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Rusty Gaffney, a retired ophthalmologist has had a love affair with Pinot Noir for nearly forty years. When he retired in 2001, he decided to devote my energies to writing the PinotFile, an online newsletter that was the first wine publication exclusively devoted to Pinot Noir. Since that time, Rusty has reviewed thousands of Pinot Noirs from all over the world and shared his thoughts first with friends and now with the world at large! For information about virtually any producer, wine region or just to enjoy his ramblings on his favorite wine variety, check out PinotFile at Princeofpinot.com



I drink it when I'm happy and when I'm sad. Sometimes I drink it when I'm alone. When I have company I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I'm not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise I never touch it - unless I'm thirsty.

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New Winemakers - Making their mark

LA Wine Guide recently hosted a "TWO FOR ONE" Winemaker's Dinner with Winemakers: Bret Urness & Eric Carucci This is one of a series of winemaker dinners they put together at Claude and Company Eatery on Allen in Pasadena. This double Winemaker's Dinner featured two young - up and coming- ARTISAN WINEMAKERS: Bret Urness with Levo Wines & Eric Carucci with Carucci Wines and included a four course gourmet dinner will be prepared by Chefs Claud Beltran & Sean Lightfoot. An enjoyable evening and a great way to introduce folks to these young winemakers

Carucci Wines

Coming from an Italian family with NO real wine tradition (Gram enjoyed White Zin with ice for dinner) Eric Carucci decided to become try making some wine. Using his father’s garage, he made his first wine all without any background in the wine world or without spending the traditional time working for others to learn how to do it. The family and friends all seemed to like the end result but Dad said NOT IN MY GARAGE! (seems some of the juice might have stained the area a bit). So, not seeing any other option than to push the dream along, he moved his efforts north – all the way to Paso Robles. However, as with all young energetic winemakers just starting out, he still has a day job working for a bank in Orange County.

The first commercial vintage was 2010 with a 100% Syrah from Thompson Vineyard – located in the Los Alamos Hills just east of Highway 101 in the Santa Maria Valley. Aged 24 months in 25% new Oak and 12 months in bottle this is a complex young Syrah with a nice mouth feel. Other wines in the mix include a 100% Viognier from White Hawk Vineyard, Roussane from Zaca Mesa Vineyard and Grenache from Murmur Vineyard. All of the wines are 100% varietal and he is attempting to have them represent the vineyard without a lot of manipulation. Each bottle is their interpretation of a specific site trying to represent that entire vineyard has to offer.

Limited production and release, Eric and his wife Lindsay are trying to live the dream they share – to make wonderful wines and enjoy each day. This new winemaker, is someone worthy of watching and you can reach out to him on his website.


Levo Wines

“Levo - I raise, elevate, lift up” – that’s apparently a flying term and that’s why Bret Urness named his wine LEVO. Only 24 with 4 vintages under his belt, Bret started work in the vineyard, winemaking world in 2008. Not in the traditional areas of California, Oregon or even France but in Idaho. Yes, Idaho, and not in anything that might be considered a stepping stone for making wine, but in the fields with the migrant workers – trimming vines, clearing weeds and generally doing the grunt work. In 2010, with the financial help of his father, Bret made his first wine and in 2011 he made his first commercial vintage.

He applied to a number of California University’s offering enology and viticulture, but was rejected repeatedly. So, with nothing better to do he ended up in Portugal’s Douro Valley with a passion, a willingness to learn and lots of time. Mainlining caffeine with the occasional drunken stupor, he decided all he needed was good fruit, barrels and some tubing to make “soulful wines”.

With his family and a good friend, Jamie Traylor, he is crafting wines in Paso Robles buying the best fruit possible mainly from Central Coast vineyards from Ballard Canyon, Santa Ynez and Santa Maria.

Most of the wines produced are blends using Rhone varietals – Grenache, Viognier, Russanne and Syrah. Each bottling has a unique label and name. Bad Medicine 100% Syrah – because central coast Syrah makes you do bad things; Carny 70% Grenache, 25% Viognier and 5% Roussanne – a rose with a label taken at the OC fair summer of 2013 at the top of the tallest ride in the park; Ransom a Grenache and Syrah blend got it’s name after he got the wine bug and likened it to being kidnapped or held ransom and White Lightning 64% Roussanne and 36% Viognier – comes from the song, Okie from Muskogie by Merle Haggard “We still have Old Glory at the court house, and white lightening is still the greatest thrill of all”

A true new comer to the winemaking world, Bret Urness should continue to mature and his wines will do the same. Find some of his wines at Whole Foods or contact him through is website.




Do you have comments or suggestions? Email to david@loverofwine.com