Sunday, January 31, 2010

Talbott Vineyards - premium wines from premium Monterey county vineyards

Talbott Vineyards was founded by the Talbott family over 25 years ago. They produce premium quality Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from Monterey County’s top quality winegrowing regions, Santa Lucia Highlands and Carmel Valley.

Robert Talbott moved to Carmel in 1950 where he started the Robert Talbott Tie Company. In 1982 he began to plant the Diamond T vineyard. Planting this mountaintop site met breaking apart massive boulders with a sledgehammer, but Robb felt that this site could produce great Burgundian style wines. In addition to their Diamond T vineyard, they were also obtaining fruit from the legendary Sleepy Hollow vineyard in Santa Lucia Highlands, a vineyard with the reputation for producing Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs with great depth and rich character. In 1994 the Talbotts were able to acquire Sleepy Hollow vineyards where their state-of-art winery is now located.

Talbott Vineyards winemaker is Dan Karlsen who brings 30 years of winemaking and viticulture experience to Talbott. He joined Talbott in 2007 after 10 years as winemaker at Chalone Winery.

The Talbott Vineyards Sleepy Hollow Chardonnay has consistently been a 90+ point wine over many years. The 2006 vintage has crisp acidity and tropical fruit aromas. On the palate you detect the same tropical flavors with a distinct minerality and toasted yeasty quality, leading on to a ripe round finish.

The very special 2007 Diamond T Estate Chardonnay is from the unique Diamond T vineyards that Robb Talbott struggled to plant in 1982. The crop yields are very small that helps concentrate the flavors. It has a medium straw color with aromas of pineapple and kiwi with a touch of hazelnut, citrus and minerality. The same flavors are found on the palate along with apple and vanilla. The long finish is highlighted by citrus acidity and flinty minerality.

The 2007 Cuvee Audrey is the best of the best, representing selected fruit from the premium Diamond T Vineyard. It has aromas of white peach, lemon and toasted hazelnut. The same peach and lemon qualities follow through on the palate. It has a sophisticated structure, crisp acidity, complex minerality and a creamy mouthfeel, leading to a long complex finish.

Talbott’s 2008 Logan Pinot Noir is from the Sleepy Hollow Vineyard in Santa Lucia Highlands. On the nose you detect blueberry, cherry and floral qualities with smoke and a touch of minerality. On the palate the same blueberry quality shines through and a cherry cola flavor is evident. This is a ripe silky wine with a long finish.

For more info:

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Firestone Discoveries' Inca Trail competition finds its two Trailblazers

The results are in: two very lucky people have been selected by Firestone Discoveries Wine to hike the Inca Trail to Macchu Pichu in the name of food, wine, and exploration.

Held January 10-12 in the Santa Ynez Valley, the competition was the culmination of many months’ preparation on the part of its contestants. In the spirit of the new Firestone Discoveries label – which encourages new experiences in wine, cuisine and travel – the public was invited to compete for an all-expenses-paid opportunity to hike the Inca Trail in one of two positions: as a private chef to prepare gourmet meals using only simple tools and local ingredients, or as a “Pathfinder” to employ social media, photos and videos to document the trek and report on pairing Firestone Discoveries wine with inspired meals on the 25-mile hike. The trek will be guided by Zephyr Adventures, an active travel tour company based in Montana that specializes in embracing real, life-changing experiences.

The weekend of the competition, all six finalists, three Pathfinder wine contestants and three Guest Chef finalists, were flown to the Santa Ynez Valley where the Guest Chef contestants wasted no time in preparing for the challenge of designing a Firestone Discoveries wine-friendly menu for 50 guests with $300 the following evening. Their only help in the rustic kitchen would be the Pathfinder contestants as sous chefs.

The day of the throw-down, the Guest Chef and Pathfinder contestants were delivered to the Crossroads Pole Barn on the Firestone Estate, where only the basic implements that would be available on the Inca Trail – a barbecue, propane stove, a table and non-industrial cookware – were provided for the production of the meal. Pulses quickened and spirits ran high as each chef and sous chef delivered a menu of uncommon creativity tailored to the unique flavors of one Firestone Discoveries varietal wine.

Criteria for the selection of the winning Pathfinder was based on each contestants’ social media prowess and interaction with the Guest Chef contestants. The coveted position ultimately went to Margie Tosch of Sonoma, California, whose background in customer service and social media for the wine and hospitality industry gave her an edge over fellow finalists Kim Kulchycki, of Carmel, CA, and Lotchana Sourivang of San Francisco, CA. The title of Guest Chef went to Rodelio Aglibot, (also known as the "Food Buddha") who is the Executive Chef at Sunda Restaurant in Chicago. Aglibot’s substantial accomplishments as an adaptive and imaginative chef informed his ability to engineer a menu that was not only feasible to recreate along the Inca Trail, but that also paired beautifully with the selected Firestone Discoveries wine. Fellow finalists for the Guest Chef position included Scott Beale, Chef and Owner of Grey Gelding Bistro & Bar in Saratoga Springs, NY, and Tim Kirker, Chef and Partner at Bistrot Zinc in Chicago.

The esteemed panel of judges included: Anthony Dias Blue, one of the most influential wine, food and lifestyle personalities in the United States, whose current endeavors include founding Blue Lifestyle, The San Francisco World Spirits Competition, and The Tasting Panel Magazine; Michael Cervin, a prolific and ubiquitous contributing editor and columnist to food, wine and lifestyle publication throughout the U.S., and radio host of “Cervin it Straight” on KZSB AM-1290 Santa Barbara/Ventura; Janelle Weaver, Executive Chef and consultant for Kuleto Estate Winery in Napa Valley., among others; Paul Warson, Winemaker for Firestone Vineyard; and world-renown chef Bradley Ogden, the culinary genius behind eleven award-wining restaurants whose many awards include "Best Chef of California," by the prestigious James Beard Foundation.

Given the immense success of the competition and the enthusiasm of the applicants, Firestone Discoveries will continue to “ignite the senses” through further social media promotion and additional Pathfinder Challenges in the near future. In the meantime, armchair adventurers can follow Pathfinder Margie Tosch and Guest Chef Rodelio Aglibot on their Peruvian trek at or on Facebook.

For more info:

Thursday, January 28, 2010

California Sustainable Winegrowing Program - steps towards certification

Sustainability as defined by three overlapping principles of Environmentally Sound, Economically Feasible and Socially Equitable

As announced on January 13, the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance has launched their new third-party certification program. Now, what steps do the take to achieve this certification? Requirements for the certification include:

  • An annual Self-Assessment using the Code of Sustainable Winegrowing Practices Workbook and supporting evidence to demonstrate accuracy of category choices (1-4) or non-applicability for certain SWP criteria during a regularly scheduled third-party audit
  • Meet all 58 prerequisites by scoring a 2 or higher for specific criteria, or have an action plan in place to improve performance*
  • Demonstration of a process for identifying the key sustainability issues for their company, prioritizing areas for improvement, and establishing Action Plans that are implemented and updated annually
  • The ability to demonstrate practices that maintain or improve category choices (1-4) for SWP criteria and methods to correct any items identified internally or by an auditor as inconsistent with SWP Self-Assessment categories
  • Demonstration of continual improvement over time
  • Signed commitment to the Code of SWP, continual improvement, and applicable legal requirements

The prerequisites covered in the Code of Sustainable Winegrowing Practices Self-Assessment Workbook include practices that protect air and water quality, conserve water, promote energy efficiency and reduced pesticide use, and preserve ecosystems and animal habitat, among many others. CSWA offers educational workshops, resources and tools to assist wineries and growers through these various stages.

See other articles about Sustainable Winegrowing Program

The Sustainable Winegrowing Program then verifies a winery and/or vineyard’s assessment results through a third-party auditor. To retain their certification, participants undergo annual audits to verify that winery/vineyard self-assessments and action plans are updated annually, and that their operations show improvement. Onsite audits take place the first year and then every third year after that, and involve activities such as internal inspections and verification of corrective and preventative action processes.

To date, nearly 1,500 vintners and growers, representing approximately 60% of the state’s wine production and vineyard acreage, have self-assessed their operations at 125 workshops as a first step towards certification.

Once certified the participants can use the logo and/or claims on certified company web sites, secondary marketing materials and in certified winery facilities or vineyards. CSWA will also list certified wineries and vineyards on the CSWA web site. Because of current eco-label protocols and discussions by both industry and government on this issue, use of logo and claims on wine bottles is not permitted at this time.

Wineries and vineyards can still participate in CSWA’s Sustainable Winegrowing Program without applying for certification. They can complete self-assessments, attend workshops and communicate that they participate in the educational Sustainable Winegrowing Program.

Seventeen companies have received certification for some or all of their vineyard and winery operations after participating in a pilot program to test the certification requirements and offer feedback. They are: Clos LaChance Wines; Concannon Vineyard/Concannon Winery; Constellation Wines U.S.; Cooper-Garrod Estate Vineyards; Diageo Chateau & Estate Wines; Fetzer Vineyards/Bonterra Vineyards; E. & J. Gallo Winery; Goldeneye Winery; The Hess Collection; Honig Vineyard & Winery; J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines; Kunde Family Estate; Meridian Vineyards/Taz Vineyards; Monterey Pacific, Inc.; Roberts Vineyard Services; Rodney Strong Wine Estates; and Vino Farms.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance announces 3rd-party certification program

The California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance (CSWA), established by Wine Institute and the California Association of Winegrape Growers, announced on January 13 the introduction of a statewide certification program that provides third-party verification of a winery or vineyard’s adherence to a "process of continuous improvement" in the adoption and implementation of sustainable winegrowing practices. Open to all California wineries and vineyards as a voluntary option, CSWA’s new program, Certified California Sustainable Winegrowing, requires applicants to meet 58 prerequisite criteria to be eligible for the program, assess winery and/or vineyard operations, create and implement an annual action plan and show improvement over time.

The goals of the new certification program are to enhance transparency, encourage statewide participation and advance the entire California wine industry toward best practices in environmental stewardship, conservation of natural resources and socially equitable business practices. Three years in the making, the certification program is the first statewide program available to both wineries and vineyards.

“Third-party certification helps California’s wine community speed efforts to create a healthier environment, stronger communities and vibrant businesses,” said Robert P. (Bobby) Koch, Wine Institute President and CEO. “The program reflects the California wine community’s commitment to continually produce the finest quality wine and grapes with practices that are environmentally and socially responsible.”

“The scale on which California’s wine community is adopting and expanding sustainable practices is truly impressive, as the state is the fourth leading wine producer in the world,” said California Association of Winegrape Growers (CAWG) Board Chairman Kim Ledbetter Bronson of Vino Farms in Lodi. “CSWA’s mission is to bring recognition to the California wine industry as a change leader in the global marketplace and serve as a model for other industries.”

To date, 1,566 vineyard and winery organizations representing 68.1 percent of California’s 526,000 wine acres and 62.5 percent of the state’s 240 million case shipments have evaluated their vineyards and wineries with CSWA’s Code of Sustainable Winegrowing Practices Self-Assessment Workbook. Wine Institute and CAWG established the Sustainable Winegrowing Program in 2002 and incorporated CSWA a year later as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization to continue implementing the program.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Olson Ogden Wines - it starts with the grapes

Olson Ogden Wines, founded by winemaker Tim Olson and business manager John Ogden, is a small boutique winery located in the Russian River Valley of Sonoma County. Their specialty is Pinot Noir and Syrah, particularly vineyard designated Syrahs. They believe strongly that the best wines start in the vineyard and they have developed strong relationships with managers of some of the finest vineyards in the area.

Tim Olson has been a winemaker in Northern California for over 21 years working for such wineries as Tarius in Santa Rosa, Acacia Winery, Caymus Vineyards and Rosenblum Cellars. He also spent time at the French cooperage Tonnellerie Nadalie in Calistoga where he learned a great deal about barrel selection and production and its effect on wine. John Ogden, who manages the marketing, sales and business operation, was an early employee at America OnLine as it grew from 300,000 members to over 30 million in five years.

These special vineyards are located in Mendocino, Sonoma and Napa counties. The 2007 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir has grapes mostly from a vineyard in Petaluma in an area known as “The Petaluma Gap” where the land receives the cooling fog influences from the Pacific Coast. This dark cherry red wine has a dusty aroma of black fruits followed by raspberry and blackberry flavors with hints of spice, vanilla and spice.

The 2007 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir has grapes sourced from two Russian River vineyards. The Eastside Road vineyard, with its rolling hills with alluvial clay loam soils, produces grapes ripe in red fruits and aromatics. The Willowside vineyard, flat on the valley floor with clay loam soils, produces grapes that result in dark, structured wines, typical of Russian River Pinot Noirs. This wine has an intense aromatic nose and flavors of red fruits and hints of cola and spice.

Olson Ogden 2007 Syrah is a blend of fruit from the Unti Vineyard in Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma County and the famous Stagecoach Vineyards high above the Napa Valley in Napa County. The Unti Vineyards fruit tends to produce wines with more minerality and depth than many others. The Stagecoach Vineyards grapes are famous for producing intense and complex wines. This wine has 76% Syrah and 24% Grenache. On the nose is the distinctive earthy aromas plus black cherries and plum. The same dark fruit comes through on the palate with a spicy long finish.

The 2007 Unti Vineyard Syrah is 100% Syrah from the Unti Vineyard in Dry Creek Valley. This wine has a very intense nose full of dark fruit, spice, floral, pepper and smoke. The full bodied texture makes this wine a joy to drink as you taste the flavors of black cherry, plum and raspberry with the pepper and spice to make this an interesting complex wine.

Finally, the 2007 Stagecoach Vineyard Syrah completes this tour of the best vineyards in Sonoma and Napa. It has a dark black cherry color with a nose of sophistication with a blend of dark fruit, leather, violets and white pepper. The strong structure leads on to a wonderfully balanced wine with a long finish.

These wines were recently served at a special tasting at UNWINED Wine Shop in San Jose.

For more info: Olson Ogden WInes

Friday, January 15, 2010

Travieso Winery - along the Campbell Wine Trail


Travieso Winery is an award-winning winery along the Campbell Wine Trail producing wines that regularly earn 90+ points by Robert Parker. Not only do they produce an excellent selection of wines but the names and labels also provide intellectual stimulation!

As with many local wineries, Travieso got their start making wine at home. Founders Ray Sliter and Mats Hagstrom started producing wine in Ray’s living room in 2000. Ray is a marine geologist and Mats is a doctor. By 2003 they teamed up with John Pinder at his small winery in Campbell. By 2005 Travieso was a fully bonded winery. They work closely with premium vineyards around California and focus on quality wine production using 30 to 50 percent new French Oak barrels to age the wine for 2 – 3 years.

A Chris Blum designed labels are the first striking feature you notice with Travieso wines. Each artistic label is themed around the characters from Mexican folklore. Not only are many monsters of folklore on the label, but the bottle itself is a monster, weighing significantly more than most wine bottles you will experience. In fact, this writer has poured Travieso wines at several tastings, and the bottle weighs as much when empty, as many wine bottles do full.

The 2005 “Amaranta” Syrah uses grapes from the Kirks’ Fairview Ranch vineyard in Santa Lucia Highlands. The nose is bursting with dark fruit, blackberry and wonderful chocolate. It has a full-bodied texture and well balanced. It has received 92 points from Robert Parker. Amaranta is a character in a play about the Mexico Day of the Dead rituals. Death has commanded her to weave her own funeral shroud and, once finished, Death will take her away.

The 2005 “El Chupacabras” is a blend of 78% Syrah and 17% Grenache from Santa Barbara, plus 5% Viognier from Dry Creek Valley. This complex Rhone blend has a pleasant nose of smoky caramel and blueberry with notes of herbs and spices. The good balance is attributed to the Mourvedre and co-fermented Viognier. On the palate, you will still experience the same dark fruits, pepper, spice, smoke and meaty flavors. It is aged for 2 years in 33% new French oak. “El Chupacabras” means “The Goat-Sucker” in Spanish.

The 2005 “El Ray” Cabernet Sauvignon is from the Louvau Vineyard in Dry Creek Valley has smoky cedar aromas that open up on the palate to deliver dark fruit including cherry, blueberry and blackberry with cassis and spice.

Travieso Winery is located at 165 Cristich Lane in Campbell. Two special tasting events are coming up. On Saturday, January 16 they will open up the tasting room for the Santa Cruz Mountains appellation Passport Saturday. On March 3, Ray Sliter will be pouring Travieso wines at the UNWINED Wine Bar at 6946 Almaden Expressway in San Jose.

For more info: Travieso Winery
And for more information about the Campbell Wine Trail wineries:

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Macchia Wines - the "spot" in Lodi for Zinfandel

Macchia, Italian for “the spot”, is a Lodi winery that has proven to be the spot in Lodi to discover high quality wines at reasonable prices. Tim Holdener is the owner/winemaker who started Macchia in 2001 and reaches out to all the California appellations to find the right grapes in the “best spots” for their seven Zinfandel wines and a handful of other Italian varietals. "Winemaking technology has improved dramatically in the last two decades," Holdener explained. "But it is still the quality of the fruit you start with that ultimately determines how good your wine will turn out."

Macchia specializes in Zinfandel. The Zinfandel grape has an uneven ripening, in which the shoulders ripen early, then the back and front of the cluster followed by the top and bottom. The winemaker must select the right time to pick the cluster where all the grapes have ripened fully. Since many of the grapes in the cluster will be hanging on the vine longer than necessary the result is a high sugar content and, thus, a high resulting alcohol content. Zinfandel, especially old vine Zin, can take an aggressive oak treatment and still produce a balanced wine. The advantage of a Zinfandel is that its comparisons are local. Thus, a Cabernet Sauvignon will always be compared to Bordeaux, a Sangiovese will always be compared to a Tuscany, but for a Zin, the California winemakers set their own comparisons.

There are 10 different Zinfandels available from Macchia. The 2007 Zinfandel “Oblivious” uses grapes form a small vineyard that backs up against an industrial park. It is dry farmed, thus only receiving water when it rains. This has contributed to the intensity of the grapes grown in this vineyard. These landowners appear to be oblivious to the fact that this land produces great Zin. This wine is loaded with the aromas and flavors of great black fruit including cherry, black raspberry and plum with a tasty complex of spices.

The 2007 Zinfandel “Outrageous” is from Lodi Old Vine Zinfandel fruit on the Noma Ranch. These 80 year old vines are personally managed by the Macchia winemaker who has set strict limits on the crop load and irrigation methods. Great effort has been put into the pruning, dropping unwanted clusters to insure even ripening and balance. This wine delivers great aromas and flavors with a long finish and good integration of spices and oaky flavors.

In addition to the great Zins, Macchia produces a selection of Italian varietals. The 2008 Barbera “Delicious” is a dark red wine with aromas and flavors of black fruit including cherry, raspberry and blackberry. The blend of fruit and spices makes this a very food friendly wine.

The Macchia tasting room is located at 7099 E. Peltier Road, a couple miles east of Hwy 99 in Lodi.

For more info:

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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Harney Lane Winery - Wines based on five generations of farming in Lodi

Harney Lane winery is one of the newer wineries in Lodi, but one of the oldest winegrowers. The Mettlers, owners of Harney Lane, are fifth generation farmers in the Lodi area. The property was purchased in 1900 and by 1907 the first grapes were planted. For many decades local wineries were producing award-winning wines using Harney Lane grapes. In 2007 the decision was made to start producing their own wines and in August 2009 their new tasting room opened. Only a select small portion of their grapes are retained for their own wines and they still supply grapes to many wineries in the area. There are 40 acres of vineyard planted next to the winery and a total of 400 acres total estate properties.

The Mettler family is headed by George and Kathleen Mettler. It was George’s great grandfather who first purchased the Harney Lane land and started farming and his grandfather planted the first vineyards. George’s son-in-law Kyle Lerner and his wife Jorja carry on the farming tradition and have added in the winemaking aspect of the business. The winemaker at Harney Lane is Chad Jacobs a native of California’s Central Valley and also born into a farming family.

Their first vintages have proven that this is a winery that has successfully blended a farmer’s love and stewardship of the land, the heart of family and a passion for wine to produce premium wine that reflects the quality that is a symbol of what Lodi can be.

The 2008 Albarino comes from a vineyard directly behind the new winery. It is harvested in the cool of the early morning and utilizes sur lie yeast aging to give it a silky mouthfeel. It has the aromas of tropical fruit and on the palate you detect a slight minerality blended with crisp acidity and tropical flavors. There is a touch of a lemon-lime on the aftertaste.

Harney Lane 2008 Dry Rose is a blend of Petite Sirah, Tempranillo, Zinfandel and Primitivo. This is a true dry Rose produced in a Sangee method with crispness and balance that allows you to pair it with a variety of foods, or simply savor on a summer afternoon on your patio. This light salmon colored wine has ripe red fruit flavors are prevalent on the nose and the palate, with cherry, strawberry, cranberry and raspberry. There is a distinctive vanilla quality and due to the acidity, there is a citrus quality that particularly shows up in the finish.

Primitivo is a close relation to Zinfandel and many feel it is the same grape. Harney Lane recognizes the distinct differences between Primitivo and Zinfandel and highlights these differences in their wines. Primitive clusters are more elongated than Zinfandel clusters. There is significantly more tannin in Primitivo that requires a different oak profile and they use more American oak than they would with Zinfandel. Heavier French oak is also used. Harney Lane uses 33% new oak and 25% 2-year oak and the remaining neutral oak in production of the Primitivo. The Harney Lane Primitivo is non-vintage, utilizing grapes from different vintages. It has the aromas of brown sugar, red cherry, currant and tobacco. Tasting this wine presents the same red fruit flavors with a blend of smoked clove, and vanilla, plus a pecan pie quality.

The 2006 Old Vine Zinfandel comes from their Lizzie James vineyard that was planted in 1904. This Zin has jammy dark fruit flavors including a heavy dose of raspberry and black cherry with a cocoa and tobacco qualities. A balanced vanilla finish lasts long. The Old Vine Zinfandel was a Gold medal winner in the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.

For more info: Harney Lane Winery

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Saturday, January 9, 2010

Garré Vineyard & Winery - great food, great wine, great fun

Garré Vineyard and Winery is not only a fine place to taste some excellent wine, but also a good place to visit, grab a bite to eat and even take in a game of Bocce. The Garré family winemaking traditions began back in Italy where winemaking is an art form handed down from generation to generation.

Café Garré offers wine country visitors a chance to sample food from around the Mediterranean including Spanish Seviche Tostadas, Italian pasta, Greek Chicken Sandwich and French Baked Brie. These foods utilize the estate grown organic herbs and heirloom vegetables. The Café is open for lunch and dinner; check the website for their operating hours.

Winemaker Wayne Re works with owner Bob Molinaro to produce the fine selections of wine at Garré. Most of the grapes used in their wines come from their 20 acre estate on Tesla Road near the intersection with Greenville Road on the east side of Livermore. They focus mainly on the Bordeaux varietals and blends. These grapes grow very well in the Livermore Valley and produce wines that deliver in aromas, flavors and body. Garré only produces about 2500 cases a year.

The Garré 2008 Sauvignon Blanc is a great drinking wine with aromas and flavors of grapefruit, peach and melon with only a slight grassiness that is found in many Sauvignon Blancs. This wine would pair wonderfully with a summer salad or seafood.

The 2005 Cabernet Franc has a bright red color and aromas of raspberry, cherry, blueberry and floral qualities mixed with cedar and tea from the oak. As you taste this wine you will detect these same fruits along with mint and pepper you expect from a Cab Franc and some tobacco.

Garré 2006 Gina Marie’s Merlot is full of the aromas and flavors of red cherry, figs and even a bit of chocolate, vanilla and toast. This is a very food friendly wine that would pair nicely with many foods.

While most of the wines of Garré are Bordeaux varietals, they have recently introduced Syrah and a new release this year is a 2006 Reserve Syrah that is a pleasure to taste with aromas and flavors of dark fruit including raspberry, blackberry and boysenberry along with interesting notes of clove and nutmeg spices and a touch of tobacco.

In addition to food and wine, Garré has become an event center with their multi-million dollar Martinelli Conference and Event Center. Garré is also one of the premier wedding locations in the valley. Check out Garré at 7986 Tesla Road in Livermore to experience a friendly fun place to visit.

For more info:

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Rodrigue Molyneaux wines from Livermore Valley

Rodrigue Molyneaux winery and vineyards are family owned and hand-craft fine wines in a California country-style ranch in Livermore Valley. The estate is a perfect place to stop by to sample some wines and even enjoy a picnic on the grounds while experiencing California wine country.

Owner/winemaker Garry Rodrigue is an emeritus statistics professor at UC-Davis. He has brought together his technical skills and analytical mind to intensify his winemaking skills at Rodrigue Molyneaux Winery. This is a small winery where the winemaker is involved in every aspect of the winemaking operation from managing the vineyards, to crushing the grapes to producing the wine.

The 2008 Amianco Pinot Blanco is a creamy medium-bodied wine with good acidity and aromas and flavors of melon, citrus and honey with a distinctive butterscotch quality. It has a decent finish and will pair well with poultry and fish dishes. This wine is in new American oak for 5-6 months. They produced 150 cases of this wine.

The 2007 Primitivo is from Livermore Valley vineyards and has the aromas and flavors of raspberry, cherry and strawberry with a jammy quality that you expect from a Zin. The spicy qualities lead into a good finish.

The 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon is an award winning wine with a deep purple color and aromas of fig, raspberry, licorice and vanilla. On the palate it has a good balance and ripe tannins that lead to a long finish. It has been aged for 2 years in American Oak.

The 2007 Cabera is an interesting blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Barbera. It has aromas and flavors of coffee, cassis and dark fruit with a licorice and candy overtones. This unique blend would go well with lasagna and pasta.

Stop by their tasting room at 3052 Marina Avenue in Livermore.

For more info:

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

BoaVentura Vineyards in Livermore Valley - a "Good Venture" in wine tasting

Located in the far eastern portion of Livermore Valley, BoaVentura de Caires Winery is the culmination of a love of wine that BoaVentura Baptiste de Caires passed on to his grandson Brett Caires. This passion of wine is combined with a passion for the land, family and food that is evident in your visit to this unique winery.

Brett Caires is a self-made realtor and winemaker who remembers those days of his youth around the family dinner table in Oakland where his grandfather served wine with every meal and talked about food and wine. Learning the art of winemaking from family, friends and local winemakers including Karl Wente, Noah Taylor and Bob Taylor, Brett was anxious to try his hand in the family craft. In 1999 Brett and his wife Monique, purchased a small five-acre property in Livermore Valley. The century-old farm home became the Caires’ new home and the rustic barn became the winery and tasting room. The country farm atmosphere continues on with the chickens, goats, geese and donkey around the winery. Guests can purchase a bottle of wine and relax on the patio between the home and barn to enjoy a bit of country life.

On the five-acre property, 3.5 acres are planted in grapes, mostly Cabernet. The front slope between the home and the road provide the grapes a more rugged environment and the result is wine with more complexity. The rest of the vineyard on the flat ground behind the winery provides the bulk of the Cab. All of the grapes are hand-picked by family and friends and Brett and Monique handcraft the wines in the style that would make his grandfather proud...

The BoaVentura de Caires 2007 White Table Wine is a blend of 79% Alvarino from San Joaquin County, 17% Sauvignon Blanc from Livermore and 4% Orange Muscat of California. It is a great summer wine with refreshing taste and bright aromas of apple, peach and melon. As with Vino Verde wines in Spain and Portugal, you will detect a slight effervescent spritz in the wine.

The 2006 Nelson Vineyards Syrah from Livermore Valley is rich in the white pepper, raspberries and dark fruit you expect in a fine Syrah. There is a slight smoky flavor in the bold fruit on the palate.

The BoaVentura de Caires 2007 Green Label Cabernet Sauvignon is produced from grapes harvested on the flat back acres on the farm. It has big bold dark fruit aromas and flavors of cherry and strawberry.

2007 Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon is a blend of 50% from the flat back acres and 50% from the slope front vineyard. The front slope vineyard produces grapes with a richer quality and you will detect a slight earthy and mineral quality in the wine along with the dark fruits.

Using 100% grapes from the slope front vineyard, Brett has produced the 2005 Maroon Label Cabernet Sauvignon that is a great premium wine with a complex blend of dark fruits, firm tannins, cedar and earthiness.

A visit to BoaVentura is truly a visit to the country where you feel like a guest in a farm home sampling the owner’s fine assortment of wines reminiscent of the old country.

For more info:

Sunday, January 3, 2010

A taste of the bubbly to bring in 2010

Champagne and Sparkling Wines are a favorite way to ring in the New Year. Champagne and Sparkling wine has significant carbon dioxide to give it the bubbly that we all enjoy. Originally this condition was considered a fault, caused in bottles of still wine in the area of Champagne in northern France. The early onset of winter in this area prevented the still wines from completing fermentation. As spring arrived the fermentation began again in the bottle causing a sparkling effect. It also lead to many bottles exploding in the cellar, thus earning the nickname of “vins du diable” or devil’s wine!

Dom Perignon, cellar master at the Abbey of Hautvilliers in Champagne during the 1700’s under the reign of Louis XIV first attempted to cure this fault, but later took steps to improve upon this process, picking the grapes earlier, selecting the best grapes and inventing the concept of blending.

Now sparkling wine is produced and sold in wine regions around the world. The term “Champagne” can now only be used on sparkling wines produced in the Champagne region of France. Sparkling wine produced in other wine regions have other names for these wines including Cremant from the rest of France, Prosecco in Italy, Cava in Spain, Sekt in Germany. In the United States it is called Sparkling Wine.

In the USA quality sparking wine production began in Sonoma Valley in 1892 by the Korbel brothers. As the sparkling wine industry grew some of the most notable Champagne houses in France set up shop in California including Moet et Chandon’s Domaine Chandon, Louis Roederer’s Roederer Estate, G.H. Mumm & Cie’s Mumm Napa, Remy Cointreau’s Piper Sonoma and Taittinger’s Domaine Carneros.

Today, sparkling wine is produced by many wineries throughout California. A sampling of California sparkling wine producers are:

So pick up a bottle of a California sparkling wine to bring in 2010!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Testarossa Winery - Passion for Pinot

Testarossa Winery is a modern producer of premium wines located in the historic Novitiate Winery in the hills above Los Gatos. Novitiate Winery is the oldest continuously operated winery facility in Santa Clara Valley. The Jesuit brothers of Sacred Heart Novitiate began making wine on October 11, 1888 from grapes grown on the hillsides above the Novitiate. The Jesuits constructed a winery of two-foot thick hand-chiseled sandstone walls which still stand today.

Rob and Diana Jensen started as home winemakers in the early 1990’s producing Chardonnay in their kitchen in Sunnyvale. Soon the wine bug caught on and they were taking enology and viticulture classes at UC Davis and volunteering at Cinnabar Winery in the Santa Cruz Mountains. In 1993 they had the opportunity to lease a vineyard site in the Santa Cruz Mountains and began to learn more about the art of winegrape growing. While they lost most of the first year harvest to birds, they did produce a 1994 Chardonnay from Chalone grapes that won accolades from Wine Spectator and Connoisseurs’ Guide and they were on their way to becoming professional winemakers.

In 1996 they had the opportunity to move into the old Novitiate Winery, a place of wine history in the valley. Testarossa grew rapidly, utilizing grapes from world-class vineyards in Santa Lucia Highlands in Monterey County, and receiving more outstanding reviews from Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast, Wine & Spirits and the San Francisco Chronicle. The winemaker at Testarossa is Bill Brosseau.

The 2007 Castello Central Coast Chardonnay is a pale yellow color with aromas of lemon, honey and fig leading on to bold flavors of citrus and tropical fruit backed up be crisp acidity. It has a long delicate finish.

2007 Bien Nacido Vineyard Pinot Noir from Santa Maria Valley has a rich red color with aromas of cherry, blueberry and cranberry plus notes of black pepper and licorice. The same fruit flavors continue on the palate with the spices and tannins adding to a balanced, structured wine that provides a long finish.

The 2007 Niclaire Pinot Noir is names after Rob and Diana’s children Nicholas and Claire. This Pinot Noir is an excellent premium wine using a blend of top quality grapes from some of the best Pinot Noir vineyards in California. This deep red colored wine is bursting with aromas of dark fruit including cherry, cranberry, blueberry and a touch of citrus. These same dark fruits along with spices of black pepper, anise, clove and cinnamon provide you with the balance and lush experience you are looking for in a fine Pinot. This wine will age well for at least 7-9 years.

In addition to these wines, Testarossa also offers a fine Syrah and a second label series of wines with the Novitiate label.

A special treat at Testarossa is their Grand Old Winery Tour that they offer once a month. The next tour is Sunday, January 10. The tours are limited to 20 guests and the expert guide takes you from the historic cave tasting room though the 19th century winery. You will learn more about this world-class winery housed in this historic structure. The tour includes a tasting of premium Testarossa wines. Check out the photo gallery of this article for some pictures of a recent Grand Old Winery Tour.

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Friday, January 1, 2010

Duckhorn Wine Company - three wineries with a single commitment to quality

Duckhorn Wine Company includes three winery estates focused on terroir specific wines in two of the best winegrowing regions in the North Central Coast, Napa Valley and Anderson Valley. The Duckhorn family includes Duckhorn Vineyards, Paraduxx and Goldeneye. These fabulous wines are made from grapes from the company eleven estate vineyards plus a selection of other special vineyard sites in the valleys. Starting with the finest grapes carefully selected from these vineyards, each winery utilizes innovative winemaking skills and quality barrel aging to produce their wines.

Duckhorn Vineyards was founded by Dan and Margaret Duckhorn in 1976 crafting fine Bordeaux varietal wine in Napa Valley. Initially focusing on Merlot, the winery moved on to distinctive Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc, plus Decoy, a Bordeaux blend. The winemaker is Bill Nancarrow.

Paraduxx is their Napa Valley winery primarily emphasizing Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon. This was their attempt in 1994 at using non-Bordeaux varietals, but using the same careful viticultural techniques and quality winemaking skills established at Duckhorn, to produce Paraduxx, a rich fruit-forward wine with the body and complexity to go well with foods.

Goldeneye was established in Anderson Valley in 1997 to craft Pinot Noir wines from the distinctive soils and climate of Anderson Valley in Mendocino County. The valley is highly influenced by the marine climate of the Mendocino Coast, often seeing fog creep into the valley in the mornings.

Duckhorn 2006 Napa Valley Estate Merlot is a full-bodied wine with the aromas of blueberry, raspberry, cherry and pomegranate with hints of spice and chocolate. These same flavors carry over in the mouth with the addition of plum and soft tannins leading to a long finish. This is what Merlot is supposed to taste like with a velvety texture and full soft tannins. The grapes for this wine come from five Estate vineyards in Napa.

2007 Decoy from Napa Valley is a Bordeaux blend of 43% Cabernet Sauvignon, 43% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc and 4% Petit Verdot. The aromas of cherry, raspberry, blackberry, spice and cedar invite you to sample this enticing wine. As you taste the wine the flavors continue to follow through with cranberry, currant, cassis, coffee, caramel and leather. This abundance of fruit leads to a long satisfying finish.

The 2006 Paraduxx wine is a blend of 64% Zinfandel, 27% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Merlot and 2% Cabernet Franc. It has a bright red color and abundant aromas of cherry, ripe plum, blackberry, cinnamon, tobacco and vanilla. On the palate you will notice bright red fruit, cherry, strawberry, raspberry and blueberry with caramel overtones. The balanced mouthfeel is indicative of the fine winemaking skills of Duckhorn.

A particular favorite of many is the 2006 Goldeneye Anderson Valley Pinot Noir. Winemaker Zach Rasmuson treats this wine with the reverence it deserves, carefully selecting only the best grapes from the premium estate vineyards in Anderson Valley before using small-lot winemaking skills to handcraft a wine that is the epitome of Pinot Noir. This Pinot Noir has a perfect balance of acidity and full bodied tannins that lead to a long enjoyable finish. Aromas and flavors of red and black fruit, cherry, oak and a wonderful complexity of clove, rosemary, caramel, vanilla and toast make this a wine that you will spend time savoring with friends.

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