And speaking of Roses…

As I sit here and have my morning dose of Twitter, the illustrious Agent Red of The Wine Spies pointed out that their deal today is a delectable little number by Chandon. Since I do love my Blanc de Noirs, and pretty much anything with bubbles, I will have to give this one a try.

Which reminds me. This Thursday, August 14th (that’s tomorrow folks!) is Pretty in Pink at Jovino in San Francisco. Hosted by BottleNotes, this is your chance to taste some lovely Rosé wines paired with foods for the occasion! What are you waiting for? Sign up and join us!

For details, please click HERE!



Wine Blogging Wednesday #48, Back to our ROOTS!

It being the Olympics, when I think of Roots, I think of those silly berets they made us wear the last time around. That said, I was looking forward to this WBW because Lenn asked us to “get back to our roots”.

When first reading the theme, one might think I was going to go to the grocery store and stock up on Sutter Home White Zinfandel (and no Lenn, that is NOT really wine it is Cool Aid for mommies) or Almaden Chablis, but no! I strongly protest! For me, my roots are in Sonoma County.

Growing up in the Bay Area, my family would often take weekend drives up the coast, or in to Petaluma to look at the chickens. Yes, we city girls know what chickens look like. When I got older, I decided to go to college in Sonoma, since it was just far enough away from home for me to not kill my parents, but close enough to the city to have some fun.

That being said, I was first exposed to wine when working for Windsor Vineyards one summer. Granted, it was only in the office and was not terribly exciting since I was the receptionist in their corporate sales office, buy hey – we had weekly wine tastings! Since I wasn’t a huge drinker in college, this was eye opening for me. What better way to prompt the sales team to sell custom labels for corporate gifts than by getting them liquored up! Poor fools didn’t know what they were in for. Once I started drinking wine, I never stopped; as my parting gift at the end of the summer, they gave me a case of wine to go. Not bad!

When I moved back to the city, I was broke and making $10 an hour. Needless to say my habit for Long Island Ice Teas was not supported on such a meager income. I ask you, what can you do that is free, but allows you to enjoy the fruits of nature? Wine tasting of course! Thus began my weekly forays in to Sonoma Valley and Dry Creek Valley to imbibe in the good juice. In the 90s, Sonoma was still up and coming and no one, I mean NO ONE charged for tasting. Since my friends and I were all broke, there was nothing finer than a free glass of wine-a!

One of the first wineries that stole my heart was Peterson, nestled between Dry Creek Valley and Alexander Valley. Before it moved in to it’s current digs on Dry Creek Road, Peterson would occasionally open it’s barn doors and share it’s wine right out of the barn door. I instantly fell in love with it’s “I’m going to make wine my way and I don’t care” attitude, as well as the rich, jammy zinfandels Peterson produces. As a newly minted wine drinker, the full bodies and slightly sweet style of red wine is easy to love. Many of these wines lack some complexity, but are thoroughly enjoyable as sipping wines. Fortunately, as my palate matured, so did many of these wines. You can now find a vast array of complex, spicy, fruity wines all over the valley at every price point.

For this Wine Blogging Wednesday, I cracked open the 2004 Bernier Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel. I had picked up this bottle a couple of weeks ago on a whim, since I hadn’t tasted Peterson’s zins in a while. Classic in it’s Dry Creek characteristics, there were tons of blackberry brambles kissed by Oak, with lush jammy flavors wafting up from my glass. This wine was purchased at the winery for $26 but can be found elsewhere for as little as $20.

While my current infatuation has been with Pinot Noir, my budget has been impacted by gas prices and I have had to curtail my wine spending a tad. It’s great to knwo that you can still pick up a decent bottle of zin for under $50!

Pretty in Pink

Summer is here (in some parts of the world) and the weather is heating up. This is particularly true in the East Bay, where I happen to spend my weekdays.

Some things I love about summer are:

  • -Peaches
  • -Tomatos warm from the sun off the vine
  • -BBQs
  • -and sitting outside on a warm afternoon, sipping a nice dry Rosé wine!

Since there are so many different types of Rosé, I have started to drink more to explore different territories. One of my strategies this year at Family Winemakers is to taste some new ones to add to my cellar list.

As it happens, my friends at Bottlenotes are hosting an event here in San Francisco next week all about Rosé. If you’re not familiar with Bottlenotes, they are an online wine club that you can customize to suit your tastes. Each time you recieve a wine, you can rate it, and you get future selections based on these. It’s kind of like your suggestions list on Amazon. Pretty cool!

Rosé wines and paired appetizers from the The Little Black Apron Cookbook (purchase from below)

will be served on Thursday, Thursday, August 14 at Jovino on Union.

Click here for details and to make reservations

See you there!


Bottle Shock REVIEW

Last night I was lucky enough (OK, so I paid) to attend the San Francisco premier of Bottle Shock as well as a modern day interpretation of the Judgment of Paris.

Prior to the screening, we convened at Crushpad to taste 5 chardonnays and 5 Cabernet blends, to see if the current results would match or best the original 1976 tasting. At the same time, i wanted to present myself with a personal challenge and see if I could (accurately) guess which wines being tasting were French, and which were from California.

First, my tasting results, as compared to the crowd’s popular vote at our recreation, and the results in 1976.

First, my results:

My Place Wine # Popular Vote Origin?
1st Wine 2 2nd France
2nd Wine 5
3rd Wine 4 1st CA
4th Wine 3
5th Wine 1 2nd tie CA

My Place Wine # Popular Vote Origin?
1st Wine 6 but it was a very close battle with my 2nd place winner 2nd CA
2nd Wine 10 1st CA
3rd Wine 7
4th Wine 9
5th Wine 8 3rd France


Now that you’re wonder what the hell these wines were, here are the actual bottles we tasted (and if they were tasted in ’76, where they placed:

Wine #


Crushpad Result

1976 Result


Wine 1

2005 Gustavo Thrace

2nd (tie)


Wine 2

2005 Girardin Meursault Charmes Du Dessus Premier Cru



Wine 3

2005 Puligny-Montrachet Clavillon Domaine Leflaive Premier Cru



Wine 4

2006 Chateau Montelena




Wine 5

2006 Freemark Abbey Winery





Wine #


Crushpad Result

1976 Result


Wine 6

2004 Freemark Abbey Winery Bosche Vineyard




Wine 7

2004 Chateau Mouton Rothschild



Wine 8

2004 Chateau Montrose



Wine 9

2004 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars SLV




Wine 10

2004 Ridge Monte Bello


So now that I’ve completely confused you – a question:
Are palates demographically and attuned? It it in our genes to like particular wines, or is it what wines we have been given as we are training our palates?

Now! On to the movie! First, let me tell you how important it is to be able to bring wine in to the movies, particularly if the movie is, well, about wine.

Fortunately, the Sundance Kabuki has a wine bar with balcony seating, that allows you to order wine and food for your enjoyment in the theater. You might think that this is sacrilege, but what better to go with a campy soap opera treatment of the wine wars than a nice glass of wine & a nibble? They have done a great job revamping this San Francisco institution, and include soft liek seating with cocktail tables every two seats int he balcony. For all this cozy atmosphere, you only pay $1.50 plus food, which brings the ticket price to $11.50. Doesn’t seem like much more than the Metreon if you ask me, and I’d pay that anytime. The wines by the glass could use a little help, but the food was quite tasty.

Bottle Shock needs to be viewed with a grain of salt. The producers were on hand to give us the backstory, as was Bo Barrett and Gustavo Brambila two of the main characters in the film.
take this movie to be a reality TV show type spin on the true story of Chateau Montelana as well as Beau, his father Jim.

Telling the story of the 1976 Paris tasting requires a certain amount of camp treatment, and the producers were given creative license to…well…enhance their characters. What this amounts to is the portrayal of Bo as an ambition-less hippie at odds with his father. Yes, most of this is actually true, but the over the top performance of Chris Pine as Bo and Alan Rickman as British wine merchant Steven Sperrier just add to the hilarity.

My favorite moment in the movie was when Rickman takes a sip of the Montelena Chardonnay and makes a face as if he is eating dirt since he can’t believe that this California swill could possibly be a palatable solution to the French domination in the wine market.

Take it for what you will, part soap opera, part realty TV. I loved it, just as I loved Sideways and give it 5 Chardonnays.



To Infinity, and BEYOND!

The Wine Century Club was developed for all adventurous wine lovers. Have you tasted 100 different grape varietals? I know what you’re thinking: I drink a lot. A lot of wine. Surely I must be a charter member! But It’s not as easy as you might think.

The most common varietals are some variation on the Big Six:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Merlot (does anyone actually drink this stuff?)
  • Pinot Noir
  • Chardonnay
  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Riesling

The Wine Century Club is made up of people that enjoy tasting new wines, and have an adventerous streak. Sounds like me! With Family Winemakers coming up, and the Wine Bloggers Conference shortly thereafter, what better way to challenge myself to learn about new varietals.

Here is a challenge to all of you Luscious Lushes out there.
See if you too can earn one of these fancy certificates! My goal is to have it completed by the time Rhone Rangers rolls around next year.

Download the Century Club application here:


Weekend Wine-ing with the BrixChicks!

This weekend, I was lucky enough to have a full wine schedule with each of the Brix Chicks, that fun filled wine duo also known as Liza and Xandria.

Saturday, Liza and I atteneded the Rosenblum 30th Anniversary Open House courtesy of the Blogger Extrodinaire, Farley of Behind the Vines.

With over 40 delicious wines being poured, it was fantastic to be able to park our rears in beach chairs, and munch on fresh cheese and Zinfandel ice cream. Yummy! I am sad to report that we missed out on the Anniversary Edition of the Rockpile Road Zin, because we were attempting to go in a reasonable order from everyday to extraordinary. C’est la vie.

My highlights of the tasting day at Rosenblum were:

  • England-Shaw Vineyard Syrah, Solano County – 2005
  • Harris Kratka Vineyard Zinfandel, Alexander Valley – 2005
  • Planchon Vineyard Zinfandel, Contra Costa County – 2006
  • Rockpile Road Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley – 2006
  • Rominger Vineyard Syrah, Yolo County – 2006
  • Maggie’s Reserve Zinfandel, Sonoma Valley – 2005
  • Monte Rosso Vineyard Reserve Zinfandel, Sonoma Valley – 2006
  • Rockpile Reserve Syrah, Fran’s Vineyard – 2006
  • St. Peter’s Church Vineyard Reserve Zinfandel, Sonoma County – 2005

Can you see a theme here? First, I am a Zin girl. Always have been, always will be. While I love Syrah and really enjoy Pinot Noir these days, Zin is where my heart is.

Sunday, Xandria and I headed up to Dry Creek.
I have to add a disclaimer here, because I did not take any tasting notes. I was just enjoying myself too much to think about it! So, these recollections are just the wines that stuck out in my mind as tasty without any deconstruction.

I had originally wanted to head up to Vinify Solutions in Santa Rosa because I got an invitation to their open house where Kethcum Estates was pouring there fabulous Pinot Noir. I first discovered Kethcum last year at Pinot Days, and have been a fan every since.

Little did I know that Vinify, a custom cursh facility, had over 10 labels pouring that day! Pinot, Syrah, Chardonnay oh my.
Some of the offerings we tried were:

  • Ketchum Estate
  • Bjornstad Cellars
  • Suacci Carciere
  • Baker Lane
  • Sojourn Cellars
  • Dry Stack Cellars
  • Super Sonoman
  • Lattanzio Wines
  • Cinque Insieme
  • Bevan Cellars

I did not have a bad wine among them, which is truly dangerous since my garage is running out of cellaring space! Do I see a wine locker in my future?

After that luscious pitstop, we zipped on up Dry Creek to go visit @ShaRayRay (Shana to you non Twitter types) at Kokomo.
Bermuda, Bahama, baby don’t you wanna? I would if I were you. For a new winery, Kokomo is producing some amazing things. My first trip to Kokomo was this year’s Barrel Tasting, when I fell in love with the Carignane. Sadly, I have to be a patient Wineaux, since it won’t be released for a while.

While we were enjoying our lunch from the Dry Creek General Store, we sipped on such tasty treats as

  • 2006 Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, Peters Vineyard
  • 2006 Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Windsor Oaks Vineyard
  • 2005 Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley, Perotti Vineyards
  • 2006 Cuvee”Bela”,Sonoma County

Thanks Shana for showing us such great hospitality! Sitting on the porch at the Dry Creek Olive Oil Company, eating a really good sandwich, drinking really good wines. How bad can it be!

Go out, taste, and enjoy your life. You might get hit by a bus, or be in an earthquake tomorrow.





Quote of the Day…and why I love Twitter

As I spend time on Twitter keeping up to date with my wine buds, Randy Hall of Wine Biz Radio fame started an new trend in microblogging. Call it boredom, call it random silliness, but Randy has started the TWOT. No, it’s not a disease, it’s the

Given Randy’s recent daddy-hood, I decided to pitch in today and offer up today’s TWOT:


Sem`pi*ter”nal, a. [L. sempiternus, fr. semper always: cf. F. sempiternel.]1. Of neverending duration; everlasting; endless; having beginning, but no end. –Sir M. Hale. 2. Without beginning or end; eternal.

To which Patrick of Iridesse Wines, aka Oenophilus offered up the following quotable quote:

Until we recognize our codependence on natural corks, TCA contamination will be sempiternal.

Cheers to the best TWOT of the day Patrick! Perhaps this will inspire you to join the Twittersphere. Good times, good times.

And perhaps given the impending film debut of Bottle Shock, we had better read George Taber’s other book, To Cork or Not to Cork.

Bottle Shock UPDATE!

As promised, here are the vital stats for the Bottle Shock! Premiere Party.
The Paris Wine Tasting of 1976 turned established perceptions of French and California wines on their heads. So what better place than Crushpad — known to challenge convention ourselves — to celebrate the release of Bottle Shock, the new feature film that dramatizes this famous tasting.

Tickets are $75. Yes I know, it’s a lot. BUT think of what you get. You get Bo & Heidi Barrett and Gustavo Brambila, who won first place among white wines at the Paris Tasting with their Chateau Montelena Chardonnay.

We’ll also be joined by folks from Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, whose Cabernet Sauvignon captured first place among red wines. Bottle Shock producers, Brenda & Marc Lhormer will even be on hand to give you a behind the scenes account of the filming.

You’ll be part of the judging too, tasting four French wines and four American wines, then casting your vote for best red and best white. After the winning wines are selected, we’ll hop aboard chartered buses for a short trip to the theater to view a private screening of the movie.

You’ll also get entry to the opening night screening of Bottle Shock with, more wine!

Please buy your tickets early here:
Bottle Shock Tickets

Bottle Shock!

Bottle Shock is about to be released!
Picture it.
Scions of the wine industry gather in Paris for the annual Judgment of Paris wine competition.
In a blind tasting, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon from France and California were pitted against each other, where, shockingly California won and changed the wine world forever.

On August 6th, the film adapted from the book Judgement of Paris: California vs. France and the Historic 1976 Paris Tasting That Revolutionized Wine by George Taber, opens to audiences here in the heart of California wine county. To help celebrate the 22nd anniversary of this epic victory for American wine, Crushpad is hosting a premier party to celebrate our victory over the French. Come celebrate with us by tasting a recreation of the Paris competition, and then join us at the Kabuki for a screening of the movie.

Details to follow soon. You can watch the official trailer below for your entertainment!

A Passport to New Discoveries

Yesterday was the quarterly Santa Cruz Mountain Winegrowers Association Passport day. This is a time when the participating wineries open their doors and invite you to taste this exciting region, while enjoying many tiny wineries that are rarely if ever open to the public.

With the explosion of boutique wineries recently, it was no surprise that there were several new offering on this year’s list, and I aimed to stay north and try the new offerings instead of fighting beach traffic and heading over the hill to the tried and true Santa Cruz destinations. In particular, there were some new urban wineries located in the mid-Peninsula, which makes it a great short day trip.

My first winner for the day were Domenico Winery, located on Industrial Road in San Carlos. Domenico started as the Bacchus Winemaking club, a make you own shop similar to Crushpad. In a large warehouse space on an industrial lane, Domenico has a large open space which has tables set up. On summer Sundays, they host jazz & other musical guests in this space, where you can enjhoy wine and a picnic to the tunes of whoever is playing for the bargain price of $5 entry.

The absolute winner here was the 2006 Santa Cruz Mountain Pinot Noir, $35. While many Pinots I have tasted from the 06 vintage were uninspired, Santa Cruz seems to have bypassed this disappointing year and is producing stellar examples of my favorite vino.

Another winner was down the road in Redwood City. Tucked away in a working class neighborhood of run down houses and auto shops, La Honda is a re-purposed warehouse, redone in a slightly gaudy fake Tuscan Villa style. That said, the owners were genuinely happy to see us, and were happy to let us wander in the small art gallery whiel we sipped our wine.

Again, the winner here was the Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir, Black Capsule North, $26. This is a full bodied Pinot Noir, but is not overdone, and is a nice rich blend from several wineries in the northern Santa Cruz Mountain appellation.

Go forth and buy locally, and enjoy your Santa Cruz wine!



Wine Blogging Wednesday Anniversary Edition!

You know the drill. Once a month, your fellow wineaux and bloggers are handed a theme from the heavens above, and we drink. Then we write.

This month, it is the 4 year anniversary of Wine Blogging Wednesday, started by our Fearless Leader Lenn Thompson of Lenndevours.

For this anniversary edition, Lenn is asking us to go back to our drinking roots, and find that wine that got us to fall in love with Bacchus, or something you used to drink a lot of when you were young and impressionable. Please try to avoid the Boone’s Farm or Sutter Home however!

Come over, do it alone, find a Meetup, but do it!
Post your replies on the WBW site, email Lenn or Twitter it by August 13th, and you can share your notes with the other bloggerati out there.

GREAT Wine under $20

In homage to Dr. Debs (the real Dr. Debs of Good Wine Under $20 fame), I am happy to report that I had a fantastic evening last night at the Cameron Hughes wine reception hosted by Cornelius of Wine 2.0 & RadCru.

Most impressive were the Alexander Valley & various Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon selections, poured from the new Lot releases by Cameron himself.

Cameron Hughes Wine has made a name for itself as premium quality budget priced wine, widely available at Costco warehouses everywhere. These premium wines average $15 and under, with a few of the more unusual selections hovering around $20. I don’t have to tell you, that $15 for a stellar Cabernet from Napa is like having someone forget to add an item on your bill at your favorite restaurant. It almost feels like stealing candy from a baby!

How do they do it? Well it’s actually a fairly old story of the negociant, a wine merchant who buys grapes or finished wine and slaps their own label on it. IN this case, which amazing results that are different with every lot and every year. Cameron Hughes Wine focuses on buying bits & pieces of leftover super premium wine. Sometimes, wineries don’t want a large case production, to create the illusion of scarcity. Sometimes, they just aren’t happy with the results. And sometimes, well sometimes I just can’t understand dhow they can give up such wonderful elixirs but I”m happy I reap the financial benefits!

My highlights from the tasting are:

This was my outstanding wine winner of the night, both because of the killer dusty cocoa, tobacco and richness, as well as the stupid cheap price. I pre-ordered 2 bottles of it, but now am kicking myself for not ordering more. $15 (not released yet)

A very close 2nd to Alexander Valley, I had a hard time picking my favorite. So I tasted more. And again. And often. Oy the joys of a cab ride home! $16 (not released yet)

  • Lot ? 2006 Yountville Cabernet Sauvignon

This was the first cab we tasted last night, and I thought it would be my favorite. But as we moved down the line, Alex and Chalk just kicked Yountville’s little butt. But it was still good, and a screaming value. Hell, all of them are. It’s young, and needs to be decanted & held, but for $15? Seriously!

  • Lot ? Mt. Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon

Silly me, I didn’t keep my tasting sheet because I turned it in to order, and now can’t remember the lot numbers. But this was a tasty tidbit too! I admit, at this point, i sort of lost count because they were so tasty.

For me, a typically non Merlot drinker, this wine blew me away. It is a rich & powerful merlot, coming from an area that i wouldn’t expect and yet didn’t’ have that overpowering manipulated feel of most commercial wines.

A very minty syrah, with a lot of spice. It was a bit tannic for me, and could use a bit more balance but I expect great things in the future. $15

This was a surprise, and a really interesting blend that caught my attention quickly as we tasted the large array of wines on the bar. Grenache & Carignane come together to give a taste of Spain in a classic meritage. $20

The moral of the story? Don’t prejudge! I have had some of the other CH Wines, and wasn’t terribly impressed. However, with the variety of Lots and the amazing Cabernets, I will certainly not shy away in the future.

Thanks to RadCru and Cameron Hughes for a great time at Varnish!



My Favorite Wine Shops

So, I buy wine. I buy a LOT of wine. I buy a lot of GOOD wine.But where do I buy it you ask?There are so many great sources, it’s hard to narrow down my favorite, but here are my top choices (other than winery direct):

  1. Wine Q – my new favorite source for unusual, small production yummy wines. Their prices are fair, and there is no shipping if you spend over $35, which is easy on 2+ bottles. It’s basically Netflix for wine, where you create your own queue, and dictate how many bottles per timeframe you want shipped. 2 bottles a week? 6 bottles a month? No problem!Plus, Brittany and Marshall are just nice folks who go out of there wayt o find really tasty treats for us.
  2. The Wine Mine – a tiny shop located under hwy 24/580 in Oakland, where the prices are truely like mining for gold. The last time I was in, I asked the owner for some “weekday wines under $20” and he went one better, offering me a ton of options under $10-15. There is always something new here, and it’s right on my way home!
  3. The Wine Club – SF was my old stand by before I found #1 & #2. I still venture in here from time to time since it’s on my way home, and they are a good source if you are looking for something specific. You can find their inventory on or on their website, and they have 2 other locations.
  4. Bottle Barn – an old Santa Rosa standby, is hidden in an industrial park behind Piner St. They are THE source for Sonoma County wines at a discount, most of which can’t be found outside of the tasting room. Plus, they have an annex in Headlsburg, and they just redesigned their website!

I’m still learning about new areas, especially the northwest. I’m looking forward to trying some of the Wild Walla Walla Wine Woman’s offerings int he very near future.

The Wine Spies posts a new deal daily, and has new deals every Monday so be sure to check them out. I recently got a 3 pack from Twisted Oak at wine.woot for about 25% off of MSRP!



Monday blues…

It’s Monday, and I feel it. Yawn.
A slow week this week, but Wednesday, Cameron Hughes will be pouring their wines at Varnish Fine Art on Natoma in SF.

Cameron Hughes is known for it’s value priced wines which are widely available, such as found in this search, and they are pretty tasty too. It’s free wine, so why not break up the BART ride and take a sip or two.

I’m planning on being there, are you? It’s a private tasting, so if you are interested please email
paul dot jenson at chwine dot com to RVSP for the event, from 6-10pm on Wednesday July 16th.

Saturday is Santa Cruz Passport, and this year since there are a number of wineries pouring north of the Santa Clara county line, I plan on hitting


Wine Blogging Wednesday #47 Brought to you by the Letter S!

So I’m a day behind – I totally forgot that Wine Blogging Wednesday has come and gone!
The regular posse was assembled for a truly Stupendous tasting.

You can see all the details here, but suffice it to say that Syrah won our little “S” hearts.

thanks everyone for participating, and next month we’ll pare down the craziness. I hope.



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