Baconlicous is St. Supery!

When you tIMG_8383hink of wine tasting, I am going to guess that you don’t typically think of line up like this.  Think of your comparative literature class from college, toss in some bacon, and you have St. Supery’s Bacon and Bordeaux tasting experience summed up.

Having tasted the wines at this Napa Valley stalwart several times, I knew that at the very least, I was going to enjoy my tasting experience, but this special tasting brings it to a new level.  Conducted upstairs, in the newly remodeled private tasting lounge, these special tastings are a world apart from the hustle and bustle of the normal rush in the tasting room.

For our tasting, we paired each of the Bordeaux style wines with a bacon-licious dish, each specifically made by the winery chef to play off of the wines.

IMG_83892012 Napa Valley Estate Cabernet Sauvignon paired with a Quesedilla with smoked mozzarella and…bacon with green salsa verde.  Both the Rutherford estate fruit as well as my favorite Dollarhide go in to this blend which has fresh loganberry, pink peppercorn, ripe plums and ginger notes.  The quesedilla brought out dark spices and blue fruit, as well a ground black pepper.

Next, the 2010 Napa Vallely Estate Elu, which is 76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Merlot, 4% Petite Verdot, 2% Malbec, and 1% Bacon (well, really 1% Cabernet Franc.  This is St. Supery’s signature red wine, and has a beautiful Bergemot nose with savory herbal qualities.  Dark cherries, dried lavender, and blackberries in cassis syrup were paired with a classic BLT.

Next, the 2010 Rutherford Estate Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, which is 87% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Merlot and a touch of Cab Franc and Petite Verdot, all from Rutherford.  This unctuous red wine was full of coffee and chocolate, with cracked black pepper.  Paired with a Toma Grilled Cheese with applewood Smoked Bacon, the earthy and herbal notes really sang out.

FiIMG_8391nally, the 2010 Dollarhide Elevation is 93% Cabernet Sauvignon and 7%  Malbec.  Dense and deep blackberry notes emerge from this “accidental” blend.  While it is always a blend, it’s typically over 90% Cab to soften the punch.  The Malbec adds in a dense blue fruit, with young & lively notes of dark chocolate and espresso.  As this was our dessert course, it was paired with the “Happy Childhood” – An almond butter & estate fig jam sandwich, with cassis candied bacon.

Yum!While this special tasting experience isn’t always on the menu, be sure to call ahead and make reservations for any of St. Supery’s special tastings.  Experiences start at only $35 per person (group of 4 minimum) and are an event to remember.  I can’t wait to go back and experience another version of this event as the estate garden grows through the seasons!

A special thank you to St. Supery and Scott Tracy, Guest Experience Manager for a truly spectacular tasting experience.


The wine and bacon were provided by St. Supery, but all of the sound effects and accolades are purely mine!



Quinticentually Quintessa

_MG_0049Earlier this year, before I embarked on a somewhat fool-hearty mission of getting my CSW credential, I visited the Napa Valley estate of Quintessa.  Tucked away, hidden from the Silverado Trail in Rutherford, the unique gravity flow moistly underground winery pokes out from the hillside.  When the Huneeus family took ownership of the land in 1990, the land was wild and pristine – and had never been used, or abused by other vines or crops.  Having never been planted to vine, the land had none of the after effects of the post-phylloxera recovery efforts, and mandatory replanting that some older, established Napa vineyards did.  It was virgin territory, and this prime real estate was ready to plant some amazing Bordeaux varietals.  With further research done on what naturally defended against the root louse that destroyed the industry in the past, new rootstock and innovative techniques were put in to place to create an amazing site.

In 2002, the estate winery opened, it was built with a vision of a building that blended in to the natural elements.  In addition to the aesthetic beauty, careful consideration was given to the environmental impact as well as functional design for a working winery.  The result is a stunning gravity-flow winery that beginnings on the top of the hill where the crushpad is located, and continues through chutes in the floor of the crushpad that transport the juice directly to the fermentation tanks with a minimal of intervention.  With all the modern, yet mostly non-intervention techniques, you can bet there will be some great juice coming out of there!

When you visit Quintessa, you have a wealth of tasting experiences to choose from.  The Estate Tasting Experience gives guests a comprehensive visit to the facility as well as the vineyard, and a seated tasting paired with local artisan products.  But the penultimate experience is what we enjoyed, the Quintessential Quintessa.  Here, you start at the winery where you see the operation, and then take a meandering walk up the hill to the ridge where tasting pavillions have been built.  These glass gazebos offer the ability to have a fully indoor / outdoor experience, while overlooking the vineyard property below.


Up on the ridgeline, you leave the winery and the hustle bustle of the busy Napa Valley behind.  You are truly alone, and have the time to relax, and enjoy the details of the geology of the soils, a full tasting, and a great conversation about what makes teh property so special.  And oh, the cheese!  The cheese…


With a tasting comparison of the current releases as well as library wine, this experience is a rare and special treat in the valley.  Trying to impress out of town guests?  This is the way to do it.  I especially enjoyed comparing the fresh, young current release, with the vibrancy and fruit forward notes of blackberry and earth, as compared to the library wine, showing dense and chewy notes of tobacco, baking spice and black pepper.  Having the luxury to taste the different blends and different vintages really shows a wine lover how wines can develop over time, but also how particular vineyard sites, soil, and blending decisions impact the final result — which make no mistake — was yummy.

The Quintessential Quintessa is $125 per person, and advanced reservations are required.  I promise, it’s worth every penny!  I look forward to going back and experiencing it again soon!  Alternately, you can book an Estate Tasting, which will also be delicious and informative.

**There are no tasting notes on this post on purpose, because I encourage you to form your own opinions about the wine.  However, if I was forced to choose, I’d highly recommend the unctuous and delicious Cabernet based blends, particularly the 2010 and the older vintages that have surpassed their awkward teenage years.  The discussion of the different vineyard blocks and types of soil ties directly in to each vintage, blending decisions and final results, which is part of the fascinating study of wine.  Go forth and taste them for yourself!**

Special thanks to Fineman PR for arranging this visit.


A King of Cabs

There are few grapes that are as well known in Napa Valley as Cabernet Sauvignon.  Most every winery makes at least one, and every sub appellation vies for the best, the most unique, the most impactful, fruit to make this king of wines out of.

Faust celebrates an ongoing, and renewed, passion for Agustin Huunees, that a great wine must be a reflection of a great vineyard.  This rich, full bodied Napa Valley Cabernet is sourced  from vineyard holdings primarily in Rutherford and Coombsville, with small lots from Yountville, Mount Veeder, Atlas Peak and St. Helena.  This unique combination of powerful valley floor fruit, unique Rutherford Bench fruit, and acidic, bright, and interesting mountain fruit from Atlas Peak makes this a special wine.

Faust is vinified at Quintessa, which was founded by Huneeus.  With his 50 years of history in wine, he firm belief in terroir is evident in this bottle.  Dark and rich, with dark chocolate and blackberry jam, a touch of Cabernet Franc and Malbec gives it an earthiness that offsets the rich valley floor fruit.

If you’re looking for a splurge bottle, check this out – at $60, it’s worth a steak dinner!

This wine was provided by the PR agency, but I drank it all on my own.


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.

Rosés of Summer: 2013 Stepping Stone Corallina

2013 Corallina Napa Valley Syrah RoséToday is the day before Summer officially starts.  Here in the Bay Area, summer has a tenancy to be a bit confused, and we’ve had some amazing weather, then cold weather, then amazing weather, then fog, then…

As confused as it can be, Summer to me is the time to drink Rose and think pink.  There is a lot of pink wine out there, but not every pink is the same.  Rose wines can vary from just barely pink, almost clear, to deep, rich, translucent ruby.  Every grape under the sun has been made in to a rose wine, but the most common are Piont Noir, Grenache, Syrah, and a smattering of other grapes such as Cab Franc and Mourvedre.

Typically, my personal favorites are Grenache and Pinot Noir rose, but there is a very special crop of pink Syrah out there that makes my heart go pitter patter!

Each year, Cornerstone Napa creates the Stepping Stone Corallina is a beautiful women of distinction, created from the Syrah fruit from Napa Valley.  And each year, General Manager Craig Camp, promises me that it is the best year ever.  Last year, I didn’t think that the team at Cornerstone could possible top the 2012.  But, it seems that they have done it with the 2013!

The 2013 Corallina Napa Valley Syrah Rosé is made as Cornerstone processes their white wines, where the Syrah is kept in whole clusters and gently pressed to maintain complexity and the nuances of a purpose made rose.  A bone dry rosé , this beauty bears no relation to the sweet, sticky White Zinfandels that are still (unfortunately) mostly closely associated with rose wine.

The light, fresh, and crisp Corallina has bright watermelon, Tuscan melon, and blood orange notes with an interesting fresh tomato note that was at once, unexpected and delicious.  The refreshing crispness of the Syrah has bright cherry notes, floral aromas, and an edge of herbaciousness that keep you guessing.

At only $25, I can drink this all summer.  Bright and juicy, it is perfect for summer sipping with everything from barbecued chicken to burgers, and can stand up to salted watermelon salad, and rich cheeses as well.

Corallina was given to me by the winery as a press sample, but clearly I love this beautiful women.  For more Rosés of Summer, keep watching every Friday!


Mumm’s the word

Mother’s Day is coming up, and hopefully you are able to spend some time with your mom to celebrate her.  What better way to celebrate mom putting up with your crazy than some bubbly?

Recently, I visited Mumm Napawith Vindulge’s Mary Cressler, my partner in crime and bubble buddy who was visiting the Bay Area.  While there, we took the tour through the production facility, which includes a taste of the still wines that will become the magical sparkling wonder – made in the traditional way, Méthode Traditionnelle.

On the way to the winery, we stopped by the demonstration vineyard and heard more about the varietals Mumm uses in their sparkling program.  While many producers focus only on the classic chardonnay and pinot noir grapes for their bubbles, Mumm adds in Pinot Muenier (“Little Miller”), a grape that I think is underused in both still wine and sparkling wines in the US.

pinot meunierPinot Meunier tends to have less sugar and a higher acidity, and is harvested earlier ,which lends a brightness and cleaness to the wines made from it.  Mumm has between 40-60 unique growers that they work with, including their own vineyards, which allows them to select from the best grapes to make the best sparkling wine.  

As we toured through the facility, we stopped to taste the still component wine, and play wit the blends.  This has to be the best part of being a sparkling winemaker.  As we had two glasses of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir (white juice, no skin contact), we played with the blends that make up the largest percentage of Mumm’s production.  using the component wine, which is not at all like a finished still wine, we created our own blends and began to see how the flavor profiles develop in the sparkling.
After our blending fun, we walked through the now famous permanent collection of Ansel Adams works.  This is the largest single collection and is truly breathtaking.  In addition to the permanent collection, currently Mumm is showcasing The Golden Decade Photography at the California School of Fine Art, 1945-1955.  These works capture the post war boom and growth in California and is a wonderful way to enjoy a glass of sparkling wine.
As we emerged in to the bright sun, we were escorted to the Oak Terrace by our wonderful guide Charles.  Waiting for us was a beautiful table, ready to taste through the sparkling lineup.  We also had the artisan cheese plate to pair with our wines ($25) which I highly recommend.  Tastings on the Oak Terrace are $40 per person, and include two glasses of your favorite library wine – which is a wonderful value.  With some library selections going back several years, this is a great opportunity to taste older sparkling wines, magnums, and rare production wines which aren’t generally available.Mumm Oak Terrace
As there were three of us, we were able to taste and share just about everything.  This is also a great way to do Mumm – bring a few friends, and order something different.  The generous tasting pours make it easy to share your favorites.  There are so many options to taste, I am going to highly my favorites:
  • 2001 DVX – this library selection of the flagship tête de cuvée honors the work of Guy Devaux, who founded Mumm Napa in 1979.  This rich golden oldie is full of brioche, yellow peaches, vanilla custard and baking spice.  Made with only 11 select lots of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, this special selection had 15% barrel fermented to add richness and depth.  Sitting quietly for 13 years, this was a special treat.  $85
  • 2007 Santana – yes, it’s that Santana.  Carlos Santana and Mumm Napa have had a partnership going back several years, and every year the legendary local musician creates a new blend.  The 2007 was soft and lush, with deep red fruit and figs.  With a hint of Syrah added to the mostly Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, this is a fun wine that benefits the Milagro Foundation.  $56
  • Brut Reserve Rose Magnum – there is something special about wines in large format bottles.  This non vintage bottling of a classic Pinot Noir & Chardonnay blend was my favorite, with bright cranberry, raspberry, and cherry flavors.  It was completely different than the 750 bottling, which we also tasted and was a great way to show off how wine ages differently in different size bottles.  $68
  • Sparking Pinot Noir – a rare sparkling red, this dry red wine created in the traditionally champagne style is something totally different and fun.  Ripe plums, baking spice, blackberry pie and chocolate all in one, this unique wine leaves you thinking and wanting more.  $34

Mumm Napa is open 7 days a week, and is located on the Silverado Trail in Rutherford, just north of the city of Napa.  Treat your mom to a special Mother’s Day and stop by next Sunday!  Mumm is also widely available in your favorite wine shop or retail outlet and offers excellent value in sparkling wines.

A special thank you to Charles, our tour host and conversationalist, and Kate Regan at Folsom & Associates for arranging this visit!


Cabernet all day!

Do you love Cabernet Sauvignon?  Are you curious about the different regional characteristics in the Napa Vallley that create dynamic, bold, and different wines?

Check out CabFestNV, from Feburary 28 through March 2nd in various venues in Napa.  This  inaugural three-day celebration of the king of Napa Valley wine varietals will featuring more than 100 of the biggest names in the wine industry.

And, in case you haven’t heard, there will be a celebrity guest star!  Yes that’s right, Jeff Bridges, movie star and rocker, will be performing in his band.  In addtion, keynote presentations by “The Wine Bible” author Karen MacNeil, and cult winemakers are sure to draw people in.

Here are some of the highlights:

Friday – CabFestNV Kickoff Winery Tasting Circuit at more than fifteen select, participating wineries from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. for complimentary wine tastings. At 7:00 pm, famed Oscar-winning actor, singer and songwriter Jeff Bridgesand his country-rock band, The Abiders, take the stage at the Lincoln Theater for the CabFestNV Kickoff Concert, with Bridge’s talented daughter Jessie Bridges as the show opener. 

Following the Festival Kickoff Concert, the exclusive “Cigars & Guitars” afterparty (open to VIP All-Access Pass holders only), will feature an intimate post-concert, private performance by Jessie Bridges, Cigar Aficionado Magazine’s cigar-sampling tent (AJ Fernandez, Room 101 and Casa Magna Cigars), whiskey tasting (Redbreast by Pernod Ricard USA), a rare guitar exhibit (co-sponsored by the Napa Valley Museum and Gibson Guitars) and exceptional fortified wine and library Cabernet wines.

Saturday:  Grand Tasting

Saturday, March 1, Grand Tasting (11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.):

  • All-day. “How Music Affects the Taste of Wine” a musical exploration of “tasting notes” by Symphony Napa Valley’s Orchestra Institute Fellows and guest artists;
  • “Napa Valley Rocks” film, presented by the Napa Valley Vintners;
  • Keynote Presentation by Karen MacNeil: “What Makes Great Cabernet Sauvignon Great” – Interactive keynote address, with a fun blind-tasting mission. (Wine tasting limited, first-come basis)
  • Napa Valley Vintners: “Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon: The Shot Heard ‘Round the World.” The Paris Tasting of 1976 launched Napa Valley into the international spotlight, and Cabernet hasn’t been the same since. Includes a panel discussion and wine tasting with some of Napa Valley’s most renowned and iconic Cabernet Sauvignon producers.

Sunday:  Grand Tasting (11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.)

  • All-day. “How Music Affects the Taste of Wine” a musical exploration of “tasting notes” by The Symphony Napa Valley Orchestra Institute Fellows and guest artists
  • Keynote Presentation by Karen MacNeil“Cab on the Couch,” a spontaneous conversation and uncensored observations featuring such well-known vintners as Charles Krug’s Marc Mondavi (aka the Water Witch); Food & Wine Magazine’s “Winemaker of the Year” Aaron Pott; wine auctioneer, musician and vintner Fritz Hatton; pioneering Napa Valley grape grower Andy BeckstofferBlake Gilbert, director of ultra-premium winery Bond, and other surprise stars.
  • 2:30 – 3:30 p.m. Take the “Last One Standing Challenge” presented by The Culinary Institute of America: A blind-tasting and knowledge challenge that will put everyone in the starting lineup as CIA Wine Instructor, Robert Bath, MS asks a series of progressively probing questions about Napa Valley Cabs. Someone will be the “Last One Standing.” Prizes and bragging rights will be rewarded!
  • To Blend or Not to Blend” featuring a star-studded lineup of Napa Valley winemakers moderated by Paula Kornell and including Heidi Peterson BarrettCelia WelchMartha McClellanAmy AikenSara Fowler and Dawnine Dyer. A panel discussion and tasting exploring the blending of Cabernet Sauvignon with master winemakers noted for their high-end Napa Valley wines.

Tickets are now available online at or by calling 707-944-9900:

  • CabFestNV VIP All-Access Ticket (Limited to 100 attendees, includes Friday night VIP “Cigars & Guitars” Party, preferred seating for both concerts, Grand Tastings, Private Tastings, VIP Lounge): $500
  • Grand Tastings Only: Two-Day Pass $225 & Single-Day Pass $125
  • Kickoff Concert (Jeff Bridges & the Abiders, Jessie Bridges): $100, $75*, $65*, $55*  (*discounts available with purchase of a Grand Tasting Pass, 20% off with a two-day pass and 10% off with a one-day pass)
  • Wine Industry Insiders “Meet-Up & Concert” (The Silverado Pickups): $10 (open to the public)

Hope to see you there!

Media passes were provided for consideration.

Corralina is a star!

2012 Stepping Stone by Cornerstone Corallina Napa Valley Syrah Rosé Oh Stepping Stone Corralina, how I adore you.

You guessed it, it’s rose weather!  Here in San Francisco, summer comes, summer goes.  The fog is here, the fog isn’t here.  We’re decidedly schizophrenic this year.  That said, one of my favorite things about the warm weather is rosé!  No longer the sweet wines of the 70s and 80s, these dry summer sippers are made from Syrah, Pinot, Cabernet – even Sangiovese.  Rosé comes in all hues, and all flavor profiles.  This one, however, is special.

I have tasted several vintages of the Stepping Stone by Cornerstone Corralina Rose of Syrah in the past, and this by far is my favorite.  The delicate strawberry notes are surprising in a Syrah rose, and if I didn’t know better I might have mistaken this for a Tavel or Bandol wine from the south of France.  This bone dry wine also has hints of lemon, nutmeg and rose petals, which carry over to the long watermelon filled finish.

Love occurs at first pour, when the fruit aromas jump out of the glass and gracefully fall down your palate in a watercolor wash of fruit.  This is a perfect summer wine, and would go well with fish, grilled chicken, or burgers.  $20 and well worth it!

Happy sipping!



Mumm's the word!

It was a cool crisp morning here in Northern California, when I got up entirely too early for a Saturday. After my first 10 cups of coffee, I was somewhat alive, so I packed myself up in to my trusty German wine mobile, and headed up to the Silverado Trail for a 10am breakfast tour of Mumm Napa Valley.

As fate would have it, the roads were clear (mostly) of traffic, save a few particularly slow tourists, and I got to Napa in record time. As we gathered at the gates of Mumm, eagerly hoping they would open the door, the fog just started to back off the valley and we could see the winter vineyards layed out before us.

Finally, at last! The doors openeed and our assorted posse of bloggers was greeted by the Mumm assistant Winemaker Tammy Lotz and self appointed cruise directory Mitch Davis with a morning glass of Deveaux Ranch.

But first, who was Monsieur Deveaux? Mumm Napa was started as a joint venture between G.H. Mumm, the French Champagne House, and Seagram & Sons. As luck would have it, it has changed hands, and now is owned by the same parent company (Pernod Ricard) as G.H. Mumm, so there is a sense of continuity and quality that carries through.

Guy (that’s Gee by the way, not Guy as in Guy Smiley) founded the Napa operation, and he was convinced that the Silverado Trail location would be a perfect balance of foggy, cool nights and hot long days; these conditions are idea for sparkling wine’s dance of acid and ripe fruit. Having a location in the New World also allows Mumm Napa to play beyond the constraints of the rather strict Champagne region bylaws – adding Pinot Gris to the blend for example, and to play with the best wines from the best regions.

So, here we are, on a chilly Saturday morning, glass of rather delectable 2006 Deveaux Ranch in our hands. This sparkler is a perfect representation of Mumm Napa, since it blends 58% Pinot Noir, 28% Chardonnay, 9% Pinot Meunier and 5% Pinot Gris, something that you might see in a Cremant, but never in a Champagne. This is a perfect start to the day with green apple, pear, and tropical flavors with a crisp acidity. For something different, you should RUN out and grab this wine. Yes, you’ll need to go to the winery, but who doesn’t want to sit on the terrace and sip bubbles? ‘Nuff said.  This is a winery exclusive wine, but it’s worth a trip.  It’s what I opened on New Year’s Day and it was simply stunning – well worth the $36.

As we meandered through the production facility, we stopped to try our hands at blending the 2011 Chard & Pinot, to create the different blends that Mumm creates. While they were still base wines, you can easily see how the high acid and low sugar content in the base wine creates a beautiful acid in the finished sparkler. I wouldn’t recommend drinking them however, as still wines, if you value the enamel on your teeth. I liken this exercise to tasting 70 New Zealand sav blancs in an afternoon; after a while your tongue is furry!

Winding our way through a rotating art gallery, next we were served the 2008 Pinot Meunier. While this is a common varietal in Champagne, it is often difficult to find in a domestic sparkler. This delightful wine is only crafted in exceptional vintages and evokes classic Champagne to me, with yeasty toast, and warm bread. This wine is aged 29 months sur lie, which really develop the flavor. If you are looking for something different, check it out! I love a 100% Petite Meunier, and this is a classic offering.  Go for it!  $36

As we gazed at Ansel Adams as well as rotating local artists, we worked our way back to the tasting salon, we were greeted by no less than 8 samples of sparkling wine. Whoo! Now this is what I call a Saturday! Winemaker Ludo Dervin, himself from Champagne entertained us with a pyramid of bubbles. Starting with the least expensive, but in no way inferior, wines of Brut Prestige, Brut Rose, and Cuvee M, we worked up to the Blanc de Blanc and Brut Reserve before the top of the line DVX. But, we were also surprised with a special bottling of the Santana Brut, a special join effort with the musician and, another treat, the Brut Reserve Rose.

While I enjoy the more commonplace offerings (aka found everywhere) of the Brut Prestige, Brut Rose, and Cuvee M, I have to admit they are somewhat boring to my spoiled taste buds. That said, at approximately $15 a bottle here in CA you really can’t beat that price.

More interesting to me were the Blanc de Blanc (made entirely of Chardonnay grapes) and the Brut Reserve for their clean, crisp flavor profile and toasty back notes.

Finally, at the top of the food chain, we tasted the DVX. The DVX isn’t made every year, and the first vintage was 1990.  I used to love this wine, but it wasn’t really hitting the spot for me on this particular day. I remember when I was a young wineaux and a member of the club here at Mumm that this was my favorite, but it was either the weather or the flavor profile that just wans’t working for me today.

Finally, back to taste the Santana.  This one of a kind wine was first created in 1999 as a partnership with the musician and Mumm Napa, with the proceeds going to the Milagro Foundation.  Right!  Drinking for charity is always something on my agenda!  Made with with a pinch more dosage than the Brut Reserve, this wine had wonderful stone fruit, brioche and green apple flavors that I just adored. It’s a splurge, but well worth it in my opinion at $45.

The Brut Reserve Rosé, which is 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay, is also a special wine made with 5% of the Pinot Noir being a super ripe Carneros  component that is blended back in to the base wine.  The result is that you get crisp bright red fruit, but ti’s much drier than the Brut Rosé.  This is a wallet friendly $22 and should absolutely be examined, for…research purposes.

And remember, you can add fizz to a oaky buttery chard, but you’ld have a disgusting fruit punch!  (Thanks to Ludo for this slightly parapharased quote to protect the innocent).  Making sparkling wine is an art form.  You can truly screw it up or you can make magic.

I’ve come to find that I really enjoy a drier style of sparlking these days.  Over the years, as my knowledge has increased, my taste has changed.  A fairly natural progression, I moved from sweet whites and roses to much drier and, I suppose, Austere sytle.  That said, all of these wines are delicious, and you really should teaste them for yourslef.  If you appreciate a slightly sweeter or fruity edge, try the Brut Prestige, Rose, and Cuvee M.  These are alle  excellent values and should be tasted at your own pace.

Thanks to the team at Mumm for entertaining us! You can discover Mumm Napa for yourselves on the Silverado Trail. They are open from 10am every day of the week, with the first tour (no tasting), or the Tour & Tastings starting at 11.  If you prefer, you can relax in one of two tasting areas as well, overlooking the valley just below.

Happy 4th of July!

Normally, I refrain from posting anything that is particular patriotic, political, or US centric because hey – you never know who is reading my blog these days.  Today however, I feel like I have a lot to celebrate:

  1. It’s over 60 degrees in San Francisco and there is no fog on the 4th, which has happened maybe 3 times in the 36 years that I have lived here
  2. I don’t have to work today horray!  Any time I get an extra day off to drink, eat, and play is fine by me!
  3. There are great tunes playing on KFOG, my local passion radio station.  You can listen online too – and I highly recommend it!

So, here I am, making cookies for home made Its Its (if you don’t know what an Its It is, I feel sorry for you!  A Bay Area institution, this ice cream sandwich concoction is heaven in a freezer) and I popped open the Domaine Carneros Brut Rose.  Domaine Carneros makes some of my favorite domestic bubbly, and I never say no when there is some in the fridge



A pale salmon copper color, this bubbly is 58% pinot noir and 42% chardonnay, where traditionally blanc de noir is all pinot.   Crisp and  refreshing, there are dry wild strawberries and white peaches.  A touch of shale and mineral gives this a nice refreshing body with hints of orange juice (no i did NOT make a mimosa first!) and spicy back notes on the finish.  It really is the perfect brunch beverage and I am enjoying it on my lazy summer day.

For $35, this is a MUST BUY if you love bubbly!

Happy drinking!

Thank you Tattinger (parent of Domaine Carneros) for providing me this yummy treat for today!





Drinking for Charity!

How would you like to drink some tasty wine, and donate to charity at the same time?  Well you can!  It’s true, there IS such thing as charitable drinking.  There are several wine projects out there that in part, or in full, donate proceeds to various charities.  In this case, Charity Case Wines were developed by the Charity Case Foundation, which was created in 2008 during a particularly crappy season.

The Foundation was created by a collective of wineries from Napa Valley, and created the Charity Case brand.  The philosophy of the foundation is to give all of the proceeds to those in need, without spending additional resources on tradditional marketing, or winery red tape.  All of the work to make the Charity Case wines is done by volunteers – including wine making, corking, bottling, and marketing.  That is a pretty spectacular endeavour considering how a hectic crush season can be!

For the 2008 vintage, there were four charities that benefited:  The Wolfe Center, Cope Famly Center, Aldea Children Y& Family Services, and Foster Kids Fund.  You can read more abou these organizations and others that Charity Case has supported HERE.

Today, the sun is shining and it’s a glorious late spring (yay summer is nearly here!) fogless San Francisco day, so I broke out the 2008 Rose.  This wine is a random blend of several varietals from Napa, and is a deep rose color.  Huge strawberry aromas, rhubarb pie and peach puree come through in the glass.  A touch of lime zest is also showing.  Crushed red raspberries in the bottom of a summer basket are popping in my mouth, combined with orange blossom water.  This tastes like a cabernet rose, which has a lot more bite than a syrah or pinot rose; it is dense and chewy, and would be fabulous with bbq chicken or other stronger flavors.  Typically, I prefer a more subtle rose, but this is fun for a change of pace.

This is a fun little wine and would be a great guest at a barbeque or just for fun!  At $12, it’s a great picnic addition, and you can’t beat that price for the cause.

Happy drinking!@

Thanks to Charity Case for providing some cool summer sippers

The Adventures of Buckaroo Bonzai and other tales of blending

First – apologies for this post being late on arrival.  As some of you may know, I have been dealing with some personal issues that have been hammering me in to the ground like Wile E. Coyote under an Acme Anvil.  I’m trying to come up for air, so here goes.  Please excuse the lack of video, since I still don’t entirely know how to work my Flip.  I will learn someday, but not today.  And the lack of pictures is mystifying since I swear I took some of at least the bottles, but they are lost.  C’est la vie, tech fail!

One recent Sunday, before the madness of Christmas, and after the food orgy of Thanksgiving, a crew of bloggers descended upon the good graces of Paul Askiman and Conn Creek Winery’s AVA Room to create our own personalized blends of wine.

The Conn Cree AVA Room is a one of a kind wine adventure, where mad scientists wine lovers, and it this case, some bloggers, can learn how Conn Creek blends its flagship wine Anthology.

The AVA Room was developed in Conn Creek’s search to find the best Cabernet Sauvignon that Napa had to offer, and in doing so, they found fruit sources from almost all of the 14 sub appellations in Napa.  In this secret room at the back of winery, next to the gardens, you will find 15 different barrels of Cabernet Sauvignon and a barrel each of the classic Bordeaux blending grapes Malbec, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petite Verdot.

The Cabernet barrels are grouped by major profile, like Soft, Supple, Complex, Rich and Bold.  One of the fascinating things about this experience is that as a wine ages in barrel, it may not stay in its category, as it becomes more complex or develops some backbone and loses some of the plush fruit upfront.  This is what makes wine such a tremendous beast.  Each Cab barrel starts out as 100% new French Oak, and eventually matures in 50% new / 50% neutral Oak, which also contributes tot he changes in the wine profile.

I apologize in advance for not remembering all of the different component wines – I just lost my mojo and can’t find my booklet.  If i do, I’ll be sure to share!
The base wine contenders that I particularly enjoyed were:

  • Atlas Peak – Stagecoach Vineyard
  • Rutherford – Conn Creek Vneyard
  • Stags Leap – Clos du Val Vineyard

After sampling the different options for the base wine (the Cabernet) I got to work creating my master blend.

First, I tried 50% Atlas Peak – Stagecoach, 15% Rutherford Conn Creek, 25% Stags Leap Clos Du Val, and a splash of Petite Verdot and Cab Franc.  While I liked this wine, it was the first one i tried and I found it a big of a fruit bomb with blackberry pie, subtle spice, and firm tannins.  I thought I wanted a bit more structure, so I moved on to Blend 2 while keeping careful track of this beginning.

The 2nd try was

  • 45% Atlas Peak
  • 15% Conn Creek
  • 20% Stags Leap
  • 20% Cab Franc.

This was totally different than Blend 1, and it was too earthy and I wasn’t sure if I liked it.  Back to the drawing board.

Blend 3 was another experiment.

  • 50% Rutherford Hozhone
  • 15% Conn creek
  • 20% stags leap
  • 15% cab franc.  Given that this was a totlaly differnet base wine, it wasn’t waht i was looking for.

My final blend wa a variation on Blend 2, which after much tasting and talking, was widely agreed upon (mostly by Marcy Gordon) to be the best.  Yep THE best.  Therefore, I ended my Dr. Bunson Burner experiments with:

  • 45% Atlas Peak
  • 15% Conn Creek
  • 20% Stags Leap
  • 5% Petitie Verdot
  • 15% Cabernet Franc

As I put the finishing touches on my blend, we snacked on Sift Cupcakery baked goods, and the little ginger man called out my name.  Thus, was born, the 2009 GingerMan Bordeaux Blend that I hope to enjoy at the Wine Bloggers Conference in Walla Walla in June.  I really enjoyed making this wine, but I know with a little time to settle together and meld the flavors, it will become even better.  I look forward to writing about that tasting in the coming months.

The moral of this story is – for $95 you get 2 hours of hysterical fun and a LOT of wine, education on the different sub-AVAs of Napa Valley, a priceless learning experience of how the Pros do it, and…your very own bottle of wine to take home.  This is a MUST do if you are a wine geek, and you find yourself in Napa.  Considering that many Napa Cabs cost $95 just for the wine, this is a tremendous value and I reccomend it to any one who wnats a unique experience in Wine Country.  In Fact, I gave my mother a “custom blending session” gift at christmas, and my dear old brother was asking where his was.  I told him I’d consider it for his birthday if he was a good boy.

There are several places that do custom blending sessions for consumers, including Judd’s Hill (3 bottles), Bennet Lane, Fontanella (case only), and Ravenswood (half bottle).  There are probably more, but I haven’t heard of them – yet.  You can also avail yourself of Crushpad’s FuseBox, where you can blend your own samples at home and then send away for a case of custom labeled wine.  I really think that for the value and the experience, Conn Creek gets a gold medal!

Conn Creek can be found on the Silverado Trail at Conn Dam Road in Napa.  They graciously hosted us in the AVA room and were lovely!  Thanks again for your hospitality Paul!


Yummy Mummy

There are few things nicer in this world than a cup full of cheer during the holidays.  in this case, it’s a bit of a bubble, in the form of MummNapa Valley.

Mumm Napa is a division of the classic french house Mumm, which has been producing sparkling wines of distinction for almost 200 years.  The von Mumm family, can be traced back to the 12th century. In 1761, Peter Arnold Mumm started the wine business which continues today.

Cuvee M
is a value priced sparkler, at $20 and is a pleasant, if simple offering.  I found it a touch sweet for my personal taste, but very nice in a Pomegranate Mimosa.  There were strong flavors of honey, peaches, strawberries, and buttered caramel, nectarine, and some caramel notes.  Pair this with some Christmas cookies, and it’s a STRONG BUY for value and great taste.

Mumm Brut Prestige is more my style, crisp and lean.  This sparkler is made from over 50 different sources in Napa valley, and is crisp with zesty citrus flavors followed by yeasty and vanilla.  For only $20 (usually less retail) it is a great wine to celebrate the every day.  I had this with Thai Food on New Year’s Eve and it went wonderfully with the spicy curry as the crisp acidity cut through the creaminess of the coconut milk.  STRONG BUY

I used to be a Mumm club member many  years ago, and I still enjoy sitting on the deck on the Silverado Trail, sipping bubbly, watching the vineyards on a warm summer day.    With 13 sparklers and several more still wines, this should be a stop any on any oenophiles tour of Napa.

Bubbles were provided by Mumm Napa Valley, Thai Food provided by my blood swear and tears, as well as Tawan’s Thai Food.


On a mountain top

Haber Family Vineyards, which sits high atop Howell Mountain, near the village of Angwin, was founded in 2004 by Ron and Sue Marie Haber, a couple of summer refugees from the East Coast.

My blogging friend Melissa Dobson, of Melissa Dobson PR & Marketing, was kind enough to arrange a bloggers tasting day up on the mountain.  Sue Marie and Ron were gracious and welcoming, and the usual suspects (Randy, Michael, Marcy, and Ashley) made our way out of the Napa Valley for an unforgettable experience.

The estate on Howell Mountain is a lean 5.5 acres, which was painstakingly developed 1 acre at a time due to local zoning laws at the time.  My personal opinion is that slow and steady wins the race however, and this turned out to be worth the slow development.  The Howell Mountain AVA was the first sub-appellation in Napa Valley to be officially recognized, and is known for it’s Cabernets.  The rocky red volcanic soil sits above the valley fog, which creates long mellow growing days.  The estate vineyard is between 1550 and 1650 ft, which is smack dab in the middle of the Howell Mountain vertical AVA.

While the fruit grew, and the estate developed, the 2006 Diamond Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon was released earlier this year . This bottle was decanted the night before our visit, and it was simply stunning.  Those of you who know me well know that I don’t like the typical overblown overdone overextracted Napa Cab, and this wine was the elegant, silky antithesis of that.  I tasted chocolate, smoke and salami in the wine.  Or was that the nibbles I was chowing down?  Sue Marie put on an amazing spread for us.  The wine continued with pepper and subtle blackberry, with juicy plum notes.  As the wine opened up further in the glass, and as we ate lunch and drank more, the rich mocha flavors came out to play and evergreen notes teased me.  At one point I had an overwhelming aroma of Earl Grey tea, which was followed by fig, black cherry and root beer.  I really enjoyed this wine, and for $80 it is worth it.  I would certainly buy another bottle to hold for a special (or not so special) wine drinking occasion.

If you have an opportunity, try to catch Sue Marie and Ron while they are in town and make it a point to taste their beautiful wine.  The Howell Mountain Estate Cabernet will be released next year, and I look forward to going back and tasting that offering as well.

Happy drinking!


Friday Follies

No, I’m not offering to put you up for the weekend, but my friends at Bottlenotes are giving away a pretty awesome trip to the good life.  If you win, Bottlenotes’ founder and Chief Wineaux, Alyssa Rapp, will meet you and three friends in Napa to sample some of the best of the valley for a fun filled weekend.  This is a great chance to get to some difficult to get in to places, and also enjoy a chillaxing day up valley.

The current itenerary includes:

  • Cakebread Cellars

Meet one of the founding fathers of the Napa Valley, Jack Cakebread. Tasting appointment includes a VIP tour and tasting, along with a private lunch with Jack Cakebread, founder of Cakebread Cellars and an iconic figure in Napa.

  • Arietta

Spend an hour with Fritz Hatton, owner of the boutique winery Arietta and former Head of Christie’s Wine Department, at his beautiful Victorian home in St. Helena. Tasting appointment includes a rare tasting of all five new releases of this cult wine.

  • Spring Mountain Vineyards

Yes the one Falcon Crest was filmed at!  Enjoy an unforgettable mountain adventure at this beautiful private estate, the largest single contiguous property in the Napa Valley (850 acres!). Enjoy an exclusive mountain tour of Spring Mountain Vineyards by Jeep, followed by a tasting of library vintages of estate-bottled Cabernet Sauvignon with the winemaker.

  • Charles Krug

Explore your senses with industry icon, Peter Mondavi Jr. This visit includes a wine blending session with Pete Mondavi Jr., himself, who will teach you the secrets to making great wine. You’ll complete your visit with a grill-your-own-steak lunch with Pete and your newly blended wine, plus a selection of Charles Krug wines.

Now, there are three ways you can enter to win the fun fest.

  1. First, if you are a Daily Sip subscriber, you’re in like Flynn.
  2. Second, you should head over HERE to complete the online form.
  3. And finally, refer a few friends to the Daily Sip for some extra credit entries.

All the vital stats can be found over here at Bottlenotes Contest page, and the official contest dates are November 4th through December 14th.

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