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Liz Thach PicmonkeyDistinguished Professor of Wine Liz Thach

TASTE News Service, July 15, 2015 - Master of Wine, Liz Thach has been named Sonoma State University's (SSU) Distinguished Professor of Wine. Dr. Thach will work collaboratively with the faculty, staff, board, and leadership of the Wine Business Institute to conduct ongoing wine research programs; provide thought leadership to the global wine business industry; teach courses, seminars, and workshops in wine and wine business; and connect with SSU alumni working in global wine industry businesses.

In addition to the many accolades that Liz has brought to the Wine Business Institute, she has made significant impact in students' education and the careers of alumni. "Liz has a collaborative style of teaching that empowered me as a student. She provided the path to where I am now as National Sales Director at Ehler's Estate," said Armen Khachaturian, who graduated in 2002 with his bachelors in Wine Business Strategies.

"Even in the program's infancy, Liz had a vision for what it would do to elevate students in their careers. A defining moment for me with Liz was when we were sitting down to a SSU Wine Sense Club meeting and she very clearly told me that she could envision me as an Executive in the international department at a leading winery," recalled Elizabeth Rice, Director of International Operations & Marketing at Delicato Family Vineyards. "Her words helped me navigate my way into my now career at Delicato, a leading California wine brand."

Liz Thach holds a doctorate in Human Resource Development from Texas A&M University, and a Master in Business Communication from Texas Tech University. In 2011, she received her Master of Wine from the Institute of Masters of Wine in London. She has published six wine books, over 120 trade and scholarly articles, and eight book chapters throughout her career. Her most recent book is Call of the Vine: Exploring Ten Famous Vineyards of Napa and Sonoma, which won the 2014 Gourmand Award for Best Women in Wine Book in the US.

About Sonoma State University's Wine Business Institute

Sonoma State University's Wine Business Institute is located in the heart of California wine country and was created through a public-private partnership between the university and the wine industry. Founded in 1995, it is the first program in the United States to offer undergraduate and graduate degrees focused exclusively on the business aspects of the wine industry. In addition to its academic programs that include the first undergraduate and graduate degrees with a concentration in wine business, the Wine Business Institute offers an array of professional development courses for the industry. Its faculty members are published experts, active researchers, and requested presenters on pressing industry topics. The Wine Business Institute operates within Sonoma State's School of Business and Economics, a fully accredited AACSB institution. Learn more at sonoma.edu/winebiz

Carneros Wine Alliance logo Picmonkey

TASTE News Service June 18, 2015 - The non-profit Carneros Wine Alliance will host a “Year of the Ram” 30th Birthday Bash on Saturday afternoon, July 25. The event will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the group’s founding as well as the 2015 Year of the Ram (“carneros” in Spanish) in the Chinese zodiac calendar. The Carneros wine region has American Viticultural Area (AVA) status and includes land in the southern parts of both Sonoma and Napa Counties.

Though famous for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, which represent approximately 90% of planted vineyard acres in Carneros, the remaining 10% includes varietals ranging from Syrah and Merlot to the more unusual Marsanne, Roussane, Albariño, Petit Verdot, Pinot Meunier, Vermentino, Grenache Blanc, and Tempranillo.

Anne Moller RackeAnne Moller Racke“When we founded the Carneros Wine Alliance 30 years ago we saw the potential for The Carneros AVA to be considered a leading appellation for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay,” reflected Anne Moller-Racke, CWA president and president and winegrower of The Donum Estate in Carneros. “Now, Carneros is known around the world as a producer of world-class wines and a wine capital in its own right. I’m so very proud and honored to have been part of this history and I’m looking forward to the next three decades of promoting our beautiful appellation and the wines that are created here.”

The 30th Birthday Bash is open to the public. A broad selection of Carneros wines is to be paired with locally sourced appetizers while participants enjoy live music and art at the stunning di Rosa property in the heart of Carneros. Tickets to the 30th Birthday Bash are limited and available at $100 a person. A portion of the proceeds will benefit di Rosa, a non-profit contemporary art museum celebrating the artists of Northern California. For further details visit: carneros.com/yearoftheram-30anniversary.

About the Carneros Wine Alliance:

The Carneros Wine Alliance is a non-profit association of wineries and grape-growers in the Carneros American Viticultural Area (AVA). Carneros is located at the crossroads of two major wine regions, the Napa and Sonoma Valleys. A cool-climate appellation influenced by the waters of the San Francisco Bay, Carneros has long been known for Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and sparkling wine production.

About di Rosa:

Located on over 200 acres in the Carneros region of Napa Valley, di Rosa celebrates the artists of Northern California through a wide array of exhibitions and educational programs for all ages. The permanent collection features nearly 2,000 works by 800 regional artists working from the 1960s to the present. A wide range of styles, media, and subject matter provide an overview of the creative energy and freedom to experiment that characterize this region of California. For more information, hours, and tour schedules, visit diRosaArt.org.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015 15:52

Explore Peanuts in Sonoma County

Charlie Brown sculpture Picmonkey

TASTE News Service June 10, 2015 - With a new Peanuts movie hitting movie screens in November 2015, this is a perfect time to celebrate the funny, touching, and loveable Peanuts cartoon characters by visiting their "home town", Santa Rosa, California.

Created by the late cartoonist Charles "Sparky" Schulz, the Peanuts gang lives in our hearts and minds: Charlie Brown working up the courage to talk to the red-haired girl. Lucy pulling away the football at the last possible moment, or just being her crabby self. Linus philosophizing while clutching his security blanket. Snoopy flying his doghouse in a battle against the Red Baron, dancing with wild abandon, or simply being cool.

Schulz passed away in 2000, but his characters continue to charm us, and make us laugh. Nowhere is their presence felt more than in Sonoma County, which Schulz called home for more than 40 years. He moved to the town of Sebastopol in 1958, and settled in Santa Rosa in the early 70s.

A modest man, Schulz nixed the idea of sculptures of himself. However, he approved statues of his characters. In tribute, the city of Santa Rosa sponsored "Peanuts on Parade" art projects, in which local artists decorated five-foot-tall fiberglass statues of a single character.

Charlie Brown figures were decorated in the summer of 2005, Woodstock in 2006, Snoopy in 2007, and Lucy in 2010. In all, the program distributed more than 200 statues and raised more than $500,000 for art scholarships and to install permanent bronze Peanuts sculptures at three sites in town.

As a result, whimsically decorated images of these four Peanuts characters are scattered across Santa Rosa and its environs, tempting fans to explore the community that Schulz loved. Each individual statue has its own color scheme and personality, depending on the organization or individual who commissioned each piece and the vision of the artist who decorated it. Although they are privately owned, more than 70 are still in public view.

Sonoma County has designed a two-day itinerary to take you to some of the most memorable and entertaining of those images, along with places significant to Schulz.

Editor’s Note: If you’re planning a trip to Sonoma County, we suggest first visiting 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 Sonoma Wineries and Craft Beer Purveyors.

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.

Saturday, 16 May 2015 16:28

May 15, 2015 Wine Pick of the Week

Sbragia Ginos Zin Picmonkey

2012 Gino’s Zinfandel


Sbragia Family Vineyards

Dry Creek Valley

Alcohol: 15.1%

Suggested Retail: $34


“Sonoma County’s Dry Creek Valley produces other wine varieties, but few would deny that this growing region is best-known for its Zinfandel. Both the variety and the land are in the blood of Ed and Adam Sbragia, father and son winemakers for Sbragia Family Vineyards. Ed’s grandfather, a Tuscan immigrant, came to Sonoma County just after the turn-of-the-century (not the last one, but the one before that—around 1900). He worked for Italian Swiss Colony, among other wineries. Ed’s Dad, Gino, grew grapes for sale and for home winemaking.

“For years Ed was associated with Beringer in St. Helena. There he oversaw a high volume operation, but also made some wonderful smaller production wines, particularly those based on Cabernet and Merlot. These justified the winery calling him their Winemaster, rather than just the winemaker. A quote included in background information provided by his current family winery reads, ‘For 32 years I drove to Napa and made Cabernet and Chardonnay, but when I came home to Sonoma we drank Zinfandel.’

“The grapes for this week’s ‘Pick’ come from three Sbragia vineyards; La Promessa, Italo’s and Gino’s. The latter two, though primarily Zinfandel, were planted in what was known as a field blend (In earlier times, California growers would often plant a vineyard with a field blend of multiple grape varieties in the percentages that they thought would make the best tasting wine, rather than assembling separate varietal lots after crushing). The 2012 Gino’s Zinfandel, an homage to Eds’s Dad/Adam’s Grandfather, is made up of 94% Zinfandel, 4% Carignane and 2% Petite Sirah.  It was aged in French oak barrels for 18 months.

“On opening this wine we found it big, but not overwhelming. We returned to the bottle several times in the next 24-hours and enjoyed it more as time went on. With some aeration it definitely opened up to show complexity not evident when the cork was first pulled. There’s a peppery quality found in many--but not all--Zinfandels that can manifest itself in different guises. Sometimes it’s powerful, like freshly-cracked black pepper. At other times, it can be much lighter and seem like the dustiness of finely-ground white pepper, such as in the aroma of the 2012 Gino's Zinfandel. We noticed other herbal influences, too, but they were subtler and hard to identify. The winery says there are fruit aspects red in character (raspberries, cherries, etc.). We don’t disagree with this observation, but our palate also tasted black fruit qualities like blackberries and dark plums. At 15.1% alcohol, this is a substantial wine, but—unlike some Zins at 15 or above—it doesn’t seem 'hot' or too-big-to-be-balanced. Long finish and very satisfying overall.”

Food Affinity: “Red sauced dishes—but full-flavored ones. Bistecca Fiorentina or maybe just a backyard-grilled London Broil, accompanied by some mushrooms sautéed in olive oil, fresh rosemary and shallots.

Saturday, 09 May 2015 14:29

May 8, 2015 Wine Pick of the Week

manteo bottle Picmonkey



2012 Red Wine

American Pioneer Wine Growers

Sonoma County

Alcohol: 13.5%

Suggested Retail: $18


“Writers get continual messages about the latest wine releases. Sometimes these accompany unsolicited samples sent for review. Occasionally, however, an e-mailed press release will be intriguing enough for a wine writer to respond and request a bottle be sent. Such was the case with this week’s ‘Pick.’

“According to the Manteo website, American Pioneer Wine Growers marketed wines during the 19th Century using proprietary names derived from American culture.  The name of this company has been resurrected by film director and winery owner Francis Ford Coppola, who apparently wants to develop a brand separate from his own identity or that of two other wineries he owns (the historic Inglenook estate in the Napa Valley and Francis Ford Coppola in Sonoma County). 

"A little internet searching reveals that Manteo is the name of a city in the Outer Banks of North Carolina and that there really was a fellow named Manteo, a Croatan Indian who befriended the English settlers of the Roanoke Colony. Subsequently, he and another of his people, Wanchese, actually traveled to England twice during the 1580’s and lived for short periods there. One can only imagine whether the experience was stranger for the guests or for their hosts.

“It would appear that Manteo was a stand-up guy, who treated the colonists well. The label depicts him as the protector of a white girl, Roanoke Governor John White's daughter who was the first English child born in the New World. We don’t know how closely Manteo resembled his picture on the label, but the packaging of this wine is unusual—it’s handsome and visually arresting.  It doesn’t look like any label we’ve ever seen. 

"The wine's website states, somewhat cryptically, ‘Manteo is the second release in a series of wines that will reveal the name of our new winery in Geyserville.’ The White Doe and Two Arrowheads are additional wines mentioned. Will there be other wines released referencing Indian (native American) lore? We have no idea, but at first glance the theme seems a curious direction. To our knowledge there is no history of Indians vinifying native American grape varieties. However, wild grapes did exist when the earliest European settlers came to this new world and a winery spokeswoman tells us that there is a 400-year-old Scuppernong vine on Roanoke Island. A cutting from it will soon be planted in a vineyard at the as-yet-unnamed winery in Geryserville.

“Marketing aspects aside, we can report that we liked the wine. It’s a blend of eight red wine grapes from Sonoma County: Syrah (28%), Petit Verdot (16%), Cabernet Sauvignon (16%), Cabernet Franc (15%), Petite Sirah (13%), Merlot (6%), Malbec (4%) and Zinfandel (2%). We found aromas of raspberries, white pepper and herbes de Provence (the blend without lavender). In the mouth there is more of that raspberry personality, amplified by plums, some blackberry jam and a bit of spice. This is a dry table wine, but we found it finishes with just a hint of sweetness. There were some subtle aspects we found reminiscent of Rhône grape characteristics (Syrah and Petite Sirah), but more of the personality comes from the Bordeaux varieties and tiny bit of Zin. This Manteo was very juicy and showed a lot of fruit.”

Food Affinity: “Sweet Italian sausages in a tomato sauce with sautéed onions and green peppers.”

J Tray Flutes BubbleRoom Picmonkey

TASTE News Service March 24, 2015 - E. & J. Gallo Winery (Gallo) and J Vineyards & Winery announced today that Gallo has agreed to purchase the critically-acclaimed sparkling wine producer. Founded in 1986 by Judy Jordan, J Vineyards & Winery is located in Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley and produces a wide range of prized sparkling wines, Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris.

According to Roger Nabedian, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Gallo’s Premium Wine Division, "We are very excited to add the J Vineyards & Winery brands to our premium portfolio of wines. The brand’s contemporary elegance has a unique position in the marketplace." He added, "J Vineyards & Winery is well known for their award-winning sparkling wines and we look forward to carrying on the winery’s reputation of making elegant, luxurious wines."

The acquisition, which includes the Healdsburg winery and more than 300 acres spread over nine vineyards within the Sonoma Coast and Russian River Valley AVAs, expands Gallo’s presence and properties in California’s prestigious North Coast wine country. Gallo already owns nine wineries strategically located in wine regions throughout California and Washington.

"Over the last 30 years, I have created and built J Vineyards & Winery from a small sparkling wine house to an iconic luxury brand producing not only sparkling wines but also award-winning Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris," said founder Judy Jordan. She added, "I am proud to announce today that I have found the perfect fit to take this beautiful company to even greater heights. E. & J. Gallo is also privately owned and shares similar core values as both companies are dedicated to a balance of quality, community, and financial sustainability. I look forward to my new chapter of building a mentorship platform as I honor and salute the outstanding new stewards of J Vineyards & Winery."

Demeter Group, a San Francisco-based investment bank for beverage alcohol companies, acted as J Vineyards & Winery’s exclusive financial advisor on the transaction. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The sale is scheduled to close this Friday, March 27. 

Saturday, 28 February 2015 12:51

February 27, 2015 Wine Pick of the Week

sofia red bottle shot Picmonkey

2013 Sofia Red

Francis Ford Coppola Winery

 Paso Robles

Alcohol: 13.5%

Suggested Retail: $17


Named for the daughter of the famous filmmaker and winery owner, Sofia Red is put up in an unusual, and undeniably beautiful, bottle. This is the debut vintage for the red wine, though there have been earlier releases of two sparkling wines, one of them non-alcoholic, a rosé, a Riesling and a Chardonnay. 

Sofia Red’s composition is the trendy ‘GSM’ blend of Grenache (62%), Syrah (37%) and Mouvèdre (1%). These are grape varieties native to the Rhône Valley of France, though they are popular in California and Washington these days. While the Coppola winery is situated in Northern California’s Sonoma County, the fruit for this wine was grown in the warm climes of Paso Robles on the Central Coast.

Our reviewer was intrigued by this wine, but he wasn’t expecting to like it, assuming it was targeting an audience of women who drink aromatic and slightly sweet wines as their preferred cocktail. It’s likely that he guessed the audience the winery had in mind, but says he may have dismissed the wine way too early.

“Sofia Red exhibits some aromas of cherries and raspberries and gives the consumer layered berry flavors backed by a bit of spice. Tastes were light and lilting and, perhaps surprisingly, showed a hint of complexity. Finishes with a long, cherry-like conclusion that was too sweet for Taste California Travel, but probably hits right in the middle of that ‘sweet spot’ sought by the makers.”

Food Affinity: “A likely winner with Sunday brunch—French toast with cinnamon, syrup and sausage? For evening fare, baby back (pork) ribs or salmon bisque might be interesting.”

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

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.”

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