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

Tuesday, 25 July 2017 10:13

A Visit with Steve McIntyre

Steve McIntyre and his team at Monterey Pacific, Inc., manage more than 12,000 acres of vineyard in Monterey County.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015 13:44

Call of the Vine

Call of the Vine Picmonkey

By Dr. Liz Thach, MW

2014 The Miranda Press

ISBN 978-0971587052

Soft Cover, 367 pages, $19.99

 

There are plenty of books that evoke the beauty and glamour of wine country. Often short on information, but containing gorgeous photography, they look good on a coffee table. Liz Thach’s Call of the Vine is not one of these.

Though wine professionals would be familiar with the names of the ten Napa and Sonoma vineyards the author profiles, few would have actually visited them. For the wine consumer, first-hand familiarity with these vineyards would be even less likely. Information on these gems of California agriculture has been fragmentary and mostly anecdotal.

Liz Thach has initials PhD and MW appended to her name. In addition to her doctorate, the Sonoma State Professor is also an MW or Master of Wine, a degree which is held by just 318 people in the world. You would expect her research to be thorough.  Vineyard specifics and farming practices for each of these famous vineyards are displayed in chart form. This may seem repetitive but does provide a basis for comparison and illustrates that there may be many paths to grapegrowing greatness. While such details may hint at reasons why these vineyards have become recognized as among the best in the world, it’s the human stories the author delivers that give them context.

Though all 10 of these wineries are situated in just two adjacent counties, nature has provided them with very different challenges and opportunities. Farming practices differ in adapting to these conditions. The winemakers and vineyard owners and managers of these notable properties differ in their viticultural (and enological) practices, but all express a respect for nature and regard themselves as stewards of their land.  Some, like Boots Brounstein, who with her late husband Al, planted Diamond Creek in the late 1960s, were present at the creation of great vineyards. Others, like Matt Ashby of Robert Mondavi, are inheritors of a responsibility to maintain vineyards long-known for excellence such as To Kalon, which was first planted just after the American Civil War.

Thach has chosen to tell the story of each vineyard in reprising her initial visit. Conversations with those giving her vineyard tours are recalled with significant points often related via responses to her questions. While they seem more recitations of what the conversations could have been, than verbatim transcripts, they bring the reader a low-key and more personal insight to the actual vineyard practices and to the personalities of those responsible for them.

Though Call of the Vine is illustrated with frequent black and white photos, they’re grainy and fall short of matching the quality of the narration. But this is a book that communicates through the scholarship of its author and her diligence in bringing the reader interviews with vineyard stewards that might not be available anywhere else. It’s a good read for the serious wine fan.

--reviewed by Dan Clarke

LOS GATOS, Calif., Dec. 6, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- "Yields normal to a bit above; quality very high" was the verdict at Testarossa Winery, following this year's wine grape harvest. Testarossa specializes in small lot, vineyard-specific Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from some of California's best-known winegrowers. After twelve vintages at the winery, winemaker Bill Brosseau is well qualified to discuss the "state of the crush" in the fifteen vineyards and five separate appellations (Santa Lucia Highlands, Sta. Rita Hills, Russian River, Arroyo Grande Valley, Santa Maria Valley, Chalone) that the winery partners with.Bill Brosseau Winemaker at Testarossa PicmonkeyBill Brosseau

Bill comments, "Following the challenges of the 2011 growing season, many of us in the industry were overly prepared for weather events that might catch us off-guard, as they did last year. The forecast for a wet winter and wet spring never materialized. Spring frosts, late summer heat waves, or fall rains were pretty much non-existent. The 'weather pinball machine' was off this year and we had spectacular conditions throughout the coastal appellations. The weather stayed relatively consistent through September and October. We were able to pick, process, ferment, and barrel-down with a smooth cadence, which tends to lend itself to very high quality wines."

A case in point would be the Santa Lucia Highlands appellation, whose vineyards supply about 80% of the grapes for Testarossa's vintages. The Los Gatos winery was one of the early "adopters" of the SLH; their first vintage from the AVA was in 1997. Testarossa has long-term partnerships with twelve vineyards in the appellation and produces single-vineyard releases from the Fogstone, Rosella's, Garys', Lone Oak, Doctor's, Dos Rubios, and Pisoni estates.

Bill Brosseau continues, "We started the harvest in the Highlands in southern end at Pisoni, where the farming and attention to detail is second to none. By the time we got to the heart of the SLH appellation and the cooler, northern end, we had honed in picking parameters. Overall, we found ourselves picking on the later side of other labels working with the same vineyards. With the extended hang-time, we did see the potential acidity balance to near perfect levels. As an added bonus, we saw an increase in silky tannins, resulting in a fuller mouthfeel for our Pinot Noir.  For our Chardonnays, we pressed to lower yields per ton to minimize phenolic extraction of tannins, thus allowing the natural acidity to be more apparent in the palate structure.

Dos Rubios Vnyd PicmonkeyDos Rubios Vineyard in picturesque Santa Lucia Highlands"We were also very pleased with the third vintage fruit coming off our new Dos Rubios Vineyard project in the Highlands. Here we have complete "dirt to bottle" quality control as we personally oversee every aspect of this estate's winegrowing operations. Overall, 2012 may prove to be the greatest vintage ever from the Santa Lucia Highlands. And the young wines from our other ranches and appellations are looking equally promising."

About Testarossa…

Testarossa (Italian for "red head") was the nickname given Rob Jensen as a young university student in Italy. Rob and Diana Jensen left their high-tech careers and started their brand in their garage in 1993 with just twenty-five cases of wine. Today, the winery works closely with top winegrowers in the Santa Lucia Highlands, Santa Rita Hills, Arroyo Grande Valley, Santa Maria Valley, Russian River Valley, and Chalone appellations. The label has grown to national prominence among collectors and reviewers by cultivating long-term partnerships with passionate winegrowers and vineyards such as Garys', Pisoni, Rosella's, Bien Nacido, and Rincon.

The Jensens' winery occupies of site of the old Novitiate Winery in downtown Los Gatos. The tasting room is open daily, as is “107,” their patio wine bar.

 

Editor's note: Visiting the Los Gatos area or planning a trip south to the Santa Lucia Highlands? You'll find links to the website of hundreds of Lodging and Dining opportunities in Taste California Travel's Resource Directory.

 

Monday, 03 December 2012 17:02

Master Vigneron Class Graduates

Master-Vinters Lake County PicmonkeyL-R: Pablo Zellman, Jaime Rosas, Amador Villalobos, Federico Gonzalez, Tacho Corona,  Gabriel Martinez, Gerardo Mendoza, Antonio Batres, Felix Aguilar, Alonso Raygoza, Geronimo Rico, Randy Krag                                                    Photo By: Casey Carney

 

by Susan Stout

 

Ten individuals representing Lake County’s professional vineyard work force received accolades when the Lake County Winegrape Commission presented its first graduating class of the Commission’s Master Vigneron Academy. The graduation and celebration took place in the Lakeport Yacht Club in November..

The 2012 graduates of the yearlong course are Felix Aguilar and Gabriel Martinez of Bella Vista Farming; Antonio Batres and Alonso Raygoza, Beckstoffer-Red Hills; Tarcisio Corona, Stokes Vineyards; Federico Gonzalez, L & L Vineyards; Gerardo Mendoza, Red Hills Vineyard; Jeronimo Rico, Dorn Vineyards; Jaime Rosas, Lyon Vineyards; and Amador Villalobos, Nissen Vineyard Services.

“You guys are tops,” said Randy Krag to the group of vineyard foremen and supervisors. Offering congratulations to the class, Krag said the men had each earned the title of “Master Vigneron” by completing the course and pursuing a career path.

In a video presented prior to the introduction of the graduates, Krag said, “It’s the people who make our business work.” While praising the class’ work over the past year, he reiterated the comment to the approximately 50 people attending the graduation.

“People are the strength of what we do. (Lake County) is in good shape if our industry is in such capable hands,” Krag said. Krag, research/education chair for the Lake County Winegrape Commission, has been credited with the concept of the Master Vigneron program.

He explained Thursday that he proposed a program to help develop the professional workforce of vineyard managers. The experience workers and managers involved in the industry are at the core of the program goals, he said.

Krag and Paul Zellman, director of the Master Vigneron Program, presented each of the graduates with certificates of completion in English and Spanish and a hat sporting the “MV” logo on its band.

Zellman coordinated the monthly meetings of the Master Vigneron Academy and led the group on its visits to wineries and vineyards in Lake County and outlying counties.

Commission Chair Peter Molnar acknowledged the group, noting that the first year of any type of program is usually the hardest but that from what he observed “there is every indication that it was successful.”

Molnar said the Master Vigneron Program is “very important” to the commission and he thanked Krag for the idea.

The program contributes to professional development and recognition of the workforce leaders while allowing the individuals to stay in Lake County, have their families with them and build their careers, Molnar said.

The graduates were congratulated by Molnar and commission President Shannon Gunier who called the completion of the yearlong program “an amazing accomplishment,” Gunier said the individuals' recognition was well-deserved.

Honorees, their families and guests of the commission enjoyed lunch and dessert prepared by Chic Le Chef. A selection of Lake County wines was served at lunch.

Alligator Dreams: The Story of Greenwood Ridge Vineyardsby Richard Paul Hinkle

Silverback Books Santa Rosa, California

ISBN 978-1930603301

119 pages, multiple photos and illustrations, $24.95

 alligator-dreams

On a ridge named for an early American explorer of California and the west, Caleb Greenwood, Alan Green grows grapes, makes wines and lives among the vines. Author Richard Paul Hinkle tells us that Green realized early that he couldn't support himself growing grapes, but could by growing grapes and making wines.

Hinkle indicates although it is not a good idea to value a winery solely based on its medal count in competitions and judgings, Greenwood Ridge has such a collection of them a person has to take notice. This he indicates is especially true since Greenwood Ridge is small and its location is removed from the action in Mendocino County.

There are four noble varieties of grapes, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Riesling. Greenwood Ridge makes wines from each of them and Zinfandel as well. Hinkle writes a short chapter about every variety of Greenwood's wines. Each chapter is replete with information about the wine, of course. There are also marvelous photos to accompany the text and, in some instances, art commissioned by Alan Green, too.

Green began growing grapes in the 1970's, made wines professionally in the early 1980's, and won a gold medal in 1981 at the Orange County Fair. It was in the early years that the alligator became a part of the Greenwood Ridge label. The contour of the ridge evoked the shape of a gator's head, hence the alligator's dreams of the title. The winery also uses the crocodilian theme in the chocolates, which are sold in its tasting room, Eye of the Dragon.

The owner has participated with a group of local winemakers and grape growers in getting federal approval of the Mendocino Ridge Viticultural Area designation. Hinkle tells us Mendocino Ridge is a unique viticultural area. It exists not in a contiguous land area but across a discontinuous area and it is "based on altitude rather than a wholly connected flat-land surface." It is the altitude, which makes the grapes grown in that area so special.

For those fascinated with the production of grapes and how wines are made, the author has included significant details about the cycles of the care for the vines and the harvesting of the grapes. There is even a well-illustrated "annual vineyard timeline" and "winemaking timeline" replete with drawings of what the vines would look like in the various months of the year. The people who care for the vineyard are credited for their efforts and featured in photos.

The author and Alan Green have cooperated to make not only technical, but also lyrical observations about the grapes and wines of Greenwood Ridge -- bits of brix talk here and there, but a lot more about the love of grape growing and wine making and enjoying them.

This book is a good read. It is the story of a man, his winery and his love of wines and the accompanying parts of the good life that go along with them. AlanGreen and the rest of us who have enjoyed his story and his wines are the richer for it as well.

 

--Reviewer Mike Petersen is an attorney employed at the state capitol who travels whenever he can to try new foods and wines in California and Europe. He especially enjoys cooking and eating Italian, Spanish, French, German and other dishes that he has sampled with the locals here and abroad. Mike is a founder and chair of Mr. P’s Wine Club, a no-load wine club whose members love trying new wines and foods. He also searches for Chicago-style, kosher hot dogs wherever he may be.