Vinify THIS!

It’s that time of year again!  Vinify, a collective custom crush facility and tasting room in Santa Rosa, is throwing open thier doors to the public.

Vinify Wine Services is a state of the art custom crush facility located in Santa Rosa that houses some of the best boutique winemakers in Sonoma County. Our member wineries produce wines from highly acclaimed vineyards all over the North Coast representing over 12 varietals.  Join us on Saturday, June 11th and preview 40+ wines presented in a Burgundy Riedel stemware (yours to keep, or throw on the floor as I have done with mine).

Winemakers and owners will be showcasing their wines and are available to answer all of your questions, as well as sell you wine!  This will also be the launch of the collective tasting room at Vinfiy, Vinoteca.

Limited tickets are available online for $25 each, no processing fees.

Some of the participating wineries include:

  • Baker Lane
  • Bjornstad Cellars
  • Lattanzio Winery
  • Sojourn Cellars
  • Westerhold Family Vineyards
  • Calluna Vineyard
  • Jemrose Vineyard
  • Barbed Oak Vineyards
  • Argot Wines
  • Desmond Wines
  • Frostwatch Vineyard and Winery
  • Olsen Ogden Wines
  • Gracianna Winery
  • Vaughn Duffy Wines
  • Audelssa Estate Winery
  • Wren Hop Vineyards & Winery

Happy drinking!  Some of my favorites will be on hand with tasty juice, so don’t miss out!

Here a zin there a zin, everywhere a zinzin!

September is California Wine month!  Ok fine, so if you know me, you know that every month is California wine month, but this is the officially sanctioned month to enjoy California wine like you’ve never enjoyed it before.  September is the start of harvest time, and this month celebrates our ideal climate for wine, beautiful wine country landscape, and talented winemaking families.

2009 is the fifth annual celebration of California Wine Month, and it’s also a great time to celebrate Zinfandel. It’s no secret that I love my zin.  In fact, if you read my WBW piece or follow my car around (my vanity plate says ZINNIN1 in case you haven’t been to see me), you know how much I love zin.  Lucky for me, there is a lot of this juice around.

On Saturday, September 19th, the Winegrowers of Dry Creek Valley are hosting an event at the Lak
e Sonoma Recreation Area that focuses on the unique zins from this region.  Now, I not only made a zinfandel from Dry Creek at Crushpad this past year, but there are tons of my favorite wineries participating!  (partial list of my faves.  For a full list, click HERE)

Since it’s almost Labor Day and there is a lot going on, I’ve listed some other highlights here as well.

The festivities start at 2pm, when there is a wine tasting of Sav Blanc, other unusual white wines, Zins, and more reds to get things started.  This tasting is a change to tour Dry Creek while standing still at the park, and tasting over 50 wines.  Over 30 wineries will be in attendance, and you can sip your wines of distinction while walking around the artisan market and rocking out to the SoulShine blues band.

There will be food by Park Avenue Catering, which has the unique distinction of being Sonoma County’s ONLY certified green catering company.  Quite an accomplishment when you consider what goes in to running a successful catering enterprise.  There will also be music from 2-5, and a chance for you to have your own Lucille Ball moment stomping the grapes!

Tickets for this event are usually $75, but for my readers, you can get 30% off by entering coupon code zin at checkout.  This makes the tickets a more affordable $50, and worth it – that’s about $1 a taste of wine, plus all the food and fun!



Oh these hallowed Halls

It’s the day after the WBC, and my trusty drinking buddy Megan (@sonadora) were wandering around Napa Valley, eager to make some new discoveries.  As luck would have it, we were personally invited to a Bloggers Day at Hall Napa Valley, a fairly large production facility, in St Helena.  Little did I know, I would leave that day with a much kinder view of that “other” valley, as well as a profound respect for an established winery who opened their doors and barrel room to a posse of renegade bloggers.

Hall is most well known for it’s Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons.  They are also the first GOLD LEED Certified winery in California (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design).  They take their environmental responsibility seriously, and employ a variety of methods to ensure that they are eco balanced and green in all senses of the world.  Some of the tools they use to achieve this are bio-diesel powered farm equipment, solar power, radiant cooling & heating, and sustainable farming practices.  In fact, the solar power provides approximately 35% of Hall’s total reneger needs, and they are successfully selling back power during the strong sunny moths in the summer.  The LEED certification process is a complex multi-year undertaking, and Hall will be the first winery to achieve this.

We met up with Joe, Amy, Liz, and the team from Hall at the St. Helena tasting room at production center.  Here, we were greeted with a taste of the 2008 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc, which retails for a very affordable $20.  I found the Sav Blanc very fruity, and crisp without being sharp.  It is fermented in 100% stainless steel, and has delicious citrus.  The vineyard manager explained to us that thinning the canopy and dropping some of the grape clusters actually helps bring out the citrus characteristics, more so than say a grassy Sav Blanc.  That brought up a good point – is that grassy flavor profile a flaw or a style?  The intimation was the the grassiness can come from over shading the grapes, which doesn’t allow the natural sunlight through.  I personally prefer a more well rounded Sav Blanc, so whatever the technique, this was a strong buy.

After we tasted some of the juice, we headed out to the winery to learn about how Hall practices green wine making and learn more about their winery.  On the catwalk, we learned from winemaker Steve Leveque about their gravity flow winery, which they can expand in the future.  Three sections in the barrel room allow the winemakers to store wines in independent temperature controlled rooms, which allows for better aging and separation.

The St. Helena winery sits on the grounds of one of Napa’s oldest structures, where the historic distillary operated in teh 1940s, making brandy and wine.  The original structure was built in 1885, and that structure transformed in to the Coop winemaking facility in Napa, which was somewhat of a local eyesore.  Fortunately, Hall has plans to restore the original building, and make the historical structure its hospitality center.

Today, Hall has several vineyards, including the St. Helena visitors center, the Rutherford appointment only private winery and Sacrashe Vineyard, Napa River Ranch, Bergfeld which is also in St. Helena, Hardester, and Walt Ranch on Atlas Peak.  each one of these properties is chosen specifically with the intention of creating the best Bordeaux varietals possible, and represent different elevations, micro-climates and soil confabs.

After touring the winery, we headed up to the home ranch in Rutherford, on top of the eastern hills overlooking the valley.  Here, in the Sacrashe Vineyard, Don Munk the Director of Vineyard Operations explained to us about the tufa soil.  This vineyard in particular is planted with a high density 6×4 planting formation.  The smaller vines that are planted to a higher density give a more intense fruit profile, and increase the quality in the bottle.  This vineyard is organically farmed, and will be fully certified in 2010.  Here, it is more important to maintain balance of nature then it is to achieve it.  Practices such as encouraging owls as natural pest control, cover crops, and encouraging beneficial insects to use the vineyard are supported while minimal intervention occurs.  One of the important factors is controlling the vigor of the vines.  In the winter, cover crops can help penetrate the hard soil, and assist in aeration, which gives the vine roots a fighting change.

This vineyard is the basis for the flagship Cabernet blend, the Katheryn Hall Cabernet Sauvignon.  Katheryn is a passport ambassador for her brand, and in fact was an actual ambassador to Austria for many years.  Raised in a Napa Valley wine family, she knows what it takes to make good wine and came back to the valley after a varied career in public service.  One thing that struck me at this beautiful winery was the inquisitive nature Katheryn has, and how she welcomed us in to her home, and really wanted to know what we, as the new wave of journalism, wanted from a winery and how we could form a symbiotic relationship and mutually advance each other.

Following our vineyard tour, we had a beautiful sit down lunch on the terrace overlooking Napa.

Starter:  Grilled bread, buratta cheese, white anchovies, nicose olives, cherry tomatoes, capers, arugula.  Paired with the 2008 HALL Sauvignon Blanc (see notes above)

Main:  Wood oven roasted long-bailey farms duroc pork tenderloin, summer squash, shelling beans, chanterelle mushrooms, thyme jus.  Paired with the 2005 HALL Napa River Ranch Merlot.

The Napa Valley Merlot is sourced from two different vineyards, the Napa River Ranch, and the Hardester.  The Hardester vineyard is planted on the rugged hillsides, with low yield vines, and is known for big chewy Merlots.  The Napa River Ranch vineyard is on the valley floor, and has rich fruit and plush mouth feel.  I truly loved this merlot.  Considering that I used to be a bit of a merlot snob, in that i didn’t touch the stuff, this is a big accomplishment.  What a treat!  Flavors of olives, cherries, plum, smoke.  Richly and blanaced with a touch of cedar.  Also tasted cranberry juice, chocolate.  This was a soft and supple Merlot   This wine was only $28, and i rate it a strong buy.

Cheese Course: Artisan cheese with fig jam, bouchon bakery herb pallidan, spanish almonds paired with the 2006 HALL “Kathryn Hall” Cabernet Sauvignon.

This is Hall’s flagship wine, and it is 100% Cabernet Savignon, 95% from Sacrashe and 5% Diamond Mountain fruit.  I tasted black cherry, chocolate, lots of tannins, cinnamon and nutmeg.  This was a dense, concentrated Cab, and not a fruit bomb.  It was a glass of dark fresh earth without being dirty.  The black fruit and spices really came through, and I felt like I could taste that famous Rutherford dust.  This could easily age for 15 yrs before it peaks but it is amazing NOW.  This was a special sneak peek for the bloggers, and it will be released on Release date is 9/12/09 at a retail of around $75.  Considering that it is a terrific Napa Cab, even though this is normally outside of my budget, it’s a wonderful example of a Napa Valley Cabernet and I would buy it if I tasted it again.

After lunch, we participated in a bit of blending fun, but that will have to wait for the next post!  All in all, I have found a new favorite Napa Valley winery.  The QPR on the wines is outstanding, and the graciousness of our hostess and the entire team at Hall was lovely.  A winery of this size that is interested in learning about the next generation of wine writers, wine critics, and social media gets a gold star in my book especially when they clearly don’t need to given the success that they enjoy.

Keep up the great work and I look forward to seeing you again soon!

Playing with balls…


Second labels are hot right now.  They are one way for a winery, who might be struggling with the economy, to use some of their juice and develop a lower price point wine.  or they might just be a way for the winemakers to have a little fun with their wine.

Pétanque wines are made by Michel-Schlumberger, a leader in California premium wines, specifically for enjoying BBQ season, picnics, and Pétanque, the French game of lawn bowling.  recently, I had the chance to attend their opening party at Michel-Schlumberger, where the wines were being poured, the balls were being thrown, and band was swinging.  for $25, we got to eat the yummy food, dance with the Brother Cat Band, and drink all the wine we could!  In fact, Judd kept coming around to refill our glasses.  Probably to keep us, the riff-raff out of the rest of the crowd  😉

At the party, I was able to taste the line up of affordable, easy drinking quaffers that are value priced between $12.95 and $16.95  At these prices, you can enjoy a bottle every night!  part of the fun of these wines, is that we were outside in the garden, drinking from tumblers instead of glasses, and playing with balls as we drank and danced all afternoon long.  What a fun day!

First, I tasted the 2007 Sav Blanc.  On a warm spring day in Dry Creek, this hit the spot.  The grapes for this citrus driven white were from Paso Robles, and it was aged in stainless steel  It’s a nicely balanced low alcohol wine at 13.^%.

Next, even though I generally run screaming from Chardonnay, I had to give this one a try.  Most because my friend Judd was pouring it, but hey, what the hell  this is actually an unoaked chard, which made me smile.  I am not a huge chardy fan, and this was was decent, even if it wasn’t my favorite.

My favorite of the lineup, and the one I drank all afternoon over and over, was the 2006 Syrah.  It was a big soft syrah, that came from right there in Dry Creek Valley.  It was very easy to drink and I did.  A lot!  I wasn’t really taking notes, but I just remember this was a fantastic BBQ wine.

Next, came the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon.  This came from the Sierra Foothills, and I was surprised about that since I don’t generally associated that area with Cab.  It was ok, but not really my cup of tea.  I found it too woody.

The moral of this story is, if you find a winery that makes a second label, and you really enjoy their first, give it a shot!  There are great values out there and you might just have some fun trying them!  I’m big on the budget wines, and while I appreciate a special bottle and drink lots of that too, I love that there are tasting treats out there that are prime priced for a party.



Happy Zindependance!

It’s the last day of June, and as summer wears on, there are more and more wine events filling my calendar. Even though I try to pick events that are new and exciting, sometimes you just can’t resist.

I am looking forward to the long weekend which is only…um four more days away. Now that the smoke has cleared and the fog is back, i can actually breathe and will probably be looking for a BBQ or two. As luck would have it, there are some new events to choose from so I won’t be bored.

Pinot Days was nice, but I didn’t find anything new that knocked my socks off, sadly. Maybe I’m just becoming jaded? Or maybe it’s just that I didn’t swallow as much wine and I could / should have. There is something in the ceremony of spitting that loses some of that delicious pinot flavor.

Other than the Urbano open house this weekend, Mounts Family Winery is also having an open house up in Dry Creek. This is a great opportunity to taste their small lot wines, since they are not open to the public every weekend.

Mounts will be hosting a BBQ and Wine tasting on Saturday & Sunday, while they will be open for tasting on the 4th itself.

If you’re in to beer, and let’s face it, who isn’t! Around the World in 80 Beers is having it’s July installment at O’Neill’s pub in Ghiradelli Square on Saturday. Goldstar hGoogleas half-price tickets if you are interested.