Spain was just ranked the healthiest country in the world,
and the Mediterranean diet could have played a role

By Susana Vera
Bloomberg Insider

Spain was ranked the healthiest country in the world for 2019 on the Bloomberg Healthiest Country Index.

To create the ranking, Bloomberg looked at several factors, including life expectancy, tobacco use, clean water access, and obesity.

The popular Mediterranean diet could have helped Spain take its top spot. The diet has been shown to promote heart health and weight loss and lessen diabetes risk.

The Mediterranean diet sets itself apart from the ketogenic dietand paleo diet with its less restrictive approach to eating.

Bloomberg released its annual ranking, looking at a variety of factors across 169 countries, including life expectancy, tobacco use, clean water access, and obesity rates to determine which are the healthiest. Five other European countries made the top 10, including Italy, Switzerland, Sweden, and Norway, while the United States ranked 35.

Spain had the highest life expectancy at birth out of all of the countries Bloomberg ranked.

In the previous edition of the Bloomberg Healthiest Country Index, published in 2017, Spain was ranked sixth, while Italy was ranked first.

The Mediterranean diet could have played a role in Spain’s ranking

The Mediterranean diet has been shown to help with weight loss, promote heart health, and lower diabetes risk.

People from Spain and Italy, the top two healthiest countries for 2019, often eat Mediterranean-style diets, which could have played a role in their high rankings.

That’s because the diet, which is low in added sugar and high in healthy fats, has been shown to help with weight loss, promote heart health, and lower diabetes risk. The Mediterranean diet was even named the top overall diet of 2019 by US News & World Report for these reasons.

A 2018 study in The New England Journal of Medicine also found that diets featuring extra-virgin olive oil and nuts, two staples of the Mediterranean diet, could help prevent heart disease.

Other popular items on the diet include fresh fruits and vegetables, and even red wine in moderation. The eating style sets itself apart from other diets like the ketogenic diet and paleo diet, both of which suggest dieters eat mainly protein and fat and stay away from carbohydrates, with its less restrictive approach.

Diet alone probably isn’t responsible for Spain reaching the top spot on Bloomberg’s index since so many factors played a role in the methodology, but it certainly contributed to the country’s ranking.


Walter Hansel has become synonymous with great quality at a great price!  Year after year these wines seem to impress me and my clientele alike.  The first vines were planted in 1978 just a up the block from Kistler!  The actual winery did not start till 1996 when they produced 3 barrels of Pinot Noir and 10 barrels of Chardonnay, and the rest as they say, is history!  Stephen Hansel (Walter’s son) had one of the best winemakers as his tutor (Tom Rochiolli) so it is no surprise that they are still putting out great wines decades later.  Year after this winery has produced amazing “Dollar Cost Average” under priced wines!

Walter Hansel 2016 Cuvee Alyce, Russian River Valley
GGWC 41.99
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Robert Parker 95 Points: “The 2016 Chardonnay Cuvee Alyce is scented of fresh grapefruit, pineapple and warm apricots with hints of chalk dust, fresh ginger, brioche and cashews. Medium to full-bodied, it packs in tons of opulent tropical and spice flavors, with a pleasant oiliness to the texture and a very long finish.”

Also check out these other Walter Hansel wines (mix & match for FREE SHIPPING)

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At a recent blind tasting my longtime tasting group of 17 swishers and tasters lined up some amazing Pinot Noirs:

  • Occidental “SKW” (97 Pt)
  • Littorai “Wendling Block E” (97 Pt)
  • DuMOL “Estate” (96 Pt)
  • Radio-Coteau “Belay” (96 Pt)
  • Paul Lato “Prospect” (96 Pt)
  • Roar “Pisoni” (98 Pt)
  • Pisoni “Estate” (97 Pt)
  • Kosta Browne “Free James” (96 Pt)
  • The HILT “Old Guard” (96 Pt)

The Hilt “Old Guard” received 11 out of 17 first place votes, 3 second and 3 third places votes.
Paul Lato 2 first, 5 second and 3 third place votes.
Roar Pisoni 3 first, 4 second and 5 third place votes.

So a clear winner among a pack of amazing, highly regarded and highly rated Pinot Noirs.

FYI: The Hilt is part of Jonata and Screaming Eagle owner Stan Kroenke’s wineries.

The Hilt 2016 “Old Guard” Pinot Noir “Estate”
GGWC 73.99
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Jeb Dunnuck 96 Points: “The 2016 The Hilt Pinot Noir Old Guard offers more Bing cherry and even hints of blue fruits, and is concentrated, rich, and incredible pure. Smoked earth, leafy herbs, violets, and underbrush all emerge from this rockingly complex, concentrated, yet ethereal beauty. It has ample structure, yet it’s so beautifully interwoven into the wine that you hardly notice. It needs 3-4 years of bottle age and will cruise for 10-15 years or more.”

Galloni 96 Points: “Expressive floral, savory and mineral notes give the 2016 The Hilt Pinot Noir Old Guard much of its super-distinctive personality. Hints of crushed rocks, graphite, blueberry and lavender develop in the glass. Above all else, though, the 2016 is a wine of structural intensity and persistence. I loved it.”

Robert Parker 95 Points: “The 2016 The Hilt Pinot Noir Old Guard was my favorite of these wines from The Hilt, unfurling in the glass with a lovely bouquet of plum, rich soil, truffle, licorice and nori. On the palate, the wine is medium to full-bodied, its rich chassis of tannins cloaked in a youthfully primary but attractively sapid core of fruit, its mid-palate deep and layered, and its finish bright and sappy. The Old Guard derives from later-harvested parcels and was fermented with 40% whole clusters. Winemaker Matt Dees observes that, while the Vanguard emphasizes texture, the Old Guard emphasizes structure. 430 cases were produced.”

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4 Decade Napa veteran‘s Power House Cabernet

Sandi Belcher is an industry veteran having made the Long wines (now Gandona winery) on Pritchard Hill for2 decades. After Long vineyards was sold, Sandi started making with with partner John Arns and here we are 2 decades later and she is still going strong. The Arns Estate vineyard sits at the bottom of Howell Mountain, just outside its appellation.

“The joy of farming has its many ups and downs. Oftentimes, the most difficult growing season results in the most beautiful wines.  2015 was no exception as it was a rollercoaster of twists, turns and plunges with its distinct set of challenges.  Premature arrival of bud break came in February (very early) with tropic-like humidity in March, a cold snap during bloom, and yields down by approximately 50% due to shatter. Despite it all, the fruit that was harvested exuded beautiful flavor and tannin development and ARNS Cabernet was simply gorgeous. It could be the wine of the Century.“

Arns 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon “Estate” Napa Valley
GGWC 94.99
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The wine offers up an intense boldly fruited nose of cassis,  black plums and espresso beans with a touch of tobacco. The lush wine is medium to full-bodied, the palate is loaded with chocolate, dark plums, hint of savory spices. Very classic Napa Cabernet from the foot of Howell Mountain that should cellar well for up to two decades.

Winemaker Tasting Notes: “A very unique Estate Grown Cabernet displaying all the intensity of a hillside vineyard. Our site is located just below Howell Mountain.  The relative shortness of crop can be seen in its concentrated flavors of dark chocolate, mint, blackberries, red cherries, anise and layers of spice.“

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Another Spottswoode (100 points?) Gem

“We approach the creation of our Sauvignon Blanc with the aim of crafting a wine that is as structured and cerebral as it is dynamic and tantalizing for the senses. This is an incredibly high bar for this noble grape, to which we give the greatest respect. To achieve this goal, our 2018 Sauvignon Blanc was sourced from iconic vineyards in Napa Valley including Stagecoach and Hyde Vineyards and from Farina Vineyard on Sonoma Mountain, along with fruit from Spottswoode Estate. To preserve the integrity and individuality of each site, the wines were fermented in a combination of oak and stainless steel barrels, a clay amphora and three different sizes of concrete egg. The result is a cellar-worthy treasure that is both stately and sublime, with dazzling aromas, effortless poise and remarkable

Spottswoode 2018 Sauvignon Blanc Napa/Sonoma
GGWC 44.99
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The Spottswoode Sauvignon Blanc opens with aromatic notes of white peaches, grapefruit and orange blossoms. The wine is medium-bodied with a radiant texture and delightful freshness, the palate chants of white peaches and citrus that are bright and focused., leading into along mineral-laced finish.

Winemaker Notes: “This 2018 is rich and powerful, built on a backbone of great acidity. The nose jumps out of the glass with vibrant Meyer lemon, pink grapefruit, white peach, pears, and nectarines. The mouth is taut yet nicely textured, with creamy guava, lemon curd, and a wonderful blend of fruitiness, wet stone minerality, and a structure that persists in a very long and salivating finish. This Sauvignon Blanc can be enjoyed both now and into the future.”

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Balance is the key…

Tannin timing

By Toni Paterson, MW

Next time you are wine tasting, pause and reflect on the tannins.

As someone who tastes wine daily, I find tannin in wine both fascinating and frustrating. Fascinating, because tannins help form the shape of a wine. Frustrating as they can trick you.

Tannin accumulation is the enemy of anyone who tastes many wines in a short period. There is a lag between tasting a tannic wine, and the tannins disappearing from your mouth. This factor can cause a subsequent wine to look tannic when it’s not.

From my tastings, a highly tannic wine can have an impact on the next three to four wines I taste, which is why a bracket of young reds requires numerous breaks. But tannins are fascinating the way they channel the flavours of wine through your palate. Of course, acidity plays a role too, but tannins form the shape of a wine.

In a recent tempranillo tasting, I was intrigued by the uniqueness of the tannin profile in certain wines. The tannins seemed to build slowly from the moment you took a sip, rather than trumpeting on the finish. They seemed to slow down the progression of flavour, leaving more time to ponder and reflect on the taste of the wine.

When paired with food, the tannins were barely noticeable, but the effect of the slow flavour evolution remained.  So, the next time you are wine tasting, pause and reflect on the tannins. Too many, or too few, and the wine will be unbalanced. Take note that harsh, or green, tannins never seem to fade. Look for silky, ripe, velvety, papery, structural or gently drying tannins, and build up your vocabulary for describing the shape and finish of a wine.

Big is not always better. In the finest wines, the tannins are intricately woven into the fabric of a wine, barely noticeable yet ever-present. The most important thing is that the tannins are appropriate for the weight and style of the wine. As with everything in wine, balance is the key.

Blind Tasting Winner – Best Cab Franc in the world!

In a recent blind tasting of Cab Francs from around the world, the small Napa Valley winery Crocker Starr (Pam Starr, former Spottswoode winemaker) won the big prize!

Our tasting group of 15 tasted the following French and California wines:

  • Cos d’Estournel (100  Vinous)
  • Le Macchiole Paleo Rosso (98 Vinous)
  • Léoville Las-Cases (98 Vinous)
  • Lynch Bages (97 Vinous)
  • Beychevelle (96 Vinous)
  • Chappellet (97 RP)
  • Dakota Shy (96+ Vinous)
  • Favio Cerro Sur (96+ Vinous)
  • Paul Hobbs (96 Vinous)
  • La Jota Howell Mountain (97 RP)
  • Sinegal (97+ RP)
  • Vineyard 29 (97+ JD)
  • Crocker Starr (96 JD)

Crocker Starr 2016 Cabernet Franc, Napa Valley
GGWC 94.99
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Jeb Dunnuck 96 Points: “The 2016 Cabernet Franc Estate is even better and is a sensational expression of Cabernet Franc! Coming all from the Crocker Vineyard outside of St. Helena and aged 21 months in 80% new French oak, it offers classic Franc blue fruits, purple iris, dried herbs, and hints of chocolate on the nose. These carry to a medium to full-bodied, incredibly elegant wine that has silky tannins, the purity of fruit that makes 2016 such a compelling vintage, perfect balance, and a great finish. Count me impressed. Readers should snatch up this beauty, which should keep for 15-20 years.”

Also check out:
Crocker Starr 2018 Proprietary White (Bridesmaid)

Click here or on the links above to order!

July 4th The Patriot Case. Six great wines for ONLY $177.6


Summer is now in full swing and time has come for gathering with family and friends to enjoy the weather and celebrate being together.

With Independence Day right around the corner, I have put together a great six-bottle, celebration, party, BBQ, whatever-you-want-to-call-it pack to share with your friends, family, and loved ones.  All of these selections are small, hard-to-find producers and of course a bottle of bubbly is a must on July 4th!  Order NOW so I can get them to you in time for the 4th of July celebrations.

The Fourth-of-July Six-pack includes one bottle each of:

  • Coho Cabernet ($60.00)
  • B Kosuge Pinot Noir ($38.00)
  • Monthuys Champagne ($36.00)
  • Sans Liege Cotes du Coast White ($30.00)
  • Lorenza Rose ($22.00)
  • Allimant Laugner Sparkling ($26.00)

The total value is $212.00 but in the spirit of July 4th it is only $177.6 (as in 1776), excluding shipping. I suggest shipping this 2 or 3 DAY so it arrives in time for Independence Day!

Click here or on the links above to order!

CALI Pinot BEATS top French, Oregon & California PINOTS

In a recent tasting of 12 California and Oregon Pinots, and French Red Burgundies a surprise wine arose among the pack of highly rated and highly regarded wines.

The line-up included:

  • Domaine Faiveley “Corton Clos des Cortons Faiveley Grand Cru” 96 Vinous
  • Domaine Dujac    “Vosne-Romanée Aux Malconsorts 1er Cru” 96 Vinous
  • Domaine Robert Groffier    “Chambertin Clos-de-Bèze Grand Cru” 95 Vinous
  • Domaine Armand Rousseau “Chambertin Clos-de-Bèze Grand Cru” 95 Parker
  • Brick House Pinot Noir “Les Dijonnais” 95 Parker
  • Patricia Green Pinot Noir” Freedom Hill Vineyard Perspicacious Cuvée” 96 Vinous
  • Sequitur Pinot Noir “Ribbon Ridge” 95 Vinous
  • Bergström Pinot Noir “Bergström Vineyard” 95 Vinous
  • Domaine Drouhin-Laroze “Clos de Vougeot Grand Cru” 95 Parker
  • Domaine Armand Rousseau “Chambertin Clos-de-Bèze Grand Cru” 95 Parker
  • Brick House Pinot Noir “Les Dijonnais” 95 Parker
  • LaRue “Thorn Ridge” Pinot Noir 94 Vinous

Our group of 15 tasters rated the top 3 wines as follows:
LaRue “Thorn Ridge” (7 First, 5 Second, 1 Third rate votes)
Domaine Dujac    “Vosne-Romanée Aux Malconsorts 1er Cru” (5 First, 4 Second, 3 Third rate votes)
Patricia Green Pinot Noir” Freedom Hill Vineyard Perspicacious Cuvée” (3 First, 3 Second, 6 Thrid rate votes)

So the winner of the Euro/American Pinot Noir tasting…   LARUE “THORN RIDGE” PINOT NOIR

Along with their legendary Klopp Ranch Vineyard, Ted Klopp and his daughter, Lauren, farm Thorn Ridge Vineyard. It is a steep eastern-facing sloped vineyard planted on Goldridge sandy loam soils. This wine is a blend of two blocks from the vineyard that are planted to Pommard and 115 clones. Thorn Ridge is located just west of the town of Sebastopol where a heavy marine influence gives notes of dark fruit integrated with spicy undertones to the wine.

LaRue 2015 Thorn Ridge, Sonoma Coast
GGWC 74.99
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Winemaker Notes: “Dark fruit aromas of lush plum and brambly blackberry immediately burst from the glass and play off of the spice notes of sage, anise, and thyme. On the palate, the acidity is bright and flavors of cherry, strawberry, and cranberry intermingle with notes of oak spice. The mouth-filling tannin is present, yet integrated and lingers on the finish.”

Vinous 94 Points: “The 2015 Pinot Noir Thorn Ridge offers lovely density and mid-palate pliancy to play off the more energetic notes that are typical of this Sonoma Coast site. Sweet red cherry, blood orange, mint and star anise add an exotic flair to this very pretty, silky Pinot from Katy Wilson.”

Also check out:

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A 95 Point Under $60 Napa Powerhouse

I can’t believe it but White Rock has been around for over 30 years! I fondly recall their 1987 Claret, which was their second release. That was the first vintage I was introduced to in 1990, the beginning of my “wine career”. The Vandendriessches have an amazing property that is nestled on and between a few mountain slopes in Stag’s Leap. This estate has been able to produce old-world-style wines from its property for over three decades now.

White Rock 2016 Claret (Cabernet Blend) “Estate” Napa Valley
GGWC 59.99
FREE SHIPPING on 6 or more
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The 2016 vintage of Claret (a blend of 83% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc and 3% Petit Verdot) is a perfect blend of dense fruit, spice and refined tannins, reflective of the vintage’s long growing season and the estate’s mineral intensive terroir. On the nose, we find cherry, blueberry and raspberry; and notes of brambly fruit, Moroccan spice, and graphite that yield to a lush, velvety mouthfeel and a long finish. Drinking beautifully now and will only improve with age.

Vinous 95 Points:White Rock’s 2016 is a powerful, structured wine that is going to need at least a few years to soften and start coming together. Today, the tannins remain imposing, but behind all of that heft lies a core of super-expressive fruit that is just waiting to emerge. Iron, smoke, chocolate, grilled herbs and crushed rocks add myriad shades of nuance to this beautifully chiseled, brooding Cabernet from White Rock.”

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