Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Cuda Ridge Wines moving to new location on Arroyo Road

Cuda Ridge Wines, producer of handcrafted, small lot, Bordeaux style wines, will celebrate the opening of its new tasting room and winery at 2400 Arroyo Road in Livermore the weekend of August 10-11.  This move marks a major milestone in the short history of this fine Livermore Valley winery.  The new facility, along the Livermore Valley wine trail as you proceed from Las Positas Winery to Rodrigue Molyneaux, will provide a beautiful wine country setting in which guests can experience award-winning  wines. 

Cuda Ridge 2010 Merlot was recently awarded 89 Points by Wine Enthusiast; and the 2010 Petit Verdot and 2010 Cabernet Franc  both received 88 points.  In addition, Cuda Ridge received 5 medals at the 2013 SF Chronicle Wine Competition.

Located on Arroyo Road across from the historic Ravenswood site, the new Cuda Ridge winery is in the heart of Livermore Valley with views of the surrounding olive trees and vineyards.  The estate vineyard is being planted now with Petit Verdot and will be used to make Cuda Ridge Wines Estate Petit Verdot when the vineyard starts producing fruit in about three years.  The larger 1500-square-foot tasting room will have a standup bar, plus a seating area for enjoying a tasting flight or bottle of wine.  There will be a separate club room for private and winemaker tastings. 

As you taste the wines in the tasting room you can enjoy the art on display.  They will be supporting local artwork in the winery.  Large glass doors will allow guests to view the barrel room and the working part of the winery.

Along one side there will be an area where guests can purchase picnic foods, such as artisan cheeses, salami’s, and crackers.  Have a picnic in the designated outdoor picnic area while enjoying the vineyard views.  You will still enjoy the well-known Cuda Ridge music events, BBQ and car shows around the outside of the winery. 

The move to Arroyo Road marks a significant milestone for Cuda Ridge Wines, which was founded by Larry and Margie Dino in 2007. 

"Cuda Ridge started in a garage as a hobby business.  In the first phase of our winery endeavor, our production was only 300 cases and we did not have a tasting room,” says Margie Dino.   
In 2009, Larry and Margie moved their winery to the East Avenue location to open a tasting room and increase production.  Now in 2013 Cuda Ridge production has grown to about 1600 cases, including Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot. With the move to Arroyo Road in August, Cuda Ridge will have a premier winery setting to accompany its award-winning wines. 

"We are excited about the customer experience that we will be able to offer our guests with the new location. There are many amenities that will make us a destination winery in Livermore Valley,” says Larry Dino. 

Larry loves his vintage bright purple 1970 Plymouth Barracuda muscle car, also known by its nickname, ‘Cuda!  As we all know, winemakers are a passionate bunch, and Larry’s passion for his purple ‘Cuda lead to the name of the winery, Cuda Ridge.  As you look at the label, that background is not an image of a ridge, but rather, a stylized image of the ‘Cuda!

You are invited to the Cuda Ridge Grand Opening at the new location at 2400 Arroyo Road on August 10-11, Noon to 4:30 both days.  Stop by and stroll through the new Petit Verdot vineyard, check out the new tasting room, sample some award winning wines and examine the new facility.  Larry and Margie Dino will be there to greet you and show you around. 

The new Cuda Ridge Winery will open for the Livermore Valley popular Harvest Wine Celebration on Labor Day weekend, at the new Arroyo Road location.  Information on the new winery, Grand Opening weekend and the other winery events can be found at www.CudaRidgeWines.com.

See the full photo show at the Examiner.com website.

Livermore Valley Taste Our Terroir wine & food pairing event

This year the Livermore Valley Winegrowers Association has expanded their Taste Our Terroir event to spread over four days.  However, the premier event continues to the Food and Wine Pairing classic on Thursday, July 18 at Casa Real.  This year over 650 visitors enjoyed the 28 Livermore wineries 20 Tri-Valley restaurants for a great wine and food pairing event.

The Judges for this year’s Taste Our Terroir are:

  • David Glancy – Founder and CEO of the San Francisco Wine School
  • Ethan Fletcher – Food and Wine Writer for Diablo Magazine
  • Jude Affronti – Chef at Sur La Table and Owner/Founder of Affronti Food + Wine Bar

Everyone had a great time working their way through the 20 Food and Wine pairings and then sampling an additional four wineries on the patio and tasting the fine ports and dessert wines in the dessert room from an another four wineries. And US Foods provided and extensive layout of great desserts to go with those dessert wines.

The winners for this year are:

  • Most Innovative Pairing:
    Team: Cuda Ridge Winery and Beets Hospitality Group
    Pairing: Cuda Ridge Winery 2010 Malbec from Livermore Valley paired with a house-made Steamed bun, black plum Char Siu, spice-cured and charred pork belly with pickled root vegetables, cilantro and green onion.
    Judge David Glancy said, “This pairing was yummy, taking me back to the Tenderloin with Vietnamese comfort food”
  •  Best White Wine Pairing and People’s Choice Award (People’s Choice was selected by the visitors in attendance):
    Team: Page Mill Winery and Piccola Casa
    Pairing: Page Mill 2012 Chardonnay from Chandler Vineyard in Livermore Valley paired with a WonTon shell topped with a lightly blackened Scallop with an avocado Pico di Gallo and Chipotle Aioli
    Judge Jude Affronti said, “A nice buzz in the mouth with rich flavor and not overcooked”
  • Best Classic Pairing:
    Team: Rodrigue Molyneaux and Castlewood Country Club
    Pairing: Rodrigue Molyneaux 2009 Estate Sangiovese from Livermore Valley paired with a lightly crusted Dutch Valley Veal Scallopini with tomato coulis and fresh Mozzarella on citrus infused focaccia.
    Judge Ethan Fletcher said, “This combination makes me happy, content and satisfying.  It is a milder dish paired great with a mild wine.”
  • Judge’s Best Award:
    Team: Concannon Vineyard and Underdog Wine Bar
    Pairing: Concannon 2011 Reserve Righteously Rose from Livermore Valley paired with “Off the Hook” seafood sausage with a Rose Cream Sauce.

    Judge Jude Affronti said, “Loved the wine and loved the food and the pairing worked great.”

 There were other great pairings at this event, showing the skills of the chefs and the winemakers.

  • Occasio Winery served their 2010 Del Arroyo Vineyard Zinfandel with a Kobe beef Carpaccio Lollipop from Mangia Mi.  This was a thinly sliced Kobe Beef, wild arugula, capers, stone ground mustard and Pecorino Cheese.  I felt that this pairing just popped and the food really mad the wine full and delicious
  • Eckert Estate Winery paired their 2010 Petite Sirah with a house cured Cherry Wood smoked California Angus beef brisket from The Compass Star.  It is was crusted with Peppercorn and Coriander, topped with mashed Sunchokes and Mascarpone Cheese, with a drizzle of Petite Sirah Demi and an Italian style.  The pairing not only looked delicious but came together well with some nice flavors.
  • Mitchell Katz Winery served their 2011 Chardonnay with a dish from Handles Gastropub.  It was green heirloom tomatoes from Terra Bella Farms in Pleasanton, breaded and fried, fresh Mozzarella, grilled corn salsa and basil Aioli.  The acid and flavors of the tomato, plus the roundness of the Mozzarella really brought out the flavors of the Chardonnay.

Taste of Terroir is produced by the Livermore Valley Winegrowers Association and sponsored by Dublin Toyota, City of Dublin, Amos Productions, Image Setters, Livermore Valley Florists, Faye Champlin Studio and US Foods.

Funds raised at this event benefit the Livermore Valley Winegrowers Association.

See the full photo show at the Examiner.com website.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Tasting the 2010 Rutherford Cabs at Day in the Dust 2013

When you think of the great Napa Valley Cabs that have been loved for decades you will learn that many of these Cabs come from the Rutherford district in the heart of Napa Valley.  Many of the most famous vintners and viticulturists in Napa Valley history have been from Rutherford including Andy Beckstoffer, Andre’ Tchelistcheff,  Georges de Latour, Gustave Niebaum and more. In fact the Rutherford AVA has greater representation in the Vintners Hall of Fame than any other appellation.  The headline of this article is a quote from Andre’ Tchelistcheff as he told of what made Rutherford special for Cabs.

The Rutherford Dust Society was founded in 1994 by the growers and vintners of the Rutherford AVA to encourage and promote the highest standards in grape growing and winemaking in the Rutherford area and to help wine lovers and wine trade discover Rutherford’s unique expression.  On July 10 the Rutherford Dust Society invited press and trade to “A Day in the Dust”, a tasting of the 2010 Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon’s.  I was invited to attend a special event for the press at the beautiful Rutherford House at the Beaulieu Vineyards.

Rutherford House
We learned much about the 2010 vintage Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon.  Famed viticulturist Davie Pina showed us how the 2010 was a cooler-than-average growing season, faced a major heat spike in late August and then had a later-than-average harvest.  The result was fruit with concentrated flavors, higher acid and well structured. 

Then we had a blind tasting of two 9-wine flights of the 2010 Rutherford Cabs from all points of the region.   Later we had the chance to learn more about the individual wines in the blind tasting.  While each of these 18 wines was from grapes grown in different parts of the appellation and produced by different vintners, there was a distinct similarity among the wines reflecting the strength and uniqueness of the area.  Each of the wines showed a bright acidity resulting in a long finish.  Several of the winemakers felt that these wines would age for 15-20 years due to the acidity.  The alcohol level was not as high as you might have seen in the past.  They had very expressive fruit characteristics and, in particular, there was a blackberry bramble quality in each of the wines.  These were particularly charming wines.

One particular point about these wines is that you need to air them for a while before tasting to bring out the great flavors that are in the bottle.  Use a decanter or let it sit in the glass for an hour or more.
In the afternoon we wandered over to the Beaulieu barrel room to sample wines from 35 Rutherford wineries.  Lo and behold that Rutherford also has some fantastic white wines as well as the famous Cabs. 

A few standouts at the tasting are:

Freemark Abbey 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon Sycamore Vineyard – has a particularly complex and interesting nose with touch of briary patch and tobacco plus fruit.  But the joy of this wine continues on from there on the palate with black raspberry, black cherry and blackberry and a wonderful blend of spices leading to a long and fruitful finish
Jeffrey Stambor

Beaulieu Vineyard 2010 Georges De Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon – has a very pleasant nose with ripe dark fruit and oak.  On the palate there is an abundance of rich dark fruit, spices and toffee with a significant earthiness to it.  The great structured tannins and lively spices result in a wine with a long finish that will cellar for a long time.

Flora Springs 2010 Rutherford Hillside Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon – the aromas of this wine take you into a deep forest with an earthiness and mushroom qualities.  As you taste the wine you will enjoy the black raspberry and blackberry combined with mint chocolate, coffee, licorice and a complexity of spices.  The great finish with a touch of minerality and soft tannins will make this a great wine for that special dinner.

Alpha Omega 2012 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc – a really nice white wine that combines the old world texture qualities of a Bordeaux-style Sauvignon Blanc with the crisp acidity of the new world.  A nice intensity of fruit and acid with the great aromatic quality makes this s great summer wine.

Talahalusi Winery
Talahalusi Winery 2011 Picpoul and 2011 Roussanne – this is a fairly small family run winery that has only been producing wine for a short time, but has been farmers and grape growers since the late 1940’s.  Their Picpoul is unique for Napa Valley and the wine has a terrific brightness to it with nice acidity and fruit and a very pleasant aromatic quality.  The Roussanne is a delicate floral wine with the acidity and freshness you would enjoy on a summer afternoon.

Chaix Wines
Chaix Wines 2010 Chaix Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon – the Chaix family has been growing grapes in Rutherford for other wineries for over 100 years but are now also producing their own wine as well.  They made 300 cases of 2010 Cab that has a very intense nose of cedar, dark fruit, safe and earthiness to it.  As you taste this wine you will love the bright wild fruit, a blend of blackberry, black cherry, black raspberry.  The sharp acidity, layers of spices and soft structured tannins makes it a delight to enjoy.

12C Wines 2011 Beckstoffer Georges III Cabernet Sauvignon – 12C is named for 12o Centigrade (55oF), the optimum storage temperature for Cabernet Sauvignon.   The grapes for this delicious wine come from the famous Beckstoffer Vineyard Georges III, definitely top quality fruit.  This wine is a delight from the first whiff of the aromas to the long lasting finish.  In between you will enjoy the aromas and flavors of dark fruit, lavender and chocolate. 

For more information:  Rutherford Dust Society

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Winners announced for the 2013 Livermore Valley Uncorked wine competition

The Tri-Valley Conservancy announced the winners of this year's Uncorked Wine Competition on March 13, 2013.

The Livermore Valley has long been a premier wine region since the mid-1800s. Vintners recognized the region’s climate and terroir as suitable for grape growing. In fact a Livermore Valley wine was the winner in of America’s first Gold Medal for Wine in the 1889 Paris Exposition. To honor this great winemaking and grape growing heritage, the Tri-Valley Conservancy has sponsored “Livermore Valley Uncorked”, an annual wine competition that is open only to wines made from grapes grown in the Livermore Valley.

This writer was honored to be one of the judges in this year’s competition along with other local wine writers, sommeliers, wine makers, wine educators and restauranteurs. It was exciting day working with the other judges as we tasted 126 Livermore Valley wines from 36 different wineries. Each winery was allowed to submit up to 5 wines to be judged in twelve categories. The winners in the 2013 competition are:

The top winners are:
The individual category winners were:
About the Tri-Valley Conservancy
In 1900 the valley was home to over 5,000 acres of vineyards and over 50 wineries. Prohibition hit the Livermore Valley wine industry drastically as the vineyards dwindled to only 1,500 acres and only six wineries. As the Bay Area was growing in the end of the 20th century and the California wine industry was expanding, many in Livermore were afraid that the valuable agricultural heritage would be lost by the expansive growth of housing. A group of people and politicians in the Tri-Valley area gathered together to develop the South Livermore Valley Area Plan to provide strong economic incentives and equitable development regulations to promote investment in viticulture and ensure that development limits be placed on agricultural lands.

Following adoption of the Plan in 1994 the South Livermore Valley Agricultural Trust (now the Tri-Valley Conservancy) to protect and steward the land within the plan. The Tri-Valley Conservancy has a mission to permanently protect the fertile soils, rangelands, open space and biological resources, and to support a viable agricultural economy in the Tri Valley area. This mission involves both acquisitions to working with willing landowners to preserve their land in the tri-valley area and through stewardship to consult with property owners about their easement.
For more information:

Rubino Estates Winery opens in Livermore Valley

The newest winery in Livermore Valley is the fabulous Rubino Estates Winery at 1188 Vineyard Avenue in Pleasanton. The Grand Opening event took place on Friday evening, March 1, welcoming wine lovers from around the area.

Rubino, Italian for Ruby, is the new label from the nearby Ruby Hill Winery, and features wines with an Italian heritage. Ruby Hill and Rubino winemaker Chris Graves is proud of this new addition to the family. He states, “We wanted to offer something grand and spectacular for the Livermore Valley. We decided to embrace the Italian heritage from the Ruby Hill area and bring a slice of Italy to our part of the valley. Now we have two pleasant and different experiences to offer, as well as different wines, between our two sister wineries. Why go all the way to Napa when you have fun and extravagant tasting rooms and great quality wines that are well valued?”

As part of the Ruby Hill family, Rubino Estates is also a trip back to the foundation of Ruby Hill itself. It is located in the heart of the Ruby Hill vineyards. The building housing this massive tasting room is near the original location of Ruby Hill Winery when it was founded by John Crelin in 1887. The original structure was a landmark in this area for years before it met its demise on November 8, 1969 in a suspicious fire. The massive stone walls remained standing for another 12 years before it was demolished. The new building in much the same stone style was built near that location. Mitchell Katz Winery was in this location for several years.

Rubino Estates is indicative of the new level of style that is coming to the Livermore Valley tasting rooms. Along with the Ruby Hill tasting room, Rubino Estates has joined the ranks as a wine tasting destination, with ample space, large tasting bar, deli and more.
Driving up the palm lined drive to the stone winery, you will first arrive at a beautiful large fountain where you turn towards the large parking lot along the side of the building. This massive stone building soars several stories high with the cupolas along the roof. Head towards the center entrance of the winery outlined with the Italian flags symbolizing the origin of many of these wines. Entering the tasting room you will admire the size of this space and feel that you were just taken to Tuscany with tiled floors, antique displays, and wood pillars. Survey the room, and you will see that, while it is a huge space the décor makes it more intimate with a deli to the right, antique displays to the left and the spacious tasting bar in the center.
Walk up to the bar and partake of one of their two tasting flights, the Harvest Flight or the Reserva Flight. Depending upon the flight you choose you will be sampling up to eight new Rubino Estates wines, ranging from a Brut Sparkling to a Barbera Dessert Wine with Moscato, Chardonnay, Cabernet blend and their new exciting Salute Red Wine from Livermore Valley. Then take your glass and stroll around the room, maybe take a seat by the large warm fireplace, or check out the fine gifts, or pick up a sandwich or pasta at the Deli. For a special time, arrange for a special Reserve tastings at the Kings Table.
You are encouraged to make a visit soon to this new tasting room in nearby Livermore Valley. You will enjoy this new Livermore Valley destination while discovering the great Italian style wines.

For more information: Rubino Estates Winery (Note that the full website will be opening shortly)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Wine and Chocolate Lovers welcomed in Downtown Lodi

With Valentine’s Day coming up this week, the Lodi Wine Country invited Wine and Chocolate lovers to visit Lodi this past weekend of February 9-10 to sample some great wine and chocolate. And the wineries were very creative in the wines and the chocolates, including chocolate bread pudding, chocolate chili, deep fried chocolate bars, dark chocolate gravy, chocolate pizza and more in addition to plenty of brownies and candy. But the primary reason to attend was to sample the delicious full body wines that are abundant in Lodi. Zinfandels, Cabs, Tempranillo, Syrah, Ports, Italian blends and more were there to pair with these chocolates.

Lodi is a great place to visit for wine lovers. Many of the winemakers are from generations of farmers and truly know the influence of the terroir in producing grapes that succeed in making fine wines. This love of the land shines through in the great variety of wines that come from this region. Here you will find Zinfandel grapes growing on vines that are over 100 years old and younger vines of Cabernet, Chardonnay, and a wide range of Spanish and Italian varietals. The location is ideal for wine grapes with plenty of sun and the cooling influences of the delta.

While there are many wineries spread around this vast agricultural area, there are now a growing number of wineries that have established tasting rooms in delightful Downtown Lodi. This downtown appears to still be a vibrant business core with a mixture of restaurants, tasting rooms, consignment stores, theaters and plenty of free parking. Early in the morning you feel the area waking up with shopkeepers opening stores, sweeping the sidewalks and getting ready for the customers for the day.

The Dancing Fox Winery, Bakery and Eatery is a great place to start the morning. Located in a century old brick building you definitely feel you have stepped out of the real world as you enter the doors to this restaurant. Antique furniture, murals and a broad bakery display greet you as you enter. Try their delicious French toast made with their homemade cinnamon bread. Behind the Bakery and Eatery you will find their tasting room. The Lewis Family started as winemakers and added the bakery and eatery to broaden their offerings to their customers. For the Wine & Chocolate Weekend they were offering their 2009 Red Zorro, a red blend, and the 2009 Syrah.

Just beyond the Post Office is the newest tasting room in downtown Lodi, Vinedos Aurora. The Wine & Chocolate Weekend was providing an early review of their new tasting room, Pamplona Tapas, which will open up next door to Chef Larrazolo’s Alebrijes Mexican Bistro. Pamplona Tapas will not only a wine tasting room but a Tapas bar where you will be able to sample Spanish varietal wines with poco plates. This reporter can’t wait to get back to this new downtown food/wine adventure. Vinedos Aurora winemaker, Gerardo Espinosa Jr., is originally from the Michoacán area of Mexico but he and his family have been traveling back and forth from work in the San Joaquin Valley and Mexico for years. He finally moved to Lodi as a teen and went on to attain his architectural degree and is currently an architect in Stockton. He and his brothers purchased a vineyard in the late 90’s and Gerardo started making wine recently.

At the Wine & Chocolate event Gerardo was showing off his latest releases. His 2011 Albarino (second vintage of this wine) that was filled with tropical flavors and citrus that was wonderful. The 2010 Sintesis, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo and Merlot was pure delight in a glass, with abundant red fruits, the spiciness of the Tempranillo and the body of a Cab. His 2010 Petite Sirah is rich in flavors of blackberries, dark cherry and raspberry with great floral notes. The red wines were paired with a delicious Oaxacan cacao sample prepared by Chef Ruben Larrazolo.

Riaza Wines also have a new tasting room in downtown Lodi and they were drawing in many wine lovers to sample three of their latest releases of Spanish varietal wines including a 2011 Torrontes that was beautiful with flavors and aromas of apricot, honeysuckle and floral notes. It has a great body for a Torrontes. They also had the 2010 Tempranillo from Clarksburg, full of red fruit flavors, spics and tobacco. And finally they served a 2010 Tempranillo from Amador County that had a darker fruit character that was rich and full, a really luxurious Tempranillo. They were pairing them with a very tasty chorizo and chocolate stuffed dates wrapped in bacon and served with an Oaxacan sauce. Really went well with their Spanish varietal wines.

Jessie’s Grove Winery introduced their new Downtown Lodi tasting room located in the historic Ice House (which is also their barrel room). So while this is a new tasting room, it is for one of the oldest wineries in Lodi. Jessie’s Grove has been producing wines in Lodi for over 125 years but this new tasting room showed that they are up to date with wine lovers. After going through a full flight of Jessie’s Grove wines in the tasting room (including their bright 2010 Jessence Blanc Viognier-Roussanne blend, 2010 Earth Zin & Fire Zinfandel and the 2006 Westwind Old Vine Zin), we moved on to the barrel room for some barrel samples and port tasting. They served us the 2007 Sweet Indulgence (Viognier-Roussanne sweet blend with orange blossom and honeysuckle) and the Sweet Perfection Zinfandel Port Blend (dark chocolate and jam flavors).

Toasted Toad Cellars put on an excellent presentation for their visitors. Guests dropped off their Wine & Chocolate glasses and picked up large Toasted Toad Cellars glasses to work through a flight of five wines excellently paired with various foods that brought out more flavors in their wines. The 2011 Viognier Frizzante has a slight sparkling quality and excellent acidity and fruit flavors. The 2010 Viognier is a crisp wine with tropical fruit and grapefruit flavors that would be wonderful with spicy food. The Sapo Dourado is a limited release white port blended from Viognier, Verdelho and Muscat and is heavenly. Sapo Dourado is Portuguese for Golden Toad. The 2010 Zinfandel was loaded with cherry and black raspberry flavors. And the 2009 Merlot delivered red and black fruit flavors and spices with a good balance of tannins.

Other downtown Lodi wineries that should not be missed are:
  • Fields Family Wines – a small boutique winery with a great selection of wines
  • Cellar Door – wine tasting room featuring Bokisch Vineyards, Van Ruiten Family Vineyards and Michael-David Winery
  • Jeremy Wine Company – a boutique winery owned by Jeremy and Choral Trettevik
  • Lodi Wine Cellars – this wine tasting room features wines from Benson Ferry Vineyards, Vicarmont Vineyards, Heritage Oak and McCay Cellars
  • Estate Crush – a custom crush facility specializing in hand-crafted wines
  • H-G Vineyards – also known as Hansen Garbarino Vineyards features a wide range of wines
Be sure to check out Downtown Lodi during your next visit to Lodi and enjoy these many welcoming wineries in a compact area.

For more information: