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.