EMBLEM |  Chardonnay 2017

(Petaluma Gap, Sonoma Coast, CA) $35

When non-oaked California chardonnays arrived on the scene about 15 years or so ago, I thought: yes! Now, I’m resigned to thinking: no. Because while they may not be made with oak, most of them are still buttery and as sweet and dull as marshmallows. Then, recently, I tasted Emblem, a fresh, snappy, sophisticated chardonnay that pulses with cool-climate personality, and delivers a lovely sense of richness at the same time. It has a discreet touch of oak, and it’s more than good. It is (I hope) a sign of (chardonnay) things to come. Emblem is part of the Michael Mondavi Family of wines. (14.5% abv)

90 points KM

Available at Michael Mondavi Family Estate

More Wines to Know…

Which of these wines is fortified before primary fermentation is complete?

A.  Sherry
B.  Madeira
C.  Port
D.  Eiswein

Here’s the answer…

West of the West 

To anyone who has stood, wrapped in a down vest, on the edge of the cold Sonoma Coast in California, the expression “West of the West” makes sense. The long slice of rugged land bordering the coastline and tracking more or less perfectly with the San Andreas Fault has been (unofficially) referred to as the “true Sonoma Coast” for years. Standing there, you feel almost as though all of California is east of you.  Now the “true Sonoma Coast” may become a reality. The area is on target to become its own AVA in early 2019 when it will officially be known as the West Sonoma Coast. The challenge with the current AVA—Sonoma Coast—is its size: more than 500,000 acres. Critics say that’s simply too large, especially for an AVA where the hyper site-specific grape pinot noir is widely grown. The West Sonoma Coast will be much smaller and the pinot, chardonnay, and syrah grapes grown there will benefit from a climate cooler than Burgundy’s. 


We entered the wine industry when there were no wine magazines, no wine critics, no 100-point scale—all 23 of us vintners in the Napa Valley in the 1960s. What we learned, we learned from the vineyard itself. Back then, it seemed like less was better.

— Janet Trefethen (Trefethen Family Vineyards is 50 years old this year)

Chuck L. from Tacoma, WA wrote in recently after watching one of my WineSpeed videos, and noted the wine bottles in the background. He asked,“How long you can comfortably store wine on your office or library shelves without risk or fear of damage?”

Thanks Chuck, you’re so right to spot those bottles! Rest assured that those are current samples in line to be tasted very soon. Generally, they remain on the shelves for a couple of weeks or a month or two max. We also keep our office’s tasting room very cool and the air conditioning remains on at night and on the weekends. Wines that might be more fragile (older wines, pinots, etcetera), even over this short period, go into our Viking cooler.


Send your questions/comments to [email protected].

The first cabernet sauvignon vineyard in Tuscany was planted in the Chianti Classico region, where the grape was technically not allowed.

Answer: False. In 1944, Mario Incisa della Rocchetta planted Tuscany’s first cabernet sauvignon vineyard along the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea in a district called Bolgheri, known (until then) for its peach orchards. To plant a cabernet sauvignon vineyard there was, at the time, very unusual. First, the vines were not sangiovese but cabernet (allegedly from Château Lafite Rothschild). Second, Tuscan wisdom at the time held that no great red wine could be made from vineyards close to the sea. And third, the vineyard was far away from the Chianti zone, the brunello town of Montalcino, and the vino nobile town of Montepulciano. However, Incisa della Rocchetta persisted and called the wine Sassicaia—from Tuscan dialect, sasso for “rock”; and aia for “place of.” Sassicaia was released commercially in 1968 and made quiet Bolgheri famous for remarkable wines.