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Mondavi1-new PicmonkeyTASTE News Service, February 19, 2015 – Charles Krug Winery and La Chaine des Rotisseurs announced today that centenarian Peter Mondavi, Sr. will be welcomed into La Chaine des Rotisseurs in a solo induction ceremony held at the historic Carriage House on the grounds of the Charles Krug Winery on Saturday, February 28th. Mr. Mondavi will become the oldest person ever inducted into the society and one of only a handful of members ever to receive a solo induction ceremony – the last person being His Holiness Pope Francis I.

The evening will be a black tie celebration, with authentic Italian cuisine prepared by Venice-born chef Andrea Giuliani and entertainment provided by famed Italian tenor Pasquale Esposito, who will perform a variety of traditional Italian songs including Mr. Mondavi’s personal favorite “O Sole Mio.”  Mr. Mondavi, who turned 100 years old last November 8th, will be surrounded by members of the Chaine des Rotisseurs, family and friends, as he becomes the newest member of the oldest and largest food and wine society in the world.

La Chaine des Rotisseurs traces its heritage to The Royal Guild of Goose Roasters founded in 1248 A.D. at the request of the King of France. Its mission was to greatly improve the quality and safety of food. Since that time, the society has grown into an international organization dedicated to the advancement of food and wine excellence. In 1950, this mission was revived in Paris with the creation of La Chaine des Rotisseurs, an organization which has grown internationally and now boasts over 60,000 members worldwide.

The induction of Peter Mondavi Sr. honors his life-long commitment to advancing wine quality, a goal consistent with the mission of La Chaine des Rotisseurs. Eugene Daly of the Napa-Sonoma chapter of the organization proclaimed “Peter Mondavi Sr. has spent a lifetime dedicated to improving wine quality and encouraging Americans to embrace the enjoyment of food and wine. His accomplishments are profound and greatly appreciated by La Chaine des Rotisseurs.”

The evening will include a silent auction, with all proceeds benefitting a scholarship program to Sonoma State University’s Wine Business Institute.

About Charles Krug WineryThe Charles Krug Winery, Napa Valley’s oldest winery, was established by Prussian immigrant Charles Krug in 1861. In 1943, Italian immigrants Cesare and Rosa Mondavi purchased the historic property, which remains a family-owned winery producing estate-driven Napa Valley wines.  Built on a foundation of family values, hard work and European winemaking tradition, the winery offers a portfolio of Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux-styled wines. The winery is under the direction of Peter Mondavi Jr., who along with his brother Marc Mondavi, stewards the family business passed to them by their father, legendary Napa Valley wine icon Peter Mondavi Sr., who continues to serve as President and CEO. The family is now proudly welcoming members of the fourth generation to the business, continuing a legacy started almost 70 years ago and setting a foundation for generations to come.

Ted Seghesio PicmonkeyTASTE News Service February 3, 2015 – Seghesio Family Vineyards, the Healdsburg winery celebrating its 120th anniversary this year, has announced the promotion of Ted Seghesio to the position of General Manager and Winemaker.  In this new role, Seghesio, who has been responsible for winemaking for the past 32 years, will now oversee all daily winery and cellar operations.  His appointment marks the latest chapter in the winery’s rich history. They are known for Zinfandels and Italian varietals, including the Home Ranch Zinfandel produced from a 120-year-old vineyard and the Chianti Station, a field blend of century-old Sangiovese vines.  

“The more than three decades I have been winemaker at Seghesio Family Vineyards have been a deeply rewarding labor of love,” he said.  “I look forward to continuing to build upon the legacy that my great grandparents, Edoardo and Angela Seghesio, started when they first planted vines at Home Ranch in Alexander Valley in 1895.”

Ted Seghesio grew up on the property adjacent to the winery and developed great respect for the family business at an early age.  After graduating from University of the Pacific in 1975 with a bachelor’s degree in business, he returned home to begin working in the vineyards and was inspired to enroll in enology courses at the University of California, Davis.  Soon he and his family began a mission to convert the bulk winery to premium varietal production, purchasing oak barrels and stainless steel fermenters.  The first Seghesio wines were introduced in 1983. With Ted as winemaker, Seghesio’s wines have received numerous accolades, including seven placements in Wine Spectator’s annual Top 100 and Decanter’s Best American Red Trophy in 2007.  

The family’s history in Sonoma dates back to 1895, when Italian immigrant Edoardo Seghesio planted his first vineyard—now known as Home Ranch—in northern Alexander Valley.  The Home Ranch site has since been recognized as one of the top Zinfandel vineyards in the region. 

Editor’s note: Readers interested in visiting Seghesio and other wine properties in the Healdsburg area, should first check out the North Coast listings of Taste California Travel’s Resource Directory. There they will find links to the websites to all the Sonoma County wineries, as well as links to the sites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining options

Mike Grgich mustard in vnydA master with Chardonnay

TASTE News Service January 17, 2015 - In 1980 “The Great Chicago Showdown” brought together 221 of the best Chardonnays from around the world. Chardonnays from France, California, New York and even Bulgaria were collected for a historic first, the largest blind tasting of that time of one single varietal. The first vintage that Miljenko “Mike” Grgich crafted at Grgich Hills, his 1977 Chardonnay, emerged triumphant with a first place ribbon and the Chicago Tribune called it “The best Chardonnay in the world.” With this win so close on the heels of the famous 1976 Paris Tasting, where the 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay that Mike made took first place over some of the best French white Burgundies and American Chardonnays, he soon became affectionately known as the “King of Chardonnay.”

In 2015, Grgich Hills Estate will celebrate the 35th anniversary of this historic tasting and its legacy in Chardonnay with vintner dinners across the country, a photo contest, a new mobile application launch and much more, all culminating into two festive gala dinners. The first will be in Chicago on May 7, 2015 and the second in the Napa Valley at the winery on May 16, 2015. Mike Grgich believes this is a significant event not just for Chicago and Grgich Hills but for all of America since it proves that “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.”

Grgich Hills launched “The Great Chicago Chardonnay Showdown” celebration on January 15, 2015. “This is a great opportunity for our winery not only to celebrate my father’s many accomplishments but also Chardonnay, a varietal that is enjoyed and loved by so many people,” said Violet Grgich. As Mike explains, “There is no scientific formula for making great wines. You make wines with your heart.You pour your love into them and nurture them like children, and transmit to them the richness of your spirit.”

Editor's note: For more information on the winery's celebration of this event visit www.grgich.com. If you're planning a visit to this or any other of Napa's wineries, first visit the North Coast sections of the Resource Directory of Taste California Travel. There you will find links to the websites of all the wineries, as well as links to thousands of Lodging and Dining options.

Saturday, 17 January 2015 12:33

January 16, 2015 Wine Pick of the Week

KJ Merlot bottle Picmonkey

2011 Merlot



Sonoma County

Alcohol: 13.5%

Suggested Retail: $23


“A lot of fruit showing here. Black cherries and dark plums. Berries, but more blackberries than raspberries. There's some tea and black olive and an intriguing dusty, mocha quality in the background that lingers in the finish. An overall richness, yet good balance in this Merlot.”

Food Affinity: “Most red meat dishes would work, but well-seasoned dark meat from chicken and turkey could be appealing, as would most preparations of duck or goose.”

Saturday, 13 December 2014 11:36

December 12, 2014 Wine Pick of the Week

Bonterra Chardonnay Picmonkey

2013 Chardonnay



Mendocino County

Alcohol: 13.5%

Suggested Retail: $16


“We liked this wine more a day after first opening it. As this organic Chard 'opened up' it showed a very floral aroma. Lots of orange blossom in the nose. Both the aroma and subsequent tastes revealed a rich, creamy personality. Some vanilla from from aging in relatively small percentage of new oak. Evokes memories of a frozen treat that was variously packaged as Creamsicles or Dreamsicles. These had a vanilla ice cream center enveloped by an icy orange coating, and were a staple of the reviewer's childhood.”

Food Affinity: “Create a dish using chicken breasts marinated in white wine and orange juice, then prepared with mushrooms, some cream and finished with a dusting of hazel nuts.”

Saturday, 06 December 2014 11:19

December 5, 2014 Wine Pick of the Week

Bonterra Viognier Picmonkey 2

2013 Viognier



Mendocino County

Alcohol: 14.5%

Suggested Retail: $16


“Another Bonterra wine from certified organic vineyards, this Viognier contains an unspecified amount of Muscat in the blend to amplify the Viognier's natural floral quotient. Peaches and citrus greet the nose, followed by (deeper) flavors of peach and apricot backed by just a hint of brown spice. At 14-and-half alcohol there is substantial weight and viscosity to make this wine substantial enough to pair with heartier foods. Clean, long finish. Would be an interesting alternative to the Chardonnay-as-cocktail order at happy hour.”

Food Affinity: “Veal or poultry with cream sauces. Grilled or baked halibut prepared with Satsuma Mandarin sections.”

Zin Grapes at Heritage Vnyd PicmonkeyRipe Zinfandel cluster at Heritage Vineyard in photo by ZAP

TASTE News Service December 5, 2014 - For the first time in 24 years, four new Zinfandel selections have been named by authoritative experts from UC Davis and Zinfandel Advocates and Producers (ZAP) Heritage Vineyard Project. The collaboration between ZAP and UC Davis is marking the culmination of 17 years of research to date. The four named Zinfandel vineyard selections are Lytton, Moore, Teldeschi, and George Zeni. Each represents a unique set of research data sourced from historic old vine plantings that are geographically diverse from the other selections, proven to make quality wine based on “small lot” productions and immediately recognizable in the marketplace.

“Since 1997, ZAP’s Heritage Vineyard Project has set a clear direction for the future of Zinfandel. With ZAP’s ongoing support, UC Davis scientists have conducted research to cultivate virus-free Zinfandel material for growers and provide winemakers with grapes that exhibit consistent characteristics and predictable quality results,” said Rebecca Robinson, ZAP Executive Director.

Ravenswood Founding Winemaker and a project founder, Joel Peterson, explains that "The Heritage Vineyard Project gives viticulturists knowledge about the clean material unavailable until now with options to achieve better results in the vineyard and with the wine. At the end of the day, it’s about knowledge, choice and getting results that are more predictably defined."

The UC Davis Foundation Plant Services (FPS), which evaluates and virus-tests rootstock for commercial distribution, had only certified four selections of Zinfandel in 1990. In 2009, FPS released 19 Zinfandel selections from the Heritage Vineyard Project to nurseries. Now, for the first time, the FPS numbers are linked to four of these selections, Lytton, Moore, Teldeschi and George Zeni. “Ultimately, by creating greater diversity, ZAP has fulfilled a primary goal to provide superior clean, documented Zinfandel selections to growers as the basis for future plantings,” Robinson adds. “These named selections represent the history and lineage of Zinfandel that will create the new historic vineyards of California’s traditional variety. Naming also delivers additional context to the selections, providing more information to consumers who are interested in Zinfandel, ultimately enhancing the viability of the varietal,” Robinson continued.

Lytton – FPS 24Ridge Lytton Springs Zin PicmonkeyBeginning with a colorful 19th century captain and evolving into a model sustainable enterprise and historic vineyard, Lytton Springs tells a story of land development, boom and bust, chance encounters, and the rebirth of the wine industry, all reflected in the old vines still standing today. The Sonoma County property originally developed as a resort by Captain W.H. Litton didn’t take advantage of existing vineyards. Not until the land passed through a number of owners over nearly a century was the value of the vineyard truly recognized and its vines- produced fruit coveted by some of the most enviable wineries in the region.

Mark Vernon, Ridge's president, prizes the significance of this vineyard. "We are very fortunate to care for these Lytton Zinfandel vines. Some of them have been producing world-class wine for over 100 years and our mission is to keep them healthy, happy, and productive for another century, if possible."

Today, Ridge Vineyards owns the 69 acres of old vines that exist as a mixed field blend of predominantly Zinfandel with Petite Sirah, Grenache, Carignane, Mataro, Syrah, and Viognier. These provide the backbone and character of Lytton Springs wines. As with each of its vineyards, Ridge takes a straightforward approach, growing intense, flavorful grapes with minimal impact on the land, using sustainable growing practices. The soils in this part of Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma County are varied with a predominance of gravelly clay with gravelly clay loam on hillsides. Lytton Springs Zinfandel has a ripe nose of raspberry, plum, pepper and chaparral. Blackberry, mineral and vanilla notes dominate the palate.

Moore – FPS 25Bob Biale PicmonkeyBob Biale Planted in 1905, the R.W. Moore Vineyard remains one of the oldest vineyards in the Napa Valley Coombsville appellation, still flourishing among all the modern-era plantings. Productive for more than 100 years, this vineyard has thrived through a series of stewards, beginning with seafarer Pleasant Ashley Stevens and currently under the watchful care of Bill Moore and his nephew-in-law, Mike Hendry.

In 2009, Moore’s family, Mike and Molly Hendry, decided to start their own winemaking project and asked if Robert Biale Vineyards would like to share the grapes with them. Bob Biale could not have been happier. "The wine from here displays a true sense of place—an identity that is due to its well-drained foothills soil, cool climate, modest rainfall, and good genetics. Small berries, thick grape skins, low yields, and slow ripening are the keys to growing great Zinfandel, and these sturdy old vines deliver it all," said Biale.

The vineyard, with its ten acres of old head-trained vines and prominent red barn, is as iconic a setting as it gets in California viticulture. Zinfandel represents about 95% of the vineyard, with Gamay, Mourvedre, Carignane and Petite Sirah making up the rest. Given the age of the vines, well-draining gravelly loam soils and dry-farming, the vineyard yields an exceptionally low 1.5 tons per acre, leading to expressive wines with intense blackberry fruit, earthy complexity and natural balance that only come with age.

Teldeschi – FPS 10The Teldeschi old vine vineyard features 30 acres of vines planted by the Reiner family between 1913 and 1919 in the gravely clay loam Tuscan Red Hill series soils of Dry Creek bench. The vineyard was purchased by the Teldeschi family in 1946 and has been farmed by them up to the present. The vineyard is dry-farmed and cross cultivated with a plow. It produces on average about 3.5 tons per acre and typically ripens in the first week of September. The ripe grapes have a distinct black cherry, vanilla flavor, deep colors, healthy acidity and moderate tannin.

Ravenswood first purchased fruit from Frank Teldeschi in 1982 and began vineyard designating this wine in 1997. The wines regularly receive among the top scores for Zinfandels in any given year by a broad range of top scoring periodicals. The wine is a traditional California field blend that includes Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and Carignane which exhibit the exceptional flavors and aromas that epitomize Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel; rich flavors of sweet cherry liquor, vanilla and smoke that lead to a ripe, dense, long and bright fruit finish.

George Zeni – FPS 26Owned and operated by four generations of the same family, the Zeni Ranch still holds true to many of the traditions of the founder of the family, Eduino Zeni, who planted the first vines in the 1880's. Currently, the three acres of head-trained, dry-farmed old vines feature Zinfandel as the primary varietal. This original old vine portion of the vineyard is owned and managed by Ray Zeni, George’s son, and grandson of Eduino, along with Ray’s wife Jane, and their son’s Robert and Mike.

"The gnarly ancient vines yield sparingly but reward the winemaker most magnanimously. At least, that's what the wine labels used to brag," according to the Zeni family. Producers throughout the years have included: Kendall-Jackson, Edmeades, Ridge Vineyards, and Pacific Star.

Speaking passionately about the Zinfandel grapes growing on top of the ridge, the late George Zeni explained why winemakers such as Jed Steele trekked up the steep and twisting 15 miles to get the fruit from their historic vineyards. “They wanted our mountain grapes...there was more sugar and it’d make a better wine. In fact, they’re still doing that right now. Why do you think Kendall-Jackson comes over here and buys Ciapusci grapes and my grapes? That’s where they get all their gold medals....I must have a dozen gold medals over there....So does Ciapusci.”

Zeni Ranch Zinfandel is perhaps best described by Frank Prial in his 1995 New York Times article discussing the '93 Edmeades Vineyards (Zeni Ranch) Zinfandel: "Mendocino County, and particularly the Anderson Valley, is great Zinfandel country, as this wine illustrates. It's a big-bodied wine with a deep, garnet red color. The taste is intense, and the flavors are concentrated. The wine has power and a long, lingering finish. The oak is a bit forward, but let's face it, oak is where the action is these days. Keep the wine around a couple of years and the oak will blend in. But who's going to keep it around that long?"

Ultimately, that is the question. All the "named" selections today from the famed vineyards, Lytton, Moore, Teldeschi, and George Zeni—are still nourishing vines that are more than 100 years old—still going strong, advancing the legacy of Zinfandel for generations to come, preserving Zinfandel for the future.

Grgich Scholarship winners PicmonkeyCroatian winemaking students pose with Mike Grgich: From left: Daniel Božac, Miljenko “Mike” Grgich, Petra Balažić and Marina Šeparović. Daniel interned at Cakebread Cellars in Napa while Peta and Marina worked at Opolo Vineyards in Paso Robles. Without the knowledge of the selection committee, Petra is also a niece of Ivo Jeramaz, Mike’s nephew and Vice President of Vineyards and Production for Grgich Hills.

TASTE News Service November 21, 2014 – Winners of the Miljenko Grgich Scholarship Fund at the University of Zagreb in Croatia finally met their benefactor in the Legacy Room at Grgich Hills Estate on Tuesday.

Vintners Hall of Fame inductee Miljenko “Mike” Grgich is a graduate of the University of Zagreb’s Department of Viticulture and Enology. In 2013 he donated one million dollars to establish an endowment fund with the Croatian Scholarship Fund in the United States that will provide scholarships to students in the master’s degree program at the University of Zagreb in viticulture and enology. His goal is to help educate future grape growers and winemakers in Croatia so that they may develop a world-class wine industry there. Additionally, the scholarship will provide financial assistance each year to a small number of students seeking internship at a winery in the United States.

Mike Grgich describes his Scholarship Fund “as a way to allow me to say ‘thank you’ to those many people who helped me and at the same time help the next generation achieve their own dreams by starting a foundation for professional wine studies.”

Located at 1829 St. Helena Hwy (Hwy. 29) in Rutherford, Grgich Hills Estate was founded in 1977 by Miljenko “Mike” Grgich and Austin Hills after the 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay crafted by Mike outscored the best of France in the now-famous 1976 Paris Tasting.

Today, this iconic winery farms 366 acres naturally, without artificial pesticides or herbicides, and uses its passion and art to handcraft food-friendly, balanced and elegant wines. Mike is assisted by his daughter, Violet Grgich, Vice President of Operations, and his nephew, Ivo Jeramaz, Vice President of Vineyards and Production. For more information, visit www.grgich.com.

Editor's note: If you're planning a visit to the Napa Valley, you might first check out Taste California Travel's Resource Directory. There you will links to the websites of all the Wineries, as well as links to hundreds of nearby Lodging and Dining options.

Sunday, 09 November 2014 19:59

Gina Gallo Honored by American Wine Society

Gina Gallo PicmonkeyGina Gallo

TASTE News Service November 10, 2014 - Gina Gallo of the E & J Gallo Winery received the American Wine Society's 2014 Award of Merit at the organization's national conference in Concord, N.C. Nov. 1.

Part of the third generation of the family that helped shape the world of wine, Gina Gallo distinguished herself through the Gallo Signature Series, limited production wines made with the best grapes from Gallo's estate vineyards.

Granddaughter of company co-founder Julio Gallo, Gina began her life in agriculture at the age of 10, working in the family's vegetable garden. Farm and vineyard became both a school and playground.  She earned her bachelor's degree from Notre Dame de Namur University and studied winemaking at University of California at Davis, later apprenticing at the Gallo family's experimental micro-winery in Modesto, California, and developing the Gallo Signature label.

Before the crowd of 570 at the Embassy Suites Golf Resort & Spa in Concord, Gina Gallo explained how she had recently left harvest, trading her jeans for a skirt to accept the award. 

"My grandfather, Julio, and great uncle Ernest, taught us to tend to the fields and left us a legacy that we continue to learn from," she said.  "I am truly humbled and honored to receive the Award of Merit from the American Wine Society."

The AWS presents the Award of Merit in recognition of significant and meritorious contributions to the wine industry.  "Throughout the history of E&J Gallo, the Gallo family has shown an ability to evolve with consumers and the market," said Jane Duralia, president of the American Wine Society. "Gina has continued that tradition through her passion and incredible wine making abilities, helping Gallo continue as major force in wine industry."

About the American Wine Society

Founded in 1967, the American Wine Society (AWS) is the largest consumer-based organization in the U.S. dedicated to promoting wine appreciation through education. AWS is a non-profit organization of over 4,300 wine enthusiasts, from novice to expert, in 130 chapters throughout the U.S. and Canada. Membership is open to any adult interested in wine. For more information visit American Wine Society.

Friday, 31 October 2014 11:19

October 31, 2014 Wine Pick of the Week

Pride cabfranc Picmonkey

2007 Cabernet Franc


Pride Mountain Vineyards

Sonoma County

Alcohol: 14.2%

Suggested Retail: $60


“Cabernet Franc is vinified on its own in the wines of Chinon from France's Loire Valley. It's also included in blended red wines from Bordeaux. Though less familiar to American consumers than its cousin, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cab Franc is becoming a more popular option for California winemakers.

“Pride Mountain is in the Mayacamas Mountain Range. It is situated at 2,000-feet elevation on Spring Mountain and includes property in both Napa and Sonoma Counties. Though the current release of this winery's Cabernet Franc is the 2012 vintage, our pick this week is the 2007. We can't imagine a younger version of this variety being any more vibrant. This is a powerful wine, bigger and bolder than that any any of its Gallic cousins. Each vintage of Pride's Cabernet Franc bottlings contains slightly different blends. The 2007 includes 14% Merlot and 6% Cabernet Sauvignon. There are gobs of fruit here. We thought the flavors reminiscent of dark cherries, blueberries and blackberries. It's not entirely fruit driven, as there are some subtleties, to include a little chocolate/mocha in the aroma.”

Food Affinity: “Would require something equally bold. Beef dishes come to mind. Grilled, coffee-rubbed rib eyes. Standing rib roast with garlic mashed potatoes.”

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