Posts Tagged ‘auction napa valley’

Festival Season is Upon Us

March 25, 2011

We’re right in the midst of my favorite time in wine country. Festival season.

I’ve got info to share on two wine-tasting events in San Francisco and Oakland/Alameda, but first a quick report on a really nice sauvignon blanc.

A bottle of 2009 sauvignon blanc from Franciscan Estate in Napa found its way into my kitchen (the winery sent me a sample) and I’d actually forgotten about it until a desperate need arose for a white wine to pair with a salmon dinner.

Too lazy to tramp down to the cellar, I frantically searched the kitchen wine cabinet and then sorted through the 12 or so bottles stashed on various tables, counters and shelves.

The Franciscan was the only white in sight, so I slid it into the fridge for a 20-minute cool-down while I pan roasted a delicious filet of coho salmon marinated in olive oil and fresh Meyer lemon juice.

SV Hits the Spot

I like a crisp glass of sauvignon blanc in the summertime, on a hot night or at the beach, and also sometimes with steamed crab. I don’t believe I’d had any memorable SV with salmon before, since chardonnay is generally my “go-to” wine with salmon.

A glass of the tasty Franciscan changed my mind. It paired beautifully with the juicy pink fish, served over a bed of white and red quinoa with a side of sautéed red and dinosaur kale.

This agile wine showed a lime-centric core wrapped in layers of melon and a touch of something pleasingly tropical.

It’s a definite keeper at $17 a bottle.

Damn the Torpedoes, Festival Season Ahead

I’ve already reported on the 2011 versions of ZAP (Zinfandel Advocates and Producers) and the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, and there’s a lot more wine event action ahead.

Rhone Rangers Report

This weekend, the Rhone Rangers hold their yearly grand tasting at Fort Mason in San Francisco.

There are events on both Saturday (March 26) and Sunday (March 27). Here’s a link to details, with the featured tasting scheduled from 2-5 p.m. Sunday. Prices are $45 at the door.

This group is focused on promoting American wines with strong ties to the Rhone Valley of France. Rhone-style wines can be made from 22 different varieties of grapes, including syrah, grenache, mourvedre (all red) and viognier, roussane and marsanne (all white).

If I were picking California’s leading Rhone-style wine producers I’d be sure to include these two Central Coast stars:

Tablas Creek, which is owned by the same family that owns one of the Rhone’s greatest estates — Chateau de Beaucastel.

And, Zaca Mesa, a delightful winery in Los Olivos that started planting vines in 1973.

Both wineries will be pouring at the Rhone Rangers event in San Francisco.

East Bay Action

The East Bay Vintner’s Alliance puts on its annual Passport event next Saturday (April 2). Tastings are grouped at six urban wineries in (naturally) the East Bay.

Tickets are $40 and that includes a free shuttle bus between the wineries, BART and the Oakland Ferry Terminal.

There are 21 wineries pouring samples. Public transit is definitely the way to go, unless you’ve got a designated driver!

Tasting stops include: JC Cellars and Dashe Cellars — which share a building near Jack London Square in Oakland; the brand new Cerruti Cellars tasting room in Jack London Square; Periscope Cellars, an Emeryville producer that has moved its tasting room to a new location at Linden Street Brewery in Oakland which I wrote about in one of my earlier blogs; Rock Wall Wine Company, located in an old airplane hangar in Alameda; Rosenblum Cellars, which still has a tasting room next to the Alameda Ferry Terminal; and Urban Legend, a small winery located in an old commercial building on Oakland’s 4th Street.

For a full list of participating wineries, click here.

What’s Next?

I’ll be reporting on lots of wine tasting events over the coming months, from Monterey to Mendocino. Here are a few of the major attractions on my radar:

April — East Bay Vintners Association Passport

May — Santa Lucia Highlands Gala

June — Auction Napa Valley 2011, TAPAS Festival (Tempranillo Advocates, Producers and Amigos Society),  Taste of Mendocino

If you have a favorite wine festival, tasting or other wine-related event coming up over the next few months, please let me know about it.



Good Wine, Good Deeds

January 22, 2010

The wine business can be a snake pit of competition, but it’s also a fountain of compassion when it comes to helping the less fortunate. Good deeds and good works just go hand in hand with good wine.

The premier fund-raising event in Wine Country is Auction Napa Valley, which runs June 3-6 with a wide variety of wine and food themed events culminating in the bigger-than-life live auction. This is the 30th anniversary of the Napa Valley Vintners-sponsored event, which raised $5.2 million for local charities last year and boosted total donations over the years to $90 million. Click here to see KTVU’s video coverage of the 2009 auction.

Every Little Bit Helps

On a different scale, the folks at Alameda Point Vintners, a collection of boutique wineries within Rock Wall Wines in Alameda, wanted to do something to help the victims of the devastating earthquake in Haiti.

They decided to donate 10% of sales through Sunday to the Red Cross effort in Haiti. The tasting room is open all weekend — a good reason to try, and maybe buy, some good wines. Here’s my recent blog about Rock Wall Wines and its friends.

In Napa, Ceja Vineyards is donating 15 percent of its online wine purchases through Jan. 31 to the American Red Cross for Haiti earthquake recovery efforts.

For a list of charity organizations taking donations earmarked for Haiti relief, read the Better Business Bureau guidelines.

Feel Good, Do Good

There is the “feel good” component of making charitable donations that is often amplified by the “do good” component.

A good example is the “Blending for a Cause” program that donates profits from wine sales to melanoma cancer research. Dutcher Crossing owner Debra Mathy began the charity effort following her father’s death just two months before she purchased the Healdsburg winery in 2007.

Debra and winemaker Kerry Damskey will lead the blending event on Feb. 8 from 1-3 p.m. The blend will be cabernet-based, with fruit from Mt. Veeder’s Mountain Terrace Vineyard. Check out the Dutcher Crossing web site for more details.

There are many other charitable efforts throughout the wine industry. Please comment below about your favorite wine-related event and I’ll share the info in a future blog.

I Told You So

A quick glance through the winners of the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition showed great showings by tiny Oakstone Cellars in Fair Play, which I wrote about in last week’s blog. Oakstone won 13 awards, including the top wines in two categories!

Oakstone won Best of Class Judge’s Choice in the Bordeaux Blends category (up to $19.99) with its 2007 Meritage  ($19.99) from the Estate De Cascabel Vineyard and also took Best of Class honors in the Zinfandel category (up to $19.99) with its 2007 Fair Play zin ($16).

You can taste the Chronicle competition winners yourself at a public tasting Feb. 20 at Fort Mason in San Francisco. Click here for more info.

Wine Pick of the Week

I’m a sucker for a decent bottle of pinot for less than a sawbuck, but I’m often disappointed by thin, tart tastes in many mass-produced bargain pinots from California.

I picked up a bottle of DeLoach Vineyards 2007 Russian River pinot noir on sale for $8.99 last week and  got much more than a bargain. I discovered a rush of lovely strawberry fruit with a hint of tasty rhubarb on the finish. Delightful stuff that carries a full retail price of $20. It matches up well with a sirloin steak braised in butter and then grilled and served with brown mushrooms in pinot reduction sauce.

Looking at 2010 and Beyond

December 31, 2009

The coming year will present opportunities galore for wine lovers to expand horizons, excite tastebuds and enjoy the wide variety of offerings from California’s multi-faceted wine country.

The 2009 harvest is complete and the wines are resting in tanks and barrels, making the transition from raw juice to finished product. Early signs are hopeful, but the proof will be in what develops in the months and years ahead. Time, and effort, will tell.

Most of the 2009 vintage will not be released for another year, or more, depending on the type and style of wine. The early harvest or nouveau style wines debuted before New Year’s. Young, feisty and anything-but-serious, these wines are meant for immediate consumption.

Next up will be the chardonnay and sauvignon blanc wines, most of which will be released over the next 12-24 months.

Zinfandel and syrah  and pinot noir usually show up for drinking in the second year after harvest. The 2009 merlot and cabernet wines will need more time — two or more years after harvest — to become finished wines. Some examples will be aged in barrel for even longer, to give them additional depth and complexity from the prolonged interaction with the wood.

You’ll see bottles from the 2007 and 2008 vintages — now ready for market — offered at tasting rooms and retail locations all over the place. For the adventurous, there will be opportunities to test the new wines before bottling via barrel tastings and special events designed to preview the pleasures to come.

Here are my recommendations for major wine-centric events you can attend over the next few months:


The Zinfandel Advocates and Producers (ZAP) 19th annual grand tasting will be held at Fort Mason (San Francisco) from January 28-30. There are special winemaker dinners and smaller focused tastings before the grand tasting on Saturday the 30th.. While the list is still growing, ZAP officials expect 250 wineries to participate, with more than 1000 different wines available for tasting.

P.S. I Love You

This advocacy group, P.S. I Love You, supports all things related to petite sirah. Their fourth annual tasting event will be held Feb. 19 at Rock Wall Wine Company in Alameda. Each of the 40 or so participating wineries will pour their best bottles of petite sirah alongside great food from more than a dozen regional restaurants. A limited number of tickets are available online @ $60 apiece.

Savor Sonoma County

The 20th Annual Savor Sonoma Valley barrel tasting event will be held March 20-21. A group of 22 regional wineries participate in this fun event, held every year to showcase the newest vintage. A two-day pass is $55 per person. Tickets are on sale online at the Heart of Sonoma Valley web site.

Later in the year, the big auction events take center stage. Two of the biggest include Auction Napa Valley, the prestigious event put on June 3-6 by the Napa Valley Vintners, and Sonoma Wine Country Weekend on Sept. 4-7. Tickets for the Sonoma event go on sale in June.

Check your favorite winery’s website for information about product releases and other special events throughout the year. For example: I’ve got Feb. 6 circled on my calendar. That’s when Silver Oak unveils the new vintage for its Napa and Sonoma cabernet sauvignon with open houses at its wineries in Oakville and Geyserville from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

What’s your favorite wine event? Share your ideas with me and I’ll include them in an upcoming post.