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.

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Downtown Campbell Winter Wine Walk returns on February 13

The Downtown Campbell Business Association has announced their seventh season Wine Walk, taking place Wednesday, February 13, 2013 from 5pm to 9pm.

Participants will stroll the charming streets of Campbell Avenue with their own complimentary wine glass and sample wines from multiple local wineries set up inside delightful downtown retail shops and restaurants. Guests of the Wine Walk are able to chat with the actual winemakers about their wine making process, which wines they recommend, and on how to place orders.

Participating shops will be open late for shopping. Downtown guests can take part in the Wine Walk Drawing to win bottles of wine from several wineries participating in the event. Pouring locations will offer appetizers and live music to add to the festive atmosphere.

Guests can purchase tickets in advance at www.downtowncampbell.com/winewalk
or at the registration area located in the corner parking lot at Second Street and East Campbell Avenue (same building as Sonoma Chicken Coop) beginning at 5pm on February 13. Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased at the following locations in Downtown Campbell:

  • Bombshell Boutique – 295 E. Campbell Ave.
  • Frost Cupcakes – 199 E. Campbell Ave.
  • Sonoma Chicken Coop – 200 E. Campbell Ave
  • The Olive Bar – 232 E. Campbell Ave.
Tickets can be purchased for $25 in advance or $30 at the door.
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 offers 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. Downtown Campbell offers plenty of free parking.

Participating wineries for the Winter Wine Walk are coming in from around the Bay Area and include:
For more information:

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Zinfandel Festival a hit for all attendees

Thousands of visitors visited the Concourse Exhibition Center in San Francisco to celebrate America’s Heritage Wine, Zinfandel. The Grand Tasting on Saturday, February 2, featured the world’s largest Zinfandel tasting with over 200 wineries and hundreds of Zinfandel wines. In addition to the individual winery tastings a new feature this year was the Terroir Tasting Area. Here visitors had the opportunity to explore regional diversity with different Zinfandels side-by-side from wineries in the same region and compare it to other Zinfandel regions. The regions represented in this area include Lodi, Dry Creek Valley, Mendocino County, Lake County, Napa Valley, Sonoma County, Paso Robles and the Sierra Foothills.

The Zinfandel Festival continues to grow each year with 27 new wineries participating this year. A few of these new participants include the following:

  • Jelly Jar Wines – While this winery is new to the Zinfandel Festival they are certainly not new to California winemaking with four generations of heritage in the region. They were pouring their 2010 Old Vine Zinfandel from Lake County. It demonstrated a nice blend of dark fruit flavors including raspberry and black cherry with notes of clove.
  • Jessie’s Grove Winery – Just as Zinfandel is America’s Heritage Wine, Jessie’s Grove Winery is a heritage winery in Lodi with a history stretching back to 1888 when the first vineyard was planted on the Joseph Spenker ranch. Their participation in the Zinfandel Festival gave them an opportunity to further introduce their new Downtown Lodi Tasting Room at 27 East Locust Street. They were pouring their 2010 Earth, Zin and Fire Zinfandel, the 2006 Westwind Old Vine Zinfandel and the 2008 Westwind Old Vine Zinfandel.
  • Andis Wines – This is a modern boutique winery in Amador County, the heart of the Sierra Foothills wine region. They offered visitors the chance to savor starting with their 2010 Amador County Zinfandel, leading on to the 2010 Estate Zinfandel (wining 90 points from Wine Spectator) to their 2011 Original Grandpere Zinfandel.
  • Mill Creek Vineyards and Winery – As a small estate winery in the southern end of the Dry Creek Valley established in 1974 Mill Creek shared some of their delicious Dry Creek Valley Zinfandels, including both the 3009 and 2010 vintages.
  • Shadowbrook Winery – Located in the shadow of Mount Diablo in Contra Costa County, Shadowbrook Winery was showing off their 2010 Zinfandel from the San Francisco Bay region that delivered aromas and flavors of dark fruit, red currant, plum and a touch of vanilla.
  • Shale Oak Winery – This is a Paso Robles winery that believes strongly in sustainability both in the vineyard and the winery. They were pouring their 2010 Paso Robles Zinfandel and the 2010 Ku, a Zinfandel blend.

In addition to the Grand Tasting, the Zinfandel Festival included Epicuria, a food and Zinfandel pairing event and Flights, a Forum of Flavors educational seminar event.

ZAP, the Zinfandel Advocates & Producers hosts the Zinfandel Festival every year in San Francisco and it is a great opportunity to learn more about America’s Heritage Wines.

For more information:

Livermore Valley brings home Gold from San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition

Twenty-eight Livermore Valley wineries picked up 145 awards at the 2013 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, including a Best of Class for the Steven Kent Smith Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon. Livermore Valley winemakers took home 9 Double Gold, 26 Gold, 71 Silver and 38 Bronze awards. Congratulations to those award-winning winemakers in this diverse wine region in the heart of the Bay Area.

The 2013 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition is the largest competition of American wines and this year included a record breaking 5,500 entries from 25 states and judged by 60 prominent wine judges. The competition is always fierce and as the number of entries grow, it becomes tougher.
In addition to the Best of Class award for Steven Kent, seven wineries captured Double Gold awards including Bent Creek, Crooked Vine, Darcie Kent, Fenestra Winery, La Rochelle, Nottingham Cellars and Rios-Lovell Estate Winery. Following are awards picked up by Livermore Valley Wineries.
  • 3 Steves Winery– won a Silver medal for the 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Auburn James Winery– captured three Silver medals for their 2008 Bordeaux blend, 2009 Malbec and 2010 Chardonnay. In addition they got Bronze medals for their 2009 Bella Vista Block 2 Cabernet Sauvignon and 2009 Bella Vista Block 14 Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Bent Creek Winery– picked up two Double Golds for their 2010 Petite Sirah and the 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon. They also go two Golds for the 2010 Syrah and 2010 Zinfandel and Bronze for the 2010 Cabernet Franc and 2010 Red on Red blend. Realize that they got medals last year for previous vintages of the Petite Sirah, Red on Red, Syrah and Zinfandel, so Bent Creek is a regular winner at the competition.
  • Charles R Vineyards– brought home Silver medals for the 2008 Casa de Vinus Cab and 2008 Casa de Vinus Petite Sirah
  • Concannon Vineyards– brought home the most medals in Livermore with a total of 18 medals including four Gold medals awarded for the 2010 Conservancy Cab, 2008 Polo Field Petite Sirah, 2008 Mother Vine Cab and 2011 Reserve Sauvignon Blanc. In addition Concannon captured 6 Silver medals and 8 Bronze medals
  • Crooked Vine Winery– won a Double Gold medal for the 2010 Del Arroyo Pinot Noir, plus they got six Silver medals and a Bronze
  • Cuda Ridge Wines– captured Silver medals for their 2010 Petit Verdot, 2010 Merlot, 2010 Cabernet Franc and 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, plus a Bronze for the 2010 Syrah
  • Darcie Kent Vineyards– a Double Gold medal was won for the 2010 Madden Ranch Petite Sirah and Gold medals for the 2010 Picazo Merlot, 2011 Rava Blackjack Gruner Veltliner, 2011 Rava Blackjack Pinot Noir and Silver medals for the 2010 Madden Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon and 2011 Rava Blackjack Sauvignon Blanc
  • Eagle Ridge Vineyards– Bronze award for 2011 MadCait Angelica Fortified wine
  • En Garde Winery– earned a Gold medal for their 2009 Reserve Pinot Noir and the Magdelena fortified wine, plus Silver medals for the 2008 Reserve Cab, 2008 Napa Valley Cab, 2009 Adamus Bordeaux blend, and 2009 Pinot Noir
  • Fenestra Winery– grabbed 11 medals including a Double Gold award for the 2009 Conjugation Bordeaux blend, and Gold for the 2009 Touriga and 2010 Graciano, plus seven Silver medals and a Bronze
  • Harris Tesla Vineyard– received Gold for the 2009 Cab and Silver for the 2008 and 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon
  • La Rochelle Winery– did well with two Double Gold medals for the 2010 Dutton Ranch Chardonnay and 2009 Sleepy Hollow Pinot Noir and Silvers for the 2009 Donum Estate Pinot Noir and 2009 Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
  • Longevity Wines– received Silver medals for the 2009 Syrah, 2009 Petit Verdot, 2009 Philosophy Bordeaux blend and the 2009 Debru-vee Rhone blend
  • McGrail Vineyards & Winery– picked up Silver for the 2009 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Mia Nipote Winery– brought home a Silver for the 2009 Lencioni Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Mitchell Katz Winery– Gold medal were awarded for the 2005 Falling Star Tawny Port, 2010 Falling Star Merlot and the 2010 Falling Star Petite Sirah Port plus Silver for the 2011 Chardonnay, 2009 Petite Sirah, 2010 Liquid Love Zinfandel port and 2010 Petite Sirah
  • Murrieta’s Well– won Gold for the 2010 “The Spur” red blend and Silver for the 2011 “The Whip” white blend
  • Nottingham Cellars– as usual Nottingham won many medals including a Double Gold for the 2010 Awakening Rhone blend, plus Gold for the 2009 Supremacy Bordeaux blend, Silver for the 2011 Chardonnay, 2010 Petite Sirah, 2010 Cab and 2011 Viognier, plus Bronze for the 2009 Casa De Vinas Cab, 2009 Micro Lot Cab and 2010 Merlot
  • Occasio Winery– captured Gold medals for the 2010 Zinfandel and 2010 Thatcher Bay Merlot, plus Silver for the 2011 Sauvignon Blanc, and Bronze for the 2010 Petite Sirah, 2009 Merlot, 2011 Chardonnay and 2010 Cab
  • Retzlaff Winery– picked up a Gold for the 2005 Bordeaux blend and Silver for the 2009 Chardonnay
  • Rios-Lovell Estate Winery– was honored with a Double Gold for the Cab/Merlot port, Silver for the Zin port and Sangiovese port, plus Bronze for the 2007 Zinfandel and 2008 Cab
  • Rodrigue Molyneaux Winery– picked up a Gold for the 2005 Bordeaux blend and Silver for the 2009 Chardonnay
  • Steven Kent Winery– proudly took home the Best in Class award for the 2009 Smith Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon plus a Silver medal for the 2009 Folkendt Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon and Bronze for the 2009 Petit Verdot
  • Tamas Estates– captured Bronze medals for the 2009 Nebbiolo and the 2010 Sorrento white blend
  • TateDog Wines– got a Gold medal for the 2009 Wisner Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Thomas Coyne Winery– continues to win awards with a Silver for the 2010 Confluence Bordeaux blend and 2011 Viognier, plus Bronze for the 2007 Grenache and 2010 Petit Verdot
  • Wente Vineyards– took home 10 medals including three Golds for the 2011 Chardonnay, 2010 Merlot and 2010 Small Lot Cabernet Franc, plus 4 Silver and 3 Bronze medals
The public is invited to the Public Tasting to be held at Fort Mason Center in San Francisco on Saturday, February 16th at 2 – 5 p.m.

For more information:

Lodi Wine and Chocolate Weekend will soon be here

There are sweets for the sweet in Lodi on February 9-10 at the annual Lodi Wine & Chocolate Weekend. What is better than wine, chocolate and your special loved one for Valentine’s weekend? Lodi Wine Country and forty wineries will be open for tasting their handcrafted wines and decadent chocolates. A lucky person will unwrap the “Golden Ticket” at any participating winery and win one of over 100 other prizes.

Lodi is a wonderful jewel in California’s wine regions. Many of the wineries are extensions of the wine growers that have been growing grapes in this region for many decades. As you travel through this area you are taken back to rural agricultural California. 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.

During the Wine and Chocolate Weekend, Lodi appellation wineries will please your palate, pairing hand-crafted wines with an assortment of decadent chocolate treats. Enjoy winery activities, including barrel tasting, new releases, wine and food pairings, special events and live music throughout the weekend. Meet the local vintners and growers as they share the wine and hospitality that makes Lodi Wine Country California’s newest fine wine region!

Tickets, good for both days of the event, are $45 in advance or $55 at the door of any participating winery, and complimentary for designated drivers. A commemorative wine glass, dark chocolate tin, and admission to participating wineries is included. Hours for the event are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday.

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