Wandering the aisles of the annual Pinot Days in San Francisco is a combination of old friends, new discoveries, and random skee ball shooting. This year, there was a new venue, new wineries, and new tastes abounding, of which a few really stood out. I fully admit that I stopped by the Spell Estate table, simple for the reason that I had never tried them. When approaching events of this size, I often target those “new to me” folks, of which I am unfamiliar. I was happy that I had the opportunity to do so, because Spell Estate really is a special find that I have on my “must buy” list for Pinot Noir now. After chatting with winemaker Andrew Berge, I knew that I was excited to taste the full line up. Thanks to General Manager Allisun Groat, I was able to taste the large variety that Spell Estate offers and here are some of my notes. Founded in 2006, Spell Estate was inspired by Bill & Tiki Spell’s love of Pinot Noir. Committed to delivering the best expression of Pinot Noir possible, they focus on the vineyards to create world class Pinot Noir. Engaging winemaker Andrew Berge, who grew up in Europe and is deeply indoctrinated with the wine & food lifestyle, was a smart move for the Spells. With a depth of experience in winemaking, Andrew is passionate about his wines. With Spell, as well as his other label La Poutchine , Andrew can extract the expression of each microclimate and terroir as detailed as small patch of vineyard on a steep slope. With each winery comes a unique style, both created and ever evolving by Andrew Berge. 2013 Alder Springs Pinot Noir – Located just 12 miles from the Pacific Ocean, the fruit comes from three blocks planted between 1700 and 1900 feet. The volcanic soils here lend themselves to the earthyly old world character of this wine, will tea leaves, dried herbs, and leather, with a bright garget color. With the earthy underlying notes, the bright red berry and cherry notes are calling attention to this age worthy example of Mendocino Pinot. 2013 Weir Vineyards – Yorkvile Highlands Pinot Noir – just southeast of Anderson Valley, Yorkville Highlands is the gateway to Pinot country. The Weir Vineyard is planted between 850 and 1000 feet, with the cooling influences of the coastal fog, giving this wine a brilliant cherry base with macerated strawberries. A hint of graphite and smoked meat round out the finish. With just 43% new oak, the wine is balanced and calm with the remaining 50% one year or older. 2014 Umino Vineyard Pinot Noir – a classically bold Pinot, with strong cherry flavors and a rich and sultry mouthfeel. With the vineyard located in the far western reaches of Sebastapol, in western Sonoma County, the foggy influence moderates the hot summer days creating beautiful acid and structure. 2011 Marimar Estate Pinot Noir – from a vineyard on the true Sonoma Coast, in Freestone, this luxurious wine is […]
The dust has mostly settled, and the clean up has begun. If you have not yet heard, we had a fairly large earthquake in these parts on Saturday night / Sunday morning, and while there was no damage here in the city of San Francisco, there was significant building and property damage in Napa. While most of us who grew up in the area are somewhat used to (if you can really get used to this) these moments in time where the ground buckles and groans, it is certainly a challenge to see it in person, and look at the pictures of the damage. Many wineries have suffered significant losses, in both tanks falling over, bottles broken, and barrels tossed; so I write this post with a bittersweet taste in my mouth. I wish all of my friends, wineries, and colleagues the best of luck, cleaning up and getting on with the business of harvest and life. Looking for something to do on Labor Day Weekend? It’s an early one this year, but it is shaping up to be a lovely weekend. The weather hasn’t been quite as hot as it can be, and it’s prime time for relaxing outside with some delicious Sonoma County wine! Sonoma Wine Country Weekend is the penultimate weekend of wine, food, and culinary adventures, showcasing the best that Sonoma County has to offer. This year, local Sommelier Stars are bringing their discriminating palates to bat, immersing themselves, and you, in an educational experience like no other. Supporting the future of Sonoma County through a partnership with Sonoma valley Vintners & Growers Foundation and Sonoma County Vintners, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend includes three days of events, from dining under the stars at Francis Ford Coppola Winery, to the raucous Taste of Sonoma at iconic MacMurray Ranch, and ending with the Harvest Auction. Winemaker lunches, dinners, barbeques, and more will be featured throughout the county, with deep dives in to the wines and foods of each region. The highlight of the weekend for me is Saturday’s Taste of Sonoma, where guests can immerse themselves in wine & food with over 100 wineries and food purveyors. This is the best opportunity to taste a bit of all of Sonoma County in one place, in the historic MacMurray Ranch property in the Russian River Valley. Don’t miss the bubble lounge and the Steel Chef cooking challenge! Tickets are on sale now, with special benefits for Visa Signature Cardholders! I look forward to seeing you there! Google
It isn’t often that I find a new winery, that I haven’t at least heard of. Recently, when I received the invitation to the Ousterhout Wine & Vineyard Release party here in San Francisco, I was excited to be able to go and try new wines without having to go very far from home. Leave it to me and my city dwelling blogging friends to be able to go wine tasting on a Tuesday night in the Marina! Owners Douglas and Nancy Ousterhout create delicious Pinot Noir Rose and Zinfandel from a small vineyards in Sonoma County, as well as thier estate vineyard in Alexander Valley. With strong agricultural roots, the Ousterhouts are wine naturals. With a thriving medical practice in San Francisco, the vineyard property is a weekend retreat where they can build their brand in the tranquility of this quiet corner of Sonoma. Winemaker Michah Wirth cut his baby teeth in Oregon, working with cult producers like Raptor Ridge before moving back to Healdsburg. Here, he started working with Gary Farrel Winery, where he spent 7 years learning how to create stellar Pinot Noir. Like most young winemakers, he wanted to create his own wines, which he did in 2007 with Joseph Jewell in 2006. Today, he makes the wines at Ousterhout in a refreshingly different style. While the zins are bold, they are not overpowering. The roses are distinctive and not sweet. With three roses and two Zinfandels, along with a Sauvignon Blanc for added measure, Ousterhout is tightly focused on their wines. In particular, the three roses really caught my attention. This week, my rose of the week is the porch pounder summer loving Russian River Valley Rose of Pinot Noir. Along with two vineyard designate roses, the Russian River is a delightfully crisp refreshing Rose. With bright red fruit, Tuscan melon, strawberries and mineral note, this is a great rose for grilled chicken, salads, and turkey burgers. At only $22, it’s an afforable summer wine, that is brest served well chilled on the deck with friends. Check out Ousterhout’s other wines here! Enjoy a great dry rose of Zinfandel, or a classic Zinfandel from Dry Creek! Jack Steffan, Director of Sales & Marketing graciously provided me with a bottle of wine for further inspection, but all options and expression of joy are my own. Google
What do you think about when you think about wine? Flavor, name, price? When I think about wine, I think about location. Where is it from? Is it from a vineyard I know? An area that I’m fond of? Somewhere new? All of these things are characteristics of wine that peak my curiosity, and make me want to know more. I love wines that express their sites and show the uniqueness of the area. Luckily for me, there are winemakers that are as driven and curious as I am. In this case, Matt Licklider and Kevin O’Connor of LIOCO, who founded the winery with the fundamentoal idea that wine should be an expression of terroir. in this case, Matt Licklider and Kevin O’Connor wanted to express the unique charachteristics of various terroirs of California Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, as well as a unique blend – Indica, a Rhone style blend. By selecting the best possible fruit available from independent grape growers,, they are able to express control over their fruit and hone in on the exact fruit and characteristics that make the best wine. Through careful clonal selection, sustainable practices, and careful site selection, the wines are born in the vineyard. Moving indoors to the winemaking itself, using wild yeast in hand sorted grapes, with very little oak treatment, you get unique, wild, clear representations of the fruit in each bottle. Having known about LIOCO since my early days of blogging, I was excited to have the opportunity to taste the latest releases. First up, the fresh and lively 2012 Estero Russian River Valley Chardonnay. This blend of two vineyards, both in Russian River Valley, reflects the cooling influence of the sites, low in elevation and susceptible to the fog fingers that linger in the mornings. This proximity to the ocean creates a need for longer hang time, delivering a strength in flavor and bright acidity that is so magical in this wine. This is what chardonnay should be: expressive, bright, fruit driven. Vinified in all neutral oak, the selection of blocks for the Estero is very specific, with all other lots going in to the Sonoma County bottling. The Estero is showing Meyer lemon, lemon curd, fresh cream, underripe nectarines, fresh cream, and a flinty mineral finish that dances on your palate. For $35, I’d drink this all day. Next, two Pinot Noirs from different areas of California. The first, the 2012 Laguna Sonoma Coast, is a blend of the Teach-Mor and Hirsch vineyards, both from the extreme Sonoma Coast. This wine is everything I love about Sonoma Pinot Noir, with tangy, hibiscus and bright cherry filled bursts of flavor, with forest aromas of cedar and mushroom. Fermented from wild yeast, the fruit was fermente with 30% whole cluster bunches. With vineyards in the fog catching zone, the cool temperatures create the bright red fruit and zingy acidity that I love so mcuh. This wine was not long for the table as we drank it quickly and happily, but […]
It’s that time of year again – warm sunny days, cool rose, and wine events galore. One of the best events in Dry Creek is Passport, which takes place April 26-27 in Dry Creek Valley, part of the Sonoma County region. This year, the region celebrates 25 years of Passport to Dry Creek, where 50 wineries open thier doors and welcome wine lovers. Saturday and Sunday, special vineyard tours are offered to give visitors an insider peek at the grape to glass experience. This year, you can choose from Pasternick, specializing in Rhone style wines, Grey Palm Vineyard, who is home to the newest member winery – Cast Wines, or on Sunday, head over to Palindrome Vineyard where you can dig in the red bench soils, or – finally – Hawley Winery high up on Brandford Mountain. These tours are a once in a lifetime opportunity to get a deep dive in to a particular area of Dry Creek, and worth the price of admission alone! I love the themes, the music, and the fun atmosphere of this event. I also love that there are many wineries that are not open to the public, and this is my best chance to taste the wines and visit the properties. Check out some of my favorite wineries along Dry Creek Valley: Frick is serving up Rhone style wines in a quiet secluded spot with gorgeous views Kokomo Winery – with so many options, it’s hard to choose which is my favorite wine, but the pinot and the grenache rose are very special. Take a taste of some fusion cuisine, and enjoy the new age bluegrass band UNTI – always amazing, will be shucking oysters to pair with thier rose, as well as food from local fave Spinster Sisters, all to the tunes of the Healdsburg High School band Ridge Lytton Springs will have southern confort food to go with their stunning zinfandels and rhone blends Mounts Family Winery is a hidden gem on the west side, with a circus theme of magical elixirs to quench your thirst With over 50 wineries participating, and musical, food, and winery experiences, why not spend the weekend in Dry Creek Valley! Sunday only tickets are sold out but you can book your full weekend pass for $120 now Many of these wineries are not open to the public on a regular basis, so this is your to check them out! I plan on visiting my favorites, but also a few new stops along the way. I’ll be sure to report back after the event with some top stops along the wine road. My passport is stamped and I’m ready to go! My visit was provided by the Winegrowers of Dry Creek, but my picks and thougts are my own. Follow along on Twitter for updates during the weekend at #DCVPassport and be sure to follow @DryCreekValley and @luscious_lushes on twitter! Google
Sitting on the mountaintop overlooking Alexander Valley, Dry Creek and Geyserville, you might feel like doing your best Leonardo DiCaprio impression from Titanic. I’m the king queen of the world! Jordan Vineyards & Winery was founded in 1976, with a passion for world class Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, made in the heart of Sonoma. Today, that vision has grown to include a showcase for the local terroir, as well as a focus on sustainability and stewardship of the land that the vineyards are planted on. From solar panels to water treatment facilities, Jordan strives to maintain the land that produces these beautiful wines. On a gorgeous late summer day, I joined a group of fellow bloggers to preview the newest tour & tasting offering, the Estate Tour & Tasting. This 3 hour tour will make you feel like you are Gilligan, lost in the rolling hills of oak trees and back acreage, but you will soon be found in your glass of wine and several stops along the way. Meanding down from the main chateau and tasting area, the first stop is in the gardens, where the produce for Chef Todd Knoll’s culinary program. Having had several meals at Jordan, I know first hand what amazing vegetables can do for a meal. Wandering through the rows of raspberries, roses, and veg, we had a mini feast of summer tomatos and fruit before boarding the newly christened (and air conditioned) Jordan shuttle for our next stop on the tour. Next up, Seven Oaks is a stand of oak trees surrounding a new tasting bar, with sweeping views of the lake and olive orchards. Here at Seven Oaks, we tasted two vintages of Chardonnay, paired with bento boxes of fresh vegetable sushi. My favorite was the 2011, with beautiful crisp green apple and citrus fruit, with a healthy dose of white necterine. The 2010 was equally beuatiful if not differnt. The 2010 was a classic California Chardonnay, but more restrained, with creamy golden delicious apple, pear, vanilla, and baking spice. Two yin and yang experiences, refreshingly chilled on a hot day. At Creekside Landing, on next stop, we strolled through the vines heavy with Malbec and Petite Verdot grapes, and tasted the componant grapes that go in the Jordan’s Cabernet program. If you haven’t tasted fruit off the vine, this is a once in a lifetime opportuinty to taste the tannic Malbec skins, and the rich ripe flesh of Petite Verdot! At our final stop on the tour, with the time going all too fast, we reach the crest of the hill at Vista Point. This open air gazebo has 360 degree views of Alexander Valley, Geyserville, and peeps of Dry Creek and Chalk Hill and is an amazing viewpoint for sunset. There wasn’t a bad seat in the house, as we sat down to enjoy our tasting of Cabernet and nibbles. Starting with local cheeses, artisan bread and Jordan’s olive oil, we moved on to Sonoma miso beef, served with […]
I’m sitting here in the lobby of the Flamingo Resort in Santa Rosa, at the 2nd annual Wine Tourism Conference, in Santa Rosa, with fond memories of the Wine Bloggers Conferences of 2008 and 2009. The buzz is certainly different, with industry reps. tour operators, writers, and print media outlets, but the buss is here. Spending a brief morning at the trade show, I saw many faces I knew, but I also saw many faces I didn’t. Up and coming wine regions that you would not think of were represented, and I was looking forward to learning more about them. All sorts of industry professionals were represented, including tour operators, wineries, tourism associations, PR firms, and of course – those pesky bloggers! I was looking forward to both getting to know these great group of people ,but also learning what the challenges in the industry are, and how we, as new media representatives can help. Of particular interest to me were the challenges that individual regions have attracting visitors to their wine destinations. Both on a personal and semi professional level, the topic fascinates me. Additionally, the age old question of how ot engage with social media and how to utilize new media. I am a social media freak, and if you have known me since the first Wine Bloggers Conference, you know that I am also a twitterholic. While some of this has waned in recent years due to professional and personal obligations, it is still a fiery passion. In addition to my social meida addiction, I am passionate about finding out how I can help bring the wine business in to the 21st century uses the tgools of the trade. These tools include CRM but also include business practices and methodologies that are universal across businesses. So, where can wine take you? Stay tuned this week and I give you some of my insights, ideas, eye opening moments, and observations from the Wine Tourism Conference. Cheers!
I was recently lucky enough to be invited to sit in the presence of wine royalty. Joel Peterson, the founder and driving force behind Ravenswood Winery, hosted an intimate wine dinner where he poured and discussed his single vineyard designate wines. What a treat! Ravenswood is a formidable force in the zin world, and Peterson is one of the few men that can be called the Godfather of Zinfandel. In the early 70s, he challenged the going jug wine mentality and tried to create wines that tasted of the place and rivaled European wines. Single vineyard designates aer Joel’s passion, where you can work with small lots reflective of the European heritage of winemaking. Zinfandel is still somewhat of a mystery in terms of growing and manipulating, and experiments with Native yeast, open top fermentation and oak treatments have yielded some beautiful examples. Most of these wines have very little manipulation, and are reflective of their terroir. These wines allow the land to speak for them selves.. Zinfnadel is one of the few wines that is very unique to the area it is grown, and might be the most indicative varietal of terroir in the U.S. there aer so many regions that produce zin, and each region is different in terms of sytle and flavor profile. If you further refine that to vineyard blocks, you can start to see how the wine takes on the earth it is grown in. The wide ranges of climate and terroir produces a higher quality over a wider growing region than any other varietal. Over the course of the evening, we tasted 9 wines, paired with delicious foods from Spruce. I wish I had saved a bit of each wine to taste with the food, but it was all so tasty! Each vineyard has it’s own character, and each is from a different corner of Napa and Sonoma. 2007 Dickerson – 1000 cases of this single vineyard were made of this 100% zin from Napa valley. I found it light and bright, with juicy raspberry and hibiscus flavors. I also found apple jolly rancher, with a tiny touch of evergreen. This vineyard had an issue with leaf roll virus, which caused the grapes to have high acid and low sugar levels, somewhat mimicking the coastal environment of other vineyards. The second taste I took of this showed black cherry and bosenberry. My favorite sneaky little tidbit about this wine, is that the same wine, bottled under a different label, actually received different scores by certain influential critics. How’s THAT for marketing! This vineyard is located in Napa Valley, and was planted in sections between 1930 and 1985. It is a classic example of an old, dry-farmed and head pruned example of Zinfandel in a valley dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon. $35 This was the first zin of the flight and I would definitely BUY. 2007 Big River – also 100% zin, this vineyard was planted somewhere around 1880. I tasted cracked pepper, dusty plums and […]