Category Archives: Winery

Protecting Wine Country for 100 Years

IMG_0353Geyserville Fire Protection District is celebrating 100 years of Service to Sonoma County’s Wine Country including over 200 square miles of prestigious wine growing vineyards in Dry Creek Valley and Alexander Valley, the largest fire district in Sonoma County.

You can help celebrate this accomplishment and support them through a variety of events and  fund raisers this year.

Limited Edition Wine from Peterson Winery
IMG_0374During Passport Dry Creek Valley, Peterson Winery will be serving Geyserville Firehouse Chili & Cornbread & selling their Limited Edition 2013 Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel. The grapes for this wine were grown by three current and former Geyserville Fire Protection District volunteer firefighters (Bernier, Borkow, & Peterson).  All of the proceeds from the sale will benefit the Geyserville Volunteer Firefighters’ Association. Great chili, gorgeous men in uniform, and delicious Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel wine – not to be missed!  This limited edition wine will be released April 25-26 at Peterson Winery and you must have a ticket to Passport Dry Creek Valley to attend.  If the wine does not sell out, it will be available after the event at the winery and online.

Open House at the Geyserville Firehouse


Photo ~ Geyserville Fire Protection District

The annual open house for the Geyserville Fire Protection District will be held at the Geyserville Firehouse (20975 Geyserville Ave) on May 9, 2015.  Additional Information will be available on the Geyserville Fire Protection District website and Facebook page.

Additional Centennial Year Events include: Geyserville Chamber of Commerce June 9, 2015 BBQ, Wine Country to the Rescue July 18, 2015 Dinner Dance and AuctionGeyserville Volunteer Firefighters Association Pancake Breakfast Octover 25, 2015, and the always fabulous Lighted Tractor Parade on November 28, 2015.

IMG_0377If you would like to learn more about this great community resource, Ann Howard has documented the history of the Geyserville Fire Protection District from its inception in 1905.

This self-published book is available directly from Ann Howard by writing her at PO Box 639, Geyserville, CA  95441.

Proceeds from her book are also supporting the Geyserville Fire Protection District.

#Firefighters #Geyserville #DryCreekValley #AlexanderValley #PetersonWinery #WineCountrytotheRescue #WC2Resq #GeyservilleFireProtectionDistrict #GeyservilleFire #Wine #Winery #WineCountry

Savor Sonoma

Savor Sonoma 2015Meet your favorite winemakers, taste their reserve wines, sample barrels with the latest vintages, mingle with wine lovers in caves and on crush pads, enjoy live music, tour wineries and vineyards, and savor a wonderful wine country weekend.  “This year marks our 25th year and this year 20 wineries will be participating throughout Sonoma Valley! The much anticipated teaming up with local chefs and restaurants creates a truly special weekend of delicious foods paired with the amazing variety of wines produced in our valley.” said Executive Director Josie Gay.

Heart of Sonoma Valley Association (HOSVA) is an alliance of 27 wineries and tasting rooms located on scenic Sonoma Highway where for a century and a half many of the vintages that have made California wines world leaders in viticulture have been harvested. In this 10-mile stretch of the wine country, in the environs of Glen Ellen and Kenwood, you’ll find a blend of family owned and classically beautiful wineries filled with award-winning wines.

Participating Wineries:

IMG_7920B Wise Vineyards Cellar
9077 Highway 12, Suite B
Kenwood, CA 95452
(707) 282-9169
B Wise Vineyards is about the pursuit of excellence in winemaking. Our mission is to produce authentic, graceful, memorable wines. Our 100 acre vineyard estate graces the western slopes of the Mayacamas Mountains, situated in the renowned Moon Mountain District of Sonoma Valley. We invite you to join us at our tasting lounge in Kenwood to experience select limited release flagship Cabernet Sauvignons and proprietary red blends. Expect a warm welcome and flavorful, balanced site-driven wines paired with delectable bites!

Benziger Estate VineyardsBenziger Family Winery
(Check-Ins Sold Out)
1883 London Ranch Road
Glen Ellen, CA 95442
(888) 490-2739
Join the Benziger Family Winery for the 2015 Savor Sonoma Weekend and enjoy the flavors of hand crafted estate wines and experience the unique rituals of Biodynamic farming; New releases, barrel samples and culinary delights. A day to savor and sip.

IMG_8093Chateau St. Jean Winery
8555 Highway 12
Kenwood, CA 95452
(707) 833-4134
With its elegant architecture and beautiful gardens, Chateau St. Jean has long been recognized as the quintessential Sonoma winery. Meet the winemaking team behind the iconic Cinq Cépages, a stylish Bordeaux blend. Discover this gem of Sonoma Valley and its passion for crafting wines that express the best of Sonoma.


IMG_7944Deerfield Ranch Winery
10200 Sonoma Highway
Kenwood, CA 95452
(707) 833-5215
Enjoy the most unique wine tasting experience in Sonoma Valley. Through the large redwood portal doors, enter our wine cave and stroll past hundreds of barrels. Enjoy the soft aroma of oak and wine as you enter our tasting room in the middle of the cave. There you will taste Robert Rex’s exceptional blends paired with food prepared by a local chef.

IMG_8233Eric Ross Winery
(Check-Ins Sold Out)
14300 Arnold Drive
Glen Ellen, CA 95442
(707) 939-8525
Last year you enjoyed the 2013 Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon “The Immigrant” barrel sample. The bottled wine has matured wonderfully; try a taste you will want to take one home! Authentic Mexican cuisine will be paired to delight all your senses! Eric will also be pouring barrel samples of the 2014 Russian River Pinot Noir “Nick’s Block.” More temptations await with Spanish wines Albariño & Tempranillo. While supplies last Eric’s photo calendar will be included with purchases of 6 bottles.

DSCN5520Imagery Estate Winery
(Check-Ins Sold Out)
14335 Highway 12
Glen Ellen, CA 95442
(877) 550-4278
A visit to Imagery is always a journey of artful discovery, and Savor Sonoma is no different. Our gold medal winning wines blended from unique varietals influenced from regions around the world will be sampled from barrel to bottle paired with a bite or two. Come stroll the gallery and savor our flavors.

IMG_8184Kenwood Vineyards
(Check-Ins Sold Out)
9592 Sonoma Highway
Kenwood, CA 95452
(707) 282-4228
At Kenwood Vineyards let your palate savor the experience of our Artist Series Cabernet Sauvignon and Jack London Zinfandel as our winemaking staff offers samples of future vintages from French oak barrels. While sipping our wines, hand crafted in the Heart of Sonoma, your taste buds will be enticed by the unique recipes we’ve chosen to pair with our award winning wines.

IMG_8227La Rochelle Winery
233 Adobe Canyon Road
Kenwood, CA 95452
(707) 302-8000
Taste a variety of small lot Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from California’s most prestigious vineyards, all in one location. Drop in to taste at our tasting bar or make an appointment for a seated tasting experience. Barrel tasting available.

This is one of our newest wineries in the area.


IMG_3638Ledson Winery & Vineyards
(Check-Ins Sold Out)
7335 Highway 12
Santa Rosa, CA 95409
(707) 537-3810
For a truly majestic experience, come to The Castle. Meet Steve Ledson and his winemaking team, taste impeccable wines straight from the barrel and enjoy our phenomenal new releases, paired with an array of epicurean delights fit for royalty. We specialize in limited production wines sold exclusively at the winery, through our wine club or online. Take advantage of special pricing offered only at this event.

Little Vineyards Family Winery
(Check-Ins Sold Out)
15188 Sonoma Highway
Glen Ellen, CA 95442
(707) 996-2750
Join Rich and Joan Little and the Family as we celebrate Savor Sonoma with live music, delicious mouthwatering BBQ that pairs so well with our estate red wines. Taste barrel samples, 2013 Syrah and 2013 Cabernet with winemaker, Ted Coleman. Futures will be available for purchase. Come and taste a LITTLE and enjoy a lot!

IMG_8743Loxton Cellars
11466 Dunbar Road
Glen Ellen, CA 95442
(707) 935-7221
Fourth generation winegrower Chris Loxton celebrates heritage and tradition with new releases and barrel samples of wines that reflect our roots. The inaugural “Pioneer Cuvee” is a Zinfandel blend paying tribute to the field blends of the Valley’s early vineyards. The Cabernet Shiraz and Ellen Syrah pay tribute to the family vineyards in Australia. Enjoy Estate grown Rose and (gold medal) Port from a vineyard with some of the Valley’s best views. Vineyard walks will be offered on the hour to showcase farming and the beauty of the Valley.

IMG_8196Mayo Family Winery
13101 Arnold Drive
Glen Ellen, CA 95442
(707) 938-9401
Visit with members of the Mayo family and compare our single vineyard wines straight from the barrel to their past vintages already in bottle. Enjoy artisan bites of food created by Executive Chef, Clayton Lewis, that are perfectly paired with our award-winning wines. Winemaker, Mike Berthoud, will also be on hand thieving wine futures out of the barrel and answering all of your burning wine inquiries! Stop by for a fun filled and educational weekend!

IMG_8091Muscardini Cellars
9380 Sonoma Highway
Kenwood, CA 95452
(707) 933-9305
We invite you to visit Muscardini Cellars, home of exceptional hand crafted wines. Come taste our Italian Varietals and don’t forget our big Cabs and blends. Our tasting room offers an intimate wine country experience with a large outdoor patio and breathtaking views of vineyards and the Mayacamas Mountains. Enjoy our Gold Medal and Best-of-Class wines. Meet winemaker Michael Muscardini while savoring tastes directly from the barrel. Enjoy choice food pairings form Chef Catherine Venturini of Olive and Vine. Wine Studio and Tasting Lounge
8450 Sonoma Highway
Kenwood, CA 95452
(707) 408-0011
Celebrate the art of food and wine with independent winemakers. Through customer funding, we’ve given winemakers the opportunity to make their dream wine and have their own label. They’ve paired their wines, from tank and barrel, with the perfect bite and want to share their passion for flavor with you. Live music and purple tongues guaranteed!

IMG_8176Orpheus Wines
8910 Highway 12, Suite 12B
Kenwood, CA 95452
(707) 282-9231
Savor the beauty of small batch, handcrafted wines. Winemaker Marc Krafft serves up the best current and future releases with locally sourced food pairings to delight your senses. We warmly welcome you to our new tasting room and wire art gallery, with wine on tap, fun community events, and sustainable innovations. From Gold Medal Pinot Noir to Sparkling Orange Muscat, Orpheus Wines has food-friendly wines for every palate.

IMG_8171Paradise Ridge Winery
8860 Sonoma Highway
Kenwood, CA 95452
(707) 282-9020
Paradise Ridge Winery is going GREEN – green-a-licious that is! Indulge in a unique wine country experience with our sense-ational Wine & Herb tasting Paired up perfectly with Rosso’s famous Burrata! Enjoy scrumptious lemon Basil infused burrata Paired with our 2014 Grandview Sauvignon Blanc, Sweet Genovese Basil & fresh strawberries Burrata paired with a thieved sample from the barrel of our 2014 Convict Zinfandel.

IMG_8092St. Anne’s Crossing Winery
8450 Sonoma Highway
Kenwood, CA 95452
(707) 598-5200
As the Sonoma Valley’s premier Zinfandel house, we’re delivering a unique side by side all Zin tasting across 6 appellations including Sonoma, Dry Creek, Russian River, Mendocino, Alexander Valley and Rockpile. Sip and swirl with our winemaker, four time sweepstakes winner, Chris Barrett. He’s bringing out three never before tasted Zins from the 2013 vintage, each paired with a scrumptious bite! Live music and unforgettable wines will set the tone for this epicurean weekend.

IMG_8153St. Francis Winery & Vineyards
100 N. Pythian Road
Santa Rosa, CA 95409
(707) 833-0242
Join us at our Sonoma Valley Visitors Center for a taste of Sonoma. Sip award-winning wines paired with mouth-watering bites crafted by our in-house Executive Chef while taking in the sweeping vineyard views and the majestic mountain backdrop.



IMG_8172Ty Caton Vineyards
8910 Sonoma Highway
Kenwood, CA 95452
(707) 833-0526
We invite you to visit Ty Caton Vineyards – the home of exclusively estate produced artisan Sonoma valley wines – and revel in the atmosphere of the tasting room that knows how to have fun! We offer the best of the wine country: award-winning wines, intimate hospitality, and great people. You will be greeted by Winemaker Ty Caton and can experience firsthand the passion behind the wines.

IMG_7915VJB Vineyards & Cellars
60 Shaw Avenue
Kenwood, CA 95452
(707) 833-2300
Celebrate spring on the Italian-inspired piazza, sipping barrel wines and sampling owner Maria Belmonte’s delicious homemade pastas or pizzas from the wood oven. This weekend is the first chance to try and buy limited production Italian varietals like Sangiovese and Barbera which sell out almost as soon as they’re released. Guests will also enjoy performances by the Wine Country Tenors daily at 1 PM. Cap off a visit with something sweet from the chocolate and gelato shop.
Enter to Win a Celebrity Cruises Modern Luxury Gift Basket during Savor!
There’s a world just waiting for you to discover it. Go Celebrity. All 7 continents with 10 award-winning ships. Celebrity offers itineraries and vacation packages that visit all seven continents–a total of 286 ports of call in 80 countries. Stop by their tables at two wineries to be announced to find out about their modern luxury experiences and be sure to enter to win their Celebrity Gift Basket Prize Giveaway.

Transportation Partner:
Beau Wine Tours is offering HOSVA guests a 15% discount year round on private/group transportation. Call Beau Wine Tours toll free at (800) 387-2328 extension #1 and mention “Heart of Sonoma Valley” for your special discount.

Transportation Special:
Destination Drivers has special rates for the Savor Sonoma weekend! Our driver will pick you up where you’re staying, drive your car to the wineries and special places you want to experience, then bring you back “home.” No worries about directions, traffic or parking. Help planning your adventure gladly provided. Call for details, and be sure to mention Savor Sonoma. 707-293-8137.

Accommodations Special:
The Flamingo Resort has special, discounted rates available during Savor Sonoma Valley, Saturday, March 21, 2015: $179 Superior King or Double-Double, $199 Executive King, $259 Suites. (*Plus 14% occupancy tax.) Please call 800-848-8300 and identify yourself as part of “Savor Sonoma Valley” to make a reservation.

What: 2015 Savor Sonoma Valley – A Premium Wine & Culinary Experience
When: Saturday, March 21 & Sunday, March 22, 2015
Where: Twenty Wineries throughout Sonoma Valley
Time: 11 AM – 4 PM both days
Cost: $65 per person for the weekend/$20 for designated drivers. Sunday-Only ticket for $50
per person. Ticket includes a souvenir wine glass & access to event tastings at all
participating wineries.
Info: For tickets and info please visit or call 707-431-1137.
Advance ticket purchase is strongly recommended as tickets are limited.

#SavorSonoma #HeartofSonomaValley #HeartofSonoma #BWise #Benziger #ChateauStJean #DeerfieldRanch #EricRoss #Imagery #Kenwood #GlenEllen #LaRochelle #Ledson #LittleVineyards #Loxton #MayoFamily #Muscardini #NakedWines #Orpheus #ParadiseRidge #StAnnesCrossing #StFrancis #TyCaton #VJB

Sonoma County Barrel Tasting Weekend

IMG_222337th Annual Barrel Tasting along the Wine Road in Northern Sonoma County will feature 100+ Wineries and held on two weekends March 6- 8 & March 13-15, 2015 from 11:00 am – 4:00 pm each day.

This is the final of three classic events hosted by The Wine Road. Unlike the two previous events, this is not a food-pairing or themed event, but a chance to test your palate and purchase “futures” on wine.

With the third fabulous harvest (2012-2014) now in barrels and 2012-2103 already receiving critical acclaim from many sources, futures on these wines are in high demand and many of them are limited releases so that the purchase of futures, may be the only way to acquire some of these wines.

IMG_5883So how does this work – first think about the kind of wine your are interested in purchasing and then select some of our fabulous producers that make these wines.  Below is an anticipated list of participating wineries organized by general area to help you out – always check the event website for current information.

Then pack a picnic lunch or some snacks to pair with your wine of choice.  Now plan your day – I usually anticipate that I can stop by no more than 4-5 wineries in one day and often even fewer because I want to enjoy what each winery has to offer and to learn about the wines I may be purchasing.

IMG_3335Once you are are at the winery your ticket price includes the opportunity to sample wine from the barrel and in most cases also try a limited number of current release wine.  So sample away and then when you find those perfect wines – purchase them, often at a discount over they release price.  To actually acquire the wine you will normally come back to the winery when the wine is bottled, typically 12-18 months from now or have the wine shipped to you.

I will be out and about enjoying our fabulous wines, if you see me, please say hello and tell me about your favorite and I will feature you and the winery in my social media posts.

Participating Wineries include the following (please note some are only for one weekend).  They are organized by area for your convenience.  For specific addresses and locations check the event map.

Alexander Valley
Alexander Valley Vineyards *
deLorimier Winery (F)
Field Stone Winery & Vineyard (F) *
HANNA Winery – Alexander Valley (F) *
J. Rickards (F) *
Robert Young Estate Winery *
Simi Winery *
Soda Rock Winery (F) *
Starlite Vineyards (F) *
Trione Winery (F) 1st wkd. only
Trentadue Winery * 1st wkd. only
White Oak Vineyards & Winery 1st wkd. only
Dry Creek Valley
Amphora Winery (F)
Armida Winery (F)
Cast Wines (F) *
Chateau Diana Winery (F)
Collier Falls Vineyards (F) *
Dashe Cellars (F) *
David Coffaro Winery (F)
De La Montanya (F) 1st wkd. only
Dutcher Crossing Winery * 1st wkd. only
Everett Ridge Winery (F) *
Forth Vineyards (F) *
Fritz Underground Winery (F)
Geyser Peak Winery (new location)
Kachina Vineyards (F) *
Kokomo Winery 1st wkd. only
Lago di Merlo Vineyards & Winery (F) *
Martorana Family Winery 1st wkd. only
Mauritson Family Winery * 1st wkd. only
Mazzocco Sonoma Winery (F) *
Mietz Callars (F) *
Mill Creek Vineyards & Winery (F) *
Mounts Family Winery (F)
Papapietro Perry (F)
Pedroncelli Winery (F) *
Philip Staley Vineyards & Winery (F) *
Quivira Vineyards 1st wkd. only
Ridge Vineyards
Rued Vineyards & Winery (F) *
Sbragia Family Vineyards (F) * 1st wkd. only
Talty Winery 1st wkd. only
F. Teldeschi Winery
Trattore Estate Wines *
Truett Hurst Wienry (F) *
West Wines (F) *
Wilson Winery (F) *
Zichichi Winery (F) * 1st wkd. only
Geyserville – In Town
Locals Tasting Room
The Meeker Vineyard
Mercury Wine (F) *
Pech Merle (F)
Route 128 Winery (F)
Ramazzotti Wines (F) *
Healdsburg – In Town
Blanchard Family Wines
Bluenose (F) *
C. Donatiello Winery 1st wkd. only
Davis Family Vineyards (F) *
Hart’s Desire Wines (F) *
Hawley Winery
Holdredge Wines (F)
Hudson Street Wineries (F) *
J. Keverson Winery (F) *
Kelley & Young Wines (F) *
Kobler Estate (F)
Longboard Vineyards *
Malm Cellars (F)
Manzanita Creek Winery (F) *
Optima Winery (F) 1st wkd. only
Pezzi King (F) *
Portalupi Wines (F) * 1st wkd. only
Roadhouse Winery
Sapphire Hill Winery (F) *
Selby Winery (F) *
Skewis Wines (F) *
Stephen & Walker (F) *
Topel Winery Tasting Room (F) *
Valdez Family Winery (F)
Williamson Wines (F) *
Russian River Valley
ACORN Winery/Alegria Vineyard (F) *
Balletto Vineyards (F)
Battaglini Estate Winery (F) *
Benovia Winery (F) * 1st wkd. only
Chalk Hill *
Christopher Creek Winery (F)
DeLoach Vineyards *
Dutton Estate Winery (F)
Fog Crest Vineyard (F)
Foppiano Vineyards (F) * 1st wkd. only
Graton Ridge Cellars (F) *
HANNA Winery – Russian River Valley (F) *
Harvest Moon Winery (F) *
HKG Estate, Hop Kiln Vineyards (F)
Hook & Ladder Winery (F)
Inman Family Winery (F) *
Jigar Wines *
Joseph Swan Vineyards (F) * 1st wkd. only
Kendall-Jackson Wine Estate & Garden
Korbel Champagne Cellars *
Lauterbach Cellars (F) *
Martin Ray Winery (F) *
Matrix Winery (F) *
Merriam Vineyards (F) *
Moshin Vineyards * 1st wkd. only
Occidental Road Cellars (F) *
Old World Winery (F)
Paradise Ridge Winery (F) *
Porter Creek Vineyards (F) *
Red Car Wine Company (F) *
Robert Rue Winery (F)
Rodney Strong Vineyards * 1st wkd. only
Roth Estate (F) *
Russian River Vineyards (F) *
Sunce Winery (F)
Taft Street Winery (F) *
Viszlay Vineyards (F) *
VML Winery (F) *
Santa Rosa – In Town
Carol Shelton Wines (F)
Cellar of Sonoma (F)
D’Argenzio Winery (F) *
Desmond Wines (F)
Inspiration Vineyards & Winery (F)
Krutz Family Cellars (F) *
Lattanzio Wines (F) 8
Lost Canyon Winery (F)
Premonition Cellars (F)
Sheldon Wines (F) *
Siduri Wines & Novy Family Winery (F)
Windsor – In Town
Colagrossi Wines (F)
Deux Amis Winery (F) *
Vino Valpredo Wine Co. (F)

(F) indicates barrel tasting on Friday as well as Sat & Sun
* indicates no groups over 8, no limos

#WineCounty #SonomaCounty #Event #BarrelTasting #Wine #Wines #Winery #Wineries #Futures #DiscoverRRV #RussianRiverValley #DryCreekValley #AlexanderValley #Healdsburg #SantaRosa #Geyserville #Windsor #WineTasting

Sommeliers Create Memories

IMG_4491-SmAlthough the role of Sommelier involves endless hours of hard work and continuing education behind the scenes, it is that front-of-the-house guidance to an elegant and memorable meal that we all remember.

If you are not familiar with the rigorous testing required to become a Master Sommelier there is a movie called SOMM that gives you glimse into their world (or perhaps just watch the trailer). What we don’t often see in a restaurant is what the Sommelier does before and after the service begins.

Obviously, a Master Sommelier must be professional wine taster, but additionally they go over the wine list with the wait staff and kitchen personnel; take charge of purchasing the wines and creating the wine list based on the chef’s recipes; handle the wine inventory and cellaring; and then on their days off, they are expected to familiarize themself with new wines and even visit wineries for tastings.  Hardly an entry-level occupation to make sure each and every patron receives the perfect recommendation to compliment their food and fit their budget.

Master SommelierTo highlight this often under-appreciated role, Delta Airlines is hosting a series of Blind Tasting Competitions.  The lastest of these events was at Flavor Napa hosted by Master Sommelier Andrea Robinson with fellow Master Sommeliers Ian Cauble of Somm Select, and Emily Papach of Jackson Family Wines, and Jay James of Chappellet Winery along with an impressive array of talented Sommeliers in the process of Master certification.

Estate Caves at Meritage Resort & Spa

Estate Caves at Meritage Resort & Spa

Flavor Napa is a dazzling array of Napa Valley’s master chefs and graduates of The Culinary Institute of America’s program creating heavenly epicurean delights to pair with the world-class wines of Napa Valley, but in no other Flavor Napa event is the Master Sommelier’s role highlighted as it is in the Blind Tasting Competition.

During Flavor Napa‘s Top Taster Blind Tasting Competition, it was impressive to watch the professionals demostrate their hard-earned skills.  In under five minutes they could completely analyze a wine’s aroma, palate, structure, varietal, region of origin, and vintage.  But this blind tasting was a little different – the Sommeliers used their background to educate those of us who are not as austute with wine instead of just to compete with each other.

IMG_4494As amateur blind tasters, we were given a practice wine (used for the Sommelier demonstration), then two white wines, and four red wines.  We were told the wines could either be from the Napa Valley appellation or a classic old world wine.  As we tasted through the wines, the Sommeliers walked through the group gently asking questions about what we were experiencing and expertly answering inquiries when we needed a little more guidance – to learn – to grow – and to enjoy the adventure of wine tasting without the intimidation of failure.  In other words, they practiced many of the skills they use every day to gentle learn what we know, what we like, and how to make wine approachable for all of us.

IMG_4514The wines were excellent, but challenging – a white that I thought was a Viognier was a Chardonnay.  But after we submitted our tasting forms, one of the Master Sommeliers walked through each wine with the other Sommeliers and we were able to witness them exploring their path through the clues of grape characteristics, winemaking techniques, and possible regions of production. From this I learned what parts I understood and what parts were opportunities to learn.  We were then able to re-visit the wine and see it anew through this acquired knowledge. A great way to learn without intimidation or judgment.

During the red tasting, my tablemates, a wonderful couple from San Francisco, identified a Sangiovese and then realized it was old-world as they described it to the Sommelier through encouraging questions about what they were tasting.  It was wonderful to see the light go on in their eyes as they found their own answer through an excellent educator.

Decanting WineIn a restaurant too, a Sommelier can share information about wines – what are the characteristics of the dish you have selected – what are some possible wine selections that might enhance that dish within your budget – but most of all what a glorious avenue of discovery a new wine might be.

Sommeliers are our bridge between food and wine turning a dining experience into a treasured memory – that perfect bottle of wine – the one that made a glorious meal with family or friends an event that you talk about many years afterwards!

Next time you are in a restaurant with a good wine list and Sommelier, be kind enough to let them do their job and I am sure you will be pleasantly surprised at the discoveries that await you in their knowledgeable hands. And the next time Flavor Napa comes around, be sure to visit our wonderful valley – they never disappoint either.

#FlavorNapa #NapaValley #Wine #Winetasting #Sommelier #MasterSommelier #WineEducation #BlindTasting #Event #Competition

RRV Single Vineyard Night – Viva Variety!

View of Alcatraz from General's Residence at Fort Mason

View of Alcatraz from General’s Residence at Fort Mason

Internationally-renowned sommelier, Christopher Sawyer, with the Russian River Valley Winegrowers hosted an evening of Single Vineyard splendor at the General’s Residence (Fort Mason, San Francisco). As a native of Sonoma County, Christopher was the consumate host for this appellation in the heart of Wine Country. Christopher described Sonoma County as a little Europe, the land of promise, and everything you could ever want as far as a great place to live. The European analogy seemed to be a perfect introduction to the extraordinary variety that was to exemplify the Russian River Valley Single Vineyard wines.


Northeastern section of Russian River Valley – Limerick Lane, Healdsburg, CA

The Russian River Valley (RRV) American Viticulture Area (AVA) encompasses more than 15,000 acres of winegrapes and approximately 100 wineries. Although world-class Pinot Noir is grown in abundance in the RRV, it not alone in the vineyards. The RRV is incredibly diverse consisting of five distinct growing neighborhoods or regions – Middle Reach, Laguna Ridge, Green Valley, Santa Rosa Plain, and Sebastopol Hills. The westernmost vineyards lie among hills on California’s coastal range sometimes within 8 miles of the Pacific Ocean.  These areas are cool-climate vineyards with the climate strongly influenced by the ocean and fog and focus on Pinot, Chardonnay and cool-climate winegrapes.

Statistics via Russian River Valley Winegrowers

Statistics via Russian River Valley Winegrowers

Further north in the RRV, the vineyards enjoy a milder influence from coastal breezes and oceanic fog; the relatively warmer climate finds Zinfandel winegrapes.  In the RRV’s northeastern corner it is at its warmest; the vineyards include winegrapes like Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Many varietals florish within the RRV from Chardonnay to Gewurztraminer and present themselves as a reflection of the place in which they were grown by Winegrape Growers and Winemakers that are working to be 100% sustainable and protect this incredible valley for many generations to come.

What does ‘Single Vineyard’ really mean?  The RRV Winegrowers defined a single vineyard wine as the “grand cur” of grapes – the highest quality and most sought after.  Most winegrowers nuture a vineyard for years and then only in the best vintages do they single out those grapes for a vineyard designate wine – a year where the concentration, depth of flavor, balance, and complexity of the harvest results in an impeccable reflection of the terroir on that vineyard. This gives you an idea of the quality of the wines presented at this signature RRV event.


Sommelier Christopher Sawyer

To exemplify the terroir diversity in this region, Christopher Sawyer along with an expert sommelier panel of Ian Burrows, Mauro Cirilli, and Michael Ireland selected four wines to discuss – a Bacigalupi Vineyards Estate Chardonnay (middle reach – Westside Road); a Dutton-Goldfield Freestone Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir (Freestone – southwestern RRV); Martinelli Bondi Home Ranch Vineyard Pinot Noir (Green Valley of the RRV); and Novy Papera Ranch Vineyard Zinfandel (Santa Rosa plains). As host, Christopher began with the Bacigalupi Chardonnay describing the old vine patch to the right of the family home that was planted in the mid 1960’s with an intimate knowledge of the winegrapes and wine produced there.  This white wine had a natural minerality with aromas of peach and mango followed by hints of cinnamon and nutmeg.  The medium acidity and citrus on the mid-palate created a well balanced wine.

Ian Burrows, Michael Ireland, and Mauro Cirilli

Ian Burrows, Michael Ireland, and Mauro Cirilli

Ian Burrows (formerly with FarmHouse Inn) continued with the Dutton-Goldfield Pinot Noir which displayed a good natural stucture that Ian felt would fully develop within 1-2 years in the bottle but would cellar well for 8+ years. The Pinot Noir displayed blackberries with a coriander/white pepper spice (called “Freestone spice”), some tobacco in the mid-palate and medium acidity.  Ian recommended pairing this Pinot Noir with tuna tatare or duck. Michael Ireland presented the Martinelli Pinot Noir which displayed dark cherries, plums, cardamon, cloves, cinnamon in a much riper wine than the Dutton Goldfield.  This wine also requires a little age to come together, but was an excellent historical representation of the Green Valley of RRV and showed a very different style of Pinot Noir.  Mauro Cirilli finished with the Novy Zinfandel.  Papera Ranch is an old-vine Zinfandel vineyard, located on the eastern side of the Laguna de Santa Rosa. Planted in 1934, after the repeal of prohibition, the wine from this vineyard showed aromas of red raspberries, mint, wild flowers and sage with the silky tannins of an old vine winegrape. This seminar’s prelude of diversity introduced the audience to the variety of amazing wines that followed in the grand tasting.


Middle Reach of Russian River Valley

I started off my journey through the Russian River Valley Single Vineyard wines looking outside my standard favorites (Pinot Noir and Chardonnay) for those wines that would show the diversity in this truly rich agricultural region. Here are just some of the wines I tried.  I hope they give you a small taste of the wonderful choices that you can experience exploring the high quality wines produced from vineyards in the Russian River Valley AVA.

Cartograph‘s 2013 Floodgate Vineyard Gewurztraminer a pale yellow Alsace-style bone dry white wine with aromas of lemon and mandarin orange.  DRNK Wines 2013 Catie’s Corner Viognier a crisp white wine with aromas white peach, melon and guava, a mineral driven structure, light tannins and a fresh finish. Gordian Knot Winery 2012 Elieo Vineyard Albarino a tangy mix of white peach, grapefruit with firm acidity. Valdez Family Winery 2012 U.V. El Diablo Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc a zesty white wine with aromas of lemon grass, green apple, and subtle notes of honey. J Vineyards 2013 Cooper Vineyard Pinot Gris a tropical white wine with aromas of oranges, apricots, and honeysuckle; a crisp acidity and distinct minerality. I would drink all of these wines now.

Nicole Bacigalupi

Nicole Bacigalupi

Mueller Winery 2012 Block Eleven Syrah a fruity red wine with aromas of blackberry, black cherry, oak and vanilla; complex with a smooth finish. Viszlay Vineyards 2009 Five Vines Bordeaux Blend a fruit-forward ripe red wine with aromas of blackberry, currant, vanilla, and caramel; a medium acidity and fine tannins.  Y. Rousseau 2012 Tannat, Matthew’s Station a rich dark red wine with aromas of black cherry, cassis and licorice that turns into a juicy cherry pie on the palate. Acorn Winery 2012 Sangiovese, Alergria Vineyards a red wine with aromas of cherries, plum and oak that add mocha on the palate; slightly chewy with youthful tannins. Bacigalupi Vineyards 2012 Petite Sirah a big, bold red wine with earthy aromas and flavors of pepper, nutmeg and cinnamon which dominate a boysenberry jam and typically firm tannins, cellar to enjoy later.  Most of these red wines would benefit from a little patience in the bottle/cellar.

Ted Elliott with Christopher Sawyer

Ted Elliott with Christopher Sawyer

Okay, I can’t help myself – one Pinot Noir.  First, I must say, there are too many great Pinot Noirs in the Russian River Valley to try them all in one sitting, but maybe one Pinot Noir to start your journey would be TR Elliott 2009 O’Connell Vineyard Burgonet a selection of three barrels from the two-acre vineyard atop a knoll on Vine Hill Ridge in western Sonoma County that is planted exclusively to the Pommard clone. The O’Connell Vineyard has a long, cool growing season and Gold Ridge sandy loam soils.  The aroma of this wine is cherries, raspberries, and cinnamon that waifs into tobacco and forest floor on the palate. A beautifully complex wine that will make you want to take a life-long journey through Russian River Valley wines.  So whether you choose to explore new varietals or some of the classic grapes plan to fall in love with the Russian River Valley Winegrowers and Winemakers.

If you missed the Russian River Valley Single Vineyard Night, they also host Russian River Valley Passport to Pinot coming in June 2015.  Join their mailing list and you will always know when these two classic events go on sale.

#RussianRiverValley #Winegrowers #Wine #Winetasting #ChristopherSawyer #SingleVineyardNight #AcornWinery #BacigalupiVineyards #Cartograph #DRNKWines #DuttonGoldfield #GordianKnotWinery #JVineyards #JWine #MartinelliWinery #MuellerWinery #NovyFamilyWines #TRElliott #ValdezFamilyWinery #YRousseau #IanBurrows #MichaelIreland #MauroCirilli #PassporttoPinot #PinotClassic

A Wine and Food Affair

IMG_3571I love wine for many reasons, but most of all because of the memories I have of sharing a great bottle of wine with family and friends. These gatherings have usually included copious amounts of fabulous food as well as some amazing wines.

One of The Wine Road‘s signature events, A Wine and Food Affair, highlights this Wine Country tradition of pairing local food and wine which is why it is one of my favorites. The 16th annual Wine & Food Affair was held Nov 1-2, 2014 featuring wineries in Alexander Valley, Russian River Valley, and Dry Creek Valley (American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) in Sonoma County). Additionally, wine tasting rooms in Healdsburg participated – many of which have vineyards in these AVAs.

Since good wine festivals offer many excellent choices, everyone needs a plan of action to make the most of these events. So let me start with a couple of suggestions and then tell you how I planned my affair with wine for this weekend adventure.


A Wine and Food Affair is a festival where participants travel to multiple locations to try wine, meet the winemaker, sample excellent pairings, and enjoy the venues. I love that it enables participants to discover the personality of each winery by seeing the people in their natural habitat – whether it be a warehouse, an urban storefront or surrounded by vineyards and breathtaking views.  But since this does involve travel, the first choice is to select a designated driver. Second, make an action plan of what your goal is for the event.  Sometimes, I choose a wine varietal – for this event, I selected a wine region – the Dry Creek Valley. Finally, be realistic about the number of wine or wineries you will be able to visit – both by the distance between faciities and whether you plan to consume the wines or spit them out (yes, this is acceptable).  

IMG_3246-SmSonoma County is largely a county of family farmers and Dry Creek Valley is no exception. In many locations you will find family members in the winery or tasting room proudly sharing their wares. Dry Creek Valley is rightfully acclaimed for a number of varietals, but this intimate (16-mile long x 2-mile wide) valley has been kind to Zinfandel. Nearly 2,400 acres of Zinfandel are farmed in Dry Creek Valley and it is one of the densest concentrations of Old Vine Zinfandel in the world. Dry Creek Valley, long noted for its fertile landscape became one of the first California wine regions to be recognized as an official American Viticultural Area (AVA) with almost 10,000 acres under vine and approximately 50 wineries. Long, warm days allow the fruit to fully ripen with coastal cooling in the evening to enable the grapes to mature slowly while retaining their acidity. These are the perfect growing conditions for Zinfandel, Sauvignon Blanc, Bordeaux, and Rhone varietals that are food-friendly and appeal to consumers and sommeliers alike.

IMG_3253My goal for this two-day adventure was to find some new food and wine pairing ideas and explore a couple of wineries not open to the public without an appointment.  The surprise winery for me was Simoncini Vineyards, a destination winery built solely by local artisans in a massive cave.  The grounds include intimate picnic settings along a winter creek and a wine tasting bar inside the cave. Simoncini produces Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel from vineyards in Dry Creek Valley, Russian River Valley, Alexander Valley and Rockpile.  I enjoyed the friendly atmosphere of a small staff that knows the details of winery.

IMG_3295For food pairings there were many standards and some of my long-term favorites like duck and polenta served with Pinot Noir.  The photograph shows the one served by Forchini Vineyards and Winery and paired with a vertical selection of their Russian River Valley Proprietor’s Reserve Pinot Noir which is estate grown & bottled.  The lovely patio setting to enjoy the food and wine and speak with the winemaker added to the enjoyment of the visit.

IMG_3572Another delicious pinot pairing was from Papapietro-Perry Winery in which the sauce for the slider included their 2011 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir and was then paired with the same wine.  This winery produces Chardonnay, Zinfandel, and Pinot Noir.  I like their single-vineyard Pinot Noirs and a wonderful way to experience them is to try their Pinot on the Patio, a seated wine and cheese pairing which includes five wines and is conducted by a knowledgeable wine educator from their staff.

IMG_3402-SmOne of the more unique and fun pairings was from the always eclectic and fun team at Kokomo Winery. It was an apple-pear chutney made with Kokomo verjus.  Verjus is the pressed juice of unripened grapes.  The French term vert jus (green juice) refers to the high-acid, low-sugar grapes that winemakers thin from the vines just when the crop is beginning to ripen. Unlike wine, however, verjus is not fermented, and is not alcoholic.  Kokomo paired the chutney with their 2012 Chardonnay.

IMG_3283But my favorite pairing was the Zinfandel Barrel Stave Grilled Hangar Steak with 2012 Fritz Estate Grown Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel. Fritz Underground Winery is a small, family-owned, subterranean winery that has been producing wines since 1979. When you visit be sure to book a tour of their wine cave and underground winery facility and learn about gravity-flow winemaking.  It is located just a short distance from downtown Cloverdale on the far northern side of Dry Creek Valley.

IMG_3327-SmThis event included so much more than just food and wine – as you visit many of these family owned and operated wineries they often share other local artisans with you as well.  No one did this better than Vicky & Mike Farrow, proprietors at Amista Vineyards. They regularly feature art work by Carole Rae Watanabe (photo at the left is an image of one of her works) and she was on hand with paint bushes, art work, and information galore. Wine glass holders were available from 3G Designs which are always usefully with food and wine pairings. Did I mention they had chocolate! Amista featured Cocotutti chocolate which always has fun and artsy chocolates that are so delicious. Can wine drinkers ever so no to chocolate?  There sure seemed to be a fair amount of it in Dry Creek Valley this weekend.  If you are looking for sparkling wine in Dry Creek Valley this is one of the only sparkling producers here and the only one that I know that makes a sparkling Syrah. Additionally they produce Chardonnay, Zinfandel, Syrah, and Cabernet (from my favorite place Rockpile AVA).  Friendly and nice doesn’t begin to cover the way you feel when you meet these warm and gracious winery hosts, Vicky and Mike.

IMG_3272-SmFinally, I have to give a nod to all of the winegrape growers in the Dry Creek Valley that work hard to maintain healthy vineyards that are sustainable, organic, and/or biodynamic and the efforts that many of them have made to protect and restore Dry Creek for which this valley was named. I would specifically like to mention Gio Martorana of Martorana Family Winery who last week received The National Private Lands Fish and Wildlife Stewardship Award from The Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies for his work with the restoration of Dry Creek. Their organic winery and vineyard is located on West Dry Creek Road.

IMG_3321As you can see, even with my limited wish list and narrow focus, I found many wonderful treasures while enjoying The Wine Road in Dry Creek Valley for A Wine and Food Affair.  If you would like suggestions for wineries to visit in Dry Creek Valley, please feel free to ask or visit my Dry Creek Valley webpage. I will also offer suggestions for any of our other wonderful wine regions in Sonoma County and I am working on webpages for those regions.

You don’t need to wait an entire year to enjoy a Wine Road event – in January The Wine Road will be hosting the 23rd Annual Winter WINEland and in March the 37th Annual Barrel Tasting.  I am going to be in the Russian River Valley for Winter WINEland and Alexander Valley for the Barrel Tasting, please join me or plan you own journey to Sonoma County Wine Country. To make the most of these events, I highly suggest a plan of action and some good friends to share the experience.

#TheWineRoad #WineRoad #WFA2014 #AWineandFoodAffair #DryCreekValley #AlexanderValley #RussianRiverValley #Healdsburg #Wine #Wineries #Winemakers #Winetasting

Steve Heimoff – A Fellow Blogger

IMG_1993-CropSteve Heimoff graced a receptive audience at Fog Crest Vineyards during their October ‘First Friday’ celebration reading from and signing one of his early books, ‘A Wine Journey Along the Russian River.’

The evening started innocently enough at the beautiful venue with the Indian Summer sun and lovely wines pleasantly warming everyone into relaxation. Steve was chatting in his easy manner with early guests, while Jérôme Chéry (winemaker), Rosalind Manoogian (owner), and Nessia Flugger (Director of DTC OperatioIMG_1986ns) poured Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from their Russian River Valley lineup.  Guests lounged as we do on a Friday night after a long week’s work enjoying savory and sweet crepes from Ultra Crepes, signing the ‘guest book’ wine barrel, and strolling the rose garden.

If you are not familiar with Steve Heimoff, this was the short biography that Jackson Family Winery offered in May 2014 when they announced that Steve joined them as  Director, Wine Communications & Education.  “Heimoff joins Jackson Family Wines after 22 years at Wine Enthusiast Magazine, most of them as California Editor. Previously, Heimoff wrote for Wine Spectator Magazine. Born in New York City, Heimoff moved to San Francisco in 1979 to attend graduate school and it was there that he discovered and nurtured his passion for wine.  Heimoff has written two books for University of California Press: A Wine Journey along the Russian River, and New Classic Winemakers of California: Conversations with Steve Heimoff. In addition, his daily wine blog,, is one of the most widely read in the country.” Steve is a journalist and someone that most, if not all of us that play at writing look to as a role model on the right way to approach this trade!

DSCN1909I was star-struck asking this journalist for his autograph. I had met Steve briefly at the Russian River Valley Pinot Classic and purchased his book after he read an excert during a seminar. In reading The Journey, I realized that although I had lived and studied wine in Sonoma County for almost 40 years, I still had volumes of research to begin to understand our beautiful wines and vineyards.   A small lull in the activity left Steve alone for a moment while James Manoogian (Fog Crest owner) secured another glass of Pinot for him. I took my chance to slide in unnoticed. No such luck!

DSCN6515-SmAs I handed Steve my book, the Fog Crest media team bounced in and said ‘smile,’ camera in hand. Recovering from the surprise photo, Steve was asking my name which I knew, including the spelling, but then the guillotine fell as he asked what do you do? I polite, friendly question, not meant to accuse someone who for the first time in so many years was without a well-defined profession. I blurted out that I was a wine blogger and cringed at having said it outloud to him.  Steve smiled kindly ignoring my obvious discomfort started writing. Imagine how horrified I was to read the inscription he returned to me – now I have an obligation, a responsibility to write clearly, and produce content that matters, if I am to be anyone’s fellow blogger, especially Steve’s.

DSCN6213For everyone else, it was a wonderful evening, Steve went on to regale us with stories of how he almost died twice traversing the Russian River on his own personal discover during the writing of his book.  The Russian River is our Loire, our Rhône, our Rhine, our Mosel, our Douro – it is our wine river, the one that tells the story of our people, our climate, our geography, our culture, and our wines. It is a terrific little book!

Fog Crest Vineyards hosts ‘First Friday’ throughout the year; I would highly recommend stopping by to visit this venue, try the wine, and perhaps bring along a book to read while you are relaxing on the patio at sunset.

#FogCrestVineyards #Wine #Winery #RussianRiverValley #SteveHeimoff

Vitcultural Drones – Just Another Tractor?

MulticopterNature’s signs are ever present in the Kunde Family Vineyard as Sonoma County’s harvest approaches with copious amounts of ripening grapes, yellowing leaves, and hungry birds.  But the morning air whispers a subtle mechanical sound as a 3D Robotics‘ autonomous multicoper lands among the vines.

Drone news is often military related, but drones can be used for everything from agriculture to delivering pizza.  2014 Precision Aerial Ag Show drew 1,000 midwest farmers.  With concerns about privacy the FAA has postponed final discussions on drone regulations until 2015. Current FAA restrictions allow farmers to operate an unmanned aircraft over their own property for personal use under 400 feet and outside 3 miles of an airport.  Japan is extensively using drones in agriculture. 3D Robotics wants farmers to use drones the way they would any piece of farming equipment and is creating products to meet those agricultural needs.

Ryan Kunde, 5th generGrapes Smallation viticulturist and winemaker from DRNK Wines, is surveying the grapes to be harvested in the Kunde Family Vineyards near the old winery ruins in the Sonoma Valley AVA. Kunde Family Vineyards is a remarkably diverse 1,850 acre farm with less than 40% of its land devoted to vineyards and topography that varies from 1400 foot mountain tops, to rolling hills, to a valley floor. The vineyard acreage is home to around 20 varietals grown in a volcanic band of “Red Hill” soil.  Ryan is very familiar with this large vineyard, he grew up here among these sustainably-grown vines talking easily about the the land, the lakes and grapes in a knowledgeable but unpretentious manner.  But today he wants a bird’s eye view of these vineyards to help him assess areas of vigor and stress, because he needs to determine harvest timing and row locations.

This time of the year, growers and winemakers alike are walking the vineyards sampling the fruit and making tDrone 1 Whiteheir most important decision of the year – when to harvest.  But is that really the only question? More and more I am hearing that separating the grapes from different areas of the vineyard so that more complex and interesting wines can be blended at bottling is almost as important as harvest timing. How do you evalutate all of the important or possibly important grape variations within a large vineyard like Kunde Family Vineyards? For Ryan the answer is viticultural drones. Drone photographic images can be accumulated long-term to assess vineyard patterns and perform maintenance. Additionally, they can be used for on-demand aerial images as he is doing today.

Imaging 2Images are created from autonomous, fixed-wing planes and multicopters with a point-and-shoot camera mounted inside. 3D Robotoics software then stitched the images together to generate the 3D model of the vineyard. Color variations in the 3D photographic model of vineyard help select sampling areas for possible seaparation during harvest.  Then it was back to the manual process and out into the vineyard to pick grapes to test for harvest readiness, using additional tools of the harvest (refractometer).

SamplingDrones are obviously not a replacement for a knowledgeable vineyard manager or winemaker, but another farming tool.  Drones can be a cost-effective solution in difficult terrains, newly acquired vineyards, or large properties to assess areas for manual evaluation or maintenance.  This evaluation can include watering or fertilizations requirements, pest control, general vineyard vigor, or harvest readiness. Ryan can send vineyard workers with guided GPS to specific areas of the vineyard to work and make informed decision about grapes to be separated during harvest so that he has the ability to make better decisions and better wine once the grapes are back in the winery.

Imagery is not uncommon to agriculture, but hiring planes or using satellite technology is more expensive and subject to weather and timing.  Planes often need to be hired weeks in advance and satellite images are difficult when clouds interfere.

Drones technology is moving to meet this agricultural need with two trends drivening drone expansion (and reducing pricing) one is open source technology and second is the development of the Maker Movement for do-it-yourself (DIY) techies. Ryan’s interest in technology began with a childhood interest in radio-controlled cars. Today, he owns automous fixed-wing planes and is beta-testing multicopters both models equiped with GPS location systems and point-and-shoot camera technology (Go-Pro).

The most important factor in any harvest is still the man or woman guiding the process, our wonderfully talented growers and winemakers, but using every available tool to make the best decision can give you an edge.  Ryan is producing some incredible wines with a complexity that I love.  So perhaps it isn’t just another tractor, but a new innovative tool to allow a talented winemaker to improve his winemaking starting in the vineyard!

3D Robotics Logo 3D Robotics was started in 2009 by Chris Anderson, former Editor-in-Chief of Wired Magazine, and Jostrdi Muñoz.  At 20, Muñoz hacked a Nintendo Wii controller, wrote his own code, and equipped a remote helicopter with microcomputer boards to build the first-ever autopiloted drone. He recorded the flight with a camera and uploaded the video to a new website called, which was created by Chris Anderson. After Anderson saw the video, he sent the young inventor $500 so Muñoz could continue his work.  Without ever meeting in person the duo started VC-backed 3D Robotics 2009.  3D Robotics is vertically integrated and manufactures its own hardware and software. While vertical integration increases up front development costs, it offers greater control for the company to market its products to specific industries, such as agriculture.

DRNK Wines PNis a Dougherty-Kunde family partnership with Dale Dougherty, Ryan Kunde, Nancy C. Dougherty and Katie Kunde. DRNK uses the latest winemaking techniques to create elegantly crafted and balanced wines, each expressing a focused sense of place. The inaugural release of DRNK’s Cavers Cuvee Pinot Noir received a 97 at the North Coast Wine Challenge.  Ryan says, “Winemaking begins in the vineyard, and we begin evaluating our fruit from the time of inception to harvest from all perspectives, from under root to over the canopy. An intimate relationship with the fruit continues through crush as each lot is carefully hand harvested and sorted in the vineyard and again at the winery before crushing. All fermentations are carried out in small batches and punched down by hand. The wines are then transferred to barrel in our underground cellar, an ideal winemaking environment. The utmost care and consideration is given to each barrel individually before final blends are made.”   Tours & Tasting by appointment only. or call 707.889.1000

#DRNKWines #3DRobotics #Wine #Drones #Viticulture #SCHarvest14


Charles Heintz Vineyard Chardonnays

CharlieWest Sonoma Coast Vintners West of the West Festival Seminar #2 “Charles Heintz Vineyard Chardonnays” was an appropriate topic as this is and has been for 20+ years a premier sources of grapes for many of the winemakers utilizing West Sonoma Coast grapes.

The Heintz Vineyard, owned by the Heintz family for almost 100 years consists of approximately 100 acres of which about half are planted with a combination of Chardonnay (25 Acres Clone 4 AXR1 rootstock), Pinot Noir (20 Acres, Clones: Pommard,115, 113, Swan and Berringer plus 2 Acres Swan clone), and Syrah (3 Acres, Clones 174, 470 and a “Field Select” from Hugh Chappelle all on 330).  Although Charlie encouraged us all to try his beloved Syrah (during the Grand Tasting), this seminar focused on the Chardonnay.

Panel2The Panelists were lead by Alder Yarrow of Vinography with color commentary by Ehren Jordan of Failla (who does not use Heintz Vineyard Chardonnay grapes, but tried to obtain some for cement eggs during the seminar).  Ehren stated his job was to keep everyone honest.  Joining this group was Charles Heintz, Hugh Chapelle consulting winemaker at Heintz Vineyards, Andy Smith of DuMol, and Ted Lemon of Littorai.  Ryan Zepaltas of Zepaltas was originally scheduled but his wife gave birth at 8 am the morning of the seminar.

Charles Heintz said the Chardonnay plantings in 1982 were originally intended to be hawked to Korbel Cellars for sparklinWine 2ag wine, but due to the depression of the 1980 was never accomplished.  Within a few years they realized they could ripen Chardonnay for still wine and sold some via Warren Dutton, but their early client was Sebastiani.  These grapes on grown at about 900 ft. elevation on the second ridge in from the Pacific Ocean in what Charles Heintz describes as a rain cloud.  Even in this drought year, he indicates that his resersoirs are full.

Heintz Vineyards sells to a whose-who of great winemakers (Amici Cellars, Banshee WinesBrack Mountain Wine, Ceritas WinesDeLoach Vineyards, DuMol WinesFetzer, Flowers WineryFreeman Family Vineyards, Heintz VineyardsKesner Wines, Landmark, Littorai, MigrationMoone Tsai, Pearl MorissettePeay Vineyards, Peirson Meyer WinesRadio Coteau, Realm Cellars, Ultramarine Wines, VonHolt WinesWilliams Selyem, and Zepaltas Wines) and has maintained long-term relationships with many of these growers, he named 20 years with panelist Ted Lemon of Littorai and 14 years with Andy DuMol of DuMol.
Wine2The Chadonnay from this vineyard has a pronounced acidity and textural difference in its mouthfeel that Charles Heintz felt was unique.  About 20 years ago, Ted Lemon asked him to begin organically farming the grapes that Littorai was purchasing in the West Block.  Although this has been challenging over the years, Heintz has continued to organically farm about 5 acreas of his Chardonnay.e

The first was a comparative of picking range available in the Heintz Vineyard with two 2012 Chardonnays from Ceritas and Zepaltas (harvested 2 weeks after Ceritas’ grapes) which was  followed by three tank samples showing a comparison of neutral wood (Heintz) versus stainless steel (Littorai) versus hogsheads (DuMol).  None of these were final wines, but indicated some winemaking nuances and the room liked all three samples, but seemed to slightly favor the stainless and hodsheads.

Three distinct but similar wines from 2011 Ceritas, 2012 Heintz, and 2012 DuMol were blind tasted to showcase similarities in qualities of the vineyard produce.  The crowd was almost equally divided on which one they liked the best which was another strong indicator of the diversity and quality at this site.

Grand Tasting followed.

#Amici Cellars #BansheeWines #BrackMountainWine #CeritasWines #DeLoachVineyards #DuMolWines #Fetzer #FlowersWinery #FreemanFamilyVineyards #HeintzVineyards #KesnerWines #Landmark #Littorai #Migration #MooneTsai #PearlMorissette #PeayVineyards #PeirsonMeyerWines #RadioCoteau #RealmCellars #UltramarineWines #VonHoltWines #WilliamsSelyem #ZepaltasWines #Chardonnay #WestSonomaCountyVintners #WOWSebastopol

The Evolution of California Cuisine & Wine

Panel1West Sonoma County Vintners kicked off West of the West Festival with two strong seminars, the first “The Evolution of California Cuisine & Wine” and the second “Charles Heintz Vineyard Chardonnays.”

Co-Moderators & Sommeliers, Paul Einbund and Peter Palmer, lead a distinguished panel of chefs from some of the hotest trending San Francisco restaurants featuring Stuart Brioza of State Bird Provisions, Evan Rich of Rich Table, and Cortney Burns of Bar Tartine for Seminar #1 “The Evolution of California Cusine and Wine.”

Wines 1Six Pinot Noir were paired two at a time with a dish from each chef/restaurant.  The first two 2012 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir were Alma Fria Dona Margarita Vineyard and Gros Ventre Campbell Vineyard.  The wines were tasted individually and then paired with a bay shrimp ceviche with blue lake beans and coriander.  The Alma Fria aroma of forest floor was layered with black fruit and spice, medium acidity and a medium long finish, but the best pairing with the bay shrimp was the Gros Ventre which rocked black raspberries and spice with a lively acidity that made this pairing sing.  I need to try more of this wine – my first introduction to this vineyard is extremely positive.

PairingThe second two 2012 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir were Furthermore Nevina’s Vineyard (a new vineyard named after Chad’s daughter) and 2012 LIOCO Hirsch Vineyard.  The pairing was with a Smørrebrød (dense dark brown bread) with Kale, Yogurt and Sunflower Tahini.  The Furthermore offering was earthy with spicy notes balanced with acidity, although the LIOCO with a black raspberry, cedar, and spice aroma and lively acidity was the pairing star for me.  Chef Cortney indicated they sprouted the seeds and worked with the bread to help digestability of the dish.

The final palate temptation featured local ingredients including Liberty Duck and local mushrooms and blackberries in a State Bird Provisions dish of very lightly smoked duck, which was paired with the final two 2012 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, Joseph Phelps Freestone Vineyard and Flowers Sea View Ridge Vineyard.  The Flowers Pinot Noir displayed black cherries and herbs in a balanced wine, but the star pairing in this duo was the Joseph Phelps with bright red cherries and cassis aroma with a full mouthfeel and long finish, great balance with the duck.

This array of food and Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir was not so much about one being better than another, but displayed the high quality of Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir (as it is currently being made) as an excellent pairing with the ever evolving and adventurous California cuisine. The chefs on the this panel were very interactive discussing how they are always challenging the foods that can be combined with Pinot Noir.  They are thrilled that the wines being produced on the True Sonoma Coast are wonderfully food friendly and enhance the amazing culinary offerings being created by California’s talented chefs.

PaulThe sommeliers were asked why California wines are not dominately featured on their wine lists and they honestly answered that it is changing for the positive for a number of reasons.  California wines, especially the kind displayed here are becoming more food friendly in general.  Additionally, visitors to the area don’t want to taste wines (with their meals) from other areas, but want to experience the best California has to offer.  California’s wine is evolving to match the talent of our California chefs.  We might be young, but we are learning rapidly.

This was a first class seminar and one of the many reasons The West Sonoma Coast Vintners West of the West is a not to miss event.

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