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

Monday, 20 May 2019 21:49

Summer on Wine Country Back Roads

TASTE News Service, May 21, 2019 - California is home to dozens of distinct wine regions, including some of the world's most famous destinations.

Tuesday, 26 June 2018 15:40

Beckstoffer Opens Red Hills Station

TASTE News Service, June 26, 2018 – Andy Beckstoffer, perhaps the most recognized California grower of wine grapes, announced yesterday that his firm will open its new Red Hills Station in the Red Hills AVA just outside Kelseyville in Lake County on July 21st.

Sunday, 24 June 2018 17:02

Lake County Poses a Question

TASTE News Service, June 25, 2018 – What do a 19th Century Actress, Teddy Roosevelt, and a Volcano Have in Common?

Wednesday, 01 November 2017 11:34

Nearly Back to Normal

By Dan Clarke

Three weeks ago fire broke out in the wine country of Northern California. It wasn’t just one fire, but several fires and unusually high winds spread them quickly.

Friday, 29 January 2016 16:54

Legendary Grapegrowers Give Away Grapes

Beckstoffer Lake Co Vnyd PicmonkeyBeckstoffer Amber Knolls Vineyard

TASTE News Service, January 29, 2016 – The Beckstoffer name is synonymous with the highest quality vineyards in Northern California wine growing regions including Napa Valley, Mendocino County and the Red Hills of Lake County. It's the latter where Andy and David Beckstoffer will offer ten experienced or aspiring winemakers the opportunity to receive grapes, free of charge, from the 2016, 2017 and 2018 harvests from their vineyards in the Red Hills AVA.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015 14:05

Valley Fire Causes Losses to Lake County

Shedhorn Cellars wines PicmonkeyWines of now-lost Shedhorn CellarsTASTE News Service September 15, 2015 – We are saddened by the terrible fire and losses in the Lake County community. Our thoughts go out to all who have lost so much in the Valley Fire. We are grateful for the brave work being done by firefighters and all other first responders to keep our residents safe, and for the tireless efforts of the hundreds of volunteers helping to assist those displaced by the fire.

Many in the Lake County wine industry have been impacted by this disaster, some both personally and professionally. Michael and Adawn Wood of Shed Horn Cellars lost their home and winery in the fire. In a statement from the Woods, they said, “We are saddened about the loss of our beautiful county and our many friends that have lost their homes. We are blessed with the outpouring of kindness and thoughts of our personal friends and friends in the industry. We do have inventory in the warehouse to keep our orders filled and our tasting room stocked.”

Sunday, 07 June 2015 14:34

June 5, 2015 Wine Pick of the Week

Bodkin Cuvee Agincourt Picmonkey

Cuvée Agincourt (N/V)

 Blanc de Sauvignon Blanc


Bodkin Wines

North Coast

Alcohol: 11.5%

Suggested Retail: $23


“The thought of a sparkling wine made from Sauvignon Blanc grapes was intriguing. Your reviewer had never tasted one. Never even heard of one ‘til recently. Apparently, they’re not unknown in Australia and New Zealand, where winemaker Chris Christensen found inspiration to create such a wine in California. To our knowledge, Bodkin Wines’ Cuvée Agincourt is the only such wine made in America.

“In years past, almost any wine with bubbles was labeled ‘Champagne.’ However, most wineries outside France now eschew using the name ‘Champagne’ on their effervescent wines, not wanting to unfairly appropriate a place name for a similar product (which would be kind of like a winery in some other country producing a Cabernet Sauvignon and calling it ‘Napa Valley’). However, emulating the style of winemaking in the Champagne region of France isn’t a bad way to go if you want to produce a quality sparkler. Such style would include using Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and—to a lesser extent—Pinot Meuneir, the traditional grapes of Champagne. California is turning out ever better efforts in this methode traditionelle.

“But who’s to say that’s the only way to make a good-tasting sparkling wine? Unfettered by tradition and regulation of their Gallic counterparts, California winemakers have always been innovative. Cuvée Agincourt is made entirely of Sauvignon Blanc grapes sourced from Lake County and the Russian River area of Sonoma County. When first tasted, it was not clearly recognizable as Sauvignon Blanc, yet it wasn’t quite like Champagne or California sparklers either. There was that yeasty, toasty aspect reminiscent of Champagne (the French stuff), but predominant aromas and flavor came across to us in a more citrusy personality. The mid-palate was fairly rich and showed a roundness in the mouth. The wine finished dry and lingered a bit. Unsure about the whole idea when we first popped the cork, we warmed to this unique wine as we got used to a taste and style new to us. It’s an interesting concept, one we suspect will encourage similar experimentation by other California wineries.

“As the wine itself is intriguing, so is the story behind it. The name Bodkin, the Battle of Agincourt and the winery’s motto all tie together, but it’s too involved to get into here. We suggest you check out the winery website--or your books on European history and a copy of William Shakespeare’s Henry V.”

Food Affinity: “We enjoyed Cuvée Agincourt with grilled chicken breasts that had been marinated in lime juice, Tequila and cilantro. You might try this wine with brunch-time egg dishes or smoked salmon.

Shannon Ridge sheep and dog PicmonkeySheep graze in the early winter vineyard

TASTE News Service October 14, 2014 - Taverna Sofia in Healdsburg, California has won the gold medal in the annual 2014 Sonoma County Harvest Fair Restaurant Competition for Best Entrée, serving Shannon Ranch lamb meatballs with tzatziki sauce.

"I think it is great," says Clay Shannon, owner of Shannon Ridge Family of Wines and Shannon Ranch. "Not many ranchers can say that their employees taste so good that they win gold medals!"

Shannon Ridge Family of Wines has a unique workforce. This Lake County operation is the largest scale vineyard in the United States using domestic sheep to weed, mow, sucker, and fertilize their vineyards. Shannon coined the term "Ovis Cycle" to describe this practice. "Ovis" is the Latin word for sheep. They herd 1,000+ head of sheep into 800+ acres of vineyards. Shannon Ranch lambs are raised hormone-and antibiotic-free. The lamb is vineyard-grazed and never corn-or feed-lot fed. The wool is sold for use in textiles and knitting.

"Sustainability has become a buzz-word," says Shannon, "but the Ovis Cycle is truly sustainable because, in the end, the sheep are providing us with food and wool. We also eliminate the need for pesticides and herbicides in our vineyards. I know that when our lamb is served at a restaurant that we are truly partners in a sustainable future. "

As part of the "Ovis Cycle," Shannon Ranch sells 1,400 grass-fed lambs each year to some of the top restaurants around the country, including numerous restaurants in California, such as Farmstead and Press in St. Helena, Bottega in Yountville, and Taverna Sofia in Healdsburg.

About Shannon Ridge Since 2002, Shannon Ridge Family of Wines has been making a variety of wines from their sustainably farmed vineyards in Lake County. The Shannon family is committed to preserving their land, not only for the great vineyard sites but also for the bear, elk, mountain lions, eagles and other creatures which live there. Of their approximately 2,300 acres, only about 800 acres have been converted to vineyards. The balance of the land has been preserved for the wildlife which wanders through the property.

Editor's note: If you're thinking of visiting the emerging wine country of Lake County, check out the Resource Directory of Taste California Travel. In the North Coast section you will find links to the websites of all the wineries, as well as links to Lodging and Dining options. There's even a section of links to craft beer purveyors.

Saturday, 02 November 2013 12:14

November 1, 2013 Wine Pick of the Week


Rosa dOro Primitivo bottle Picmonkey

2011 Primitivo


Producer: Rosa d'Oro Vineyards

Appellation: Lake County

Alcohol: 14.4%

Suggested retail: $24


“Here's another grape variety native to southern Italy, but as grown in Lake County by Rosa d'Oro. Primitivo is either identical or not-quite-identical to Zinfandel, depending on how technical you want to get. For our tastes, this Primitivo is an appealing wine, evocative of good California Zinfandels of 20-30 years ago (before too many of them became 'fruit bombs').

“Aromas of dried flowers and a little lavender. The flavor shows bright fruit—raspberries, against a background of ground black pepper. There is just a touch of sweetness on the finish, but overall we find this a sprightly wine that will reward the Zin fan who might appreciate nuance and subtlety.”

Food Affinity: “A slab of Grana Padano cheese, spaghetti puttanesca, or just the simplicity of a good burger grilled to medium-rare.” 

Sunday, 27 October 2013 15:43

October 25, 2013 Wine Pick of the Week


Sagrantino bottle shot Picmonkey

 2010 Sagrantino


Producer: Rosa d'Oro Vineyards

Appellation: Tracy Hills

Alcohol: 14.4%

Suggested Retail: $24


“Sagrantino is a grape variety native to the area near Montefalco in Umbria. It isn't widely planted in Italy and is truly obscure in California. This week's 'Pick' is from Rosa d'Oro Vineyards, which does produce other varieties, but seems to specialize in Italian themes (they also make wines of Sangiovese, Aglianico, Montepulciano and Primitivo grapes). Though Rosa d'Oro is located in Kelseyville (Lake County), their Sagrantino grapes come from the Oso Vista Vineyards in California's Tracy Hills appellation.

“We confess to limited familiarity with the dark and tannic Sagrantino di Montefalco wines, but find this California treatment of the variety to be lively and appealing. Its color is actually fairly light compared to the inky blackness of its Italian cousin. The nose shows aromas of strawberries and stewed dark fruit. The richness of crushed blackberries comes through on first taste. The wine seems 'jammy,' but without the sweetness and viscosity that too often accompany this descriptor. In the background is a dusty or peppery quality that gives an intriguing complexity. The 'pepperiness' isn't hot or like cracked black pepper, but is more subtle as with finely ground black pepper of even white pepper. It's a quality akin to the fabled “Rutherford Dust” common to Cabernet Sauvignon grown in that part of the Napa Valley.”

Food Affinity: “We think the Sagrantino would accompany many dishes which include the acidity of tomatoes, so many southern Italian dishes would work. However, there's a certain feral quality to this wine and more exotic fare might be a treat. Roast pork—wild boar if you have access to it—and many dishes with truffles would pair well if you're privileged to have any on hand this season." 

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