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A Malbec wine from Madera County took top honors at the 2012 Orange County Fair wine competition in Costa Mesa June 5 and 6. Farview Farm Vineyard, owned by Ray and Tammy Krause of O’Neals, earned a four star gold medal for their Malbec Saint Michael. It was the only Malbec to earn this coveted rating.Ray and Tammy Krause “Gold medals are like belly buttons. A four star gold, well, that’s a different story,” said Krause with the usual quick wit and good-natured grin for which he’s known – almost as much as for his wines. Ray said he’s grateful…
by Dan Clarke   Judging wines beats breaking rocks on a chain gang. Or so I would imagine. But it is work and, done right, it requires a fair degree of concentration. Friday night I was poolside at the home of friends in Sacramento. Somewhere between the grilled lamb appetizers and the filet mignon we were comparing John's Cabernet Sauvignon with a red wine blend. The topic of what each of us had planned for the weekend came up. The following morning I'd be driving up to Plymouth, I said. There I'd be joining 25 or 30 others in judging…
The North Coast American Viticultural Area (AVA) in California, covering more than three million acres, includes Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino and Lake counties, and portions of Marin and Solano counties. The area forms a slightly crooked rectangle, approximately 100 miles long and more than 50 miles wide. A winemaking mecca since the mid 19th century, today the area features about 800 wineries, nearly half of the total wineries in the state. American Viticultural Areas are to appellations of origin as grapes are to fruit. AVAs are delimited grapegrowing areas distinguishable by geographic, climatic and historic features, and the boundaries have been…
Viticulture in California's vast interior valley, nestled between the state's coastal mountain range and the Sierra Nevada, is actually two valleys: the Sacramento Valley in the north and the San Joaquin Valley in the south, which includes the Delta area located in the middle where the two valleys meet. Although the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys are not designated American Viticultural Areas (AVAs), the region produces 70 percent of the state's winegrapes and is home to 15 AVAs. The Sierra Foothills region is an AVA that runs adjacent to both valleys on the east side, along the Sierra Nevada Mountains.…
California winemakers have ridden the wine wave of the past 30 years to achieve a degree of visibility and renown within the industry and beyond. As the number of commercial bricks and mortar California wineries has grown from about 850 in 1998 to over 3000 in 2012, winemakers have taken the center stage, much like football quarterbacks. Whether they were born into a winemaking family, or became a winemaker through sheer will, or even by chance, winemakers have earned their title through hard work and a devotion to the grape. The job requires a strong sense of self-confidence along with…
Napa and Sonoma may get all the press, and the Gold Country may have all of that rugged history, but the wine country of California’s Central Valley has its story too. Rightly famous for its rich soils and temperate climate, the Central Valley can produce wines of character that, when compared to some of those other regions, are a great value. You may not be familiar with some of these California wine regions, but they're definitely worth investigating.   Yolo County Known for its warm days and mild Delta breezes, the wine country of Yolo County yields unforgettable wines of…
  The vintage of 2011 was a great one for Sonoma County wines, as the wine industry's top publications and wine competitions honored many of the region's top producers, and the 2009 vintage of Sonoma County wines, most notably Pinot Noir, garnered outstanding coverage. The 2011 San Francisco Chronicle's Top 100 American Wines report featured 27 Sonoma County wines, significantly more wines than any other region in the report. Sonoma County wineries were prominent among the sparkling wine, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon categories, a testament to the diversity of the region's appellations and climates. In the Wine…
(Editor's note: These observations from a very special tasting of Inglenook wines first appeared in our electronic pages in 2002. They remain relevant today as Francis Ford Coppola, a man with an appreciation for history, has continued to acquire Napa Valley vineyards that supplied grapes to this icon of California wine. In 2011 he bought back the Inglenook trademark so that he could use it for the highest quality line in his winery operation. Readers can learn about the resurrection of the fabled Inglenook brand at Historic Inglenook Estate to Release First Wine with Classic Label)   By Dan Clarke…
Inglenook Estate has announced that it will produce the first premium wine bearing the Inglenook label since the Estate was disassembled in 1964. The 2009 vintage of Inglenook CASK Cabernet will be released in late spring of 2012. One year ago, Francis Ford Coppola successfully completed the process of reclaiming the Inglenook trademark so that his celebrated Rubicon Estate in Rutherford, Napa Valley would thereafter be known by its historic original name. At the same time, he hired winemaker Philippe Bascaules, previously of Château Margaux in Bordeaux, to assume the position of Estate Manager and Winemaker for Inglenook. Inglenook and…
Clay and Margarita Shannon have purchased High Valley Vineyard and will add that property and brand to their portfolio of Lake County wines. The eighty-acre vineyard lies adjacent to the Shannons’ home vineyard in the High Valley appellation of Lake County. Margarita and Clay Shannon“Margarita and I have admired this property for a long time,” says Clay Shannon. “The Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet are a great fit for our Shannon Ridge Family of Wines, and our flock of 1,000 sheep have always thought that the grass seemed just a little bit greener on the other side of that fence.” The…
Twelve of the top twenty-one Napa Valley wines this year (including four of the top-rated wines) were made with fruit grown by grape growers who do not make wine. These top-rated wines were a combination of an independent grape grower and a demanding winemaker, working together to make great wines—the greatest wines in America, in fact, according to the Wine Spectator. Andy Beckstoffer“There is a sea change in the California wine business,” says Andy Beckstoffer, a grape grower whose grapes are the source of seven of the top twenty-one wines. “The idea that a single estate will always make the…
Madera’s Ficklin Vineyards celebrated their 65th anniversary in the Port business last September. The focus now, as it was from the start, is to make authentic Ports from four traditional Portuguese grape varieties planted in the family vineyard in 1945. One of the most popular wines Ficklin still produces is the Old Vine Tinta Port, which was first released in October, 1951. It is an aged ruby style that originated with David Ficklin, the original winemaker. The solera system for that wine was started with the first Ports made at Ficklin in 1948. Today, two-hundred and fifty-six American oak barrels…
  The Central Coast American Viticultural Area (AVA) stretches roughly 250 miles along the coastline of California, from San Francisco County in the north to Santa Barbara County in the south, averaging about 25 miles in width. A very large AVA, the Central Coast encompasses approximately four million acres, of which 90,300 acres are planted to winegrapes. The region produces almost 15 percent of the state’s total winegrape production and is home to about 360 wineries.   An area further south, loosely called the Southern California Region, includes five AVAs that cover 267,500 acres in Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino…
(Editor's note: This article originally appear in 2002, when the author was privileged to attend a dinner honoring California's greatest winemaker.)   by Dan Clarke   Tchelistcheff monument now at BV. Photo by Creative Common.André Tchelistcheff may have been the most significant figure in the history of American wine. The Russian born and French trained winemaker immigrated to the United States in 1938, beginning a lifelong association with Beaulieu Vineyard (BV). Though he died eight years ago at age 92, friends and colleagues said his presence was still felt at a tribute held in his honor Monday evening, the 5th…
(Editor’s note: The following essay appeared in the November 1990 edition of the California Wine Press and has been rerun in California Wine and Food. In some ways the world has changed since then—wages have risen and the price of top-quality wines has, too--but the hand picking of winegrapes remains much the same.)   By Dan Clarke   They start to gather in the darkness. It’s still a little chilly and most are wearing light jackets or wool plaid overshirts. Later they will peel these off and work in tee-shirts. Merlot vines on rolling hills of Bancroft Vineyard. Photo by…
by Dan Clarke   Only one award was made to the Grower of the Year, but several people received it.John and Gail show visitor a picture of trophy salmon from a recent vacation. In January the California Association of Winegrape Growers, otherwise known as CAWG, initiated this award for an individual, family or company representing “an outstanding example of excellence in viticulture and management, and is recognized by others for innovation and leadership within the industry.” The John Kautz Family of Lodi were the collective honorees. John and Gail Kautz are Chairman and Vice-Chairman of Kautz Family Vineyards. All four…
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