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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…
Mike Grgich at age 90Rutherford, CA March 26, 2014 - Mike Grgich began his life as a peasant in communist-controlled Croatia and arrived in the Napa Valley with $32, his life savings, sewn into the sole of his shoes. He was able to fulfill his American dream first by having his 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay win the 1976 Paris Tasting and then by founding his own winery, Grgich Hills Estate in 1977. A bottle of the 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay is currently displayed at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History along with his signature beret, original suitcase and textbooks,…
by Jim Laughren, CWE There are numerous levels on which we “enjoy” a glass of wine. It may be simply a drink: an aperitif at the cocktail reception preceding a business dinner is perfectly served by a glass of vino merely decent; a quaffable red or white that gives us something to hang on to, and that doesn’t overwhelm with either acid or alcohol. As a beverage to accompany the meal itself, a bit more personality is expected from our wine. Distinctive flavor, a good mouthfeel, and sufficient tannin or acidity to enhance the experience of what we’re eating. Wine…
by Dan Clarke   Saturday I took a drive up to Amador County to check out Behind the Cellar Door, a two-day event that offers more than just the usual wine tasting opportunities. Most of the 39 participating members of Amador Vintners put out some food for this occasion and many have live music. Educational opportunities are offered, too. Visitors can experience unfinished wines poured from the barrel, see how vines are pruned or maybe watch a barrel-making exhibition. My friend Ray agreed to ride along. He likes Zinfandels, but hasn't spent much time in this nearby area that is…
  Dario SattuiTASTE News Service February 26, 2014 – The Napa Register reports that Dario Sattui is recovering from a serious bicycle accident that occurred just over a month ago. Sattui is the owner of the V. Sattui and Castello di Amorosa wineries in the Napa Valley. According to the Register, he had nearly completed a 10-mile ride on Diamond Mountain Road when the accident occurred on or near Highway 29. The crash may have been a result of his hitting a piece of wood on the roadway. First taken to St. Helena Hospital, Sattui was transferred to UC San…
  Kelli White decantsSan Francisco, CA February 11, 2014 - Stags Leap District,famed home to great American Cabernet Sauvignon, has announced that 2014 marks the 25th anniversary of this region as one of the first sub American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) in the Napa Valley. Recognized as an official AVA in 1989 by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), the Stags Leap District was the first sub-AVA to be defined completely by soil, climate and natural barriers. Its AVA status and distinctive terroir are a result of the combination of rolling hills, cooling wind, loam and clay soils,…
  Old pals Adam Firestone and Andrew MurraySanta Barbara, CA January 16, 2013 – “My life has been a series of fortunate events,” says winemaker Andrew Murray, who recently announced that he will be leasing the former Curtis Winery estate vineyard and winery, including the production facility and tasting room, from long-time friends, the Firestone family. Located near the crossroads of the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail and Zaca Station Road, the former Curtis Winery facility will be Murray’s new winemaking home, where he will remain focused primarily on the production of small-lot Syrahs and Rhone-inspired blends. Murray, who started his…
Site 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…
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