Alternative Viewpoint on Harvest from Uvaggio's Jim Moore

"With the impending Harvest, plenty of news is coming out of Napa," writes Lauren Eastman, who does Public Relations work from her office in San Francisco. "For an alternative viewpoint, esteemed winemaker and owner of Uvaggio, Jim Moore, provides another perspective. Jim’s career spans more than three decades in Napa, and his experience is well versed in the trends coming out of the premier California wine growing region.

"However, he’s chosen to take his wine dream to Lodi and launch his own brand, Uvaggio.

"As Jim is beginning harvest this week, he is seeing good flavor maturity at low brix, and expecting his Primativo to come in under 13 percent, providing a much different outcome for this wine than one might expect of the typical Zinfandel experience. Even for Lodi, he is breaking down the barriers. The high alcohol Zinfandels that come out of the region are often harvested at a much later date, awaiting the residual sugar.

"Jim’s Italian style cultivars include Vermentino, Italy’s most popular white grape this year, Barbera, Moscato (which will be harvested in sweet (dolce) and non-sweet (seco) in early October. Many of these wines will be perfect on the Thanksgiving table moving into the holidays. This week, I’m most excited about Vermentino, as its been hot in the Bay Area and this refreshing white is delightful on sunny afternoons."

With a build-up like that, I was curious about this winemaker. Lauren did a great job piquing my interest. His bio is pretty impressive, so here goes:

Biography: Jim Moore, Proprietor/Winemaker
l’Uvaggio di Giacomo (a.k.a. Uvaggio)

For a person who walked many vineyard rows throughout several decades for numerous others, the creation and development of Jim Moore’s own wine label - Uvaggio - is a gratifying achievement. Jim’s innovative approach toward winemaking in combination with traditional techniques and alternative varietals allow him to create wines with a distinct Italian flare, from grapes grown in the New World. The style of Uvaggio wines is true to everything Italian-ate. Tasting them blind, one might actually imagine they might come from Italy. With just one taste it is evident these are not typical wines from a typical winemaker.

With a career spanning more than three decades, multiple and diverse regions in California and in several parts of Italy, across a range of cultivars - everything from Arneis to Zinfandel – Jim’s atypical breadth of experience differentiates him and Uvaggio wines from the vast sea of California’s Franco-centric offerings.

Jim’s interest in Italian varietals began long before Pinot Grigio became ubiquitous in the marketplace and on wine lists across the county. He was first exposed to wines in college, then a broader segment while working in restaurants and a vast spectrum while working for a wine retailer, launching him on a quest for a career in winemaking, to experience and appreciate how fine wine is crafted. In 1976 he moved to Napa Valley and worked for several Napa wineries throughout the next three harvests.

In September 1979, Jim joined Robert Mondavi Winery in Oakville, beginning a two decade tenure California’s most renowned, if not iconic, winery. Initially, he held various production and supervisorial positions. Ultimately in 1988, he was promoted to the enology department and began guiding the winemaking styles. For the next seven years he continued his education by taking winemaking and business courses at UC Davis.

Jim’s palate for Italian wines was recalibrated after his exposure to the exceptional vintages of 1982 and 1985. These vintages were contemporaneous with an increased awareness of wine quality in Italy and in some instances they involved revolutionary production techniques. Inspired by these wines, he developed two vineyard trial blocks to evaluate the performance and gauge the merchantability of specific grape varieties and different clones - primarily Italian and secondarily from the Rhone. He helped to develop Mondavi’s Burgundian inspired, Carneros appellation Chardonnay and Pinot noir, reintroduced Zinfandel and revamped the wine style and packaging for Moscato d’Oro - a proprietary dessert wine. Additionally he created and developed La Famiglia di Robert Mondavi in California, while helping launch Luce and Lucente from Tuscany - a collaborative effort with the Frescobaldi family of Florence.

Jim’s work at Mondavi earned many accolades. Two of the Zinfandels he crafted were honored by Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of the Year, as was a bottling of Luce. A subsequent bottling of Luce garnered a coveted “tre bicchiere” (three glasses - their highest rating) from the Gambero Rosso, Italy’s pre-eminent wine guide. Toward the end of his tenure at Mondavi, he was promoted to Assistant Winemaker and worked to help elevate the quality of Mondavi’s entire Napa Valley portfolio while investigating new winemaking techniques while working with the General Manager to incorporate all the applicable ideas into their To Kalon cellar renovation.

In 1998, Moore left Mondavi to develop l’Uvaggio di Giacomo, (“the Blends of James”) which he had begun with the 1997 vintage. Concurrently, he acted as the consulting winemaker for five new Napa Valley start-up ventures, all while holding a ‘day job’ as the general manager and winemaker for a small, family winery in St Helena. In early 2003 he became the Director of Winemaking for Bonny Doon Vineyard/Ca’ del Solo, staying only briefly, leaving to devote himself full time to revitalizing his Uvaggio project.

Today the Uvaggio label proves to have been worth the long wait and considerable effort. The portfolio consists of Vermentino, Rosato, Primitivo, Moscato (both secco & dolce) and Barbera - offering neophytes and aficionados alike with accessible wines possessing vibrant flavors, framed within a classic structure, all offered at moderate prices. With key attributes like lower levels of alcohol, distinctive flavor profiles and harmonious expressions, these wines are crafted for food affinity, bringing an Italian sensibility to the American table. Jim’s philosophy maintains that the primary role of wine is to accompany food, which results in three important attributes: accessibility, harmony and value.

Jim Moore is a graduate of UCLA and has traveled extensively in Italy; especially Tuscany, Piedmont, Friuli and Trentino - as well as Burgundy and Bordeaux in France in studying their vineyards, winemaking techniques and even coopering. He resides in Napa with his wife, a librarian and educator, where they explore new culinary and vinous horizons daily.

Thanks to Lauren Eastman & Associates for a lively look at Harvest news!

Tahoe's Best Wine Auction: Plumpjack sponsors Biking for a Better World

Plumpjack’s at Squaw was the magnanimous host for the September Wine Auction charitable event, Biking for a Better World. Some great wines were quaffed, discussed and bought. You won’t want to miss this event next year, as it presents an opportunity to acquire wonderful and rare wines for your cellar and your table.

Kali Kopley of Uncorked Wine Shops and Dawn Bertsch (pictured, right, with Biking for a Better World organizer), a sommelier and wine rep, garnered a group of wonderful wines for auction.

A quick run-down:
Auctioned off at 6 times the opening bid was a Dr. Loosen Riesling vertical, 2 bottles each of the 2004, 2005 and 2006 Erdener Treppchen Auslese Mosel-Saar-Ruwer. These German wines start off with spicy musky aromas, and flavors of pear, melon, pineapple and red berries please the palate. These plump wines are crystalline and pure, with long fruit-driven finishes. Drink the 2006 now, Dawn Bertsch advises, and cellar the 2004 and 2005 for 5 years.

Winemaker Phil Coturri donated 3 bottles each of his 2006 Zinfandel and 2007 Syrah, Sonoma. The Zinfandel is well balanced and tasty, with red fruit, bramble and good minerality. The Syrah has an aroma of bacon and dark fruits, with “everything a Syrah should display – dark fruit, gaminess, pepper, spice and a touch of iron,” noted the winemaker as he presented the wines.

Tony Truchard of Truchard Family Vineyards & Winery, also present at the auction, donated 6 bottles of his Cabernet Sauvignon, in a vertical array. Although Carneros is not known for its Cabernet Sauvignon, the Truchard wines are terrific big wines with wonderful color and structure. Touches of Cabernet Franc are blended in for added softeness and complexity.

Skinner Vineyards grows fruit in El Dorado near Placerville and also in Fair Play. I’ve personally visited with the winemaker Chris Pittenger in the past, and when the new winery and tasting room opens in Fair Play next year, you absolutely must visit. Chris is a talented winemaker, and these are among the best of Foothill wines. Several wonderful bottles donated to the auction included Skinner White Rhone Blend “Seven Generations” 2008 El Dorado. This is a blend of Roussanne, Marsanne and Viognier, with tropical aromas of pineapple and papaya, hints of flowers, hazelnuts, banana bread and nice minerality.

The Skinner winery is known for its Syrah, and two of them were auctioned. The 2007 El Dorado Syrah is redolent of ripe blackberry, boysenberry and blueberry, with spiciness and a lengthy finish. The Syrah “Stoney Creek Vineyard” 2007 El Dorado is sourced from mountain fruit grown at 2700 feet, and it’s magnificent! Aroma of blackberry, cherry pie and tastes of cinnamon, caramel, vanilla, flower, pepper. The addition of 3% Viognier gives it a medium body and a long velvety finish.

Plumpjack Winery produces super premium Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay from Napa Valley grapes, and also some amounts of Merlot, Syrah and Sauvignon Blanc. On auction was the 2007 Plumpjack Cabernet Sauvignon, the 2007 Merlot, and the 2008 Chardonnay. CADE winery, also owned by Plumpjack, is located in Howell Mountain. The Cade Napa Sauvignon Blanc 2009, cuvee Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 Napa, and 2006 Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon were also included in the auction items donated by Plumpjack.

Of course the Plumpjack Executive Chef Ben “Wyatt” Dufresne and the entire kitchen team produced a wonderful menu that paired well with 4 great wines: Mason Cellars Pomelo Sauvignon Blanc 2009 California, Miner Family Chardonnay 2008 Napa, Siduri Pinot Noir 2008 Sonoma Coast, and Dogwood Cellars Zinfandel 2006 Mendocino.

Biking for a Better World ( is headquartered in Olympic Valley and this group raises money for schools and bicycles for students in remote villages in Nicaragua.

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© 2010 Barbara Keck

For more information on dining and the wide range of activities around Lake Tahoe, see the online version of
The Tahoe Weekly. This article appeared in my column "It's Grape" in September 2010.

Watch for my forthcoming book: " Wineries of the Sierra and Its Foothills". Publication date early Summer 2011, The Wine Appreciation Guild Publishing Division
>>Send an email to Barbara (at) if you want to be put on the notification list when it is published...

Incline Spirits Hosts CG DiArie

How did I miss this great wine shop before now? I’m talking about Incline Spirits on Country Club Drive near Austin’s in Incline Village.

But never mind, I got there via a prompt from Chaim and Elisheva Gur-Arieh, owners of C. G. DiAirie Vineyard & Winery, Mt. Aukum, El Dorado County, California. I have great admiration for their wines, and the story of how food-scientist Chaim moved from such innovations as Cap’n Crunch and Power Bars to winemaking is one of the stories you’ll see in my forthcoming book.

They were pouring their wonderful 2006 Primitivo, Estate Grown on 2-acre Block 4 in their Shenandoah Valley vineyard. The new vintage (2008) is now available at a slightly higher price, but the 2006 has all that you’d want in Primitivo, closely related to Zinfandel: floral fruity aroma, such as raspberry, Marion berry, black cherry, plum, blackberry. Also some peach aromas and flavors. This splendid array of aromas carries through to the palate. Nicely structured, complex, good balance and acidity. Long finish of black cherry, mocha and spice. More information at 14.6% alcohol, $21.99/bottle at Incline Spirits.

Three years ago, Aimee Miller and husband Will Brigham created Incline Spirits from an empty office space in what’s since become a lively incline Village destination. Aimee loved wine more than the computer engineering field, and she was encouraged by Will, owner of 6 restaurants over several years.

C. G. DiArie was invited to pour at Incline Spirits because both Aimee and Will love wines from California’s Sierra Foothills. In addition to DiArie’s wines, you’ll find wines from Lava Cap, Twisted Oak and Boeger in the shop as well as other small production, small vintage wines.

“We specialize in hard to find wine, and we like to sponsor guest tastings,” Aimee said. “ We look hard to find wines that have scored over 90 points in various wine industry magazines, and yet are under $30 per bottle.”

The wine offerings changes somewhat seasonally, but both Aimee and Will and general manager Michael Tassone have clear favorites.

Aimee’s choice for the months ahead: a Gary Farrell 2006 Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, California. “It’s a beautiful bottle, fruit forward, well balanced, complex, and it is drinking really well.” 14.2% alcohol, $48.49/bottle.

Michael’s choice is a 2006 Cakebread Cabernet Sauvignon. “It has delicious fruit and is well balanced,” Michael said. “I’d serve it with tenderloin steak topped by bleu cheese and wrapped in bacon.” Michael background includes 13 years as a wine tour guide.

Will’s choice for summer: a 2006 Cowan Creek Vineyard Pinot Noir, Goldeneye/Duckhorn. “The fruit for this wine is grown in the Anderson Valley, and it has a perfect balance, with strawberry and raspberry tones and a dry finish. You can drink it by itself, or with a meal.” 14.5% alcohol, $84.99/bottle.

For winter, Will would walk you to the round rack in the center of the wine cellar and encourage you to try something new. “The wine I’d recommend is not for the faint of heart,” he said. “It’s like a cabernet sauvignon on steroids and is absolutely perfect for cold nights, gamey meats and fatty meats.” This is the Roagna Borolo, a wine that is 100% Nebbiolo. It is big, heavy and tannic. 13.5% alcohol. $59.99/bottle.

Incline Spirits is located at 120 Country Club Drive, # 25, Incline Village, NV 89451. Open 7 days a week, from 10 a.m. to midnight Sunday-Thursday, and from 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday. Their on-premise tavern license means that you can take a bottle of wine outside, pop the cork, order in food, and dine al fresco. 775 831 9292.

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© 2010 Barbara Keck

For more information on dining and the wide range of activities around Lake Tahoe, see the online version of
The Tahoe Weekly. This article appeared in my column "It's Grape" in September 2010.

Watch for my forthcoming book: " Wineries of the Sierra and Its Foothills". Publication date early Summer 2011, The Wine Appreciation Guild Publishing Division

>>Send an email to Barbara (at) if you want to be put on the notification list when it is published...

At Hyatt Regency Incline: Kristi Sets up an Astounding Wine on the Water Benefit

The Boys and Girls Club of North Lake Tahoe benefits from funds raised at the Wine on the Water event at the end of August, organized by master sommelier Kristi Snyder of Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe. (photo left) The 24 wineries poured wines to go with small-plate tastings from 12 great Tahoe restaurants. It was an event not to miss.

Frankly, I have not seen such a stellar list of wineries pouring great wines gathered in one place at Tahoe before. The roster included Benessere, Bennett Lane, BR Cohn, Cakebread, Carol Shelton, Chateau St. Michelle, Dierberg, Domaine Carneros, Duckhorn, Educated Guess, Elyse, Emmolo, Forman Vineyards, Four Graces, Frank Family, Gregory Graham, Keenan, Laird, Mer Soliel, Mi Sueno, Miner Family, Opolo, Robert Hall, Rodney Strong, Schramsberg, Simi, Stags Leap, Talbott, Terra Valentine, Twisted Oak, Twomey, Silver Oak. Truly star-studded!

Wines from small production wineries is what I decided to taste. There’s a special place in my heart for the little guy because often their spirit and persistence and innovation leads to new chapters in the wine history books.

Benessere Vineyards, St. Helena, is family owned and specializes in Italian Varietals. With vineyards located along the Napa River, the growing conditions are ideal for Sangiovese, a fairly fickle and delicate varietal. The Benessere 2007 Napa Valley Sangiovese is made entirely from estate grapes grown on their 42 acres, and the dedication to hand-crafting the Benessere wines shows through. It is an elegant and beautiful wine, with structured tannins that do not overwhelm the ripe fruit flavors of cherries and red currant. 14.4% alcohol, $32/bottle. Only 1200 cases made.

At the tasting station for Emmolo Wine Company, there’s a photo of their new concrete fermenter, fondly called “The Egg.” There’s lots of experimentation in the wine business with fermentation types and techniques, and this is one of the newest types of fermenters, developed in Burgundy, France. Cheryl Emmolo, owner, is pleased with the results. Her winemaker son Charlie Wagner produced a bright and clean 2009 Sauvignon Blanc from grapes in their historic Emmolo River Ranch property, Rutherford/Napa. The citrus, starfruit, honeydew and tropical fruit hints are true to the varietal. The finish had a touch of minerality that was classic to this terroir. 12.8% alcohol, $16/bottle.

Mi SueƱo Winery, Napa, poured their 2007 Mi Sueno El Llano Red Wine Napa Valley. This blend, 35% Syrah and 65% Cabernet, is named in honor of winemaker/owner Rolando Herrera's hometown of El Llano, Michoacan, Mexico. Begun as a little experiment of 700 cases in 2002, the El Llano has become their most popular wine. A deep, dark, purple-black color leads you to expect the rich aroma of red and black fruits. Great fruit flavor with a touch of roasted espresso and perhaps some sweet cocoa. Ripe-polished tannins and a hint of warm toasty oak. Truly yummy. 14.5% alcohol, $40/bottle.

Educated Guess 2008 Chardonnay is made from grapes grown in Napa’s Oak Knoll and Mount Veeder districts. This is a delicious crisp Chardonnay, not over-oaked. Wonderful tastes of pear, melon, green apple, and a nice bright acidity with creamy vanilla notes. It is both tasty and affordable – and this is a goal of the Roots Run Deep Winery, which produces Educated Guess Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir. 14.6 % alcohol, $17/bottle.

For more information about the Boys and Girls Club of North Lake Tahoe, visit their website at It was founded in 1998 in response to a lack of affordable, year-round youth development services on the North Shore.

© 2010 Barbara Keck

For more information on dining and the wide range of activities around Lake Tahoe, see the online version of The Tahoe Weekly. This article appeared in my column "It's Grape" in September 2010.

Watch for my forthcoming book: " Wineries of the Sierra and Its Foothills". Publication date early Summer 2011, The Wine Appreciation Guild Publishing Division

>Send an email to Barbara (at) if you want to be put on the notification list when it is published...


If you haven’t been to the Truckee River Winery tasting room at 11467 Brockway Road, next to Mountain Home Center on the northeast side of Truckee, make a point to go there before it’s too jammed with other folks. The word is getting out rapidly that it is a great place to taste wine and meet friends for relaxation and bocce.

Bocce? You bet. One of the fun things that winemaker Russ Jones installed at the new premises was a terrific bocce court. He runs tournaments, has an expert give master classes, and is even doing a Full Moon Glow Ball Bocce Tournament. There are also Horseshoe tournaments. A game board for cozy checkers in front of the wireplace at wintertime. And let’s not forget the wonderful wines!

Russ started his winery in a two car garage in 1989, moved his winemaking to South River St. in Truckee and in 2009, with case production at almost 1500 cases, created a crushpad and tasting room on Brockway Road. It was a case of local boy (Truckee High School class of 1977) comes home, and establishes the “highest and coldest” winery in the Sierra. He’d graduated from UC Davis’ program in enology and viticulture, worked in the wine industry in Oregon and Paso Robles and then came back home.

Russ’s philosophy is to make good wine, and to make consistent wine. He’s established relationships with good growers and vineyard operators.

“We are proud to source and control 2 acres of Pisoni clone vines at Garys' Vineyard located in Monterey County in the Santa Lucia Highlands . Our Zinfandel comes from Lodi, Gribaudo Vineyard from the old vine section. Bear River Vineyard in Chicago Park, near Colfax, is our source for Merlot. And we produce a Pinot Gris from Eldorado County,” he notes.

There are also the vines he is growing at a small newly-established vineyard within sight of the tasting room on Brockway Road. Those vines, LaCrosse, Frontenac, and Brianna varieties, came from the University of Minnesota and they are cold-hardy vines that can adapt to Truckee’s cold nights. In a year or two, this small vineyard will produce an ice wine to add to the list.

Here is a glance at the wines you can taste, and buy, at the Tasting Room. And if you want to ship them to friends out of state, Truckee River Winery has created a relationship with

2006 Gary’s Vineyard Pinot Noir (Santa Lucia) is one of the winery’s hallmark wines. Only 450 cases were produced of this vintage. The wine is unfiltered and handcrafted in Truckee. The result is a very delicate Pinot with complexity, depth, and soft tannins. $45/bottle. 13.8 % alcohol.

The 2009 White Barn Pinot Gris (El Dorado), at $12.00 bottle, is a lovely wine that pairs well with seafood. “This is a very simple wine, with no oak. It is the product of cold fermentation, cold storage, and is bottled within a year of harvest. “It’s got lots of fruit, a bit of melon character, aroma of rose petals and a crisp acidity,” says Russ. He only produced 250 cases of this wine. 13.4% alcohol.

Only 250 cases were produced of the 2006 Gribaudo Vineyard (Lodi) Zinfandel, which has a taste and texture that’s very similar to their 2003 Zin which won a double gold at the San Francisco Chronicle 2006 competition. This wine has a lovely depth in both color and flavor, and is big and bold. “Intense flavors of raspberry, cassis and cloves wrapped in soft oak and tannins making this one big wine,” says Russ. $25/bottle. 14.3% alcohol.

The new tasting room is open every day except Tuesday from 11:00 am to 7:00 pm. Visit it at 11467 Brockway Road, Truckee, Ca 96161.

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© 2010 Barbara Keck

For more information on dining and the wide range of activities around Lake Tahoe, see the online version of The Tahoe Weekly. This article appeared in my column "It's Grape" in September 2010.

Watch for my forthcoming book: " Wineries of the Sierra and Its Foothills". Publication date early Summer 2011, The Wine Appreciation Guild Publishing Division

>>Send an email to Barbara (at) if you want to be put on the notification list when it is published...