A trip to Iberia within reach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Markus Bokisch was raised in California, but has a long history of ties to Spain.  As a child, Markus spent his summers there, and as is the norm in European tradition, water & wine were served at meals.

With this pre-disposition to love the rich wines of Spain, Markus moved to Spain with his wife Lisa and worked his way up in the Spanish wine industry.  With endeavors in Raimat and Penedes, he became and expert at the cultivation of these special varietals.  When he moved back to California, he knew that Lodi had something special – hidden behind 100 years of old Italian field blends and Zinfandel, and that it was the perfect location to begin his endeavor with Iberian varietals.

The Terra Alta Vineyard in Clements Hills was the first property they purchased, whereCapturethey imported Spanish budwood to firmly root Bokisch as the go to resource for these plantings.  In 1999, they planted Las Cerezas Vineyard, which is the motherblock, planted to Tempranillo, Albarino, and Graciano – classic Spanish grapes.  Two years later, the first vintage of Bokisch Vineyards wine was released.

Today, Bokisch grows over 2500 acres under vine, and works with wineries all over California in addition to producing their own wine.  With a careful consideration for the environment and sustainability, they are making a mark on how viticulture can be beneficial for the land as well as the economy.

I first tasted Bokisch wine shortly after that initial release, when I was part of the now (sadly) defunct Wine Q wine service.  I knew immediately, even though my palate was still developing in those early years of my wine career, that I would love what was to come.

Here we are, 8 years later, and I am lucky enough to taste the current releases of Bokisch frequently through a variety of tastings.  On this day, we enjoyed two different Albarinios – the first being from the Terra Alta Vineyard, where the tasting room is located, and the second from Las Cerezas, that motherblock planted in 1999.  While they were both welcome refreshers on this warm day, the Las Cerezas edged out the Terra Alta, with intensely tropical notes, and juicy fruit with lime zest and firm minerality on the finish.

Next, the Garnacha Blanca – a personal passion of mine – was a clear expression of how terroir impacts the finished product.  The medium body was full of fresh stone fruit, oranges, and pungent green herbs.  The creamy finish is perfect for cheese, hearty fish dishes, and just plain summer sipping.  Stylistically, Garnacha Blanca tends to be bolder than it’s cousin Grenache Blanc, and I appreciate the weight and texture.

The last of the whites, the age old question of Verdelho vs. Verdejo.  Often confused as the same grape, Verdelho has roots in Portugal and is used widely in Madeira.   In contrast, Verdejo is a Spanish white grape, which has been traced back to North Africa, and is now widely grown in Rueda.  Confused?  Well, taste them side by side and you can see the differences.

 Moving on to the reds, Garnacha (once again) holds a special place in my heart.  Whether it’s Grenache, Garnacha, or GSM, the varsity of styles it can be made in – let alone Grenache Blanc, Grenache Gris, and Grenache Noir (or Tinto), the diversity is delicious.  Tracing its origigans to the Aragon region of Spain, the Bokisch Garnacha fils your mouth with blackberries, boysenberries, and dark red fruit.  A finishing touch of blood orange and forest spices tease the palate as vanilla vapors envelop your senses.  I love to serve Garnacha with a slight chill, and of course, anything is better with fresh Manchego cheese.
IMG_0267A bolder red wine, Graciano is one of the grapes commonly used as a blending component in parts of Rioja.  It’s also thought to be the oldest variety commercially grown in Spain.  A deeply purple black wine in the glass, bittersweet chocolate, Mission figs and cherries, with a hint of fresh violets tempt you, while tobacco and old saddle leather round out the palate.  Graciano is a meaty grape, and this is a fantastic wine for steak and a classic Rioja cookout.
And now:  Mourvedre.  Mataro.  Monastrell!  Depending on where you are in the world, this blue hued grape is called different things.  In France, Mourvedre.  In Spain, it can be either Mataro, particularly in the Catalan dialect, or Monastrell.  The 2013 Belle Collne Vineyard Monastrell is classically blueberry, bergamot, and baking spices.
The passion and dedication of Markus and Liz are infectious.  His single focus of making Lodi a top wine destination of distinction, and their dedication to sustainability is second to none.  Keeping these wines affordable is also of critical importance, and with prices between $18-32, the QPR on these wines is outstanding.
If you are in Lodi, a stop at Bokisch is a must do ! The sweeping view from the picnic tables to the seven oak tress in the gently rolling hills is bliss, and it is less than two hours from the Bay Area.
Cheers!

 

bokish

 

Cy-a-nar-a!

Ah amaro, how I love thee!  With hundreds of unique amari to choose from, Cynar is unusual in that it’s make from artichokes.  While it might seem odd that a beverage would be made from what is basically the flower of a thistle, there are so many uses for this!

From sipping straight, “like an Italian mama”, my friend would say, to using it as a bittering agent in cocktails, it was originally intended to be a digestif.  The unique bitterness combined with the sweetness of the chemical cynarin, as well as thirteen different botanical, it is quite versatile.

Now, Cynar comes in two versions:  Original Cynar,and the new Cynar 70 Proof.  Cynar 70 Proof is really just a more intense version of the original, and stands up to more complex cocktails.

This week, try out a couple of fun cocktails using Cynar!

 

The Cy-Groni

In a twist on the classic Negroni, substituent original Cynar to add the bitter complainant that Campari would normally occupy.  I am not the biggest fan of Campari as I find it almost too bitter, so I often use Cappalletti Aperitivo.  Here, the best of both worlds comes in to play.

In a cocktail shaker, add over ice:

  • 1/2 oz Cynar
  • 1/2 sweet vermouth
  • 3 oz gin (I love Ransom Old Tom)
  • 3 dashes orange bitters (try the Fee Bros Gin Barrel Aged)
  • 1 dash 5 by 5 Aged Citrus Bitters

Shake, and pour over ice, with an orange twist.  For fun, I used a blood orange rind.

A variation on the Negroni with bourbon, is the classic Boulevardier.   My friend Emma actually introduced me to this cocktail (I know, I should have know about this ages ago!).  The Cynar 70 Proof is perfect in this recipe because it is a bolder flavor and holds up to the whiskey.

Boulevard of Dreams

In a cocktail shaker, add over ice:

  • 1/2 oz Cynar 70 Proof
  • 1/2 sweet vermouth
  • 3 oz bourbon (Knob Creek Single Barrel knocked my socks off here!)
  • 3 dashes bitters (Fee Bros whiskey barrel aged cocktail bitters are the bomb)
  • 1 dash cherry bitters (check out Carlton Cocktail Company’s woodland cherry)
  • 1 dash fig bitters (for a bit of depth, again try Carlton Cocktail Company)
  • Shake, and pour over ice, with an orange twist and a good marachino cherry.

 

Being a bourbon lovin’ gal, I was really interested to try the Game, Set, Match

Courtesy of Basil Hayden’s recipe page, (more on that next week!) this delicious variation of the classic Manhattan, it packs a punch with the bittersweet addition of Cynar.  Bourbon on it’s own can have the perception of being sweet, and sweet vermouth is also sweet.  The Cynar adds a delicious bitter note that tones down the classically sweet Manhattan and makes a refreshing afternoon pick me up!

In a cocktail shaker, over ice add:

  • 3 oz bourbon
  • 1/2 oz sweet vermouth
  • 1/2 oz (I used a bit less)
  • 3 dashes orange bitters
  • Shakes, and strain.  Add a cherry or lemon garnish.

Thank you to Gruppo Campari, who owns Cynar, and MBooth for sharing these interesting sippers!  All recipes are my own, except the Game, Set, Match, originally sourced from Basil Hayden Bourbon.

 

Oh Lord, stuck in Lodi again

   Just about a year ago
I set out on the road
Seekin’ my fame and fortune
Lookin’ for a pot of gold
Thing got bad and things got worse
I guess you know the tune
Oh Lord, stuck in Lodi again

Credence Clearwater Revival made the song, and the town, famous in 1969.  At the time, the small town of Lodi was a bit of backwater, located somewhere between Stockton and Sacramento, and was a thriving farming community.

Fast forward 50 years, and it is still a thriving farming community, but today, most of the agricultural pursuits center around wine.  In the 70s and 80s, and to some extent today, large production facilitates that focused on both bulk wine and zinfandel made the wine of the region famous.  Lodi is still the self-proclaimed capital of Zinfandel, and over 40% of premium Zin from California is produced here.

In addition to a strong heritage of Zinfandel, Lodi has also been home to many other varietals. With the 4th and 5th generation wine families, you can find Iberian, Rhone, Austrian and German grape varietals all thriving.

This year, the annual Wine Bloggers Conference is headed to Lodi in August.  Ahead of the storm, I was invited by the Lodi Wine Commission to a whirlwind tour of Lodi – focusing on “anything but zin” – my specific request to showcase the lesser known grapes that thrive in this region.

A short 90 minute (just don’t leave at rush hour!) drive from the Bay Area, Lodi is a hidden IMG_0238goldmine of delicious and living history.  One such vineyard is Mokelumne Glen Vineyard, which specializes in German and Austrian varietals.

With strong ties to Germany, the Koth family has over 40 varietals of both obscure and more common grapes planted here, in a hidden spot where the river dips and a natural “glen” is formed.

Originally planted to Zinfandel vines, as so much of Lodi was, Bob Koth (right) had a natural curiosity about viticulture and started researching what other grapes would do well there.  Today, that has culminated in the German Collection Vineyard, an experimental block next to their house, where 35 of the 41 varietals are planted.  With just a row or two of most, it is a true experimental vineyard.  If you’re lucky enough to get a bit of this fruit, it is true gold.

After touring the property, we went in to town and sat down for lunch at Pietro’s, where we tasted some lovely wines from Bob’s fruit.

IMG_0579 Sidecar Kerner – This aromatic white is a cross between Trollinger and Riesling, and is common in Germany, but unsual outside oft hat region.  This was a nice refreshing white, with a medium body and delicious saline and mineral finish, with rich apricot notes.
IMG_0582 Markus Wine Co Nativo white blend – The Markus Wine Company is a coop between winemaker Markus Niggli and Borra vineyards, where Swiss born Niggli can play a bit with styles and structure.  The Nativo is a fresh and fun light white, that is 53% Kerner and 28% Riesling, with a 15% dollop of Bacchus.  Bacchus, as it turns out, is another blended grape – developed as a cross between Silvaner and Riesling, and then that result crossed with Muller-Thurgau.  Does everyone have their family tree ready to fill out?  The intensity of the grapefruit note was brilliant, with bright acid and fresh cut herbs, floating in a field of flowers.  This was the perfect white wine for a warm lunch al fresco!
IMG_0589 Forlorn Hope’s Gemischter Satz is a true chorus of voices, which is a clear representation of Mokelumne Glen‘s Germany Block project.  With 5-7 vines of each varietal (final blend is a well kept secret), it dances with white jasmine and spring flowers, and refreshing citrus on a foggy day.
IMG_0593 One of my favorites of the afternoon was the Borra Vineyards Vermentino, a delightfully light, crisp, and citrus driven white.  I have loved Vermentino since my first trip to Italy, where the fruit forward dry white is an easy sipper, as the mineral core keeps the sweetness of the ripe citrus at bay.
IMG_0594 Who doesn’t love a rose?  On a warm day, I would drink rose…all day.  The Borra Vineyards Rosé Members Reserve is no exception, and is a classic Provencale recipe for happiness:  63% Syrah, 37% Carignane, and 100% love.  Bright wild strawberries, watermelon, and earthy hints of Tuscan melon and dried figs.  I could, and did, drink this glass, and another, and another.

 

One key point to note about all of these wines is the absolutely stunning QPR.  With an average price of $20 or under, these are luxuries you can afford every day!

 Thank you to the Koth’s for their generous hospitality and pioneering spirit!  There is so much more to come from this vineyard and these winemakers.  Head to Lodi and find out what!

There is so much more to say about Borra and Markus wines, such as the intriguingly acid driven Petite Sirah, and the blends.  But that, is for another day of discovery.

 

They are so charming!

You know the scene:  You’re at a party, enjoying a lovely glass of wine, when you set your glass down and walk away.  Five minutes later you come back to find that your glass has magically dissipated!

How do you prevent glass thievery from occurring?  Well, there are pens.  There are charms.  There are stickers.  Personally, I’ve always been a fan of wine charms, as they can be handmade, or come in unique configurations.

I have made my own from both beads, baubles, and Shirnky Dinks.  So when Shannon from the Bohemian Trading Post contacted me about her products, I was excited to have the chance to check them out.

These are not your average wine charm!  The heavy weight and quarter sized charms are easy to read, and hard to miss, and come in a variety of silly, sexy, retro, or snarky pictures and slogans.  For $17.99, you get four charms, and there are several sets to choose from.  "Wine a Little" Wine Glass Charms - Set of 4:

Having a girls night in?  Check out the Snarky Women!  I Drink Because You’re Boring, I’m too sober for this, and Dinner is poured are perfect for any coffee klatch.  Scary movie night?  Get the Retro Creep Show set!

I love these, and recommend these hand made, quirky, fun charms for your Mother’s Day, Graduation (college, please!) and other Spring gifting.

There are seasonal specializes as well, so check back from fun holiday items like 4th of July and Holiday!

With dozen of other products, from hair barrettes to rings and other jewelry, Bohemian Trading Post was founded on creative and quality.  I’d say they hit the mark with these charms, and I look forward to collecting more.  I love accessories that are functional, pretty, and  unique, and BTP fits the bill. Check out their website!

Thank you Sharon for creating a special set just for me!   

 

Rocking the Rhônes!

mineralAs a wine writer, one of the most exciting things is to taste wines from producers that  am unfamiliar with, and that I have no bias or previous information for.  Coming to a wine with a fresh perspective gives me to ability to focus on what I taste, and feel, vs what I remember or think I should expect.

Enter Domaine Montirius.  This small, family run vineyard is a relatively recent entry in to the Rhône; founded 26 years ago by Eric and Christine Saurel, it is now a true family business.  Certified bio-dynamic since 1999, the Saurels are dedicated to pursuing balance in the vineyard, and in the wines, and to find the perfect expression of the land in those wines.

In the practice of biodynamics, it’s important to “observe, feel, listen to and taste, repeatedly, and to act on different clues in the environment.  The idiosyncrasies of Mother Nature create a natural rhythm to the winemaking process.

The 2011 Montirius Mineral Vacqueyras is an unusual blend of 50% Bouboulenc, 25% Grenache Blanc, and 25% Roussane.  You might be wondering about Bouboulenc, as its one of the more obscure white Rhône varietals.  It’s a hearty grape, and tends to resist weather and pests, but s a forgotten variety for the most part until the Surels re-planted it in 1994.  A late ripener, it requires patience and tenderness, but yields a minerality and brightness.

The grapes were hand harvested and fermented whole cluster.  Aged without oak, there is a texturally intense fresh white wine. Strong notes of ginger and grapefruit peel, with tropical mango and green apple to follow. The palate is reminiscent of a baked apple, with the spice cabinet making a bold appearance. This wine is perfect for meatier fish, chicken, and even pork.

When I first tasted this wine, I anticipated the retail at $35+.  Even at that price, I think there is excellent QPR.  However, I was pleasantly surprised to learn it is only $22!  This is a wine to run out and stock up on, as it will certainly be my summer sipper as we slip in to warmer weather.

Thank you to the Teuwen Communications team for helpng me find the undiscovered and unusual Rhône Valley wines!

 

Once Upon a Time in Texas

welcome2
There was a time, not so long ago, that when someone mentioned Texas, I would cringe and shrink back in horror.  While it is true that I have some very good friends that live there, I had not experienced the best parts of the state in my travels, and wasn’t inclined to jump at the chance.

Enter an opportunity for a girls weekend.  Instead of going to the dreaded humidity and heat of Houston, or the craziness of Dallas, we all decided that Austin would be a great place to visit.  Luckily for us, we had mutual friends that lived there, so we could make an adventure out of it.

As luck would have it, my friend and fellow writer Melanie was able to work with the Omni Barton Creek Resort in Austin to put together a showstopper preview of thier upcoming Wine & Food Event program.  This program, which will kick off this spring and run through the year, will showcase a wine region or winemaker, while also highlighting the unique foods and ingredients from Austin.

Upon arrival, we got a sneak peek at the opulence of the weekend with our in-room welcome:

welcome

At the Omni’s 8212 Wine Bar & Grill, Executive Chef André Natera developed a custom tasting menu to go with our wine tasting experience, which kicked off their Wine & Food Program for the year.  Focusing on fresh, seasonal ingredients our taste buds were delighted.

First Course:  Potato & chive chowder, with steamed clams and smoked bacon.  Paired with the bright and interesting Zocker Gruner Veltliner, with creamy lemon and bright white floral notes, this medium body and bright acid wine cuts through the creaminess and delivers a pop to the senses.

Second Course: Seared Branzino fish, with braised artichokes.  Paired with an Oregon riesling, you can’t go wrong here.  The Lemelson Dry Riesling from the Yamhill-Carlton District is fresh, full of stone fruit and Asian pears, with lycgee notes.  A hint of tell tale petrol shows through with a beautiful finish of Keffir lime.Capture

Third Course:  Tortellini and mushrooms with smoked & pickled mushrooms and Parmesan truffle butter.  Oh la la!  A party for the palate, the Li Veli Susameniello was a delight.  One of the obscure grapes from teh heel of Italy’s boot, it is a close cousin to the more common Sangiovese.  The spicy, berry driven palate was ripe with dried flowers and old saddle leather, pipe tobacco and anise.  A delicious match!

Fourth Course:  Aged New York Strip soup vide with a truffled demi glace and potato butter puree, paired with the southern Rhone Perrin Vinsobres Les Comunds.  Classically Rhone, this tannic cherry cider was full of dried herbs and cracked pepper as well as dried rose petals.  The opulance was the perfect match for the richness of the beef.

beef

Our experience at the Omni Barton Creek was world class, and the dining experience was exceptional.  I highly recommend that you check out the Wine & Dine Program, which continues through the fall special pairing events. From Italy to Texas Smoke, there is something for everyone!  Wine & Dine events are approximately $99 per person, and include a special hotel rate if you chose to make a weekend out of it.

Special thanks to the Barton Creek staff for their gracious hospitality!

 

 

 

Lake County Rising

Last fall, a devastating fire ripped through one of the poorest counties in California.  It also happens to be one of the most interesting and up and coming wine regions in California.  Lake County, with it’s some 64,000 residents, was decimated.

I personally experienced this tragedy through my friends, many of whom were immediately impacted by the fire, which engulfed more than 25,000 acres, including much of the counties vineyard land.

 

The wine industry in neighboring Napa County has responded to the economic impact by holding a charity wine auction on March 20th, at the CIA’s Greystone facility.  Congressman Mike Thompson and grape grower Andy Beckstoffer are on hand to assist legendary auctioneer Fritz Hatton in #LakeCountyRising, to support the long-term rebuilding and economic recovery required in Lake County.

This ollaborative fundraising effort of the Lake County Winegrape Commission, Lake County Winery Association and Lake County Wine Alliance has assembled quite the collection of wine and experiences including dinnner at The Restaurant at Meadowood, Napa Valley, a Michelin starred spot that will dish up a stellar tasting menu.

  • Beckstoffer will auction a personal barrel lot which would be a great way to team build!  A half ton of prime Cab grapes from famed Rutherford vineyard Georges III Heritage and the winemaking team from Sinegal Estate will walk you through the winemaking experience.
  • A 2016 Polaris Ranger EV is being offered as the “green” live auction lot and comes fully loaded with 100 bottles of the finest Napa Valley wines. This environmentally-friendly electric off-road utility vehicle is known for its smooth ride and quiet operation. The wines are from Napa Green Certified vintners: Benessere, Charles Krug, Cliff Lede Vineyards, Clos Du Val, Davies Vineyards, Franciscan Estate, Frank Family Vineyards, Frog’s Leap, Gamble Family Vineyards, HALL, Heitz Wine Cellars, Jones Family Vineyards, Joseph Phelps Vineyards, Keenan Winery, Laura Michael Wines, Merryvale Vineyards, PEJU, Raymond Vineyards, Robert Mondavi Winery, Saintsbury, Salvestrin, Signorello Estate, St. Supéry Estate Vineyards & Winery, Starmont Winery & Vineyards, Swanson Vineyards, The Hess Collection Winery, Trefethen Family Vineyards, Truchard Vineyards, Vineyard 29 and ZD Wines.
  •  An ultimate San Francisco Giants game experience at AT&T Park has been created for another lucky live auction winner. With luxury transportation to the ball park, 12 guests will luxuriate in a private VIP Suite filled with gourmet food and Napa Valley wines, and will take home a signed baseball from Barry Bonds to remember the day.
  • The “Hillside Heaven” silent auction item features lunch for four at The Bistro & Bar at Aubérge du Soleil in Rutherford, and a mixed case of Napa Valley hillside wines including six bottles of 2013 Mount Veeder Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, and six bottles 2013 Viader Vineyards & Winery Tempranillo.
  •  “Northern Exposure” is a silent auction item of dinner for four at Sam’s Social Club in Calistoga and a mixed case of wine from the northern end Napa Valley, including: one bottle Arietta 2013 White Blend; one bottle Behrens Family Winery 2012 Homeland Cabernet Sauvignon; one bottle Behrens Family Winery 2011 The Collector Red Wine; one bottle Bridesmaid 2012 White Blend; one bottle Bridesmaid 2012 Red Blend; one bottle Clark-Claudon Vineyards 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon; one bottle Markham Vineyards 2013 Merlot; one bottle Saint Helena Winery 2008 Red Blend; two bottles Ballentine Vineyards 2012 Old Vine Zinfandel; and two bottles Castello di Amorosa 2012 Sangiovese.
  •  For the silent auction bidder who has an alternative mind-set, “Riveted by Reds,” includes a copy of the fine art photography book Perspectives Napa Valley, and a mixed case of Napa Valley alternative red varietals, including: two bottles Mira Winery 2011 Syrah; two bottles Castello di Amorosa 2012 Sangiovese; two bottles Viader Vineyards & Winery 2013 Tempranillo; two bottles Kenefick Ranch 2011 Cabernet Franc; one bottle Cornerstone Cellars 2012 Cabernet Franc; one bottle Madrigal Family Winery 2012 Petite Sirah; one bottle Humanitas Wines 2012 Cabernet Franc; and one bottle Joseph Carr Wine 2012 Merlot.

Many more lots are going to be presented at this limited seating event.  No bidder will be turned away, but tickets are are on sale now for $150.  If you can’t attend in person can donate directly.

 

 

Support your local winemaker and the Valley Fire victims with this amazing event!

 

Hospice du Rhone: A great line up is announced!

The 2016 Hospice du Rhône event schedule has been released, and it’s going to be another epic one!  This annual gathering of producers and aficionados of the many delicious Rhône grapes begins on Friday, April 15th, in Paso Robles CA.

This year there are some new events to add to the grand tastings.  The seminar series this year is sure to be a knock out.  Discovering the Intricacies of Châteauneuf du Pape, to an in depth look at Washington State Rhônes, guests will be treated to a wine education second to none.

Prefer to deep dive in to the whites?  Check out Costières de Nîmes – A Southern Rhône Exception for Whites.  Prefer to stay close to home?  A Tale of Two Treasures:  Paso Robles and Santa Barbara will take you through the various AVAs that specialize in Syrah and Grenache, visiting four produces and digging in to the soils.

Hospice du Rhône has become somewhat famous for it’s lunches, and this year, of course, includes the Rose Lunch, a fan favorite.  Sit back, relax, and drink pink from the attending producers.  It’s often quite warm this time of year, so a bit of chilled rose is the perfect refreshment before the afternoon seminars resume.

Ever been to a cowboy auction with wine?  Well you’ll love the Lunch and Live Auction on Saturday, April 16th.  This spirited affair will get everyone in the mood as rare lots are offered up in support of the 2018 HdR event.

The Farewell BBQ on Saturday night is always a bittersweet affair.  This year, the Hitching Post II is manning the pit, and the casino is open!

Of course, interspersed in all of this fun are the Tastings.  Sip wines from the 130+ producers of the 22 Rhône varietals in these interactive walk around tastings.

Have a hankering for an intimate dinner?  This year, the Rhône-Around Dinner Series takes guests to Paso Robles best dining hot spots, each with a different theme.  Saturday, you have 3 epic dinners to choose from:
CdP on Assignment, Rhône Valley Relocated, and the Rhône Exchange.

With such a selection to choose from, it will be difficult to manage which events to choose!  I can’t wait to make a return appearance, see some old friends, and make some new ones next month.

Tickets are available for each dinner, from $100-150.  Event tickets are available for the Opening & Closing Tastings, a la carte, or a full weekend pass, as well as the lunches and farewell BBQ.  But buy them early, this is sure to be a sell out!

Oregon Pinot: Stoller Family Estate

Stoller Family Estates sits on a piece of Dundee Hills history, founded in the 1940s as a working farm.  Growing a small family farm to a larger enterprise through 50 years, the Stoller Family passed on the land to Bill Stolller, who founded the vineyard in 1993.

Today, Stoller owns the largest single contiguous vineyard in the Dundee Hills region of the Willamette Valley.  With an eye towards sustainability, innovations include pest management, research, and modern techniques.  Planted almost entirely to Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, Stoller is also experimenting with Tempranillo, Syrah, and other Alsatian varietals.

Dundee Hills Chardonnay 2014 – this fresh and fun entry level Chardonnay was fermted entirely in stainless steel, resulting in a fruit forward, vibrant wine full of pineapple, tropical mango and peach, and bright citrus.  $25

Stoller 2013 Dundee Hills Pinot Noir – Bursting with rhubarb and rose petals on the nose, the palate reinforces this classic Oregon Pinot Noir with Bing cherry, hibiscus, cinnamon, leather and cola syrup, with a hint of bacon fat.  This elegant but approachable wine is a great introduction to the region.  $30

The beautiful all season tasting room opens on to majestic views of the Dundee Hills, and is also the source of 100% of it’s electrical needs, through the solar panels on the roof.  Driving your Tesla?  Feel free to charge up at the EV station

Stoller Family Estate is located in the Dundee Hills region of Oregon’s Willamette Valley.  They are open daily, and invite you to sti down and stay a while as you taste through some of the reserve selections.  Want to experience the vineyard after visiting hours?  Stoller offers various guest house accommodation for an inside view.

Thank you to Stoller Estate and Trellis Growth Partners for sharing these lovely wines.

 

From California to Alsace!

Spring has sprung, at least temporarily, in Northern California.  The trees are blooming, the mustard blankets the resting vineyards, and our gratefully recieve El Nino rains have made the hills green with life.

Every year, the Anderson Valley Winegrowers Association shows off one of it’s two claims to fame:  Alsatian varietals.  These beautiful, nuanced, elegant, varied aromtaic white wines are a cetnerpirce of teh AVAs culture, and production.

Next weekend, the 2016 International Alsace Varietals Festival kicks off with educational seminars and grand tastings.  While many events are sold out (because I am late on the ball), there are still tickets available to many.  Even if you cannot make it this year, make a point of visiting Anderson Valley anytime, to taste the splendor of these delicious whites.

The Festival schedule is as follows:

Grand Tasting (Sold Out) – Saturday, Feb 20th 1-4pm

Taste Alsace style white wines from around the world with delicious bites to match.

 

Participating wineries include (my faves are in bold):
Balo Vineyards, Barra of Mendocino, Bink Wines, Brooks, Cartograph, Claiborne & Churchill, Copain Wines, Discover the East, Dry River Wines, Dutton-Goldfield Winery, Elke Vineyards, FEL Wines, Foris Vineyards, Goldeneye, Graziano Family Wines, Greenwood Ridge Vineyards, Handley Cellars, Husch Vineyards, Lazy Creek, Long Meadow Ranch, Lula Cellars, Maidenstoen, Maritime Wines, Navarro Vineyards, New Zealand Winegrowers,  Panthea Winery & Vineyard, Pacific Rim Wines, Phillips Hill Winery, Philo Ridge Vineyards, REIN Winery, Robert Sinskey Vineyards, Domaines Schlumberger, Stirm, Stony Hill Vineyard, Tatomer, Thomas Fogarty, and Toulouse Vineyards.

 

Winemaker Dinner at Scharffenberger Cellars – Feb 20, 6:30pm

Dine with one of 6 winemakers in the private dining room at Scharffenberger Cellars to learn why these aromatic whites are the darlings of the wine world.

Participating wineries include Scharffenberger Cellars, REIN Winery, Maidenstoen Wines, Philo Ridge Vineyards, Stirm Wine Company and Husch Vineyards.

 

Educational Session – Feb 20th, 8:30am (sold out)

Learn, engage, and interact with winemakers from around the globe as they discuss winemaking and grape growing specifically for Alsace varietals.

 

This year’s deep dive is all about Riesling.  Riesling  is the world’s seventh most-planted white wine grape variety and among the fastest growing over the past twenty years. It is a personal favorite of many sommeliers, chefs, and other food and wine professionals for its appealing aromatics, finesse, and minerality; for its uncanny ability to reflect terroir; and for its impressive versatility with cuisines of all types.

This discussion and panel tasting will look at the present state of dry Riesling on the west coast: where it is grown and made, what models and objectives vintners have in mind, and what parameters of grape growing and winemaking are essential when the goal is a delicious dry wine.

Panelists:
Chris Williams – Brooks Winery, Oregon
Nicolas Quille – Pacific Rim, Washington
Graham Tatomer – Tatomer Wines, Central Coast, CA
Alex Crangle –  Balo Vineyards, Anderson Valley, CA

10:00am    Food and Wine Pairing 
Speaker:    Francois de Melogue, Chef and Author
This session will explore pairing a selection of Alsace Varietals with food. Francois will serve delectable samples to showcase the effect of foods on the wines to be tasted.
11:00am    Grand Cru Grapes, Globally interpreted
Speaker:    Evan Goldstein, MS
Taking the cue from Alsace, Evan presents a look at the four noble grapes (Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer, and Muscat) with different unexpected duets per grape variety. A tasting panel will explore two different unexpected geographical interpretations of each along with the audience.

 

Grand Tasting – Feb 20th 1pm (sold out)
Meet the winemakers and taste Alsace style white wines from around the world. Enjoy foods perfectly suited for aromatic whites including prawns, pork belly, duck, handmade pizzas, assorted artisanal cheeses, and more – all included in your ticket price.

Participating wineries include (my favorites are in bold):
Balo Vineyards, Barra of Mendocino, Bink Wines, Brooks, Cartograph, Claiborne & Churchill, Copain Wines, Discover the East, Dry River Wines, Dutton-Goldfield Winery, Elke Vineyards, FEL Wines, Foris Vineyards, Goldeneye, Graziano Family Wines, Greenwood Ridge Vineyards, Handley Cellars, Husch Vineyards, Lazy Creek, Long Meadow Ranch, Lula Cellars, Maidenstoen, Maritime Wines, Navarro Vineyards, New Zealand Winegrowers,  Panthea Winery & Vineyard, Pacific Rim Wines, Phillips Hill Winery, Philo Ridge Vineyards, REIN Winery, Robert Sinskey Vineyards, Domaines Schlumberger, Stirm, Stony Hill Vineyard, Tatomer, Thomas Fogarty, and Toulouse Vineyards.

 

Open Houses – Feb 21st 11am  (no tickets required, come on up!)Meander through beautiful Anderson Valley tasting the bounty of Alsace varietals at participating wineries.  Each winery wil feature special wines as well as food pairings to tantalize your taste buds!

Participating wineries:

Balo Vineyards, Bink Wines, Elke Vineyards, Goldeneye, Greenwood Ridge, Handley Cellars, Husch Vineyards, Lazy Creek Vineyards, Lichen Estate, Lula Cellars, Navarro Vineyards, Phillips Hill Winery, Philo Ridge, Signal Ridge, Toulouse Vineyards.

I’m looking forward to some new favorites, old favorites, and delicious wines! I look forward to sharing my experience in the next few weeks.  Happy sipping!

Goosecross Cellars: Transformation of a classic

Goosecross Winery is one that has along history in Napa Valley, beginning in the 1970s as grape growers and evolving in the 1980s as winemakers.

Today, a new Goosecross has emerged, carrying on the tradition in a modern style.  In 2013, the winery was purchased by Christi Coors Ficeli, who, ironically, comes from a beer family.  (Yes, that Coors.)

Goosecross Napa Valley

Thoughtfully paired lunch!

On a particularly magical fall day, I was invited to experience the new face of the winery.  Driven to making wines with a sense of place and style, the current winemaker, Bill Nancarrow, honed his skills at both Paraduxx and Duckhorn before spreading his wings.  From a Duck to a Goose, Nancarrow specializes in Bordeaux style wines, with a smattering of other offerings.

The evolution of the style of wine at Goosecross was a slow one.  It’s history is long, and before the change in ownership, it was a bit of an odd duck, with a rustic barn, hidden treasures, and decaying reputation.

Trying to avoid a revolution, but rather encourage evolution, much of the original equipment (and the juice contained in it) was transitioned to Ficeli in 2013.  Even with a slow change, some things have been revolutionary; the best example is the use of concrete eggs to make Riesling.

Being creative with the concrete and stainless steel, Nancarrow has created something unique, and unlikely to be found outside of these four walls.  We were fortunate enough Goosecross estate vineyardto taste two versions of this wine in tank, as well as the not quite final blend.  From 46 year old Riesling vines, which are completely dry farmed, and fermented with native yeast, a concrete egg and a stainless steel version were crafted as base components for the the finished wine.  I can’t wait to try it in bottle!

As we sat down to lunch, we were greeted by the 2013 Chardonnay.  With no malolactic fermentation, this is a rare treat.  Procured from the Curato Vineyard in Carneros, this floral and citrus driven wine had touches of apricots and honey. The lack of battonage played nicely against the 40% French Oak, to add caramel and texture.

 

Next the 2011 State Lane Merlot, which is Estate Grown.  Even in a difficult year, this Merlot is everything I love about the varietal, and none of the sad, woody, bitter Merlot that made me run from it so many years ago.  Gorgeous rich banking spices, cracked peppercorn, and a hint of cigar box match the lean body with blue and black berries, plums, and leather.  The cooler influence of the vintage kept this wine lively, and only 30% French Oak barrels kept the wood from being too pronounced.

 

Lastly, (not entirely, but lastly with lunch) the 2011 State Lane Cabernet Sauvignon.  With an enticing chili pepper spice note, the full aroma encompassed my senses with wood smoke, blackberry, and ripe red currents.  The hint of mineral on the finish was a clean refreshing sensation in a very enjoyable wine.

 

Goosecross Cabernet FrancFinally, as we enjoyed the newly built deck behind the tasting room, we were able to enjoy the 2012 Cabernet Franc.  One of my favorite varietals, I am always excited to try a new one.  This did not disappoint!  Rose petals, raspberries, and white pepper floated out of the glass, while dark cherries, dried lavender, and chocolate coated my mouth with a burst of happiness.


Goosecross Napa Valley is located in Yountville, about 10 minutes north of Napa.  Hidden away on a side road just off of Yountville Crossroad, you might miss it, but this is a destination worth seeking.  Open from 10-4:30 daily, it’s a well worth a detour.
A special thank you to everyone at Goosecross for a wonderful experience, and to Lisa Klink-Shea from Creative Marketing for hosting!

Cuvaison – a hidden treasure in Carneros

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Just off of Highway 121, in Carneros’ rolling hills, Cuvaison sits, hidden away from traffic on top of a hill.  Here, the team at Cuvaison uses green methods and old farming techniques to produce world class wines for over 30 years.

The first time I visited Cuvaison was in the early 2000s, and I had always enjoyed the experience.  Things have changed a bit, and on my return at the 2009 Wine Bloggers Conference, we learned how sustainable practices were being employed and new techniques were being developed to have a minimal impact on the nature around them.

Today, the vineyards are certified sustainable, and they are dedicated to a philosophy of producing vineyard-driven wines, that express the unique terroir of Carneros.

With the cooling influence of the fog blowing off of San Pablo Bay, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are right at home here.  Selecting fruit block by block, and vinified these separately, winemaker Steven Rogstad can maintain the vineyard’s terroir, and express the uniqueness of this region.download (3)

On this visit, we explored the newest addition to the tasting room hospitality:  the Wine & Cheese Experience.  This experience explores three classic Cuvaison wines, each paired with cheeses specifically selected for their own terroir, set to match the wines.

First, the whole cluster fermented 2012 Estate Chardonnay was paired with Redwood Hill Farm Bucharet.  The wine, which underwent partial malolactic fermentation, had rich lemon curd and vanilla notes, bright citrus and a flinty undertone.  Paired with the goat’s milk Bucheret, which ripens from tthe outside in, it was a gorgeous creamy wonder!

Next, the 2013 Estate Pinot Noir.  Carneros is known for it’s Pinot Noir, and there is a distinct terroir in this wine.  With hibiscus, bright red fruit, fresh cherries, baking spices and an herbaceous finish, this wine did not disappoint.  A hint of green peppercorn and cured meats played off of the Matos Cheese Factory St. George, a personal favorite.  This savory, nearly cream cheese like wonder also went very well with the Chardonnay.

Finally, the 2012 Brandlin Mouunt Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon, which was paired with Vella Cheesedownload (2) Comapny’s Dry Jack.  The pungency of the Dry Jack was perfect with the rich plum notes of the Cab, which was a rich cup of coffee, full of cocoa, black berries and dried spices.

download (8)If you are in the region, the Wine & Cheese Experience is by reservation, and is $35.  That’ sa pretty great deal considering that many tastings alone can run that much in the Napa valley.  With a total case production of just under 50,000 cases, this mid size winery is still a hidden gem, just slightly off the beaten path.  With two estates and 20 wines to choose from, it’s an expereicne not to be missed!

 

 

She’s Back! Hospice du Rhone returns home

Sixteen years ago, Hospice du Rhône

was founded with a dedicated goal to education and celebrate Rhone varietals from around the world.  With 22 varieties, one gorgeous region of France, and many countries producing quality Rhône style wines, what’s not to love about a celebration of this magnitude?

After twenty years in Paso Robles, HdR migrated east to Blackberry Farm, to share the love of the grape with more Rhone lovers.  This year, however, I am ecstatic to celebrate the return of this event to California’s Paso Robles wine country.

The weekend of April 14-16, 2016, Hospice du Rhône makes a return appearance with star studded events at the Paso Robles event center.  The highlight of the weekend, for me, is the education seminar series, which dives deep in to different topics impacting producers.

This year, these seminars include a discussion of the Intricacies of Châteauneuf du Pape.   With so much diversity in a small area of southern France, I am truly excited to learn more.  Additional seminars are being developed but they are sure to be outstanding.

Throw in the always epic Rose Lunch and Grand Tasting, and that alone is worth the price of entry.  But have you ever been to a Rhône Cowboy BBQ?  Yeehaw!  Who says Rhone wines are for the dusty shelves of a wine cellar?  Come celebrate the diversity the 22 grapes have to offer.  From affordable pinks, to fun blends, to collectors loves, the Rhône are grown all over the world and produce amazingly unique, diverse and delicious wines.

Event passes for Hospice du Rhône are on sale now, and start at $100 for single events.

More details are to come, so stay tuned!

Coco Frio – Modern Veneuzualan in the heart of San Francisco

I love food.  If you take one look at my Instagram account, or follow me on Facebook, you can probably figure that out.  I’m very fortunate that I live in a food capital, where there are literally dozens of world class (Michelin starred or not) restaurants to choose from.

There is a problem however; new restaurants open and close like a revolving door.  It’s no secret that opening a new restaurant is a challenge – something like 80% or more fail within the first year.  Even established restaurants can close their doors in twist of the economy.

But I’m not here to talk about the negative, I’m here to talk about the positive!  Last fall, I was introduced to a new restaurant in the heart of our Latin Quarter, The Mission.  A blend of many different Latin American culture, The Mission has a plethora of both ethnic and uniquely American food choices.

Enter Coco Frio.  Coco Frio Restaurant and Bar is uniquely Caribbean, based on the food culture of Margarita Island, located off the Venezuelan coast.  Using the freshest seafood and a Venezuelan flair, the food is taste tantalizing fusion of Caribbean and Latin cultures.  Topping it off, unique cocktails and a pretty stellar wine list will set off the cuisine.

On our visit, we opted to start with a cocktail, before having the tasting menu, with wine pairings.  In addition to the classic tasting menu, Chef Manny Torres Gimenez added in a few extra dishes to ensure that we were fully immersed in the Margarita culture.  The wine fishlist, curated by Katie Brookshire, focuses on affordable, unexpected, and unusual pairings.

First Course:  We started with the Fish Fume (Siete Potencias) a delicious fish soup, with
fresh mussels and clams.  This paired perfectly with the Kerner, which was fresh and unique with a mineral finish.

Second Course:  Scallops on the half shell.  Sadly not pictured, the scallops were perfectly cooked with fresh tomatoes and spices of the region.  I think this might have been my favorite.

meatThird Course:  Meat!  This amazing steak was so tender, you could have cut it with a spoon.

Fourth Course:  Free Range Chicken (Pollo Frito) with Yuca, downloadwhich paired surprisingly well with Austrian Zweigelt.

 

 

 

With many additions to the menu, we lost track of what came next, but suffice it to say we were stuffed.  With so many delicious wines and experiments to try, I highly recommend you take time to visit Coco Frio when you are in San Francisco.

The large by the glass selection of wines ranges from Vino Verde and Gruner Veltiner, to Rioja and Garnacha.  Most glasses are $8, and the wine pairing for the $30 – 3 course prix-fixe menu is only $15, which considering the large half glasses, is a steal.  Additionally, there are several beers if you want to have an inventive beer paring for some of the spicier dishes.

The final component of Coco Frio is the lengthy and creative cocktail list.  With Chef Manny’s recent acquisition of Santa Teresa Rum, the oldest rum in the Caribbean, the cocktails are, naturally rum based.    From the party packed Pisco Punch to the Venezuelan classic El Coco Frio, served in a coconut and meant for 2, this is not your mother’s Pina Colada.

I look forward to a return visit to taste more of the cocktails and dishes!  With a menu that focuses on fresh, local, and seasonal ingredients, it si sure to be different every time you go.

Special thanks to Natalie from Bread & Butter PR for not only setting this up, but hanging out with us for a drink!  

 

Sparkling Countdown: Côté Mas Crémant de Limoux


There really is no place quiet as magical as the south of France.  Not only is Limoux, in the Languedoc, the ancestral birthplace of sparkling wine, but there is a plethora of amazingly affordable and delicious rose wine to choose from.

In today’s sparkler, the Cote Mas Cremant de Limoux Rose Brut fits the bill perfectly.
This enticing blend of 70% Chardonnay, 20% Chenin Blanc, 10% Pinot Noir is fermented in stainless steel before it’s Methode Traditionelle  secondary fermentation in bottle.

A beautiful pink color with bold peach and stone fruit flavors, effervescent with blood orange and strawberries.  At $15, it’s an everyday value and is fantastic with cheese or potato chips!

Another sample from our friends at Gregory White PR, we salute you!

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