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Wednesday, 17 September 2014 13:48

Korbel Toasts Friendship of Five Military Friends

Korbel Girlfriends Picmonkey Adrienne Dennis, Emilia Fernandez, Shannon Wilson, Rhonda Anderson and Kawryne "Tilly" Tillman

TASTE News Service September 17, 2014 – American soldiers recently celebrated their friendship at Korbel Champagne Cellars in Sonoma County's Russian River Valley. Korbel has been a part of life’s celebrations for more than 132 years and on this occasion they were hosting a celebration for the winners of a Girls Getaway contest.

Across the country, women submitted toasts about their friendships and explained why their group of friends should be chosen to win the getaway.

Major Shannon Wilson, from Countryside, Ill., shared a toast about the special bond she has with her fellow soldiers and how deployment of a year together built their enduring friendships. She tells how being thrown into the very hectic and different situations of deployment can bond friends so easily just like with her group of now lifelong companions.

"My girlfriends and I toast life every day – and we have much for which to be thankful. I am thankful myself just to have them,” said Wilson. “Finally, a year is up, driving up to our Armory in Chicago while the Fire Department hoses our bus down to welcome us home and we are crying, laughing and hugging. We exit the bus and find three bottles of Korbel Rouge waiting for us! With our special Rouge, we toast to friends and life!”

Wilson and four of her fellow soldiers and girlfriends – Kawryne “Tilly” Tillman, Emilia Fernandez, Rhonda Anderson and Adrienne Dennis – received four days of VIP treatment at the Korbel Winery. The trip included airfare and accommodations along with behind-the-scenes winery tours, working the crush with the winemakers, and gourmet meals prepared by the winery chefs, as well as poolside spa treatments at the winery.

“This year is special because not only did we get to toast five great friends but three American soldiers whose service and dedication to our country makes us so grateful,” commented Gary Heck, owner and president of Korbel Champagne Cellars.  “Korbel is raising a glass to the special relationships women share with one another and the celebrations they share whether large or small.”

Saturday, 13 September 2014 17:09

September 12, 2014 Wine Pick of the Week

Dry Creek Vnyd 2012 Old Vine Zin Picmonkey

2012 Old Vine Zinfandel


Dry Creek Vineyards

Dry Creek Valley

Alcohol: 14.5%

Suggested Retail: $30


“Sourced from vines over 90 years old, this Zinfandel shows aromas of blackberries and some of that briary aspect that's hard to describe, but happy to discover in modern Zins. The flavors are deep and complex with lots of blueberry ad blackberry backed up by a wall of spiciness in the background.”

Food Affinity: “Will take a substantial main dish to match this powerful wine. We think beef is the way to go, but a spicier treatment of lamb would likely also work.”

Friday, 22 August 2014 20:00

August 22, 2014 Wine Pick of the Week

ValleyMoon Rosato 2012 Picmonkey

2012 Rosato di Sangiovese


Valley of the Moon Winery

Sonoma Valley

Alcohol: 13.9%

Suggested Retail: $18


“The linguistically-challenged can translate Rosato di Sangiovese as a rosé wine made from Sangiovese, the grape variety responsible for wonderful Chianti in Italy, but one that hasn't reached those heights as grown and vinified in California.

“Color is fairly deep—we'd describe it as between salmon and hot pink. Aromas of Maraschino cherries and an orange slice as found in a Shirley Temple, followed by flavors of Bing cherries and strawberries. There seems a little residual sugar, but it gives a richness and full-feeling in the mouth, without any cloying in the finish. (At 13.9 alcohol, this wine isn't big by California standards, though quality rosés from Europe would be a point or point-and-a-half lower in alcohol.) This rosato could be appropriate as an aperitivo or poured with a main course.

“We wish we could encounter more wines like this one. Shop around—we found it at $7.99 at one big retailer.”

Food Affinity: “Reviewer enjoyed this wine with grilled pork chop, but kept thinking it would be great with Lobster Newburg, that classic dish from another era.”

Friday, 15 August 2014 11:13

August 15, 2014 Wine Pick of the Wine

Dry Creek Vnyd Heritage Vines Zin 2012 Picmonkey

2012 Heritage Vines Zinfandel


Dry Creek Vineyard

Sonoma County

Alcohol: 14.5%

Suggested Retail: $20


“This 2012 Heritage Vines really does exhibit characteristics of Zinfandels from an earlier era. Fruit was sourced from vines that are the product of cuttings from a pre-Prohibition Zinfandel vineyard grafted to modern rootstocks. Petite Sirah provides 15% of the blend.

“There's a bit of that quality the reviewer has called 'brambly,' a descriptor that has no real definition, but sometimes resonates with other Zin fans. The Dry Creek Heritage Vines Zinfandel has lots of berry fruit personality—blueberries and blackberries say the winery's tasting notes, but we find some raspberry in its profile, too. In the background is a dusty white pepper quality that's found too infrequently these days. Lovely, long finish.”

Food Affinity: “Rich and slowly-cooked meat dishes. Short ribs. Beef stew perhaps incorporating cloves and/or orange peel. Eggplant with Moroccan spices.”

Friday, 01 August 2014 12:59

August 1, 2014 Wine Pick of the Week

Ch St Jean Belle Terre Chard

2012 Chardonnay

Belle Terre Vineyard


Chateau St. Jean

Alexander Valley

Alcohol: 14.4%

Suggested Retail: $30


“One of three vineyard-designated Chardonnays from Chateau St Jean, the 2012 Belle Terre is rife with characteristics said to evoke 'stone fruits.' More specifically, we'd say both white and yellow peaches—throw in nectarines of the same two hues, too. Some spice in the aroma and maybe just a hint of hazelnuts. Plenty of vanilla from the oak, but there's a lemony citrus that offsets or complements that creamy vanilla aspect. A solid representative of the traditional California style with this variety.”

Food Affinity: “Salmon with a honey-mustard glaze, crab cakes with aioli, Fettuccine Alfredo.”

Friday, 18 July 2014 13:47

July 18, 2014 Wine Pick of the Week

Sanctuary Chardonnay bottle Picmonkey

2012 Chardonnay



Russian River Valley

Alcohol: 14.2%

Suggested Retail: $30


“High quality fruit and solid winemaking practices provide an unbeatable combination in this Sanctuary Chardonnay. Grapes were sourced from the Heintz and Dutton vineyards in the cooler Russian River Valley appellation of Sonoma County. With only 30% malolactic fermentation followed by sur lie ageing there's an attractive combination of good acidity, yet creamy fullness.

“Pear and peach aromas precede full and rich feeling in the mouth. Those pear and peach aromas evolve to flavors of apple, vanilla and crème caramel.”

Food Affinity: “There's enough acidity to make it a versatile food-pairer and not so much oak as to overwhelm delicate dishes. Lightly-sautéed abalone. Chicken with morels. Roasted pork prepared with apples.”

Friday, 11 July 2014 17:22

July 11, 2014 Wine Pick of the Week

Ch St Jean Cold Creek Ranch Chard Picmonkey

2012 Chardonnay,

Cold Creek Ranch


Chateau St Jean

Sonoma Coast

Alcohol: 14.4%

Suggested Retail: $30


“Lively acidity in this Chardonnay from a cool vineyard in western Sonoma County. Pineapple, white peaches and lemon complemented by vanilla and spice from substantial oak aging. There's texture to the wine, almost a viscosity. This is a big Chardonnay—not subtle, but we liked it.”

Food Affinity: “Dishes playing off the creamy citrus personality would be the direction we'd take. Baked lemon chicken would work, as would salmon croquettes in cream sauce. Grilled Portobello mushrooms might be a tasty vegetarian option.”

Saturday, 24 May 2014 17:07

May 23, 2014 Wine Pick of the Week

2013 Sauvignon Blanc bottle rgb Picmonkey

2013 Sauvignon Blanc


Dry Creek Vineyard

Dry Creek Valley

Alcohol: 14.1%

Suggested Retail: $18


”Here's another take on the Sauvignon Blanc grape which has been a signature variety for this winery (albeit when defined as Fumé Blanc). This wine has the recognizable Sauvignon Blanc personality, though it is layered in a richer, tropical fruit expression. The aromas include melon, mango and maybe lime leaves. On the palate, there are still citrus and melon flavors, but there is more citrus and a richness to the melon. There's almost a viscous feeling in the mouth, which is likely the presence of 9% Sauvignon Musqué, a different clone of this same grape variety—a brother or maybe a cousin, if you will, of the traditional Sauvignon Blanc.”

Food Affinity: “Something clean tasting and simple. Maybe with the classic trout amandine (almondine) or a grilled fish with a fruit salsa. However, the richness of the wine could also justify pairing with some fish (or chicken or veal) done in a light cream sauce.”

Sam Sebastiani Mug with wine glass PicmonkeySam 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 faraway Farneta in three ways; it boasted a mild Mediterranean climate, had the same red soils and was blessed with gently sloping hillsides. He founded Sebastiani Winery in 1904, where he employed the time-honored techniques taught him by the Chertosinian monks in Farneta. This is the winemaking style that his grandson continues to use.

“In the two previous chapters of my winemaking life,” Sam reminisced, “running Sebastiani and then Viansa winery, we held true to our heritage, by striving to find the best soils and vineyards to create the 'Old World' winemaking style.”

LaChertosa Sangio Web 2 PicmonkeyLabel by Britton Design reflects La Chertosa's Italian heritageSo successfully did Sam Sebastiani honor his heritage and “Old-World,” Italian-style winemaking techniques, that the president of Italy bestowed knighthood on Sam in 2002. The acccolade was in recognition of Sebastiani’s contributions to Italy’s winemaking heritage here in the United States. .

Parallel to his lifetime as a winemaker, Sam Sebastiani has lived a passionate life as a conservationist focused on waterfowl. In the 1950s, Sam’s father, winemaker August Sebastiani, had him tending his penned, personal collection of North American waterfowl. The younger Sebastiani fell in love with watching the cycle of bird life. He decided to care for birds in the wild and got his chance in 1990 when he built his first waterfowl preserve at Viansa Winery. This 90-acre wetland restoration project was designed and created by Sam and Ducks Unlimited. It was a resounding success and garnered Sam the Private Conservationist of the Year Award from the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

Still enraptured by the wetland project in Sonoma Valley, Sebastiani found his next project after visiting the North Platte River in Nebraska. Impressed with the waterfowl numbers, in 2002 he purchased an 800-acre island in the river with an additional surrounding 1,500 acres. He and his wife, Robin, have built 18 ponds connected by undulating streams of warm water so, from the sky, this 2,300 acre ranch looks like a land of lakes and waterways. The ultimate effect has been to create a veritable magnet for wild ducks and geese called Winemaker’s Island.

“It may seem a stretch to some,” explains Sebastiani, “but to me winemaking and conservation lead to the same conclusions. Whether it is wine or waterfowl, we must remember that we are stewards of the land and retain respect and reverence for Mother Nature.”

La Chertosa's wines are produced in very small quantity and have limited distribution in California, Nebraska and Colorado. Further information can be had at www.lachertosawines.com. 

Saturday, 29 March 2014 01:25

March 28, 2014 Wine Pick of the Week

 Misterra PN from J Vnyds  Winery Picmonkey

2012 Misterra Pinot Noir


J Vineyards & Winery

Russian River Valley

Alcohol: 14.3%

Suggested Retail: $50


“Our Picks of the Week are often selected because they just taste wonderful to us. Sometimes, however, we select a wine or a beer because there's a story to tell and we think we should bring that story to our readers. Such is the case with this week's Pick, the 2012 Misterra Pinot Noir from J Vineyards.

“J Vineyards produces excellent California sparkling wine from Sonoma County. Their vineyard sources supply high quality Pinot Noir and Chardonnay for those products. Though grapes for sparkling wines are picked at much lower sugar levels (less ripe) than those for still wines, good fruit is good fruit and we've enjoyed wonderful Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs picked from riper grapes bearing this label.

"The Misterra Pinot Noir comes from Russian River grapes, as do several other Pinot Noirs from this producer. What's quite different about this wine is that, in addition to Pinot Noir, it contains Pinotage (6%) and Pinot Meunier (4%). These lesser known varieties making up 10% of the blend are valid on their own, but are not usually (and maybe never before?) included in any bottlings labeled 'Pinot Noir.' Pinotage, a red variety, is sometimes called 'the work horse grape of South Africa,' but is grown in small quantities in California and a few other parts of the world. Pinot Meunier is another red grape that is often a component in French sparkling wines made in Champagne.

"The winery suggests that 'sturdy, rustic flavors' (perhaps from the Pinotage?) and 'aromatic floral and dried fruit' aromas (presumably due, at least in part, from the Pinot Meunier) are evident in this wine. That may be so, but at the time of tasting (March 2014—very early in the life of a quality red wine from the 2012 vintage), the Misterra Pinot Noir seemed more intriguing as a noble experiment than as a $50 Pinot Noir. Had it borne a proprietary name and eschewed the Pinot Noir identity, we might have judged it on its own unusual qualities and thought it better, though pricey. However, tasting it as a Pint Noir, we found it lacked the charm and sophistication we would have expected of a bottle of this variety priced at $50. Perhaps we'll retaste this wine sometime in the future and realize that the concept was valid, but that it just needed more time to show its quality. At this point, though, we'd suggest you opt for any of the several other Pinot Noirs that J Vineyards & Winery produces.”

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