 I would recommend indulging in Sardinian wines. Their Vermentino’s, Cannonau’s (Grenache) and other Carignan’s are well worth discovering.