Sunday, February 27, 2011

Wine Walk introduces wine lovers to Downtown Campbell

The Downtown Campbell Business Association held their sold-out Winter Wine Walk on February 9, welcoming 925 visitors to 31 businesses in the Downtown Campbell.  Winemakers from 28 wineries from around Northern California were there to talk to visitors and share their wines while the shopkeepers were providing hor dourves to pair with the wine. 

This was a great opportunity to learn about this unique area of Silicon Valley.  The compact four-block long downtown offers visitors and shoppers a wide range of opportunities including restaurants, art galleries, antique stores, boutiques and even a funeral parlor and museum.   Having visited several Wine Walks in the area, Campbell offered a large number of wineries and participation by most of the businesses in the area.  Yet it was easy to sample the wines along Campbell Avenue while checking out the stores.

Little Valley Winery from Livermore Valley was serving their Raspberry Sparkling, Merlot and Chardonnay at The Olive Bar.  As the visitors sampled the wines, the hosts of The Olive Bar were sharing food and tastes of their excellent selection of Olive oils.  Winemakers Sandi Bohner and Bill Webster were there to tell us about Little Valley Winery and their wines.  Sandi even provided a light ring for everyone’s wine glass which you saw throughout the night. 

Pure Health, a juice bar and sandwich shop served some delicious wraps to pair with the Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc from Cooper-Garrod winery in nearby Saratoga.   Guglielmo Winery from Santa Clara Valley shared their delicious 2007 Sangiovese at Vintage and Vogue, a unique boutique focusing on décor and antiques particularly from France.  This store is a wonderland for fleur de lis, pink, sparkle and glitter.  One of the store owners, Linda Sullivan, was very pleased with the Winter Wine Walk and the people that got to visit her store.

Probably the most interesting place was the Darling Fischer Mortuary.  I honestly saw several visitors outside who decided that they would not enter the mortuary for the wine tasting.  However, they missed out on the chance to taste wines from Roudon-Smith Winery from Santa Cruz Mountains.  They were providing their 2008 Pinot Noir, 2008 Chardonnay and a non-vintage Claret.  All three wines were delicious and paired up with good foods and a welcoming crowd.
The organizer of the Winter Wine Walk was Sonya Paz, artist, owner of Sonya Paz Gallery and designer of the labels for El Sol Winery who she hosted in her gallery.  She was very pleased with the turn out and the participation of the wineries.  She said that she talked to one visitor and the visitor said, “Now I have lived around the corner from downtown Campbell for years and I didn’t know that all these shops were here until I came for the Wine Walk.”   She reported that all of the wineries had a great time with many people introduced to their wines while the shopkeepers were able to introduce their shops to many in the area.

The Downtown Campbell Business Association will be hosting their next Wine Walk near the end of September.  Check back with the San Jose Wine Examiner for details on the next event.  And, in the meanwhile, be sure to visit Downtown Campbell, with plenty of parking, many interesting shops and eateries and a step back in time to when downtown really met something!

There is not enough time to list all the shops that hosted this great collection of wineries, so you will have to visit the area for yourself.  Also, check out the photo gallery to see some of the winemakers in attendance.

The wineries who participated in this year’s Winter Wine Walk included:
For more information about Downtown Campbell and their many events:

California Cafe Palo Alto 5-Bites Friday hosted P.B. Hein Vineyards

California Café at 700 Welch Road in Palo Alto is hosting their 5 Bites Friday event every Friday.  On Friday February 11, they hosted P.B. Hein Vineyards from Napa Valley who served their 2008 Napa Valley Chardonnay, 2004 Napa Valley Charbono and 2007 Napa Valley Trailblazer.  Executive chef Mark Pettyjohn crafted a mouth-watering 5 Bite Tasting Menu to complement each of these wines along with a sparkling wine and a dessert wine.  While the servers provided each tasty dish, the winery educators pour the wine and tell you about each wine.  Meanwhile, Dan Nieckarz was playing Latin and classic jazz to give the dinner a relaxing ambiance.  All this for only $20 makes this a wonderful Friday night excursion.

Paul Bernard Hein, while relatively new to winemaking, has inherited a family history in winegrowing that stretches back for 129 years to when his 4-times Great Grandfather planted 29,000 vines to start a vineyard on Mt. Veeder in Napa.  While winemaking was in his blood, Paul took another direction with careers ranging from a steam fitter in an oil refinery to 25 years in the high tech industry inventing, manufacturing and installing computer systems.  But he was drawn back to his roots, returning to Napa Valley to a 47 acre vineyard above St. Helena where he opened a small boutique winery in 2002 and producing his first commercial vintage in 2005.  He is a hands-on winemaker whose says, “ the job of the winemaker is to do no harm and allow the grapes to do their thing”.

The 2008 Napa Valley Chardonnay has a golden straw color with aromas of oak, butterscotch, green apple and pear.  On the palate the fresh fruit flavors shine through leading to a long finish highlighted by the toasty oak.  This night the chef paired this with a Rock Crab Ceviche that included a gala apple slaw and citrus lemon crisp.  The dinners were pleased with how well the wine went with the crab.  The price of the wine was $21 at the winery, but California Café was selling it for $19.

Next on the menu was the 2004 Napa Valley Charbono, a 2010 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition winner.  It is a full bodied complex wine bursting with the aromas and flavors of black cherry, plum, pomegranate, tea and oak and a bit of a rustic quality.  Charbono is a rare wine in California with only 80 acres left and half this in Napa.  It was paired with a shredded short rib, served with a black pepper flat bread and smoked tomato jam.  The rustic spiciness of the wine worked well with the BBQ style of the dish.  Price of the Charbono is $19 at the winery, $18 at California Café.

The fourth bite for the evening was a black peppercorn beef that practically melted in your mouth, complete with an oven roasted tomato, herb fingerlings and blackberry-chipotle demi.  The wine educators poured the 2007 P.B. Hein Trailblazer, a red blend of 52% Syrah, 38% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Zinfandel from Napa.  It is loaded with dark fruit aromas and flavors including plum, raspberry, cassis and balanced with spices and black pepper plus baker’s chocolate.  It has a very long finish.  Only 475 cases were produced and this is the biggest production wine at P.B. Hein.  The price is $20 at the winery or $18 at the Café.

In addition to the P.B. Hein wines, 5 Bites Friday included as the first bite a Citrus-Champagne Poached Pear with whipped brie and liquor reduction served with a Yulupa Cuvee Brut Sparkling wine.  The ended the night with the Fifth Bite of a Late Harvest Raisin Bread Pudding in a honey chantelle cream served with a 2007 Hanna Nicole Late Harvest Wine. 

The 5 Bites Friday event is not to be missed and is a wonderful food and wine pairing adventure in a relaxed atmosphere.  Coming up next on February 18th is Robert Hall Winery.

For more information:

Passengers taken back to the 1940's on Romance on the Rails

Niles Canyon Railway sponsored their second annual Romance on the Rails event on Sunday, February 13, taking passengers back to the 1940’s in the Art Deco style Southern Pacific club lounge car #2979, riding along the original Transcontinental Railroad line through Niles Canyon.  This sold out event was a joy to all as passengers sipped on six Livermore Valley wines during the 2 hour tour while enjoying a pairing of cheese and hors d’oeuvres along the way through rustic Niles Canyon.

Along the way, wine educator Steve Ferree, told about the history and uniqueness about the Livermore Valley wine region which was instrumental to the early days of winemaking in California and still producer of a wide selection of great wines from over 40 wineries spread through this agricultural area in the heart of the Bay Area.  While Livermore Valley is one of the oldest wine regions in California, it is seeing a renaissance over the past few years as new small boutique wineries open up, joining the long term large winemakers who have been producing wine since the early 1880’s.  Wineries in the region range from small 200-case family wineries to heavyweights producing over 400,000 cases per year.

The Romance on the Rails adventure focused on the small boutique wineries of Livermore Valley, introducing visitors to the unique treasures in the Bay Area.  After months of searching for the right wines for this romantic tour, six wines where chosen for the couples joining in the ride through Niles Canyon.
Between the servings passengers enjoyed a selection of hors d’oeuvres.
Niles Canyon Railway also hosts a Summer Wine Tasting Special in August.
For more information

Niner Wine Estates - wines with vision from Paso Robles

Niner Wine Estates is the visionary initiative of Richard Niner, who has successfully blended exceptional people, proper tools, and innovative ideas to create a world class winery in the heart of Paso Robles along Highway 46 West.  While growing up on a rural farm in West Virginia, Richard Niner’s path took him through Princeton and Harvard into 30 years of successfully investing in small businesses.  In 1996 he purchased Bootjack Ranch vineyards, 224 of vines in eastern part of Paso Robles that became the foundation of Niner Wine Estates that was founded in 2001.  Two years later he purchased the picturesque 139 acre Heart Hill Vineyard along Highway 46 West.  Heart Hill gets its name from the natural oak-tree filled depression on the hillside that is in the perfect shape of a heart.

Niner began to build its winning team with distinguished winegrowers Jim Smoot and Jerry Grant.  In 2004 he hired Amanda Cramer as their winemaker.  The work began on the most modern state-of-the-art gravity flow winery behind Heart Hill in Paso Robles that opened in 2009.  At the same times vineyard acreage grew at both Bootjack Ranch and Heart Hill as additional varietals were planted.  In 2010 the elegant stone barn design Hospitality Center opened along Highway 46 West in the Heart Hill Vineyard property.  The inaugural vintage for Niner Wine Estates was released in January 2006.

Niner has since grown to a 10,000 case production winery focusing on Sauvignon Blanc, Sangiovese, Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon.

During a recent tasting at UNWINED in San Jose, Niner Wine Estates with Director of Sales, Tucker Spear, shared several of their latest releases with grapes from the Bootjack Ranch.

The 2008 Sauvignon Blanc is their first white wine release.  It delivers aromas of Meyer lemons, mandarin oranges and fresh herbs.  It has a very nice full body texture with flavors of tropical fruit, tangerine, fennel and even a bit of basil and mint.  The acidity is what you expect for a fine Sauvignon Blanc.  The price is only $17.

The Niner 2008 Merlot has everything you would expect from a fine Merlot with a nice mixture of the fruitiness of a California Merlot and the complexity of Bordeaux.  You will enjoy the aromas of raspberry, cherry and floral qualities.  On the palate these same fruity flavors shine through along with spices of lavender, thyme, allspice and cedar along with a cocoa and cherry flavor that carries through to the finish.  This is an excellent quality Merlot that would pair well with a variety of dishes including Marsala chicken.  The price is $24.

Niner makes an excellent Sangiovese from Bootjack Ranch.  The 2007 Sangiovese is a rich deep quality Sangiovese with boysenberry and cherry aromas and flavors.  Near the finish you will detect the tobacco and pepper qualities and a bit of semisweet chocolate.  The price is $24.

The Niner 2006 Syrah is what you expect from Paso Robles warn climate Syrah with some old world characteristics of good acidity and complexity and the new world characteristics of bramble, blackberries, black and white pepper.  The oak delivers a nice bacony, smoke and leather qualities.  The price is only $20.

The Niner Cabernet Franc has always been a favorite of this reviewer.  The 2007 Cabernet Franc was no exception from it dark crimson color to its rich velvety texture, raspberry, blackberry, blueberry and bramble characteristics on the nose and palate.  This is an excellent Cabernet Franc that you will enjoy for years.  The price is $28.

A very interesting wine is the 2007 Twisted Spur red wine which is a blend of 59% Merlot, 27% Cabernet Franc, 12% Syrah and 2% Petite Sirah.  Paso Robles is famous for this Rhone/Bordeaux blend that is impossible to produce in the old world.  It is fruit forward blend, rich in cherry, blueberry, raspberry, and jam along with spices of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg and a touch of tobacco.  Overall it has a nice oven baked pie characteristic.  The price is only $28.

For more information:
Niner Wine Estates