HomeAbout UsWine ReviewsArchivesAdvertiseContact Us


Wine Columns

Wine Reviews

WineReviewOnline on Twitter

Critics Challenge

San Diego Challenge

Sommelier Challenge


Winemaker Challenge

WineReviewOnline on Facebook

WineReviewOnline on Instagram

Columns – Miranda Franco

Meet the Women Producing Some of Mexico's Most Sought-After Wines
Miranda Franco
May 17, 2022

May 18, 2022: Mexico's Valle de Guadalupe wine region continues to gain international prominence. The Valle has been referred to as the Napa Valley of Mexico, and for a good reason. This emerging region can yield world-class wines, blessed with a perfect climate, a centuries-old winemaking tradition, and surrounded by two seas. And yet, perhaps even more remarkable than the excellent wines coming out of the Valle de Guadalupe is the number of women producing them. The influence of women on Mexico's wine industry is profound, and some of Mexico's most exciting and coveted wines are being produced by a cadre of women winemakers.

Wine Proprietor Uses an Artist's Touch to Make Exceptional Pinot Noir
Miranda Franco
Mar 30, 2022

Mar 30, 2022: Thomas T. Thomas has long loved music, and he loves wine. He is a self-taught guitar player from the outskirts of Toledo, Ohio, who studied music at Ohio University (shout out to all my fellow Bobcats) before transferring to the University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music to study voice. However, Thomas knew music was not the most lucrative career direction, so he earned an MBA and took a position with GE Capital in the Corporate Finance Division. Later, he became a finance executive at the biotech company Genentech. A fortuitous trip to Burgundy in 1999 would change everything. Thomas was taken by the French soil and those superb Pinots. He became intoxicated with the thought of recreating that experience. So, in 2001, Thomas and his wife bought property in Anderson Valley - a region in western Mendocino County that routinely produces exceptional Pinot Noir.

The Jewel of Napa: Diamond Mountain District
Miranda Franco
Feb 8, 2022

If Diamond Mountain District doesn't sound familiar, you need to know more. This little-known region, nestled in the Mayacamas range on the western side of the Napa Valley, far away from the traffic of the valley floor, produces some of the region's most exquisite wines. It also has stunning views from an appellation that ranges from 400 to 2,200 feet above sea level. The region's fine-grained, ash-like soils contain shards of reflective volcanic glass, which inspired its name.

Spain's Best Kept Secrets: The Winemakers and Regions of Tomorrow
Miranda Franco
Nov 29, 2021

Rioja is typically at the forefront of Spanish wine understanding and sales. However, I'd like to cast the net further afield and explore a few regions and producers that are awakening Spain's wine industry. I've rounded up a few of my favorite emerging regions, bottles, and winemakers, as the fun is not only selecting the style of wine you like drinking but also the names you like to drink. Let's get started in Galicia, in northwestern Spain, just north of Portugal. It includes five wine appellations (Denominacion de Origen, or D.O.): Rias Baixas, Ribeiro, Ribeira Sacra, Valdeorras, and Monterrei.

The Georgian Wine Revival, as Explained by the Experts
Miranda Franco
Oct 26, 2021

Whether amber-colored skin-contact wines pique your interest, or a full-bodied Saperavi sounds more your style, Georgian wine has something for every wine lover. The country has all the makings of a great wine destination - the longest-running wine tradition with wines fermented and aged in clay qvevri, over 525 indigenous grape varieties, and stunning landscapes with the Caucasus Mountains to the north and the Black Sea to the west. Despite a winemaking tradition spanning 8,000 years, Georgian wines have come onto the world wine stage only recently, as geographical and political isolation from Europe meant that a rich wine heritage remained largely unknown to the West. A new generation of Georgian winemakers is preserving the old winemaking traditions while bringing new life and energy to the wine industry and propelling it forward to keep up with today's growing demand.

Pathbreaker: Dan Petroski, The Massican Winemaker Pushing Whites to California's Forefront
Miranda Franco
Sep 21, 2021

The Napa Valley wine industry is rich with winemakers producing premium Cabernet Sauvignon as economics continue to drive the prominence of the variety. So, it was a thrill to sit down (via Google Meet) with winemaker Dan Petroski as he pushes the pendulum of Napa Valley wines toward white wines that combine the sunny Mediterranean with an intellectual appeal. Petroski is the founder and owner of Massican, which serves as an ode to Mediterranean wines. Massican's name comes from the coastal mountain range in Southern Italy. His entire production is white wines (and vermouth), producing several distinctive Italian varietals like Ribolla Gialla and Tocai Friulano that don't often get the attention they deserve and are seldom seen in Napa. His focus on white wines makes Massican the only all-white wine project in the Napa Valley.

Wine Doldrums? It's Time to Break Out of Your Comfort Zone
Miranda Franco
Aug 10, 2021

Are you in a stale relationship with your go-to wine? Let's face it - sometimes relationships go stale. When that happens, it helps to inject something new and fresh into the routine, especially in a year that limited our possibilities and cramped us within our comfort zones. Shaking up our usual wine drinking could go a long way toward getting us back to the adventure of life again. So, while there is nothing wrong with having favorites, if you'd like to explore wine's diversity, here are some ideas to veer ever so slightly into new territory and prevent tongue tedium. You can always go back to the same old, after trying some fresh alternatives, but odds are good that your wine horizons will be broadened.

We Should All Be Drinking More Portuguese Wine
Miranda Franco
Jun 15, 2021

Portugal's winemaking heritage is well-established. For starters, the country produces nearly 50 percent of the world's cork. Porto, made with grapes sourced from the Douro Valley, is the world's oldest regulated wine region, and other areas like Alentejo, Dão, and Bairrada have been producing wine for centuries. Though Portuguese winemaking dates to ancient times, demand for Portuguese wine reached its height in the 17th and 18th centuries, upon Britain's "discovery" of Port wine. However, political struggle throughout the 19th and most of the 20th greatly hindered modern winemaking. It wasn't until Portugal joined the European Union in 1986 that truly modern Portuguese winemaking began. Adventurous consumers will find much to love about the wines of Portugal, its colorful history, and its diverse pool of indigenous grape varieties.

Consider Lesser-Known Wine Regions for Your Post-Pandemic Travel Plans
Miranda Franco
Apr 13, 2021

or more than a year, we have been forced to stay grounded. Now, more than ever, the possibility of traveling again feels less elusive. Vaccinations are on the rise, and restrictions are slowly lifting. In other words, the hope of reclaiming travel is on the horizon. For those who wish to combine their love of wine with wanderlust, wine travel is the way to go. And while your mind may flash to vineyards in Napa or France, many unsung wine regions are also worth exploring. From Pico Island to Traverse City, below are some lesser-known wine locations to consider for your next trip. For those not quite ready to travel, wine recommendations are also provided so that you may explore these regions using your "liquid passport." You don't have to get on a plane to learn the history, culture, and traditions of a place if you are open to listening to the tales in your glass.

An Interview with Jason and Flora Chang of Family Owned and Operated Nine Suns and Plinth
Miranda Franco
Mar 3, 2021

Visitors to Nine Suns are treated to spectacular views and in the tasting room engage in a casual, down-to-earth experience with wines that merit serious attention. Hospitality is the focus here. You will not experience a host rattling off statistics about oak percentages and discussing pump-overs while pouring wine for ten other visitors. Instead, you will be privately toured by either Jason or Flora, who oversee the winery. Their focus on personal interaction and relationship development has allowed Nine Suns to thrive in an area that is home to Colgin, Bryant Family, Chappellet, Continuum, David Arthur, and Ovid. Jason and Flora recognize that wine is not just about quality and craft but about people and their experience with the wine, which, in part, inspired their new passion project - Plinth.

Interview with Congressman Mike Thompson: California Wine Country's Foremost Advocate
Miranda Franco
Nov 11, 2020

Congressman Thompson can be found working hard in the halls of Congress … or in the rows of his vineyard. He recently won re-election, and next year will begin his 12th term in the U.S. House of Representatives, where he will continue to advocate vehemently for the wine community. Thompson serves California's 5th Congressional District, including all of Napa and parts of Contra Costa, Lake, Solano, and Sonoma Counties. The Congressman was born in the Napa Valley and continues to reside there with his family. He also owns a 20-acre vineyard in Lake County.

VIK Wines: A Story Like No Other
Miranda Franco
Oct 20, 2020

The story of VIK begins with Norwegian entrepreneur Alexander Vik. In 2004, he envisioned a luxury retreat and vineyard that would produce world-class wines. The pursuit led him about two hours south of Santiago to 11,000 acres in the Millahue Valley, between the Pacific Ocean and the high-altitude Andes Mountains. For those fortunate enough to visit, it is an unparalleled experience.