La Fenetre 2006 Cargasacchi Pinot Noir

Type: Dry red
Made With: Pinot Noir grapes
Plays Well With: Salmon, pork or grilled beef.

This is a wine that is all about balance – no mean trick when it comes to the notoriously finicky pinot noir grape.

Winemaker and founder Joshua Klapper started with some amazing fruit – from farmer and winemaker Peter Cargasacchi’s vineyards in the ever-so-hot Santa Rita Hills.  Cargasacchi has his own Point Concepcion label (which we have had the good fortune to taste), but does sell a fair amount of his crop to several local vintners – including La Fenetre.  In fact, one of our dream tastings would be side-by-side comparisons of wines from Cargasacchi’s many clients next to his own decidedly yummy version.

Klapper’s wine had some berries and a slight whiff of rose petals.  Taste-wise, the acidity was bright, but not harsh and the texture in the mouth was silky.  But the best part was the balance.  We may not be talking angels on the head of a pin, here, but there was just enough fruit, just enough acid and just enough tannin to make this wine perfect for sipping with a really good dinner.  Maybe some salmon in paper pouch with plenty of garlic, lemon and herbs.  Or perfectly grilled pork chops.

Vergari 2006 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

Type: Dry red
Made with: Pinot Noir
Plays well with: Strong cheeses, red meats

The Vergari 2006 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir is a premium example of a California pinot noir.  Which is not to say that it is a copy of a Burgundian wine. The California style generally has riper fruit which can sometimes be a problem in France.  Actually, it can be a problem with Californis wines, too.  Riper fruit can translate into jammier characters and higher alcohol – qualities not becoming for a food friendly grape like pinot noir.

Not so with the Vergari.  It’s a crafted wine that pays attention to the details and doesn’t let the fruit get smothered by alcohol, oak or residual sugars. The color is the dark ruby typical of a California pinot. The nose is full of berries, cherries and a cola character which seems unique to pinot. The first taste shows good acidity and even some spice – a characteristic that often gets buried in the fruitier pinots. The weight in the mouth is substantive but not heavy or too thin. A good finish rounds out this excellent dry wine that cries out for food. Stronger cheeses, roasted beast of almost any type and level of doneness would be mandatory. Alcohol is a modest 14.2 percent – well, modest by California standards.

Vergari 2005 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Type: Dry red

Made with: Cabernet sauvignon

Plays well with: Meat, meat and more meat


Please don’t think we’ve sold out the OBG mission of highlighting lesser known varieties. We also promise to highlight smaller producers who we believe deserve attention. So, that means a Napa cabernet is bound to turn up in these posts once in a while, especially since with Vergari Wines, there is no winery to find or visit. And, thanks again to winemaker David Vergari for finding us.

The Vergari 2005 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon shows the same attention to detail that Mr. Vergari brings to his pinot noir, including the same deep ruby color from good fruit. The nose is a combination of cherries, berries and rose petals. Michael found himself taking several deep sniffs to get all these aromas because they were almost as good as the flavor.


The first taste showed good acidity and a lush mouthfeel, with a lingering finish that displayed well-balanced tannins that didn’t dry out the mouth. The concentration of fruit and the light use of oak as a spice makes this a decent cocktail wine, if you’re so inclined to drink it by itself.

We’re not so inclined.  The wine was so nice and rich we think it would be wasted by itself. Pair it with prime rib, steaks or stews. The alcohol, at a slightly high but acceptable 14.5 percent, will not interfere with the enjoyment of your meal.


Schug 2007 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

104472-1-7 proof

Pinot noir is Walter Schug’s signature wine – the wine he grew up on, the wine that he started his winery to make.  And Schug does know how to handle it.

There’s a reason pinot noir is known as the heartbreak grape.  Every decision in the growing, harvesting, crushing. pressing – the entire winemaking process – shows up in the final product. The wrong pruning, the wrong yeast selection, too muck oak, too little oak – it’s all there for the world to taste and, alas, pay too much money for most of the time.

And there is a lot of bad pinot out there these days, with high alcohol contents – we came across one a bit back that listed its total alcohol at 15 percent.  That’s nuts for a delicate wine like pinot noir.  The good news is that if you do find a good one, pinot is a very versatile food wine.

The other good news is that Schug makes some wonderful pinots, including a sparkling rose. There are also the Sonoma and the Caneros pinots, with the Sonoma being only slightly better than the Carneros.  But that may have been because the Sonoma is twelve dollars cheaper.

The Sonoma is steel-femented to keep as much of the fruit as possible, giving the wine a rich nose of roses and red berries. The 13.5 percent alcohol was also wise – like we noted above, high alcohol pinots are bad. There was some spicy character in addition to the dry fruit which made for an excellent balance.
We not only bought a bottle, but when we went out to celebrate our recent anniversary at one of the nicer restaurants in our neck of the woods, we brought that bottle to enjoy.  And enjoy it we did.  Anne had a lovely pork tenderloin, while Michael indulged his yen for salmon.  Better yet, because Michael was nice enough to share a taste with the waiter, the waiter was nice enough to forget to charge us for the corkage fee.

Many restaurants will let you bring your own wine, but they do charge a fee, called corkage.  Do note, however, that it’s not cool to bring a wine they restaurant has on its list, nor is it cool to bring the local bargain brand.  Bring something special and unusual, and they usually don’t mind, especially if you buy some of their wine.