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Napa V Education Ctr Charleston SC PicmonkeyCharleston tasters experience a bit of Napa Valley

TASTE News Service, March 30, 2015 - Mira Winery celebrated the Grand Opening of the Napa Valley Education Center & Tasting Room (NVEC) in mid-March. The facility gives visitors a unique Napa experience - a premiere wine destination but in Charleston, S.C., a historic culinary destination. It will offer a number of programs using interactive displays, videos and visiting speakers.

“The Napa Valley Education Center & Tasting Room is the first of its kind and we’re thrilled it is finally open,” said Mira President Jim Dyke, Jr. “Napa Valley is one of the leading winemaking regions in the world. We want to give people a sense of its place, educate them about wine and the variety of elements necessary to create wine. We believe the NVEC will become a community resource for locals and visitors alike.”

Grand opening events included a blending session led by Mira winemaker Gustavo Gonzalez in which participants created their own wine. This was followed by a discussion of vineyard practices and the Stags Leap District of Napa Valley hosted by Steve Schweizer of Schweizer Vineyards. His conversation with wine club members is the first in the NVEC’s Distinguished Speaker Series that brings leading members of the wine industry to Charleston to share their experiences and knowledge. “Napa Valley – where we source all of our grapes – has a certain magic to it. We try to capture some of that magic in every bottle of Mira, and we hope to express the same through the NVEC,” Gonzalez said. “The excitement we’ve seen from visitors, residents, and guests suggests the NVEC is a must-stop.”

The NVEC is distinguished by an 18 x 29 foot mural by famed artist David Boatwright on the side of the 68 ½ Queen Street building – an adaptation of Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s “Luncheon of the Boating Party” named “Renoir Redux: Exceptional Pairings.”

Mira began as a partnership between Gustavo Gonzalez, whose 20-year winemaking career started in a winery lab and led him to be head red Winemaker for Robert Mondavi Winery, and Dyke whose 20-year political career started with parking cars in the Senate Parking lot and led him to the White House. Wine writer Steve Heimoff noted, “Winemaker Gustavo Gonzalez left Robert Mondavi to do his own thing, and what an auspicious start … The wine is wonderful.”

Editor’s Note: If you’re planning to visit Napa County wineries, we suggest you first check out Taste California Travel’s Resource Directory. In it you will find links to the websites of nearly all the wineries, as well as links to hundreds of Lodging and Dining options in the area.

Saturday, 28 March 2015 14:35

March 27, 2015 Wine Pick of the Week

Grgich Napa V Chard Picmonkey

2012 Napa Valley Chardonnay


Grgich Hills Estate

Napa Valley

Alcohol: 13.5%

Suggested Retail: $42


“Croatian immigrant Miljenko “Mike” Grgich secured his reputation for all time when a Chardonnay he made as winemaker at Napa’s Chateau Montelena bested several top-quality French white Burgundies. That event is now known as the Judgement of Paris, which is also the name of a book by George Taber, a Time magazine reporter who attended the 1976 tasting. Soon after this triumph Mike opened his own winery in a partnership with Austin Hills of the Hills Bros. coffee family. Though Grgich Hills Estate makes several other varieties including a wonderful Zinfandel, it’s probably best known for its Chardonnay. Nothing wrong with that.

“To oversimplify, French Chardonnay grown in Burgundy tends to have a leaner, less-buttery character than California examples of this variety. It’s subtler and may be an acquired taste for many Americans. Grgich Chardonnays from the Napa Valley tend to show the sophistication of these white Burgundies, but with a California richness that seems to us to be the best of both worlds.

“Though Mike Grgich hasn’t officially retired, his nephew Ivo Jeramaz carries the title Vice President of Vineyards and Winemaking and is pretty much responsible for the wine these days. Ivo is a proponent of natural grapegrowing and all of the winery’s vineyards are now certified as organic. Most California Chardonnay wines undergo a process called malolactic fermentation, which softens the taste and may make them more attractive in the near-term. Because Grgich Chardonnay doesn’t follow this winemaking process, it retains a natural acidity which tends to make the wine a better match for food and may improve its ability to age. Complexity is enhanced by a technique known as sur lie aging in which the juice is periodically stirred or otherwise agitated with the lees (spent yeast cells). While the process may not sound appealing, it yields wines with greater richness and complexity.

“The 2012 Grgich Hills Chardonnay shows some aromas of apple and hazelnuts, followed by layered flavors of apple and melon. Lovely long finish for this elegant Chardonnay.”

Food Affinity: “It wouldn’t be bad with just simple barbecued chicken, but it is special enough to justify spending on more upscale pairing. How about scallops or almost any preparation of lobster?”

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.”

Mondavi1-new PicmonkeyTASTE News Service, February 19, 2015 – Charles Krug Winery and La Chaine des Rotisseurs announced today that centenarian Peter Mondavi, Sr. will be welcomed into La Chaine des Rotisseurs in a solo induction ceremony held at the historic Carriage House on the grounds of the Charles Krug Winery on Saturday, February 28th. Mr. Mondavi will become the oldest person ever inducted into the society and one of only a handful of members ever to receive a solo induction ceremony – the last person being His Holiness Pope Francis I.

The evening will be a black tie celebration, with authentic Italian cuisine prepared by Venice-born chef Andrea Giuliani and entertainment provided by famed Italian tenor Pasquale Esposito, who will perform a variety of traditional Italian songs including Mr. Mondavi’s personal favorite “O Sole Mio.”  Mr. Mondavi, who turned 100 years old last November 8th, will be surrounded by members of the Chaine des Rotisseurs, family and friends, as he becomes the newest member of the oldest and largest food and wine society in the world.

La Chaine des Rotisseurs traces its heritage to The Royal Guild of Goose Roasters founded in 1248 A.D. at the request of the King of France. Its mission was to greatly improve the quality and safety of food. Since that time, the society has grown into an international organization dedicated to the advancement of food and wine excellence. In 1950, this mission was revived in Paris with the creation of La Chaine des Rotisseurs, an organization which has grown internationally and now boasts over 60,000 members worldwide.

The induction of Peter Mondavi Sr. honors his life-long commitment to advancing wine quality, a goal consistent with the mission of La Chaine des Rotisseurs. Eugene Daly of the Napa-Sonoma chapter of the organization proclaimed “Peter Mondavi Sr. has spent a lifetime dedicated to improving wine quality and encouraging Americans to embrace the enjoyment of food and wine. His accomplishments are profound and greatly appreciated by La Chaine des Rotisseurs.”

The evening will include a silent auction, with all proceeds benefitting a scholarship program to Sonoma State University’s Wine Business Institute.

About Charles Krug WineryThe Charles Krug Winery, Napa Valley’s oldest winery, was established by Prussian immigrant Charles Krug in 1861. In 1943, Italian immigrants Cesare and Rosa Mondavi purchased the historic property, which remains a family-owned winery producing estate-driven Napa Valley wines.  Built on a foundation of family values, hard work and European winemaking tradition, the winery offers a portfolio of Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux-styled wines. The winery is under the direction of Peter Mondavi Jr., who along with his brother Marc Mondavi, stewards the family business passed to them by their father, legendary Napa Valley wine icon Peter Mondavi Sr., who continues to serve as President and CEO. The family is now proudly welcoming members of the fourth generation to the business, continuing a legacy started almost 70 years ago and setting a foundation for generations to come.

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

Mike Grgich mustard in vnydA master with Chardonnay

TASTE News Service January 17, 2015 - In 1980 “The Great Chicago Showdown” brought together 221 of the best Chardonnays from around the world. Chardonnays from France, California, New York and even Bulgaria were collected for a historic first, the largest blind tasting of that time of one single varietal. The first vintage that Miljenko “Mike” Grgich crafted at Grgich Hills, his 1977 Chardonnay, emerged triumphant with a first place ribbon and the Chicago Tribune called it “The best Chardonnay in the world.” With this win so close on the heels of the famous 1976 Paris Tasting, where the 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay that Mike made took first place over some of the best French white Burgundies and American Chardonnays, he soon became affectionately known as the “King of Chardonnay.”

In 2015, Grgich Hills Estate will celebrate the 35th anniversary of this historic tasting and its legacy in Chardonnay with vintner dinners across the country, a photo contest, a new mobile application launch and much more, all culminating into two festive gala dinners. The first will be in Chicago on May 7, 2015 and the second in the Napa Valley at the winery on May 16, 2015. Mike Grgich believes this is a significant event not just for Chicago and Grgich Hills but for all of America since it proves that “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.”

Grgich Hills launched “The Great Chicago Chardonnay Showdown” celebration on January 15, 2015. “This is a great opportunity for our winery not only to celebrate my father’s many accomplishments but also Chardonnay, a varietal that is enjoyed and loved by so many people,” said Violet Grgich. As Mike explains, “There is no scientific formula for making great wines. You make wines with your heart.You pour your love into them and nurture them like children, and transmit to them the richness of your spirit.”

Editor's note: For more information on the winery's celebration of this event visit www.grgich.com. If you're planning a visit to this or any other of Napa's wineries, first visit the North Coast sections of the Resource Directory of Taste California Travel. There you will find links to the websites of all the wineries, as well as links to thousands 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.”

Saturday, 13 December 2014 11:36

December 12, 2014 Wine Pick of the Week

Bonterra Chardonnay Picmonkey

2013 Chardonnay



Mendocino County

Alcohol: 13.5%

Suggested Retail: $16


“We liked this wine more a day after first opening it. As this organic Chard 'opened up' it showed a very floral aroma. Lots of orange blossom in the nose. Both the aroma and subsequent tastes revealed a rich, creamy personality. Some vanilla from from aging in relatively small percentage of new oak. Evokes memories of a frozen treat that was variously packaged as Creamsicles or Dreamsicles. These had a vanilla ice cream center enveloped by an icy orange coating, and were a staple of the reviewer's childhood.”

Food Affinity: “Create a dish using chicken breasts marinated in white wine and orange juice, then prepared with mushrooms, some cream and finished with a dusting of hazel nuts.”

Saturday, 06 December 2014 11:19

December 5, 2014 Wine Pick of the Week

Bonterra Viognier Picmonkey 2

2013 Viognier



Mendocino County

Alcohol: 14.5%

Suggested Retail: $16


“Another Bonterra wine from certified organic vineyards, this Viognier contains an unspecified amount of Muscat in the blend to amplify the Viognier's natural floral quotient. Peaches and citrus greet the nose, followed by (deeper) flavors of peach and apricot backed by just a hint of brown spice. At 14-and-half alcohol there is substantial weight and viscosity to make this wine substantial enough to pair with heartier foods. Clean, long finish. Would be an interesting alternative to the Chardonnay-as-cocktail order at happy hour.”

Food Affinity: “Veal or poultry with cream sauces. Grilled or baked halibut prepared with Satsuma Mandarin sections.”

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