14 December, 2014

BrixChick Liza' Gift Guide: Soulful Napa: A Visit to Corison Winery

Good friends and good times require good wines.

You can't go wrong selecting Corison wines to gift, to visit or to order on the wine list if you see it.  When I visited to taste this fall I was blown away not  just by the wine, but by the feeling of family, quality and connection that emanates from Corison Winery.

2011 Corison Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley   ($80) Dark and pretty in the glass, the aromas had a welcoming puff of black fruit, roasted tomato, cedar and a hint of tea smoke. Well integrated flavors with a kiss of bramble and a long lively finish. It's a beautifully made wine; graceful and natural.  Cathy Corison says she lets the vineyard speak and you want to hear more. Even the label is timeless with the graphics inspired by those found on ancient wine containers.  

There was an article on the wall with headline "Subtle..." and I thought how perfect.  The wine was nuanced and well, subtle.  You could taste the care.  

I took the opportunity to gift some good friends with this wine at our annual get together at a wonderful Dogpatch spot, Piccino, (1001 Minnesota, SF) A wine like this marks an occasion not for the scores it gets it or the awards it garners or not, but rather for the elegant companionship and taste of quality and place.  

For Soulful Napa, it makes a great gift.  If you are not in Northern CA, Flemings also carries this. Carve the time out to spend with good friends and celebrate with a soulful wine of quality 

Buy here

12 December, 2014

BrixChick Liza's Gift Guide: Artful Napa: Visit Hall Wines

Where's Bunny Foo Foo?
Caught up in a sharknado of year end work?  Did Stormageddon set your schedule back a week? Are you shopping for a regifter?

Try gifting an experience.

Whether you are biking distance or need to go transoceanic, Napa is a great spot to visit with a friend.  The act of setting aside time to make memories is something you will never sell at a garage sale. 

But what to do when there is just so much? Let me suggest three things I did this summer, that loosely fall into Artful Napa, Soulful Napa and Rockstar Napa.

First on my list is Artful Napa:

Hall Wines was started by two overachievers who worked toward a winery dream.  Craig and Kathryn,  serial entrepreneur and lawyer-ambassador and both art lovers, had a vision
for a State of the art winery. Their vision included excellence, sustainability and sharing beautiful art with their guests.  Hall Wines became one of the first wineries to achieve Gold LEEDS status,  literally the gold standard for sustainability and for doing well by doing good.  Part of that included saving the beautiful old stone 1881 winery.  Saving the old stones with their patina of longevity dresses the space with a unique elegance. Though, for full disclosure, the barn may be haunted.   

The Halls' love of art is something they share with all their visitors.  Even if modern art is not your thing, these pieces have been selected and placed in a way that enriches any visit.  Just remember look but don't touch, though the art will beguile and tempt you.  However, that art has nothing on the wine

A wonderful thing about Hall Wines is that they offer delicious wines at many price points.  Not just the  $200 perfect score 100 point Exzellenz, but affordable Napa Sauvignon Blanc. Crisply acidic, balanced and  a bargain at $24. 

My favorite was the 2011 HALL "Eighteen Seventy-Three" Cabernet Sauvignon ($80)  Our wonderful tour guide , Jeff described it as "a French school girl ditching school in her mom's perfume and her dad's old bomber jacket while learning to smoke."  Violets on finish with 3% Merlot blended in.

Click here to see the fun activities you can reserve at the St. Helena facility. Wine 101 is a great place to start as it  opens a little earlier than most winery experiences and also helps get your group on the same page. 
Sunset Cruise colors

The "Sunset Cruise" is  a great way to wind down your day in Napa.  Art gets woven into your experience in a really cool way here.  These colors on the bar wall were pulled from a summary color gamut of colors found in the estate vista.

But if you are looking for the perfect gift., the Rutherford location just released an amazing opportunity that will put Santa to shame.

HALL Rutherford’s Appellation Exploration is an exclusive tasting experience that includes a tour of the modern wine production facility, an overview of the art and best of all,  a tasting of three ultra premium wines from special appellations. 

It takes place in the Chandelier Cave, under a dazzling light fixture made from 1500 Swarovski crystals.  Think luxurious first class window seat to examine how place affects wine.  Only the appellation is different as the same team vinifies from select and sought after vineyards.  100 point winners can't be wrong

HALL Rutherford’s Appellation Exploration experience is $125pp / $100 for Club Members/GEMS.
To reserve this experience, please call (707) 967-2626. This is an extremely limited offering and available by appointment only. 

Photo credit Hall Wines

08 December, 2014

BrixChick Liza's Gift Guide: Armchair Trip to Spain or a Review of Heredad Collection's Wines

'Tis the season! If you are making a list and checking it twice, then scratching your head and trying to come up with something dazzling, let Santa Liza help out.

Last year at our fund raising gala, one of the most hotly bid items, was what we called an "Armchair trip to Spain".  We put together three bottles from three regions and packaged it as a way to get together with a few friends and learn about Spanish wine together.

Turns out, the Ferrer Family was a few steps ahead of us.  We leveraged a great palate, but they leveraged more than a century of wine making history to create a collection of lovely limited-release, ultra-premium wines that each showcase a Spanish region.  I was lucky enough to try them early in the Fall and made a note: What a perfect gift this would make!  Whether you are shopping for one oenophile who wants to peruse at her leisure or a book club full of gal pals that want to grab some tapas and run through the gamut, the wines of the Heredad Collection will surprise and delight.

Best of all, this handy Locator will light your way better than Rudolf to where you can quickly and easily find what you need for your gift basket.

The stated goal of the Heredad Collection is to present "wines of character with a distinct sense of place"  They carefully curate all the details of this program from an enological perspective to bring the taste of Spain's top regions to the international wine drinking community.  
Wines of
The Heredad Collection
                              Valdubón Cosecha and Reserva         D.O. Ribera del Duero
                              VAZA Cosecha and Crianza             D.O.C. Rioja
                              Vionta Albariño                            D.O. Rías Baixas
                              Morlanda Criança                         D.O.C. Priorat
                              Mas de Subirà                              D.O.C. Priorat
                              Garbó Red and Rosé                      D.O. Montsant
                              Paramus Verdejo                           D.O. Rueda.

All of the wines were delicious with a distinct taste of place, unique characters and star quality.  And speaking of stars, we were led through the tasting by Freixenet's International Wine Development Direct, WIll Willis, who himself bears a striking resemblance to Hugh Grant, though his real claim to fame is an impressive knowledge and enthusiasm for all things wine!

Vionta,  Albarino, Rias Baixas Think food..Think Spain.This fine wine is made to match salads and fishes.  Our hosts suggested using the Vionta Albariño as mignonette for oysters.  100% Albarino, it had a clear yellow color with a touch of green.  The flavors were tropical that broke to a pleasant peachiness.  Acidity made it crisp and delicious and a wonderful pair for our salad
Paramus, Verdejo White Wine , Rueda 85% Verdejo and 15% Viura, The road to Rueda is the route that brings fish through heart of region, so it's natural the region's wines are tasty with fish. Bright straw yellow, its nose was complex and interesting, shifting in the glass with aromas of white flowers, herbs and pear. It is an everyday food friendly wine great with salads 

Garbo, Rose, Montsant This beautiful rose has a gorgeous watermelon pink color coming from 6 hours of skin contact of the 70% Garnacha/30%Shiraz blend.  Floral aromas,red fruit and the refreshing splash of river rocks make  great wine.  At 14.2 % alcohol, but very balanced.  Garbo means "jig of delight"  

Vaza Cosecha, Rioja Vaza taken from the word "Bazas" which means "new beginnings". This wine hails from the medieval village of Laguardia in Rioja Alavesa and it is made in a modern yet traditional way.  100% Tempranillo it had a dark color and welcoming aromas of red fruit.  Modern techniques make it rich as well as accessible quickly

Mas de Subira, Priorat   50% Garnacha Tinta with 50% Carinena All hand harvested, these low yield ---1.25 tons per acre--produce high payload flavor. Cherry and smoke seasoned by 12 months in French oak.  Looking at the label, you will see 15.7 alcohol, but the wine is so well balanced, it does not taste or smell hot.

Morlanda, Priorat  
50% Garnacha Tinta with 50% Carinena Coming from soils that are are steep and terraced, this was my favorite with its dark pretty color.  The aromas were intense and complex, cherry with notes of dark fruit and luscious flavor.  

Valdubon, Crianza, Ribera Del Duero 100% Tempranillo with aromas of red fruit, anise, and exotic elements.  Lovely tannins.  Complex , elegant and that perfect guest at your dinner party that goes with everything. Made in a style that brings it to market quickly but allows ageing potential. I hope you have the patience, because I would find this wine difficult to resist

Valdubon, Reserva, Ribera Del Duero  100% Tempranillo Dark intriguing wine.  Balanced and beautifully made from carefully grown fruit bringing together spice, dark fruit and a nice structure

Spain has 69 denominaciones de origen  but these represent the best areas.  Trying these wines will give you a sense of what makes each region special and what makes Spain so special.  Sharing with friends and food will be a great gift for anyone on your list.  Wine always makes it better, doesn't it?

Many thanks to the wonderful folks at Ferrer who imbue each experience with hospitality and sabor.  Thanks so much for the invitation and opportunity to learn more about your wonderful wines!

30 October, 2014

What to Drink this Halloween? Think German Wine!

Buying Halloween candy early is not something I recommend.  I can't be trusted with candy, you see.  So I always rush out a the last minute to buy.  I usually pick up something fun to "pair". 

This year thanks to Wines of Germany,  I previewed some tasty samples with a small assortment of candy (not the pounds of Mars- made deliciousness I scored at Costco and left in the garage)

At their suggestion I tried Spaetburgunder with licorice.  I like how the candy bumped up the red fruit character of the wine, while the acid in the wine tamped down the rampant sweetness of the licorice.  I also tried it with the salted caramel truffle and was pleased with the peanut butter and jelly riff the two played together.

2010 Franz Anton Spaetburgunder, Baden ($25):
Light in color, this Pinot Noir based wine packs a restrained and elegant punch.  The consonant laden name belies a tart and interesting Pinot Noir with nice acidity and a character of red fruit with interesting herbal notes.  The suggested pairing is game bird, but I found it surprisingly tasty with Halloween Candy

Of course Riesling goes with everything and the all weather delight of the Selbach fish went as easily with Pez as with licorice as with the suggested nougatty candy.  It's not always easy to pair with chocolate but the creamy milk chocolate truffles, with their salted toffee chips was a good match

2013 Selbach "Fish" Riesling, Kabinett, Mosel ($14)
This cheerful wine is slightly sweet and silky.  It is a holiday standby for me as even non-wine drinkers enjoy it and it goes with everything.  Put it with spicy Asian food...yes the kind you can grab in  a pinch and it's a hit.  If you grab this to go with your second batch of Halloween candy, you will be delighted

But the most perfect match for the candy and your holiday festivities is the 2013 Moselland "Black Cat" Riesling ($14)

Fresh and fruity with hints of stone fruit and an easy going nature, what hostess wouldn't be delighted by the cat shaped bottle?  Orange and black cats contain the same wine

I had the chance to visit Moselland's facility and was awed by the size of it.  The wonderful folks who toured us around were friendly and showed us the large tanks farms and the ueber-modern bottling plants.  But the fibreglas tanks told the story of the longevity of the place.  While you can look out at some of Mosel's famous vineyards from its windows, Moselland strives to aggregate German fruit and put together more entry level offerings.  Clean Slate Riesling, a perennial BevMo favorite of mine, is also made there.

But for Halloween, head to CostPlus WorldMarket grab some décor and some Riesling Cats and make it a party!

Halloween. Or just make your favorite crazy cat lady happy!

18 August, 2014

From DEVO to Wino - The Evolution of Gerald Casale

Back in the days of Punk, New Wave and 80’s synth pop I was a huge fan of DEVO and their driving synthesized beats carrying tunes of social de-evolution and political angst. So when I was invited to meet Gerald (Jerry) Casale, one of the founding fathers of DEVO, I jumped at the chance to chat with him and taste his wines at the McLoughlin Gallery in San Francsiso. Gerald Casale is not only a member of that iconic band but he now owns a Napa Valley winery and is resurrecting a design from the prominent 20th century German architect Mies Vander Rohe to be his tasting room in Napa Valley.

Are we not men? We are Pinot. Casale with his current releases.

How does a boy from Akron, OH, a former Kent State student and rock icon, grow up to be the proprietor of a winery in Napa Valley? As DEVO became popular they decided to move to Los Angeles in the 80s for better opportunities and the Mediterranean climate. It was during that time that Jerry began his education in food and wine. He got to know the celebrity chefs of Santa Monica at that time including Bruce Marder, Jeramiah Tower, Michael McCarty and Wolfgang Puck, all innovators of “California Cuisine.” Jerry called them the “New Wave Chefs” and Devo has certainly been labelled as a “New Wave” band. He began as a lover of big Cabs but throughout his career Jerry had been exposed to some of the great wines of the world, Pinot Noir in particular (DRC anyone?)and Jerry is a self-professed “Pinot Junkie” who took a special liking to that fickle grape. And his love of wine kept growing until it became a reality for him in the form of his own winery.

The 50 by 50 Estate tasting room

Casale’s winery is called The 50 by 50 which is taken from a Mies Vander Rohe design. It is unique in that you get an uninterrupted 360 degree panoramic view of the gorgeous estate as you survey it from the tasting room. The property is located in Napa in a small valley called Wooden Valley which is southeast of the Atlas Peak AVA. Although the tasting room is still being built the vines of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot have all been planted and we will be able to experience the fruits of his labor in about 5 years.

In the meantime Jerry has released two wines under The 50 by 50 label. He has contracted Kenn Vigoda, winemaker at Napa winery Judd’s Hill custom crushpad facility, to make his wines. As we wait for the Bordeaux varietals to grow Casale has released two Pinot Noirs. The fruit for both Pinots is sourced from the Rodger’s Creek Vineyard, a cool-climate site located between Petaluma and Sonoma in the Sonoma Coast AVA. They are each a 50/50 blend of the Pommard clone and the Dijon 667 clone.

The 50 by 50 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2012 has aromas of dark red fruits and spices, is medium-bodied and has silky palate bursting with strawberry and tart cherry notes.
Song to pair: “Girl U Want” (but replace “Girl” with “Pinot”)

The 50 by 50 Sonoma Coast Rose of Pinot Noir 2013 is a crisp and dry Rose with notes of red berries and melon with a smooth texture and mouthwatering acidity.
Song to pair: That’s Good” (This Rose really is a good thing)

Also, check out the very cool 50 by 50 website www.thefiftybyfifty.com where you can learn more and order wine. The wines can also be ordered through www.wallywine.com

A new use for your flowerpot hat.

**On a different note: DEVO is still touring. Jerry’s brother and fellow bandmate Bob Casale, died suddenly this past February. To raise money for his family’s medical bills, the original members of DEVO have been touring. I missed their Bay Area appearance at the Paramount Theatre in Oakland on June 28th but here is a link to their upcoming tours: http://clubdevo.com/index.php/tour

08 August, 2014

4th Annual Harvest Festival - A taste of Napa with the Mexican American Vintner Association

Mexico is a fascinating wine region.  @lusciouslushes and I had so much fun researching and presenting for the IWINETC conference (slideshare here:)

Surprise!  Mexico is a region that  has been producing wine since the 1800's.

Mexico itself is a wonderful region to travel in as I found on my sojourn to colonial Mexico, enjoying the ruins of Palenque, the nightlife of Veracruz and the culture of San Cristobal de las Casas.  The art, architecture, history and pace of colonial Mexico is special and inspiring.

For me, Morelia was a place we put a pin on to return to see as we wanted to  attend the music festival they have there.  Meanwhile, Morelia was  scene that inspired several Mexican - America vintners to bond in their common interest of promoting wine and vinopanion-ship in 2010.

Still going strong today, this core group of vintners leverage their collective energies to produce wines of quality with a sabor especial.  Next week, their 4th Annual Harvest festival will take place in Napa, CA.

If you are looking for something fun to do next Saturday, August 16th, this is a great way to try something different and special:
"The wines are amazing and it's one of the very few times of the year you can taste Mexican-American Vintner wines all in one place, many of which are not open to the public and are hard to find. "
Participating MAVA members: 
Alex Sotelo Cellars, Ceja Vineyards, Delgadillo Cellars, Encanto Vineyards LLC, Honrama Cellars, Justicia Wines LLC, Maldonado Family Vineyards, Mario Bazan Cellars, Marita’s Vineyard, Mi Sueño Winery, Renteria Wines, Robledo Family Winery, and Volcan Cellars.

Saturday, August 16, 2014
2:00 - 5:00 p.m.
Renteria Wines’ Brown Ranch Vineyard, 4254 Old Sonoma Road, Napa

Special Advance Tickets are still available at $75/ticket by clicking HERE or visit www.NSMAVA.org or call 707-266-1296
Remaining General Admission Tickets will be $100/ticket
Tickets at the Door will be $125/ticket.

Tickets also include food pairings from Chef Richard Haake and Winery Chefs with live music from Trio Soleá. Join the Silent Auction and Raffle and win limited production wines and winery experiences from the participating wineries!

16 July, 2014

Want to go to Spain? A miniVacation awaits at Gloria Ferrer

What could be better than the passion of flamenco, the sparkle of wine, the sizzle of paella and time with  your friends?

I just got back from vacation but am so ready to embark on my mini-break to Spain. How? By attending the Catalan Festival at Gloria Ferrer this weekend.

Best of all the proceeds to go an amazing cause Sonoma Valley Education

The schedule of events includes flamenco, cocktail demos a live band and of course a chance to taste the lovely sparkling wines of Gloria Ferrer

The Bubble Lounge pass is already sold out, but many options to add some Catalonian spice to your weekend are still available:

Click here for tickets

See you by the BrixChickMobile!
Photo Credit: Nannette Eaton @wineHarlots

Riesling Summer School: Dry vs. Sweet German Riesling

Mosel Riesling grapes
The Summer of Riesling continues as we celebrate July's 31 Days of German Riesling.

Having just returned from Santa Barbara County where Rieslings are as beautiful as denizens of Manhattan Beach (and as rare as those specimens among the rest of us), it's fun to turn to two examples of German Riesling waiting on my sample shelf.  One trocken, German for dry, and the other Spaetlese, which is the second level of ochsle or sweetness level of grapes when they are picked. Literally don't fear the reaper on this as acid in German Riesling balances any cloying you would expect and makes the wine very easy to pair with food.

Starting with G.H. von Mumm 2009 Ruedishiemer Berg Rottland, Rheingau ($29): It shows aromas of  honeyed apple slices, though the wine is bone dry.  The mouth feel is silky and the taste is golden. G.H. von Mumm is the producer.  Started in 1811 by a Frankfurt banker named Gottlieb von Mumm, who gambled on Riesling and won with a bumper crop of good wine.  He combined his Midas touch for wine with his financial acumen and built a successful Weingut or winery that today produces delicious Riesling in the Rheingau region of Germany.  He is the same GH Mumm who founded the champagne house in France but after WWI was kept by France--a different kind of history in a bottle

Next I had the 2010 Max Ferd Richter Wehlener Sonnenuhr Spaetlese, Mosel ($20) Aromas of petrol and butter jumped out of the glass.  Spaetlese means that the grapes are left on the vines a week after they are ripe to concentrate the sugars and yield a sweeter must.  Magic happens in Mosel where the Wehlener Sonnenurh, or Wehlen's Sundial, watches over the vines.  The texture of the wine is silky and the sweetness of it will allow for interesting food pairings since you can use any of the pillars of wine pairing.  My favorite is the surprise of spicy hot wings or jerk chicken with sweet Riesling.  Weingut Max Ferd Richter boasts "Riesling since 1680" and the family has continuously owned the winery with the 9th generation at the helm and the 10th waiting in the wings to keep their delicious tradition alive

It was fun to compare and contrast the wines. I know sometimes here at Chez Brixchick, Riesling is a hard sell to those who don't drink sweet wine.  This makes it easy breezy:
1) Try dry Riesling.  It has a wonderful intensity and texture
2) Pair sweet Riesling with food. It stands up to spicy food, makes a natural pair with creamy sauces, and the texture can lead you interesting places as well

So I hope you will try some Riesling during the month of July.  For more info about places near you where Riesling will be highlighted, click here

If you are in San Francisco, you can develop a passion for Riesling at Dee Vine Wines where it's an Endless Summer of Riesling

Many thanks to the Wines of Germany who provided the samples

Dry or sweet

09 July, 2014

Lake Chelan - Must See Destination this summer

The best way to start out a wine destination adventure has got to be by air.  When I embarked upon the preconference for 2013 WBC I left from Seattle, got on an un-air conditioned bus and made the trek to Lake Chelan.  It was so worth it to explore this interesting and tasty AVA.  Only since 2009 has this wine play ground been designated  an AVA, but what an awesome spot it is.  With conditions perfect for wine, many wineries are now popping up.  It is a wonderful destination for your vacation as well.

First, we got to boldly go in a pontoon boat, where I had never been before.  The aerial perspective was amazing to see the neatly cultivated fields. When we landed, tasting them was even better.  Our first spot, as we touched down like geese on a bender, was Rio Vista.  Lucky for them, they sell most of what they produce to their wine club members, who get to enjoy visits to this peaceful spot and enjoy the many wines they produce.  From there, we were whisked off to a quick change, which was lamentably not enough time to enjoy Campbell's Resort., This wonderful place made me feel like I was in a movie.  Midway between "Dirty Dancing" and "Butterfield 8" , every amenity was available and the place looked action packed  I expected to see Elizabeth Taylor rounding the corner in search of lost weekend ice.  A kitchen, intriguing furnishings and such a calming view await you there.

Dinner and an amazing view awaited us at Tsillan Cellars restaurant, Sorrento's.  You can see why people come for destination weddings.  Spelled as the First Nation's people would spell it, The restaurant focuses on Italian food.  It was as yummy as the view was gorgeous.  The staff told us on certain nights in the winter you can see the Northern Lights.  We were treated to an amazing sunset and a wonderful dinner.  As gorgeous as the view and as comfortable as the venue looked, it wasn't the place that jumped out as Best Spot for  Wedding.  That had to go to Karma Cellars.

Not only was the spot very conducive and the staff very informative, but Karma produces some very tasty sparkling wines inspired by true methode champenoise as well as guided by experience, Julie Pittsinger leads the team that learned and invested in the perfect growing region,  The big plus for brides to be was not only the venue, the wines and the help from the team, but an great opportunity to buy a case of your wedding wine and open it slowly year by year.  Sounded awesome and the wine was delicious.  More Here but take my word, you have to visit an try to truly appreciate.

Of course my favorite was Hard Row to Hoe.  The story is as entertaining as the owners.  They
did a wonderful wine pairing, which I stole for a BrixChicks dinner.  The Hard row to Hoe Burning Desire Cabernet Franc is such a food friendly wine and paired with beef and horseradish.  a crowd pleaser.  Current realeases have transitioned into Petit Verdot.  Need to try that! The team make your visit fun and many of the double entendres and innuendo only add  spice to  your visit.  Be prepared for fun.

They also make a very tasty Ice Cider or apple wine that is sweet but complex and a great cheese wine---you can never have enough of those!

All in all a wonderful place to visit.  There are many activities for non wine drinkers centered around the lovely lake.  If you are planning a destination wedding, its a pretty easy trek in clement weather, so brides and bridezillas alike take note.

So much more to see, taste and explore.  Lake Chelan makes it easy to plan with information here

With only none weekends to go till Summer ends, cash in those Frequent Flyer miles, pack up the car and relax, explore and discover all the fun that awaits by the Lake.

03 July, 2014

The Winemakers Studio by Wente Vineyards

Wente Vineyards is a family-owned winery in Livermore, CA known for their Chardonnay. They are also one of the oldest continuously-run wineries in the state of CA. and this year they are celebrating their 130th vintage. Wente is kind of like a Disneyland for wine-loving adults with a world-class restaurant, golf course and summer concert series. And in May they opened a new educational center called the Winemakers Studio where they are offering classes and interactive experiences to educate the consumer palate. The Brix Chicks got a sneak preview and here is what we found:

A Feast for the Senses
When you walk into the studio you notice flasks and perfume bottles where you can spritz various aromas to help you learn to identify some common ones such as melon, raspberry, butter, and chocolate. There are swatches of fabrics to exemplify different textures you will find in the palate of the wine (ie; silk for Pinot Noir, velvet for Cabernet Sauvignon) all perfect for us kinesthetic learners! Wine videos are being played throughout the studio and you can also use the iPads which have apps especially created to help you learn about wine.

The Tap Room
Here is where you taste and buy their artisan wine line on tap which includes the Artisan white blend 2013, the Artisan Red 2012, Pinot Noir Clones 2012, and the outstanding Azul-Verde 2012 which is a blend of Cab Franc and Malbec. After you taste you can buy a growler and pick a wine to take home. You can reuse the growler every time you return. They also have a cheese-pairing course for each wine which I highly recommend. They show you how the flavors of the wine and the cheeses really work together.

Wine Aroma Seminar
This class really tests your olfactory abilities. You are presented with 10 glasses filled with water and an oil carrying a concentrated aroma such as grass, melon, toast, cherry, etc. You swirl and sniff and try to figure out what exactly you are smelling. As a wine-tasting veteran this was much harder than I thought it would be and I was stumped by a few of these concentrated aromas. Wente also makes a kit in which you can buy the aromas and have your own class. This was a good learning-experience for me.

Wine-blending Experience
Here you can be a winemaker for an hour and make your own blend of Bourdeaux varieties from the Wente Estate. There were barrels of Cabernet Sauvignon from 4 different vineyards, one Malbec, one Merlot, one Cab Franc and one Petit Verdot. The wine-ambassador guides you through the process as you taste each wine and experiment by blending wines from your favorite lots and finding the right aromas and flavors for your palate. You then bottle it, cork it, seal it with foil and label it.

The Xandria 2012 Cuvee. Well, it is mostly Cabernet Sauvignon from the Silva Vineyard and the Smith Vineyard blended with Malbec, Merlot and Petit Verdot. I would love to age my wine but don't think I can wait that long to drink it!

Overall I found this to be a highly educational yet hedonistic experience. The wines were delicious and the wine-educators were knowledgeable and fun. Thank you to Wente Vineyards for creating a unique wine country experience perfect for the wine veteran and for the wine newbie.

Wente's new interactive wine education studio is open from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays and by appointment at Wente Vineyards, 5565 Tesla Road, Livermore. Experiences range from wine tasting to blending seminars, sensory evaluation and food and wine pairings. $10-$125. For more information, visit www.wentewinemakers.com.

01 July, 2014

The Summer of Riesling 2014 is here!

The Summer of Riesling is  a program that celebrates different aspects of this far flung and wonderful variety.  Being particularly susceptible,to its charms,  I have tried many examples and can testify.

But July 1 starts thirty one days of German Riesling events, info and special focus on this wonderful expression of place.  If you are not familiar with German Riesling, you might think it's all super sweet and not what you like.  But especially with summertime's super spicy or stone fruit enhanced cuisine, it's the perfect choice.  In fact, if you are ever stuck for a pairing idea, chances are a Riesling will pair well with nearly everything you can throw at it.  As part of the 31 days of Riesling, in San Francisco, Nancy Oakes modern spot Prospect has two Mosel producers by the glass and snacks to pair.  And my favorite, Ella's in Sacramento has wonderful offerings (and Bourbon an bacon delights!)Click to find out where the tour stops near you.  Riesling rocks!

 I was lucky enough to visit thanks to Wines of Germany where I was converted from a casual fan to a total addict.  From bone dry to nectar sweet, the natural acidity and careful handling of the fruit grown in the oenological Shangri-Las of Mosel, Nahe and Rheinhessen will enchant you.

Take a look at the steep, storybook vineyard shot from a path in the famous Uertiziger Wuertgarten and you get an inkling of the way place contributes to flavor.  Steep rows, lambent river, implausible slate soil are the ingredients to delicious Rieslings and have been for hundreds of years.  It's a place where vineyard workers are not surprised to find Roman artifacts when they work the earth.  History is long in this region where nature and nurture combine to coax amazing Rieslings from twisty vineyards and alienesque soil.

Here are some tasting notes for some fun samples I received:
2011 C H Berres Erdner Treppchen Kabinett:  This wine came out of the bottle the bright yellow of canary diamonds.  It had my favorite petrolly aroma with a scoop of savory coconut and flavors of  minerally citrus and lychee. Nice acidity and only a hint of sweetness.  It was marked with a 1 on the Sweetness Scale indicating its place on the sweetness scale as dry.  Erdener Treppchen translates to "little staircase in Erden", and takes its name from an old staircase cut into the red slate to help the workers.  The same red slate takes its color from iron deposits and gives a strong mineral quality to wine made from its fruit.

When I took the bottle out of the styrofoam, I noticed a very traditional look to the label with a screw cap.  I knew it had to be the work of Markus Berres, who I got to meet.  CH Berres has been making wine since the 1510 and Markus is the 21st winemaker of his family.  Combining tradition and modernity is his challenge.  He actually produces a line called Impulse that represents the modern aspect.  This bottle came from the more traditional line.  They are both delightful in different ways.  Markus was a very no nonsense business like wine maker who guided us through a tasting of his product.  While I was overcome by the romance of the place and the wines, he walked us through technical questions and the business, but I could see the sparkle in his eye and the passion he brings to both carrying forward a tradition of excellence and branching out to more modern expressions.  Both are delicious.  If you see it on wine list, give it a try, 500 years of winemaking can't be wrong

Erden is not far from Bernkastel, where the famous Bernkasteler Ring, or association of growers strive to produce food friendly wines of quality.  Our group had dinner with some members and we all fell in love with the producers.  I sat surrounded by wonderful producers and was so grateful that my college German had come back enough for me to understand the collegial banter.  I felt like a secondary character in a Richard Curtis movie.  The stars of the movie definitely would have been Margret and Bernhard Werner, who gifted me with a bottle of their yummy wine. 2011 Annaberg Riesling Spätlese  is a lovely golden wine with a silky mouthfeel along with bracing acidity, hint of petrol in nose with stone fruits and honey in flavors.  Delectable. Riesling keeps forever.  Just double checking something on the label, I saw a little in the bottle.  Ever the experimenter I had to try it to see how the wine holds up indifferently stored with the cap even off.  Still tasty, albeit not what it was a month ago fresh  Miraculous.

Make time for Riesling this summer

These wines were received as samples.  Many thanks to the Wines of Germany team for their hospitality

29 May, 2014

Soil and Sun.WIne and fun - My Visit to the Santa Lucia Highlands

Photo Wagner Family Wines
The Santa Lucia Highlands is a wonderful AVA or American Viticultural Area located within Monterey County, which is about two hours, depending on traffic, by car south of San Francisco.  Monterey itself is an AVA, but the SLH climate, soil and geography are unique enough and qualify it for AVA status on its own.  You can taste the specialness of place in the offerings of its producers.  Poor soils that cause the grapes to struggle, which,  along with the cool maritime influences from beyond the hills to the West, end up making delicious wines.  

The region plants predominately Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, but also grows many other varieties including Riesling, Syrah, Pinot Gris and even Souzao, which Paraiso puts in a Port wine.

Photo Wagner Family Wines I wonder if those cement eggs are filled with delicious Mer Soleil Silver?
Wine Cougar drained the 2010 first
Santa Lucia Highlands is home to dedicated vintners and growers, some of whom are the one and thesame  like panel member Steve McIntyre, he, of the intersting and eponymous Tasting Studio ---wine, spa and shopping: any questions?.  Steve  edu-tained us at the pre-Gala seminar on interesting history of the region and his career path. Fellow panel member  Bill Brosseau of Testarossa Winery, entranced us with his "Grape Whisperer" tales. Bill walks the rows and lives with the fruit to better understand how to coax it into the best wine it can be.  His perspective on Pinot Noir, which derives its tannins from its pips and so must be grown from the inside out, as opposed to Cabernet Sauvignon which is grown from the outside in, since its skins drive it, was as interesting as it was delicious.  We came away laughing and ready to try all the wines.  

Charles Hendricks

Here are some of my favorites:

Hope and Grace:  BrixChicks has been fans of this producer since we first tried the wines years ago.  Then, we were hookedby Sleepy Hollow Vineyard designates, but now Charles Hendricks  uses fruit from the Doctor's Vineyard.  This wine has swaths of red fruit as well as a complex and interesting structure.  They also have a divine Malbec form Napa fruit which is closer to the Yountville tasting room

Hahn Family Wines, SLH, Lucienne  Hahn Family Wines are investing in their SLH winery and making it into a destination.  Culinary tours of their vineyards as well as ATV tours so you can be a daredevil in their vineyards no matter what your fitness level, are waiting for you to explore.  Lucienne draws it name from intersection of Nicky Hahn's middle name as well as a riff on the region's  name itself.  Three vineyards Smith, Doctors and Lone Oak ,are candidates to become Lucinenne.  I have a soft spot in my heart for Smith because its delicious and because I have a vine in the Blogger's block which is in the Smith Vineyard.  Dark, delicious and SLH Pinot Noir.

Hawks View:  I was familiar with this Oregon producer and their tasty Pinot Gris.  So it was fun to meet the team in person and also to taste the Pinot Noirs from SLH these Oregon folks make.  Lovely typicity of the region, with perfumey aromas and complex flavors.  

Mer Soleil: One of my go to wines for gifting, drinking, and ordering in restaurants is the Mer
Photo Wagner Family Wines
Soleil Silver, which comes in a cool (literally ) ceramic bottle.  Completely unoaked, it delivers the crisp morning breezes directly to your palate on float of golden fresh flavor. We also got to try some of the other offerings.  It was nice to see ground zero for wine production.  

Overheard at the Panel discussion when asked about the Ageability of their wines:

Wine: What are you waiting for?  

...to which I concur and am off to crack open some SLH wine right now!

20 May, 2014

Alvarinho, Loureiro and Arinto Oh, my! - Win a trip to Portugal! Passport To Vinho Verde

With Summer giving Spring an early,and rough, shove out of the way, one of my go to wines is Vinho Verde. I love the spritzy refreshing quality and it pairs as well with snacks as afternoon gossip.

 Passport to Vinho Verde has also officially started, just in case you will be in one of these cities . Beginning May 19ththrough June 15th, They'll be hosting in-store tastings and offering specials on Vinho Verde wines at wine shops in New York, Chicago, and the Washington Metropolitan Area as part of the “Passport to Vinho Verde” promotion

Lucky invited consumers in these markets get to jump into the "spring" of things by stopping in at  these tastings to sample the various styles that this Portuguese wine region has to offer, including the lesser known indigenous white varietals like Alvarinho, Loureiro and Arinto.  Also up will be  the bright and fruity Espadeiro and; Padeiro rosés.

The full list of tasting events in those markets is here.  Attendees will also have the chance to win a trip for two to Portugal during the promotion.

Sigh. San Francisco will have to be content with our samples,

15 May, 2014

Santa Lucia Highlands Gala - Where you want to be this Saturday (5/17/2014)

 The first time I tasted a wine from the Santa Lucia Highlands was at the wonderful restaurant Coi in San Francisco.  Fragrant, redolent with fruit without stamping its passport for fruit bomb territory, that wine made me want to try more.  Which led me to the wonderful Hahn wines and then on to Mer Soleil, which is my go to gift wine, since everyone I have served it to has loved it.  Golden, refreshing, special.  Mer Soleil Silver in the ceramic container has been with me on cruises, in hot tubs and dazzled my friends while quelling my enemies.  Hey.  Keep them close and serve them good wine, I always say!
View from Hahn

This Saturday, I get to go on site to learn more about the wines, meet 30 producers and revel in the lovely area that is Santa Lucia Highlands.
Bloggers making it work!

You can too as tickets are still available here Although, sadly the pre-event special tastings are fully subscribed.

As so many delicious locales in California, warm soils are situated to take advantage of cooling maritime influences.  This effect distinguishes this area and enables the production of lovely Pinot Noirs and  Chardonnays.  But different than many areas, the Santa Lucia Highlands has a lot to still develop.  It's a great place to add to your list as must see, so you can watch wonderful producers enhance your experiences and ply you with more divine wine.

Talbotts. Morgan, Mer Soleil Hahn are brands that to me connote deliciousness.  I look forward to trying their wines as well as discovering new favorites.  See you there!