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Saturday, 24 October 2015 18:33

October 23, 2015 Wine Pick of the Week

Ridge Lytton Springs Picmonkey

2013 Lytton Springs


Ridge Vineyards

Dry Creek Valley

Alcohol: 14.3%

Suggested Retail: $38


“Legally, the 2013 Lytton Springs isn’t a Zinfandel. In 1973 the law was changed to require any bottle defining itself by a varietal name to contain not just 51%, but 75% or more of the named grape. Since this wine contains just 74% Zinfandel (along with 16% Petite Sirah, 8% Carignane and 2% Mataro, also known as Mouvèdre), it doesn’t qualify as a Zinfandel according to the authorities. However, most knowledgeable consumers would rate is as one of the best Zins out there.

“Perhaps we can call the Lytton Springs Zinfandel-based. It certainly expresses much of the character of this uniquely American variety and is likely all the better for the inclusion of Petite Sirah, Carignane and Mataro. The Lytton Springs vineyard property is actually farmed as 30 separate sub-parcels, each one being harvested separately. The eventual result is a wine combining power and complexity.

“The nose of the 2013 Lytton Springs brings aromas of raspberry and cherry with a little toastiness from the oak ageing. Flavor reprises the black cherry character, along with plums. Subtle notes of dried herbs and a bit of vanilla are here, too. Unlike the very high alcohol and sweetish treatments of Zinfandel, this is a wine for adults.”

Food Affinity: “Would go with any red meat and/or full-flavored dish that you’d ordinarily pair with a red wine. However, this is a special wine and deserves to be enjoyed with something equally special. A prime grade rib eye or New York, grilled to medium-rare would seem to qualify. If you’re cooking indoors, we think something with depth of flavors like osso buco, slowly-simmered in a rich, reddish-brown sauce would be suitable.”

Monday, 12 October 2015 14:51

Pinot Noir Partisan Walter Schug Passes

Walter Schug PicmonkeyWalter Schug 1935 - 2015By Dan Clarke

October 12, 2015 – This morning’s Santa Rosa Press Democrat reports that Walter Schug passed away on Saturday. He was 80 years old. I met him only a few times, but he seemed the kind of guy I’d have liked to know better.

Walter and his wife, Gertrud, arrived in California more than half a century ago. They both came from winemaking families and Walter had studied viticulture and enology at Geisenheim before continuing his education at the University of California, Davis.

In 1966 Gallo hired Walter Schug as Director of Grower Relations and Quality Control. Much of his time was spent working with independent growers supplying grapes to that company. In 1973 he became the first winemaker for Joseph Phelps Vineyards. Though that winery set a high standard for quality, the proprietor chose to abandon making Pinot Noir in an era when that grape was not selling particularly well. Walter chafed and eventually opted to open his own winery, Schug Carneros Estate, in 1980. Though it also produces wines from other grape varieties, the winery is best known as a Pinot Noir specialist.

Friday, 09 October 2015 10:39

October 9, 2015 Wine Pick of the Month

Dry Creek Vnyd 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon Picmonkey

2012 Cabernet Sauvignon


Dry Creek Vineyard

Dry Creek Valley

Alcohol: 14.5%

Suggested Retail: $25


Taste California Travel and its predecessor publications have been following the wines from Dry Creek Vineyard for a long time. We’ve appreciated their white wines made from the Sauvignon Blanc grape, whether they carried that varietal identity or the Fumé tag. And, of course, we’ve always been high on their Zinfandels (editor’s note: The Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma County is a place name carrying an AVA designation. Within that Dry Creek Valley are many wineries, one of the most prominent being Dry Creek Vineyard).

By Lisa Mattson

RobDavis portrait PicmonkeyRob Davis

Nothing in life is a coincidence. I couldn’t help but think of the power of fate on Monday, August 24, when thirty guests turned out to celebrate Winemaker Rob Davis’s 40th harvest at Jordan Winery. Three months in the making, the entire event was a surprise that involved juggling dates and schedules of friends and colleagues who have known Rob for many decades of his wine career–baseball legends, barrel makers, cork suppliers, journalists, sommeliers, friends, his family and fellow winemakers.

When we selected August 24 as our surprise party, we knew it was the only day the San Francisco Giants (Rob’s team) weren’t playing right before harvest, so Bruce Bochy, Mike Krukow and Duane Kuiper could (hopefully) attend. Luckily, that date coincided with special guests already traveling to California from Portugal, France and New York. What we didn’t know is that this day would end up being the official start of harvest 2015 for Jordan. (Rob made his first picking decision about 72 hours before the start of the event.) The symbolism of the event–gathering thirty friends to toast to his 40th harvest a few hours after the first grapes arrived at the crush pad–made the celebration all the more memorable.

Jordan 1976 Cab S PicmonkeyRob's first vintage was pouredOver the course of two hours, coincidences soon became a common theme–the serendipity of it all unfolding as stories were told and storied bottles were poured–1977 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon in six-liter format, Rob’s inaugural 1976 Jordan, 1994 Petrus, a Graham’s 40 Year Old Tawny hand-carried from Portugal and more. Here’s just a few of the surprising tales told:

Bruce Bochy, general manager of the San Francisco Giants, who became friends with Rob due to their shared love of baseball and wine, toasted Rob during the main course. He surprised guests by revealing that 2015 was also a special 40 for him–his 40th anniversary since signing his first contract to play Major League Baseball.

Daniel Baron, long-time friend of Rob and winemaker at Silver Oak, brought a special bottle of 2005 Château Magdelaine as a gift. (Jean-Claude Berrouet, who made wine at Château Petrus and Magdelaine for many years and worked with Daniel at Dominus Estate, was also in attendance.) Daniel had asked his assistant to pull a bottle from his cellar in Oakville, and he didn’t look closely at the bottle until just before the event. The label was streaked with wine stains. It was among the bottles spared from Silver Oak’s cellars during the historic earthquake that had struck Napa Valley exactly one year before: August 24, 2014.

Bruce Bochy at Rob Davis 40th Ann PicmonkeyGiants Manager Bruce Bochy shares a story at lunchJean-Claude Berrouet, retired from Château Petrus and now consulting with Daniel at Twomey Cellars, shared the story of the first time he’d met Rob. It was 1981, and Rob had traveled to Bordeaux with Daniel, a fellow UC-Davis graduate. The three men had never met before, and as the story unfolded about the time they had spent together with Jean-Claude and Christian Moueix, the owner of Petrus, Jean-Claude realized that his wife had been pregnant during that trip with his son Jean-Francois–who was sitting across the Jordan dining room–and it was Jean-Francois’s first time to visit Rob at Jordan.

Mario Pinto of Corval Corks, who oversees cork sourcing for Jordan wines in Portugal, brought three very thoughtful wines to celebrate the occasion: the 40 Year Port to share with all the guests to commemorate Rob’s 40th harvest, a 1954 Colheita (Rob’s birth year–and a very rare wine since 1954 was not a declared year for Port) and a 1976 Graham’s Malvedos (Rob’s first vintage at Jordan). He also shared the story of the time he came to America to visit his winemaker-customers, and experienced his first Vineman triathlon–cheering on a bloody-kneed, sweaty Rob as he crossed the finish line.

Mario Pinto of Corval Corks PicmonkeyMario brought treats from Portugal The afternoon of laughter and tears culminated with Jean-Jacques Nadalie of Nadalie Cooperage in France, who crafts many barrels for Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon. He flew to California specifically for the celebration to present Rob with a one-of-a-kind, French oak barrel he personally made–a process that took more than two years, from tree harvesting, seasoning and milling to assembly and shipping. Stay tuned for behind-the-scenes video on the making of this wine barrel.

Forty years on the same job at the same winery–such a milestone is rare in California winemaking. Paul Draper at Ridge has Rob beat by six years, but as one journalist who attended reported, Paul has passed most of his winemaking reins to assistants. Anyone who knows Rob can attest to his boundless energy and drive to work as long as his mentor, André Tchelistcheff, who retired at age 91. Though Rob has said his full Vineman triathlon days are over, we know his best vintages still lie ahead–many, many more of them.

Editor’s note:  Above photos courtesy of Jordan Winery.  More of Lisa Mattson’s writing can be found at http://blog.jordanwinery.com/.

David Coffaro PicmonkeyDavid CoffaroTASTE News Service, August 21, 2015  - Winegrowers of Dry Creek Valley (WDCV) expect the 2015 winegrape harvest to yield exceptional quality fruit in smaller quantities than the last three vintages, which were larger than normal throughout most of the state of California. Picking began earlier than usual this year, with David Coffaro Estate and Amista Vineyards harvesting grapes for their sparkling wines on July 29 and August 3, respectively. In 2014, Amista Vineyards harvested for their blanc de blanc two days later on August 5.

For still wines, many white grapes have already become ripe for picking. Preston Farm and Winery began harvesting Sauvignon Blanc on Tuesday, August 11. Pedroncelli Winery will harvest their Sauvignon Blanc this week. "This is within a few days of last year's harvest," says Montse Reece, winemaker at Pedroncelli Winery.

Cameron Mauritson, Manager of Mauritson Farms and President of the Winegrowers of Dry Creek Valley, anticipates starting to harvest in the middle of August, about 10-14 days ahead of last year. "We have been blessed with wonderful California weather that has sped things up. The crop looks beautiful with looser clusters than normal and small berries that should yield robust flavors. Winemakers should have the weather patterns to produce stylistic wines," he says.

MauritsonBoys and Thom 500 PicmonkeyCameron Mauritson (at left) with family at Maruritson FarmsRidge Vineyards reported their earliest zinfandel harvest on record in their East Bench Vineyard. "The dry, warm weather we had from February through April led to a very early bloom and thus the record start to the harvest," says Will Thomas, Ridge Vineyards' Sonoma County Viticulturist.

The harvest season will continue for the next two months, with the harvest of Bordeaux varieties including merlot and cabernet sauvignon in September and late-ripening grapes like Mourvèdre grapes and late-harvest Zinfandel in October.

Several years of drought in California affected farmers all over the state, but Dry Creek Valley winegrowers seize the opportunity to learn from the challenges they face. Mauritson explains, "The drought has been an opportunity for many growers to look closely at their soil health and make sure they are maximizing the available water holding capacity of the vineyard site so vines can survive as long as possible by natural rainfall."

Tim Bell, winemaker at Dry Creek Vineyard, says that last year at the winery's Endeavour Vineyard, they cut back on the number of vine shoots and grape clusters to reduce water demand, but were pleased to find out that they could get by with even less water than they planned for.

Despite the resilience of the grapes and their growers, many expressed hope for some relief from the drought. "We're praying that the El Niño predictions for a wet winter play out in the right way: plenty of rain spread out over time and cold enough storms to pack the Sierras with snow," says Bell.pedroncelli vineyards and winery picmonkeyPedroncelli vineyards and winery

Editor’s note:  The Dry Creek Valley has a grape growing history dating back to the 19th Century. Currently it is home to 60 wineries and 150 growers, most of them small, family-owned operations. Detailed information can be found at www.drycreekvalley.org.

If you’re planning a visit to this beautiful part of California during the 2015 harvest, we suggest you check out the Sonoma County listings in Taste California Travel’s Resource Directory. There you’ll find links to the websites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining options, as well as links to the sites of Wineries and even Craft Beer purveyors.

BRCohn Logo Picmonkey

TASTE News Service July 29, 2015 - Pat Roney, President of Vintage Wine Estates, confirmed today the acquisition of B.R. Cohn Winery, located in Glen Ellen, California in Sonoma's Valley of the Moon. In 1974, founder Bruce Cohn transformed a former dairy into the Olive Hill Estate Vineyard, named for the property's grove of 140-year old French Picholine olive trees. In 1984, Cohn built the B.R. Cohn Winery on the estate. B.R. Cohn produces a range of critically acclaimed wines including Cabernet Sauvignon from the 61-acre Olive Hill Vineyard. The estate also produces extra-virgin olive oils and vinegars, and is a popular destination for visitors to Sonoma Valley.

"We are thrilled to welcome B.R. Cohn Winery into our collection of classic wineries, vineyards and brands. As a family-owned wine company, Vintage Wine Estates is particularly interested in preserving heritage wineries such as B.R. Cohn, and taking them into the future. We are looking forward to carrying on the legacy of B.R. Cohn which we consider one of the crown jewels of Sonoma Valley," commented Roney.

marco digiulio PicmonkeyMarco DiGiulio B.R. Cohn wines are close to the heart of Marco DiGiulio, Chief Winemaker for Vintage Wine Estates. DiGiulio was the consulting winemaker to B.R. Cohn in 2004 through 2010, assisting in creating an award-winning style. He has a history of making remarkable wines – most notably as Winemaker at Pepi Winery in Oakville and Lokoya, where he made the world-class 1997 Cabernet Sauvignon that received 98 points in the Wine Spectator. DiGiulio now oversees all winemaking for Vintage Wine Estates wineries.

"Of all the properties I have been privileged to work with, I have a special fondness for B.R. Cohn. I intend to continue to produce wines of the highest quality that reflect the Sonoma Valley style that people have come to know and love," said DiGiulio. Tom Montgomery, B.R. Cohn's current winemaker, will remain in a consulting role for the foreseeable future.

Other properties in the Vintage Wine Estates collection include Clos Pegase Winery, Girard Winery, Cosentino Winery, Viansa Winery and Sonoma Coast Vineyards. Each has received substantial investment by Vintage Wine Estates in the vineyards, cellar and visitor experience.

Editor’s note: If you’re planning a visit to BR Cohn or any of the Sonoma Valley wineries first check out the North Coast listings in the Resource Directory of Taste California Travel. There you’ll find links to the websites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining options, as well as links to Wineries and Craft Beer purveyors.

Wells Fargo Sculpture Garden and KidsKids can get into sculpture, too.

TASTE News Service July 27, 2015 - Art and nature lovers can view, touch, walk through, and climb 16 colossal wood sculptures made from salvaged old-growth redwood and metal in the new one-acre outdoor sculpture garden at the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts in Santa Rosa.

Created by acclaimed local artist Bruce Johnson and installed in a natural setting designed by Bill Mastick of Quadriga Landscape Architecture and Planning, the free outdoor exhibit "Root 101" opened to the public in June 2015.

The result of two years of planning, design, construction, and collaboration, the new sculpture garden stretches along the border of the arts center and its new neighbor, Sutter Hospital. Johnson's artwork will be on display in the sculpture garden for two years.

The garden will showcase large scale works by regional artists on a rotating basis, with new exhibits installed every other year. A free audio tour is available via cell phone, or guided docent tours can be arranged with advance reservations. The sculpture garden is an expansion of the center's visual arts program, with art by more than a dozen other artists displayed throughout the center's campus.

The nonprofit Wells Fargo Center for the Arts presents world-class performances, nationally recognized education programs, contemporary visual art, and many popular civic events.

Editor’s note:  Wells Fargo Center for the Arts is located at 50 Mark West Springs Road, just north of downtown Santa Rosa off Hwy 101. More information about it can be found at wellsfargocenterarts.org. If you’re thinking of visiting we suggest your first check out the Sonoma County listings in the North Coast section of Taste California Travel’s Resource Directory. There you will find links to the websites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining options, as well as those to Wineries and Craft Beer specialists.

Sunday, 26 July 2015 11:14

July 24, 2015 Wine Pick of the Week

Dry Creeek Vineyard 2014 SB Picmonkey

2014 Sauvignon Blanc


Dry Creek Vineyard

Dry Creek Valley

Alcohol: 13.5%

Suggested Retail: $18


“The Dry Creek Valley is a recognized grapegrowing region within Northern California’s Sonoma County. It is home to many wineries, one of which has a similar-sounding name. Dry Creek Vineyard  was established by Dave Stare over 40 years ago and, while it produces other wines, it’s probably best known for its Fumé Blanc.

“Legend has it that Robert Mondavi thought consumers wouldn’t order a wine whose name they might mispronounce, so in the late 1960s he began marketing a white wine made from the Sauvignon Blanc grape as Fumé Blanc. Today California wineries produce similar wines under both names. In general, those with the Fumé designation are thought to evoke a style popular in the Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé regions of France’s Loire Valley and those using Sauvignon to resemble the white wines of the Bordeaux region. However, differences in Sauvignon Blanc/Fumé Blanc wines can be substantial depending on where the fruit is grown and how the winemaker chooses to interpret the variety.

“This week’s Pick, the 2014 Dry Creek Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc is made up of 82% Sauvignon Blanc grapes, and the balance of two close relatives, Sauvignon Musqué (14%) and Sauvignon Gris (4%). The Musqué clone typically provides some nice aromatics and a bit of roundness in the mouth. This wine hints of an intriguing balance from the very beginning. The aroma is both floral and citrussy--particularly lime zest. On the palate this Sauvignon Blanc shows a little white peach and crisp winter pear, backed by some more citrus. Throughout, there is a roundness, or creaminess in the background. This one is subtle and sophisticated—almost elegant.”

Food Affinity: “Mussels in white wine with garlic or a lobster bisque.”

sea lion PicmonkeyCalifornia sea lions often seen on North Coast

TASTE News Servicer July 24, 2015 - With the addition of another 2,769 square miles of ocean and coastline to two national marine sanctuaries, a much larger section of sea life along the Sonoma Coast is permanently protected from oil drilling.

In the works for decades and made official on June 9, 2015, the expansion more than doubles the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary (established in 1981), taking it from 1,282 square miles to 3,295 square miles of ocean and coastal waters.

Now renamed the Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, this protected area stretches from Bodega Head in southern Sonoma County to just north of Point Arena in Mendocino County, protecting critical habitat along the entire Sonoma County coastline.

Plus, the Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary (established in 1989) increased from 529 square miles to 1,286 square miles, covering an area of ocean waters from Bodega Bay south toward San Francisco.

The marine sanctuaries contribute to ocean and coastal management by creating public outreach and education, promoting stewardship, conducting scientific and applied research, and developing and supporting programs to strengthen the long-term health of the region.

Editor’s note: If you’re planning to do any touring in this beautiful part of California, we suggest you visit the North Coast listings in Taste California Travel’s Resource Directory. There you’ll find links to the websites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining options, as well as links to Wineries and Craft Beer specialists.

Griffo Gin bottle Picmonkey

TASTE News Service July 23, 2015 - The new Griffo Distillery creates small-batch, grain-to-glass spirits, hand-distilling them in a 250-gallon American-made copper pot still in the Sonoma County riverside town of Petaluma.

A light, crisp, and fresh twist on the traditional English Gin, Scott Street Gin is the distillery's initial offering. Made in the London style, it's mixed with the balance of botanicals inside the pot still and distilled in a single run. The process requires intensive preparation and attention to detail.

Griffo's bourbon and rye whiskeys are distilled and aged in brand new, locally coopered, charred barrels. The grains are hand-selected from the local farmers, all within 15 miles of the distillery, and hand-milled on site. All whiskey is distilled four times, and every drop of water used in the process is collected and given to local farmers.

Michael and Jenny Griffo founded Griffo Distillery as part of the movement back to creating things with intention, love, and responsibility. After five years of planning and hard work, they opened the doors to their distillery in April 2015.

Editor’s Note: If you’re planning a visit to Sonoma County, we suggest you first check out the North Coast listings at Taste California Travel’s Resource Directory. There you will find links to the websites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining options, as well as links to Wineries and Craft Beer specialists. Further information about Griffo Distillery can be found at GriffoDistillery.com.

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