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Tuesday, 05 February 2019 21:54

Wine Pick of the Week

Prosecco Brut

Tuesday, 09 October 2018 11:18

Phil Mickelson Pops Cork for Charity

TASTE News Service, October 9, 2018 – Korbel California Champagne once again held the “Spray-Off” Challenge at Silverado Resort in Napa.

Sunday, 29 November -0001 18:27

Wine Pick of the Week

ferrari brut Picmonkey

Ferrari Brut N/V



Alcohol: 12.5%

Suggested Retail: $25

Saturday, 27 February 2016 12:31

February 26, 2016 Wine Pick of the Week

Riverbench Claim Juper Rose Picmonkey

2014 Claim Jumper Rosé



Santa Maria Valley

Alcohol: 12.1%

Suggested Retail: $42


“This sparkling wine is made in the méthode Champenoise from 100% Pinot Noir grapes that were estate grown in the Santa Maria Valley of Santa Barbara County. The location on California’s Central Coast receives considerable marine influence and is cooler than many realize. As such, it is prime growing country for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

Friday, 25 December 2015 18:28

December 25, 2015 Wine Pick of the Week

Domaine Carneros Brut Rose withshadow Picmonkey2012 Brut Rosé


Domaine Carneros

By Taittinger


Alcohol: 12.3%

Suggested Retail: $37


“Good sparkling wine is appropriate for celebrating the new year. It’s also appropriate for just celebrating life in general and is a treat too frequently thought of as only for special occasions.

Sparkling wine is the generally accepted term that encompasses all wines containing bubbles, from pricey top-of-the-line imports through the cheap stuff served at all-you-can-eat Sunday brunches. Most California producers have agreed that the word Champagne refers to products that come from a particular part of France and should no longer be appropriated by wineries outside that region. Wonderful as wines from Champagne are, they’re no longer necessarily superior to their California counterparts.

Sunday, 30 August 2015 15:56

August 28, 2015 Wine Pick of the Week

Valdo Prosecco Superiore bottle Picmonkey

Oro Puro Prosecco Superiore


Valdo Spumanti

Valdobbiadene, Italy

Alcohol: 11.5%

Suggested Retail: $19.99


“Prosecco is a sparkling wine made in the northeast of Italy. Unlike Asti Spumante, a sweeter carbonated wine, Prosecco is much closer in taste to Champagne and New World sparkling wines. In recent years Prosecco has surged in popularity, in part because of its affordability. However it’s not just price that is driving Prosecco sales. It tastes good, too.

“Made entirely of the Glera grape (which was once known as Prosecco), the Oro Puro is the Superiore or better of two Proseccos Valdo markets in this country. Their basic product we found just o.k., but this one is excellent and justifies the approximately $5 price difference. The Oro Puro carries the D.O.C.G. label designation (Denominazione di Originie Congrollata e Guarantita), which assures that the wine comes from where it’s supposed to and has passed muster with a Italian government panel of tasters.

“Valdo’s Oro Puro, may be gold in color, but very faintly so. Its bubbles are fine and persistent. We find aromas and flavors of crisp green apples, Asian pears and white peaches and white nectarines. There’s crisp acidity, yet a rich and ‘round’ feeling, too, that nicely balance each other. The finish seems both clean and lasting.”

Food Affinity: “Mixed nuts. Thinly sliced Asiago cheese on bruschetta. Gnocchi in any white sauce. Grilled Branzino (a Mediterranean sea bass), stuffed with lemon slices and thyme."

Saturday, 15 August 2015 15:10

August 14, 2015 Wine Pick of the Week

Valdo Rose Brut Picmonkey

Marca Oro Rosé Brut


Valdo Spumanti

Valdobbiadene, Italy

Alcohol: 12%

Suggested Retail: $13


“Who among us doesn’t appreciate a bargain? But if something doesn’t taste good, it doesn’t matter how little you paid for it. Fortunately, in the case of this week’s selection, the Valdo Rosé Brut, we were delighted by both the taste and  the price.

“From the attractive packaging of the Valdo Rosé Brut, you might think ‘Champagne,’ though it is not. Champagne is a geographic area in France that is home to an undeniably wonderful product, but using ‘champagne’ as a catch-all term for any sparkling wine has fallen out of favor for most of the world’s wine businesses.  (French Champagne houses feel that the term of identity should be exclusive to them and that appropriations of that name by other areas would be something like a winery in Argentina bottling a Cabernet Sauvignon, then putting the word ‘Napa’ on the label. The liquid inside might make a fine red wine, but it wouldn’t be from Napa.)  There are some very worthy sparkling wines that come from places beyond Champagne, to include Cremant  from other parts of France, Sekt  from Germany, Cava  from Spain and Prosecco  from Italy, as well as many good sparklers from California.

“Valdo is a firm in the northeast of Italy that traces its sparkling wine production back to 1926. Their Rosé Brut is a blend of two varieties; Nerello Mascalese, a red wine grape grown in the Agrigento province of Sicily and Glera, a white wine grape traditionally called Prosecco that comes from the Veneto region in Italy’s north.

“This rose’s label references both ‘Brut’ and ‘Spumante.’  Spumante doesn’t necessarily mean a sweeter wine, but in this case is used like the Italian term Frizzante, meaning sparkling or fizzy. When seen on a Champagne bottle, the term Brut  indicates a certain level of dryness of the wine. Regardless of whether the presentation on the label seems a bit contradictory, the liquid inside it appeals to us and we think it will please a lot of other palates, too.  The wine pours with a fine mousse that settles to a deep rose color.  The aroma seems primarily of strawberries or, perhaps, some fresh raspberries. There is more of these fruits in the flavor, along with a hint of that ‘biscuity’ quality we appreciate in Champagne. This Italian sparkler produced via the Charmat method retails in the $10 to $15 dollar range and delivers way more than we would have expected."

Food Affinity: “Sparkling wine is usually associated with celebration and the Valdo Rosé Brut puts us in an upbeat, festive mood. We suggest you declare an impromptu party and serve with crackers and deviled crab spread, salted almonds, melon wrapped in prosciutto . . . maybe even with hot wings.”

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.

Jack and Jamie Davies PicmolnkeyJack and Jamie Davies

TASTE News Service (May 31, 2015) — Schramsberg Vineyards, America’s first craft sparkling wine house, celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2015. Hugh Davies, second-generation vintner, will be kicking-off various retrospective tastings, winemaker dinners and events beginning in September thru December 2015. The winery is also releasing a special 50th anniversary bottling to commemorate this golden celebration.

In 1965, Jack and Jamie Davies revived the Schramsberg winery on the property originally founded in 1862 by German immigrants Jacob and Annie Schram. Their vision was to create the first American sparkling wine from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes — utilizing secondary bottle fermentation just as is done in Champagne.

At a time when there were only 22 wineries in Napa Valley and fewer than 500 acres of California vineyards planted to Chardonnay and Pinot Noir combined, Jack and Jamie set out to make sparkling wine in the true méthode traditionelle style. Theirs was the first American winery to produce a Blanc de Blancs in 1965, followed by a Blanc de Noirs in 1967. Now, 50 years later, their son Hugh Davies, who was born the same year the Davies arrived at Schramsberg, leads the winery’s management and winemaking team with the same resolute vision as did Jack and Jamie.

“To look at how far we’ve come since 1965, from those first 200 cases of Blanc de Blancs to where we are now, it’s overwhelming in a great way,” states Hugh Davies, second-generation vintner of Schramsberg Vineyards. “But I have to remember that it didn’t happen overnight. It has taken years of dedication to my parent’s vision and commitment from multiple generations of families, friends and employees to get us to this point. It is a privilege to be able to take this year and celebrate the love and passion of those that have made Schramsberg what it is today.”

The Schramsberg winery property is tucked into the densely forested slopes of Diamond Mountain, a few miles south of the town of Calistoga, and home to the oldest hillside vineyards in Napa Valley. It totals 218 acres with 43 acres planted to vines. While initially the winery worked with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir vines on the home property and in the upper Napa Valley to produce its sparkling wines, Schramsberg has expanded and improved its vineyard range to include more than 100 cool-climate sites throughout Carneros, Anderson Valley, and along the Sonoma and Marin coasts. Starting in 1990, the winery began replanting Cabernet Sauvignon on the home property. These grapes would eventually provide Diamond Mountain District fruit for the family’s J. Davies Estate Cabernet.

Hugh Davies and Family PicmonkeyThe current and future faces of SchramsbergThe original 1889 J. Schram Victorian house has been lovingly restored by the Davies family, and Hugh, wife Monique, and their three sons reside there today. The lower winery, barn and caves remain largely unchanged since the 19th century. Originally, starting in the 1870s, more than 10,000 square feet of caves were hand-dug into volcanic rock by Chinese laborers. Additional cave tunnels have been added over the past 50 years, providing 34,000 square feet of ideal underground storage for the aging of Schramsberg’s sparkling wine bottles.

In 1972, Schramsberg played its first role in world history, when its Blanc de Blancs was served at President Nixon’s “Toast to Peace” with China’s Premier Zhou Enlai. This was the first time a California wine had been served by a U.S. president on the world stage. The media coverage for this historic moment not only highlighted the Schramsberg brand, but was an initial catalyst for the attention that would follow for wines made in Napa Valley and California. Schramsberg’s sparkling wines have been served at official state functions by every U.S. presidential administration since.

Today, Hugh, with his family and the veteran winery staff, successfully build upon what was started 50 years ago. By incorporating tradition, innovation, and sustainability in all of its practices, Schramsberg Vineyards is as committed as ever to pressing the envelope of quality in crafting world-class sparkling wines. (Here's a three-minute video update from the winery)

Editor's Note: If you're planning a visitr to the Napa Valley you'll find links to Winery websites, as well as links to the sites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining options, in Taste California Travel's Resource Directory.

Friday, 25 April 2014 22:50

April 25, 2014 Wine Pick of the Week

J Brut Rose Picmonkey

Brut Rosé N/V


J Vineyards & Winery

Russian River Valley

Alcohol: 12.5%

Suggested Retail: $38


“We have commented on the J Brut Rosé before. The NV designation means it's non-vintage. Most (French) Champagnes and their New World cousins are non-vintage bottlings, which may be blends of juice from grapes harvested from more than one specific year. Consistency is the objective, rather than risking the variables that could be found in fruit harvested from each separate year. This bottle of wine was made at a different time than the one we reviewed 14 months ago. Presumably, it's a year newer. It is very similar to its predecessor and that's a good thing.

“As with most Brut wines, the composition is primarily Pinot Noir (66% in this case) and Chardonnay (33%). The traditional, but lesser-known, red grape Pinot Meunier (1%) makes up the balance. A small portion of the pressed Pinot Noir was left on the skins, which imparted the rosé color. The winery calls this shade 'a luminous pink salmon hue,' which is an accurate description, if somewhat floridly put. Initial aroma is predominantly that of strawberries and strawberries and raspberries are prominent in the taste. The wine is more delicate than bold and shows an attractive interplay between just a bit of creaminess and an effervescent acidity. That yeasty, 'biscuity' quality seems more obvious as the wine sits a while and becomes less chilled. The J Brut Rosé is an appealing color, and is put up in a handsome and sophisticated package. That it tastes so good just completes this attractive picture.”

Food Affinity: “There are many traditional pairings with Champagne/sparkling wines, and probably any of them would be acceptable with the J Brut Rosé. More innovative possibilities might include a fresh asparagus quiche, poached chicken breasts prepared with morels and cream or big grilled shrimps served with a fresh fruit salsa.” 

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