Hedonistic Taster Goes Scandinavian! | The Walls

Greetings, Dear Readers:

FYI: Paris-based BKWine Magazine now features my Hedonistic Taster tasting notes on the artisanal wines of Ali Mayfield  at The Walls.

Link to The Walls tasting notes here.

And for the Scandinavian among you, editor Per Karlsson (also of Forbes.com) has taken the time to translate them to Swedish as well.

Link to Swedish The Walls tasting notes here.

I really appreciate the translation, as Sweden boasts a thriving international sommelier community supportive of unique, small lot wines.

More Hedonistic Taster here.


Copyrighted 2017 L.M. Archer | binNotes | redThread™. All Rights Reserved






My latest in BKWine Magazine | Talking with Ali Mayfield of The Walls | Walla Walla, WA.

Dear Readers:

Delighted to announce that my exclusive interview with winemaker Ali Mayfield of The Walls in Walla, Walla, WA is now featured in Paris-based BKWine Magazine.

Full interview available here. 

For Scandinavian readers: Full interview available in Swedish here.

The Hedonistic Taster | № 17 | The Walls  available here.

Other exclusive binNotes | redThread™ artisan winemaker interviews available here.

Copyrighted 2017 L.M. Archer | binNotes | redThread™. All Rights Reserved

My Latest In Oregon Wine Press: Terroir Whisperer

Terroir Whisperer

International expert digs into Willamette Valley

By L.M. Archer

Pedro Parra, wiping his sweaty brow, heaves a soil-smeared pickaxe from the chest-high pit surrounding him. A backhoe looms above the burly, bearded man, a silent sentinel and partner-in-crime to this scene of calculated destruction stretching under Oregon’s late afternoon sky. Parra sighs and hoists himself out of the hole, dusting dirt off his smudged jeans and shirt.

It’s not easy being a terroir whisperer. Read the full article here.

Copyrighted 2017 L.M. Archer | binNotes | redThread™. All Rights Reserved


Wine Writer Confidential | № 8

Welcome to my latest installment of Wine Writer Confidential.

It’s a busy time of tours, tastings, and quality quaffs!

Celebrate Walla Walla Wine 2017

As a student of Burgundy, my palate gravitates towards Pinot, with exceptions, such as The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater, where Syrah roars with savage, full-throated, unfettered abandon, and where I just returned from a media tour of Walla Walla.

You’ll be hearing more from me about this trip in future publications as well as here. Many thanks to Heather Unwin and Ashley Riggs of the Walla Walla Wine Alliance for orchestrating this brilliant tour.

#wineStudio | Bonterra Organic Vineyards – June 20th 6 p PST

Put on your rosé-colored glasses and join me tonight for a tasting of Limited Release 2016 Bonterra Organic Vineyards Rosé with the #wineStudio community at 6 p PST on Twitter: #wineStudio.

Bonterra’s winemaker will pour forth with us about this delicate, dry, Grenache-based rosé crafted in the Provençal style with 100% certified organic grapes sourced from Bonterra Organic Vineyards in Mendocino County.

Villa Maria New Zealand | First Sip of Summer Tweet Up | June 21st – 5 p PST

It’s that time of summer again! Join me for another edition of Villa Maria New Zealand’s First Sip of Summer Tweet Up on Wednesday, June 21st at 5 p PST.

Hashtags: #FirstSipNZ #OpenAnotherWorld #VillaMaria.

Villa Maria Chief Winemaker Nick Picone joins Senior Winemaker for Villa Maria Helen Morrison and Wine Oh TV’s Monique Soltani as we taste through Villa Maria 2016 Bubbly Sauvignon Blanc, Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc, and Private Bin Hawkes Bay Rosé.

These wines hail from New Zealand’s premium wine-producing regions, including Marlborough and Hawkes Bay, and offer fresh, versatile, and affordable summer sipping options that pair well with food, fun, family and friends.

Hope to see you at one or both of the virtual tastings. And don’t forget – I want to hear from you! Feel free to leave your comments below and join me on social media – simply click on the icons above. Cheers!

Copyrighted 2017 L.M. Archer | binNotes | redThread™. All Rights Reserved

BKWine Magazine: Arínzano

Dear Readers:

Always a thrill to read one’s work in another language…


The unique architecture of Arínzano. Image ©Arínzano.

Many thanks to my polyglotted editor Per Karlsson of Parisian-based BKWine Magazine for his translation into Swedish of my exclusive interview with Arínzano CEO and winemaker Manuel Louzada.

Link to the English version here.

Link to the Swedish translation here.

I want to hear your thoughts on this article! Please feel free to leave your comments below.

Copyrighted 2017 binNotes | red Thread™. All Rights Reserved.


The Hedonistic Taster | № 19 | Achaval-Ferrer | Mendoza, Argentina

The Hedonistic Taster |  № 19 | Achaval-Ferrer | Mendoza, Argentina

by L.M. Archer, FWS | Bourgogne ML


“Wine should not be regarded simply as a beverage, but as an art of living, a pleasure.” – Henri Jayer

Welcome to The Hedonistic Taster, a binNotes | redThread™ trade sampling of gorgeous, small-lot artisan pours in an intimate tasting format.

The title derives from the term ‘hedonistic tasting,’ coined by legendary Burgundian vigneron Henri Jayer.


Today’s Tasting:

Achaval-Ferrer | Mendoza, Argentina

Achaval-Ferrer is a boutique wine producer in Argentina.

Think Argentina is all about Malbec? Guess again!

In addition to Malbec, premium Mendoza producer Achaval-Ferrer offers exceptional small-lot Bordeaux blends sourced from their heritage, high-altitude fincas (estates).

To better understand the wines of Achaval-Ferrer, part of the SPI Group that owns Stolichnaya vodka, here’s a little primer on their fincas, which they’ve spared no expense to own and operate:

Finca Mirador

 Planted in 1921, Mirador rests at 700 m. above sea level in the town of Medrano. Surrounding vegetation includes olive trees, quinces, and rosemary, it includes four hectares of Malbec planted in alluvial and silt-clay soils.

Finca Bella Vista

Ten minutes outside the city of Mendoza, Bella Vista represents Achaval-Ferrer’s oldest finca (planted in 1910), and produces some of Achaval-Ferrer’s most prized Malbec.

Meaning “beautiful view,” Bella Vista also hosts Achaval-Ferrer’s wine tasting facility and cellar.

Finca Altamira

Altamira perches 1,050 m. above sea level in the La Consulta region of Valle de Uco, surrounded by ancient chestnut trees on the south bank of the Tunyan River. The vineyard, planted in 1925, comprises twelve hectares of un-grafted Malbec.

 Finca Diamante

The high altitude estate of Finca Diamante stands 1100 m. above sea level in Tupungato, Valle de Uco.

This vineyard contains “caliche,” a weak mantle of crushed calcium carbonate that imparts a distinctive character to the fruit, fruit used as a basis for Achaval-Ferrer’s Quimera blend.

Diamante includes 19 hectares planted on American rootstock to Merlot (7 ha.), Cabernet Sauvignon (5 ha.), and Cabernet Franc (7 ha.)

As with any great wine, the difference is in the dirt, as Achaval-Ferrer winemaker Tavo Rearte proves here.

Versatile and charming, Achaval-Ferrer wines suit any social occasion from casual BBQ to Sunday sit-down supper, particularly meals featuring grilled or roasted meats, fish and fowl.

Wine: Achaval-Ferrer Quimera Red Blend

Vintage: 2012

Alcohol:  14.5%

Suggested Retail:  $34.99



Robe:  Opaque garnet robe.

Nose:  Plum, white pepper, fennel, rose on the nose.

Palate:  Pomegranate, red currant, fig, floral bouche; medium body, acids, tannins, finish.

Wine: Achaval-Ferrer Quimera Red Blend

Vintage: 2013

Alcohol:  14.5%

Suggested Retail:  $34.99



Robe:  Opaque porphyry robe.

Nose:  Bramble, rosemary, thyme notes.

Palate: Blackberry, black currant, black olive bouche; medium body, acids, tannins, finish.

Wine: Achaval-Ferrer Malbec 

Vintage: 2015

Alcohol:  14.5%

Suggested Retail:  $24.99



Robe: Deep garnet robe.

Nose:  Cranberry, rose, balsam, lifted aromatics on the nose.

Palate: Red fruit, red cherry bouche; light-medium body, medium acids, tannins, finish.

Wine: Achaval-Ferrer Cabernet Sauvignon

Vintage: 2015

Alcohol:  14.5%

Suggested Retail:  $24.99



Robe:  Opaque purple-rimmed garnet robe.

Nose:  Red currant, herbal nose with a flinty back-note.

Palate: Prune, fig, cocoa, black fruit bouche; medium body, acids, tannins and finish.

Wine: Achaval-Ferrer Cabernet Franc

Vintage: 2015

Alcohol:  14.5%

Suggested Retail:  $24.99



Robe:  Opaque purple-garnet robe.

Nose:  Red fruit, plum, floral nose.

Palate: Plush red raspberry, cherry, plum bouche; medium body, fresh acids, silky tannins, seductive finish. A beautiful pour.

Learn more about Achaval-Ferrer here.


Calle Cobos 2601 – Perdriel – (5509) Luján de Cuyo – Mendoza, Argentina 

Phone: +54 261 481 9205

Copyrighted 2017 L.M. Archer | binNotes | redThread™. All Rights Reserved

red Thread™ Exclusive: Decantering with Lauren Ackerman | Ackerman Family Vineyards | Napa

Welcome to binNotes | redThread™

by L.M. Archer, FWS | Bourgogne Master Level

Today’s Exclusive Interview:

Lauren Ackerman | Ackerman Family Vineyards | Coombsville AVA – Napa Valley

Lauren Ackerman attributes some of the success of Ackerman Family Vineyards in Napa on a Bill Harlan quote. When asked why he bought cult winery Screaming Eagle at a time when most people considered retiring, he answered, ”If I don’t do this now, when will I?”

Ackerman, an equestrian-turned-vineyard owner, wine maker, and civic leader, unwittingly cantered into decanting after she and her husband Bob purchased a Coombsville horse farm replete with an old working vineyard in 1994.

Today, Ackerman Family Vineyards boasts a revitalized vineyard in burgeoning Coombsville AVA, a thriving joint venture with Lloyd Cellars, and an elegant new tasting room in downtown Napa christened The Aviary, part of their jaw-dropping Ackerman Heritage House renovation.

But Lauren Ackerman is the first to admit that the path to her family winery’s success has been neither straight, nor hurdle-free. Many times she considered giving up along the way. Each time, she asked herself the same question, “If I don’t do this now, when will I?” 

Over a series of meetings, phone calls, and emails with the redThread™, Lauren Ackerman provides an exclusive glimpse into Ackerman Family Vineyards‘ unlikely path to success in Napa Valley.

(Note: This interview has been edited for clarity and continuity.)

r/T™:  You and your husband Bob truly embody the ‘path less taken’ route to winery ownership. In 1995, Bob happened on what is now Ackerman Family Vineyards in Coombsville while searching for horses to purchase for you. By the end of the transaction, you owned not only the horses, but the sixteen acre farm then know as Stonehaven. 

Talk about the impetus that lead you to make that leap from ‘cantering’ to ‘decantering.’ I understand the Bill Phelps and Robert Mondavi provided encouragement, and that you and Magrit Mondavi shared a love of art?

Lauren Ackerman: Bill Phelps and Robert Mondavi were mentors to us. Margaret Mondavi was a dear, close friend and a mentor to me in so many ways. Not just wine, but how to give back to the community and live a gracious life.

The wine started it – sitting down with a glass of wine is where all these conversations started. We’re always going to be part of the Napa community, which is close-knit and supportive.  I’m happy I can bring up some of the historical aspects of Napa [through Ackerman Heritage House] that are different and unique, and wines are a part of that – it all kind of works together.

The key thing is that when we bought the farm, we had no intention of selling wine. Our first harvest 1994 –  we didn’t get to keep that harvest. In fact, we only made two to three barrels under the Stonehaven label, which we gave to friends. Over the years, these friends told us to consider selling the wine, that it was “pretty good.”

Eventually, we did – we made our first commercial vintage of three hundred cases in 2003. We’ve deliberately kept production small ever since, focusing on quality, rather than quantity. 

r/T™:  In 1997, you decided to replant pre-existing, phylloxera-infested vineyards on the property with drought-resistant Cabernet Sauvignon, and hired famed vineyard manager Mark Neal to complete the replant. In 2009, Ackerman Family Vineyards earned CCOF (California Certified Organic Farming), a three-year process. Why did you decide to invest in the organic certification, when you’d been farming sustainably from the vineyard’s inception? 

Lauren Ackerman:  We ‘borrowed’ Mark and his team through 2013. Mark Neal is still with us in vineyard, but he and his team are not in production.

In 2014, Rob Lloyd produced his first vintage with us. The consumer world doesn’t know that much about Rob Lloyd now, but they will. Rob established himself working for Rombauer and Cakebread Cellars, and now has his own brand, Lloyd Cellars, including Prescriptions Chardonnay. Rob also makes wines for Handwritten, Humanitas, and Jessup Cellars.

Rob’s got a natural ability, and is a wonderful guy. We’ve created a great partnerships between Lloyd Cellars and Ackerman Family Vineyards – his mother Dorothy Salmon is one of my best friends, so he’s truly part of  the family.

As for the vineyard, we’ve made no changes since achieving our CCOF certification, which took six years. The certification is really about the vineyard, not the wine. Technically, we don’t make ‘organic wines,’ we grow organic grapes. 

[NOTE: Ackerman Family Vineyards also grows Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Petite Verdot, and Sangiovese for their Bordeaux and Cal-Italian blends.]

r/T™:  Are you surprised by the growth of Coombsville AVA?  Many consumers long overlooked this subregion, which boasts volcanic and alluvial easy-draining soils, the moderating influences of San Pablo Bay, favorable east/west aspects, early flowering, and later harvests.

Lauren Ackerman: Ackerman Family Vineyards was one of the first wineries in Coombsville in 1994. Back then, many considered Coombsville too cool, and looked for warmer areas. You have to remember the particular style at the time, when people were looking for bigger, juicier wines.

Today, the pendulum has swung. Now people want lower alcohol, more minerality, and deeper berries. Coombsville is known for this particular style, and is popular with restaurants because the lower alcohol doesn’t overpower food, and ages longer. We didn’t realize the aging capabilities until 2007, after we’d held back our first vintage for four years.

Because of these characteristics, the embrace by restaurant professionals and sommeliers has helped raised the whole appellation process worldwide.

In fact, during a subsequent trip to France, when they inquired where we were from and I responded, “a tiny AVA in Napa you’ve probably never heard of – Coombsville,” they recognized the name right away! I didn’t realize the impact of our AVA internationally until that moment.

r/T™:  These low-alcohol wines develop for two years in French oak barrels with minimal racking and no fining, followed by another two years aging in bottle. Why this focus on time-intensive aging?

Lauren Ackerman: Because of our vineyard’s minerality, the tannins need more aging, and therefore take a little more time.

However, we’re actually in the midst of changing aging protocols with our new winemaker. With Rob, who’s a bit of an artist, our first release this October 2017 will be our 2014. We’re putting them out there earlier, and getting good feedback.

r/T™:  In 2010, you purchased and painstakingly restored Ackerman Heritage House, a Queen Anne Victorian house in downtown Napa formerly known as The Gifford House.

In October 2016, Napa Mayor Jill Techel presided over the ribbon-cutting ceremony and grand opening of The Aviary Tasting Room and Ackerman Heritage House. Can you explain why restoration of Gifford House helps anchor the Napa community? 

Lauren Ackerman:  When I bought Gifford House, it suffered from over fifty years of deferred maintenance, and contained only one working bathroom for six people, with no shower.

From the outside it looked like a pink and purple haunted mansion; inside was lime green and purple. I saw this house, and thought, “Someone needs to save this house, because it has great bones underneath.”

So I did. It was quite a project, which took five years. I didn’t have a budget, and had to re-create the budget every year until completion. The 2014 earthquake didn’t help, which added about a year to the project.

The property’s carriage house, built between 1910-1918, and formerly used to house chickens, we’ve rechristened The Aviary, and converted into the Ackerman Family Vineyards and Lloyd Family tasting room. 

The Ackerman Heritage House provides the Napa community a rentable venue available for private events and dinners, and honors the heritage of all the families who owned the house before us.

Restoring the house wasn’t easy, nor a straight line. Many times I wanted to give up and sell it ‘as is.’ But what kept me going was an article I read about Bill Harlan regarding Meadowood, The Reserve, and his winery Screaming Eagle. To paraphrase, when asked why he built them at an age when most people think about retiring, he replied, “If I don’t do this now, when will I?”

I asked myself that when I considered purchasing this dilapidated house, so it was kind of leap of faith – and a belief that it would all work out. So, I do owe it to another wine maker for my leap of faith!

The key thing is that now that the door is open, and the project completed, it’s so gratifying how many people have responded positively. Many call it a ‘living museum, telling me,  “Wow, I feel like I’m stepping back in time.”

Especially the stained glass windows. Luckily, we restored the seventeen original windows prior to the 2014 earthquake. Now house has twenty-five – we added a few old and new ones. The windows alone – I can’t think of another residential house in Napa with that many stained glass windows.

But really, it’s a gift to the community, I’m just a steward. Ultimately, the house supports wine, and the wine supports the house, so it’s about cross opportunities. 

And so, I feel it was truly a gift when we were given the key to the city by Mayor Jill Techel, because part of the key to the future of Napa is the restoration of these Grandes Dames.

r/T™:  Anything else you’d care to share with readers about Ackerman Family Vineyards or your work in the Napa community? 

Lauren Ackerman: I’m excited to be a part of the new CIA at Copia. I use to be on the board of the old Copia, and even chaired for three years. Now that the Culinary Institute of America at Greystoke has purchased Copia as a satellite site, I’ve been invited back to as a Fellow member, which I’ve accepted.

The CIA has instituted many of same programs, as well as upgraded what Copia was doing back in 2001. So it’s a new, improved Copia, and I’m happy to be a part of that – to have come full circle.

r/T™:  Finally, if your experience being a family winery owner and philanthropist in Napa has taught you anything, it’s taught you…?

Lauren Ackerman: The first word that pops into my head is love. It’s taught me love. You have to love what you do, the people you work with, and the community. And I’ve received a lot of love back…that’s what’s most important.

For more information, or to make an appointment, please contact: 

Ackerman Family Vineyards

The Aviary at Ackerman Heritage House
608 Randolph Street
Napa, CA 94559

Copyrighted 2017 binNotes | redThread™.  All Rights Reserved.

Thank you:

Lauren Ackerman

Kristie Fondario