What's great in wine, beer, fine dining,
places to stay, & places to visit
in California State

Cork oak bark is removed News USA September 27, 2014 - A growing list of leading wineries, including St. Francis, Bogle and Fetzer, are speaking up about the benefits of using natural cork. They recognize that not only does natural cork allow wines to age perfectly, but using natural cork also provides a potential competitive advantage when it comes to marketing their wine brands. According to Wines & Spirits "25th Annual Survey of Top 50 Restaurant Wine Brands," wines finished primarily with cork accounted for 90 percent of the brands selected in these top restaurants. This represents a 21 percent…
by Dan Clarke Vina Castellano tasting cave lies behind the doors Teena Wilkins says her late father, Gabe Mendez, was known as “Dr. Dirt.” Forty-five years ago he was operating a successful earth-moving and excavating business in Southern California, but wanted a less congested environment for his family—somewhere with fresh air and room for a few animals. When he bought 60-acres northwest of Auburn there were no wineries in Placer County and few, if any, vineyards. Nevertheless, Mendez thought his Northern California property resembled the homeland of his ancestors and had agricultural potential. Nearly 20 years ago Teena and her…
Rick Kushman and Paul Wagner compare programming strategies TASTE News Service September 18, 2014 - Joined by some of the top names in the world of wine, award-winning writers Rick Kushman and Paul Wagner have launched a new streaming radio show that aims to break new ground in conversations about wine. Recorded at Capital Public Radio in Sacramento, the show includes questions from listeners, interviews, wine recommendations, and an all-out assault on wine snobs everywhere. Kushman and Wagner are both well-known for their friendly and light-hearted communication styles, and they say they understand that every new wine show or blog…
Adrienne Dennis, Emilia Fernandez, Shannon Wilson, Rhonda Anderson and Kawryne "Tilly" Tillman TASTE News Service September 17, 2014 – American soldiers recently celebrated their friendship at Korbel Champagne Cellars in Sonoma County's Russian River Valley. Korbel has been a part of life’s celebrations for more than 132 years and on this occasion they were hosting a celebration for the winners of a Girls Getaway contest. Across the country, women submitted toasts about their friendships and explained why their group of friends should be chosen to win the getaway. Major Shannon Wilson, from Countryside, Ill., shared a toast about the special…
Foster Road vineyard of Cakebread Cellars TASTE News Service September 1, 2014 - This September, California is celebrating the 10th anniversary of California Wine Month, a month-long celebration of festivals, events and demonstrations showcasing California's wine bounty. While California's wine harvest season occurs every fall, this September marks a decade of statewide collaboration, making this year the year to visit. Kicking off Labor Day weekend and running through September, winegrowers and winemakers are pulling out all the stops, offering visitors even more opportunities to explore California's vast wine country. From personalized wine making and bottling experiences to weekend-long wine-and-dine festivals…
Looking toward High Sierra from Madroña  TASTE News Service August 28, 2014 - As the 2014 harvest begins, El Dorado-grown wine grapes are capturing the attention of both large-scale wineries and small artisan producers outside the area. Thanks to dramatic elevation changes, unique soils, distinct microclimates and its diverse selection of grape varieties, El Dorado is establishing its identity as a world-class growing region, the El Dorado Winery Association announced this week. The county has more than 2,000 acres of grapevines at elevations ranging from about 1,000 to 3,500 feet and is home to nearly 70 wineries. With several vineyards…
TASTE News Service, July 18, 2014 — Elliott Dolin, proprietor of Dolin Malibu Estate Vineyards, joins 51 other Malibu-based wine grape growers who today become classified as part of the official Malibu Coast American Viticultural Area (AVA). In 2011 Dolin helped initiate the AVA application, a three-year process that concluded this week. "This is a historic day because the formation of the Malibu Coast AVA finally allows wines from Malibu to identify a 'sense of place' on their labels," says Dolin. "Malibu is world-famous, yet very few people are aware of our wine grape growing history which dates back two…
Rob draws a barrel sample by Dan Clarke Robert Morse has been growing good grapes. With a lighter crop load he figures he can produce really extraordinary grapes and elevate his wines to reserve quality. It's the only way he can compete successfully with larger operations at lower elevations, he explains. Fifteen years ago Morse purchased 80 acres of land he believed could produce quality wine. His Il Gioiello property is in Amador County at 2200-feet elevation and very near to the El Dorado County line. There he grows most of the grapes for both the Morse Wines and Il…
Guinness McFadden pours his sparkler TASTE News Service Sacramento, CA June 25, 2014 - The California State Fair has announced winners of its 2014 Commercial Wine Competition. First held in 1855, the State Fair Wine Competition is the oldest and one of the most prestigious wine events in the country. A total of 2,829 entries were received from 746 participating winery brands this year. Seventy-four judges on 18 panels awarded 2,068 medals, including 52 Double Gold, 217 Gold, 1,085 Silver and 714 Bronze. Chief Judges Mike Dunne and Rick Kushman presented awards to winners at an industry tasting held yesterday…
Ladies at right poured from the Bella Luna table by Jen and Gary Sleppy We enjoy Barberas and know them to be food-friendly wines. Over the years we've encountered this variety mostly one bottle at a time. At Saturday's fourth annual Barbera Festival in Amador County we had opportunity to taste examples from 74 California wineries, as well as a few from Italian producers. Of course, trying to sample all of these in one afternoon would difficult, if not impossible. The Barbera grape is native to the Piedmont of northwestern Italy, but it's been grown in California since the 1880s.…
Duck rillettes with several wines by Dan Clarke Barbera is finally getting its due. Though its ancestral home is northern Italy, the grape has been grown in California since the 19th Century. It hasn't enjoyed the prestige and popularity of other red wines produced here, but what's happening in Amador County is beginning to change that. This foothill wine region 40 miles east of Sacramento has long enjoyed a reputation for quality Zinfandel. In more recent years it has also been garnering notice for wines made from grapes native to France's Rhone Valley. And now the focus shifts to another…
  Robert Morse draws a barrel sample of his 2013 ZinfandelTASTE News Service June 9, 2014 – Amador County may be known for its Zinfandel, but it was a Mouvèdre, that took top honors at the Amador County Fair judging on Saturday. When notified that the 2011 Morse Wines Mouvèdre was named Best of Show, winemaker Robert Morse said, “This is wonderful. I was feeling good about (this wine) and have had good comments from others in the industry.” Morse produces wines from a diverse array of grape varietals under both the Morse Wines and Il Gioiello labels. Most of…
Close inspections before the first sips TASTE News Service May 23, 2014 - Chenin Blanc may be considered the signature grape of Clarksburg. Though trendier varieties account for more vineyard acreage in the Clarksburg region, this area just southwest of Sacramento is believed to be one of the few areas in the world capable of producing great Chenin Blanc. Grown in other parts of the world, too—most notably in France's Loire Valley and in South Africa, where it was first planted in 1655 and is also known as “Steen,” this white wine variety is versatile and can be made into…
 Zinfest arrivees picked up their glasses by the lakeby Dan Clarke   Lodi grows about one-third of all the Zinfandel grapes in the U.S. While justly famed for its Zins, the area also produces a diverse array of other varietals. Curiously enough, it was Lodi's just-concluded Zinfest that showcased many of these wines. Zinfest has a ten year history. The cornerstone event is an outdoor tasting held at Lodi Lake. On Saturday over 40 area wineries poured samples of their Zinfandel, of course, but many had other wines to taste, too. The festival actually is more than a one-day affair,…
The evening began at Acquiesce by Dan Clarke When invited to an evening in Lodi billed as “Red & White Night!” I was intrigued. Two wineries, Acquiesce and Macchia, planned to put on a progressive dinner with each pouring its own wines. Macchia specializes in red wines, mostly Zinfandels. The winery produces several bottlings of Zin each vintage, each of them expressing the virtues of specific vineyards. Some years ago I served on a panel of wine writers that was charged with picking a dozen Zinfandel wines to represent Lodi. We judges worked our way though many wines in what…
Sam Sebastiani, winemaker and conservationist Sonoma, CA – May 13, 2014 – Sam Sebastiani has announced the release of La Chertosa wines. Named for the 14th century Renaissance monastery in the Tuscan valley of Farneta, Italy where the Sebastiani ancestral roots began, the wines are produced from California grapes grown primarily in red Tuscan series soils and aged moderately in new and young oak barrels. Their style is described as “Old World” because the wines are made in a balanced and food-friendly style. When Sam’s grandfather, Samuele Sebastiani, came to Sonoma in 1893, he found that the area closely resembled…
  Our first tastes came at Wine & Rosesby Dan Clarke Lodi is both an old region and a new one. Though some of its century-old vineyards are still productive, much new planting has been done in recent years Lodi is now home to between 110,000 and 120,000 planted acres of winegrapes. It produces about 40% of all the Zinfandel grown in the state. Though maps will show Lodi just about in the middle of California's very warm Central Valley, its growing conditions belie that fact. Lodi benefits from a marine influence that travels eastward from San Francisco Bay, making…
by Dan Clarke Accepted dogma used to be that Muscadet, a crisp white wine from the Loire, was the go-to wine for oysters. There's no doubt that's a fine pairing, but the time is long past when the rest of the world meekly submitted to all opinions French. We produce some wonderful oysters here in the US and some excellent wines, as well. Twenty years ago Taylor Shellfish Farms began the Pacific Coast Oyster Wine Competition, which seeks to identify each year's ten best West Coast wines to accompany oysters. Making the list assures a winery will get placement in…
Rutherford, CA, April 10, 2014 – The 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay crafted by Miljenko “Mike” Grgich that was the champion of the 1976 Paris Tasting is part of the exhibit selected by the Smithsonian Institute as one of “101 Objects That Made America.”  Chosen from 137 million artifacts in the Smithsonian collection, the 1973 Chardonnay is joined by other iconic American objects such as Abraham Lincoln’s hat, Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone and Neil Armstrong’s spacesuit. The Smithsonian’s History of America in 101 Objects chose Julie Child’s Kitchen, which includes the 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay crafted by Grgich, in a major…
Representatives from many of the world’s most renowned wine regions – including Champagne, Jerez-Xérès-Sherry, Napa Valley, Porto, Robles, Sonoma County, Long Island and Rioja – gathered this week in the Champagne region of France to welcome new members of the Declaration to Protect Wine Place & Origin. The new members represent the wine regions of Bourgogne/Chablis, Bordeaux and Santa Barbara County. EPERNAY, France May 27, 2014 —The American wine region of Santa Barbara County, California, and French wine regions Bordeaux and Bourgogne/Chablis became the latest signatories of the Joint Declaration to Protect Wine Place & Origin, a global movement aimed…
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