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A Writer's Good Fortune is a Distributor Tasting
Preisers’ Reserve: We had not had an especially exciting day tasting in the Santa Cruz Mountains, when on a whim we trekked up a hill and stopped at Soquel Vineyards. Remember Brigadoon, the unique Irish village that appeared out of the mist? This was kind of like that, except here a winery with Italian architecture appeared out of the glare of the sun. We had arrived at Soquel Vineyards, owned by twins Peter and Paul Bargetto (yes, that Bargetto family), along with Jon Morgan, and with the winery came something we had not seen all day – some superb wines (there are other good Santa Cruz wines – we just hadn’t found them yet that day). Soquel’s wines show how good the fruit in the Santa Cruz Mountains can be in talented hands. Our favorite was the 2005 Partner’s Reserve Lester Vineyard Pinot Noir ($60), which reflected the area’s long growing season, and gave off a luscious berry nose leading to a forest floor finish. In between, this medium bodied wine fills the palate with red fruits before its soft tannins introduce the finish.
How a wine actually moves from winery to distributor to retail store to consumer is quite fascinating, and worth a story at another time. What is important for this piece is an understanding that a winery engages a distributor in each state in which it wants to sell its wares. The distributor then acts as a sort of “middleman” by selling the wine to a retail store or restaurant. As in any other business, some distributors are better than others, and some work, on an overall basis, with better wineries than others. In fact, it is a source of pride for a distributor to possess a “portfolio” of excellence, meaning that it feels the wineries it represents are all of quality.
Today we focus on one of the country’s top distributors, which happens to be based in Boca Raton, FL, quite near our home. Stacole Fine Wines began in 1933 as a family owned import business, and by 1933 was doing business in over 30 states. In 1991, the family started a full line distributorship offering Florida a small fine wine distributor who could provide service, dependability, and value, combined with state of the art storage and shipping – the latter so important in a state like Florida with such a warm climate.
Recently we were honored to be invited as guests to Stacole’s trade tasting and dinner cruise, where we had the opportunity to taste from what is indeed an impressive portfolio of wines, mingle with vintners who traveled from the West for the event, and get to know some of the excellent Stacole staff. It’s often impossible to take detailed tasting notes at a function like this (if for no other reason than there is no where to set a writing pad - but mostly there are too many wines on the table and we want to be sure we get to them all). So we’ll tell you what we liked best, and hope that suffices for today. Though it is unusual for us, we will not include vintages as many are ready for new releases soon. However, with this group of wines, consistency is a hallmark.
Alban Viognier; Anderson’s Conn Valley Estate Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon; Arietta Red H Block; Arietta Red Variation One; Bacio Divino; Bond Vecina; Bond Pluribus; Cliff Lede Poetry; DuMol Pinot Noir; Dunn Howell Mt. Cabernet Sauvignon; Eagle’s Trace Cabernet Sauvignon; Hundred Acre; Kongsgaard Chardonnay; La Sirena Cabernet Sauvignon; Littorai Hirsch Pinot Noir; Littorai Theriot Pinot Noir; Reynolds Family Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon; Sea Smoke Southing Pinot Noir; Sea Smoke Ten Pinot Noir; and Turnbull Cabernet Sauvignon.
Anderson’s Conn Valley Right Bank; Cliff Lede Sauvignon Blanc; Dog Point Pinot Noir; Elk Cove Pinot Gris; Robert Keenan Chardonnay; Robert Keenan Cabernet Sauvignon; La Sirena Moscato Azul; Layer Cake Shiraz; Martin Estate Cabernet Sauvignon; Pahlmeyer Chardonnay; Pahlmeyer Proprietary Red; Reynolds Family Resistance; Robert Craig Howell Mt. Cabernet Sauvignon; Robert Young Scion; Seghesio Zinfandel Home Ranch; Tres Sabores Por Que Non; Tres Sabores Zinfandel; and Turnbull Viognier.
Worth a Try:
Above the Law Shiraz; Anderson’s Conn Valley Eloge; Arietta White on the Keys; Barossa Jack Shiraz; Desert Eagle Shiraz; Elk Cove Roosevelt Pinot Noir; Ra Nui Chardonnay; Ra Nui Sauvignon Blanc; and Robert Young Chardonnay.
Corison Cabernet Sauvignon; Robert Sinskey Pinot Noir; Philip Togni Cabernet Sauvignon; and Philip Togni Tanbark.
Well, every wine can’t be a winner for everyone, even from a top of the line outfit like Stacole. But for the most part these are events we cherish and are pleased to be able to share the results.
Wine writers and educators Monty and Sara Preiser divide their time between Palm Beach County, Florida and the Napa Valley in California. They publish the world's most comprehensive guide to Napa Valley wineries and restaurants titled, appropriately, The Preiser Key to Napa Valley.