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Tuesday, 01 December 2015 10:28

Haverton Hill Creamery Honored

Sheep at Haverhill Dairy Picmonkey

TASTE News Service, December 1, 2015 - C After putting its craft sheep butter on grocery store shelves in late 2014, the sheep dairy and farmstead creamery won first place in the craft butter category in the 2015 American Cheese Society Awards.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015 23:36

New flight into Sonoma Wine Country announced

Horizon Air Q400 PicmonkeyTASTE News Service, November 11, 2015 - Direct flights from Orange County into Sonoma Wine Country will begin on March 16, 2016, according to Alaska Airlines. Flights from Orange County will depart at 12:15 p.m. and arrive at Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County Airport (STS) in Santa Rosa at 1:46 p.m. Flights from Santa Rosa will depart at 12:40 p.m. and arrive in Orange County at 2:11 p.m.

John Wayne Airport will be the second airport that offers non-stop flights from the Los Angeles basin. The other is LAX. Other destinations are Portland, San Diego, and Seattle. John Wayne Airport will be convenient for travelers from beach cities of Huntington Beach, Newport Beach and Laguna Beach, as well as the inland areas of Irvine, Orange, and Anaheim.

The new route will be served by Horizon Air's 76-seat Q400 aircraft, which it currently uses on all flights to Sonoma County.

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.”

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).

Tom Kerry Eddy Picmonkey Kerry, Tom and Cooper 

TASTE News Service, October 4, 2015 -- Veteran winemaker Tom Eddy and his wife Kerry officially opened their new Calistoga winery just in time for the 2015 harvest. Fifteen years after moving up valley to Calistoga from Napa, the Eddys succeeded in completing the initial phase of the winery caves on the estate where they’ll now produce the eponymous Tom Eddy brand. “We’ve been persistent and committed to our life’s goal of having our own facility,” said Tom, “and now that this small cave and winery are a reality . . . we pinch ourselves at the cave entrance every morning.”

The winery site sits at the top of Napa valley on the Napa/Sonoma County line. “It’s incredible that we can live up here in the forest and make wine too!” commented Kerry, reminiscing about her 30 years in the wine business.

Sunday, 27 September 2015 16:15

Virginia Dare Reborn

virginia dare PicmonkeyTASTE News Service, September 28, 2015 - After a coy public relations campaign begun a year ago, American Pioneer Wine Growers (APWG) last week announced the name of its new property, Virginia Dare Winery.

Over the past year, APWG has released a series of four wines – The White Doe, Manteo, Two Arrowheads and The Lost Colony – each revealing a different aspect of the Virginia Dare legend ultimately culminating in the unveiling of the new winery name.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015 14:05

Valley Fire Causes Losses to Lake County

Shedhorn Cellars wines PicmonkeyWines of now-lost Shedhorn CellarsTASTE News Service September 15, 2015 – We are saddened by the terrible fire and losses in the Lake County community. Our thoughts go out to all who have lost so much in the Valley Fire. We are grateful for the brave work being done by firefighters and all other first responders to keep our residents safe, and for the tireless efforts of the hundreds of volunteers helping to assist those displaced by the fire.

Many in the Lake County wine industry have been impacted by this disaster, some both personally and professionally. Michael and Adawn Wood of Shed Horn Cellars lost their home and winery in the fire. In a statement from the Woods, they said, “We are saddened about the loss of our beautiful county and our many friends that have lost their homes. We are blessed with the outpouring of kindness and thoughts of our personal friends and friends in the industry. We do have inventory in the warehouse to keep our orders filled and our tasting room stocked.”

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/.

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