Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Paso Robles Wines tasting weekend, Day 2

We spent this past weekend in the Paso Robles area enjoying the fine wines and visiting some new wineries. Here is my review of the wineries and the wines we enjoyed. Today we visited mostly west-side wineries.

Maloy O’Neill- One of my Paso Robles favorites. I love their Lagrein, and Cabs, and their dark and rich Bordeaux style blends. My favorite this trip was the 2007 Enzo, ($36) 54% Sangiovese, 40% Lagrein, 6% Petit Verdot, with the Lagrein taking charge- as it should. This wine brings everything to life and when I got home I realized I had 4 more bottles in my cellar from a previous trip! I also purchased a bottle of 2007 Petite Sirah ($50), A beautifully inky colored wine that had hints of blueberries and toasted oak. I also stop at Maloy O’Neill on mu visits to the area. Unfortunately their 2011 crop was way under expected totals and they will not be making any wine from the 2011 harvest.

Tackitt- Owner/Winemaker Leon Tackitt and his wife greeted us Sunday morning with wonderful appetizers in their tasting room. I have become a big fan of the wines here. If you are looking for the perfect holiday wine, look no further, their 2010 Gewûrztraminer, is the signature wine of Tackitt Family Vineyards. At $19 a bottle you can’t go wrong. I bought 6 bottles and plan on enjoying them with my holiday turkey.  I also enjoyed his 2008 Rolling Hills Merlot ($28) and his 2008 Melange ($28) which is a marvelous blend of 62% Cab, 21% Petite Verdot, and 17% Merlot. Do you enjoy port wines? Then you need to try Dream Tyme, ($38) made from late harvest Zinfandel and aged in a solera for 6 years. Located up in San Miguel, they are a bit off the beaten track, but I highly suggest you take the time and drive up there your next time in the area.

Graveyard- Also located in the San Miguel area is Graveyard Vineyards, driving through the gate you pass a Graveyard- hence the name. They just opened up a new tasting room and it is very nice. Located near the lake on their property, bring your fishing pole and catch some largemouth bass while tasting the wines. I did what I always do here; I walk out with a case of wine! Their Tombstone labeled White, Pink and Red wines are well worth the $14 a bottle price. I also enjoyed their Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($38), a beautiful wine, with hints of green bell pepper, rose and a lingering finish. Well worth the price. Graveyard also has a marvelous port wine called Deliverance, this Syrah dessert wine has natural chocolate flavors infused creating the perfect LPR wine!

Daou- This is a newer winery in the West side. Located on top of a mountain with a beautiful tasting room, that has as its centerpiece is a white Onyx lighted counter. Looking at their tasting list, it listed wines all over $32. I have to tell you, walking into this place I felt like I was entering the snootiest tasting rooms of Napa Valley.  I did enjoy their oaky-buttery 2010 Chardonnay, but again, looking at the price $42… I did feel like I had left Paso Robles and Napa… this wasn’t a good thing. Yes the grapes were from Paso….not Napa, so why the high price? Aged for 15 months… French oak… nothing too special. Yes I did enjoy the wine. I bought a bottle, but for me this was almost too much. I also enjoyed their Micho ($42), and Cab/Merlot blend. But part of the wine tasting experience for me is the experience in the tasting room. I missed the warmth, and personal feeling that you get in most of the other Paso Robles tasting rooms. Yes I bought four bottles of wine, but for me I probably won’t be back, if I want more of their wines I would buy it online.

Twilight- Now as for a total contrast to Daou, we ventured down the mountain and decided to try Twilight (one of our group is a Twilight fan- so we had to stop there.) When we got there, I remembered being here years before but it wasn’t called Twilight. It was Thunderbolt! The “meatball winery”. Years ago we went there and they were serving meatballs with their wines, we all walked out with cases of wine- when we got home we tried the wines and we didn’t care for them…. Must have been the meat balls! Well they were sued by Thunderbird, so they changed their name to Twilight…. Same wine. We didn’t buy anything here- but they again were serving food paired with each wine.

Villacana- Not wanting Twilight to be our last winery of this trip, we decided on one more- taking a chance I pulled into Villacana. We walked in and were greeted with a smile. Ahhh I made a good choice. This small production family owned and operated winery is no frills but good wines. We enjoyed the tasting of all of their wines. I purchased the Viognier ($18) which was the best Viognier of the trip, full bodied, great fruit, nice clean finish. The Estate Cabernet ($28), which made me laugh actually, because it knocked the socks off of the one at Daou, at almost half the price. (I bought two). But the wine from Villacana that I will remember is the Mourvedre ($35).  Very rarely do you see Mourvedre as a stand-alone wine; it is usually blended with Syrah. But this stands alone easily and it actually shines. Rich with black cherries and a nice toast, this is a perfectly balanced wine. The finish I swear, I still had on my pallet when we stopped for lunch an hour later.

Great trip, great wines, great friends….. let’s do it again soon!



Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Paso Robles Wines tasting weekend, Day 1

We spent this past weekend in the Paso Robles area enjoying the fine wines and visiting some new wineries. Here is my review of the wineries and the wines we enjoyed.

Dark Star Cellars- I am a big fan of Norm and Susan Benson's winery, Dark Star Cellars, so much so we served their Ricordati ($32) at our wedding.
During this visit I once again enjoyed the Ricordati as well as the Anderson Road ($28), a nice wine that is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (45%), Syrah (45%) and Petite Syrah (10%).  Be sure to say hi to Gracie their dog too while you are there.

Attached to Dark Star Cellars is their son’s tasting room, Brian Benson.
Brian has a completely different style of wine making that his father does and he is doing it very well. The two tasting rooms are a perfect contrast to wine styles. Brian’s wines are big, bold, mouthfuls of flavor. He has experimented as well; to his credit he has a Syrah that he aged for 40 months in French Oak barrels and it is a delicious wine that shows well, and has a tremendous finish.
But I have to say the wine that totally knocked my socks off was his 2008 Zinfandel ($40). It was my favorite wine of the entire weekend. For me it was a classic California Zinfandel. It had bright fruit, balanced acidity and notes of blackberry, anise and pepper. It is a beautiful wine that had me thinking about it the entire weekend.

Justin Winery- Our next stop was Justin, while we were there because they had a Holiday Party Open House, where we could tour the Justin home (which is beautiful) we also had tasting of some of their fine wines. My favorites were Isosceles ($63) and Justification ($45). We also had tasting so the Reserve Isosceles ($75), not my favorite and I really do not see much difference in the two Isosceles available; I would much rather drink the regular and save some money.

kukkula- Following Justin we headed down the road to a new winery for me, kukkula, a winery from a Finish family. In September of 2010, kukkula completed construction on their winery and tasting room. The modern structure is partially dug into the hillside and incorporates innovative materials, such as rust colored insulated panels, and gabion rock cages. The vineyard uses dry farming to bring out the most in the fruit, and the wines show that character. My favorite wine was their GSM, called sisu ($30). It was a typical GSM (which I love) with notes of blackberry, cherry, violet.

Mondo- It was getting late in the day and we decided to hit one more. One couple in our group is a wine club member of Mondo, so we ventured to their beautiful tasting room. If you like inexpensive Rhone and Bordeaux style wines, and then I suggest Mondo. The wines ranged in price from $16 to $24 a bottle and you can’t go wrong with any of them. If you want easy drinking every day wines, then I suggest the The Truck ($18) a blend of 25% Zinfandel, 13% Syrah, 13% Merlot, 13% Petite Sirah, 12% Mourvedre, 12% Tempranillo and 12% Tannat.  Or the La Rocca ($20)  a smooth, velvety red Rhone blend of 56% Grenache, 16% Mourvedre, 15% Petite Sirah and 13% Syrah. 

For dinner we ended up at Chico’s Caffe in downtown Paso Robles, it was nice that they could get us in on a short notice with our party of 9. I highly recommend Chico’s for seafood. The prices were right and the wine list (yes after wine tasting all day we were able to kill off two more bottles) is excellent.



Monday, November 14, 2011

Robert Parker's latest.... what do you think?

US wine critic Robert Parker has admitted to Wine Future Hong Kong that his star may be on "wane" but that his influence has always been greatly over played. 

In a press conference prior to his public tasting Parker was in relaxed mood telling journalists that he was now just a "fat old happy Buddha" who they could come to for some "wisdom".

He said he hoped the high prices surrounding recent Bordeaux vintages "had now run their course". "For all the things that have been written about me I am a consumer of wine and drink wine every day" and that it was not in his desire to see prices out of touch with the market.

Really? Do you really believe this?

How often has the wine rating influenced your decision to buy a particular wine? Come on be honest here…



Monday, November 7, 2011

We're (California) #1.... who is #2?

New York sits in the number two spot for domestic wine production. California is number one. Each year New York's wine production brings in more than 20 million dollars - an amount state officials would like to increase.

Recently the New York State Liquor Store Association mailed out posters to stores kicking off the "Fall in love with NY wines" promotion.

Have you had a NY wine recently? If so tell me about it.



Monday, October 17, 2011

Is Sea Smoke getting a bit cocky?

New for the 2009 vintage: Sea Smoke of Santa Barbara is putting “California Grand Cru” on the label. 

The term is pure marketing. Needless to say, there is no codified “cru” system of California. However, the term does not fall afoul of the protected terms negotiated in the EU-US accord on place names. The labels previously read “Santa Barbara County California.” 

After eyeing it for some time, Bob Davids acquired an apparently gorgeous, 350-acre parcel in the Santa Rita Hills in 1999 for his label Sea Smoke. According to North American Pinot Noir, it was previously a bean field. He immediately developed about 100 acres into vineyards; the first vintage was 2001. The winery produces four pinot noirs and two chardonnays; all bear the term “California Grand Cru” for the 2009 vintage. 

Queried about their decision to use their term, Director of Winemaking Victor Gallegos talked about a Wine Spectator article in which James Laube called Sea Smoke “an important part of Santa Barbara’s wine scene and one of its ‘grand cru’ properties.”

Frankly... I wonder what they are Sea Smokin...

Thursday, October 13, 2011

2012 Vintners Hall of Fame inductees

The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) today announced that its 2012 Vintners Hall of Fame inductees will be Peter Mondavi, Sr., of Charles Krug Winery; Professor Albert Winkler of UC Davis; Joe Heitz of Heitz Cellars in the Napa Valley; former Beringer winemaker Myron Nightingale; Mendocino County pioneer John Parducci; and legendary South Coast vintner Richard Sanford. Dr. Eugene Hilgard, one of the fathers of modern soil science, was previously elected unanimously by the Nominating Committee.
The official induction of the 2012 Vintners Hall of Fame honorees will take place on February 20, 2012 at The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone, in St. Helena, CA, as part of the college’s 6th Annual Vintners Hall of Fame Induction Celebration.

“These inductees are the leaders who helped California become the center of the American wine industry while producing some of the best wines in the world,” said CIA President Dr. Tim Ryan. “The Culinary Institute of America is proud to host the Vintners Hall of Fame and honor the class of 2012 for their accomplishments at making California wines so extraordinary and successful.”

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Friday, September 23, 2011

Have you hugged your Grenache today?

Today is International Grenache Day!

The idea of International Grenache Day  grew out of the success of last year’s International Grenache Symposium in the Rhone Valley.

Last year the first International Grenache Symposium in the village of Crestet in the Southern Rhone attracted 250 wine producers – including Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon, Vincent Avril of Clos des Papes in Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Chester Osborn of d’Arenberg and South Africa’s Eben Sadie.

Events include a Grenache wine treasure hunt in South Africa run by wine journalist Michael Fridjhon, in Australia renowned producers such as Hewitson, D’Arenberg, Henschke and Torbreck are supporting the event, as are wine retailers and other professionals in California, Spain, Hong Kong, Brazil, London and Singapore.

Have a glass of Grenache tonight to celebrate!



Friday, September 16, 2011

Zaca Mesa hires new assistant wine maker Kristin Bryden

Just in time for harvest, Zaca Mesa Winery & Vineyard has appointed Kristin Bryden to the new post of Assistant Winemaker. Kristin began her employment with the award-winning estate winery on August 15.

“We are delighted to have someone of Kristin’s caliber on our team,” said Zaca Mesa President and CEO, Brook Williams. “She has just the right blend of practical experience and creativity in the cellar that complements our wines.”

Originally from Redding, California, Kristin is a graduate of California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo where she studied Food Science and gained an interest in winemaking. Starting her professional career at Wild Horse Winery & Vineyards in Templeton, California, Kristin worked her way from a production technician to an enologist, and eventually to Assistant Winemaker in 2006. In that position, she managed the lab and assisted in the planning and execution of all winemaking activities, with an emphasis on quality control. Kristin also benefited from the Wild Horse Vineyards’ diverse collection of winegrape varieties, allowing her to explore their many profiles and associated styles.

Zaca Mesa Winery, located in the Santa Ynez Valley of Santa Barbara County, California, is dedicated to estate grown and bottled Rhône varietal wines. They hand craft their wines with integrity using traditional methods from grapes sustainably grown in their vineyard.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Are you ready for wine in a can?

French filler Cacolac has signed a contract with Australian company Barokes Pty Ltd (now registered in Europe as Vinsafe International Pty Ltd) licensing them to fill wine in a can using Barokes' Vinsafe technology. The Vinsafe process is the only wine-in-a-can packaging system, combining long shelf life with high product quality and managed by global patents. Cacolac is the second European filling facility to be awarded this license after the Spanish company Font Salem. Ball Packaging Europe, one of the leading European beverage can manufacturers, is the only European supplier of Vinsafe cans for wine using Barokes' technology. 

The market for wine in cans offers great potential, as the double-digit growth of sales figures for Europe in recent years demonstrate. Reasons for that development are changing market structures as well as new trends in consumer behavior. Small-sized cans with a volume of 200 to 250 ml are particularly attractive to consumers who only enjoy wine occasionally or in single-serve quantities such as in single households.

Cacolac is based in Léognan, just south of Bordeaux, within one of France's premium wine-growing regions. In early August, the Cacolac facility underwent a comprehensive Vinsafe accreditation process to fill wine in a can. In May, the Spanish filler Font Salem became the first company licensed to fill wine in a can.

Only accredited and certified (Vinsafe) filling facilities can be relied on by wine producers to ensure the consistent quality of their wine in a can products thus offering unique protection to this new global wine category.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Upcoming local wine events!

Upcoming local wine events!

Casa Pacifica, Sunday June 5

The Casa Pacifica Angels Wine & Food Festival showcases the culinary creations of the area's finest restaurants and caterers from Santa Barbara to the Conejo Valley and award-winning wineries and vineyards from throughout California's rich wine-producing regions, as well as many marvelous micro-breweries.

Ojai Wine Festival, Sunday June 12

Come celebrate the Rotary Club of Ojai-West's 25th anniversary of the Ojai Wine Festival! From its humble beginning in 1987, the annual Ojai Wine Festival has grown into a leading regional event attracting nearly 5,000 people from throughout the Central Coast and Southern California. In the last few years the number of attending wineries has doubled to over sixty. We have a fantastic variety of breweries as well.

Friday, May 13, 2011

How can you tell when you get a bad bottle of wine?

One of the most common wine questions I get is, "How do you tell if a bottle of a wine that you got at a restaurant is bad? I never know when to send one back."

Let me start by saying what does not constitute a bad bottle.
  • A bottle is not bad just because you don't like the wine. There are many variations in wine-making style, so a bottle that doesn't suit your preferences is not necessarily defective. Of course, the sommelier should help you select a bottle that's to your liking, but ultimately only you are responsible for your personal tastes.
  • A bottle is not bad just because the label is damaged. Most wine travels thousands of miles to get to you, and there are plenty of opportunities for bumping and grinding. Likewise, in a cellar where thousands of bottles are stored together, one bottle can break, leaking wine onto hundreds of others. This does not affect the wine inside the intact bottles.
  • A bottle is not bad just because it has little white crystals accumulated at the bottom or adhering to the cork. These crystals (called tartrate) are a natural by-product of unfiltered, unprocessed fine wines and are totally harmless.
  • A bottle is not "corked" just because it has bits of cork in it (all this means is that an inexperienced waiter pushed the corkscrew all the way through the cork, thus forcing pieces into the wine) or because it has an unsightly or even moldy cork. The term corked has a very specific meaning, which I'll explain in a moment.

There are essentially four things that constitute defects in a bottle of wine such that you should send it back: It can be corked, oxidized, maderized or refermented.

Corks are natural products, and some microorganisms like to eat them. A wine is properly said to be corked when it has come in contact with a contaminated cork during the aging process. The results of this contamination are almost always unmistakable: The wine will smell like a wet basement after a flood or dirty socks left in the hamper a little too long: moldy, nasty and not at all enticing to the taster. On the palate, it will be astringent, lacking in fruit, with a raspy finish. Sometimes you may even notice a paint-thinner quality.

Still, when you catch a wine in the earliest stages of being corked, there may be some doubt -- here, all I can say is that the more you taste wine, the higher sensitivity you will attain in identifying corked wines. Also, if a wine is served too cold, you may not catch the telltale aromas on the initial offering. This isn't your fault, and you are still well within your rights to send the bottle back once the defect becomes clear.
You cannot, however, discover a corked wine by smelling the cork. Many fine wines have issued from bottles with funky-smelling corks, and vice versa.

Oxygen is wine's invisible enemy, and when a wine gets exposed to air, it becomes "oxidized." The result is flat, lifeless wine that loses its pretty, vibrant fruit scents and tastes insipid -- it will likely remind you of vinegar. The trained eye will also often notice a certain dullness in the color. In whites, it can be light to dark yellow or even brownish. It is much less obvious in red wines.

Heat is another destructive force exerted on wine, usually as a result of bad storage. When one says a wine is "maderized," it has been literally baked (this often happens in the holds of cargo ships as they cross the oceans in summertime). It actually tastes like Madeira and is reminiscent of almonds and candied fruits -- admirable qualities in dessert wines but unacceptable in dry wines. You may also notice, in the unopened bottle, that the cork is pushed partly out of the neck (due to expansion within).

Fine wine is a living thing, the product of controlled fermentation. Occasionally, some residual, dormant yeasts will wake up, and a wine will undergo a second fermentation after it has been released and shipped. This manifests itself as effervescence, or fizziness, on the tongue. Of course, this is desirable in champagne (which is purposely refermented in the bottle in order to create the bubbles), but never in fine still wine.

It's difficult to learn to identify these flaws just by reading about them. Only experience and time will give you the training you need to spot every defect. But if you think a bottle is bad, ask the sommelier for confirmation. Don't be afraid -- at any reputable establishment the sommelier will not take a rejected bottle personally (not that you should care if he or she does). It is, after all, a statistical certainty that a certain percentage of wines will go bad through no fault of the restaurant. Some of these we can return to our distributors for credit; with others we'll just take the loss.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Here comes Grüner Veltliner

With the weather warming up, there is one white wine that I have been enjoying lately. According to the Grape Crush Report from the USDA’s National Agriculture Statistics Service, California processors didn’t crush any Grüner Veltliner in 2008. By 2009, 5.2 tons were processed in Napa County; 149.9 tons in Monterey County and 14.4 tons in San Louis Obispo, bringing the statewide total to 169.5 tons.

Grüner Veltliner (GV) represents approximately one-third of all winegrapes grown in Austria. As a wine, the variety exhibits fruity melon-like qualities with spicy white pepper and subtle licorice root notes. It has a wide range of regional styles, but is usually vinified dry and consumed young. It’s said to pair well with tricky foods such as asparagus and artichokes.

Limited quantities are planted in other states also, including Maryland, Pennsylvania and Oregon.

California GV growers
Von Strasser Winery (3,000 cases), in northern Napa Valley’s Calistoga, claims to be the first to produce Grüner Veltliner commercially in California. Rudy von Strasser planted a 1-acre vineyard on Diamond Mountain in 2005.

Currently, von Strasser is on his third vintage of Grüner Veltliner. His first bottling in 2007 was a test run of only 28 bottles. In 2008, he produced 60 cases. By 2009, case output increased to 177 cases; that vintage produced the first sizable yield. The wine retails at $40 per 750ml bottle.

Burgundian winemaker Christian Roguenant, at Niven Family Wine Estates in San Luis Obispo, debuted his first 926-case vintage of Grüner in 2009, retailing at $20 per 750ml bottle. Zocker, the German word for “Gambler” was made from Paragon Vineyard Grüner planted in 2006 from vines acquired at Sunridge Nurseries, Bakersfield, Calif.

Andrew Jones, Sunridge Nurseries’ vineyard representative, estimates that there are about 10 to 20 acres of Grüner in Monterey County, about 15 acres in the Santa Rita Hills of Santa Barbara County, and 12 acres in San Luis Obispo County.

Roguenant says he is happily surprised that so far Grüner looks like a sturdy variety. He says that appropriate canopy management is key. “To get less tropical, estery qualities and more mineral qualities, the fruit needs shade. The berries can handle heat stress fairly well. Three to four days this year it was 110°F in the vineyard, and it stood up well. It has only been two years, so we’re still just learning.”  

Clarksburg weighs in
Dancing Coyote Wines, Acampo, Calif., had roughly 7.5 acres of Grüner planted in 2007. Its first crop yielded 400 cases in 2009.

Around 2005, Tom McCormack, owner of 8,000-case Dancing Coyote, noticed GV was being offered by the glass in trendy restaurants and wine bars. The fad inspired McCormack, who says he strives to plant varieties not typically grown in California.

Chad Joseph, Dancing Coyote winemaker, reports his Grüner-growing experience: “The Clarksburg appellation in the Sacramento Valley heats up during the day, but pulls in a cool maritime breeze in the evening, so it responded really well to the Delta weather. We have it trained on a standard California T-trellis. It’s a hearty grape with large berries, and can potentially produce good tonnage, so you have to stay on top of pruning.”

He also cautions that it’s still too early to know precisely how Grüner will fare in California, since he’s still learning its ripening patterns and crop loads. “It was the first to be picked in 2009 and the last in 2010. It’s a healthy canopy without being overly vigorous, as we harvested 4 tons per acre this year.”

I would suggest popping over to one of your local wine stores and picking up a few different bottles of Grüner Veltliner, and please let me know what you think!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Sonoma Barrel Tasting 2011 video

Here is a little video I made of the Barrel Tasting trip in Sonoma this year. Enjoy


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Magnavino Cellars wines on Celebrity Apprentice

Ventura County’s own Magnavino Cellars is thrilled to announce that their wines will be showcased on this Season of the "Celebrity Apprentice".

The Celebrity Apprentice is one of the hottest shows on television. Using their fame, along with a rolodex of contacts and their business acumen, 16 celebrities will be competing against one another to raise money and awareness for their respective charities. Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. will be joined by Eric Trump to help advise their father on which celebrities should advance each week.

During each episode, from the comfort of their respective war rooms, the winning team will have the privilege of watching the losing team squirm under the scrutiny of Mr. Donald Trump in the boardroom. Magnavino Cellars is honored to announce that the winning Celebrities will be enjoying their wines while they relax and Celebrate their Victories.

The show airs Sunday Nights, check your local listing.

The women include: Hope Dworaczyk, La Toya Jackson, Star Jones, NeNe Leakes, Marlee Matlin, Lisa Rinna, Niki Taylor and Dionne Warwick.

The men include: Gary Busey, Jose Canseco, David Cassidy, Richard Hatch, Lil Jon, Meat Loaf, Mark McGrath and John Rich.



Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Governor Brown and wine…

Last week Governor Jerry Brown (72) made an impromptu appearance at the ninth annual California Wine Grape Growers Foundation (CWGGF) Capital Wine Dinner with a message of collaboration. The event, which took place at the Sutter Club in Sacramento drew more than 100 attendees this year.

“California is facing unprecedented challenges,” said Governor Brown. “We have to come together and find the higher objective, which is improving our state. That is my goal.”

Governor Brown spoke briefly and then met wine grape growers face-to-face, asking questions and discussing issues important to the wine grape growing community. He continually spoke of the need for a unified effort to resolve California’s standing fiscal and economic challenges.

In a related story……………

Glass of wine a day 'cuts dementia risk'

Scientists followed 3,200 people over 70 years old, who had no signs of dementia when they enrolled on the study, for three years. Of those, 217 went on to develop dementia.

They found those who drank between two and three glasses of wine a day were 29 per cent less likely to have started developing dementia by the end of the three-year study period.

The results for Alzheimer's, which accounts for two-thirds of dementia cases, were even more striking: such drinkers were 42 per cent less likely to have developed the disease.


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Temecula Valley Wineries.... who do they think they are?

Look at my website under winery reviews, and you get an honest idea of what I think of the Temecula Valley area wineries. 

This coming weekend myself and a group of 22 other wine lovers are traveling up to Sonoma for their annual barrel tasting weekend. This will be 5th year in a row that I have attended this wonderful event. For only $20 you can barrel sample at any of the 147 wineries participating in this years two weekend festivities.

I love Sonoma Valley wines, they represent some of the best California has to offer.

This same weekend, Temecula Valley, is holding their own Barrel Tasting weekend. For $99 you can visit any of the 30 wineries in the Temecula Valley. They are calling this event WoW (World of Wine), unfortunately I feel that the Temecula Valley is no where near the World of Wine. A part of me would like to see Temecula Valley be made a part of Arizona (nothing against Arizona) but is embarrassing that they represent California Wines.

I have made three trips to the Temecula Valley in the past five years, and not once did I find a wine that suited my palate and I found the arrogant attitude of most of the tasting room personnel worse than in the snootiest of Napa wineries. 

What do you think of Temecula Valley wines? When was the last time you saw one of those on a restaurant wine list?



Thursday, February 24, 2011

Dark Star’s Son is Shining Brightly

During our recent visit to Paso Robles, we made our regular stop at Dark Star Cellars and once again enjoyed everything that they were pouring. This stop we also went next door to Norm and Susan’s sons tasting room, Brian Benson Cellars. Now I have to be honest, I have seen Brian grow and change as a wine maker, and early on I was disappointed and felt he did not get the winemaker gene from his father. But time has changed that, and the past few visits; I have walked out of his tasting room with a few bottles of wine.

Brian at 28 has been making wine for half of his life, and opened his tasting room on his 21st birthday.

His current releases range from a Syrah that has been aged for 40 months in the barrel to a 3-year vertical of Denner Syrahs and a nice Cabernet Sauvignon from Westside Ranch in Adelaida.

The current issue (March 31, 2011) of Wine Spectator Magazine has also recognized Brian this week, with a nice article and photo highlighting the new wine makers in the Paso Robles area.

It is a well-written article and you should go pick one up at your local bookstore.

Congratulations Brian! Keep up the great work! As his Mom Susan now says, Brian and Norm are now competing to see who will take care of her when she retires!



Friday, February 18, 2011

Six new Master Sommeliers announced!

Join the Guild of Sommeliers in congratulating the six new Master
Sommeliers from last week's examination in Dallas. Their achievement
is an inspiration to many.

We raise a glass to:
Anthony Anselmi MS, Kermit Lynch - Los Angeles
Jason Heller MS, Bond Estates - Napa
Jennifer Huether MS, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, Toronto,
Brian McClintic MS, Treasury Wine Estates - San Francisco
Matthew Stamp MS,  French Laundry - Napa
Dustin Wilson MS,  RN74 - San Francisco

The Guild is thrilled to see that four of the six new Masters were
finalists in the 2010 TOP|SOMM competition including the TOP|SOMM
Champion and runner-up!

For those of you who are or engaged in or inspired by this process we
encourage you to log on to and read Master Stamp's
recent blog "Reflections of a New Master - The Journey is the

We asked the four new Masters who competed in the TOP|SOMM
Championships along with the other finalists to recommend some of
their favorite books for studying.  They are available in the Guild's
Amazon store, found here.

A percentage of the proceeds from any books purchased via our Amazon
store goes to support the Guild of Sommeliers scholarship fund.

Congratulations to the new Masters and Cheers to you all! 


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Another one...... Four Vines sold!

Four Vines, a highly regarded California Zinfandel and Chardonnay producer, has been purchased by Purple Wine Company, a little-known Sonoma firm led by one of the founders of the successful Blackstone brand.

The sale price was not disclosed but the deal includes the Four Vines brand and the current wine inventory. Four Vines owns no vineyards and a small production facility in Paso Robles was not included.

Four Vines was launched in 1994 by Christian Tietje, in what he called a garage and surf shack. By the early 2000s, Tietje’s full-flavored wines caught on with consumers and production grew to 120,000 cases.

Their tasting room in Paso Robles is now closed.



Thursday, February 10, 2011

Valentines Day wines

Romance and wine tend to go hand in hand, whether it's a fancy Valentine's Day dinner or trying some of Cupid's chocolate paired up with wine. You may also find yourself presenting a unique wine as a gift itself - there are plenty of reasons to have a good bottle of wine on hand for February 14th. 

So, let me know what are some of your best options for Valentine's Day wines. The traditional Valentine colors just happen to come in the same shades of wine: red, white and pink, and we'll try all three.


Friday, January 28, 2011

2011 Paso Robles Rhone Rangers Experience

2011 Paso Robles Rhone Rangers Experience
Vina Robles Winery & Event Center
Sunday, February 20th, 2011
Seminar and Luncheon 10:30 AM to 1:00 PM
Grand Tasting and Silent Auction 1:30 PM to 3:30 PM
Join the 35+ members of the Paso Robles Chapter of the Rhone Rangers for a day in Paso Robles Wine Country with some of America’s leading producers of Rhone varietals as we explore what makes Paso Robles so ideal for these great grapes and wines. This fun-filled and information-rich day will include:

- "Rhone Essentials" Seminar, moderated by noted Rhone expert and Wine & Spirits Senior Correspondent Patrick Comiskey.
- Vintners' Lunch, hosted by Rhone Rangers principals and winemakers
- Grand Tasting, featuring wines from the complete membership of the Paso Robles Rhone Rangers.
- Silent Auction, to support the Rhone Rangers scholarship fund!

Tickets to the seminar and lunch are just $75, and seminar/lunch attendees will receive free entry into the walk-around tasting. Tickets for the Grand Tasting are just $25. The Grand Tasting is free to qualified trade and media (advance registration is required).

For more information about the day's events, visit

To buy tickets, visit

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Constellation Wines.... is the mighty beginning to fall?

Constellation Wines U.S. will be closing the Blackstone production facility and tasting room in Kenwood, California on March 1, having already moved production of Blackstone’s reserve and vineyard designated wines to the  Ravenswood Quarry facility in Sonoma for the 2010 crush.

Employees were notified Tuesday that the facility and tasting room would be closing.