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Rosés of Summer: Casey Flat Ranch, past and present

In land far away, on a hill steeply above the valley, lies a secret place in Capay Valley called  Casey Flat Ranch.  Located at 2000 feet above sea level in the Vaca Mountains, between Napa Valley and the Central Valley, the area was originally settled in the late 1850s during the Gold Rush.  Now, a new rush is on – both for sustainable organic produce, and wine. The Capay Valley AVA was established in 2002, which is somewhat surprising with only two vineyards:  Casey Flat Ranch and Capay Vineyards.  The 150 square miles of Capay Valley has only 100 acres under vine, with it’s primary resource being agriculture.  The produce from Capay is legendary, and many an urban CSA gets it’s offerings from this area.  While Capay Valley has had wineries since the Gold Rush, the pressure from neighboring Napa all but killed the wine industry out until recently.

Casey Flat Ranch

L – 2nd generation managing partner Alison Morey Garrett R – firecracker, cowgirl, and VP of Sales & Marketing Brenda Bullington

With Casey Flat Ranch being established in 1987 as a Texas Longhorn cattle ranch, vineyards were only added in 2004, initially as an experiment.  Why not?  If Napa could have all that success a mere 22 miles away, why not here?  Lucky for us, this experiment yielded beautiful results!

Casey Flat Ranch

Winemaker Laura Barrett

Focusing on Bordeaux and Rhone varietals, Casey Flat Ranch produces Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah Rose, Viognier, and an Estate Red blend.  It’s sister label, Open Range, produces Sav Blanc and a red blend as well.  Winemaker Laura Barrett is an exciting, young women winemaker, who started her career in New Zealand.  Receiving her Masters in Enology from neaby UC Davis, Laura joined Casey Flat Ranch in 2008. _MG_2116   When you arrive at the base of the mountain, it is clear that you are not in traditional wine country any more.  This is cattle country!  Expecting cowboys to come meandering down the hillside, we were greeted by the 2013 Estate Syrah Rosé instead.  This bright and fresh rosé  is a lovely alternative to pinot noir rose, and is bursting with blood orange, red berry, and fresh, juicy peaches.  It’s got a lushness and fullness of body that just makes my heart go pitter patter!  I love a Syrah rose, and this was no exception.  At $18, it’s a great front porch sipper, and perfect for barbeques. Once at the top of the mountain, at the luxe ranch house, we were eagerly waiting for our lunch, _MG_2163prepared specifically to pair with the wines by Thomas McNaughton, executive chef of SF cult hotspots flour + water, Central Kitchen, and Salumeria.  Swoon! _MG_2179Our first course of a Spring Vegetable Salad was perfectly paired with the 2013 Sav Blanc.  The crisp, tropical refresher with strong floral and herbal notes.  Fermentation is started in tanks, and neutral barrels and stainless steel barrels age the wine sur lie. _MG_2185Next up, King Salmon with the 2013 Viognier.  On a warm day, the light and refreshing Viognier has stone fruit up front, Golden Delicious apples, and beautiful minerality under the fruit.  This was Casey Flat Ranch’s second single varietal bottling, and I think they did a wonderful job with the 50% neutral oak, 50% stainless steel aging on this baby.

_MG_2187We finished our day on the ranch with the 2010 Casey Flat Ranch Red Blend paired with Speck Wrapped Pork Tenderloin.  The red blend is a rich and spicy Bordeaux style blend, but also fun and fresh.  Comprised of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Cab Franc, the dusty baking spice, dark purple fruit, blackberries and plums really accented out the beets & cherries served with the pork.
While I thoroughly enjoyed all of the wines, the rosé of Syrah is my favorite, and deserves your attention and is, indeed, a Rosé of Summer!

Thank you to Casey Flat Ranch and Charles Communications for letting me be your guest at this amazing day!  

HALL Wines: An Art Treasure steeped in Cabernet

It was a bright and warm late spring day when I ventured up to St. Helena to see the new Hall Wines facility and tasting room.  While I had visited before, in 2009, it was shortly after the LEED Certified production facility had opened, and what a difference 4 years can make!

With a focus on sustainability and responsibility, along with diverse culture, Hall has gone to new heights with the new Wine and Art Exploration tasting & tour which gives visitors to the winery a peek in to the passion for art & design that Former Ambassador Kathryn Hall has always expressed.

Hall WinesArriving at the St. Helena property, the first thing you see is “Little Bunny Foo Foo” – a large metal sculpture in the circular drive.  This imposing and  imipressive piece welcomes you in to the parking lot and sets the tone for the day to come.  This is just one of the many stunning pieces of visual art that are on permanent display at Hall.

As we we were welcomed in to the visitors center by a cold glass of Sauvignon Blanc, we were surrounded by the textural art in the tasting room that screams reach out and touch me.  Alas, we were not allowed to do so, but that type of art work that intrigues and inspires imagination is what draws you in and leaves you wanting more.

Wandering around the property, you will see several examples of these large pieces of art work that you can spend your time gazing at and just relaxing.

Completing your tour in the tasting room, your palate is delighted by the focus on Cabernet Sauvignon, which is what Hall focuses on, as well as the WALT Pinot Noirs.  A visit to HALL is a must on any stop in Napa, and you may never want to leave!

The winery also has special programs throughout the year, including the Friday Sunset Cruise – where guests can linger outside after hours, and taste through the wines open from the day, while sitting in the Adirondack chairs by the reflecting pool, eating some delicious appetizers.

Another program is Demystifying Wine & Food, where guests can expand their tasting experience with a guided food and wine experience.

There are many more experiences to choose from, so you should check them all out here.

I can’t possibly pick my favorite wine, since all of the Cabernets are silky, beautiful and luscious, but if you are a Cabernet Lover, you could opt for the  Ultimate Cabernet Collector experience, where guests can enjoy history in a glass, one Cab at a time.

These experiences range from $30 to $100 and reservations are required.

If you are a wine lover, an art lover, and a Cabernet Sauvignon lover, take some time out of your day to stop and relax at HALL WInes in St. Helena.

 

Viva Espana!

catalan-festival-banner

Summer is in full swing, and so is Spain!  Do you like paella?  Dancing?  Wine?

Join Gloria Ferrer at the Catalan Festival on Saturday & Sunday, July 19th & 20th for a party benefiting Sonoma Valley Education Foundation.

Honoring the spirit of the Ferrer family, each day guests can stroll Las Ramblas, recreating Barcelona’s popular main street with the colors, smells and sounds of Spain. Along the way they will sample savory tapas, enjoy paella and cooking demonstrations, and participate in educational seminars, cocktail demonstrations,food & wine pairings and a festive grape stomp.

Along Las Ramblas, stop and state the Gloria Ferrer Carneros sparkling and estate varietal wines, as well as select wines from the Ferrer family’s Spanish wineries.

Live Flaminco music will be playing and you can learn to dance, and admire the artist replica of the Gegants de Mataró made specifically for Gloria Ferrer!

The festival runs each day from noon to 4:00 p.m. and tickets can be purchased HERE for this fabulous benefit event!

 

Live Blogging: RIOS de Chile Carmenere

After tasting the value priced Sav Blanc yesterday, I’m excited to try the Carmenere today.

 

The vineyard is just at the foot of the Andes, and the vines struggle.  The nose on the wine is very spicy and green, which is different than the palate.  The palate has black pepper, earthy and spicy, and would be amazing with east Asian food with a spicy backbone.

Carmenere is a misunderstood grape, and this is a great example that is pure and honest — and is not pure green pepper.  At $12.99, I would buy this every day!

Live Blogging: Vineyard 511 Diamond Mountain Cabernet

The 2010 Vineyard 511 Cab is distinctly Diamond Mountain.  I love hillside fruit, and this is no exception.

Rich and lush, but with a beautiful bright note hiding under the blackberry, this cab has dusty notes of coffee and chocolate.

The tiny production of 160 cases will not last long, so go get this lush gem!

Live Blogging: Garnet Vineyards Monterey Pinot Noir

I happen to be very lucky and I know Alison Crowe well.  She is a vibrant, energetic and influential winemaker as well as blogger.  I am happy to call her a friend.

This $15 pinot, is a fun, fresh and youthful wine made from Central Coast fruit.  As a Santa Barbara County native, Alison was educated at UC Davis and worked her way up through jobs at Chalone and other well known wineries.  She now has her own brand, Garnet and also consults with Saintsbury.

Pinot Noir is the easiest grape to show true expression of the fruit, and Alison loves to play with it.  The Monterey fruit is different than all the other pinots as it’s a classic Central Coast wine, with fresh, savory red fruit.  Crowd pleasing and inexpensive!

Viva la Garnet!

Live Blogging: Consilience Syrah

I have been exposed to Consilience for over 10 years, and it’s been so wonderful to be able to taste the development of these wines.

 

This 2011 Santa Barbara County Syrah is under $30, and is a blend of Tierra Alta and Estelle Syrah, as well as a touch of this and that.

This is juicy and fresh, with cinnamon, clove, and cracked black pepper.  I love syrah and this is yum!

Live Blogging:

Wines with a accent!  The Brecon Estate tasting room is only 3 months old and we are tasting the Cab Franc, which is also brand new.

Classic Cab Franc flavor profie, full of green leafy vegetables and hard spices.  Black pepper, green pepper corn, and mouthwatering lavendar.  You don’t typically see Cab Franc from Paso Robles, so this is a refreshingly fun wine.

The calcareous soils are from the highest point of the estate, at 1400′, which helps the vine struggle and produce amazing wine.  Planted in the 80s, now the vines are producing wines of elegance and style that I just love!

 

Viva la Cab Franc!

Live Blogging: Labyrinth

Based in Santa Maria Valley, Labyrinth Presqu’ile Clone 667 Pinot noir is a Santa Maria classic.

The winemaker from Australia, has been making wine here since 1997.  His wife was the original winemaker for Hitching Post.

The clone 667 is from the south side of Santa Maria Valley, which is the cool zone and you can tell by the beautiful acid in this wine.  Bright tangy cherry, 100% whole cluster, rich brown sugar, and zingy fruit.

I love this pinot!  The tangerine notes on the finish make it a winner!  Retailing for $50, it’s a great splurge and I love the salinity on the finish.

 

Live Blogging: Taken Wine Co Red Wine

Taken Wine Company is based in Napa and has 3 blends.

This one is Taken Napa Valley Red Wine, a Bordeaux style blend, made from Cab and Merlot.

This is a rich cab based wine, with deep purple fruit, blackberry, and smokey dried blueberry.

The budget friendly $30 makes this an everyday enjoyable wine from Josh Phelps, who is part of the Phelps family.