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Wine of the Day

2012 Borra Vineyards Artist Series Kerner Lodi AVA

Borra Vineyards is among the oldest and best wine producers in Lodi. Stephen Borra etablished the winery in 1975 on 30-acre Barbera and Carignane vineyard he purchased from his family in 1966. Borra acquired an additional 200 acres of vineyard in another location in 1992. The winery and tasting room remain at the original vineyard on E. Armstrong Road.

Markus Niggli, a native of the German-speaking part of Switzerland, has been the winemaker at Borra for 6 years. Most of the wines are made from varietals that you expect from Lodi: Zinfandel, Barbera, Syrah, Merlot, etc. Lately though, Niggli has been making some white blends that are unique in the U.S., let alone Lodi. They include the 2011 Intuition White Blend (Kerner, Rieslaner and Gewurtztraminer) and today’s wine of the day, made from Kerner and Riesling.

These German varieties come from the Koth family’s Mokelumne Glen Vineyard. They have specialized in German wine grapes and now have about 41 different varieties. Their Kerner is probably the only planting west of the Mississippi. Niggli is using them to make delicious blends that remind him of those from Switzerland.

The 2011 Artist Series Kerner was bottled relatively soon after fermentation to capture remaining traces of CO2, similar to some Vinho Verde. The wine is nearly water white and a scattering of tiny bubbles cling to the side of the glass. The nose offers crisp, but ripe, green apple, lemon-lime, wet stone and peach. There’s enough sweetness to make it “off-dry” but it’s hardly noticeable on the palate because of the wine’s brisk acidity. Because of that freshness, the wine is simultaneously mouthwatering and drying on the tongue. Flavors echo the nose with green apple, lime and a bit of stone fruit. The finish is long and juicy. This wine should pair well with just about any food you’d have with brut Champagne. It made me want to slurp some oysters. Drink now through 2014. Highly Recommended.

Artist Series labels result from design contests for graphic arts students at the University of the Pacific in Stockton.

Borra2012ArtistKernerLabel-2002012 Borra Vineyards Artist Series Kerner Lodi AVA

Rating: Highly Recommended

Drink: now through 2014
Bottling Date: January 15, 2013

Closure: Screwcap
Production: less than 200 cases
Retail Price: $18.00

Winemaker: Markus Niggli
Blend: 85% Kerner, 15% Riesling
Origin: Mokelumne Glen Vineyard, Mokelumne River AVA, Lodi
Fermentation: Cold-fermented in stainless steel with native yeasts
Aging: 4 months in stainless steel
Residual sugar: 2.1 g/L
Alcohol: 13.5%

Service Recommendations

Decanting: Not recommended

Temperature: 46º - 50º F

Food Pairings: seafood, salads, chicken

The wine above was tasted with the winemaker.

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This article is original to Copyright 2013 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.

2011 Vina Robles White4

Vina Robles White4 is a an unusual blend of four white varieties: Viognier, Verdelho, Vermentino and Sauvignon Blanc. The ratios vary quite a bit from year to year, but I’ve found each release to be very good and an excellent value. This year’s release is another tasty, food-friendly wine.

Two estate vineyards on the east side of the Paso Robles AVA provided the fruit. Vina Robles harvested it by hand in the cool of late September nights and, for the Viognier, on October 12. Winemaker Kevin Willenborg fermented individual varieties separately using a variety of yeasts and fermentation temperatures to maximize each variety’s potential. Stainless steel vinification without malolactic fermentation kept the wine crisp. Post-fermentation aging in neutral oak with occasional lees stirring rounded off the edges.

VR_BtlShot_11_WHITE4_size_1Each variety contributes to the the wine’s engaging nose, but none dominates. Aromas of lemon, dry grass, grapefruit pith, tropical fruit, spice and white flowers waft gently from the glass. The medium-bodied palate is dry, smooth and fresh with flavors of just-ripe tropical fruit, spice and grassy herb. The finish is appetizingly juicy. Drink now through 2015. Recommended+.

2011 Vina Robles White4
Rating: Recommended+
Drink: Now through 2015
Bottling Date: March 14, 2012
Release Date: May 18, 2012
Closure: Screwcap
Production: 3,872 cases
Retail Price: $16.00

Winemaker: Kevin Willenborg
Blend: Viognier (53%), Vermentino (18%), Verdelho (17%), Sauvignon Blanc (12%)
Origin: Huerhuero & Jardine Vineyards (Sauvignon Blanc), Paso Robles AVA
Fermentation: stainless steel tanks, no malolactic
Aging: Neutral oak barrels sur lie, stirring every three weeks
Alcohol: 14.1%

Service Recommendations
Decanting: Not recommended
Temperature: 50º - 54º F
Food Pairings: Ceviché, fried calamari or Chinese chicken salad

Related Articles
Vina Robles Winery of Paso Robles
Wine Tasting in Paso Robles — 5 Excellent Stops Near Hwy 101 and Downtown 


The wine above was purchased for review.

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This article is original to Copyright 2012 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.

2009 Vina Robles WHITE4 Heurhuero Paso Robles

Vina Robles WHITE4 is a unique blend of four white wine grapes most famously grown in very different parts of the world. Vermentino is most common in northern Italy, Sardinia, parts of southern France and Corsica. Viognier is widely known for the wines of Condrieu in the Northern Rhone. Historically, Verdelho has been most prominent as one of the four main varieties used for making fortified wine in Madeira. It’s usage for light wine is predominantly in the Douro Valley of Portugal where it’s called Gouveio and in Galicia, Spain where it’s known as both Verdello and Godello. The final grape in the blend is the most well-known and well-traveled, Sauvignon Blanc.

In Europe, laws dictate which grapes can and cannot be used in specific appellations. There making a blend like this could start fights and end careers. But, in the New World, wineries can pretty much grow or blend whatever they like. While this results in the occasional train wreck, it also encourages innovation. More and more, I’m finding really good California wines made from unexpected varietal combinations.

The first vintage of Vina Robles WHITE4 was 2008. The 2010 WHITE4 has just been released. Some things are common to each vintage: the four varietals, the source (Huerhuero and Jardine), and letting the wine rest on its lees for six months. However, whereas the 2008 saw only stainless steel, the last two vintages have let some of the components age in neutral oak. The percentages of each variety in the blend also vary widely.

The 2008 had a Verdelho focus (41%) with just 11% Viogner and an almost even split of the other two. The brand new 2010 is the most varietally balanced with 16% Vermentino and an even mix of the other three. The 2009 being reviewed here is heavy on Vermentino (42%) with just 3% Sauvignon Blanc and an equitable mix of the other “V’s.”

The 2009 Vina Robles WHITE4 is aromatically generous, fruit-centric yet complex. Grapefruit, lime, peach, white flowers, green apple and exotic spice vie for your attention. But, while the aromas spill out of the glass simultaneously, the palate is more sequential. It starts with the peachy/floral flavors of Viognier and its lightly creamy texture. Those aspects are gradually balanced and then overcome by zesty acidity and citrus flavors from the other grapes. This transitions to a finish of citrus pith and brine with a mouthfeel that is fresh but with a touch of oily viscosity.

If you’re looking for a good and versatile wine to serve with Summer meals, the 2009 Vina Robles would be a good choice. I’d pair it with a slightly oily white fish, grilled and topped with a salsa of tropical fruit. I think it would also be great alongside a fresh pork tamale with a delicately sweet corn masa. Drink now through 2012. Recommended.

Learn more about Vina Robles, including visitor information and photos. I'll try to follow up shortly with reviews of the 2008 and 2010 vintages as well.


2009 Vina Robles WHITE4 Heurhuero Paso Robles
Rating: Recommended

Drink: Now through 2012
Release Date: May 1, 2010
Retail Price: $16 (sold out at winery)
Blend: 42% Vermentino, 29% Verdehlo, 26% Viognier, 3% Sauvignon Blanc
Origin: Paso Robles, all Heurhuero Vineyard except for the Sauvignon Blanc which is Jardine Vineyard
Aging: 6 months sur lie in stainless steel tanks and neutral barrels
Alcohol: 14.2%

Closure: Screwcap

The wine above was provided by the winery as a sample. It was not tasted blind.

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This article is original to Copyright 2011 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.