Located just 52 miles North of the Golden Gate Bridge in the City of Sebastopol, Ca. in the heart of the Russian River Valley is Emeritus Vineyards. Emeritus Vineyards is on Hallberg Ranch, a 115-acre ranch property. What was once a prime apple orchard is now a Pinot Noir Vineyard owned by Proprietor Brice Cutrer who purchased the property in 1999.
On our visit to Emeritus we were welcomed by Mari Jones, she greeted us with glasses of their 2015 Emeritus Vineyards, Ruby Ruby Rosé Saignée before we started our vineyard tour. The Ruby Ruby Rosé Saignée was light and refreshing after the warm drive from the East Bay. It had a beautiful color and it was aromatic. It was crisp with a great balance that made it light and refreshing with great notes on the palate. It was also close to being sold out when we visited and only available to their wine club members.
Ermeritus Vineyards is one of California’s most distinguished dry-farmed vineyards and is widely known for their commitment in producing Pinot Noir with extraordinary quality. Wines are crafted around proprietor Brice Cutrer Jones’s philosophy that soil gives wine its character, climate gives wine its personality, and man gives the wine its spirit... style. The result is three Estate Grown and Bottled Pinot Noirs: Hallberg Ranch, Pinot Hill and William Wesley.
It was a real honor to be invited to the Tastin’ France event organized by Business France, the French Trade Commission in North America. There, we were able to taste and experience wines from the main wine regions of France.
The Tastin’ France event strives to promote and encourage the distribution of French wines and spirits in North America by introducing new product and increasing the presence of existing ones while at the same time fostering business opportunities and initiating network connections between industry professionals.
The event was held at GALLERY 308, at Fort Mason in San Francisco which boasts panoramic views of San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge.
One of our favorite and most memorable people at the event was Bernard Bouteillon, the Export Manager for Vins Descombe. We reveled in his energy and enthusiasm for Vins Descombe and the wine in their portfolio. Bernard was very passionate and informative about the different wine regions of France, providing a valuable educational experience as well as some great wines!
Though we wish we could have stopped by all 26 tables, it was necessary to pace ourselves over the course of this 4-hour afternoon. We absolutely have a greater appreciation of French wines after attending this event. We also learned that it is okay to serve lighter reds slightly chilled, which is often thought in California to be faux pas. As a matter of fact, it’s very French. Vive la France!
We enjoyed this guide to the 8 common types of wine By Madeline Puckette of winefolly.com. It is an easy guide of the top varieties that any wine novice can refer to before a day of wine tasting with any wine stiff neck.
The 8 wines included in this article represent 6 of the 9 styles of wine. Trying all 8 wines will give you a good example of the potential range of flavors found in all wine. Each wine listed below also includes alternative varieties that taste similar. So, if you prefer a particular wine, you might also like its alternatives. Try them side-by-side to learn your preferences!
Taste: Black Cherry, Black Currant, Baking Spices and Cedar (from oak)
Style: Full-bodied Red Wine
Description: Cabernet Sauvignon is a full-bodied red grape first heavily planted in the Bordeaux region. Today, it’s the most popular wine variety in the world. Wines are full-bodied with bold tannins and a long persistent finish driven mostly by the higher levels of alcohol and tannin that often accompany these wines.
Food Pairing: lamb, beef, smoked meats, French, American, firm cheeses like aged cheddar and hard cheeses like Pecorino
Cabernet Sauvignon Alternatives
- Merlot: Middle weight, lower in tannins (smoother), with a more red-fruited flavor profile
- Cabernet Franc: Light to middle weight, with higher acid and more savory flavors, one of Cabernet Sauvignon’s parent grapes.
- Carménère: Usually from Chile, very similar to Merlot in body, but with the aggressive savory flavors of Cabernet Franc
- Bordeaux Blend, A.K.A. “Meritage”: Usually dominant to Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot, but also includes any of the other Bordeaux varieties
- Sangiovese: The noble grape of Tuscany. Similar in body, acid, and tannin to Cabernet Sauvignon, but more red-fruited and elegant
“Sear-ah” (aka Shiraz)
Taste: Blueberry, plum, tobacco, meat, black pepper, violet
Style: Full-bodied Red Wine
Description: Syrah (a.k.a. Shiraz) is a full-bodied red wine that’s heavily planted in the Rhône Valley in France and Australia. The wines have intense fruit flavors and middleweight tannins. Syrah is commonly blended with Grenache and Mourvèdre to create the red Rhône blend. The wine often has an aggressively meaty (beef broth, jerky) quality.
Food Pairing: lamb, beef, smoked meats; Mediterranean, French, and American firm cheeses like white cheddar, and hard cheeses like Manchego
- Malbec: (Argentina) More black-fruited, often with more aggressive oak usage, less meaty, but with more coffee and chocolate flavors
- Petit Sirah: (United States) This grape has no genetic relation to Syrah, but has even more aggressive tannin, acid, and fuller body
- Monastrell (aka Mourvèdre): More broad texture, with similar meaty notes, but more of a mixture of red and black fruits
- Pinotage: (South Africa) Similar in terms of body, with even more intense, smokey notes.
Taste: A broad, exotic array of fruits from stone (overripe nectarine), to red (raspberry, sour cherry), to blue (plum, blueberry), to black (blackberry, boysenberry), Asian 5 Spice Powder, Sweet Tobacco
Style: Medium-bodied to full-bodied Red Wine
Description: Zinfandel (aka Primitivo) is a medium-bodied red wine that originated in Croatia. Wines are fruit-forward and spicy with a medium length finish. Zinfandel is a red grape that may be better known as the rosé wine White Zinfandel.
Food Pairing: chicken, pork, cured meat, lamb, beef, barbecue, Italian, American, Chinese, Thai, Indian, full-flavored like cheddar and firm cheeses such as Manchego
- Grenache (aka Garnacha): More middle-weight and red-fruited flavors, with the meaty and peppery qualities you get with Syrah
- Tempranillo: (Spain) More red and black fruit flavors, as well as lower alcohol and body
- Rhône Blend: a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre originally from Rhône Valley of France, very similar, but not as fruity
- Carignan: Not quite as exotic in terms of fruit, but adds a lot of savory, dried herbal flavors
Taste: Very red fruited (cherry, cranberry) and red-floral (rose), often with appealing vegetal notes of beet, rhubarb, or mushroom
Style: Lighter-bodied Red Wine with higher acid and soft tannin
Description: Pinot Noir is a dry light-bodied first widely planted in France. The wines always lead with higher acid and soft tannins.
Food Pairing: chicken, pork, veal, duck, cured meat, French, German, cream sauces, soft cheeses, nutty medium-firm cheeses like Gruyère
Pinot Noir Alternatives
- Gamay (aka Beaujolais): (France) Lighter, juicier, more floral, generally less complex
Taste: Yellow citrus (Meyer lemon), yellow pomaceous fruits (yellow pear and apple), and tropical fruits (banana, pineapple), often cinnamon, butterscotch, and toasted caramel notes (from oak)
Style: Medium to full-bodied white wine
Description: Chardonnay is a dry full-bodied white wine that was planted in large quantities for the first time in France. When oak-aged, Chardonnay will have spicy, bourbon-y notes. Unoaked wines are lighter and zesty with apple and citrus flavors. Chardonnay is the white grape of Burgundy.
Food Pairing: lobster, crab, shrimp, chicken, pork, mushroom, French, cream sauces, soft cheeses such as triple cream brie, medium-firm cheeses like Gruyère
- Sémillon: More middle weight, although often with oak as well, more citrus-driven and herbal aromatics
- Viognier: Richer in body, with lots of perfumed, floral-driven aromatics, often oaked as well
Taste: Aggressively-citrus-driven (grapefruit pith), with some exotic fruits (honeydew melon, passion fruit, kiwi) and always an herbaceous quality (grass, mint, green pepper)
Style: Light-bodied to medium-bodied white wine
Description: Sauvignon Blanc is a dry white grape first widely planted in France. Wines are tart, typically with herbal green fruit flavors. Sauvignon Blanc is a parent grape of Cabernet Sauvignon.
Food Pairing: fish, chicken, pork, veal, Mexican, Vietnamese, French, herb-crusted goat cheese, nutty cheeses such as Gruyère
Sauvignon Blanc Alternatives
- Vermentino: from Italy is less herbacious, but with more appealing, bitter flavors (bitter almond)
- Verdejo: from Spain is almost identical, although sometimes fuller in body
- Grüner Veltliner: from Austria has more savory vegetable notes (arugula, turnip, white pepper)
“Pee-no Gree” (aka Pinot Grigio)
Taste: Delicate citrus (lime water, orange zest) and pomaceous fruits (apple skin, pear sauce), white floral notes, and cheese rind (from lees usage)
Style: Light-bodied White Wine
Description: Pinot Gris is a dry light-bodied white grape that is planted heavily in Italy, but also in France and Germany. Wines are light to middle-weight and easy drinking, often with some bitter flavor on the palate (bitter almond, quinine)
Food Pairing: Salad, delicate poached fish, light and mild cheeses
Pinot Gris Alternatives
- Albariño: from Spain is similar, but has more acid and more citrus-driven aromatics (tangerine, orange juice) and floral aromatics
- Soave: The grape is Garganega, but often more bruised and oxidized apple-y character, still relatively bitter
- Muscadet: The grape is Melon de Bourgogne, and the wine is from France. It’s much higher in acid, but still with heavy lees use and relatively neutral flavor
Taste: Citrus (kefir lime, lemon juice) and stone-fruit (white peach, nectarine) always feature prominently, although there are also usually floral and sweet herbal elements as well
Style: Floral and fruit-driven aromatic white that comes in variable sweetness. Some producers choose not to ferment all the grape sugar and therefore make the wine in an “off-dry” style.
Description: Always very high in acid, when made as a table wine Rieslings can be harmoniously sweet (sweet and sour) or dry (very acidic). The wine is polarizing because some people find dry styles too acidic and sweet styles too cloying, but sweetness is always a wine making decision and not inherent to the grape.
Food Pairing: chicken, pork, duck, turkey, cured meat, Indian, Thai, Vietnamese, Moroccan, German, washed-rind cheeses and fondue
- Muscat Blanc (aka Moscato): Less acidic with a much more aggressively floral flavor profile
- Gewürztraminer: richer, with less acid and more broad texture, rose candy and lychee are typical aromatics
- Torrontés: Related to Moscato, but always in a dry style, more full-bodied and bitter
- Chenin Blanc: Also very acidic and made in sweet and dry styles, but much more savory with more apple-y, savory aromatics
Friday, September 16th was International Grenache Day and we celebrated it in style with the Northern California chapter of the Rhone Rangers. The event was held at Two Shepherds winery in Windsor, CA. It was such an honor to have been invited by Kristie Tacey of Tessier Winery who also hosted us for a private tasting in Healdsburg before the event. William Allen of Two Shepherds was a gracious host!
We tasted some great styles of Grenache and had the chance to meet most of the participating Rhone Rangers. Perhaps some don’t know that there are two types of Grenache: Grenache Noir and Grenache Blanc. Although Grenache Noir (the “red” one) is more common, it is mostly known as a blending grape. It is frequently found blended with the likes of Syrah and Tempranillo. Many producers blend Syrah into Grenache to achieve a darker color and a firmer tannin structure. But we love it on its own, especially as a rosé!
Thank you to the Rhone Rangers for organizing this great event. They do good work, indeed! The Rhone Rangers are the leading non-profit organization in the U.S. dedicated to promoting American Rhone varietal wines. American “Rhone-style” wines are made from the same grapes that flourished for centuries in France’s Rhone River Valley. These wines pair well with a wide range of food and rich flavors. We love to pair Grenache with highly spiced dishes, grilled meats, and sausages.
We apologize for not having new content all summer. We had so much fun that we forgot to put in the work! That said, we attended so many events, here is our attempt to get you caught up.
First, we found a great Peruvian restaurant in Walnut Creek, CA called Parada. We really love it! After our first visit, we must have gone back three weekends in a row. The menu is just so fun and easy. Their cocktail list is equally fresh and lively. Given how much we love this place, it’s likely we’ll go back to do a more in-depth feature on Parada next time we’re out in Walnut Creek...stay tuned.
For the Fourth of July Weekend, we attended the 10th Annual All American Zin Day. We discovered a great group of family winemakers that each make GREAT WINE! Family Wineries Dry Creek Cooperative Tasting Room consists of six locally and family owned wineries. Collier Falls Vineyard, Dashe Cellars, Forth Vineyards, Lago di Merlo Vineyards and Winery, Mietz Cellars, and Philip Staley Vineyard and Winery. The group of winemakers there are passionate about their wines and you see it in all they do to support one another with this joint venture. When you visit the tasting room, you’ll be able to taste more than 30 varietals and blends from the surrounding vineyards in Sonoma County. The tasting room is open seven days a week so when you’re in the area make sure to visit Family Wineries in Dry Creek and say Sip & Saveur sent you!!
While next door, we visited our friends at Kokomo Winery who just opened their Members Only lounge that weekend. Leslie Hanson, our friend and tasting room lead, was able to get us access and we had the pleasure of meeting Randy Peters- a trailblazer in the wine industry. He poured us vintages from the Kokomo library and spent time talking to us about both the wine and the vineyards. It was such a pleasure to have been able to do that. Thanks Leslie!
We were also spoiled rotten with lobster this summer! We attended two lobster feeds and who doesn't love a lobster feed!? The first was at Black Stallion Winery in Napa and the other, at “Suite D” of Girl & The Fig fame in Sonoma, was hosted by Walt Wines. The food at Black Stallion was deliciously prepared by Sorensen Catering and everything was amazing! The event started out with a welcoming reception where Black Stallion had cheese plates while pouring select wines on the patio. During dinner, they poured their 2014 Limited Release Poseidon Vineyard Los Carneros Chardonnay and Cabernet (don’t knock the pairing). We had the unexpected pleasure of meeting part of the Black Stallion family, Maché and Chris Indelicato. They were both super warm and friendly; we really enjoyed our chat with Maché. While there, we also met a couple of Maui “influencers” who flew in just for the event. Wow! Such a great evening with a very nice group of invited guests - mostly wine club members.
It goes without saying that the Walt Wines feed was catered by Girl and the Fig. It was a daytime event that was so much more than lunch. Starting with plentiful charcuterie, this event was a release party for their Bob’s Ranch Chardonnay. It was aromatically intriguing and flavorful with a beautiful floral character. Both smooth and sweet (though not overly) there was a nice grip to pair with the lobster.
On Sunday, August 21st, we attended the Family Winemakers Tasting in San Francisco. It forced us to miss the Healdsburg White Party with some of our other wine club friends, but we just couldn’t pass up this event in our own backyard for the second year in a row. It was held at the Cruise Terminal of Pier 27...a shockingly beautiful location! Hopefully Pinot Days location scouts will discover this gem as they seem to be playing around with locations.
This event has been happening for the past 26 years and for the 121 wineries that were pouring at the event this has become a family tradition.
A little about Family Winemakers of California; This is a great organization that advocates for the rights and interests of their members to produce, market and sell their products. They are dedicated to preserving the broad diversity of California wine. They have lobbied drink taxes, water issues, fees, warning labels, social media, labor issues, and farming regulations at the State Capitol and regulatory agencies. Because of this organization’s work, we are able to enjoy California wine all across the United States.
During the event, we would’ve been able to taste forty-four varietals and blends (assuming we could make it!).. We obviously enjoyed tasting, but also enjoyed talking to all the people pouring. A frequent topic of conversation was the Chimney Fire and how the smoke may affect the surrounding Central Coast vineyards. Attending the event allowed us to meet new producers from Northern California and the Central Coast that we hadn’t been introduced to before. We particularly liked the connections we were able to make along with the wineries that expressed a legitimate interest in SIP & SAVEUR…we’ve begun reaching out and visiting some, though there are obviously many long overdue e-mails to come.
On Monday, August 22nd, we attended Wines of Danger for the first time. This trade and media tasting was held at Mission Rock Resort in San Francisco. This event was a much smaller group compared to Family Winemakers, only seventeen California wineries spanning from El Dorado County to the Central Coast. We really like attending this event because it was really intimate and gave us more time to spend with, in many cases, the individual owner/winemaker - as opposed to the marketing/PR or tasting room staff you get at most other events (not that it’s a bad thing). Being new to this particularly close-knit group, we didn’t know too many people, but we were thrilled to the newbies as we were welcomed with open arms, wine and some of the freshest oysters you’ve ever had. Shout out to Mission Rock Resort!
Following such events, we would usually list our standout wineries here; but instead, we’re going to do it a little differently this time. We intend to honor these standouts with their own entire write-up once a more personal visit occurs (one has already taken place...you know who you are!).
The last event we attended for the summer was EAT DRINK SF at the Fort Mason Center Festival Pavilion. This was a 3-day event, but we only attended the Sunday, August 28th tasting. If you love food - and when we say food, we mean GOOD food - then you have check out this event next year you’ve never been! EAT DRINK SF is a truly magical experience, featuring the work of more than 160 chefs and restaurants and unlimited pours from local beverage purveyors in San Francisco Bay Area.
A standout for us was the Wines of Portugal session headed by the Founder of San Francisco Wine School and Master Sommelier, David Glancy. His talk not only inspired us to buy and drink more Portuguese wines but possibly even pursue CSW Certification in the near future (we’ll also be attending the Wines of Portugal trade event hosted soon by Full Circle Wine Solutions - that same group that recently put on the stellar Latin American Wine and Spirits). So much wine and food with so many events...and so little time to tell you about all of them while still holding down our day jobs. For now ;-)
EAT DRINK SF is one food event that you definitely need to attend with an empty stomach so you can taste through the entire line-up of top-tier Bay Area restaurants from some of the top chefs anywhere. We’re already looking forward to next year (and hoping the vegans won’t be protesting again)!
To recap; we had a really busy summer and enjoyed a great deal of wine...but best of all, we met some really great people!!
On Saturday, June 18th, SIP & SAVEUR attended its second Pinot Days event in San Francisco. This year it was held at the Bespoke at Westfield (though most people we talked to preferred the Metreon location of last year’s event). Pinot Days San Francisco has become the largest single gathering of Pinot Noir producers in the world. It allows local vineyards and winemakers who produce award-winning Pinot Noir to be in the light and on a much-deserved pedestal.
Gracianna out of Healdsburg, California. Gracianna is owned by the Amador Family who named their winery after the family’s maternal grandmother, Gracianna Lasaga. The Amador family takes pride in providing an ultra-premium wine experience for wine lovers who enjoy a bottle of their wines. We found Seth and the others working their table to be super-friendly.
Davis Bynum was another one of our favorites this year. Kristen Mowforth and her partner-in-crime were both very friendly, warm and fun. It made experiencing the pinot noirs from Davis Bynum that much more enjoyable. The Davis Bynum Pinot Noir had a beautiful ruby red hue with cherry, tea leaves and dusty oak in the nose. It had vanilla, dark chocolate, cherries and red plums on the palate. It was bright and full of flavor. It is definitely a bottle of Pinot that you would want to have with friends over a delightful spread of cheeses and beautiful charcuterie to be enjoyed on a warm summer afternoon.
O’Connor Vineyards out of Sebastopol in Sonoma County was one of the first tasting we did during the event and is one of our most memorable standouts from this year’s Pinot Days. O’Connor Vineyard produced their first Pinot Noir in 2005 with the fruits from their vineyard. The fruit from their O’Connor vineyard embodies the traits of the Green Valley sub-appellation of the Russian River Valley AVA, one of the world’s finest growing regions for Pinot Noir grapes. The O’Connor Pinot Noir was a standout because of its aromas and flavors of black cherry, cola, spice, toasty oak and dark chocolate characteristics that a great Pinot Noir should embody.
Last (but not least!), Belle Glos was our hands-down favorite from this year. Though we truly enjoyed all three Pinot Noirs poured by their Northern California Market Manager, Ashely Kent; the “Clark and Telephone” was a real standout for us. The “Clark and Telephone” is fresh, jammy and full of ripe black cherry, cranberry and gingerbread on the palate. It has the perfect balance of refreshing acidity, velvety tannins and a hint of toffee at the finish. We expect to stock up on this one soon!
Driving through the rolling hills of Foxen Canyon Wine Trail, one will be transported back to California’s wild west. You will be enticed by the vast meadows and pristine landscapes with rolling hills, warm California sun and blue skies as the backdrop. Within these winding roads are many wineries and vineyards where you’ll find one of California’s Central Coast wine country staples, Fess Parker Winery & Vineyard.
Fess Parker, an actor in the mid-1950s, was widely known as Davy Crockett in the Walt Disney miniseries of same name as well as his turn as Daniel Boone in the 1960s television series. Fess Parker first moved his family to Santa Barbara in the 1960s and started construction of a bluff top home. When heavy rains caused it to collapse onto the beach, he adjusted his plans and headed inland where he discovered the 714-acre Foxen Canyon ranch property.
Today, the Fess Parker Winery & Vineyard is located on a 400-acre Foxen Canyon Road estate and is still a true inspiration of the American Dream while it remains a family-owned business. Eli Parker and his sister, Ashley Parker Snider, continue their family’s legacy as stewards of the family’s vision for the winery. Ashley’s husband, Tim Snider, serves as the President and oversees the day-to-day operations. The family’s vineyard is the 120-acre Rodney’s Vineyard, named after Fess Parker’s late son-in-law. The family also sources grapes from Camp Four vineyard in the heart of the Santa Ynez Valley, which Parker planted in 1998 as well as vineyards in the cooler Santa Rita Hills and Santa Maria Valley appellations.
Andre Tchelistcheff Winemaker of the Year winner, Blair Fox, assumed the role of head winemaker in 2005. A local to the area, Blair Fox started his winemaking career in Santa Barbara County and now does double-duty under his moniker, Blair Fox Cellars, where he explores his passion for Syrah and other Rhone varietals. We definitely recommend the Syrah and that you check out his own Los Olivos tasting room as well when you’re in the area.
Under Fox, the winery sharpened its focus to produce more small-lot, vineyard-designate wines made from high-quality Rhone and Burgundian varietals, which have won awards in national wine competitions.
We recommend that you visit the Fess Parker Winery & Vineyard when you are in the Los Olivos area. The tasting room is located at 6200 Foxen Canyon Road in Los Olivos, California. They offer several wine tasting experiences. For “red only” fans, we recommend you enjoy the enhanced Pinot flight outside. You can also visit fessparker.com to read about the different offerings. The tasting room staff are friendly and knowledgeable about the wine and the area. It is family friendly and yes, your “fur-child” can come too. We are looking forward to our next visit.
Looking for a place to stay in Los Olives? There’s also the Fess Parker Wine Country Inn.
The 11th Annual Lodi ZinFest was held on Saturday, May 14th, at Lodi Lake Park in Lodi, CA. This was our second time at the Lodi ZinFest and we remember it just as it was last year, great crowd and great Zinfandel from 40 Lodi wineries. Though we were not able to taste nearly the number of 200 handcrafted wines that were being poured, we discovered some real standouts among the ones we did taste.
This year we attended the event with our friends from 1-on-1 Travels, John and Monique Storck. The festivities continued into Sunday with winery tours and open houses. We visited five of the wineries that we really enjoyed chatting with during the event at the park. We did revisits and picked up bottles to add to our collection.
Our first stop was Harney Lane where the ZinFest celebration continued with music by Snap Jackson and more great wines. We did a revisit on their Lizzy James 2013 Old Vine Zinfandel and the 2013 Tempranillo that they poured at the park. We tasted off of their tasting list where were able to try the 2014 Albarino, 2014 Chardonnay, 2015 Dry Rosé, as well as their Lizzy James Zinfandel Port that is 100% Estate Grown and aged for 30 months in neutral oak barrels. We think that the Lizzy James Port is the epitome of the perfect port where it is just seductively sweet but not too sugary or syrupy. The thought of it just makes our mouths water. We left Harney Lane with a couple of bottles, including their California-style 2014 Chardonnay.
Our second stop was Upstream Wines at Watts Winery & Vineyards. The live music performance there by Delia and Gage was great! We hope too see them again! We had the special privilege of tasting with the Owner and Head Winemaker, Craig Watts. He poured us their entire portfolio and it was great to hear from Craig himself about each wine. After the regular tasting, Craig poured us a glass of his Rosé Frizzante (which we had thoroughly enjoyed the day before!) and pointed us toward the garden where Delia Colorado-Rubio andGage Courtois were performing the latest top 40 hits. We truly appreciated that Delia and Gage were taking all of our requests which made it fun to dance and sing along. The Rosé Frizzante is a delicate sparkling rosé. It’s fragrant and delightfully full of raspberry, cherry and plum notes. It’s so refreshing and different that we encourage all our readers to visit the Upstream/Watts tasting room and pick up a case. We promise you’ll love it and, of course, make sure to buy a bottle or two of their other wines as well!! Also, make sure to say hi to Craig Watts and his team and if possible request a tasting with Ellen, who was such a burst of colorful energy and really added to why we had such a great time during our first visit. We left Upstream/Watts with our very own case of the Rosé Frizzante (under the new Mundo del Sol label) and couldn’t be happier!
Peirano Estate Vineyards was our third stop of the day. We were welcomed with warm smiles from everyone in the tasting room. By this time, we were really hungry and – thankfully – they had delicious savory appetizers that paired nicely with their legendary wines. Also included in their spread was some great cheese(s) from Fiscalini Cheese Company. Gypsy guitarist, Nicholas Liefler, played ambient music which added to the relaxing afternoon as we sat in the garden sipping wine with appetizers and enjoying the vineyard. They, too, had great case deals for the day and we “walked” home with a case of their adventurous Chardonnay, “the Other” White Blend, described as tastefully seductive and sensually delicious. The label alone is worth a look! Aside from their “Immortal” Zin, we also really enjoyed the 2013 Sauvignon Blanc – which was on “Zinfest special” for the day as well.
Our last two stops were Lodi Vintners and Oak Ridge Winery. The Lodi Vintners tasting room was nice, though it had seemingly been a long Zinfest weekend for some. We were able to reconnect with their Consumer Direct Manager, Dennis Fagundes, whom we had chatted with the day before and he kindly carved out a space for us at the tasting bar while enthusiastically guiding our tasting experience. At Oak Ridge Winery, Lodi’s oldest operating winery (since 1934), the staff greeted us with warm hellos as we entered the 50,000 gallon redwood tank that doubles as their tasting room. The staff was genuinely excited to hear about the event at the park where we met their Graphic Designer, Nicole. Originally started by a cooperative of local growers, the family-owned passion and pride in their heritage very obviously continues. The energy was great and it made for an enjoyable first time in their tasting room – we’ll be back for more “Ancient Vine” Zin!
Overall, the wines we tasted from Lodi held their own to the best of Napa and Sonoma. There is a rich viticulture history in Lodi and we hope to explore it in depth with our future visits to this appellation. Thanks to LoCA for putting together the Lodi ZinFest! We had fun at our first Lodi Zinfest and are definitely glad that we came back for our second time! This is sure to be an annual event for SIP & SAVEUR and we look forward to all our readers joining us next year!
Just east of San Francisco, in the town of Alameda, is the Rock Wall Wine Company. The Rock Wall Wine Company is located in the historic Alameda Naval Air Base. Started by the Rosenblum Family, Kent Rosenblum was the founder and winemaker for Rosenblum Winery. With 35 years of winemaking experience, he grew the business from 400 cases to a 250,000 cases a year venture. In 2008, Kent sold the Rosenblum Winery and started the Rock Wall Wine Company with daughter, Shauna, as the winemaker. “We wanted to go back to a family business that focused on great wines and having a good time,” says Kent. Today, Shauna heads up the cellar at the 25,000-case family venture, with Kent as CEO.
The Rock Wall Wine Company’s facility is in Building 24, a 40,000 square-foot hanger that was retrofitted with state of the art winemaking equipment. The company’s name, Rock Wall, refers to the walls surrounding the Naval Air Base which are visible throughout the waterfront of the facility. Rock walls were built during WWII in the San Francisco Bay to protect the base from the Japanese air to sea torpedoes.
The Rock Wall Wine Company’s ideal location allows Shauna and her team to be regionally centralized assuring that the fruits are soon handled and the process of making wine is started after they are picked from the vines. Rock Wall Wine Company sources their grapes from acclaimed vineyards throughout California. Cabernet Sauvignon from the Napa Valley, Zinfandel from Sonoma County, Petite Syrah from Contra Costa County and Chardonnay from the Santa Lucia Highlands. The different grape varietals allow Rock Wall Wine Company to produce award winning wines.
The Rock Wall Wine Company offers its visitors and members a unique urban winery experience. The winery boasts clear views of the San Francisco skyline. Visit the Rock Wall Wine Company tasting room at 2301 Monarch St #300, Alameda, CA 94501 and their website at rockwallwines.com.
On Sunday, April 17th, we attended the 2nd (hopefully Annual!) Healdsburg Pink Party. It was held – for the first time – in the beautiful Garden at Studio Barndiva. In addition, we couldn’t have asked for a better day from Mother Nature! It was the perfect start to Rosé Season. #roséallday
The event (co-produced by Banshee Wines) featured new releases of rosé from seventeen Sonoma County wineries. It was such a lovely event with most attendees getting the memo to wear their pink frocks. The Barndiva waitstaff expertly passed small bites that paired nicely with the rosés – a favorite standout being the goat cheese croquettes with lavender honey.
For those of you, like us!, who can’t wait for next year’s party, at least two wineries have upcoming events surrounding their own release(s) in May. Be sure to check out both Front Porch Farm (a plant sale is included in their party) as well as the release of Lumia – by famed winemaker Jessica Boone from Passalacqua, where her party will also be held. Please note that while there may be no cost to attend, these events do require an RSVP/reservation.
If we were forced to choose favorites of the seventeen or so different rosés being poured, we would pick the following (of course, in no particular order.)
For those of us who are thinking of starting your wine collection in the new year here are the guidelines from American wine and spirits columnist, Elin McCoy for Bloomberg Markets.
If this is the year you want to start stockpiling excellent wines, here is what you must know to begin.
Have a Plan
Please. Like many wine lovers, I started out haphazardly squirreling away a few prized reds and ended up with a disorganized mix of bottles and cases in a corner of my basement. I’ve become systematic about my quietly aging stash.
There are plenty of reasons to collect. For example, there’s convenience in having fine wines on hand so you don’t need to dash out at the last minute in quest of serious bottles for a special dinner. And you save a lot by buying the better stuff when it’s young and cheap—and aging it yourself—rather than paying jacked-up-prices for hard-to-find mature examples.
Although the majority of wines are made to be consumed within months, the best reds taste way better after they’ve aged at least several years, even a decade, or more. The wines’ edgy tannins mellow, and fruity flavors evolve into layers of earthy complexity that repay time spent waiting to drink them. (A number of whites, preserved by high acidity, also improve with time.)
Follow Your Taste
Buying wine is like buying art, except that you have to consume at least some of it along the way to enjoy it. So pick what you like. The only wines really worth collecting are ones you actually like to drink. Investment potential? Remember that wine isn’t as liquid (no pun intended) as stocks, and there are no guarantees that prices for your bottles will rise to bragging levels by the time you want to sell.
Taste Before You Buy
Buy a bottle and try it before buying a case. But I wouldn’t advise buying more than two cases of any one wine.
Why? Collectors’ tastes evolve. I’ve watched former cult cab fanatics sell off case after case at auction so they can splurge on their new passion, Burgundy.
Taste Before You Buy
Buy a bottle and try it before buying a case. But I wouldn’t advise buying more than two cases of any one wine.
Why? Collectors’ tastes evolve. I’ve watched former cult cab fanatics sell off case after case at auction so they can splurge on their new passion, Burgundy.
Think About Storage
There’s no point in keeping fine wines reposing in a fancy rack in the kitchen. Sadly, I’ve observed too many expensive reds displayed as decor and gradually destroyed because the temperature was too warm (a steady 55 degrees is ideal) or low humidity dried the corks. Invest in a temperature-controlled unit, keep an inventory of what you buy, and don’t forget to list it all on your insurance in case of power failure.
Get a Solid Seller
Purchasing from a reliable merchant, or direct from a winery, is better than running off to an auction, at least when you’re starting out. And don’t be seduced by prices that are too good to be true. California retailer Premier Cru offered amazing deals on Bordeaux crus classes and is now being sued by angry customers who never got their wines.
And Now … Where to Start?
What to collect? Forget much-hyped trophies and hunt wines from regions that big, established collectors overlook. Pick a place you love (such as Provence) or wineries you’ve visited.
Here’s my pick of a half-dozen regions that are undervalued today, in which it’s still possible to find older vintages at reasonable prices.
California & Oregon: West Coast pinot noirs don’t turn up in auctions the way Napa Cabernets do, so some can still be had for under $50. Yet many have the balance and acidity to age. Look for the less-expensive bottlings from Kutch, Failla, Ceritas, and Knez (all from the Sonoma Coast and Anderson Valley) and from Eyrie from Oregon.
Loire Valley: This is first-class collectible territory right now, with reds from Cabernet Franc and whites from Chenin Blanc that age brilliantly for up 30 years and sometimes more. Best-bet reds are from Chinon, Bourgueil, and Saumur-Champigny. such as Olga Raffault Chinon Les Picasses (current vintages $25, 1989 $75) and Catherine and Pierre Breton Bourgueil Les Perrières ($40, older vintages $80). (For dry whites, look for Savennières (Domaine du Closel), Montlouis (Jacky Blot), and Vouvray (Domaine Huet).
Provence: The region isn’t just for rosé. Full-bodied reds from Bandol, east of Marseille, for example, are made primarily from Mourvedre and have the power and depth to last. The most elegant one is deep, intensely aromatic Château de Pibaron (current vintages $40, older vintages $65).
Beaujolais: Reds from the crus of Moulin-à-Vent and Morgon, made from Gamay grown on granite soils, have weight and structure as well as rich fruit and can be as impressive and age-worthy as some Burgundies. Recent vintages 2014 and 2011 (along with 2005) are outstanding. Dynamite bottles come from Domaine du Vissoux (Moulin-à-Vent) and in Morgon, Domaines Louis-Claude Desvignes, Jean-Paul Thévenet, and Jean Foillard. Most current vintages are about $25.
Rioja: This historic region in central Spain is noted for its long-lived reds, and many wineries regularly release elegant old vintages from the cobwebbed “cemeteries” in their cellars. One is CVNE (Compañía Vinícola del Norte de España), whose highly complex, smoky toned Imperial Gran Reserva (current $55, older $60 and up) and brighter, spicier Viña Real Gran Reserva (current $35, older $65 and up) are made mostly from Tempranillo.
Germany: Why the Rieslings from this country are still so undervalued remains a mystery to me. These whites are bright, zippy, and food-friendly when young, and they develop amazing complexity after five to 10 and more years. I’ve had bottles from the 1920s that are still singing. Even the top “Grosses Gewächs” (grand cru) wines from such stellar producers as Keller, Dönnhoff, and Zilliken cost $25 to $50 a bottle.
Restauranteur and Chef, Gabriela Cámara makes her U.S. restaurant debut in San Francisco with, CALA. Cámara has four restaurants in Mexico, including her Mexico City flagship, Contramar.
The food menu at CALA is light and fresh. The cocktails are refreshing and the space is hip and beautiful. Its definitely a new favorite for SIP & SAVEUR. CALA, is the Spanish word for “cove” or “creek”; which Gabriela Cámara feels represents of the symbolism of the sea coming into the land. So we are expecting the menu to feature seasonal, sustainable and local seafood.
CALA is located in the Hayes Valley neighborhood in San Francisco, on 149 Fell Street. Which is the perfect location in San Francisco because it is close to the Symphony and the Orpheum Theater as well as beautiful shops and other new and innovative restaurants.
We hope that when you’re in San Francisco that you are able to get a reservation and have a wonderful experience like we had at CALA.
This baked beans recipe is one of our favorites to make year round. It is quite literally a ONE POT DINNER, taken from “Delectable Dishes,” A Collection of Recipes sold as a fundraiser for Alameda High DECA. The recipe itself was provided by my high school DECA teacher, JoAna Sydow, who taught me everything I know about marketing and business presentations. Ms. Sydow lost her battle with cancer, though she is fondly remembered every time I prepare the recipe we once enjoyed together.
You can have these beans on their own or as a side dish at a BBQ gathering of friends and family. Those we’ve made it for have referred to it as “crack beans” because they’re so addictive. It’s that amazing. We hope that you and yours enjoy it and as much as we do every time we make it. We enjoy it paired with a Pinot Noir from Bennet Valley Cellars or the 2012 Estate Syrah from Belden Barns.
ONE POT DINNER
(Preheat Oven at 375 degrees)
1lb. Ground Beef
3/4lb. Bacon (cut in small slices)
1 Cup Diced Onion
2 15oz. Cans of Pork and Beans
1 Can of Kidney Beans (drained)
1 Can of Butter Beans (NOT LIMA BEANS)
1 Cup of Brown Sugar
1 Table Spoons of Garlic Pepper
1/4 spoon of salt
4 Table Spoons of Liquid Smoke (I used Applewood)
1 Cup of Ketchup
Brown onions and bacon in a large skillet. Add ground beef.
Remove skillet from the heat and drain grease.
Pour mixture in a large mixing bowl.
Add all cans of beans, brown sugar, salt, garlic pepper, liquid smoke, and ketchup.
Mix together and then pour into a large baking dish.
Bake at 375 degrees for one hour or until thick and brown around the edges of the baking dish.
A salon is a gathering of people under the roof of an inspiring host, held partly to amuse one another and partly to refine the taste and increase the knowledge of the participants through conversation.
Recently, SIP & SAVEUR attended the inaugural evening of the Winemaker Salon in San Francisco organized and hosted by Cynthia Hogan. The evening was held at a private home in Cow Hollow. Anne Olson, the Chef for the evening, meticulously paired each course with the beautiful wines of our friends, and the featured winemakers of the evening, Nate and Lauren Belden of Belden Barns.
The evening started with the Belden Barns 2014 Estate Rosé of Pinot Noir which Anne Olson paired with a roasted fig with sheeps’ milk ricotta, balsamic and fresh thyme. This was followed by a Yellowtail Crudo with coconut milk, apple and sautéed shallots which was paired with the Belden Barns 2014 Estate Sauvignon Blanc. This second pairing was definitely one of the standout pairings of the evening and something we still talk about. The freshness and cool texture of the Yellowtail played a nice base for the lightness of the coconut milk reduction; the apple and sautéed shallots added a nice hint of crisp and caramelized bitterness (sweet & savory). When the flavors of Chef Olson’s exquisite Crudo and the Belden’s Sauvignon Blanc melded on the palate, the sensation was like experiencing the most beautiful Maui Sunset for the first time. An absolute dream. The coconut milk brought out the sweet and tangy pineapple and tropical fruit characteristics of the Sauvignon Blanc.
Belden Barns did not disappoint. They poured their entire wine list, including the 2013 Estate Grüner Veltliner, 2013 Estate Chardonnay, 2013 Estate Pinot Noir, 2012 Estate Syrah and as a special surprise for the dessert course, their 2012 Estate Late Harvest Viognier. The evening was such a delight with great company and amazing wines. We are looking forward to attending future Winemaker Salon events.
This Fig and Blue Cheese Savories recipe from food52.com is one of our favorite to serve as appetizers at our dinner parties. Its quick and easy to prepare in a short amount of time. It is also the perfect combination of buttery sweet and savory.
1 cup all-purpose flour
(to make it gluten-free friendly substitute in gluten-free flour)
1/2 cup butter at room temperature
4 ounces crumbled blue cheese
Fresh ground pepper
Fig preserves, about 3 tablespoon
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Place the flour, butter, blue cheese and a few grinds of black pepper in the bowl of a food processor. Process until the dough just comes together and starts to form a ball.
Dump the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead a few times to pull the dough together. Roll out to 1/8 inch thick with a floured rolling pin. Cut rounds out of the dough with a floured 1-inch cutter and transfer the rounds to the parchment-lined baking sheet.
Using the back or a round half-teaspoon measure or your knuckle, make an indentation in the top of each dough round. Spoon about ¼ teaspoon of fig preserves into each indentation, using your finger to push the preserves as best as possible into the indentations.
Bake the savories for 10 – 14 minutes, until the preserves are bubbling and the pastry is light golden on the bottom.
Let cool on the baking sheet for at least 10 minutes, the remove to a wire rack to cool.
After a day of July 4th festivities and an evening full of fireworks in Healdsburg, CA the night before, we excitedly woke up Sunday morning to meet with Wendy and Frederic (Fred) Nunes of Nunes Vineyard in Santa Rosa, CA. We first met Wendy and Fred at Pinot Days in San Francisco. We were thrilled to have been invited by Wendy for a private tasting. As we drove up their driveway, we were met with a warm welcome. It was a bit overcast, but a perfect summer morning nonetheless. We started with a stroll in the vineyard, Fred as our guide while Wendy prepared the tasting.
Fred began with his story about his background and how the property came to be in his family. The Nunes Vineyard is on a 43 acres ranch that sits across the Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast which makes it an ideal spot to grow Pinot Noir grapes. Fred’s Grandfather bought the ranch property in the 1950’s to farm hay and raise pigs, as well as a place to get away from the City on the weekends. Fred grew up with his father, Ed Nunes, in Salinas, CA, and looked forward to his visits to San Francisco where he would listen to his Italian grandfather, Fred Muzio, tell stories about winemaking and brandy distilling. At 12 years old, Fred provisioned a small vineyard down the side of their house and established his first vinegar barrel. His passion for the art of winemaking and growing grapes would come full circle in 1997 after retiring from his 30-year career as a firefighting helicopter pilot.
In 1997, Fred and Wendy sold everything and leased the ranch from Fred’s mother, Dorothy Muzio Nunes. They then built a house on the adjacent property and started planning Nunes Vineyard. Fred’s innate knowledge for working the farm naturally kicked in. With a degree in Systematic Biology and Ecology from San Francisco State University, Fred saw the opportunity to meld his interest in science with his loves of grape growing and winemaking. Wendy brought with her experience in business and graphic design. They both completed viticulture classes at Santa Rosa Junior College and became quick studies. Fred and Wendy took every viticulture and enology class they could find while at the same time reading every recommended book. In the Spring of 2000, they planted their first grapes – ten different blocks of Pinot Noir.
Many in the wine industry consider Fred a “Winemaker’s grower.” It is easy to sense his passion and enthusiasm for grape growing and tending to the vines when he is passionately speaking about his vineyard and all the hard work he has put into it over the years. Listening to him talk, you can sense his vast knowledge in the art and science of growing grapes. He can discus in full detail the terroir of his vineyard as well as the anatomy of his vines and his method of trellising and how he likes to manage his canopies (as compared to others). You can tell that he is hands on when it comes to his grapes and the vineyard. Fred and Wendy did not consider making wine until they knew how to grow grapes first. Starting with their first vintage in 2002, their carefully raised Pinot Noir went to several good wineries – think Papapietro and Matrix – and into some wonderful wines, many of them award winners.
In 2004, to fully understand the transition of their grapes to wonderful Pinot Noir, Fred and Wendy started making wine. They got the barn licensed as a winery and named it St. Rose after Santa Rosa. St. Rose Pinot Noir expresses the Nunes Vineyard’s unique location—the soil, weather, culture, tradition, and…well, the couple themselves. Fred and Wendy personally select from their favorite blocks to find the right balance and complexity. They cellar the wine in 50% new French oak, and then blend a few of their best barrels together before bottling. They make two wines: the Ten Block blend (named for the ten blocks of Pinot Noir covering their entire vineyard) and a single clone, the 777. Now, with the addition of a couple copper stills in 2014, they also make brandy and grappa, both of which are to be featured at the upcoming SF Craft Spirits Carnival.
We found our time at Nunes Vineyard be to such an informative and refreshing experience. We suggest that anyone interested in setting up a private tasting contact Wendy at firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to request the Fred tour of the vineyard…and, of course, mention SIP & SAVEUR sent ya! Finally, for a special surprise (discount?) be sure to ask Wendy about her “e-mail wine club.”
We tasted (and, of course, purchased!) the following wines on our recent visit:
2011 Ten Block: This vintage is both easy to drink and complex at the same time. It’s what you expect in a classic Pinot Noir: light in color, but with just enough acidity. Not as earthy as you might expect, but a nice herbal finish with some minerality nonetheless. SIP & SAVEUR noted dark fruit, think cherry!, along with more floral notes of rose or violet.
2012 Ten Block: The flavors in the 2012 St. Rose pinot stood out for SIP & SAVEUR (ask about it in the e-mail club). As refined and restrained as the others, this one is perhaps the most complex in flavor. Aside from the now expected cherry, the 2012 brings in notes of rhubarb and raspberry. Low in tannins and with a nice, smooth finish (like the others) you are likely to taste anything from cloves to vanilla.
777 (2011): The 777 clone is a true St. Rose pinot. It has the same light color and smooth texture. The fruit, again, reminds SIP & SAVEUR of bing cherry. Although some might find this wine to be a lightweight, we were impressed by its long finish which brought out the nuance and herbal notes such as garden and oak.
We asked our friend, Ellen Mccoy to help us find a perfect recipe to pair with a nice Rosé and she came up with this amazing recipe for Ceviche. We love it because it's quick and easy for a summer afternoon with a nice chilled glass of Rosé and great company.
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 cup fresh grapefruit juice
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 1/5 Tablespoon of finely chopped shallot
1 Tablespoon of olive oil
1 1/2 Teaspoon finely chopped, seeded jalapeno
1 lb sea scallops, sliced into 1/4-inch thick rounds
1lb shrimp, sliced in half length wise
1 Large Avocado, diced
1/8 cup minced fresh cilantro
1 Tablespoon of finely chopped fresh mint
Pinch of pink salt
Stir lime, fresh grapefruit, and lemon juice together. Stir in the chopped shallots, olive oil, and jalapeno. Add the scallops and shrimp. Cover and place in the refrigerator for 2-6 hours.
Before serving stir in avocado, cilantro, mint and salt to taste. Strain the juices if desired and serve with tortilla chips.
Pair with your favorite Rosé.
We here at SIP & SAVEUR like to play by the rules. We believe there is proper etiquette for everything. Here are 14 rules to follow on your next tasting room visit set by Wine Enthusiast Contributing Editor Matt Kettmann, Hugh Margerum, Larry Schaffer of Tercero Winery in Los Olivos, and Andrew Jones.
Don’t wear fragrance. There go my cologne dreams! Seems obvious, but scents can ruin the tasting experience for everyone within nose-shot.
Be open-minded: Drop pre-conceived preferences. “Maybe you’ve never tasted a rosé you’ve liked, but go ahead and try what is being offered,” says Margerum.
“I have folks say that they do not like sweet wines at all, but my ‘dryish’ Gewürztraminer turns out to be their favorite of the wines poured!” adds Schaffer.
Don’t flex too much wine knowledge. I usually refrain from talking too technically in a tasting room because it seems like I’m showing off. And often the tasting room staff, who tend to be entry-level employees, don’t know as much as you’d think. “It’s fun for me personally to deal with folks who know a lot about wine—I love the tête-à-tête,” says Schaffer. “But for the average tasting room employee, it probably isn’t that much fun.”
But no matter who’s working, know-it-alls are no fun. “We get this a lot with older patrons that don’t get us or our concept,” said Jones. Adds Margerum, “We are there to showcase what we do and welcome all levels of expertise and knowledge.”
Don’t pretend to be in the industry. “Industry” truly means those working to make a living within the wine trade, so don’t fake it just to get a discount or special treatment, even if you are truly passionate. “We seriously have home winemakers come in with fold ‘n’ tear business cards they made at home and ask for discounts,” says Jones.
And if you are industry, act like it. “If you are industry, and it’s a busy Saturday, don’t ask for special treatment when we have a full bar,” says Jones.
Go ahead and swallow. There’s no need to spit. “It’s not all about education,” Jones says. “It’s okay to drink a little and have some fun.”
But spit if you’re visiting a lot of tasting rooms, “moderate your intake,” Margerum says. “The bane of tasting rooms are drunk tasters.”
And dump, too. “It is not rude to pour out wines, even ones that you like,” says Schaffer. “’Spit’ and ‘Dump’ are four letter words that should not be.”
Don’t ask for the “good stuff.” Definitely don’t, but it’s okay to inquire whether there are any library or reserve wines open beyond the advertised flight. Just realize that special requests should increase your pressure to purchase wine.
Linger, but meaningfully. Both Schaffer and Margerum happily allow people to retry wines if they are considering a purchase, so long as patrons aren’t getting drunk or disrupting the experience for others. Jones thinks lingering is more the fault of the winery than the taster. “If you format things right, it isn’t an issue,” he says.
Do buy wine. “Some tasting rooms have a specific policy about waiving the tasting fee when a particular amount of wine is purchased,” says Margerum. “For others it’s a judgment call.” Jones usually waives the $10 fee with a two-bottle purchase, but understands not purchasing if you have to fly home. Schaffer waives the tasting fee with three bottles, but “sometimes less depending upon the circumstance.”
But don’t haggle. Jones can’t stand “patrons who try and work it like it’s a car deal. It’s just wine. I don’t get how people haggle, always wanting extra deals.”
Tips? Depends. Jones doesn’t take tips. “It’s a tasting room, not a bar,” he says. But Margerum and Schaffer are both open to tipping.