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 blames 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

Wine Writer Confidential | № 4

Dear Readers:

Welcome to my latest installment of Wine Writer Confidential, where I spill, thrill and chill you with all the news unfit to print about my world of wine writing.

Nous Sommes Tous Stockholm…

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of ‘checking in’ on my wine writer and wine maker friends worldwide via social media. This week it was Sweden.

It’s always the same. News flash: “A terrorist attack in [fill in international city] has killed [fill in the number] via [fill in the method.]”

Heck, I’ve even been caught up in it myself (Paris – November 2015.)

I guess terrorism strengthens ‘virtual’ bonds in some strange way. But I’d rather ‘check in’ for a positive reason…


The Hedonistic Taster 

Yep, binNotes | redThread™ series The Hedonistic Taster is indeed back, taking samples, and kickin’ tasting notes.

My favorite part of the series? Sharing small-production, artisan wine makers often overlooked by the mainstream wine media with you.

Yes, it’s a labor of love. So why do it?

I do it for the same reason you read my notes – because we’re thirsty for authentic voices of the vine. Parched for pours  that don’t just slake our thirst, but capture our imaginations, and stir our souls.

Cheers, and thanks for your appreciation for wine as art, not just beverage.

“Wine brings to light the hidden secrets of the soul, gives being to our hopes, bids the coward flight, drives dull care away, and teaches new means for the accomplishment of our wishes.” — Horace

More Wine Writer Confidential:

Wine Writer Confidential № 1

Wine Writer Confidential № 2 

Wine Writer Confidential № 3

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

redThread™ Taste Maker Exclusive | Amanda Barnes – #80 Harvests

redThread™ Taste Maker Exclusive | Amanda Barnes – #80 Harvests

Welcome to binNotes | redThread™

Inspired stories about artisan wine and taste makers.

by L.M. Archer FWS, Bourgogne ML

This Month’s Taste Maker Exclusive Interview:

Amanda Barnes | Around the World in 80 Harvests

Wine journalist Amanda Barnes has done a lot in her very short life. A fellow presenter at last summer’s WBC16 in Lodi, CA., Amanda dazzled us all with her compelling, multi-media global harvest project Around the World in 80 Harvests.

We cross paths again at the upcoming  Professional Wine Writers Symposium at Meadowood Napa Valley in February. In the meantime, I thought you might like to learn more about this exceptionally talented Brit with an unquenchable thirst for South America and all points vinous.

r/T™:  While studying at King’s College in London, did you always want to write about wine, or do you recall a singular, defining moment when you realized you simply must write about the topic?

AB:  There was no eureka moment, just a gradual discovery of finding what I loved. I studied Literature because I always adored reading. I was actually already working as a journalist (I started writing for local newspapers when I was 16, two years before starting University) so I knew that writing was the direction I wanted to go.

Wine came after a few years later… I decided to learn about wine to ‘join the dots’ on two of my other great passions: food and travel. But then I discovered that wine encompasses everything I enjoy most in life: travel, gastronomy, nature, culture, people… Rather than joining the dots, it became the nuclei.

r/T™:  After university, you enjoyed a successful journalism career before debarking for South America. What possessed you to leave Britain for South America? What kept you invested in the region for so many years? I understand you dance a mean tango – any other skills you picked up from your adoptive continent? Do you have any favorite memories from South America that still resonate with you?

AB:  I felt that I wasn’t learning anything new at home anymore, there was always a new story of course but I felt I was covering the same ground as such. I love to learn, so my decision to move to South America was about personal growth and moving to a wine-producing region.

As for my relationship with South America, I was already hooked before I even arrived. I had completely fallen in love with South America from afar, mainly through Literature and culture, and when I arrived I felt perfectly at home. I love living between Argentina and Chile because I am at the heart of the South American wine scene, and it is the best way to understand the terroir – by living in among everything!

As for great South American memories, I have too many to mention. And as for great South American skills, too few to mention! I love to give it my best dancing tango but I’ll always have English hips… I will never be able to move like a true Latina, so I don’t even try to pretend! It’s the same story with my gringo accent – I sound embarrassing English in Spanish.

r/T™:  Your CV reads like that of a seasoned pro, including editor & creator of Around the World in 80 Harvests, your ambitious global wine and travel documentary showcasing eighty renown and off-the-beaten-track wine regions around the world. In it, you explore  people, places and culture through blogs, videos and photography. What spurred you to develop this project? It’s not a solo endeavor – how did you choose your team? How has it met/exceeded your expectations? Any goals still unmet?

AB:  The thirst for knowledge and learning is what drives me to do 80 Harvests. The world of wine is so fascinating, so rich and so diverse. I wanted to try to communicate that, and see the world of wine through the eyes of local producers – asking them to show us all why their place in the world, and their wine, is unique.

It is a community endeavor. The ‘team’ is very much all the winemakers and producers involved. Without their generous sharing of knowledge and experience, it would be an impossible project. And without readers and a community participating, it wouldn’t exist.

Every part of the journey has exceeded my expectations because there is something unexpected in each destination. The goal unmet is obviously the number of regions visited, I still have some 60 to go! By 2018 I should have completed the mission, but it is really about the journey rather than the end-goal.

r/T™:  You’re fresh off a “Born Digital Wine Awards 2016” win for “Best Tourism Content with a Focus on Wine.” Talk about your Born Digital Wine Award winning entry, why it’s important, and what this specific award means to you as a wine journalist?

AB:  Working freelance is quite a lonely career choice. You rarely get any feedback, you don’t really have colleagues, and it is hard to know if you are doing things right! So this award means a lot to me. It feels like a comforting pat on the back, and that is really motivating.

You share your expertise on South American wines in such publications as Decanter, The Drinks Business, The Telegraph, The Guardian Feature, Fodor’s Travel Guides, Oz Clarke’s Pocket Wine Guide, and Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book Amanda the South America correspondent. Apparently, you and Hugh Johnson share an alma mater. Any mentors instrumental in helping develop your career as a wine journalist?

AB:  Do we?! I had no idea! I will google that later! I respect many writers but my mentors have really been wine producers. It is the time that winemakers and agronomists have spent with me that has provided me with the greatest growth, and inspired me to keep learning. There are numerous winemakers in Argentina and Chile who have been my greatest mentors.

r/T™:  Anything else you’d care to share with readers about Around the World in 80 Harvests specifically, or about your career as a wine journalist in general that you think is important for them to understand?

AB:  I would just like to invite readers to join me on the 80 Harvests journey. The project is about global community and meeting people and wine lovers around the world, so I would like to invite everyone to be part of it! If you love wine and want to know more about wine from around the world, it should be right up your street and I hope to you’ll join us.

r/T™:  Finally, if your experience as a wine journalist has taught you anything, it’s taught you…?

that no matter where you are, the very best wines are those shared with others.

About the Author:

©80 Harvests
©80 Harvests

Amanda Barnes is a British journalist who has been living in South America since 2009. She has tried over 700 Malbecs and eaten over 600 Chilean oysters and still has a functioning liver and kidneys (as far as she knows). When she isn’t drinking wine or sipping oysters, she writes for wine and travel publications including Decanter and Fodor’s. She is currently on a mission to discover the world of wine as she travels ‘Around the World in 80 Harvests’.All images courtesy of Amanda Barnes and Around the World in 80 Harvests.

All images copyrighted #80Harvests and reprinted by permission of wine journalist Amanda Barnes.

Copyrighted 2017 binNotes | redThread™.  All Rights Reserved.

Oregon Wine Press | Terroir, Toil, Tenacity | Lenné Estate

Oregon Wine Press | Terroir, Toil, Tenacity | Lenné Estate

Dear Readers:


I wanted to share my feature on Lenné Estate in the July 2016 issue of Oregon Wine Press with you here.

Many thanks to Steve & Karen Lutz and Carl Giavanti for helping share the story.


 ❦ ❦ ❦

Copyrighted binNotes | redThread™.  All Rights Reserved.

WITWIB? Hint: New Projects

WITWIB? Hint: New Projects

Welcome to binNotes | redThread™

Inspired stories about artisan wine and taste makers.

by L.M. Archer FWS, Bourgogne ML

“One forges one’s style on the terrible anvil of daily deadlines.” – Emile Zola


No, I haven’t forgotten about you… missed a Terroirist Tuesday this week for the first time everbut totally on track for my new Sunday feature The Hedonistic Taster (originally slated as Second Sunday Sampler).

The Hedonistic Taster pays homage to one of Burgundy’s greatest vignerons while introducing you to some gorgeous pours from artisan winemakers.

Find out more tomorrow…Santé!



Welcome to binNotes | redThread™

Inspired stories about artisan wine and taste makers.

by L.M. Archer FWS, Bourgogne ML

Ok, folks, tomorrow marks the last Saturday of February, which means it’s officially:

OTBN: Open That Bottle Night


What will you be drinking?

Do tell!

I’ll be sharing, and following along on Instagram: #OTBN.

More on OTBN here.


Copyrighted 2016 binNotes | Red Thread™. All Rights Reserved.