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Two Women on Wine: It's fun to discover boutique wines

Each wine expresses the passion of the winemaker

Posted: April 15, 2010 3:20 p.m.
Updated: April 16, 2010 6:00 a.m.
Lil Lepore and Shari Frazier Lil Lepore and Shari Frazier
Lil Lepore and Shari Frazier

Now that the weather is improving and spring is on its way, it's time to break out the road map and travel to enjoy some wine tasting. One of our favorite things to do is to seek out small, out of the way, boutique wineries. These are usually family-owned and operated, and dedicated to producing high quality, handcrafted wines in limited quantity. Finding these little-known, hidden gems can be a lot of fun. It's like hunting for truffles - hard to find but delicious!

One thing our experience has taught us is that smaller producers have an unyielding passion for wine and winemaking. These are entrepreneurs and small business owners who wear a lot of different hats: farmer, winemaker, vineyard manager, harvester, crusher and bottler, just to name a few.

Their dedication and attention to the craft of winemaking is rewarded in every bottle they produce. It is only fitting that we celebrate their hard work by visiting the wineries and purchasing product that bears their name.

Here is a list of some of our favorite artisan wineries:

Rideau Vineyard is a beautiful vineyard located in the Santa Inez Valley outside Los Olivos. The tasting room, as well as the vineyard property, date back to 1769. Iris Rideau, owner and native of New Orleans, founded the winery in 1997 with a clear vision of producing Rhone varietals. Their Chateau Duplantier Cuvee, a Rhone blend, is rich with ripe fruit and soft tannins. The 2006 Petite Syrah is full-bodied, lush with a long, smooth finish. Their production is so small that their wines are only available at the winery. If you're heading to Santa Barbara or Los Olivos be sure to put Rideau Vineyard on your list. We're sure you won't be disappointed. (

Another great boutique winery is Tangent Winery, a small producer (approximately 10,000 cases) located in Edna Valley. They came up with their name "tangent" because of their focus solely on white varietals, which is certainly a departure from the ordinary. Last week, we tasted their wines - Albarino, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Viognier and Pinot Gris - and found them all to be fresh, crisp, vibrant and delightful. The standout for us was the Sauvignon Blanc, which we're told is produced from vines that are more than 40 years old. This wine exhibits characteristics from both French and New Zealand styles with highlights of green apple, passion fruit and grapefruit. This was a definite winner for us. (

Another example comes from Calcareous Vineyard in Paso Robles. Owned and operated by two sisters, this unique winery offers several white and red varietals. The production of their varietals ranges from 300 to 900 cases annually. From their "Twisted Sisters" label, the 2007 Syrah is a well-balanced wine with robust flavors of dark berries and a hint of smoke and spice. Another favorite is their Twisted Sisters Tres Violet, a blend of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre. This wine exhibits lush, ripe fruit with a touch of mocha leading to a soft, lingering finish.

Boutique wines are not just limited to California. There are many small, family-owned vineyards around the world. One of our favorites is La Montecchia in Veneto, Italy, which produces wonderful, unusual varietals. The Pic'CheBello is a dry white and yellow Muscat that is not sweet but has fruity tropical aromas, and is a nice alternative to Chardonnay.

Another favorite is Finca La Linda from Argentina. This small, family-owned vineyard in Mendoza produces several varietals in small quantities. Their 2007 Malbec is outstanding. It is a very velvety and elegant wine, which shows cherry and spice.

The Delas Freres family from the Rhone Valley in France has been producing wine since 1836. Their 2007 Cote-du-Ventoux is a Grenache/Syrah blend with intense, rich, red berry flavors and a soft finish.

The appeal to us of boutique wines and wineries is their uniqueness in this huge world of wine. Each wine expresses the passion of the winemaker. They definitely stand out in the crowd and all have a wonderful story to tell.

Our final word of advice: Enjoy the journey, and cheers!


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