Posts Tagged ‘lodi’

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!


Young Guns, Good Wines

May 27, 2011

If Ryan Moreland’s parents had a wheat field instead of a vineyard, he’d probably be making artisan bread from family grain.

But Ryan lives in St. Helena. His family has a small plot of sauvignon blanc. Naturally, he’s got wine fever.

Ryan Moreland

The 20-something has channeled his energy into winemaking. He has  his own label, Corvalle, with three wines currently for sale and a fourth due for release later this year.

Production is miniscule, but hopes are high.

I found something to like in all of Corvalle’s offerings at a tasting last weekend. The event, held in a warehouse wine making space near the Napa airport, featured “millenial” winemakers (35 and under).

I especially enjoyed the Corvalle 2010 sauvignon blanc, from a 1-acre vineyard in Rutherford, which is also home to iconic wineries like Grgich Hills Estate, Caymus and Cakebread Cellars. The neighborhood is a hotspot for big red wines, but this is a finely crafted sauvignon blanc ($24) that tastes great on its own and would also hold up well with grilled chicken or fish.

Also likeable was the Corvalle 2010 Weka Ranch Vineyard chardonnay ($21/bottle) from the Oak Knoll District and a pleasant rose’ made from an unusual 50/50 mix of Carneros pinot noir and Rutherford cabernet sauvignon.


Two wines made by Sheldon also caught my eye.

The 2007 chardonnay, made from the Sleepy Hollow Vineyard, is a nice example of barrel-fermented chardonnay from the Santa Lucia Highlands near Monterey. The 47-year-old vines produced a deep golden wine. It is unfiltered and unfined, showing a lovely balance between sweet oak and a nice acid tang.

Dylan and Tobe Sheldon

Sheldon is a co-production of Dylan and Tobe Sheldon. The couple, who met in a wine bar, learned the wine trade in New Zealand and France before returning to California to put their knowledge and belief in a minimalist approach into practice.

They currently have eight different wines for sale, including an unusual bottling of 2009 graciano, a Spanish red varietal grown in the easternmost reaches of the Lodi appellation.

Spell Wines

Hosting the tasting was Spelletich Vineyards, which operates in the warehouse space.

Kristen Spelletich, whose mother, Barbara, is the family winery’s chief winemaker, bottles her own, less-expensive wines under the Spell label. I first met Kristen at a tasting in St. Helena earlier this year, when I discovered her mom’s wonderful 2006 reserve merlot.

Kristen’s 2006 Spellonu Red, a blend of Napa cabernet sauvignon and merlot, is a very good wine at a great price ($15). This wine showed a sweet cherry core and nice balance with a whiff of mint in the nose.

Pouring All Zins, All the Time

January 31, 2010

There was an ocean of wine flowing beside San Francisco Bay at the world’s largest celebration of all things zinfandel, the 19th annual ZAP festival.

The funnel was Fort Mason, where about 300 wineries uncorked their best bottles for Saturday’s Zinfandel Advocates and Producers grand tasting — the culmination of a long weekend of zin-focused wine and food events. Hawaiian chef Beverly Gannon was the headliner and I especially enjoyed her island-themed meatloaf with sweet barbecue sauce served at Thursday’s “Good Eats and Zin” event, also at Fort Mason.

Alcatraz through the wine glass from Fort Mason

ZAP at Fort Mason

Good zins from Napa, Sonoma, the Central Coast, the Sierra Foothills and Lodi popped up alongside one red herring — an impressive European import with a link to California zinfandel.

The Accademia dei Racemi’s 2007 Sinfarosa from Puglia ($26)  tasted great and showed a true zinfandel fruitiness and blackberry backbone. The grape is known in Europe as primitivo, but it’s genetics are the same as our homegrown zinfandel.

Vintners mostly poured wines from the 2006 and 2007 vintages, but they also showed some 2008s, including many wines that won’t be released until later in the year.

I’m looking forward to Robert Biale‘s 2008 Monte Rosso Vineyard zin, a wonderfully fresh, approachable wine from one of Sonoma’s premier vineyards that will be bottled and released in a few months. A barrel sample was ripe, round and ready to drink.

The Monte Rosso Vineyard, first planted in 1938 by the venerable Martini wine family, is now owned by Gallo, which sells fruit from this site to more than dozen winemakers.

Let’s Dance and Drink Zin

One of my favorite wines at the tasting was from Dancing Lady Wines in Healdsburg, a winery I’d never run across before.

Winemaker Gia Passalacqua squeezes a ton of cherry fruit flavors topped by a twist of spice out of grapes for the 2007Della Costa Family Vineyard zinfandel ($27),which may even be surpassed by the unreleased 2008 version from the same Alexander Valley vineyard. Look for the 2008 to take the taste meter up another notch!

From Amador County fruit, Folie a Deux Winery in Oakville fashioned a great 2007 zin at a great price of $18. There’s a fine balance between just enough fruit and just enough tannic tartness to bode well at table with tomato-based sauces and lighter grilled meats.

Wine for Tonight

If I had to pick a wine to take home frdinner, it would be any of the following three wines poured by Hendry Wines. George Hendry grows wine on 117 acres divided into50 blocks of vines on his property in southwestern Napa. He nurtures several different red and white varietals, including some really great zinfandel.

The 2007 Hendry Block 7 & 22 zinfandel ($30) hasn’t been releasedyet, but it’s ready to go in my book with classic Napa zin credentials — cherry/berry fruit, a touch of smoke and enough tannins to hold everything together.

The 2006 Block 28 zinfandel ($30) showed some cabernet-type character, basically muting the fruit a bit and upping the tannins, still in balance and perfect for a roast beef dinner with all the trimmings.

Even the HRW ($15), a second-label blend of several Hendry zinfandel lots that don’t make the top-line assemblage, is a great everyday wine.

Jam Time

From the jammier side of the fruit spectrum comes Opolo Vineyards in Paso Robles. I’ve been drinking their wines for years and am a big fan of two 2007 offerings that were poured at ZAP.

The 2007 Opolo Mountain Vineyard ($28) has a big grape jam taste and structure that cries out for a sizzing steak or pork chop with a  sour cherry glaze. The 2007 Summit Creek ($20) was almost as fine with a streak of blue/red fruit spread across an equally enjoyable framework of integrated tannins.

The Bargain Corner

One of the best bargain wines of the tasting was the 2008 Immortal, a $13 quaffer from Peirano Estate Winery in Lodi.

In the $10 and under the category, I really liked the 2007 Wily Jack, another new brand from Napa launched last summer by Diageo Chateau and Estate Wines. This $8.99 bottle had great fruit and fine structure for a California blend.

Up Next:  New Napa Cabernet Releases

A slew of Napa wineries will be unveiling their newest cabernet offerings with special events next weekend.

On Saturday (Feb. 6), check out the festivities at Silver Oak in Oakville where they will debut the 2007 estate cabernet. That same day, similar events are planned at Flora Springs Winery in St. Helena (where the 2007 Trilogy will be on center stage), Bennett Lane in Calistoga (where the 2007cabernet will be previewed), Long Meadow Ranch in St. Helena (where the 2006 cab will be celebrated) and Raymond Vineyards in Oakville  (where the 2006 Generations cab will make its debut).

Celebrating Zinfandel — America’s Wine

January 29, 2010

The annual Zinfandel Advocates and Producers (ZAP) weekend is an All-American event featuring delicious red wines from all over California.

The human headliner of the 19th annual ZAP festival — a celebration of all things zinfandel — is chef  Beverly Gannon, one of Hawaii’s most influential cooks and proprietor of the world-famous Hali`imaile General Store on Maui.

Chef Beverly Gannon

Chef Beverly Gannon

Gannon, an advocate for regional Hawaiian cuisine, was just one of many chefs whose dishes were paired with wines from about 50 different producers at the ZAP “Good Eats and Zinfandel”event held Thursday at Fort Mason.

This affair served as a warm-up for the public grand tasting on Saturday when wines from about 300 wineries will be poured. Tickets are available online for $59.

Gannon lived up to her reputation, based on the positive reaction to the dish she prepared for the Good Eats and Zinfandel crowd — Joe’s Favorite Meatloaf with Hawaiian Sweetbread Roll.

Two words — absolutely delicious!

The meatloaf matched up well with  the 2007 Old Vines zinfandel from Three Wine Company. This fruit-forward blend ($18) is made from 76 percent zinfandel,  nine percent petite sirah, eight percent alicante bouschet, five percent mataro and two percent black malvoisie.

Finding other great wines in this group was more of a challenge.

Out of nearly 80 wines that I tasted on Thursday, only a few were truly memorable. A lot of the 2006 wines were decent, but not spectacular. The 2007s, overall, were much better and the 2008s are just being released.

Stellar Wine from Selby

My favorite wine of the night was from Selby Winery in Healdsburg. Selby’s 2007 Bobcat ($34) is made from hillside vineyards in the Alexander and Dry Creek valleys. This extremely smooth zinfandel has no rough edges. It’s decadent, deep flavored, with a dartk fruit core that held everything together — simply delightful to drink.

The Selby Bobcat was a great match for a beef daube with parsley potatoes and gremolata prepared by Relish Culinary Adventures, a catering company in Healdsburg.

Another interesting wine, the 2007 Old Vine Reserve Alexander Valley fzinfandel came from Mantra Wines of Healdsburg. This was everything a zin should be with a briary mouth feel and red fruit flavors. This $30 wine paired quite nicely with a delicious braised beet and carpaccio panzanella, a type of Italian bread salad, from San Francisco caterer Graffeats.

Sublime Wines from Sonoma & Lodi

The famed Monte Rosso vineyard in Sonoma — once owned by the Martini winemaking family —  is the source of Rancho Zabaco’s premier zinfandel, available only at the winery. The 2007 Monte Rosso ($50) exhibits classic zinfandel characteristics — briary, brambly flavors along the blackberry spectrum with a fine backbone of tannins.

One of the most unexpected pairings of the evening matched the 2007 old vine Lodi zin from St. Amant Winery with a salad tossed with chocolate vinaigrette prepared by Philadelphia’s A Chef for You.

The salad featured Maytag bleu cheese, dried cranberries, and brownie croutons. The $24 zin, from Marian’s vineyard, was fresh, approachable and fruit-forward. It was ready to drink as soon as the cork was pulled. I’d also recommend the Mohr-Fry Ranch bottling, also 2007, for $18.

The weekend of ZAP activites continued Friday with an auction dinner and smaller comparative tastings before Saturday’s main event when close to 300 wineries particpated in the grand tasting at Fort Mason.

Zin-Centric Lodi Branches Out

October 15, 2009

Zinfandel reigns supreme in Lodi, but this part of the Central Valley wine country is no one-trick pony. There are other runners — both red and white — moving up on the leader.

It’s about a 90-minute drive from downtown San Francisco to Lodi, home to more than 70 wineries and more than 100,00 acres of vineyards.

Zinfandel is No. 1, but there are also plantings of cabernet sauvignon, syrah, petite sirah, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and a number of more unusual varieites from France and Spain like viognier and tempranillo.

I was pleasantly surprised  at the top-quality of a trio of viogniers sampled at a recent tasting of Lodi wines on Treasure Island.

Berghold Estate Winery makes a classic version of viognier ($18.99), a Rhone-style white wine that exhibits floral and/or honeysuckle on the nose to go with a touch of crisp lemon on the palate and a dry finish. The 2006 Berghold cabernet sauvignon ($21.99) was also very good, tasting of plummy fruit with a backbeat of cedar.

Berghold Estate

Berghold Estate

Owner Joe Berghold, whose son (Miles) is the winemaker, had been a grower/supplier to other wineries for 10 years before introducing the family label in 1999. They’ve made eight vintages of viognier now and Joe is convinced he’s got a winner.

Loredona Wine Cellars showed a very nice viognier that was a bit juicier in the mouth and fruitier in the nose than the Berghold. Price: $11.99

One step behind those two wines was the viognier from Christine Andrews, the second label of Ironstone Vineyards. I liked the fresh lemon taste and tropical nose of this wine ($15.99).

The 2007 tempranillo from D’Art Wines was a stand out. I’m not a huge fan of this grape, which sometimes turns out too dry and leathery to my taste. This dust-tinged Lodi red from winemaker Dave Dart, however, presented a pleasantly racy streak alongside tart cherry flavors.

I also enjoyed the excellent D’Art estate cabernet sauvignon from the 2005 vintage ($24). Dart and his wife, Helen, welcome visitors to their small winery from noon to 5 p.m. Friday-Sunday. The winery’s name, D’Art, is a play on the French phrase meaning “of art.”

The best bargain of the tasting was an easy-drinking blend of carignane (40%) and zinfandel  (60%) called Abundantly Rich Red ($14)  from Abundance Vineyards.

Mettler Old Vine Zin

Mettler Old Vine Zin

I can’t mention Lodi without saying something good about zinfandel. The Mettler Family Vineyards 2006 “Epicenter” old vine zin  ($19) provided a smooth mouthful of pleasure. It was classic zinfandel, brambly with enough jammy fruit to be finely balanced.

My all-time favorite Lodi zinfandel is from The Lucas Winery. Winemaker David Lucas poured his 2005 estate zin, which showed a terrific aroma of black raspberries with a hint of oak.

The wine needs time to develop, but it is still enjoyable for the exotic spiciness typical of the  Zin Star vineyard, a 3.5-acre plot that Lucas has been nurturing for more than 30 years.

Silver Oak Cellars — A Movement in Four Parts

October 8, 2009

The philosophy behind Silver Oak Cellars — to focus unbridled enthusiasm on one thing at a time — has made its celebrated cabernet sauvignon program one of the best in the Napa Valley. But wait… there’s more.

Silver Oak also makes a pretty darn good cabernet from grapes grown in Sonoma’s Alexander Valley. Two sister estates, operating in Calistoga and Healdsburg as Twomey Cellars, produce a quartet of top-quality pinot noir wines plus one of the best merlots in the state.

Silver Oak Napa Valley Cabernet

Silver Oak Napa Cab

The Duncan family, which owns Silver Oak, got its feet wet in the wine business back in the late 1960s, when winery co-founder Ray Duncan began buying prime grape-growing real estate at the cusp of the movement to  produce world-class wines in Calfornia. Duncan’s offspring manage the business today, keeping each facility on a separate and special successful track.

Out of the Ashes

Silver Oak had to rebuild is Oakville winery, which reopened last September, after a disastrous fire. The facility emerged in great shape with a lovely tasting room and expanded and upgraded production facilities that are open for daily tours and tasting.

Although the label is silver and it features an oak tree, the name Silver Oak actually denotes the winery’s location, about halfway between the Silverado Trail and the Oakville Highway (Highway 29).

Mark your calendars for the next big public event, formal release of the 2005 Napa vintage on Feb. 6, 2010, when the entire Duncan family turns out to  pour the new wine for visitors to Oakville and the second Silver Oake winery in Geyserville.

Silver Oak's Ray Duncan

Silver Oak's Ray Duncan

I recently tasted both current vintages, the 2005 Alexander Valley ($70) and the 2004 Napa Valley ($100), and both are really good. Silver Oak’s Alexander Valley tasted of mulberry with a  dash of cinnamon spice plus a touch of healthy tannins from aging in white oak barrels from a Missouri forest. The Napa was a bit smoother, with plum fruit and some mocha overlays, and ready to drink.

Pleasing Pinot

The pinot noir side of the business is headquartered in Healdsburg, where grapes from all over the state are used in Twomey’s four  different bottlings. My favorite from the 2007 vintage was the Santa Barbara, which was sourced primarily from the famed Bien Nacido vineyard. The smoothness was impeccable with an overlay of cherry/strawberry fruit that was hard to resist. I also liked the 2007 Anderson Valley, which was a bit earthier with mineral components that gave it a racy flair.

Merlot Makes the Grade

Twomey merlot is made in Calistoga in a French style — elegant and true to the form perfected in Bourdeaux — with some techniques that are a throwback to older times.

Soda Canyon Ranch Merlot Vineyard

Soda Canyon Ranch Merlot Vineyard

Winemaker Daniel Baron imports special French oak barrels and uses a method — called soutirage traditional — to move (by gravity, not by mechanical pumping)  the aging wine from barrel to barrel to rid the juice of sediment and also to give the wine a natural smoothness and silkiness that has to be tasted to be appreciated. Grapes for this wine come from the Soda Canyon Ranch vineyard in southeastern Napa Valley.

In a recent tasting at the Calistoga winery, I sampled the last five vintages of merlot  — 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, and 2001. There was a strong continuity of quality between vintages, which were all smooth and approachable. I especially enjoyed the 2005 ($60),  a deeply red wine that had a definite mocha taste on top of dark cherries with a peppery backbeat.

Weekend Wine Wanderings

If you can’t get away to the wine country this weekend, you can take a shortcut to taste a wide variety of wines from the Lodi area in a special event on Treasure Island this Sunday (Oct. 11). The Treasure Island Winefest runs from 1-5 p.m. Tickets are $55 in advance  and $65 at the door. In addition to samples provided by more than 40 Lodi area wineries, the Blue Angels aerial acrobatic team will perform overhead as part of the annual Fleet Week festivities.

Rochioli’s Riches

May 29, 2009

The wines and vines are the real stars at Rochioli Vineyards and Winery, but the unpretentious tasting room is worth a visit the next time you’re winetasting near Healdsburg. Click here for a video tour.

This immensely popular winery has earned a reputation for outstanding pinor noir.  The 161-acre estate is divided into multiple blocks of vines that produce grapes with differing qualities. Grapes from specific blocks are bottled separately and it’s those bottles (with $100+ pricetags) that are most highly prized by collectors.

For access to these special wines, which are always in short supply, you can sign up for the waiting list for purchases direct from the winery. Don’t expect immediate satisfaction. The list is several years long!

But, there is a family secret. Their estate-grown sauvignon blanc is a killer wine at a reasonable price. And the Rochioli estate chardonnay is great, too. You can taste the current releases of both wines at the winery, along with the Rochioli’s entry-level pinot noir — a blend made from grapes from several different blocks. The sauvignon blanc retails for about $30; the chardonnay sells for $50 and the pinot blend goes for$70-$80.

Rochioli Vineyard Map

Rochioli Vineyard Map

The Rochiolis started as farmers on this property back in the 1930s.  They grew grapes, but didn’t get into the winemaking part of the business until after another  Sonoma County winery, Williams Selyem, gained national acclaim with wines made from Rochioli grapes.

First Sip a Winner

I first tasted a Rochioli pinot noir about 15 years ago at Evan’s, a top-rated South Lake Tahoe restaurant with an excellent wine list.  I was eager to order a bottle of Williams Selyem, but the sommelier suggested I try something from the grower of the grapes, Rochioli, because it was just as good as the Williams Selyem at half the price! He was right and I’ve been a fan ever since.

The Rochiolis still sell some of their crop to other wineries, but it is their own special wines that routinely command a premium price (think three figures). Some of the other top-shelf producers with access to Rochioli pinot noir grapes  include Williams Selyem and Gary Farrell.

Runway Red?

If your summer travel involves airports, look around for a wine-centric oasis where you can relax with a good glass of red or white before continuing the journey.

It’s not hard to find decent beer and booze in most major airports, but fine wine not so much. I normally wouldn’t recommend an airport wine-tasting experience, but Vino Volo proves there an exception to every rule.

Vino Volo Sacramento

Vino Volo Sacramento

Vino Volo operates a string of wine-tasting bars/retail stores at nine U.S. airports. The nearest Vino Volo outpost to the Bay Area is in Sacramento. There are two more airport shops in Seattle and San Antonio plus locations in Detroit, Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Newark and New York’s Kennedy International.

Vino Volo divides its wine list into four categories — bright, rich, brooding and light — and patrons can mix and match categories in special tasting flights. There’s a pretty broad selection of wine, heavy on imports, at decent but not great prices.

If you’ve ever had a really good, or bad, travel-related wine experience, drop me a note and I’ll share it with our readers in a future blog.

Next Weekend Wine Tasting

If you can’t attend the ultra-hot Auction Napa Valley events next weekend, there’s another cool wine tasting opportunity next Saturday (June 6) in Lodi at Ripken Vineyards where they’ll be serving up a Full Moon BBQ and concert by Mitch Woods and his Rocket 88s.  Tickets are $40 for the 6-9 p.m. event. Ripken is a small family-run winery specializing in Rhone-style wines, but their petite sirah is my favorite and their port-style wine is really good, too. A neat place to stay in Lodi after a night of dancing and wine drinking is the Wine and Roses Country Inn.