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Langham Huntington Pasadena PicmonkeyPasadena's Langham Hotel will host an October dinnerTASTE News Service, September 5, 2015 -- In celebration of 50 years of producing world-class sparkling wines, Schramsberg Vineyards will convene a nationwide series of winemaker dinners.

The dinners will occur in eight cities across the country, educating consumers about the wines produced by Schramsberg and demonstrating how well sparkling wines pair with food. The Napa Valley winery has long created educational opportunities on the topic, including the bi-annual Camp Schramsberg program, hosting food and wine events at its property and developing winemaker dinners at top restaurants nationwide; it will use this special moment in its history to build on this tradition.

"We are very excited to find that more and more restaurateurs, sommeliers and consumers are really starting to understand how delicious and food-friendly sparkling wines are," says Hugh Davies, Schramsberg's second-generation vintner. "With this tour, we have the chance to develop a series of extraordinary dinners with outstanding chefs, to create dining experiences that will be remembered for years to come."

Schramsberg first came to the nation's attention at President Nixon's 1972 summit with China, when the 1969 Blanc de Blancs was poured for the "Toast to Peace." The wines have continued to be served at presidential dinners while winning many awards, including the James Beard Award in 1996. The winery has maintained its dedication to preserving its attachment to local land, culture and history, while remaining a family operation.

Hugh Davies' parents, Jack and Jamie, revived one of Napa's most historic wineries back in 1965 to establish Schramsberg Vineyards as the nation's first craft sparkling wine house. Dedicated to maintaining the property's historical and natural integrity, the family has preserved and restored the century-old buildings and caves on the property, as well as taken rigorous steps to be certified as a Napa Green Winery on Napa Green Land. At the same time, the Davies have achieved something unique: quality sparkling wine evocative of California's terroir. By sourcing grapes from a deep range of North Coast cool-climate sites, Schramsberg has come to be known as California's premier producer of sparkling wine.

At the time of Hugh's father's death in 1998, the family established the Jack L. Davies Napa Valley Agricultural Land Preservation Fund "to preserve, protect and promote agricultural land in the Napa Valley," continuing to put into practice words passed on from his father: "This place was created long before any of us were here, and our job is to ensure that it will last long after we're gone."

Eight dinners will be held during October and November 2015 in the following cities:

Houston, TX: October 8 | Table on Post Oak

Boulder, CO: October 13 | Flagstaff House

Pasadena, CA: October 15 | Langham Hotel

New York, NY: October 27 | Chef's Club

Seattle, WA: November 4 | Loulay

Chicago, IL: November 12 | RPM Steak

San Francisco, CA: November 20 | to be announced

Bonita Springs, FL: December 3 | Angelina's Ristorante


Editor’s note:  Clicking on the picture of the Schramsberg cave below will take you to a short video narrated by Hugh Davies.

Schramsberg Vineyards cave and bottles Picmonkey

Friday, 04 September 2015 10:20

September 4, 2015 Wine Pick of the Week

Rombauer Carneros Chardonnay Picmonkey

2014 Chardonnay


Rombauer Vineyards


Alcohol: 14.5%

Suggested Retail: $36


”Rombauer Vineyards does a good job with other wine varieties, but they are known for their Chardonnay. The winery itself is situated on the Silverado Trail near St. Helena in the Napa Valley, but it sources the grapes for this week’s Pick from an area south of there. Koerner Rombauer, patriarch of the family winery operation, has been using Carneros Chardonnay grapes for a long time. The Carneros growing region is a swath that includes southern parts of both Napa and Sonoma Counties. Being closer to the San Francisco and San Pablo Bays, the area is the beneficiary of a cooling marine influence. This is a good thing when you’re growing Chardonnay and Pinot Noir—grapes that trace their heritage to the cooler Burgundian vineyards of northern France.

“Chardonnay can be made in many styles. In general, quality French Chardonnay (in the form of white Burgundy) is a leaner, crisper product than its California analogues. This doesn’t make it better (or worse), just different. Rombauer Chardonnays are known for being in the rich and full-blown ‘California’ style. Their 2014 Carneros Chardonnay is a straw or golden color and displays aromas of citrus and melon. These precede flavors of peach and pear set against a background of vanilla from the oak aging. The Rombauer winemaking style include malolactic fermentation, which leads to a softer, rounder feel in the mouth, and a technique which the French call battonage, which involves stirring the lees (dead yeast cells) at the bottom of the barrels. This lees stirring adds a rich and complex quality to the wine. Overall, the 2014 Rombauer Carneros provides everything a fan of big California Chardonnay could want. There’s richness, but also subtlety if you look for it. We found notes of spice, maybe a hint of apricot and even a little butterscotch.”

Food Affinity: “We suggest pairing bold with bold. Broiled lobster with drawn butter, seared big scallops, and many treatments of Dungeness crab would we work well. Veal or chicken served with morels would be another direction we’d like to investigate.”

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.

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

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