Thursday, December 16, 2010

Cupcake Vineyards - fruity, rich, soft wines under $15

Cupcake Vineyards, maybe not the name you would choose for a winery, but a winner in producing handcrafted, fruity, soft wines under $15.  Cupcake is one of the worldwide brands under the Underdog Wine Merchants who focus on bringing the consumer interesting wines and wine styles from around the world.  Chief Winemaker for Underdog Wine Merchants and winemaker for Cupcake Vineyards is Adam Richardson, who has been making wines for more than twelve years both in Australia and California.  He particular enjoys wines from the cooler climates of the world where grapes linger on the vines producing enticing rich flavors.

Launched in 2008 and based in Monterey County, Cupcake Vineyards produces a variety of wines including Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot from California’s Central Coast where the warm days and cool nights produce grapes rich in flavors yet balanced in acidity.  They reach out to New Zealand’s Marlborough valley for cool climate Sauvignon Blanc, Washington’s Yakima Valley for Riesling and Argentina’s Mendoza for Malbec.

The San Jose Wine Examiner tasting team sampled the 2010 Sauvignon Blanc and the 2009 Central Coast Chardonnay. 

The 2010 Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand is produced from grapes from this famous winegrowing region on the northern end of the South Island.  The grapes were gently crushed and fermented in stainless steel tanks and underwent a long extended rest sur lies to give it a rich and soft palate.  While the wine certainly had the grassiness expected from a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, the tasting team was particularly pleased with the great tropical aromas and flavors including passion fruit, guava, papaya, and pineapple.  In mid palate you will detect a peach and stone fruit quality following up with a finish rich in pineapple.  The wine was only released in September and the price for this wine is only $14.

The 2009 Cupcake Chardonnay comes from grapes grown along the Central Coast of California where the warm days and Pacific cooled nights produce wines with great flavors.  The juice underwent malolactic fermentation with extended aging sur lie in American oak barrels for 9 months.  The tasting panel enjoyed the creamy mouthfeel with plenty of flavors of citrus including lemon and orange with touches of stone fruit and peach and a little toast.  It has good acidity and a medium long finish.  The price is only $14.

For more information check out the Cupcake Vineyards website.

Guglielmo Winery - Generations of winemaking in Santa Clara Valley since 1925

As new wineries are established in California due to the rapid growth of the industry, it is a pleasure to find a winery whose roots were established generations ago and have survived over the years by producing award-winning wines and developing a following of winelovers.  Guglielmo winery was established in 1925 by family patriarch, Emilio Guglielmo, bringing his wine making skills from his native Italy to his new home in Santa Clara Valley.  By 1946 his son George assumed the winemaking legacy, retaining the family’s commitment to quality, distinction and value.

Today the third generation of the family, brothers George, Gene and Gary continue the family heritage, producing nearly 40,000 cases annually under different labels, Guglielmo Private Reserve, TRE and Emile’s.  While the winery has grown, they have stuck to their heritage of natural, quality wines from their 100 acres of Santa Clara Valley estate vineyards.

George is the chief winemaker with his brother Gene handling sales and Gary the General Manager.  Visiting the tasting room is a step back in Santa Clara Valley history with shelves loaded with a wide selection of wines, food products, Italian specialties and special gifts.

Guglielmo 2007 Zinfandel Private Reserve from their estate vineyards is produced from wines planted over 70 years ago.  The Wineproguy tasting panel enjoyed this wine that was loaded with red cherry, strawberry with strong hints of spices including cinnamon, plus vanilla, and even a touch of citrus on the finish.  You will enjoy the noticeable soft touches of oak and cedar.  Guglielmo produced 780 cases of this wine.  It will pair nicely with lamb, steak or pasta dishes.  This is a fine wine delivering fruity flavors for only $19.

The 2007 Petite Sirah Private Reserve delivers some of the pepper and bramble characteristics found in Petite Sirah but is definitely a milder version with dark fruits, currant, licorice and black pepper.  The fruity flavors and soft spices and tannins make it easy to drink.  The price is only $19.

For more information, contact Guglielmo Winery website.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Mi Sueno Winery - a dream come true

Mi Sueno means “my dream” in Spanish and the story of Mi Sueno Winery is a dream come true.  Owner/winemaker Rolando Herrera is living his dream, starting as a dishwasher in Auberge du Soleil to owner and winemaker for his own highly regarded boutique winery in Napa Valley. 

But this dream goes back even further.  Rolando worked alongside his grandparents in El Llano in the Mexican province of Michoacan.  Here he learned his early lessons in agriculture.  And here he learned how there were special soils and areas of the mountains surrounding the town that were especially good for growing fruits and vegetables, his first lesson in “terroir”.  

In search of a better life, his parents brought the family to Napa Valley in 1975.  While the family returned to Michoacan five years later, Rolando had his taste of his dream in Napa, where opportunities were greater than in Michoacan.  With a better education he strived for better opportunities than just working the fields and set his dream on owning a winery.

In 1985 Rolando went to work for the summer at Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars.  Over the next 20 years his journey towards his dream progressed though various high profile wineries, building from his foundation at Stag’s Leap through various other positions until he became Director of Winemaking at Paul Hobbs Consulting where he learned much about the development and maturing of boutique wine programs.

The 2007 Chardonnay from Los Carneros uses grapes from the Tierra Blanca Vineyard that is managed by Rolando Herrera.  The aromas and flavors will remind you of a lemon meringue pie with a creaminess and lemon flavors but you will also find green apples, orange blossom and honeysuckle in the flavors.  There is also a dash of spice and oak to enrich its beauty.  The acidity matches well with the flavors and texture for a well rounded wine.  The price is $21.

Mi Sueno 2007 “El Llano” Napa Valley red wine is named after Rolando’s family home town in Michoacan and is a blend of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon and 35% Syrah.  This wine is not a “formula” but rather a creation from Rolando.  Each vintage might have different percentages of Cab and Syrah, but his goal is to produce a wine that is right with that year’s grapes.  It has a wonderful intense nose of dark black fruits with a strong dose of white pepper and spice.  On the palate you will detect cassis, cranberry and slight cocoa leading to a long finish.  It has a velvety mouthfeel and rich texture.  The price is $40.

The 2006 Syrah is from Herrera managed vineyards in the Coombsville region of Napa Valley.  It delivers a rich mixture of black fruits and violets with strong notes of pepper and spice with overtones of leather and coffee that lead to a great finish.  The price is $45.

The 2007 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir is a single vineyard designate wine coming from the Ulises Valdez Vineyard in Sonoma.  This wine has only been produced for a few years and is a real crowd pleaser.  The inviting deep ruby red color invites you to sample the aromas and flavors of both red and black cherry, cranberry and pomegranate with great notes of spice and a cherry cola flavor.  It has a slightly old world character of minerality and earthiness.  The price is $48 for this limited quantity wine.

Learn more about the great wines from Mi Sueno at the Mi Sueno Winery website.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Zaca Mesa Winery & Vineyards - where experience matters

Zaca Mesa Winery is one of the pioneer wineries in Santa Barbara County.  It was the first California Central Coast winery to appear in Wine Spectator’s Top 10 back in 1995.  Their wines cross all lines, being served in the Clinton White House and at President Reagan’s 80th Birthday party.  Many major winemakers in Santa Barbara County got their start at Zaca Mesa.  And Zaca Mesa was the first winery in the county to plant Syrah and many other Rhone varietals.  At Zaca Mesa experience matters, and this experience has lead them to be one of the champions of Santa Barbara County.

Zaca Mesa got started by a group of friends in 1972 who came together to plant their vineyard.  They tried several varietals but by the early 90’s they determined that the rolling hills on the Zaca Mesa property were best suited for Rhone varietals including Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Viognier and Roussanne. 

The vineyards are located in the northern most section of Santa Ynez Valley AVA.  As an east-west oriented valley, the vines are greatly influenced by the Pacific Ocean with its cooling morning fog and afternoon breezes.  The sandy loam soils are remnants of pre-historic sand dunes that now lay 1500 feet above sea level.  This higher elevation offers lower temperatures overall and greater variance of daily temperatures resulting in grapes that mature slowly and develop and abundance of flavors.

To protect this site, Zaca Mesa embraces sustainable winegrowing techniques.  This reporter has visited the vineyards of Zaca Mesa hugging the mountain tops overlooking the valley.  Each vineyard is surrounded by open space for wildlife while providing a buffer to their neighbors and preserving the natural ground water.

Viognier is representative of the vast experience at Zaca Mesa.  The 2009 Viognier is the eighteenth vintage of this aromatic white wine.  Zaca Mesa has 37 acres of Viognier, representing 16% of Santa Barbara County’s total Viognier plantings.  With intense aromas of white peach, honeysuckle and floral, this wine will invite you to taste its flavors of apricot, lychee, melon, space and a touch of citrus.  It has minerality reminding you of old world wines, but the fruity flavors found in new world wines.  “Viognier is such an elegant, outgoing varietal,” says Zaca Mesa winemaker Eric Mohseni.  “It’s hard not to be taken in by its exotic aromas, if it’s done right.”   And all of this for only $20.  Try it with Thai foods or oysters.
Syrah is engrained in the history and experience of Zaca Mesa, being the first Syrah plantings in the county.  The vineyards contain over 90 acres of Syrah.  

The 2006 Syrah was aged in 30% new French oak for 16 months.  You will enjoy the deep rich color with the aromas and flavors of blackberry, coffee, boysenberry, sage and clove.  The slight smokiness is prevalent on the nose.  The wine is well balanced mixing the acidity, tannins and flavors into a great food friendly wine.  This is the wine to share with friends over a meal of grilled meats or rack of lamb with rosemary.  Winemaker Eric Mohseni states, “The ’06 Syrah is lithe and food-friendly like it’s always been, never over the top – that’s just not what our estate fruit calls for.”  The price is only $25.

For more information, visit the Zaca Mesa website and you will learn why visitors rave about the wines from Zaca Mesa.  Or, better yet, visit their tasting room along Foxen Canyon Road in the Sana Ynez Valley region of Santa Barbara County.  They are just north of Los Olivos.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Wines from organically grown fruit, great for the palate and the land

Wines produced from organically grown fruit are not only great tasting wines, but good for the environment and the winegrower as well. 

At the recent Organic Grapegrowing Conference, grower Ted Hall said that the fundamental objective of organic farming is to create a healthy plant.  “We’re trying to create a plant that is balanced and appropriate for its site, slope and conditions.  A healthy plant can produce fantastic flavors at full physiological ripeness without practices like water stress and long hang-time that can weaken a plant.” 

Winegrower Lou Preston is a great advocate of organic farming.  He feels that the living soil is the epicenter of sustainable farming.  Lou says, "Our program starts with the annual application of hundreds of tons of compost which we think of as yoga for the vines.  We buy compost and we make compost from our farm and winery waste combined with manure from a local organic dairy.  We grow winter leguminous cover crops that contribute nitrogen naturally as well as carbonaceous matter to feed the soil microorganisms.  All that growth is then tilled into the soil with heavy cultivation equipment that use to be the norm in vineyards, but hasn't been used for years because of the trend to chemical culture."

Organic farming builds a healthy environment for the vines.  Building a strong community of worms, insects, fungi and bacteria will produce the natural nutrients necessary for the vines.  Also, these communities create an environment inhospitable to pathogens, increasing plant resistance to disease.

How can you tell if the wine is made with organic grapes?  Check the label to see it if includes the California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) seal (if grown in California), or the USDA Organic seal if grown elsewhere in the USA. Other countries have similar seals.  The term organic is often confusing in the wine industry.  There are many wines that are produced with certified organic grapes, but the wine itself is not certified organic.  This is because it is difficult to produce wine without the use of sulfites.  While there are just a few organic wineries, there are many more wines that are produced with organic grapes.

Try some of these fine wines and learn that going organic is a great choice.  Bybee Vineyards and Habitat in Russian River Valley produces the 2007 “B” Pinot Noir.  This wine is a ruby colored Burgundian style Pinot Noir with aromas and flavors of plum, dark berries including black- berry and black cherry, violets and characteris-tics of earth and minerals.  It has a nice balance of acidity and tannins with a long pleasant finish.

Preston of Dry Creek has the 2007 “Syrah-Sirah”, a blend of Syrah and Petite Sirah.  This wine is brimming with the aromas and flavors of plum and black cherry with a complex structure of pepper, minerality, various spices and earthiness. 

The Syrah and Petite Sirah grapes were grown side-by-side in 100% certified estate vineyards.  Lou Preston has been a leading advocate of organic farming for years.  Not only does he grown organic grapes but also organic vegetables, olives and much more.  His tractors have been converted to run on vegetable oil to reduce pollution and dependence on fossil fuels. 

For more information:

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Hidden Creek Wines

Hidden Creek Wine is a small boutique winery in Livermore Valley that produces small lot wines from independent vineyards around Northern California.   Their new tasting room is next door to their crush facility at 5937 Graham Court in Livermore.  The tasting room is opened Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 4:30 p.m.

They work closely with the vineyards to harvest the grapes when they reach their maximum flavors and intensities. 

The 2006 Hidden Creek Chardonnay from Berry Lane Vineyard in Napa Valley has great fruit flavors of apple and citrus with a full body and good finish.  The price is $18 per bottle.

The 2006 Merlot from La Cerezas Vineyard in Napa is a nice dry, easy drinking wine with red fruit, cherry and a touch of spice and chocolate.  Price is $24.
From Livermore Valley they offer the 2006 Syrah, ripe in raspberry and blackberry with good doses of spices including white pepper.  The tannins balance nicely and deliver a long finish.  Price is $24.

Hidden Creek’s 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley is a great representative of this classic Bordeaux wine.  It is blended with Merlot and Petit Verdot bringing out flavors of cherry, raspberry, cassis and cranberry.  You will enjoy the touch of spice and balanced tannins.  The price is $28.

For more information:
Hidden Creek Wine

Monday, October 25, 2010

Red Feather Winery - country hospitality in Livermore Valley

Red Feather is a family run winery near the end of Greenville Road along the countryside of Livermore Valley.  As you drive up to the winery your feel that you have arrived at a country farm.  You are invited into their tasting room where you are sure to meet Dan and Connie Davis, proprietors of Red Feather winery.  Red Feather is a symbol from Dan’s family heritage.  The feather symbolizes his Native American heritage and was the name of his dad’s construction company. 

Connie runs the vineyard and Dan is the winemaker at Red Feather but watching them in the tasting room it is obvious that this is a shared family adventure.  The opened Red Feather four years ago and were bonded almost three years ago.  They have 23 acres on the property, of which 6 ¼ are planted in vines.  They produce approximately 1200 cases per year.

The Red Feather 2008 Estate White Cabernet Sauvignon is a favorite made entirely of Cabernet from the estate vineyards.  It is dry and crisp. The price is $20.

Red Feather’s 2007 Estate Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon is a Silver Medal winner and the pride and joy of the estate.  It has aromas and flavors of dark fruit and pepper with a nice full bodied mouthfeel and moderate finish.  The price is $35.

The 2005 Razzmatazz from Livermore Valley is named after their Labrador Retriever.  It is a great field blend of Syrah, Barbera and Mourvedre with dark fruits, white pepper, and a natural earthiness that you would expect from this blend.  It is a great wine for a summer barbeque.  It is a nice blend for only $28.

For dessert, look for the Red Feather 2005 Jaiden’s Dessert Wine in a port style with Livermore fruit.  This is a late harvest wine with a nice blend of blackberry and black cherry.  This is delicious to drink on its own or to pour over a dessert of poached pears.  The price is $30 for a 325 ml bottle.

For more information:
Red Feather Winery

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Rubicon Estates 2006 CASK Cabernet Sauvignon

Rubicon Estates epitomizes the history of Napa Valley. This is one of the most historic wineries not only in Napa Valley but in California as well. The property was first established as a vineyard in 1871 by William Watson who names the farm Inglenook, a Scottish expression meaning “cozy corner.”

Finnish born Gustave Niebaum made his fortune in the Alaskan fur trade but had dreams of producing world class wine that would compete with the great wines of Europe. In 1880 the young independently wealthy Niebaum purchased the 78 acre Inglenook land plus an additional 124 acres nearby to start his dream. Niebaum spared no expense to make this a world class wine estate, planting the best varietals and designing the winery as the engineering marvel of the age, including the beautiful Inglenook Chateau completed in 1887. The winery faced hard times after Niebaum passed away in 1908, but resumed three years later, only having to close wine production in 1919 with passage of Prohibition.
 

After over a decade of only selling grapes, Inglenook resumed wine production and sales in 1933 when Prohibition was repealed. By now the winery was under the management of Niebaum’s grandnephew John Daniel, Jr. Daniel continued with the same determination as his granduncle in making this a world class winery. However, in 1964 he had to sell the brand and most of the vineyards to Allied Grape Growers, later becoming part of Heublein.

The next stage of the Inglenook estate began in 1975 when filmmaker Francis Coppola purchased the estate including the Niebaum residence, renaming the property Niebaum-Coppola Estate Winery. Like Niebaum and Daniels before him, Coppola was determined to make this a world class winery again.

It took Coppola over twenty years to reunite all of the original vineyards and by 2002 winemaking returned to the Chateau with the opening of the Rubicon Winery. By 2006 he retires the name Niebaum-Coppola Estate Winery and opens the exclusive Rubicon Estate.

The CASK Cabernet Sauvignon was first established with the 1995 vintage and pays homage to the highly stylized Cabernet Sauvignon produced by Inglenook during the John Daniel Jr. era. Rubicon CASK Cabernet epitomizes the kind of Rutherford wine that inspires and stimulates debate among connoisseurs. Using only Estate-grown fruit, CASK Cabernet employs a traditional barrel aging regimen, spending 28 months in 500-L American oak puncheons.

The 2006 CASK Cabernet Sauvignon is produced from grapes grown exclusively in two estate vineyards, Chateau and Cohn, both 100% organically certified. The grapes from these vineyards are renowned for producing Cabs with great depth, rich color and prominent berry aromas. The California Wine Examiner Tasting Panel loved this wine. The aromas and flavors delivered luscious red and dark cherry, blackberry, plum, cocoa, leather and tobacco. The tannin structure was very well balanced making it drinkable now. The finish was not as long as we have seen on other fine Rutherford Cabs but we expect that this will age beautifully and that finish should improve with time. The structure, tannins, fruits and acidity indicate great ageability. This is the special wine to serve with a roasted or grilled beef meal. The suggested price is $75.

For more information:  Rubicon Estates

California Pinot Noir is in many premium wine regions

Pinot Noir is often described as being a “difficult” grape to grow, to deal with in the winery, and to find truly great examples of, but fans are passionate about this variety, as sensually expressed by the dialogue between Miles and Maya in the 2004 movie “Sideways”. The Pinot Noir that gets the most attention is associated with the delicate, yet powerful wines of the Burgundy region in France.

Difficulties plague Pinot Noir at every step, from propagation to even its bottle-aging characteristics. The same genetic instability that has resulted in so many progenies also means that the parent vine may produce offspring that bear fruit that is nothing like the parent’s in size and shape of the berry or cluster and will frequently even have different aromas, flavors, and levels of productivity. In the vineyard the Pinot Noir grape is susceptible to spring frosts due to its early-leafing characteristic. The vines are not prolific and the lack of canopy often leaves the berries as a snack for the birds.

Great Pinot Noir creates a lasting impression on the palate and in the memory. Its aroma is often one of the most complex varietal and can be intense with a ripe-grape or black cherry aroma, accented by a pronounced spiciness that suggests cinnamon, sassafras, or mint. It is full-bodied and rich but not heavy, high in alcohol, acidic or tannic. The most appealing quality of Pinot Noir may be its soft, velvety texture. When right, it is like liquid silk, gently caressing the palate.
 
River Road Vineyards 2007 “Essense” Pinot Noir from Russian River Valley has a red cherry color and exhibits the great cherry and strawberry aromas and flavors expected from Russian River Valley Pinot Noir. The balance of acidity and tannins leads to an exceptional finish. They produced about 100 cases and the price is $33.

River Road Vineyards has been a family farming company for years, growing the grapes used by winemakers in the area. Farming is always unpredictable and the family decided to open a small winery to use much of their fruit from their 12 acre vineyard. This is a special cuvee of 4 barrels made from selected lots.

The Whitcraft Winery 2006 “FI” Pinot Noir from Morning Dew Ranch in Anderson Valley is a fine Pinot Noir has a lighter cherry color with a nose of strawberry and plum that carries through to the palate with good acidity and a rich full mouth feel. It has a nice long finish. They produced 140 cases and the price is $33.

Morning Dew Ranch is a vineyard owed by Burt Williams of Williams-Seylem fame. “FI” stands for Fred’s influence. Fred was Burt’s son who passed away, but he told his dad to plant clone 23 (“Mariafeld clone”) which is the primary grape in this Pinot Noir.
 
Downhill Wines 2007 Pinot Noir from Peter Martin Ray Vineyards in Santa Cruz Mountains has dark earthy qualities reminiscent of black tar and sandalwood. As you taste the wine you will enjoy the aromas and flavors of cherry cola and significant spices including pipe tobacco, cinnamon, cloves and anise. The finish includes blackberry and forest floor. The price is $3328.

Martin Ray began planting grapes in the 1940’s in the Santa Cruz Mountains, sites which now include the Mountain Winery and Mount Eden Vineyards. His son Peter has maintained the tradition and still farms many of the same vines his famous father planted in the hills above Saratoga.
For more information:

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Bodegas Aguirre Winery & Vineyards - just what the doctor ordered

Dr. Ricardo Aguirre did not start out life to be a winemaker.  He is a heart surgeon at a local hospital and a man with many talents.  Like many winemakers in Livermore Valley, his wine making hobby went wild.  He loved the beauty of the countryside of Livermore valley and in 1989 purchased 32 acres of this countryside in the east side of Livermore Valley.  He planted grapes on 12 acres in 1995, half in Merlot and half in Cabernet Sauvignon. 

In 1996 Dr. Aguirre purchased the property where the Bodegas Aguirre winery currently stands and planted seven acres in Petite Sirah.  He completed the commercial winemaking course at UC Davis in 2002 and soon after crushed his first 30 tons of grapes for his first commercial release.  The winery and planted acreage has grown over the years to 24 planted acres and offering 2300 cases of several different wines.  Since the wines are estate wines, he has full control of the grapes from the vineyard to the bottle.

The striking labels of Bodegas Aguirre wines are created by artist Carlos Canas from El Salvador.  Carlos is a disciple of Pablo Picasso.

The Bodegas Aguirre 2005 Estate Merlot Reserva is rich with ripe dark fruits of cherry, raspberry and plum.  You will love the various spices that blend well with the tannins and acids, delivering a good mouth feel and finish.  It is 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. 

The 2006 Estate Duo has equal amounts of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon that is aged for 15 months in both French and American oak.  The dark cherry and raspberry flavors are matched well with spices and oak tones.  You will enjoy this fruit forward wine.

The 2004 Estate Petite Sirah Reserva is a wonderful inky dark wine with aromas and flavors of blackberry, plum, and boysenberry.  The spice components include clove and cinnamon.  The long finish will have a nice ending of dark chocolate.  This is a wine that you can sit and enjoy now or store it to drink 8-9 years from now.

For more information:

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Longevity Wines - a lifestyle in living and enjoying a passion for wine


 
A different path was taken by Phil and Debra Long towards opening their own winery. For four years they operated the “Longevity Wine Club”, each month featuring wines from different appellations. They spent time on the road touring the wineries selecting the best wines for their club members. During this period they also grew in the craft of making their own wine. As winemaker Phil visited each winery for the Longevity Wine Club, he was taking notes, learning how to make wine from the winemakers.

In July 2008 Longevity Wines (the name coming from the family name Long) opened on Rickenbacker Circle, an industrial complex just off Kitty Hawk Road. This is an “urban” winery producing wines from grapes grown by other vineyards around Livermore. Winemaking is a passion for winemaker Phil Long, who is also the creative director for the retail display company Rapid Displays. 
The tasting room is open Saturday and Sunday Noon to 5:00 p.m.

When Longevity began operation they produced 500 cases the first year with plans to grow to 2500 cases within five years. As this reporter visited their location he found the winemaking area compact but well used. What is immediately obvious is the passion of Phil and Debra in producing fine wines and making Longevity a success.


The Longevity 2009 Livermore Pinot Grigio is produced with grapes from Butners vineyard in Sunol. It has a pleasant light straw color with a bouquet of peaches and golden apples. On the palate you will be pleased with the nice crisp acidity and smoothness indicative of the sur lies maturation used on this wine. It has a yeasty quality blended with the fruits and acidity resulting in a well rounded wine that is a joy to taste. The price is $18.

The 2009 Midnight Syrah Rose is a very tasty rose that combines Syrah with a touch of Viognier. It is full bodied with aromas and flavors of strawberry, raspberry and spice. This wine should be slightly chilled. The price is $18.

Longevity 2008 Livermore Merlot is produced with fruit from a vineyard off Kalthoff Commons in Livermore. This is a luxurious Merlot with a full-body mouthfeel and flavors of red cherry, blueberry, pomegranate, spice and a hint of cocoa. This wine has multiple layers of flavors leading to a nice finish. The price is $23.

The 2008 Barbera certainly delivers the dark cherry, black plum, currant, spice and earthy qualities you expect from a fine Barbera. You will be very pleased with the complexity of the wine blending the fruity flavors, acidity and tannins that result in a smooth, firm, balanced wine. The price is $21.

Visit Longevity at their tasting room on 35 Rickenbacker Circle in Livermore.

For more information: Longevity Wines website

Reach the San Jose Wine Examiner at:

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Hatcher Winery - fine wines from Murphys in the Sierra Foothills





Hatcher Winery was founded in 2002 by owner/winemaker Matthew Hatcher. His skills as a winemaker have put this winery on the map and the tasting room in Murphys is a very popular stop for wine lovers in the Sierra Foothills. He is assisted by his brother Sewell and assistant winemaker Scotty Hancock with Lindsay Gwin providing some of the Sales and Marketing support.

Like many winemakers, Matthew started off making wine at home for friends. But the wines were such a hit, that he eventually turned professional. He moved to Murphys 14 years ago. Hatcher focuses on small lots with almost 20 different brands. Some of their wines include Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, Verdelho, Finao, Syrah, Mourvedre, Petite Sirah, Merlot and more. They even make an Ice wine and a port-style wine.

The Murphys tasting room is located in the cellar of a historic building in downtown Murphys. Check out Yelp and you will see that a visit to this tasting room is a highlight for many visitors to Murphys.

The active wine club has three major events during the year including a crush party, tour of the Hatcher vineyard and more.

Hatcher 2007 Barbera is from the Dick Cooper Vineyard in Amador County. It has an intense nose of dark fruit and you will enjoy the flavors of ripe plum, dark blackberry and spice with dusty earth qualities and smoke and spice from the oak. It is well blended and leads to a nice finish. The price is $24.

The 2007 Shake Ridge Zinfandel is one of the several special Zins produced by Hatcher. This Zin comes from the Anne Kramer Vineyard in Amador County and is a classic Zinfandel with aromas and flavors of jammy raspberry, blackberry, spice, anise, and pepper. The finish is still developing and certainly will grow longer with age. The price is $24.

The Hatcher 2007 Mourvedre delivers the dusty earthiness you expect in a fine Mourvedre with dark fruits including black cherry and plum, plus rhubarb and a touch of white pepper. Price is $24.

As a special treat, Hatcher offers the 2007 Quinn the Eskimo Ice Wine. The grapes for this wine are frozen after harvest and then pressed, delivering an exotic rich dessert wine with intense apricot and honeysuckle flavors. The price is $32.

For more information: Hatcher Winery

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Monday, August 16, 2010

Niles Canyon Railway Wine Tasting Special for August 22 and 29



The Niles Canyon Railway Wine Tasting Special has two weeks remaining for this 2010 season.  Visitors for the first two weeks were very pleased with both the wines and cheese pairing.  They learned a lot about the great selection of wines available from this historic wine region.

The Livermore Valley Wine Country is the only wine region that can offer a chance to taste wine while riding a historic rail train along the original transcontinental rail lines.

History abounds in the Livermore Valley. Trains first rolled through Niles Canyon in 1866. Spanish missionaries planted the first wine grapes in the Livermore Valley in the 1760s. In the 1840s, California pioneers looking for outstanding vineyard sites began planting grapes in the region. Robert Livermore planted the first commercial vines in the 1840s. Pioneer winemakers C. H. Wente, James Concannon, and Charles Wetmore recognized the area's winegrowing potential and founded their wineries in the early 1880s. And, Livermore Valley captured America’s first international gold medal for wine in 1889 at the Paris Exposition, putting California on the world wine map.

Check out the wine selections line-up for the rest of the season for the 2010 Wine Tasting Special and decide which trains to ride.

Wine Menu August 22, 2010
Wine Menu August 29, 2010
Wine Educator Steve Ferree will walk you through tasting a flight of five Livermore wines. Each wine will be paired with cheese or chocolate selected especially for that wine. Each weekend will showcase a different flight of wines and different Livermore Valley winemakers. Thus over the four Sundays, 20 Livermore Valley wines will be served. The actual wines for each train will be announced later. You will enjoy an afternoon of fine wine while gently cruising through Niles Canyon, riding on history.


The Wine Tasting Special departs the Sunol depot of the Niles Canyon Railway promptly at 3:30 p.m. each of the four Sundays. The price is $37.50 per person and you must be 21 to ride the train. Non-alcoholic beverages will be served for those not wishing to join in the wine tasting. You can make reservations at www.ncry.org and information is available at 510-910-7024. Proceeds support the Niles Canyon Railway preservation activities.

For more info:
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Sunday, August 15, 2010

Bent Creek Winery - beautiful location and beautiful wines nestled in a corner of Livermore Valley



Bent Creek Winery is an education in the development of a fine winery, bringing together the dedication of its founders, the beauty of the surrounding Livermore vineyards, and the skill of the winemaker. Bent Creek started to come together in 1980 as Pat and Tom Heineman sought a country property to enjoy the beauty and serenity of Livermore Valley. Pat was an elementary school principal in Livermore and Tom was the director of curriculum and technology for the district. The met a couple who became good friends and later partners in their project, Carol and Rich Howell. Carol was also an elementary school principal in Livermore and Rich was a physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Labs. Both couples had a love of good wine.

As the area around the Heineman’s country homestead began to sprout vineyards, Pat and Tom were pleased with the beauty of the acres of vines and in 1997 with the assistance of Wente Winery; they planed a Syrah vineyard on their property. The grapes from this vineyard were used by surrounding wineries to produce some great wines. The four friends considered opening their own winery and took enology classes at UC Davis. Bent Creek Winery opened in 2002. 

The passion these two couples in this operation are evident not only in the quality of the wine, but the friendliness of the tasting room. Check out Yelp and you will see that most reviewers give this wine tasting experience five stars!  Rich Howell is the winemaker while Tom Heineman cares for the vineyards.  Pat and Carol manage the tasting room and their hospitality is reflective in the wonderful tasting room staff who make sure your visit is a fun experience.


The tasting room is a comfortable establishment between the Heineman’s home and the beautiful surrounding vineyards. It is reached down a long driveway off Greenville Road on the east side of Livermore Valley. There they host musical events (during this reporter’s visit, a local school jazz group was performing), along with wine club events. Picnic tables are set up to relax, enjoy the wine and partake of the views, taking you far away from the hustle of the Bay Area.

The 2008 Livermore Valley Chardonnay is produced with grapes from two vineyards, including the famous Del Arroyo Vineyard across the fence line from Bent Creek Vineyards. This rich creamy, balanced wine has the flavors of pear and apple leading on to a nice long finish. This Chardonnay won a Silver Medal in the 2010 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. The price is $19.

Bent Creek 2006 Livermore Zinfandel has intense plum and black cherry aromas and flavors with a pleasant balance of acid and tannin. This wine received silver medals from both the 2009 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition and the 2009 California State Fair. Price is $23.

The 2005 Livermore Valley Estate Syrah is from Bent Creek’s Syrah vineyard just outside the tasting room. It is loaded with dark fruit flavors including black cherry and plum with a pleasant earthy quality together with white pepper and spice. The structured textures lead to a nice finish. Price is $19.

The Bent Creek 2007 Livermore Valley Red on Red is a blend of 66% Syrah from the Bent Creek Vineyards and 34% Cabernet Sauvignon from the McGrail Vineyards. It is a favorite of Bent Creek’s visitors. It is also a Silver Medal winner in the 2010 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. You will enjoy the aromas and flavors of dark fruit including black cherry, plum, currant and blackberries, enticing spices and the softness of oak leading on to a smooth lingering finish. The price is $25.

The 2007 Livermore Valley Petite Sirah Port has intense dark fruit flavors including black cherry and plum, interesting spices and a slight earthiness. All of these flavors are heightened by the grape brandy added to make the port. This is another silver medal winner from the Chronicle Wine Competition. The price is $23.

For more information: Bent Creek Winery website

Corte Riva Vineyards - an American dream comes true


 

Lawrence Cortez and Romel Rivera emigrated from the Philippines to the USA with their families in the late 1970s. They came following the American dream, where hard work is rewarded and everyone has a chance to succeed. They became friends in the Napa Valley town of Calistoga, and eventually became family as Romel’s cousin Nieves married Lawrence.

After years of working in the wine industry from the ground up, they began to experiment making their own wine. After a few years of experimentation, they decided to invest in their own winery, called Corte Riva, pulling upon the names of the winemakers, Cortez and Rivera. With the help of their family and friends, including Pride Mountain winemaker Bob Foley, they began to grow. Romel worked as assistant winemaker and Lawrence as cellar master at Pride Mountain.


Within a short time, Lawrence and Romel’s winemaking skills shone through, winning awards from their first releases in 2003. These two hard-working, dedicated family winemakers proved that the American dream can come true. Lawrence’s wife Nieves, sales director for Corte Riva, has greatly helped this young winery grow with a passionate group of followers.

The 2005 Merlot from three vineyards in the Calistoga area of Napa Valley is rated at 91 points by Robert Parker. This wine shows off its dark color and exhibits the abundant flavors of black cherry, blackberry, cassis and a bit of cocoa. It has a full body texture leading to a long finish.

Corte Riva 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon is a well balanced wine with great structure exhibiting elegant flavors of dark fruit including black cherry and blackberry plus chocolate, cinnamon and coffee. The tannins show through with a great body and long finish.
 
The 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon is produced with fruit from both Atlas Peak and Carneros, 71% from Napa and 29% from Sonoma. You will enjoy the dark chewy fruit flavors with cherry, cassis, blackberry, coffee, earth and chocolate being prominent. The soft tannins and rich body shine through on the finish.

The 2005 Petite Sirah has 70% of the fruit coming from Shannon Ridge vineyard in Lake County plus 30% of the fruit coming from Napa. You will recognize the dark, inky purple color you expect from a fine Petite Sirah. Hang on for the dark concentrated flavors of blackberry, blueberry, licorice and bramble flavors leading onto a balanced, well put together finish. 
 
For more info:  Corte Riva Vineyards

Family Winemakers of California Tasting in San Francisco August 22


 
The 20th anniversary tasting by the Family Winemakers of California takes place at the Festival Pavilion at Fort Mason Center in San Francisco, August 22 from 3:00 – 6:00 p.m. Plus open 1:00 – 3:00 p.m. on Sunday and 1:00 – 6:00 on Monday to trade only. This is the most comprehensive tasting of California wines in the world, the largest number of wineries, an enormous range of varietals and wine growing appellations from around the state.

Most of the almost 300 wineries are small family run wineries producing under 5000 cases per year. They have a limited outreach to wine tasting markets and are not always the easiest wines to find in your local shop. Over 60 wineries at the Family Winemakers tasting are there for the first time, giving you a chance to taste these wines for the first time.

This is a once a year opportunity and tickets go fast, so get your tickets before August 21 for $55. Tickets are $65 at the door. Here are a couple hints for this massive tasting. Buy your tickets in advance and don’t plan on finding any parking near the event so cab, walk or bus to the event. Also, plan in advance. Check out the list of winemakers and select those you truly want to visit.

For more information:

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Livermore Valley Harvest Wine Celebration - Monday Events

The Livermore Valley Wine Country’s Labor Day Harvest Wine Celebration really kicks in on Monday, September 6, when each of the wineries open their doors for some special events. This is your opportunity to meet the winemakers and sample the great wines found in this local region.
Here is just a sampling of the unique experiences Harvest Wine Celebrants will explore on Monday.

  • Wente Vineyards - Winery Tour by Karl Wente, 5th Generation Winemaker 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. space is limited. Sign up in Wente Tasting Room on Tesla Road.
  • Thomas Coyne Winery - Contra Costa Home Winemakers will discuss and demonstrate home winemaking.
  • Steven Kent Winery & La Rochelle Winery- Meet the winemakers: Steven Kent Mirassou and Tom Stutz. Wine and cheese Pairing in Barrel Room $5.
  • McGrail Vineyards & Winery - The Art of Music and Wine: meet winemaker, Mark Clarin and hear his band the Bacchus Brothers.
  • Fenestra Winery - Anatomy of the Grape: discussion and evaluation of different wine grapes
  • Garre Vineyard & Winery - Cooking demonstration by Cafe Garre Executive Chef Ty Turner at 2 p.m.
  • Cuda Ridge Wines - Blend your own Bordeaux-style varietals with winemaker Larry Dino.
  • Deer Ridge Vineyards - Meet Master Gardener Sharon Wentz and get your gardening questions answered. Pick your own lavender.
  • Eckert Estate Winery - Bottle your own Harvest Cuvee: bottles, labels and corks provided, $7 per bottle.
  • Chouinard Vineyards - Home winemaking and beer making equipment from Brewmaster in San Leandro. Wine and food pairings.
  • Crooked Vine Winery - Meet winemaker Jaime Dowell for a behind-the-scenes tour of the winery.
  • Big White House & John Evan Cellars - Aroma Bar: discover the aromas of different wine varietals. Meet and adopt dogs from local animal shelter.
  • Charles R Vineyards - Count the Corks Game: closest guess wins Charles R T-shirt.
And this is just a sample. There are 41 wineries to visit and they are all there to show you what this region can offer.

Tickets are available online at www.LVwine.org and at all participating Livermore Valley wineries, the Wine Steward in Pleasanton, First Street Wine Company in Livermore and Bay Area Safeway stores. Ticket “will call” arrangements vary by purchase method. Please visit www.LVwine.org for details.

The flexible ticket structure and pricing for 2010 includes:
  • Two-day (Sunday/Monday) ticket: $55 in advance, $65 at the event
  • Sunday-only ticket: $45 in advance, $50 at the event
  • Monday-only ticket: $40 in advance, $45 at the event
  • Non-drinking ticket: $10 (valid both days)
The Harvest Wine Celebration is a fundraiser for the LVWA. During the event, participating wineries are open only to ticket holders with event wristbands. No outside food is allowed and the event is not intended for children. For more information, please visit www.LVwine.org or call 925-447-WINE.
 
More information about the Harvest Wine Festival - Part 1

Livermore Valley's 29th Annual Harvest Wine Celebration on Labor Day Weekend


Livermore Valley Harvest Wine Celebration
Livermore Valley Wine Country’s Labor Day Weekend tradition—the Harvest Wine Celebration—returns to its roots this year as people gather to celebrate the wine grapes harvest September 5-6 between noon and 5 p.m.
Area wineries will offer the region’s best wine, food, art and music to ticket holders. Bus transportation between wineries will be available on Sunday only, and wineries will offer special activities to festival guests on Monday.

The winery experience is the centerpiece of the 2010 Harvest Wine Celebration. Thirty participating wineries will be pouring at their tasting room locations across Livermore Valley, surrounded by lush vines, local artists, musicians and food vendors. Eleven more wineries will be pouring and hosting festivities at either Concannon Vineyard or Wente Vineyards on Tesla Road. Food at all winery locations will be locally prepared and moderately priced (under $8). Admission includes a commemorative Livermore Valley wine glass, tastings of at least two wine varietals from each participating winery, official event program and exclusive discounts on wine purchases.


On Sunday, September 5, celebration guests are invited to ride complimentary “green” shuttle buses between winery locations. The biodiesel-fueled buses will travel on three different routes, each serving eight to ten wineries. Free parking will be available at Robertson Park, where guests can board buses and transfer between routes during the day. Bus stops may be as far as 300 feet from winery locations, so guests riding buses must be prepared to walk up driveways.

Monday, September 6 will feature a more intimate affair, as each winery offers a unique experience to Harvest Wine Celebration guests. Check out tomorrow’s article regarding the Monday details.

Tickets are available online at www.LVwine.org and at all participating Livermore Valley wineries, the Wine Steward in Pleasanton, First Street Wine Company in Livermore and Bay Area Safeway stores. Ticket “will call” arrangements vary by purchase method. Please visit www.LVwine.org for details.

The flexible ticket structure and pricing for 2010 includes:
  • Two-day (Sunday/Monday) ticket: $55 in advance, $65 at the event
  • Sunday-only ticket: $45 in advance, $50 at the event
  • Monday-only ticket: $40 in advance, $45 at the event
  • Non-drinking ticket: $10 (valid both days)
The Harvest Wine Celebration is a fundraiser for the LVWA. During the event, participating wineries are open only to ticket holders with event wristbands. No outside food is allowed and the event is not intended for children. For more information, please visit www.LVwine.org or call 925-447-WINE. 
For more info: Visit www.LVWine.org or call 925-447-WINE.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Niles Canyon Railway announces wine lineup for 2010 Wine Tasting Special

The Livermore Valley Wine Country is the only wine region that can offer a chance to taste wine while riding a historic rail train along the original transcontinental rail lines.

History abounds in the Livermore Valley. Trains first rolled through Niles Canyon in 1866. Spanish missionaries planted the first wine grapes in the Livermore Valley in the 1760s. In the 1840s, California pioneers looking for outstanding vineyard sites began planting grapes in the region. Robert Livermore planted the first commercial vines in the 1840s. Pioneer winemakers C. H. Wente, James Concannon, and Charles Wetmore recognized the area's winegrowing potential and founded their wineries in the early 1880s. And, Livermore Valley captured America’s first international gold medal for wine in 1889 at the Paris Exposition, putting California on the world wine map.

Check out the wine selections line-up for the 2010 Wine Tasting Special and decide which trains to ride.

Wine Menu August 8, 2010
Wine Menu August 15, 2010
Wine Menu August 22, 2010
Wine Menu August 29, 2010
Wine Educator Steve Ferree will walk you through tasting a flight of five Livermore wines. Each wine will be paired with cheese or chocolate selected especially for that wine. Each weekend will showcase a different flight of wines and different Livermore Valley winemakers. Thus over the four Sundays, 20 Livermore Valley wines will be served. The actual wines for each train will be announced later. You will enjoy an afternoon of fine wine while gently cruising through Niles Canyon, riding on history.


The Wine Tasting Special departs the Sunol depot of the Niles Canyon Railway promptly at 3:30 p.m. each of the four Sundays. The price is $37.50 per person and you must be 21 to ride the train. Non-alcoholic beverages will be served for those not wishing to join in the wine tasting. You can make reservations at www.ncry.org and information is available at 510-910-7024. Proceeds support the Niles Canyon Railway preservation activities.

For more info: