Dot…dot…dot…

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I love a good rosé.  I’m also very picky about my rosé.  From pale pink to deep salmon, a rosé of pinot noir can be all over the map, but generally speaking, it is delicious. Sonoma County natives Jonathon and Chris, founded Ellipsis after returning to the area after college.  Jonathon holds a degree in Agribusiness, while Chris has his MBA, but they both realized they wanted to be back in the thick of it.In 2007, they headed back to Healdsburg and decided to combine talents and create a wine brand that created hand crafted, premium wines that showcased the best of the surrounded vineyards.This rose shows the love they have for the region.  Darker in color but not in flavor, this lovely summer sipper is full of red berry, pomegranate, and a touch of vanilla cream.  I could sip this $22 love every day this summer and not get sick of it!  Perfect for an afternoon, or perhaps with some salmon, it’s great on it’s own or also with food. Go check it out! This wine was provided by the boys of Ellipsis, after chatting with them at a wine event.  Thanks guys, and yum!  

Wine Country Weekend!

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It’s that time of year again!  BBQs, corn on the cop, and, suddenly – the summer is over and it’s Labor Day.  Boo!  Except that every year, Labor Day signals the Wine Country Weekend extravaganza in Sonoma County! This event is a local tradition, and many a la carte items sell out early.  Foodies who love wine will have even happier taste buds as more than 200 Sonoma County wineries, grape growers and chefs are preparing for the three-day festival. From Friday, September 2nd through Sunday, September 4th, wineries all over Sonoma County will participate, culminating in the annual Taste of Sonoma on Saturday, and the Sonoma Valley Harvest Wine Auction on Sunday. For me, as an observer, and never an attendee, the highlight of this weekend is the Taste of Sonoma County at MacMurray Ranch.  This property sits smack dab in the middle of Russian River Valley, and is known for it’s Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Gris.  And yes, Father really did know best when Fred MacMurray bought this property as an escape from Hollywood to raise his young family in 1941.  The property itself has been farmed since the 1850s and is steeped in local history. Some other highlights of the Sonoma Wine Country Weekend lunches, dinner parties and BBQs include:   Arrowood Vineyards & Winery Dinner Party – Dine poolside to live acoustic guitar at the Arrowood Estate Guest House with Winemaker Heidi von der Mehden while experiencing a harvest sunset. Arrowood’s philosophy of producing classic varietal wines with grapes grown exclusively in Sonoma County will be featured while library wines and rare vintages from the cellar are poured. A five-course dinner will be prepared by one of Sonoma’s favorites: the girl + the fig restaurant. DaVero Farms & Winery Dinner Party – Guests will enjoy the bounty of DaVero’s certified Biodynamic farm with Owners Ridgely Evers and Colleen McGlynn who will tour and taste with wine and olive oil while introducing the fascinating practice of Biodynamic farming. Chef Christopher Greenwald, a renowned Sonoma County rising star, will build a meal from the abundance of DaVero and neighboring farms. Hidden Ridge Lunch –An unforgettable picnic in a breathtaking high-altitude vineyard with Proprietors Lynn Hofacket and Casidy Ward awaits guests. Designed to thrill the adventurous explorer, this experience begins with a four wheel-drive tour of the mountaintop vineyard – a place so steep, so well developed so interesting that it has been described as “really that amazing.” Chef Duskie Estes of Zazu lends her formidable culinary talents to create a seasonally inspired meal perfect for the Hidden Ridge Vineyard wines. Keller Estate Dinner Party – The remarkable summertime scenery of Keller Estate’s vineyards and olive groves will set the tone at this dinner hosted by Keller Estate Winemaker Jacqueline Yoakum and Chef Joey Ray. Keller Estate is a true Estate: from vine to bottle everything is done on the property – and the result is a lineup of wines that are deeply expressive of their individual terrior. Little Vineyards Family Winery BBQ – Little Vineyards Family Winery promises […]

Speed tasting 11: Going back back back to Cali Cali

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Ok normally i would NEVER ever ever say Cali. But, Biggie Big is calling my name, and since we’re in Virginia sweating our asses off, I thought it was appropriate as we taste the 2010 Sivas Sonoma Sav Blanc. This is a VERY grassy and green pepper wine.  It is 68% Sonoma Valley and the rest of the fruit comes from Russian River; it is 100% stainless steel fermented and is aged on the lees.  For $14 it could be a great summer quaffer, but it’s too grassy for me.

A little sun in the city

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Ah, Sonoma.  That illustrious wine growing region to the north.  Oh the delicious pinot, zinfandel, and other wines created there!  Well, here in San Francisco, sometimes it’s hard to get up there.  Traffic, time, gas, etc. Fortunately for us city dwellers, Sonoma is coming to the city!  This week, through a series of tastings and events, the wines of Sonoma are being showcased here in the city. Starting tomorrow, the Grand Tasting at the Westin St Francis, over 200 wines from 100 wineries and growers will be poured.   Here, you can explore over 200 Sonoma County wines from 13 regions hand picked to show off the diverse terroir and winemaking styles.  Tickets are $55, but you can get a discount if you use your VISA Signature card!  There is also a special VIP room ($65). On Thursday, Forks & Corks will be at the Firehouse at Fort Mason.  Eighty wines will be paired with five of our best food trucks: An the Go, Brass Knuckle, El Porteno Empanadas, Japa Curry and the Crème Brulee Guy. Tickets are $75 ($50 with the VISA discount, or $40 using code SPECIAL). For those who like a little less formal of a stating, Vin12, who does monthly wine tastings at urban locations, is hosting a tasting on Friday at SLOANE for $25.  Featured wineries include Ceja, Gloria ferrere, Roessler, and Tin Barn. I hope to see you out and one or more of the events! Happy Sipping!  

Clang clang clang went the…

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Ding, ding, ding went the bell Zing, zing, zing went my heartstrings as we started for Huntington Dell. The iconic sounds of Judy Garland in Meet Me In St. Louis. Ah the images of a red trolly, rambling down the street.  we’re lucky here in San Francisco, we have vintage streetcars from around the world on parade.  We’re also lucky because we live so close to Red Car Winery.   Red Car Winery was founded by Carroll Kemp and Mark Estrin way back in 2000, with only 50 cases of syrah.  Now, 11 years later, there are four Red Car wines, and two other labels – Trolley and Reserve. With a flair for the dramatic, Hollywood producer Carroll and screenwriter Mark bring us great grapes and great wine.  Today I opened the 2009 Trolly Pinot Noir.  2009 was an interesting year, and I was a little aprehensive when I opened the bottle.  That said, several of my blogging friends (NorCal Wine) have been up to the winery or to a winemaker dinner (yes YOU Dallas Wine Chick Melly!) and they were all  h the wines.  i must say, I am really enjoying this pinot myself. Bright and bold without being over extracted, this Pinot Noir is great on it’s own or with food.  Tons of bright cherry and cranberry, with a hint of raspberry, and strawberry on the back end, the spice box nutmeg and tannins also fill out the back of the palate.  There is a touch fo brown sugar with tons of spice as well.  This is my kind of Pinot Noir!  The grapes are sourced from the cool coastal vineyards, and they show the high acidity of the Sonoma Coast fruit.  That balances out nicely with huge black Cherry flavors, followed by floral notes of rose petals.  An hour after opening, it is really developing nicely in the glass and the earthy mushroom characteristics come otu to play.  This is clearly a Sonoma Pinot Noir, with rich cherry and dark red fruit, as well as plum flavors; it’s rich but not overblown, and I really like it! At $48, it’s not exactly budget, but it’s a lovely wine and if you should see it on the market, you should BUY it. Happy Tasting!   These wines were brought to be on a bus by Malm Communications.  I think we need to get Mia a trolley!

The Benziger Blogger Follies!

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Benziger Family Vineyards sits inside an eruption cauldron, part of Sonoma Mountain, in Glen Ellen.  One beautiful early fall day, they took on a group of bloggers and showed us the VIP treatment and gave us a nice education and tasting lesson behind the scenes. Here at Benziger, the practice of biodynamics builds up the biological capital every year.  Building a closed ecosystem, the winery has created its own terroir through the careful management of the land, and the balance of nature and farming.  Eliminating the use of synthetic chemicals and starting more natural methods like crop rotation, composting, and natural insect and pest control changed the ecosystem. We started our day taking a tram tour around the property, where we had several stops where Mike Benziger, Kathy Benziger, and Next, we wandered down to the insectary, where Colby explained how the introduction of beneficial insects helps keep the farm in balance.  While in the insectary, we sipped on some 2008 Estate Sauvignon Blanc Paradiso de Maria, Sonoma Mountain while a Praying Mantis came to sit atop our bottle.  I tasted lemons, cream, grapefruit, with a whiff of petrol on the nose, as well as chalk and hay.  It had a great acidify and was lively with granny smith apple flavors.  500 cases of this wine were produces from a one acre block that was dry farmed with minimal intervention.  The wine was fermented on native yeast, which I always enjoy because I think it provides such a unique factor to every barrel.  It was fermented in 100% stainless steel barrels sur lie and was delicious! After the gardens, we moved on to the compost pile.  Yes, the compost pile.  Unfortunately, i didnt’ have any wine with me at the time, but luckily enough, it did NOT smell like my kitchen bucket.  Mike Benziger explained to us that there are no magic tricks when making great wine.  Benziger vines havfe very deep root growth on the property, which in part is caused by a change in the irrigation strategy.  Deep roots allow for more stability int he vines.  According to Mike, biodynamics is the best fine tuning system for nature, to make the best wine.  The compost piles are actually kept separate for each block, and they are put back on the land where they came from.  This adds to the closed ecosystem and prevents any cross contamination from occurring. Our next stop was the water treatment facility, which is a series of ponds that are aerated at the back of the property.  This is a man made wetland, which acts as a natural filter and helps to recycles and resue 2-4 million gallons (yes kids that’s a LOT of water!) annually. Before we moved in to the cave to taste smoe with, we stopped by the crushpad to see their new sorting table. As it was in the middle of crush, we saw the line in action.  this new vibrating sorting table allows the workers to sort out the duds, so they are […]

A Plethora of Pinot

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  Early in September, my friend and fellow blogger, Chris Oggenfuss of Vintuba and also Benziger Family Winery tweeted something about a day of pinot up at the farm (winery).  Far be it for me to miss a pinot party, so off I went to Glen Ellen to visit Benziger, something I hadn’t done in many year  s.I must say, in the past I had been somewhat disappointed in their winemaking efforts, being one of the stops I’d always take out of town visitors.  Sure, the tram tour was cool adn the garden was delightful, but there was something just off about the wine.  Fast forward 10 years and WOW!  I had NO idea that they were up to some awfully good tricks up on that hill past Jack London State Park! The Spotlighton Pinot Event focused on 5 premier offerings of pinot from Benziger, paired with some simply divine cheeses.  Chris generously comped me my tasting tickets, and the staff were gracious and welcoming and poured and poured and poured! The star of the event was Signaterra, Benziger’s new project headed by Rodrigo Soto, a Chilean import who is working wonders. Signaterra wines are the next step for Benziger’s farming philosophy (more on that in another post) and new journeys in wine from premier Sonoma-appellation vineyards.  Signaterra’s magna carta is about integrating the right resources of the Earth, the inescapable forces of Nature, and the attentiveness of Man into a distinctive wine. 2007 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir – The cool climate of the Sonoma Coast and Carneros vineyards kept sugars low and complexity high, while a long growing season stretched the harvest over three months.  The net yields were lower, with more concentrated flavors of bright juicy raspberry, dark spicy notes of cola bark and spicy earth with stewed figs.  There were also lovely flavors of deep dark cherry.  I also felt a slight spritz that needs to mellow slightly, and it looked like it was unfiltered.  I really enjoyed this wine and for $26 it has fabulous QPR and is an absolute BUY. 2007 Signaterra Giusti Ranch Pinot Noir – is from the Russian River Valley, and earned my #1 spot in this tasting.  It was rich and luxurious, with dark figs and black fruit, followed by black cherries, black raspberries and cola syrup.  The rich fruit had a back note of cinnamon, and a hint of mushroominess forest floor.  It was $49, but wroth every penny and is a STRONG BUY. 2007 San Remo Vineyard Pinot Noir – is another Russian River example.  This vineyard is in the heart of the Russian River region, and this area is known for it’s bold and elegant pinots, and the cool climate is perfect for Pinot.  The granite soils offer excellent drainage, and is currently practicing sustainable farming techniques.  The winds that sweep through the valley reduce the vigor of the vines, and keep the yield low, producing intense clusters.  This wine had a lot of bright cherry, earthy mushrooms, […]

A smattering of tastings – WBC Day 1

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Where does the time go?  The Second Annual Winebloggers Conference has already come and gone, and I am left wondering “what the heck was that bus that rolled over me  “.As one of the voices behind the curtain of the WBC Scholarship, and as a huge cheerleader, proponent and fan of the WBC, I am pleased, shocked, elated, bummed, and catching my breath after the weekend. On our first day, the rag tag Twisted Crew (@sonadora, @thebeerwench, @winehiker, @eljefetwisted, @ryanopaz, @gabriellaopaz, @houstonwino, @winewonkette) and I pulled up to the Flamingo after fighting what seemed to be an eternity in Central Valley and Infinion drag racing traffic followed by the usual Friday flow in to Santa Rosa.  Arriving at 12:30 or so, I didn’t spend much time with the sponsors, something which I regret doing.  Partially because many of them were familiar to me, partially because I was just plain exhausted due to unfortunate events the day before, I found my fellow people and sat down to eat some lunch. I was excited to see so many of my friends, both those that I know in person and those that I knew only online, as new recruits tot he WBC posse.  After catching up, albeit breifly, with some regulars, I was circulating the room trying to spy new faces while inspecting their name tags without looking like I was completely crazy.  Fortunately, I caught up with a few new regulars. After lunch, we attempted to do the speed tasting sessions, but well for reasons so many have discussed, it failed.  Miserably.  Like died on the operating table failed.  In its stead, we heard about the Wine Blogger Awards.  Unfortunately, I had purposely planned to skip this male dominated prom king style popularity contest, and moving it up unfortunately resulting in people not being there to accept thier awards.  Eventually the wireless supposedly turned back on but as I tried to tweet my tasting notes, the wireless only stayed up for 10 seconds at a time, I gave up and just enjoyed the wines.  Sorry folks, no tasting notes from me. After the speed tasting, we beat a hasty retreat to our short but sweet annual Anti-Conference BYOB session in the small space at the front of the hotel.  We did get to enjoy a large plethora of wines from attendees, and I really look forward to this time to meet new folks, try new wines, and just have a good time in an unstructured way. Not wanting to miss a beat, we then made our way out to the pool for a very crowded very crazy Sonoma Grand Tasting.  Not wanting to get crushed in the milee I pretty much avoided this, and found a spot at a table with Wine Biz Radio’s Randy Hall, his wife Jen and her amazing goat cheese, as well as some fellow bloggers.  There, we shared some wine, I opened some wine, Chritophe (@cork_dork) from Titus opened some wine, and we made our own tasting.  […]

Rhône Around the World!

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You’re the Rhone that I want!  That’s the theme for this year’s Hospices du Rhône event, and it’s a great one.  To tie in with this annual extravaganza, Twitter Taste Live is doing a multi-national, multi-coastal, multi time zone tasting event that you can be a part of! It all kicks off at 7pm local time, on Friday – April 17th. The first stop is 7pm GMT where in the UK where Robert McIntosh from wineconversation.com will be tasting along with some bloggers and tweeps. Then we move across the pond to the East Coast, where Joe Roberts, the ONE the ONLY 1winedude, will host live from Wine Riot in Boston at 7pm EDT.  They will be tasting: Rutherglen The Alliance  (Viognier/Marsanne) 2006 Fireblock Grenache 2004 Four Vines The Peasant (Grenache) 2006 Bonny Doon Le Vol Des Anges (Late Harvest Roussanne) 2007 Then we move out West.  Out here the cowboys of the wine industry will be in multiple locations, at 7pm Best Coast Time!  Oops sorry, I mean PDT. A tweet-up will be happening at ESATE Restaurant in Sonoma.  For the bargain price of $12 and a bottle of Rhone wine, you too can join the crowd and tweet live from Sonoma! If you can’t make it to one of the live event, you can host your own!  If you can’t host your own, you can taste alone.  Pick one, pick a few but pick something! Hope you can join us and and I look forward to Friday! The west coast posse will be tasting: Tablas Creek Cotes de Tablas Blanc 2007 Tablas Creek Mourvedre 2006 Kinton Syrah 2005 Verge Syrah 2006 Yangarra Estate Shiraz 2006 For all the details and to RSVP. please head over to Twiter Taste Live.  You don’t need to be a wine blogger, or a wine snob, you just need a Twitter account and a Hospices du Rhone wine!  See you in the Twittersphere at 7pm YOUR time on Friday, April 17th.   Google  

Life ain’t a barrel of monkeys, but it’s sure a Barrel (Tasting) of wine!

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The weekend before last, I spent my 2nd weekend up in Dry Creek & Russian River Valley, searching for some new wines and trying to impress my blogging buddies Matt, Robbin, Joe & Amy.  Also along for the ride were Shana and Liza, my regular drinking buddies. Everything started out innocently enough, with a requisite trip to Truett Hurst to pick up our glasses.  From there, we headed over to Pappietro Perry, who is making some mighty fine pinot noirs that I really enjoy.  Jim, the up and coming wine social media man about town, joined us, and we wandered in to Amphora with our winemaking blogging friend Patrick of Iridesse Wines.   Now, I have not been to Amphora in quite a long time, and as luck would have it, another favorite Lush, Patrick had an inside scoop.  We headed in to the VIP tasting, and were given a whirlwind tour of their offerings.  I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of wine now being presented and will have to go back. From Amphora, the posse invaded Michel-Schlumberger, and availed ourselves on Judd’s hospitality once again.  At this point, we were a bit of a mixed bag, since we kept losing cell reception and Amy & Joe were meandering around the countryside somewhere north of Occidental trying t meet us.  Shana and her crew were sidetracked at Kokomo, so we just continued on our way, drinking through the amazing Dry Creek Pinot that MS has.  Additionally, their Bordeaux blend in barrel as well as the finished versions were stunning. After MS, it was across the driveway to Mounts Family Winery where we had to give Lana a big shout out.   Since Shana and I were there the weekend before, we had some idea of what they were pouring, but after tasting the Malbec again, I decided to split a case of futures with Liza.  The malbec is something Mounts has only done once before, and it was delicious.  I am SO excited to taste the finished thing! Since it was getting late, and we had a date in town for Twitter Taste Live, we hightailed it to the Front Street Five, where Patrick’s wife Genevieve was pouring at Camelia.  Since it’s a collection of smaller wineries, I dragged my friends in to Holdredge, where John treated us to a barrel room raid.  I have been going to Holdredge for years, and really love their pinots – but this was my first secret taste of Strawberry Fields and The Other One; these are John’s special blends that are mostly for personal consumption, but he was offering a few futures for special customers. Next to Holdredge, we had a few minutes, so we went back to Hudson Street Wineries, a new coop tasting room that I talked a bit about here.  Sine it was last in the day, we had more time to chat and drink. Saturday ended with a drinking fest at Palette Art Cafe, who warmly welcomed a VERY […]