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Wine to me is passion. It's family and friends. It's warmth of heart and generosity of spirit. Wine is art. It's culture. It's the essence of civilization and the art of living. - Robert Mondavi

Bugay Winery - A Little Slice of Tuscan Heaven

Monday, July 18, 2011
My first experience with Bugay wine was at a dinner at A16, one of San Francisco’s trendy Italian eateries that always has a wait list, even on Mondays. My friend, Jackie, mentioned that she had a bottle of wine she thought I’d like to try and A16 was the perfect place to take it for a spin. Sometimes you can’t judge a book by a cover (or a wine by it’s bottle), but my first sip of Bugay Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon was just as smooth, rich, and elegant as the gold-embossed bottle with the medallion-shaped Bugay logo designed to resemble the beautiful pottery of Tuscany. The wine paired beautifully with our rabbit and pizza, but could also hold its own with any steak, lamb or gamey meat with its silky tannins and balanced structure.

Jackie brought me several more bottles of Bugay wine to taste and with each velvety bottle, I grew more intrigued to visit the winery. Our joint July birthdays proved the perfect excuse to visit Bugay Winery at last. John Bugay, owner and vitner, was gracious and generous enough to allow an intimate group of our friends to come visit and enjoy the private pool, terrace and wines of the Bugay Estate Winery and Villa for the day. As we ascended the narrow, winding road up the Mayacama Mountains to the winery, I wondered how people even venture here-It’s not exactly off St Helena Highway or the Silverado Trail. It turns out Bugay is still pretty much a word-of-mouth venue despite it’s growing ratings (It's Empress Wine Bordeaux blend received 90 points from Wine Enthusiast) and distribution across the country. But they welcome tastings by appointment and are now a private and sought after venue for, events and photo shoots. When we finally entered the gates opening to the large circular driveway, our expectations soared. Bugay Winery appears every bit a big, amber Italian villa, with gorgeous wooden front doors (nearly twice my height) and lush landscaping. The interior is not a disappointment either, with elegant furnishing, cherished bottles of wine that each tell a story, and keepsakes and pieces imported from Europe that allude to John Bugay’s earlier wine studies and ventures abroad there.
Due to the nature of the visit (birthday festivities), we spent the majority of the day outdoors on the Bugay premises enjoying a fine spread of wine country picnic fare, drank up Bugay Long Stemmed Rose, and the sunshine. While I could focus on the Bugay Wines themselves, I’d like to emphasize what makes this property so special as a venue: The wines come with abeautiful environment in which to enjoy them that truly transports you to the Italian countryside. The pool terrace is adorned with potted orange and meyer lemon trees, has its own pool house, which would be ideal as a dressing room forweddings or photo shoots or as a private guest house (complete with a personal kitchen). Just off the pool patio area is an expansive lawn - perfect for private events - a bocce court, and a rose garden with a terrace overlooking the entire Sonoma valley. From the pool, depending on your vantage point, you either have a panoramic view of the valley surrounded by pine trees, or a view of the gorgeous Tuscan villa - both make this the quintessential location for a breathtaking private event (I personally would love to buy the place out for a weekend get-away as it rivals any resort in the area)!

The final treat was a special private tasting of the Bugay Wine collection hosted by John Bugay himself, who is just as fun to meet as his wines are to drink. John was gracious in answering our many questions as he carefully poured generous tastes of each varietal. You can tell he is a true perfectionist who is passionate about his winemaking craft by the care he puts into his winemaking practices which are more similar to the French style than typical Napa vitner style. "Bugay" in Russian is equivalent to giving a "high five", which is exactly what these wines deserve! Bugay wine varietals and tasting notes below:
The Empress 2007: 90 Points from Wine Enthusiast
75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc, 2% Merlot, 5% Malbec and 8% Petit Verdot.

This saturated black-purple, Bordeaux blend gives off rich aromas of cassis, chocolate, and blackberry. It’s aged 21 months in ‘Reserve’ French Oak Barrels, giving it layers of nutmeg, vanilla and baked black fruit. Silky and refined, this velvety wine is thoroughly integrated and opulent.
Bugay Cabernet “Incline One Nine” 2007
This darkly pigmented wine has rich aromatics of dark chocolate, black cherry, baking spices, plum and blackberry leading to a massive, opulent mouth feel and just enough tannins to allow this beautiful wine to age as well as remain approachable in its youth.
Bugay Cabernet Sauvignon - “Les Rocheuses” 2007
100% Bugay Cabernet Sauvignon fruit rom the south-facing slope of the Mayacama Mountains, it’s rich and complex, with layers of ripe red cherries, currant, and smooth caramel. 21 months in “reserve” French Oak Barrels lend notes of cedar wood, and a subtle hint of roasted herbs. Finishes broad and long, with substantial fine tannins and a lingering note of espresso.

Zinfandel 2007: 88% Zinfandel, 12% Petite Sirah
This wine is rich and spicy with dark plum and blackberry flavors that are balanced and not overly ripe. Hints of smoked meat and exotic spices make this a perfect example of the essence of the Sonoma mountainside Zinfandel.
Cabernet Franc 2006: 100% Cabernet Franc
This delicious wine is smooth and integrated with remarkable complexity for a wine comprised of 100% Cabernet Franc. It displays great full bodied flavors of black raspberry, cherry, plum, and blueberry with a long, smooth finish with hints of vanilla and tobacco.
2009 Long Stemmed Rose - 99% Syrah, 1% Mourvedre
This is a really fun and lively summer wine, with a beautiful bottle to match. It’s brilliantly pink like a rose, and slightly effervescent on the palette. Crisp, bright, strawberry flavors, ruby grapefuit, and raspberries are delightful on the palette. The use of Bandol yeast in the winemaking process imparts a delicious Provencal nuance to this wine.

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