Spindleshanks Extensive Wine List a Lake Tahoe Favorite: Try a Wine Flight for Fun!

Spindleshanks American Bistro and Wine Bar boasts one of the most extensive and fun wine lists in the Lake Tahoe area.  No matter how many times you go to enjoy their wine and food, you’ll never exhaust your sense of great pairings and wonderful wines from around the world.

Its rustic building, which still evokes the feel of a traditional mountain lodge despite many different uses over the years, dates back to the days when Lake Tahoe mainly was accessible by steamship and train.  It was initially built in 1927 as the Sandy Beach Resort!  Spindleshanks wine list is contemporary and extensive and updated for adventurous and traditional wine consumers. All wines are served in Riedel crystal glasses, which enhances their aroma and flavor.

Steve Marks pours the Juliusspital
Proprietor Steve Marks offers a series of wine flights that are both well priced and palate-expanding.  I decided on Flight # 2, which cost $11.00, and then added some tastes from other parts of the great wine list.

Flight # 2 included 3 whites:  a Silvaner, Pinot Gris, and Gewurstraminer.

The 2011 Juliusspital Silvaner is a dry (“trocken”) German wine with a clean taste, minerally finish, and yet creamy mouthfeel.  It has aroma and taste of pear and mandarin oranges with a bit of spice.  Steve Marks told a bit of its history as a Hospice Wine:  Juliusspital dates back to the 16th century, when the Catholic bishop of W├╝rzburg set up a hospital to look after the sick and endowed it with property and also a vineyard.  The profit from the winery is used to support the hospital even today.  13 percent alcohol. 

The 2011 Cooper Mountain Pinot Gris from Oregon’s Willamette Valley was a minerally Pinot Gris with taste of peaches, pear, apricot, and a mouth-filling flavor and a finishing “ping”.  Absolutely delicious.  It was stainless steel fermented, and rich and balanced.  2011 has been noted as one of the finest vintages the Willamette Valley has seen.   13 percent alcohol.

The 2009 Nevada City Gewurztraminer, with fruit from Sonoma County, is perfumy, flowery and spicy on the nose, nicely balanced and with a crisp acidity.  It has a hint of sweetness that makes it good as an aperitif as well as food pairing.  14.1% alcohol.

Monte Oton Garnacha
Other lovely wines tasted were the 2011 Bodegas Borsao Monte Oton Garnacha from Campo de Borja, Spain; a Montepulciano d’ABruzzo from Cantina Zaccagnini, Italy;  and a non-vintage Juame Serra Cristalino Brut Cava from Spain.  The wine list is so extensive, and good!

Spindleshanks American Bistro and Wine Bar is located at 6873 North Lake Blvd.,Tahoe Vista, CA 96148.  Reservations at 530.546.2191.   www.spindleshankstahoe.com
This information first appeared in The Tahoe Weekly newspaper, where I write the Wine Time column, on June 27, 2013

Greg Baiocchi Speaks Out on his GST: it’s Pretty, Seductive, Complex

Greg Baiocchi
is Mr GST
“Like many in the wine business, I am tired of what one wine writer refers to as “that old CabChardPinot thingy”.   And so when we established Baiocchi Wines and Vineyards, we had a definite winemaking philosophy and vineyard plan,” notes Greg Baiocchi.  

“In many ways, I am a “millennial” winemaker:  I like to experiment.  Baiocchi is a new winery so we can afford to be different, as there are no expectations imposed from the wine critics yet.   I want to be authentic.  I want to deliver an experience that emanates from the vineyard and finds its way to the glass. I like to co –ferment the fruit, and that’s a point of origin of our blend, GST.  One wine lover has called me “Mr GST” because I believe in originality in my blends, and GST is a blend that is pretty, seductive, and complex.
Our winemaking philosophy, briefly, is that we co-ferment, use indigenous yeast, balance our use of new French oak, and believe in unfined and unfiltered wines.   We want to bring the fruit to the glass with as much transparency as possible. The vineyard philosophy was to plant Mourvedre, Grenache, Syrah & Tempranillo because of the excellence of our terroir for these varieties.

From a strategic winemaking viewpoint, these varietals all work well together in any growing season. This vineyard mix allows me to make handcrafted wines no matter what Mother Nature throws our way each year.

Our site in the FairPlay AVA of El Dorado County, CA.,  is perfectly suited for these varietals. I manage the vineyard to the terroir, which allows me to produce wine of defined character.  To me, creating a sense of place in our wines was critical to the winery business plan.

To enhance the sense of place, all our wines are fermented on indigenous yeast, with little or minimal intervention. This winemaking technique allows the purity and freshness of the fruit to come forward, thus further imparting a sense of place in our Baiocchi wines.

Gminor, our signature blend of Grenache-Syrah-Tempranillo, was our second experiment with co –fermenting.

Why GST?

I studied these varietals and where they originated and how they are blended throughout Spain and France.  I believed this blend would be a complex hybrid of origin, our El Dorado terroir, and fresh taste.

And so I handcrafted a wine that was pretty, seductive yet complex.

G minor:
a GST blend
Our GST is accessible at an early age, and can be opened anytime to share but still delivers structure that stands up proudly to food pairings.  We see it marching ahead on wine lists at a value price ($24.00) to consumers of all ages, but perhaps it will be particularly attractive to Millennials.

Grenache (44% of 2011 G minor) is so versatile and brings so much to the table. This is the pretty part of the GST blend, with great aromatics, nicely floral, and a strawberry essence -- it consumes the senses and is what captures you when first meeting the wine.

Syrah (32% of 2011 G minor) provides the weight, the curves, the seduction of the GST blend . Syrah holds the wine on the mid palate, melding blue fruit with all the red fruit of Grenache.  It plays an important role in the blend, because holding the wine on the mid palate long enough allows the acidity to catch up and then… the Tempranillo!

Tempranillo’s earthy tannins bring the structure, complexity and length to the finish in the GST blend.   Tempranillo constitutes 24% of 2011 G minor.

The compatibility of these three varietals is what makes Gminor great for food. Overall it is a medium-weight wine, earthy and ripe.

Where does GST go next?   Well, Christian Miller tasted this and put it on Spago (Beverly Hills) wine list.   We are confident at Baiocchi that GST, at a $24 retail price point, will find a welcome in the marketplace.”   

Greg and Sharon Baiocchi
in their brand-new tasting room
on Main Street, Sutter Creek CA
Read more about this GST wine, and Baiocchi Wines and Vineyards, at http://baiocchiwines.com

Raley's Incline Village Provides Great Wine Selection

The newly renovated Raley’s in Incline Village gives wine lovers cause to rejoice.  Store Manager Mike Finn knows what he is doing in the Cellar section there, and it is easy to find good wines at reasonable prices.  The selection is large.  Through the end of June, there are some good specials, such as 30 percent off 6 or more bottles.

Plan to taste some nice wines every Wednesday in the Raley’s Cellar section; tastings will be from 5 to 7 p.m.

I spent an hour perusing the offerings and filled my 6 bottle carrier with the following:

2012 Fume Blanc from Ferrari Carano.  This wine, from Sauvignon Blanc grapes sourced in Sonoma County, has aroma of peach and mango, and clean citrus flavor of pineapple, pear and guava.  It has has bright acidity and a crisp freshness. 13.8 percent alcohol.  $19.99 every day value; special price early June was $15.70.

Klinker Brick 2011 Farrar Syrah, Lodi.  Using grapes grown near the Mokelumne River, it is beautifully balanced with aromas of white chocolate, bacon and tobacco and a velvety texture of black raspberries and licorice interwoven with exotic spice.  The winemaker notes the supple tannins and firm structure. 14.9 percent alcohol.  $21.41 every day value, $19.99 special.

I finished off my selection of California red wines with Rombauer’s 2008 Merlot, Carneros.  The winemaker notes: “Enticing and lively red color; beautifully aromatic with black cherry and ripe plum. On the palate a purity of blackcurrant, cedar and mint flavors blend together seamlessly. Soft and supple, this wine has a medium-bodied mouth-feel.” 14.4 percent alcohol.  $40.

The Hess Collection Napa Valley Chardonnay 2010 is a classic California chard.  It has layers of complex flavor, and various spice notes throughout the glass.  14.6 percent alcohol.  $21.99.

J Pinot Gris 2011 Russian River Valley is a layered and well-balanced wine that is perfect for summer sipping!  The winemaker notes:  “an enticing bouquet of Fuji apple, ripe cantaloupe, and apricot. The crisp, clean mouthfeel is bursting with flavors of lemon and lime. A hint of kiwi and sweet orange blossom honey on the palate complements the fruit and acid.”  14.6 percent alcohol.  $16.99.

In the extensive international section, I chose the Alamos Malbec, Argentina.  Both 2011 and 2012 vintages were in stock.  Regardless of vintage, this wine will be dark purple color, have aroma of black cherry, and a full and rich mouthfeel.  It’s my house Malbec. 13.7 percent Alcohol,  10.99/11.99 bottle

Raley’s is located at 930 Tahoe Boulevard (highway 28) in Incline Village, NV.
This information first appeared in The Tahoe Weekly newspaper, where I write the Wine Time column, on June 20, 2013   

California Cabernets: Many Choices Showcased at Prestigious Tasting

To many people, when you say “California Wines”, the mental leap is immediately to Cabernet Sauvignon.   In fact, the growing conditions in many parts of California emulate some of the best conditions for Cabernet in the Old World.

One of the most anticipated events on the tasting calendar each year is the special tasting of the California Cabernet Society, held recently in San Francisco.  For many of these wineries, the production is small and you might have to go to the winery tasting room or order directly from the winery if you want your own bottle.

Lauren Ackerman pours 2008
Cabernet Sauvignon from
Napa's Ackerman Family Vineyards
I started with the 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon from Ackerman Family Vineyards in Napa.  Only 500 cases of artisanal certified-organic Cabernet are produced yearly, and the wine is held back a total of four years by barrel aging for two years and bottle aging for another two before being released each October.  This is a classic Cabernet, with deep fruit flavors and mellow tannins that will enable it to be cellared for 10-20 years. The wonderful aroma is redolent of deep blackberry, Bing cherry, sweet plum and rich mocha/toasty oak.  Decant before you drink.  $75 per bottle. 14.2 percent alcohol.     www.ackermanfamilyvineyards.com


The royal family of California wine, the Mondavi family, presented its 2010 Family Reserve “Generations”.  Pouring and discussing the wine was Alycia Mondavi,  a member of the fourth generation in the wine business.  This scrumptious wine is a blend of 77 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 13 percent Merlot, 8 percent Petit Verdot, and 2 percent Cabernet Franc.  It is elegant, balanced, and presents aroma of blackberry, cherry and toffee.  A full mouthfeel with berry and nutmeg leads to a rich finish. 15.3 percent alcohol. Internet pricing $40 per bottle.   www.cmondavi.com


Peju featured its new release, 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley.  This was my top choice; I liked the blackberry and raspberry flavors, with a bit of pepper and cocoa.  It’s a bright wine, yet with good structure and complexity, and it is ready to drink right now!  The ten percent petit verdot adds to its elegance. 14.3 percent alcohol. $50 the bottle.   www.peju.com

The Volker Eisele 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon is a blend of 79 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 18 percent Merlot and 3 percent Cabernet Franc.  Aroma of black fruit and vanilla leads to a taste of blackberry and black currant, and a crisp acidity. It’s a dry wine, with firm rich tannins.  14.5 percent alcohol. $45 the bottle. www.volkereiselefamilyestate.com

This information first appeared in The Tahoe Weekly newspaper, where I write the Wine Time column, on June 13, 2013   

Happy Hour Wines at River Grill = Favorite Tahoe City stopping place!

I always find wine that I enjoy at River Grill, and during their Happy Hour specials, you are also certain to find an agreeable glass of wine to pair with their well-priced appetizers.  I’m there a lot, so I’m sharing my favorites with you, although the offerings do change.

The 2009 Viognier from Alfaro Family Vineyards and Winery, is an unfined and unfiltered wine with grapes sourced from the Gimelli Vineyards, Cienega Valley of San Benito County, California. This is a great area for growing Viognier, and the results are good. This Viognier (say: vee-ohn-yay) is full bodied and dry, combining rich flavors of ripe apricots and peaches with the aroma of honeysuckle.  It is a lovely golden color. Some Viogniers can be too sweet, but this is not.  14.5 percent alcohol.  $26 per bottle.

The La Fiera 2001 Pinot Grigio, Veneto, Italy is fresh, crisp, floral and fruity.  Flavor of peach and apple, with a minerality on the finish that makes it a great pairing with salads, chicken and seafood.  12 percent alcohol.  $6 the glass, $22 the bottle.

We paired both these whites with the tempura green beans, and a salad of pear, gorgonzola and pecans.
The 2010 Snapdragon Pinot Noir, California, is fruit forward, easy drinking with flavor of ripe cherry, berry, and a hint of mocha.  The bottle tells the story of the name: “Legend has it . . . long ago, a farmer befriended a dragon using the creature to guard his crops from raiding poachers. Each harvest, the spirit of the dragon lives on, inspiring the creation of these delicious wines!”    13.5  percent alcohol.  $7 the glass, $26 the bottle.   Paired well with the mac and cheese.

I encourage you to try a Tempranillo, as this Spanish-origin grape is becoming more popular with growers in the Sierra Foothills too.  The 2011 Bodega Venta Morales Tempranillo is 100 percent Tempranillo grapes from the La Mancha area of Spain.  It has ripe dark fruit, deep color, and a long and balanced finish.  This wine is made in very small batches. 14 percent alcohol.  $6.50 the glass, $24 the bottle.

River Grill is located at 55 West Lake Blvd, Tahoe City, and is just west of Fanny Bridge at the “Y” where Highway 28 intersects with Highway 89.  Happy hour is seven days a week from 5:00 - 6:30 p.m.  Dinner reservations: (530) 581-2644

This information first appeared in The Tahoe Weekly newspaper, where I write the Wine Time column, on June 6, 2013.