The WineKnitter Vol. 26 No. 02 Wine

Sealed With A Kiss


The art of writing letters seems to have vanished since the arrival of more sophisticated and faster ways to communicate. Sadly, emails and texts have replaced the more intimate and expressive pen to paper. When I was very young, writing and receiving letters was exciting. I remember the first box of stationery given to me, the feel of the onion skin paper in my hands, and the thrill that it would capture my thoughts and possibly immortalize me. And I loved the idea that someone might keep my letters and reread them every so often. Yes, at the age of eight, I was a true romantic and a bit dramatic, and I suppose I still am!

So, when I received two beautiful bottles of Pinot Noir along with an elegant box of custom stationery from Belle Glos Wines, I was over the moon! The prospect of pouring a glass of opulent wine, writing a letter again, and mailing it to someone made me giddy! 

Photo credit: Penny Weiss

Fifth-generation Napa Valley winemaker Joe Wagner created Belle Glos Wines in 2001, inspired by his grandmother, Lorna Belle Glos Wagner, co-founder of Caymus Vineyards. No stranger to wine, Joe knew by the age of 19 while working alongside his father at Caymus Vineyards that he would carry on his family’s winemaking legacy. Motivated by his grandmother, an avid Pinot Noir lover, Joe decided to focus on vineyard-designated Pinot Noirs from California’s best coastal regions. He has five vineyard sites that produce wines expressing the uniqueness of each vineyard.

Joe Wagner – Photo courtesy of Quilt & Co.

Recently, Joe and I chatted by way of a virtual meeting, and I asked him to elaborate on his grandmother’s influence in his life.

Joe: “As you may know, my grandmother, Lorna Belle Glos Wagner, was a very important person in my life. When I crafted my first wines, naming the brand Belle Glos became the obvious way to pay tribute to her. She was a strong family matriarch, worked hard, was always positive, and loved Pinot Noir. She has always been at the heart of my family, so it only felt right to do something in return to show our appreciation and gratitude towards her. Like the brand itself, Belle Glos Love Letters is an ode to my grandmother and what she embodied; elegance, love, strength, and purity. I am proud that we can still celebrate her legacy eternally with every glass of Belle Glos poured or love letter sent in the mail.”

Belle Glos Love Letters is a collaboration with luxury stationer Dempsey & Carroll founded in 1878 in New York City by engraver John Dempsey and businessman George D. Carroll. This limited-edition kit features custom Belle Glos stationery, custom pen, wax, and wax stamper. Hand-engraved steel dies and copper plates made to specification, along with the finest inks and the most luxurious cotton-fiber papers, are used to create this stationery. The stationery kit is a “Limited Edition” available for $90.

Photo credit: Penny Weiss

Joe spoke about his “aha” moment that gave him the idea for this “Love Letters” collaboration.

Joe:  “Like so many people over these last two years, I went an extended period without seeing the people that I cared for the most, and so I wanted to do something that would show my appreciation for them. I’ve always shared the highs and lows of my day, special occasions, precious moments, great conversations, etc., over a bottle of wine. It only seemed natural to combine these elements, along with my love of letter writing – so, Belle Glos Love Letters was born.”

The wax-covered wine bottles are unusual and very captivating. Joe described why he did this.

Joe: “A characteristic of Belle Glos has always been the eye-catching, hand-dipped red wax seal which reflects the relevance and distinctive characteristics of each vineyard-designated wine we produce. We first started using our signature burgundy wax dip with the release of the 2002 vintage of Belle Glos. It was our second vintage and our first release of vineyard-designated Pinot Noirs. The initial thought of using wax was to differentiate our higher-end Vineyard Designate Pinots from our entry-level Pinot (sealed with a cork and foil). So, I went out and got a crockpot, a bunch of different colors of wax, and began to blend colors to find the perfect deep burgundy that characterized the elegance and depth of the Pinot inside. Then came the dip— I started shallow and went deeper with each sample until that deep angled dip captured my eye. I recall consulting my father at the time, who I asked a million questions for advice, and he said, “You know, if you go with wax, you’re gonna be stuck having to use it the rest of your life. It becomes part of the brand.” That said, he agreed the deep dip looked amazing, so I went ahead and committed to it. Little did I know it would become such a strong visual component to the package, and yes, my father was right, a part of the brand. The wax dip has helped our bottle be more recognizable and memorable to the people that love fine wine, and for that, I am happy to work with wax for the rest of my life.”

With an impressive wine portfolio, Joe explained why he selected these particular wines to “pair” with the stationery he sent to me. 

Photo credit: Penny Weiss

Joe: “Belle Glos showcases distinctive Pinot Noirs from California’s most noteworthy coastal wine-growing regions. Each Vineyard Designate is crafted to embrace the purest essence of the locale into elegant expressions of coastal California Pinot Noir. While each vineyard location lies near the Pacific Ocean and might seem very similar at first glance, the climatic differences are significant, varying with the amount of fog, wind, sunlight, and soil type at each site. Due to the varying soil types, if I were to plant the same rootstock and clone at every location, the wines would still vary greatly. So, to take advantage of each vineyard’s character, we matched rootstock, clone, trellis, row orientation, and cultural practices that we thought would bring out the best of each site. I wanted you to experience the Clark & Telephone vineyard and Dairyman vineyard to taste the differences between the locations. There are roughly 300 miles between them, and they sit in very different soils and climate conditions.”

Belle Glos Clark & Telephone Pinot Noir 2020

The grapes for this wine are sourced from Clark & Telephone Vineyard located in the Santa Maria Valley of Santa Barbara County, 13 miles from the ocean and situated on a west-facing slope. This vineyard experiences weather patterns that pull from west to east to bring cool fog and coastal breezes inland until August, when Santa Ana winds begin. The climate makes for later-ripening and longer-hanging grapes with fruitiness, great acidity, and underlying flavor nuances that contribute additional complexity. It is aged in 100% French oak, 60% new, for up to nine months.

Nose: Ripe fruit with cherry, baking spice, and a hint of floral.
Palate: Strawberry, raspberry, and a touch of dark fruit that emerges mid-palate. The finish is a long and sumptuous dessert of cherry, blueberry, vanilla, and a pinch of oak. It is beautifully structured with smooth tannins and lively acidity.
Alcohol:  14.9%
SRP:  $54.99
Pairing: Roasted meat, chicken, seared tuna, casseroles, or cheese and charcuterie.

Belle Glos Dairyman Pinot Noir 2020

Once a dairy farm and pastureland, Dairyman Vineyard sits in the southern alluvial plains of the Russian River Valley of Sonoma County near the ocean, a region where the cooling fog comes in through the Petaluma Gap in the morning and once again in the evening. Afternoon breezes help to soften the effects of the warm sun. In Dairyman, each vine is trained on a vertical shoot position (VSP) trellis, limiting growth and opening up the typically congested fruit zone. The combination of low-vigor rootstock and alluvial soil stress the vines, while the cool, coastal climate creates a long growing season that brings about small, concentrated, and flavorful berries. It is aged in 100% French oak, 60% new, for up to nine months.

Nose:  Cherry, cranberry, rose petals, and spice.
Palate:  Rich, dark berries flavors with raspberry, cherry, cranberry,  anise, and a hint of fig. Spice and vanilla linger on a long finish with silky tannins and vibrant acidity.
Alcohol: 14.7%
SRP: $54.99
Pairing:  Venison, lamb, fowl, stews, fatty fish, or risotto. 

These wines may not have the typical characteristics of Pinot Noir, but they are rich and elegant, and each bottle is “sealed with a kiss.” So pour yourself a glass and compose a love letter to someone special!

Until next time…


Photo credit: Belle Glos

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Penny is a wine, spirits, food, and travel writer. Her sensory examination and evaluation of wine and food are noteworthy. Penny has a popular website called The WineKnitter that takes you with her to discover wine/spirits, travel, food, and culture worldwide. She began her serious foray into the world of wine in the early 1980s, where she was part of three very successful family-owned restaurants in NYC and "cut her teeth,” so to speak, with wines such as Petrus, Chateau Margaux, Chateau Haut Brion, Cristal, etc. Penny has an extensive presence on many social media sites, and her education is ongoing with wine seminars, wine tastings, and culinary delights from around the world. She studied at the Wine & Spirits Education Trust, completed WSET Level 2 Certification with Distinction, and is continuing with Level 3, advanced certification in wine. Penny is a member of The Wine Media Guild.

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