Saturday, October 31, 2015

Train ride with wines from Save Me, San Francisco

Halloween is here and the Save Me, San Francisco Wine Co. invites you to get in touch with your “dark” side by treating yourself to a rich, deep red wine. Here, some suggested pairings with more traditional Halloween treats:

“Drops of Jupiter” California Red Wine -This full-bodied red wine pairs well with a dark chocolate candy bar.
“Calling All Angels” Chardonnay – A fruit-forward medium bodied wine, nothing better than a Butterfinger with this wine
California 37” Cabernet Sauvignon- Like caramel, peanut butter filled candies are the perfect sweet-salty treats that pair well with bold red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon. 
Hella Fine” Merlot-The richness of the merlot pairs nicely with crunchy wafer candies.
Soul Sister” Pinot Noir -A light red such as the “Soul Sister” Pinot Noir compliments smooth milk chocolate.    
This winery is a venture for the San Francisco rock band, Train, which was formed in 1993 the Pat Monahan (vocals) and Jimmy Strafford (lead guitar).  Multiplatinum band TRAIN has made its mark on music history with their GRAMMY-Award-winning song “Drops of Jupiter (Tell Me)” and chart-topping singles “Meet Virginia” and “Calling All Angels.” Train earned their third GRAMMY earlier this year for worldwide smash “Hey Soul Sister” from its release Save Me, San Francisco. “Hey Soul Sister” was the biggest selling single of 2010 and hit #1 at radio in the US and in 15 countries abroad. The Save Me, San Francisco Wine Company was established in 2011 in collaboration with the Underdog Wine Merchants in Livermore Valley.      

“As we travel around sharing our music, we often find amazing wines that we experience with the amazing people that we meet,” says Train guitarist Jimmy Stafford. “As a band, we have always connected with our friends and fans through wine and music. 

A portion of the proceeds from Drops of Jupiter sales will be in support of Family House, a non-profit organization providing temporary housing to families of seriously ill children. For more information on Family House, visit

The Save Me, San Francisco “Calling All Angels” 2013 Chardonnay has a nice combination of citrus and pineapple and a hint of vanilla.  It is a flavorful, easy drinking wine that can be enjoyed with pork and seafood.

The “Soul Sister” 2013 Pinot Noir is sourced from fruit from the California Central Coast producing a wine that has nice bright red fruit aromas and flavors of cherry and strawberry.  Pick it up for your dinner of grilled chicken or Italian.

For more information:  Save Me, San Francisco

2015 California Winegrape harvest

The 2015 year delivered California vintners and growers across the state another stellar vintage. Despite a lighter crop—compared to last year—from one of the earliest seasons on record, wildfires during harvest in some regions and a fourth year of drought, quality is high across the board. A mild winter causing early bud break, followed by protracted bloom and unseasonably cool weather in spring, contributed to smaller grape clusters and variable crop size. An intense, compacted harvest began in July for sparkling wines and some still white wines, and was finished for most wineries by the end of September. The crop is estimated to be nearly 3.8 million tons, according to industry experts.

“The quality of the 2015 vintage for California statewide is excellent,” said Robert P. (Bobby) Koch, president and CEO of Wine Institute. “After three record harvests, a lighter vintage will not impact our supply of California wines for wine lovers nationwide and throughout the world.”

“Harvest started 10 days or so early in our north and central coast vineyards because of the warm weather and reduced crop size,” said Keith Horn, VP Grape Management for Constellation Brands. “Happily, we harvested superior quality grapes, just a little lighter crop.”
Crusher for California Winegrape harvest

“This year is only the third time since 1982 that harvest has finished in September, so to say that this is an early season understates the point a bit,” said Cameron Perry, winemaker for Groth Vineyards & Winery in Napa Valley. “This year lines up fairly well with 1997, one of the other three September finishes. Yields have been down across the board, but this is not surprising, as we are coming off of an unprecedented run of three large harvests (’12, ’13, and ’14). Though there isn’t a lot of it, the quality of the crop this year is exceptional. All the Cabernet ferments are showing big, rich, ripe fruit in great balance with the tannins, and the color metrics are off the chart this season. 2015 should prove to be another in an epic string of superior quality vintages.”

“This year was the earliest harvest in my 46 years as a winegrower,” said Richard Sanford, owner of Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards in Santa Barbara County, primarily producers of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. “We began on August 10 and were finished by September 8. Others in our area have experienced similar early ripening. The tonnage of grapes is lower than the last two vintage. The quality is superb and will make excellent wine. I would say 2015 is an excellent vintage for wines from the Santa Rita Hills.”

Tracey Hawkins, co-founder of Hawk and Horse Vineyards in Lake County, is also excited about the harvest, in spite of the Valley Fire that swept through parts of the region in September. “Lake County has seen an early and slightly light 2015 harvest, with some wineries recording their earliest harvest to date,” said Hawkins. “It was a hot, dry summer, which made the fruit from this vintage, very flavorful—and may account for the lightness and earliness of the vintage. Most report tonnage approximately 10 percent lighter than usual, however, others report slightly larger than normal tonnages. Fruit quality across the board is stellar. Harvest was delayed for some when the Valley Fire struck, but harvest resumed in most areas within four days.”

“The drought clearly had an effect in this 2015 vintage,” stated Montse Reece, winemaker for Pedroncelli Winery in Sonoma County. “This has been an early and light harvest, with smaller berries and concentrated fruit flavors. The high temperatures in August and early September accelerated maturity and picking times. Yields were 20 percent lower on average. I’m seeing mild acids, moderate to low alcohols and intense aromatics in all our varieties. This is a vintage of exceptional quality.”

There was more praise for fruit quality from Aaron Lange, who is in charge of viticulture operations at Lange Twins Family Winery & Vineyards. “The 2015 vintage in the Lodi appellation was early, light, and intense,” said Lange. “The season began almost three full weeks ahead of normal and was complete by the end of September. Red varietals, like Cabernet Sauvignon, had light yields across the board, mostly due to loose clusters and small berry size. Throughout the season, we worked hard to keep up with the fast-paced harvest to deliver winegrapes to wineries at the optimal time with winemakers loving the concentrated colors and flavors of the fruit."

For more information: Wine Institute

Niles Canyon Railway hosts its first Beer Train

Niles Canyon Railway, famous for its Livermore Valley Wine Tasting Specials offered every summer, introduced their new Octoberfest Beer Train this year.  This was obviously a need that had been unfulfilled since the event sold out very rapidly.  The intention is to have several more Beer Trains intermixed with the Wine Tasting Specials next summer.

For the first Beer Train, Niles Canyon Railway invited three local Livermore Microbreweries to come on aboard to share their brews with the passengers.  Each microbrewery brought along three of their great beers.  Passengers were very happy with the tour commenting that they enjoyed the varieties of beer and how smoothly the event was handled, not only with the beer but also with the food that was available for purchase.

Making beer might sound simple but it is actually a complex operation.  Beer consists of four major items Water, Malt, Hops and Yeast.  However the end result depends completely on the complex mixture and versions of each of these ingredients.  Water can be hard, soft, alkaline, or more.  You might be lucky to have the right water from your tap for the beer you wish to produce, or you might have to take steps to achieve the type of water you need.  Malt, barley that has undergone malting, adds the sugars that will be converted to alcohol by the yeast.  They type of malt also contributes to the appearance and flavor of the final product.  For instance lager malt differs from ale malt that differs from stouts partly due to the malt type.

Brats being served
Hops are a flower that contributes to the bitterness, flavor and aroma of beer.  They also reduce the potential for bacterial infection and help stable the shelf life.  Yeast has the primary duty of converting the sugars of the malt into ethanol.  Thus yeast is what makes the beer.  Their action is highly dependent upon the temperature.  Ale yeast are top fermenters working best at room temperature, Lager yeast are bottom fermenters working at cooler temperatures. 

The three local Livermore microbreweries served up a variety of beery types for the enjoyment of the passengers.

Altamont Brew Works
Altamont Brew Works is Livermore’s first microbrewery and was established in 2012 and is located at 2402 Research Drive near Lawrence Livermore Labs.  Home brewers Steve Satori and Greg Robles met at The Mad Zymurgists, a home brew group composed mostly of chemists, engineers and scientists from Lawrence Livermore Labs.  They were serving:
  • Hop Wash IPA – This is a light bodied double IPA brewed to especially showcase the tropical citrus notes from mosaic and experimental Hop 5256.  Sitting higher on the alcohol levels, this beer will not disappoint. 
  • Left Coast Session - This is a west coast style India Session Ale, pale ale that is light in color and body.  With a huge amount of whirlpool hops and an even bigger dry hop.  This beer has a very hoppy nose, full of flavor with very little bitterness, huge notes of citrus and tropical fruit are immense on both the nose and the palate.
  • Berry White – This beer is a summer wheat/cream ales brewed with pale malt and white wheat, finished with natural blackberries.  It finishes dry, with a residual creaminess from the lactose and is mellow, crisp and fruity for those hot summer days.

Working Man Brewery
Working Man Brewery – is located at 5542 Brisa Street just off of Vasco Road.  They opened in 2013 with the merging of two independent breweries, Mt. Diablo Brewing and Working Man Brewing Company coming together to share their passion for beer.  The brewers Joel Pelote and Matt Stine are beer geeks at heart with a goal of producing beer they are proud to share and proud to drink.  They were serving:
  • Whistleblower Belgian WIT - A Belgian style wheat beer with a small amount of oats for a smooth malt character.  Additions of coriander and orange peel give this traditional wheat beer a spicy character.
  • 9 TO 5 Pale Ale - This full-bodied, golden hued pale ale is perfect for when you are done with the 9 to 5 grind, or anytime!  Crisp and clean with smooth hop bitterness, it is refreshing after a long work day.
  • Sneaky Devil Double IPA - A light golden double-IPA with plenty of body and malt character to match the aggressive hoppiness. Blends of Columbus and Centennial hops round out the aroma.  Don’t let the light color fool you.  This beer packs a punch.

Eight Bridges Brewing
Eight Bridges Brewery Company  is a family owned production, the Beardsley family, brewery and tasting room that is focused on delivering a great craft beer experience.  They are located at 332 Earhart Way near the Livermore airport.  They self-distribute to local alehouses, bars, pubs and restaurants in the greater San Francisco Bay area. They focus is on enhancing the success of our wholesale customers through consistent delivery, sustained beer quality, and innovative ways to enhance the success of their beer tenders and serving staff.  All of their beers are balanced and flavor forward – great with food.  They were serving:
  • Brewno Marzen – This Fest bier is an amber lager that is malty with a touch of hops.  The aroma is of lightly toasted malts and smells similar to fresh baked bread.  The flavor is crisp, with a slightly fuller body than a pilsner.
  • Twisted Red – This is an easy drinking Red Ale that is definitely red but the American hop bill gives a typical pale ale type flavor with added caramel sweetness.  Expect a malt flavor with a caramel or slight molasses/raisin sweetness combined with a very slight bitterness from hops.
  • O’Beardsley’s Stout – This is an opaque black with a tan head and slightly sweeter than a dry stout.  Aromas are of roasted malt blended with some chocolate and coffee notes.  The flavor is a balance between chocolate and coffer supported by some background sweetness.

For more information:

Magnificent blends from Longevity Wines

Longevity Wines is well known, not only for their exquisite wines but also for their hospitality. 

Walk in the door of their winery on Vasco Road and you will be greeted by Debra and Chief of Security and Vice President of Hospitality, Press-Ton, their Havanese winery dog who happily greets every visitor to Longevity. 
In July 2008 Longevity Wines (the name coming from the family name Long) opened on Rickenbacker Circle, an industrial complex just off Kitty Hawk Road.  This is an “urban” winery producing wines from grapes grown by other vineyards around Livermore.  Winemaking is a passion for winemaker Phil Long, who has a background as a creative director for the retail display company. 

When Longevity began operation they produced 500 cases the first year with plans to grow to 2500 cases within five years.  To achieve that productivity required more space so a few years later they moved to the current location along Vasco Road, in the same building as Occasio and Nottingham wineries. 

The Longevity philosophy declares it is not just about the wines, but the experience. The food you have with it, the friends you share the wine with and the location the experience takes place. Everyone who visits the tasting room is treated like family, and always brings back friends for the experience. What is immediately obvious is the passion of Phil and Debra in producing fine wines and making Longevity a success.

Blends always bring out the best in any winemaker.  Here the winemaker has the challenge of developing a wine that meets his or her expectations utilizing a complex mixture of grapes from different areas and then utilizing a variety of techniques in crushing, aging, and more to put together that perfect wine.  The actual composition of blended wines will vary from vintage to vintage depending upon the characteristics of the fruit.  Phil Long has always loved the complexity that comes with making blends and he has produced three wonderful wines named after the members of the family, Phil, Debra and, of course, Press-Ton.

His first blend was Deb-ru-vee’, Longevity’s signature Rhone Style blend.  The 2011 Deb-ru-vee’ is a blend of 40% Grenache, 36% Syrah, 17% Mourvedre and 7% Petite Sirah all from Livermore Valley.  This wine is aged for 30 months in French oak barrels.  It first greets you with a nice dark ruby color and then aromas and flavors of dark fruit including black cherry, blackberry and blueberry plus a very nice floral character, minerality and a touch of minerality.  This leads on to a long smooth lingering finish.  The price is $36.

The 2009 Phil-osophy is a Bordeaux blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Merlot, 13% Cabernet Franc and 6% Petit Verdot.  This huge well balanced wine has been aged in both French and American oak for 35 months.  It exhibits a complex mixture of dark fruit including black cherry, currant and jam tied together with a nice smokiness and delightful texture that leads to a long complex finish that is rich and delightful.  This is an award-winning wine with Silver from the 2013 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, Silver from the 2013 Riverside International Wine Competition and Bronze from the 2013 Orange County Fair.  The price is $42.

The 2011 Press-Ton is a nice right-bank Bordeaux blend with 46% Cabernet Franc, 39% Petit Verdot and 15% Merlot.  It is aged in French oak barrels and delivers a complex combination of dark fruits including blackberry, black cherry, black plum and current.  On top of these flavors you will enjoy the minerality, earthiness and firm tannins and structure.  This is truly a very enjoyable wine and would go great at your next barbeque.  The price is $29.

For more information:  Longevity Wines

The Fall release party at Bokisch Vineyards

Liz and Markus Bokisch gathered together wine club members recently for their Fall release of four delicious red wines.  Bokisch Vineyards has focused on Spanish varietal wines from Lodi.  This passion started with his family heritage and, while he grew up in California, he spent his summers in Spain with his family.  In 1992 Markus and Liz moved to Spain to work in the Spanish wine industry in Riamat and the Penedes, both areas known for their high quality wines.  Upon their return they started planting their vineyards with bud wood imported from Spain.

Liz and Marcus Bokisch
Bokisch Vineyards now produces nine award winning Spanish varietal wines including Albarino, Garnacha, Garnacha Blanc, Monastrell, Graciano, Tempranillo, Verdejo and Verdelho.  The Fall Release included the 2013 vintage of Garnacha, Monastrell, Graciano and Tempranillo.

The 2013 Terra Alta Vineyard Garnacha is a very easy drinking wine but with the complexity and balance of a premium wine.  In terms of aromas and flavors you will enjoy the red fruit qualities of strawberry, boysenberry and cranberry.  It has a bit of a candied feel combined with nice acidity and evident, but enjoyable, tannins.  According to Bokisch, “the flavors of cranberry cocktail and fresh strawberry daiquiri with a cherry vanilla quality is reminiscent of Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia ice cream.”  The price is $20 per bottle.

The 2013 Belle Colline Vineyard Monastrell (also known as Mourvedre in France) has a dark raspberry flavor with elements of figs and jam.  This particular grape is known for its earthiness and forest floor qualities and it is very evident in this wine.  This continues on to a nice long finish with delightful tannins.  Bokisch likes to say that this wine even has a hint of buttermilk pancakes topped with cherry syrup.   The price is $23.

The 2013 Tempranillo from Liberty Oaks and Las Cerezas Vineyards depicts the nice versatility that is famous for this grape.  It is a blend of 85% Tempranillo and 15% Graciano.  It has a beautiful dark purple color with aromas and flavors of black cherry, blackberry, cola, and cranberry with some floral quality plus strength and balance that leads to a long finish.  The price is $23.

The 2013 Graciano from Las Cerezas and Terra Alta Vineyards is 100% Graciano.  This is a grape that you rarely find in a 100% varietal wine in Spain, but has developed a large following here in the United States and mostly because of Markus Bokisch, not only for his own wine but for wines from several other California wineries who utilized fruit from his vineyards.  It has both a floral quality and strong but approachable tannins tied in with aromas and fruits of blackberry jam, mint, licorice and dark fruit.  The price is $23 per bottle.

For more information:  Bokisch Vineyards

Napa Valley's new Coombsville AVA among last to finish harvest

Coombsville, the latest Napa Valley AVA to gain Federal approval for use as an official appellation, was also among the latest to finish the remarkably early 2015 harvest. As of October 14, virtually all Coombsville grapes have been harvested. Reports from members of the Coombsville Vintners and Growers Association tell of early picking, yields upwards of 50% below normal, along with outstanding concentration of flavors.
“Dry, hot and early are the three adjectives that describe the 2015 growing season.  Bud set was early.  A hot summer then drove a small, concentrated, early crop.  Francis Vineyards harvested September 22nd, a month earlier than the norm over the last 5 years.  While yields were down 35% from 2014, quality appears to be outstanding.” Rob Francis, proprietor of Francis Vineyard     
“We completed the harvest of our Coombsville vineyard on October 1, a good three weeks earlier than normal. The cluster count was fairly close to normal but the berry weight was much lighter delivering a yield down by 35%. The quality is excellent which we attribute to Coombsville cooler environment.” Harry Parsley, Proprietor, Silver Stag Winery
“This year’s harvest was the earliest in my 16 years in Coombsville. We completed our harvest on September 30th. We normally pick our Cabernet Sauvignon at the end of October and this year we were one month early. Our old block had a lot of shatter yielding 50% of our normal crop and yielding 1.5 tons per acre. The quality however looks great.” Paul Maroon, Proprietor, Maroon Wines.     
“In the 15 years we have grown Cabernet Sauvignon on our First Avenue site we have never harvested this early.  However, our vintners clients are happy with the quality, as expressed by one who said, ‘The quality thus far is exceptional with sugars higher than in years past.’  Yields are down about 25% from last year.” Richard Bennett, Proprietor, Bennett Vineyards
“We harvested all of our Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Meritage grapes on September 19, a full 5 weeks ahead of our normal picking dates of around Halloween! Overall, grape tonnage is light due to the "shatter" that was experienced in June. We saw 40-50% below normal yields.  However, quality is extremely high with wonderful color, aromas and flavors.” Rebecca Sciandri Griffin, Sciandri Family Vineyards.   

"We harvested our Coombsville vineyards very early this year due largely to 2015 being exceedingly warm. However, this is what we normally deal with in California—heat, dry conditions and nearly no water. This year we saw the real benefit of Coombsville's cooler climate. The wine from the 2015 Coombsville harvest is very concentrated and very good—but I had to work hard for it this year." Julien Fayard, Co-Owner, Covert Estate.

"Growing grapes in the cooler Coombsville AVA can sometimes feel like a lonely job. Over a month ago my fellow Napa Valley vintners celebrated the beginning of harvest…but my grapes in Coombsville were only 23° brix. Stopping by the winemaking supply house and chatting with my fellow vintners they exclaim they are 90% “in”, while I hadn’t even started yet. Showing up at the wine lab to drop off test samples, I find they are closed early since ‘harvest is over,’ but I still have two vineyards hanging! In all, we finished harvest in Coombsville on October 8, nearly three weeks earlier than normal. Yields were down 20% due to very tiny berries and fewer of them. However, the color is a magnificent inky blue in the reds and great concentration is the hallmark of our Coombsville 2015 vintage.” Tracy Riechow, Black Cat Vineyard.

The Coombsville AVA is located in the southeast corner of Napa Valley directly east of the town of Napa. It was approved as an official American Viticultural Area in December 2011. For more information about the Coombsville AVA

Downtown Campbell visitors enjoy a stroll down Campbell Avenue with wine and friendly shops

One of the many joys of living in the Bay Area is the opportunity to enjoy an evening strolling delightful downtown areas on a lovely Fall evening and enjoying some fine wine. The Downtown Campbell Business Association held their sold-out Fall Wine Walk recently welcoming hundreds of visitors to the many interesting and unique businesses in the Downtown Campbell. Winemakers from 26 wineries from around Northern California were there to share their wines with visitors while everyone had the chance to explore the many interesting shops in downtown Campbell.

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, shoe store, antique stores, boutiques, salons and even a funeral parlor and bicycle shop. 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.

Here is just a sample of what could be found during the Fall Wine Walk.

Rubin Family of Wines
The Rubin Family of Wines from the Green River Valley of Sonoma County offered their 2012 Pinot Noir and the 2013 Unoaked Chardonnay at the Olive Bar, a great place to find olive oil, balsamic vinegars and coconut oil you need for your needs for your cuisine.  The Pinot had a very nice bouquet and flavors of raspberry and cherry with a touch of white pepper and spice.  The Pamela’s Un-Oaked Chardonnay was designed to provide the white wine that Ron Rubin’s wife Pamela would enjoy.  It offers crisp clean flavors of lemon and ripe apple.

At the House of Brass, they hosted Tank House Winery who was sharing tastes of their 2010 Syrah, 2011 Zinfandel, 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon and 2011 Barrel 24 blend.  House of Brass is a perfect place to find that brass hardware, fireplace accessory and fire pits to enhance your home.  All of the Tank House wines were delicious.  The Barrel 24 is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Zinfandel and aged in oak for over a year.

Music on the street
Along a parking lot on Campbell Avenue at Pro Martial Arts, a martial arts school teaching traditional Korean martial arts, we found Lion Ranch Vineyards and Winery, a new winery in San Martin. The history of Lion Ranch, originally part of the Spanish land grant Rancho San Francisco de las Llagas, began in the last 1800s when Lazard “Leopold” Lion purchased 5585 acres to use for farming fruit orchards and other crops. They shared their 2013 Viognier from Santa Clara Valley and the 2013 Lions Share blend of Viognier, Roussanne, Marsanne and Grenache Blanc.

Rocket Fizz is always a fun place to visit in Campbell offering fun soda pop and candies, many that you remember from your own childhood.  Jack’s House Wines set up shop here for the evening.  Jack and Barbara Nicklaus and the Terlato Family partnered to create Jack’s House Foundation, a charitable organization focused on healthcare and education.  This commitment to quality, community and philanthropy led to the creation of Jack’s House wines.  Thirty cents of the sale of every bottle supports the efforts of Jack’s House Foundation.

Naumann Vineyards
Naumann Vineyards offered their 2014 Merlot Rose, 2011 Chardonnay and 2007 Merlot at one of most fun shops in Campbell, the Kaleido Lamps.  Kaleido has a wide variety of artistic lamps that you have to see to believe. 

Stefania Wines
At the far end of Campbell Avenue near Winchester you will find The Art Beat, a creative art studio offering a variety of art activities for different age groups from pre-school to adults.  Here we found Stefania Wines, a winery that started with home winemakers planting grapes in their back yard and now Stefania and Paul have opened their own winery.  At the Wine Walk we got to taste their 2011 Haut Tubee, which they call a “little of this and a little of that” with a wide variety of red wine grapes included.  It has a nice red cherry nose and some dark fruit.  Wine lovers also enjoyed their 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon from the Santa Cruz Mountains, a very nice, rich wine full of fruits, tannin and structure.

The Downtown Campbell Business Association hosts several Wine Walks during the year. 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.

Music on the street
For more information about Downtown Campbell and their many events:

Music to your ears as Mandolin Vintners releases Monterey Chardonnay and Pinot Noir

Mandolin Vintners concentrate on producing wines that depict their terroir, sense of place, of Monterey County, including Santa Lucia Highlands, Arroyo Seco and Hames Valley. This region is strongly influenced by the Pacific Ocean with long hot days and cooling ocean breezes in the afternoon and fog in the morning.

The 2014 Mandolin Monterey Chardonnay grapes are sourced from vineyards in the famous Santa Lucia Highlands region of Monterey County.  Here the high winds, dry days and bay fogs create a cool, long growing season perfect for Chardonnay.  This beautiful Chardonnay has a nice complex mixture of tropical fruit and a touch of green apple.  The crisp acidity and great mouthfeel lead on to a long finish.  The price is $10.

The 2013 Mandolin Monterey Pinot Noir is also from Santa Lucia Highlands in Monterey County.  This wine was aged for 18 months in French oak barrels.  The result is a ruby wine with aromas and flavors of red fruit including cherry and raspberry coupled with a nice touch of spice, cedar, leather and a bit of earthiness.  The price is $12.

A mandolin is an instrument from the lute family that is noted for its brilliant tone and great carrying power. Mandolin wines reflect on their namesake as their fruit from the California Central Coast delivers full fruit flavors and great carrying power. Mandolin Vintners is a collaboration between winemaker Philip Zorn and wine executive Brent Shortridge. Philip Zorn, American-born and raised in Germany graduated from the highest rated enology school in Germany and has expanded his knowledge at several wineries in California, including Sunny St. Helena, Gauer Estate, Paraiso Springs and Tria. Shortridge began his winemaking career under legendary winemaker Andre Tchelistcheff at Buena Vista Winery. He eventually left the cellar to become vice president of marketing for Buena Vista.

For more information: Mandolin Vintners

Premier Cruz event in Santa Cruz Mountains

The Santa Cruz Mountains' most celebrated cabernet event: Premier Cruz, A Mountain Cabernet Experience will showcase 2005 vintages from Bordeaux, Santa Cruz Mountains and Napa Valley. Hosted by the Santa Cruz Mountains Winegrowers Association (SCMWA), Premier Cruz will take place on Sunday, November 8, from 9:30 to 2:30 PM at The Mountain Winery, Saratoga, CA.

The event will feature a three part technical tasting sessions.  The first session starts with a presentation by Wine Historian Charles Sullivan about the history of Mountain Cabernet Winemaking in California.  This is followed by a session on Regional Identity covering Cabernet appreciation and a vintage Cabernet tasting from Santa Cruz Mountains.  The third part features a wrap up with a discussion on Proper Cellaring techniques.

Vintners of Santa Cruz Mountains have been producing award-winning Cabernets since the mid 1800’s.  Monte Bello Cabernet from Ridge Vineyards won the Judgment in Paris tasting in 1976. 

Panelists for this year’s event include:

Charles L. Sullivan is the premier wine historian of the Santa Cruz Mountains.  He has published a number of books on California wine, grapes and history. He will cover the history of winemaking in the Santa Cruz Mountains with an emphasis on cabernet.

Eric Entrikin is a Master Sommelier and adjunct instructor for the International Culinary Center. Entrikin's discussion will focus on the effects of aging wine, proper cellar conditions, basic service techniques and decanting.

Mozy Tehrani of Exclusive Imports of Beverly Hills began working in the wine industry in 1979 and is one of the foremost experts in the French wine industry.

Jim Rollston is a Sommelier and the Beverage Director at Manresa Restaurant located in Los Gatos, CA. Rollston has nearly 20 years of experience in the wine and hospitality industry, including roles at the former Cyrus Restaurant in Healdsburg, Baumé in Palo Alto and the three restaurants of The Lodge at Pebble Beach. In addition to the wine program, Rollston oversees the beverage team, lending his expertise to beer, cocktails, spirits and more in pairing with Chef Kinch's cuisine.

Wilfred Wong, Chief Storyteller of Wong has been in the business for four decades, and tastes roughly 8,000 wines a year. He's also become popular on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook.

Event Details:
Premier Cruz - A Mountain Cabernet Experience
The Mountain Winery, Saratoga, CA.
9:30am to 2:30pm

Technical Session: 9:30am-12:00pm, $45
Technical Session and Tasting: 12:00pm-2:30pm, $65

To learn more and purchase tickets check the Santa Cruz Mountains Winegrowers Association website. 

Enjoy Poizin, the wine to die for, from Armida Wines for Halloween

Poizin from Armida Winery in Dry Creek Valley is the wine to die for!  This deep dark Zinfandel is a delicious wine with ripe ruby cherries, plums and a hint of herbs.  Poizin has a velvety texture that envelopes your mouth with a richness you can expect from a fine Dry Creek Valley Zin.  Poizin also has a touch of Petite Sirah.  Each bottle of the 2013 Poizin has a skull and crossbones symbol on the face in a blood red color and is the perfect wine for your Halloween meal with friends.  The price is only $25.

The Reserve Poizin the bottle is hand-etched and painted with the blood red color.  The bottle is dipped in a blood red wax and the color drips down the neck like dripping blood.  Finally the exquisite bottle is sealed in its own wooden coffin.   This beautiful, yet eerie package sells for $80.

For the white wine lovers, you should enjoy the 2013 Antidote in its blue bottle.  This dry Russian River Valley Pinot Gris is fermented on extended lees to create a beautifully complex wine with a crisp, bright nose of cantaloupe and Meyer Lemon.  The price is $20.

Armida Winery was founded by brothers Steve and Bruce Cousins in 1994 and they have progressively turned this Dry Creek Valley winery into a producer of artisan, single vineyard wines using grapes from the best winegrowers in Sonoma County.  Their winemaker is Brandon Lapides who joined Armida Winery a few years ago.  They produce a great selection of Zinfandel, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir but their most famous wine is the Poizin and its companion, “Antidote”, a Pinot Grigio.

For more information: Armida Winery

Ride along the Pacific Coast Wine Trail in San Luis Obispo County

Along California's Coastal Highway 1 from San Simeon to Morro Bay, ten award-winning wineries have come together to promote the beauty and diversity of Central Coast wines in one geograp

hic location: The Pacific Coast Wine Trail (PCWT). Nestled along a 28-mile stretch of Pacific Coastline in San Luis Obispo County, the wineries of the PCWT are located off the beaten path in five quaint, seaside towns, making it the perfect "secret spot" for wine tasting, offering experiences as unique as the coastal communities themselves.
"All ten of the Pacific Coast Wine Trail wineries feature handcrafted small production wines from local vineyards, showcasing their own personality and style of winemaking," said Maria Benetti, General Manager of Stolo Family Vineyards. "That's what makes us a unique wine trail, and that we offer a range of boutique Rhone, Bordeaux, Burgundian, Tuscan and Alsatian varietal wines, grown, harvested and vinted with care and excellence."
Just a three-to-four hour drive south from the Bay Area or north from Los Angeles, the PCWT's unmatched coastal location and Mediterranean weather make it the perfect destination for a great "secret spot" wine tasting getaway year round. Visitors traveling the PCWT are encouraged to enjoy an additional view on wine pairing: balance your wine tasting adventure with hiking, antiquing, beach time, a visit to Hearst Castle, kayaking, viewing the elephant seal rookery just north of San Simeon, or the Cormorant Rookery on the harbor in Morro Bay.
The PCWT also offers a Brochure and Tasting Passport, inviting wine lovers to visit and taste at each destination. Guests who travel the Trail and collect a stamp at five or more wineries will be entered into a semi-annual drawing to win a wine lifestyle package. Passports can be downloaded from the website or found at any of the ten wineries. 

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