Sunday, November 20, 2011

"Saratoga by Candlelight" - Saratoga Holiday Open House and Wine Stroll

Thursday you will stuff yourself with turkey, and on Friday you will wear yourself out shopping.  So Friday evening relax and stop by Saratoga to celebrate the holidays.  Once again, Saratoga’s traditional Village Open House, held on the day after Thanksgiving, will include a Holiday Wine Stroll for your enjoyment. “Saratoga By Candlelight: A Holiday Wine Stroll In The Village” will be held on Friday, November 25, from 4 PM til 7PM.

The Village will be festively decked out, with holiday decorations at every turn, and will feature strolling carolers, horse-drawn carriage rides, pictures with Santa Claus, live musicians, artists and more than a dozen local wineries staged at local retailers & restaurants. Tree lighting ceremonies in Blaney Plaza begin at 5:30pm.

This year brings a charitable component as well: as a fundraiser for 2nd Harvest Food Bank, we will be asking attendees to donate non-perishable food in return for a $5 raffle ticket. Additional tickets may be purchased at $5 each, or 5 for $20.


Raise a glass to the holidays with premium wines from the following local wineries.

At $40, the Holiday Wine Stroll is a great value, and includes a festive logo’d glass and a program listing special offers from local merchants. Sample a wide variety of high-quality, local labels, while getting a head start on your holiday shopping! Many of Saratoga’s boutiques and restaurants will be open late, most will offer special incentives for Holiday Wine Strollers and all will glow with candlelight in celebration of this season of giving.

Register early to ensure you’ll be part of the season’s most elegant evening of wine tasting, carriage rides, sparkling lights and festive dining: all in beautiful downtown Saratoga Village!  Call the Saratoga Chamber of Commerce at 408-867-0753 or register online.  Tickets are $40 until November 23 and $45 the day of the event.

For more information:  Saratoga Chamber of Commerce

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Dutcher Crossing field-blended Zinfandel from Dry Creek Valley

Dutcher Crossing Winery has released the 2009 Bernier-Sibary Vineyard Zinfandel made from a field blend of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Carignane and Matero (Mourvedre) picked and fermented together.  “Jane and Scott Sibary have partnered their 5-acre hillside property in northern Dry Creek Valley with legendary grape grower Paul Bernier according to Dutcher Crossing winemaker Kerry Damskey.  They created a unique site growing organically dry-farmed Zinfandel intermixed with 25 percent of the other varieties.  Dutcher Crossing loves this mix that results in a wine that is definitely Zinfandel, but with wonderful nuances from the other varietals.

Debra Mathy, proprietor of Dutcher Crossing and winemaker Kerry Damskey are both proponents of blends and produce limited selections from unique hillside sites such as Bernier-Sibary. “At Dutcher Crossing Winery, we are perfecting the art of innovative blending and small-lot winemaking,” said Debra.

The Bernier-Sibary Vineyard is usually one of the last Zinfandel vineyards to harvest in Dry Creek Valley.  The Matero and Carignane reach maturity later than the Zinfandel and Petite Sirah resulting in these wines being on the riper side and giving the wine a nice berry character, more elegant than a normal Zinfandel. 

The 2009 Bernier-Sibary Zinfandel has a dark rich color. On the nose you will enjoy the maraschino cherry flavors with a bit of a chocolate quality.  On the palate the cherry comes through with black fruits, raspberry and an earthiness from the Petite Sirah and Mataro.  You will detect spices of cinnamon, and a bit of clove.  It is suggested that you let this wine air for a bit before tasting to have these flavors reach their peak. This blend delivers a long, satisfying finish.  This would pair nicely with a meal of honey glazed BBQ.  The suggested price is $39.

Dutcher Crossing Winery in the heart of Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma County is not only a great place to sample quality that you expect from this wine region, but also a great place to spend some time in this valley. The winery has a nice picnic area where you can gander over this lush valley while tasting these wines. They also offer a vineyard tour to learn more about what goes on to produce these wines.

The wines of Dutcher Crossing include their estate wines and also grapes from select vineyards throughout the valley. Debra Mathy is an adventurer and loves to tell you about her journey towards becoming the proprietor of Dutcher Crossing. She developed her passion for wine during her studies in Europe. Her dream was to own a winery and in 2007 she purchased Dutcher Crossing in the prime growing region of Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma County.

Debra is an athlete and an avid cyclist, owning a unicycle, eight bicycles and a 1900’s high wheeler that was a gift from her dad shortly before he passed on. This same high wheeler is the symbol of Dutcher Crossing and is found on their labels and foil cap. With the help of winemaker Kerry Damskey their passion for wine shows in their wines which have been winning awards for years.

For more information:  Dutcher Crossing Winery

Franciscan Wines - a Napa Valley Legacy

Franciscan has been a Napa Valley legacy for over 35 years, inviting visitors along Hwy 29 to stop in for a taste of fine Napa Valley wines.  Each of the talented winemakers over this period, including current winemaker Janet Myers, has left their mark on Franciscan through innovation and commitment to small-lot winemaking.  Janet Myers joined Franciscan in 2003, and was appointed Director of Winemaking in September 2005. “In the heart of Napa Valley, the Franciscan estate vineyards are the perfect place for me to explore Cabernet and its nuances.  I love the body and texture of Cab, how it has layers of intensity and richness, but with such finesse when you get it right.”

Bordeaux varietals do very well on the Franciscan estate where the dry-farmed, clay loam soils and medium to high-density plantings result in wines of great structures, flavors and textures.  The latest two releases, the 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2007 Merlot are the epitome of what Napa Valley can deliver for a reasonable price. 

The 2007 Franciscan Estate Merlot has been known as a Cab lovers Merlot and has a nice ruby red color with abundant aromas of dark and red plums, cherry and strawberry plus vanilla with a touch of smoky oak.   On the palate these same flavors shine through with a supple elegant mouthfeel.  The acids and tannins are nicely balance and deliver the flavors of plum strawberry, cherry, brown sugar, balsamic vinegar, vanilla and cocoa.  This leads to a very nice finish.  The suggested price is only $21.

The 2008 Franciscan Estate Cabernet Sauvignon has a deep garnet color and great aromas of plum and blackberry with vanilla and baking spices.  As you taste this wine you will love the flavors of blackberry, plum, and dark cherry with a touch of chocolate and various spices including cinnamon, clove and allspice.  The flavors and tannins lead on to a long finish.

For more information:  Franciscan Estate

2012 Vintners Hall of Fame Inductees

The Culinary Institute of America announces the 2012 inductees to the Vintners Hall of Fame.  The Vintners Hall of Fame celebrates the men and women whose collective vision, determination and hard work have been responsible for the growth and worldwide prestige of the California wine industry. 

The Vintners Hall of Fame, housed at the Culinary Institute of America’s Graystone Campus in St. Helena was first established in 2007 and this year’s five inductees join the other 33 vintners whose bronze sculptures by artist Lawrence Newlan are displayed on the historic 2,200 gallon redwood wine barrels in the former Christian Brothers Barrel Room at the CIA.  Each plaque includes a short biography of the inductee, mentioning their accomplishments and role in making California the leader in winemaking.

This year’s inductees are:

Joe Heitz earned his master’s degree in enology from UC Davis and honed his winemaking skills at a series of wineries around Fresno and Lodi.  In 1951 Joe went to work for Beaulieu Vineyard under Andre’ Tchelistcheff and helped develop a control regime.  He later moved to Fresno where he launched the Department of Enology at Fresno State College.  IN 1961 Joe and Alice acquired their first vineyard south of St. Helena.  Working from this small vineyard on 8 acres of land they established a reputation as innovative and brilliant winemakers.  By 1964 the operation expanded with 160-acres in Spring Valley.  Later they established a relationship with Tom and Martha May and in 1966 crafted the first Martha’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, the first vineyard designate wine in Napa Valley.  Joe set the tone for high-quality, premium priced Cabernet Sauvignon in Napa Valley.

Peter Mondavi Sr. has received most of the awards possible in his long history in winemaking.  He was named one of the twelve “living legends” in Napa Valley by the Napa Valley Vintners Association.  After graduating from Stanford University in 1937 and further enology graduate studies at UC Berkeley, he was in the forefront of many enology practices that are now standards.  Following his stint in the U.S. Army during World War II he returned to the Charles Krug Winery which the Mondavi family purchased in 1943, becoming president in 1966.  AT the age of 96 he continues to contribute greatly to the industry.

Myron Nightingale began his career as a winemaker in 1944 and was later at Italian Swiss Colony, one of the largest wineries in California at the time.  In 1953 he took over the historic Cresta Blanca Winery in Livermore where he developed a Semillon in the style of Sauternes, in which the botrytis cinerea was produced in the laboratory rather than the field.  In 1971 he moved on to be the winemaker at Beringer Winery in Napa where he turned an old run-down winery into a large scale producer of world class wines, including his dessert Sauterne called appropriately, “Nightingale”.

John Parducci is revered in Mendocino where he has been making wine since he took over the family’s winery in 1940.  He learned to make wine under his father and even traveled with him to the east coast during Prohibition to sell his family grapes to home winemakers.  He has introduced many varietals that were previously unknown in California, including Nebbiolo, Flora and Colombard.  He also introduced a non-oaked Chardonnay.  He was also one of the first to bottle a varietal bearing the county’s name on the label.  His passion for the industry continued, and in 1999, at the age of 81 he jumped back in the industry by purchasing Zellerbach Estates and making it over as McNabb Cellars. 

Richard Sanford, an admirer of Burgundian wines got out of the Navy in the late 1960s with a passion to produce fine Pinot Noir.  He determined that the place to grow this fine Pinot Noir was in Santa Barbara County to the west of Hwy 101 in the Santa Ynez Valley.  He was the first to recognize the potential of the Santa Rita Hills and the first in Santa Barbara County to establish certified organic vineyards certified by the California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF).  After leaving Sanford Winery in 2005, he established Alma Rosa Winery nearby, focusing on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

Albert Winkler was with the Department of Viticulture and Enology at UC Davis from 1921 to 1963, serving as the department chairman from 1933 to 1957.  During this time his research in grapevine physiology and canopy management developed into standard practices in the best vineyards in the industry.  His work also was important in the regional classification of California’s grape growing areas and recommended the varietals best suited for those regions.  His classic textbook “General Viticulture”, first published in 1962 has been a key learning tool for thousands of winemakers.

Eugene Hilgard moved to the University of California Berkeley in 1874 from his post at the University of Michigan to head the College of Agriculture.  He saw that California was a perfect site for winegrowing, yet the industry was struggling.  He spent 25 years to lead California in establishing a unit at UC Davis devoted to viticulture and enology, the first in the nation and today, the leading viticulture and enology program in the nation. 

The 2012 inductees will join the Hall of Fame at the 6th Annual Celebration of California Wine & Food at the Culinary Institute of America on Monday, February 20, 2011.

For more information: Culinary Institute of America Vintners Hall of Fame

Mandolin Wines - bringing together quality and value from Central Coast

A mandolin is an instrument from the lute family that is noted for its brilliant tone and great carrying power.  Mandolin wines reflect on their namesake as their fruit from the California Central Coast delivers full fruit flavors and great carrying power.  Mandolin Vintners is a collaboration between winemaker Philip Zorn and wine executive Brent Shortridge.  Philip Zorn, American-born and raised in Germany graduated from the highest rated enology school in Germany and has expanded his knowledge at several wineries in California, including Sunny St. Helena, Gauer Estate, Paraiso Springs and Tria.  Shortridge began his winemaking career under legendary winemaker Andre Tchelistcheff at Buena Vista Winery.  He eventually left the cellar to become vice president of marketing for Buena Vista.

At Mandolin Zorn and Shortridge concentrated on producing wines that displaced their terroir, sense of place, of Monterey County, including Santa Lucia Highlands, Arroyo Seco and Hames Valley.   This region is strongly influenced by the Pacific Ocean with long hot days and cooling ocean breezes in the afternoon and fog in the morning. 

The 2009 Mandolin Syrah starts with a dark ruby color and rich aromas of plum and dried cherry, leading you to a great flavor profile of a mixture of blackberry, blueberry, plum, currant and cherry, backed by multiple layers of spice and a rich vanilla quality.  You will enjoy the touch of walnut and balsamic quality along with the white pepper.  It is great acidity and tannins leading to a long finish.  The suggested retail price is $10.

The 2009 Mandolin Cabernet Sauvignon won “Best in Class” at the 2009 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.  Aged for 14 months in French oak, this wine pops with rich flavors of cherries, blackberry, plum and currant.  Spices include nutmeg and pepper plus a nice milk chocolate quality.  The oak has done a great job of melting the tannins and fruits together into a nicely balanced wine, especially for the suggested retail price is $12.

For more information:  Mandolin Vintners

Twomey Cellars Napa Valley single-vineyard Merlot

Twomey Cellars Merlot represents some of the best Merlot in Napa Valley. Ray Twomey Duncan and his four sons of Silver Oak Cellars wanted to expand to other varietals besides the Cabernet Sauvignon made famous at Silver Oak. In 1999 they purchased Soda Canyon Ranch in southeastern Napa Valley with the intention of planting more Cabernet Sauvignon. But they discovered that the Merlot grapes already growing there were of top quality. Their winemaker, Daniel Baron, had developed a passion for Merlot in his years in the Bordeaux region of France working in wineries in Pomerol and St. Emilion. This opportunity with the Soda Canyon Ranch Merlot grapes would give Daniel the opportunity to produce Merlot of the same quality he experienced in France.

Using Ray’s middle name (his mother’s maiden name); the Duncans formed Twomey Cellars in 2003, moving to its current home in Calistoga. As Twomey Cellars grew, additional varietals were added including Pinot Noir from the West Pin Vineyard in Russian River Valley. They now have four Pinot Noirs from Sonoma Coast, Russian River Valley, Anderson Valley and Santa Barbara County. The Pinot Noir program is located in their Healdsburg winery along West River Road and is run by winemaker Ben Cane who joined the team in 2007. He has a passion for Pinot Noir and he crafts his wines to express the different terroir of the various appellations.

Thus, just as Ray did with his Cabernet Sauvignon wineries in Alexander Valley and Napa Valley, Twomey Cellars has two different wineries that specialize in the varietals of their area. The Healdsburg winery specializes in Pinot Noir, while the Calistoga winery focuses on Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc.

The 2007 Napa Valley Merlot utilizes fruit exclusive from the Twomey Soda Canyon Ranch in southeastern Napa Valley.  It is composed of 94% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc and 1% Cabernet Sauvignon.  The rolling hills and volcanic soils of Soda Canyon Ranch are ideal for the French style Merlot clones, producing small intensely flavored berries.  The wine has a dark ruby color and aromas of black cherry, blackberry, coffee and chocolate.  This entices you to taste this delicious wine as you experience the velvety texture and explosion of fruit and floral with an obvious umami character, a savory flavor.  The balance of fruit acidity and tannins leads on to a long exquisite finish, begging you to take another sip.  This wine will be delicious for another 12+ years.  Retail price is $50.

Be sure to visit Twomey Cellars wineries in Healdsburg or Calistoga, and the Silver Oak wineries in Geyserville and Oakville to sample some of the best wines produced in these appellations.
For more information:

Thursday, November 3, 2011

2012 Vintners Hall of Fame Inductees

The Culinary Institute of America announces the 2012 inductees to the Vintners Hall of Fame.  The Vintners Hall of Fame celebrates the men and women whose collective vision, determination and hard work have been responsible for the growth and worldwide prestige of the California wine industry. 

The Vintners Hall of Fame, housed at the Culinary Institute of America’s Graystone Campus in St. Helena was first established in 2007 and this year’s five inductees join the other 33 vintners whose bronze sculptures by artist Lawrence Newlan are displayed on the historic 2,200 gallon redwood wine barrels in the former Christian Brothers Barrel Room at the CIA.  Each plaque includes a short biography of the inductee, mentioning their accomplishments and role in making California the leader in winemaking.

This year’s inductees are:

Joe Heitz earned his master’s degree in enology from UC Davis and honed his winemaking skills at a series of wineries around Fresno and Lodi.  In 1951 Joe went to work for Beaulieu Vineyard under Andre’ Tchelistcheff and helped develop a control regime.  He later moved to Fresno where he launched the Department of Enology at Fresno State College.  IN 1961 Joe and Alice acquired their first vineyard south of St. Helena.  Working from this small vineyard on 8 acres of land they established a reputation as innovative and brilliant winemakers.  By 1964 the operation expanded with 160-acres in Spring Valley.  Later they established a relationship with Tom and Martha May and in 1966 crafted the first Martha’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, the first vineyard designate wine in Napa Valley.  Joe set the tone for high-quality, premium priced Cabernet Sauvignon in Napa Valley.

Peter Mondavi Sr. has received most of the awards possible in his long history in winemaking.  He was named one of the twelve “living legends” in Napa Valley by the Napa Valley Vintners Association.  After graduating from Stanford University in 1937 and further enology graduate studies at UC Berkeley, he was in the forefront of many enology practices that are now standards.  Following his stint in the U.S. Army during World War II he returned to the Charles Krug Winery which the Mondavi family purchased in 1943, becoming president in 1966.  AT the age of 96 he continues to contribute greatly to the industry.

Myron Nightingale began his career as a winemaker in 1944 and was later at Italian Swiss Colony, one of the largest wineries in California at the time.  In 1953 he took over the historic Cresta Blanca Winery in Livermore where he developed a Semillon in the style of Sauternes, in which the botrytis cinerea was produced in the laboratory rather than the field.  In 1971 he moved on to be the winemaker at Beringer Winery in Napa where he turned an old run-down winery into a large scale producer of world class wines, including his dessert Sauterne called appropriately, “Nightingale”.

John Parducci is revered in Mendocino where he has been making wine since he took over the family’s winery in 1940.  He learned to make wine under his father and even traveled with him to the east coast during Prohibition to sell his family grapes to home winemakers.  He has introduced many varietals that were previously unknown in California, including Nebbiolo, Flora and Colombard.  He also introduced a non-oaked Chardonnay.  He was also one of the first to bottle a varietal bearing the county’s name on the label.  His passion for the industry continued, and in 1999, at the age of 81 he jumped back in the industry by purchasing Zellerbach Estates and making it over as McNabb Cellars. 

Richard Sanford, an admirer of Burgundian wines got out of the Navy in the late 1960s with a passion to produce fine Pinot Noir.  He determined that the place to grow this fine Pinot Noir was in Santa Barbara County to the west of Hwy 101 in the Santa Ynez Valley.  He was the first to recognize the potential of the Santa Rita Hills and the first in Santa Barbara County to establish certified organic vineyards certified by the California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF).  After leaving Sanford Winery in 2005, he established Alma Rosa Winery nearby, focusing on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

Albert Winkler was with the Department of Viticulture and Enology at UC Davis from 1921 to 1963, serving as the department chairman from 1933 to 1957.  During this time his research in grapevine physiology and canopy management developed into standard practices in the best vineyards in the industry.  His work also was important in the regional classification of California’s grape growing areas and recommended the varietals best suited for those regions.  His classic textbook “General Viticulture”, first published in 1962 has been a key learning tool for thousands of winemakers.

Eugene Hilgard moved to the University of California Berkeley in 1874 from his post at the University of Michigan to head the College of Agriculture.  He saw that California was a perfect site for winegrowing, yet the industry was struggling.  He spent 25 years to lead California in establishing a unit at UC Davis devoted to viticulture and enology, the first in the nation and today, the leading viticulture and enology program in the nation.  

The 2012 inductees will join the Hall of Fame at the 6th Annual Celebration of California Wine & Food at the Culinary Institute of America on Monday, February 20, 2011.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Santa Cruz Mountains wineries visit the coast at Half Moon Bay on November 5

Get away to Half Moon Bay, known for beautiful views, great food and fabulous wine. Live the good life by attending the Half Moon Bay Food & Wine Fare, Saturday, November 5, 2011 from noon to 4:00 p.m. at Oceano Hotel & Spa, Harbor Village Shops. Admission is free and the Santa Cruz Mountains wineries will be offering wine by the taste and bottle.  Wine glass tickets are $5 and wine tickets are $1 each at the Santa Cruz Mountains Winegrowers Association web site. A taste will be between 2-5 tickets. The event will feature wines from over 20 Santa Cruz Mountains Wineries and local Half Moon Bay restaurants will be cooking up some delicious food for sale from local restaurants. 

As a special addition to this event, they will be pouring the Gold Medal Wines from the 2010 Santa Cruz Mountains Commercial Wine Competition.  This is your chance to taste the best of the best!

A portion of the proceeds for this event will go to Coastside Children’s Programs (www.coastsidechildren.org).  The Coastside Children’s Program is a child care and development center that provides quality educational activities through preschool and before/after school programs.  There will be a children’s area set up at the Half Moon Bay Food & Wine Fare with games and fun so bring your children along!

Participating Wineries include:
  • Bargetto Winery
  • Beauregard Vineyards
  • Bruzzone Family Vineyards
  • Burrell School Vineyards
  • Cinnabar Winery
  • Dancing Creek Winery
  • Domenico Wines
  • Fernwood Cellars
  • Heart O’The Mountain
  • House Family Winery
  • Hunter Hill Vineyards & Winery
  • La Nebbia Winery
  • Martin Ranch Winery
  • Muccigrosso Vineyards
  • Naumann Vineyards
  • River Run Vintners
  • Roudon Smith Winery
  • Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard
  • Savannah-Chanelle Vineyards
  • Silver Mountain Vineyards
  • Skov Winery
  • Sones Cellars
  • Storrs Winery
  • Trout Gulch Vineyards
  • Villa del Monte Winery
  • Vine Hill Winery
  • Woodside Vineyards
For more information please visit www.scmwa.com or call 831-685-8463.

Ladies Lipstick Wine Tour: Girls Night Out! - November 5

Six wineries in Livermore Valley are hosting a special Ladies Day Out in Wine Country on Saturday, November 5.  Ladies, grab your girlfriends and a designated driver and come enjoy a fun day of wine tasting in Livermore Wine Country. Be pampered at every stop with girlie treats, like chocolate, cake, spa treatments, hair styling, jewelry, fashion accessories, makeup and lots more, including special wine discounts.

Visit at least four out of six wineries and be eligible to win an enormous special “Just for Girls” gift basket created by “Uptown Girls,” stuffed with amazing girly bling and delicious consumables, too!  A $5 tasting fee applies at each winery.  Participating wineries include Les Chenes, McGrail Vineyards, Nottingham Cellars, Occasio Winery, Retzlaff Winery and Rodrigue Molyneaux.

The first 75 ladies to visit Rodrigue Molyneaux receive roses from Fantasia Blooms and chocolate covered strawberries from Chef Tracy Flores at Castlewood, to go with a special flight of sweet wines. Relax with a by-the-minute foot, back or neck massage by Cheri, just $1/minute! Les Chenes has sassy edible works of art to taste and purchase– how about a cake purse? - from Sugar Mama Bakery, plus hair styling tips from a high end San Francisco salon. McGrail will feature Holiday Smoky Eye demos by makeup professional Sheri Balken, plus scarves and purses by CC Kelly.  Nottingham Cellars offers delicious confections from Danville Chocolates and Stella and Dot Jewelry. Occasio Winery will be serving mini cupcakes from Dolce bakery, and featuring one-of-a-kind handcrafted jewelry by Holly Ellsworth Rose.
Don’t miss the “Kissing Booth” at Retzlaff, where you can have your official “Wine Babes” lipstick kiss tattoo tastefully applied by a handsome hunk! Learn how to shape brows with Nadine of La Di Da Beauty Lounge. Browse creative designs from Lynda Yonemoto of Silpada Jewelry. Indulge in Chocolate Mousse and fresh berries with Port!

See mcgrailvineyards.com for a map and details

Exclusive Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet Tasting

Premier Cruz is the first exclusively Cabernet Sauvignon tasting of the Santa Cruz Mountains Wines.  It takes place in the historic Opera House in downtown Los Gatos on November 13 from 5 – 8 p.m.  The tickets are only $75 for a great selection of fine Cabs.  Guests will have an opportunity to sample some of the finest examples from this cool climate appellation.  Several rare older vintages will be offered and paired with food purveyors including Just Catering, The Picnic Guild and Fiscalini Cheese Company.
 
This year’s tasting will include library wines from many of our distinguished wineries.  Two of the featured wines will be a 1978 from Ridge Vineyards and a 1984 from Mount Eden Vineyards.                   

Santa Cruz Mountains are world famous for their Cabernet Sauvignon.  These lush mountains appear to have the perfect combination of altitude, soil and climate to produce rich, ripe Cabs without overpowering tannins.  The soft, balanced wines deliver an abundance of floral and fruit, yet still have the structure to pair nicely with foods and long savory finishes. 

Cabernet Sauvignon first gained importance in Bordeaux in the early 19th century and reached California some sixty years later. The earliest plantings of Cabernet in the Santa Cruz Mountains appear in the late 1870's when William Pfeffer developed his vineyard in the foothills above Cupertino.   Pierre Klein purchased 160 acres on Monte Bello Ridge naming his winery Mira Valle.  This property, called Jimsomare today, is part of the famous Ridge Monte Bello Vineyard. By 1889 there were over 100 planted acres of Bordeaux varieties in the Santa Cruz Mountains.  Today, there are approximately 250 acres.

Recognition in the past included medals for Pierre Kleins' cabernets from the Paris and Brussels Expositions of 1889, and 1900 and praise from Frank Schoonmacher in the 1940's for Chaffee Hall at Felton and Martin Ray's cabernets made by the Rixford family at La Questa.  And, of course, at the famous Judgment of Paris Tasting in 1976, Ridge Vineyards 1971 Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignon went up against some of the best Cabs from Bordeaux Premier Cru vineyards in France and showed what California Cabs can do.  Most recently the results of a 30 year repeat of the Paris Tasting focused international attention on the Santa Cruz Mountains cabernet.

Participating Wineries in the 2011 Premier Cruz include:
  • Black Ridge Vineyards
  • Burrell School Vineyards
  • Clos Tita Winery
  • Cooper-Garrod Estate Vineyards
  • Fernwood Cellars
  • House Family Winery
  • Hunter Hill Winery
  • Kathryn Kennedy Winery
  • La Rusticana d'Orsa
  • McCarthy Family Estate Vineyards
  • Mount Eden Vineyards
  • P M Staiger
  • Ridge Vineyards
  • Silver Mountain Vineyards
  • Testarossa Winery
  • Thomas Fogarty Winery
  • Woodside Vineyards

Lodi's First Sip Celebration - November 12-13

Lodi Wine Country invites you to their annual First Sip celebration on November 12-13; 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.  This is your chance to be one of the first to sample the first wines of the 2011 vintage as well as other fine vintages.

Visitors can meet the local winemakers, tour the vineyards and take in the rural atmosphere of this wine region close to the San Francisco Bay Area. The winemakers have just finished bringing in the 2011 harvest and are anxious to share with the visitors. Many of the wineries are offering special activities including food and wine pairing, live music, blending seminars and tours of the vineyards.  Tickets are only $35 in advance or $45 the day of the event.  Tickets are good for both days of the event.

Over 40 wineries around Lodi area are participating in First Sip.  You can check out what each winery is doing at the First Sip website or click on the winery name below for more information.
For more information about Lodi Wine Country First Sip

For Halloween - try a taste of Poizin - the wine to die for!

Poizin from Armida Winery in Dry Creek Valley is the wine to die for!  This deep dark Zinfandel is a delicious wine with ripe ruby cherries, plums and a hint of herbs.  Poizin has a velvety texture that envelopes your mouth with a richness you can expect from a fine Dry Creek Valley Zin.  The 2009 Poizin has 88% Zinfandel and 12% Petite Sirah.  Each bottle has a skull and crossbones symbol on the face in a blood red color and is the perfect wine for your Halloween meal with friends.  The price is only $25.

The Reserve Poizin is the best of the best.  Using the best and most delicious nine barrels of Zinfandel in their cellar, this wine delivers a great mixture of plum, Bing cherry, peppercorn and cranberry.  You will admire the smoky aroma and the blend of mocha and blackberries with a bit of meatiness on the finish.  The Reserve Poizin the bottle is hand-etched and painted with the blood red color.  The bottle is dipped in a blood red wax and the color drips down the neck like dripping blood.  Finally the exquisite bottle is sealed in its own wooden coffin.   This beautiful, yet eerie package sells for $80.

For the white wine lovers, you should enjoy the Antidote in its 375 ml blue bottle.  This dry Russian River Valley Pinot Grigio is fermented on extended lees to create a beautifully complex wine with a crisp, bright nose of cantaloupe and peach.  The price is $19.

Armida Winery was founded by brothers Steve and Bruce Cousins in 1994 and they have progressively turned this Dry Creek Valley winery into a producer of artisan, single vineyard wines using grapes from the best winegrowers in Sonoma County.  Their winemaker is Brandon Lapides who joined Armida Winery last year.  They produce a great selection of Zinfandel, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir but their most famous wine is the Poizin and its companion, “Antidote”, a Pinot Grigio.

For more information:

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Silver Oak Cabernet - Life is a Cabernet

Silver Oak is the epitome of what Cabernet Sauvignon can be.   And Silver Oak delivers two Cabernets, one from Alexander Valley in Sonoma County and the other from Napa Valley.  When Raymond Duncan first visited Napa Valley in the late 1960s he was enthralled by the native beauty of the region and with the potential of the young wine industry.  He began to purchase land in Alexander Valley and Napa Valley and hired renowned winemaker Justin Meyer to plant and manage the vineyards.  Justin agreed, providing that he can also create a winery that will raise the standard of Cabernet in the region.

This vision has carried on over the decades for Silver Oak Winery.  From the first vintage of Alexander Valley Cab to the expansion of the winery in Napa Valley, Silver Oak has focused on this vision of the potential of Cabernet Sauvignon in the region.  The developed two wineries to achieve this vision , in 1981 they developed the Napa Valley Estate on the site of the old dairy farm in Oakville and in 1992 they purchased the beautiful Tudor-style estate in Geyserville that is home to the Alexander Valley Cabernet.

Over time additional vineyards were acquired, but the focus on the two separate wineries continued.  As time passed, both the winemaker and the management changed, now with David Duncan serving as the winery president and Daniel Baron as winemaker, but the vision remains the same to produce the high quality cabs that are capable in the region.  It is a symbol of the tradition of excellence and continuous improvement that was established by the founders many years ago.

The 2007 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is a great fruit driven wine.  Starting with the bright ruby color, you will lead on to the aromatic black plum, blackberry and spice aromas.  Tasting the wine, you will enjoy the same rich, full dark fruit flavors with a full body and roundness to the wine, reminiscent of a cherry cobbler.  The finish continues on forever, ramping up from a simple fruit forward quality to a complex rich high-end wine with a complexity of flavors. 

The 2006 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is produced with 81% Cabernet Sauvignon plus 11% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc and 3% Petite Verdot.  These added varietals certainly add to the complexity of the wine that develops in the glass.  This is a wine that you feel as much as you taste.  The variety of dark fruit flavors and interesting spices build up in your mouth and continue on to a long finish.  The wine is so balanced that you might have a hard time determining the specific dark fruits that include plum, raspberry, blackberry and cherry. But you will certainly know that you have experienced a wonderful wine tasting experience.  This wine will continue to grow and perform for at least 15 years.

This is the wine to impress your friends around that special meal.  You will savor the flavors that are brought out when paired with a great meal.

For more information:

Project Paso - Quality for an everyday price

Project Paso is the newest wine brand from one of the oldest winemaking families in California, Don Sabastiani and Sons.  Don Sabastiani is a fourth generation California vintner with history back to 1895 when Samuele Sabastiani immigrated to Sonoma from Italy, opening his first winery in 1904.

Thirty years ago August Sabastiani worked with Paso Robles vintner Sam Balakian, using his grapes to add depth and complexity to their California appellation wine.  The new brand, “Project Paso”, pays homage to that three decade partnership.  “We are excited to launch Project Paso because we’ve wanted to showcase our long term relationship with Sam Balakian, a local Paso Robles winemaker, for quite a while, Paso Robles is also the hottest appellation in California right now,” said Donny Sabastiani, President of Don Sabastiani & Sons.  “Project Paso is an aromatic and savory wine, at a reasonable price that has already shown strong appeal among consumers.”

Paso Robles red soils and coastal climate gives the wines an earthy complexity and elegant freshness.  For whites you will detect minerality with fresh character.  Red wines have bold flavors and moderate tannins.
The Project Paso 2009 Chardonnay delivers aromas and flavors of green apple, Meyer lemon and apricot with a touch of vanilla.  The sur lie aging has given this wine a great full body and richness to it and combined with the acidity and fruit results in a nice wine for only $10.

The 2009 Red Wine Blend is produced with a variety of grapes including 37% Grenache, 16% Zinfandel, 14% Petite Sirah, 11% Mourvedre, 9% Barbera, 8% Lagrein, 3% Tempranillo and 2% Sangiovese from Paso Robles.  All these grapes add a variety of aromas and flavors to the wine.  From the Grenache you will enjoy the jammy red cherry flavors, from the Zinfandel, the spicy pepper comes into play, and the dark fruit from the Petite Sirah and Mourvedre, along with a certain earthiness, gives it some complexity.   This is a very interesting wine for around $11.  It recently was awarded a silver medal at the 2011 California State Fair.


Project Paso 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon demonstrates what is Paso is all about, with bright blackberry, blueberry, leather, earth and mushroom flavors.  As you taste this wine you will enjoy the dark fruits of black cherry, plum, a touch of chocolate and even a cinnamon toast quality.  It has a nice finish of cherry and cedar.  This wine has a lot going for it for only around $11.  This wine also won a Silver Medal at the 2011 California State Fair.


The 2009 Old Vine Zinfandel is a blend from three different vineyards in Paso Robles.  The nose is rather intense with dark fruit, pepper and wildness.  As you drink the wine you will savor these same dark fruit flavors and a certain amount of chocolate and cherry. It also has a nice finish and a price of only $10.
One thing you will notice about all the Project Paso wines is the Zork.  Now what is a Zork?  If is a closure that is more convenient than a cork but classier than a screw cap.  It is easy to open yet protects the wine, delivering the aroma and tastes that the winemaker intended.  It even has a bit of the romance of cork and can be reused to seal the bottle for the next day.


For more information:

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Steven Kent’s "Lineage" scores 95 Points & Three Puffs from Connoisseurs' Guide

The Steven Kent Winery's debut release of Lineage - its ultimate Bordeaux - style red, continues to wow the critics. This time, the accolades are coming from Connoisseurs' Guide to California Wine, one of the most reputable industry and consumer sources. In its August issue, CG gave the 2007 Lineage a whopping 95 Points and three coveted "Puffs." It called Lineage "deep and wonderfully expressive," saying "it ranks as the single best Livermore Valley wine in memory."

These comments echo earlier raves from two other respected publications, Wine Spectator Magazine and Wine Enthusiast Magazine. W.E. tabbed Lineage at an "Exceptional" 94 Points. And Spectator gave it an "Outstanding" 91 Points, calling Lineage "one of the best wines ever from Livermore Valley."

These impressive scores help to further cement Steven Kent Winery's reputation as one of California's "rising stars" for collectable Cabernet and "Bordeaux" varietals. Steven Kent Mirassou is especially proud of this inaugural Lineage effort:  "our goal from Day One has been to showcase what the Livermore Valley region is capable of - Lineage is both a testament to the area's history and a strong statement of the future potential for world-class wines here."


The 2007 Lineage artfully combines Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec, and Merlot from the Ghielmetti Vineyard and the winery's own estate blocks. Only 110 cases were produced; it retails for $125 a bottle. The 2007 release is fully subscribed at the winery but is available at select fine dining establishments. Collectors interested in the upcoming 2008 Lineage should immediately contact the winery, as only a few subscriber opportunities remain.

For more information:  Steven Kent Winery