A Week With Tres Sabores

Disappointment is one of those things that we all handle a little differently. When our trip to the Willamette Valley got cancelled because Frontier — after attempting to get us to willingly take vouchers for our flights, simply cancelled them, Sonja responded with an understanding shrug while I balled my hands up into fists.  As the Covid 19 Pandemic has increasingly altered the course of our lives — how and where we do work, our budget and finances, our routines, our plans, I’ve had a slight cringe every time I’ve looked toward late July and our trip to Napa and Sonoma. Of course, I hope everything is just peachy-keen by then, we all do, I know. But the realist in me is braced for yet another disappointment.

So this week, unsure of just when we’ll see Napa again, we had Napa come to us. I had interviewed Julie Johnson of Tres Sabores Winery in Rutherford, an AVA in Napa best known for its distinct terroir and the “Rutherford dust” (fine, mouth-coating tannins) that is often found on the red wines originating from that place. Julie had sent us some of her wine to try, and we made it a point this week of enjoying them all, pairing these amazing wines with, well, everything we ate and did.


We started on Saturday with a glass of the gorgeous 2019 Ingrid & Julia rosé while we enjoyed the weather and played with the kids. One of the things I appreciated about Julie in our interview was how hard she works to take good care of the land she’s farming.  This wine, like 95% of her wines, was dry-farmed. Whole-cluster pressed and aged in stainless, Julie made 586 cases of the 2019. A flavorful, fun wine, it was a great introduction to Tres Sabores.


Sunday night, wrapping up the Ingrid & Julia, we opened the 2016 Petite Sirah and paired it with a virtual game of Cards Against Humanity. Our neighbors all Zoomed in and we played the game we’ve played so often at our dining room table on our various devices. It wasn’t perfect, but a good substitute for not seeing people at all. The Petite Sirah was killer, and just what I needed.  100% varietal, it gets 26 months on 30% new American oak, and was limited in 2016 to just 350 cases. I loved it, and began drooling thinking about the other reds in the case.


On Monday it was my turn to cook, so I made pasta with scallops. I actually recorded videos to make a NeanderChef post on this, but they won’t upload for some reason. Oh well. Paired with my scallop dish was Tres Sabores Sauv Blanc, and it was pretty perfect.  Sourced from the Farina Vineyard in Sonoma and whole-cluster pressed, the wine is then aged for five months sur lees (on dead yeast) which gives it a bit of a creamy texture that offsets the acidity of the varietal slightly. It was brilliant wine, brilliant food wine, and I want more!


Tuesday, Sonja made mahi, which she has come to insist upon calling mahi and not mahi mahi, as she says mahi means “fish” and is thereby redundant. #themoreyouknow  Sonja’s fish-fish is always good, and she’s started doing some really nice things with radishes. We paired this dish with “Headline”, a white wine Julie is making out of grapes sourced from the Willamette Valley in Oregon — you remember, that place we don’t get to visit in May. Thanks, Frontier… thanks deadly pandemic.  A white blend that I found oddly reminiscent of some of Dave Phinney’s whites, all I can say is that if you see this wine, and at only 200 cases produced you probably won’t, I strongly recommend you try it.


Wednesday night I made ribs and baked beans, BBQ KC style, and a side salad. We paired the food with “Por Que No?”, a surprisingly affordable  kitchen sink style red blend of 48% Cab Sauv, 28% Petite Sirah, 23% Zinfandel, and 1% Petit Verdot. Fruit forward and expressive, it paired brilliantly with food, and I may or may not have taken a glass with me up to my office when I left to teach my night class for the university via Zoom.


Thursday we shared the last few glugs of “Por Que No?” which had, to its credit, opened up very nicely, while we decanted the 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon.  This wine was so good — I rarely have 100% varietal Cab Sauv that I love this much, but I think Julie’s intuition was correct, that these grapes weren’t lacking anything that adding Merlot was going to change.  Ten barrels, which is about 250 cases, is all that was made, and with that in mind the fact that you can buy this wine at an even somewhat reasonable price is astonishing. I highly recommend you check this out the next time you’re up for a little splurge or celebration. And, I’m being honest, I enjoyed the wine so much, I don’t even remember what we had for dinner two nights ago or who made it.  Yeah, it was that good!


Friday came, at last, though in truth the weeks don’t wear us out like they used to. There is a strange upside to quarantine; the loss of freedom equates to the regaining of some additional downtime, a slower pace, gemutlichkeit, as our German friends might say.  Last night certainly was that. After we put the kids to bed, I lit a fire in the chiminea and Sonja and I sat under the pergola and shared our last bottle of Tres Sabores, Julie’s phenomenal Zinfandel.  100% varietal yet again, and 30% new French for the oak regiment, the wine was sublime. 15% ABV, yet somehow not as in-your-face as many big Zins we see coming out of Napa, it had an old-world sensibility about it that helped it pair perfectly with relaxation by the fire.

That was our week, both in food and events and also in wine. Until we can visit wine country again, we are grateful that wine country sometimes comes to us.  We hope that no matter where you are, you’re finding something you enjoy drinking as together we — the human race — weather this storm.  As always, thanks for reading. Stay inside, drink some wine, take care of yourselves and one another.


Mark & Sonja


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