Posts Tagged ‘gregory graham wines’

Short Sips and Quick Trips

August 25, 2012

With harvest approaching, there’s still time before it gets crazy busy for a quick trip to wine country to check out new offerings and old favorites.

I’ve put together some  suggestions below for specific events in the next few weeks.

Sonoma Wine Country Weekend

A three-day slate of tastings and special events featuring Sonoma County’s best wines is on tap for the Labor Day weekend.

The main event of the 33rd annual Sonoma Wine Country Weekend will be held Saturday (Sept. 1) from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at MacMurray Ranch, the winery named after founder Fred MacMurray, the late actor.

More than 170 wineries will be pouring tastes for guests who will also be served by 60 local chefs. Tickets are $150 online.

Many of the wineries are hosting individual winemaker dinners and other events from Friday (Aug. 31) to Sunday (Sept. 2). Here’s a list of the full lineup of events.

Lastly, the long weekend concludes with a charity auction.

if you want to buy a treasured or rare bottle of wine, check out the 20th annual Sonoma County Harvest Wine Auction at Chateau St. Jean pm Sunday (Sept. 2) from 1-7 p.m.

Winetasting, dinner and entertainment are included in the $500 ticket. Proceeds benefit local non-profits.

 Lake County Wineries Invade Treasure Island

On Saturday (Sept. 8), more than 100 wines will be poured at a tasting on Treasure Island sponsored by a group of more than 30 Lake County wineries.

The “Wines with Altitude” event will be held at The Winery SF from Noon to 3 p.m. Tickets are $60, but half-price admission is available online in advance.

Check out the Rhone-style wines made by one of my favorite Lake County producers, Gregory Graham, at this event.

 Family Winemakers of California

I’ll be attending the 21st annual Family Winemakers of California tasting on Sunday, Sept. 9 at Fort Mason in San Francisco. Tickets are $65 in advance and $75 at the door.

Hundreds of large, medium, small and micro wineries from across the state will pour tastes of old and new wines from dozens of different type grapes.

The event began with a few dozen wineries pouring samples back in 1991. I find it to be one of the best big tastings of the year and a great chance to try a wide variety of wines in one afternoon.

Be sure to pace yourself. Drink water between tastings and don’t arrive on an empty stomach. There will be food available to help bring your taste buds back to life.

Please use a designated drive or public transit if you overindulge.

Atlas Peak Harvest Celebration

A group of mountain wineries from the Atlas Peak appellation in Napa County will be celebrating harvest with a special tasting in Yountville on Saturday (Sept. 8) from 1-4 p.m. at the V Wine Cellar.

There are at least 10 producing wineries in this area, which is located northeast of downtown Napa, east of Yountville and above the foothills of the Stags Leap District.. Several winegrowing-0nly operations in Atlas Peak also supply grapes to some of Napa’s most prestigious winemakers. About 1,500 acres are currently in cultivation.

Advance tickets are on sale for $25. Click here to order.

Short Sips

I’m learning to appreciate Viognier, the French grape that some call the poor man’s Chardonnay.

I recently enjoyed a terrific bottle of 2010 Loredona Viognier from Lodi, a region best known for big red Zinfandel wines.

I bought the wine off the list at Gecko Gecko Thai in Berkeley, a tasty spot for a quick dinner that’s just down the street from one of my favorite music venues, Freight and Salvage.

The grapes are from Loredona’s Clay Station Vineyard lies northeast of Lodi in the foothills of the Sierras. Warm days and cool nights which are typical in this region help ripen the grapes to maturity.

The wine tasted of peaches with a pleasant honeysuckle nose. This lighter-bodied white wine went well with a crispy rice salad spiked with ground pork.

The Loredona Viognier can be found at Whole Foods and Beverages and More stores on sale for less than $10 a bottle.

It’s a great summertime sipper at a great price!

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Life After Napa

August 20, 2011

Gregory Graham didn’t have to go very far — only a few dozen miles — to leave Napa Valley behind and create an award-winning winery of his own in a brave new world called Lake County.

Gregory Graham’s Crimson Hill vineyard, set on a steep slope overlooking Clear Lake, produces zinfandel, cabernet, grenache, and syrah. He also makes a variety of white wines from purchased grapes.

Gregory Graham, Crimson Hill Vineyard

All of the wines are handcrafted by the accomplished owner, a straight talking, friendly guy, who established himself in the industry as the winemaker for Rombauer, a Napa-based premium winery where production ran into the hundreds of thousands of cases vs. current production of 5,000 cases.

Graham is pouring his wines at The Winery SF on Treasure Island Saturday (Aug. 20) with a dozen other Lake County producers and at the Family Winemakers of California event at Fort Mason on Sunday (Aug. 21) when hundreds of family owned wineries from across the state will be putting their best pours forward.

Graham purchased the Red Hills property in 2000 and later bought an adjacent vineyard. The property had previously been a walnut orchard. Several of the majestic trees still line the edge of the property, whose red volcanic soil is rich with mineral deposits.

I discovered Graham and his wines almost by accident. I wanted to look beyond Napa and Sonoma for a wine based vacation and turned to the Clear Lake region as a well priced alternative with warm weather and diverse outdoor activities.

Lake County has 28 wineries today, equaling the number of wineries here before Prohibition which killed commercial wine development here for fifty years.

Star-Studded Lineup

I loved all 12 of Graham’s wines.

He gets special kudos for the 2008 Sauvignon Blanc ($16) and the 2009 Viognier ($20).

The sauvignon blanc presented a ray of citrus sunshine, with none of the grassy or herbal notes found in some lesser examples.

The viognier had a lovely honeysuckle nose, with beautiful peach and nectarine flavors.

Each of the reds also showed the master’s touch.

The Grenache and Syrah, Graham’s personal favorites, stand out. Both current releases are from the 2007 vintage and both are great values at $20 per bottle.

The Syrah tasted of ripe purple plums and the grenache offered a streak of sweet strawberries.

The 2008 estate Zinfandel was superb.

Its fruit-forward blackberry flavors even got a thumbs-up from my wife, whose tastes usually run ABZ (anything but Zinfandel).

Unexpected Pleasure

I didn’t expect all this goodness when I began scouring the Internet for a vacation rental near Clear Lake.

I certainly thought staying on the grounds of a vineyard would be fun, and it was.

Paying guests get a private tour, with Greg at the helm of his “mule,” a diesel-powered 4×4 that hauled us up the 10 percent grade along the vines studded with berries still a few months away from harvest.

The Crimson Hill guest house — a three bedroom home with a large deck and hot tub overlooking California’s oldest and largest natural lake — sits just downslope from the owner’s ridgetop home. Rates average $200.

Clear Lake Comestibles Shine

Two must-stop dining destinations in the area are the Blue Wing Saloon in Upper Lake and the Saw Shop Gallery and Bistro in Kelseyville.

At the Blue Wing, try the dreamy arancini — balls of deep-fried risotto stuffed with goat cheese and sun-dried tomatoes. Also good are the fried calamari and the sweet potato fries which are served by the bucket!

At the Saw Shop, we loved the cold corn soup with crab and the pork cheek prepared “osso buco” style over polenta.

Outdoor Attractions

We worked up our appetites one day with a hike along a ridgetop trail at the Clear Lake County Park near Kelseyville. A 40-minute walk took
us past a group camp facility and then to several outlooks that gave us a grand view of the opposite shore.

Another day, we spent four hours kayaking along Rodman Slough, a wildlife-rich sanctuary on the northern edge of the lake .

Grebes, herons, ducks and egrets provided a fascinating panorama as we maneuvered along the tule-studded and algae-rich waters.

There are several purveyors of boats at the lake. We got two singles and a tandem kayak for $135 from Kayaks 2 Go.