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Friday, 18 July 2014 13:47

July 18, 2014 Wine Pick of the Week

Sanctuary Chardonnay bottle Picmonkey

2012 Chardonnay

 

Sanctuary

Russian River Valley

Alcohol: 14.2%

Suggested Retail: $30

 

“High quality fruit and solid winemaking practices provide an unbeatable combination in this Sanctuary Chardonnay. Grapes were sourced from the Heintz and Dutton vineyards in the cooler Russian River Valley appellation of Sonoma County. With only 30% malolactic fermentation followed by sur lie ageing there's an attractive combination of good acidity, yet creamy fullness.

“Pear and peach aromas precede full and rich feeling in the mouth. Those pear and peach aromas evolve to flavors of apple, vanilla and crème caramel.”

Food Affinity: “There's enough acidity to make it a versatile food-pairer and not so much oak as to overwhelm delicate dishes. Lightly-sautéed abalone. Chicken with morels. Roasted pork prepared with apples.”

Friday, 11 July 2014 17:22

July 11, 2014 Wine Pick of the Week

Ch St Jean Cold Creek Ranch Chard Picmonkey

2012 Chardonnay,

Cold Creek Ranch

 

Chateau St Jean

Sonoma Coast

Alcohol: 14.4%

Suggested Retail: $30

 

“Lively acidity in this Chardonnay from a cool vineyard in western Sonoma County. Pineapple, white peaches and lemon complemented by vanilla and spice from substantial oak aging. There's texture to the wine, almost a viscosity. This is a big Chardonnay—not subtle, but we liked it.”

Food Affinity: “Dishes playing off the creamy citrus personality would be the direction we'd take. Baked lemon chicken would work, as would salmon croquettes in cream sauce. Grilled Portobello mushrooms might be a tasty vegetarian option.”

Saturday, 24 May 2014 17:07

May 23, 2014 Wine Pick of the Week

2013 Sauvignon Blanc bottle rgb Picmonkey

2013 Sauvignon Blanc

 

Dry Creek Vineyard

Dry Creek Valley

Alcohol: 14.1%

Suggested Retail: $18

 

”Here's another take on the Sauvignon Blanc grape which has been a signature variety for this winery (albeit when defined as Fumé Blanc). This wine has the recognizable Sauvignon Blanc personality, though it is layered in a richer, tropical fruit expression. The aromas include melon, mango and maybe lime leaves. On the palate, there are still citrus and melon flavors, but there is more citrus and a richness to the melon. There's almost a viscous feeling in the mouth, which is likely the presence of 9% Sauvignon Musqué, a different clone of this same grape variety—a brother or maybe a cousin, if you will, of the traditional Sauvignon Blanc.”

Food Affinity: “Something clean tasting and simple. Maybe with the classic trout amandine (almondine) or a grilled fish with a fruit salsa. However, the richness of the wine could also justify pairing with some fish (or chicken or veal) done in a light cream sauce.”

Sam Sebastiani Mug with wine glass PicmonkeySam 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 faraway Farneta in three ways; it boasted a mild Mediterranean climate, had the same red soils and was blessed with gently sloping hillsides. He founded Sebastiani Winery in 1904, where he employed the time-honored techniques taught him by the Chertosinian monks in Farneta. This is the winemaking style that his grandson continues to use.

“In the two previous chapters of my winemaking life,” Sam reminisced, “running Sebastiani and then Viansa winery, we held true to our heritage, by striving to find the best soils and vineyards to create the 'Old World' winemaking style.”

LaChertosa Sangio Web 2 PicmonkeyLabel by Britton Design reflects La Chertosa's Italian heritageSo successfully did Sam Sebastiani honor his heritage and “Old-World,” Italian-style winemaking techniques, that the president of Italy bestowed knighthood on Sam in 2002. The acccolade was in recognition of Sebastiani’s contributions to Italy’s winemaking heritage here in the United States. .

Parallel to his lifetime as a winemaker, Sam Sebastiani has lived a passionate life as a conservationist focused on waterfowl. In the 1950s, Sam’s father, winemaker August Sebastiani, had him tending his penned, personal collection of North American waterfowl. The younger Sebastiani fell in love with watching the cycle of bird life. He decided to care for birds in the wild and got his chance in 1990 when he built his first waterfowl preserve at Viansa Winery. This 90-acre wetland restoration project was designed and created by Sam and Ducks Unlimited. It was a resounding success and garnered Sam the Private Conservationist of the Year Award from the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

Still enraptured by the wetland project in Sonoma Valley, Sebastiani found his next project after visiting the North Platte River in Nebraska. Impressed with the waterfowl numbers, in 2002 he purchased an 800-acre island in the river with an additional surrounding 1,500 acres. He and his wife, Robin, have built 18 ponds connected by undulating streams of warm water so, from the sky, this 2,300 acre ranch looks like a land of lakes and waterways. The ultimate effect has been to create a veritable magnet for wild ducks and geese called Winemaker’s Island.

“It may seem a stretch to some,” explains Sebastiani, “but to me winemaking and conservation lead to the same conclusions. Whether it is wine or waterfowl, we must remember that we are stewards of the land and retain respect and reverence for Mother Nature.”

La Chertosa's wines are produced in very small quantity and have limited distribution in California, Nebraska and Colorado. Further information can be had at www.lachertosawines.com. 

Saturday, 29 March 2014 01:25

March 28, 2014 Wine Pick of the Week

 Misterra PN from J Vnyds  Winery Picmonkey

2012 Misterra Pinot Noir

 

J Vineyards & Winery

Russian River Valley

Alcohol: 14.3%

Suggested Retail: $50

 

“Our Picks of the Week are often selected because they just taste wonderful to us. Sometimes, however, we select a wine or a beer because there's a story to tell and we think we should bring that story to our readers. Such is the case with this week's Pick, the 2012 Misterra Pinot Noir from J Vineyards.

“J Vineyards produces excellent California sparkling wine from Sonoma County. Their vineyard sources supply high quality Pinot Noir and Chardonnay for those products. Though grapes for sparkling wines are picked at much lower sugar levels (less ripe) than those for still wines, good fruit is good fruit and we've enjoyed wonderful Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs picked from riper grapes bearing this label.

"The Misterra Pinot Noir comes from Russian River grapes, as do several other Pinot Noirs from this producer. What's quite different about this wine is that, in addition to Pinot Noir, it contains Pinotage (6%) and Pinot Meunier (4%). These lesser known varieties making up 10% of the blend are valid on their own, but are not usually (and maybe never before?) included in any bottlings labeled 'Pinot Noir.' Pinotage, a red variety, is sometimes called 'the work horse grape of South Africa,' but is grown in small quantities in California and a few other parts of the world. Pinot Meunier is another red grape that is often a component in French sparkling wines made in Champagne.

"The winery suggests that 'sturdy, rustic flavors' (perhaps from the Pinotage?) and 'aromatic floral and dried fruit' aromas (presumably due, at least in part, from the Pinot Meunier) are evident in this wine. That may be so, but at the time of tasting (March 2014—very early in the life of a quality red wine from the 2012 vintage), the Misterra Pinot Noir seemed more intriguing as a noble experiment than as a $50 Pinot Noir. Had it borne a proprietary name and eschewed the Pinot Noir identity, we might have judged it on its own unusual qualities and thought it better, though pricey. However, tasting it as a Pint Noir, we found it lacked the charm and sophistication we would have expected of a bottle of this variety priced at $50. Perhaps we'll retaste this wine sometime in the future and realize that the concept was valid, but that it just needed more time to show its quality. At this point, though, we'd suggest you opt for any of the several other Pinot Noirs that J Vineyards & Winery produces.”

Three Wine Regions Toast at Epernay PicmonkeyRepresentatives 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 at ensuring wine place names are protected and not abused or mis-communicated to consumers.

“The attention around protection of place names has really taken off in recent years. The addition of these prominent regions only underscores that,” said Linda Reiff, president and CEO of the Napa Valley Vintners, one of the founding signatories to the Declaration. “While we all may compete in the marketplace, through the Declaration initiative, we want to take a very clear, collective stand that protection of place names is always in the consumer’s best interest.”

Representatives from Santa Barbara, Bourgogne/Chablis and Bordeaux are attending coordinating meetings with other Declaration members in the Champagne region of France this week and will participate in activities being outlined for the coming year. Champagne is also one of the founding signatories to the Declaration.

“We are honored to join this esteemed group of the world’s leading wine regions. Santa Barbara County wines, like all those represented in this coalition, are unique. They can’t be duplicated anywhere else in the world and today we come together to recognize that nothing shapes a wine’s character like its location,” said Morgen McLaughlin, executive director of the Santa Barbara Vintners.

The Declaration meetings come at a time when there is considerable momentum building globally to protect place names and demand accurate and fair labeling. Recently, the Canadian government updated its laws to require all wines labeled “Champagne” truly come from Champagne, France. In 2013, Chinese trade officials formally recognized the names of Napa Valley and Champagne, thus prohibiting the misuse of these place names within its borders.

“Regions like Bordeaux, Bourgogne/Chablis, Santa Barbara and Napa Valley are unlike any place else in the world and the evolution and growth of the wine industry rests on the protection of place names. Wine consumers are becoming more and more educated about what they consume,” said Fabien Bova, director general of the Conseil Interprofessionnel du Vin de Bordeaux (CIVB). “Wine labels need to reflect the true regions from which a wine hails and consumers must be protected from those who fail to recognize the distinguishing features that makes all regional wines unique.”

André Ségala, General Manager of the Bourgogne Wine Board (BIVB) added, “We are proud of our region’s winemaking history and its identity, which sets us apart. There is fierce competition across the world, and as such, we continue to raise the profile of our wines. Name protection is essential to ensuring the authenticity of the product we share with consumers.”

By becoming signatories of the Declaration, members agree that geographic names are fundamental tools for consumers to identify the special wines associated with specific winegrowing regions. And as such, they commit to work together to bring the necessary awareness and advocacy to bear to ensure these names are protected and respected. From great winegrowing regions to consumer rights groups to everyday wine consumers, more and more are making their voices heard in the campaign to protect wine place names.

About the Declaration

The Joint Declaration to Protect Wine Place Names & Origin was signed in Napa Valley on July 26, 2005. Other signatories of the Declaration include: Champagne, Chianti Classico, Jerez-Xérès-Sherry, Long Island, Napa Valley, Oregon, Paso Robles, Porto, Rioja, Sonoma County, Victoria, Tokaj, Walla Walla Valley, Washington state, Willamette Valley and Western Australia. For more information on the Declaration visit www.protectplace.com

Friday, 21 March 2014 17:55

March 21, 2014 Wine Pick of the Week

 

Ferrari-Carano 2012 PN Picmonkey

2012 Pinot Noir

 

Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and Winery

Anderson Valley

Alcohol: 14.3%

Suggested Retail: $38

 

“Prominent aromas of raspberry and cola, followed by subtler aspects of cinnamon and nutmeg, currently referred to as 'brown spices' in many reviews. Dark cherry and cranberry fruit show on the palate in this powerful Pinot from one of California's best growing regions for the variety. As with most examples of high-quality Pinot Noir, be they from California or Burgundy, there are layered subtleties. We found an elusive herbal quality (sage?), that came and went, as did a bit of dark chocolate. Moderately-long finish in the thoroughly satisfying wine.”

Food Affinity: “Salmon is the hip pairing often suggested for Pinot Noir, but we feel that at 14.3% alcohol, this wine is too big for all but the boldest of salmon preparations. If we could pull a mallard out of the freezer to roast, we'd go in that direction (domestic ducks or geese would also work, especially if prepared with a sauce or marinade including red fruit). Two more accessible ideas might be pan roasted pork chops in some brown sauce incorporating sage and thyme or grilled Portobello mushrooms that have been marinated in a vinaigrette with garlic and parsley for an hour or so.”

Sonoma State Wine Inst Bldg PicmonkeySite of new Wine Institute at Sonoma State

Rohnert Park, CA, January 16, 2013 - Sonoma State University President Ruben Armiñana has announced that its Wine Business Institute will have a new permanent home on campus in the former University Commons building, which was recently vacated with the opening of SSU's new Student Center. Gary Heck, president and owner of Korbel, also announced a personal gift of $1 million on behalf of Korbel to seed the renovation of the building to suit the needs of a 21st century learning center.

"The wine industry needs leaders with solid business skills and a deep knowledge of the industry if we are all to be successful. The Wine Business Institute has delivered on this for more than 15 years and this building is the next step. It will provide a visible home that will be a place of learning and gathering for everyone: students, faculty, industry professionals, and not just from our own area but from around the world," said Heck.

heck head PicmonkeyGary Heck of Korbel"Gary Heck and Korbel have been supportive of the University for a very long time. I am pleased that Gary is joining with us to help create this new home for the Wine Business Institute. The plans and goals of the Institute serve not only Sonoma State's educational mission but that of the California State University," said Armiñana.

Upon completion, the 14,580 ft² building will be organized around three focal areas: an education core with three classrooms; a student commons with areas for collaboration and student-run businesses; and an industry center with space for professional and academic faculty and program leadership. The latter space will be named the Korbel Industry Center, in recognition of Heck's generous support of wine business education at Sonoma State.

"Our alumni are already working throughout the wine industry and increasingly occupying positions of leadership in an industry that has more than a $125 billion economic impact on the U.S. economy. To educate them, at all stages of their career, and to have a place where people can gather to learn from each other, to share best practices in a field that is rooted in agriculture and a deep sense of place is an honor," explained William Silver, dean of the School of Business and Economics, which is the academic home of the Wine Business Institute.

Renderings for the building and full architectural plans are in development. Renovation is expected to begin and end in 2015.

About Sonoma State University's Wine Business Institute:Sonoma State University's Wine Business Institute is located in the heart of California wine country and was created through a public-private partnership between the University and the wine industry. Founded in 1995, it is the first program in the United States to offer undergraduate and graduate degrees focused exclusively on the business aspects of the wine industry. These include a B.S. with a concentration in wine business strategies (since 1998), an MBA with an emphasis in wine business (since 2008), and an executive MBA in wine business (since 2012). In addition to its academic programs, the Wine Business Institute offers an array of professional seminars and certificates for the industry on relevant topics like accounting and finance, and wine sales and marketing, including an online certificate in wine business management that has reached professionals in a dozen countries since its launch in 2012. Its faculty members are published experts, active researchers, and requested presenters on pressing industry topics locally and around the world. The Wine Business Institute operates within Sonoma State's School of Business and Economics, a fully accredited AACSB institution. Learn more at www.sonoma.edu/winebiz.

About Sonoma State University's Wine Business Institute:Sonoma State University's Wine Business Institute is located in the heart of California wine country and was created through a public-private partnership between the University and the wine industry. Founded in 1995, it is the first program in the United States to offer undergraduate and graduate degrees focused exclusively on the business aspects of the wine industry. These include a B.S. with a concentration in wine business strategies (since 1998), an MBA with an emphasis in wine business (since 2008), and an executive MBA in wine business (since 2012). In addition to its academic programs, the Wine Business Institute offers an array of professional seminars and certificates for the industry on relevant topics like accounting and finance, and wine sales and marketing, including an online certificate in wine business management that has reached professionals in a dozen countries since its launch in 2012. Its faculty members are published experts, active researchers, and requested presenters on pressing industry topics locally and around the world. The Wine Business Institute operates within Sonoma State's School of Business and Economics, a fully accredited AACSB institution. Learn more at www.sonoma.edu/winebiz.

About Gary Heck:Gary Heck, the owner of Korbel, has served as its president since 1982 and became Chairman of the Board in 1984. In 1965 he began his full-time career at Korbel Champagne Cellars occupying many positions spanning all areas of winery operations from assistant office manager to traffic manager and sales representative to vice president. Under Heck's leadership, Korbel's sales have grown from 150,000 cases annually to 1.3 million, continuing a 132 year tradition of family business, wine-making and industry innovation. Heck serves as the chair of Sonoma State's Wine Business Institute Board and ex-officio member of the board of directors for the Wine Institute, is a member of Les Amis du Vin and was named a Supreme Knight of the Knights of the Vine. 

Saturday, 14 December 2013 14:58

December 13, 2013 Wine Pick of the Week

 

Dry Creek 2010 Cab S Picmonkey

2010 Cabernet Sauvignon

 

Producer: Dry Creek Vineyard

Appellation: Dry Creek Valley

Alcohol: 13.5%

Suggested Retail: $25

 

“Over the years this Sonoma County winery has been better known for its Zin and Fumé Blanc, but it also makes an agreeable Cabernet. Their 2010 bottling is 86% Cabernet Sauvignon with lesser amounts of grapes frequently included in blends from France's Bordeaux region; Merlot (9%), Malbec (4%), Cabernet Franc 2%) and Petit Verdot (2%)

"This Dry Creek Vineyard Cabernet has more going for it than the casual taster might recognize. At the time of tasting (early December, 2013) it's still a young wine and will develop to be even more pleasing in a few years. The nose shows aromas of cherries and raspberries, which is predictable enough, but there is also a subtle and elusive herbal quality that really is intriguing. It's not the same as the 'Rutherford Dust' found in Cabs grown in that region of the adjacent county, but it's a little bit like that.

“More cherry follows in the taste, along with darker fruit aspects (blackberries, plums). This medium-bodied Cabernet has a smooth, silky feel in the mouth and its long finish reveals just a bit of cocoa. More subtle and sophisticated than it is powerful and dominating, this wine will be harmonious with many food pairings.”

Food Affinity: “In truth, most red wines will go with most red meats (among other dishes). If we were attempting to 'dial it in' further, we'd look to pair with some meats prepared with cherries or raspberries—perhaps duck breasts or venison. Roast turkey would ordinarily get a white wine recommendation from us, or maybe a lighter red like a Gamay or Pinot Noir. However, this might be a winner with the bolder flavors of turkey rubbed/stuffed with sage and garlic, then cooked outdoors in a Weber over mesquite or coals augmented by some fruit wood chips.”

Third Street AleWorks drinkers PicmonkeyA salute from Third Street AleWorks

Sonoma County breweries won gold, silver and bronze at this year’s Great American Beer Festival. Local craft brews rank No.2 and No.3 in the U.S. and continue to get nation-wide attention.

The big winners include; Third Street AleWorks, with two awards, including Gold for Blarney Sisters’ Dry Irish Stout in the Classic Irish-style Stout category and Bronze for Bombay Rouge in the Imperial Red category. Russian River Brewing Company took Silver for Sanctification in the American Brett Beers category and it was Bronze for Bear Republic for Heritage in the Scotch Ale category. The winners were chosen from more than 4,800 beers entered at the festival’s competition and only 252 medals were awarded in total, these stand-outs blew away the competition. The ever growing craft-brewing community in Sonoma County is keeping right-up with the much-loved wine industry, according to

plinytheelderbottle PicmonkeySanta Rosa’s Russian River Brewing Company is known by industry aficionados as one of the best breweries in the United States with a large selection of beer from big hops to Belgium ales. Their brews including Pliny the Elder is considered to be one of the best in Northern California and their beers are currently ranked No.1 and No. 2 in the US by Beer Advocate, with the Elder outranked only by Westvleteren 12, made by Trappist monks in Belgium. Third Street Aleworks and Bear Republic’s offerings also scored high on the list which is graded from beer industry experts and members of the community using data from millions of user reviews. Russian River’s coveted craft, Pliny the Younger, is made in small batches and available for only two weeks each February drawing crowds from California to across the U.S. to taste the ultra-hoppy triple-IPA. In fact, beer enthusiasts from as far as Japan and Denmark make the yearly pilgrimage for the release. Sonoma County's Economic Development Board has just presented the first ever Sonoma County Beer, Cider and Spirits Conference in Santa Rosa to explore and support the local beer culture.

At the Brewers Association World Beer Cup 799 breweries from 54 countries entered 3,921 beers in 95 style categories. The international judging panel from 27 countries conducted blind tasting evaluations and Santa Rosa brewers were big winners. Third Street Ale Works took home two awards including the gold medal (top award) in the categories of Classic English-Style Pale Ale and Classic Irish-Style Dry Stout. The Annadel Pale Ale was the top rated beer in the English-Style Pale Ale and Blarney Sisters Dry Irish Stout was the top rated beer in the Irish-Style Dry Stout. The Russian River Brewery medaled for their Supplication in the American-Style Sour Ale category. Bear Republic Brewing Company won the top award for their Black Racer; an aggressively hopped Black India Pale Ale brewed with crystal and roasted malts to achieve layered flavors with very little roast character relative to its dark color, in the American-Style Black Ale category

Editor's note: If you're planning a trip to Santa Rosa—or anywhere in Sonoma County or the North Coast—you ay want to check out the Taste California Travel's Resource Directory. In it you will find links to the websites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining options, as well as links to wineries and craft beer specialists.

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