- Cindy at Grape Experiences is All Fired Up! Light the Grill and Pour Troon Wines
- David of Cooking Chat will be posting Grilled Steak and Onions
- Gwendolyn of Wine Predator is sharing On Grill: Salmon, Squash, Stone Fruit; In Glass: Square Peg Pinot Noir x2
- Jade from Tasting Pour will be joining us, but doesn’t have her title nailed down just yet!
- Jeff of FoodWineClick will write about Summer Wines With Memphis Style Slow Smoked Ribs
- Jill of L’occasion plans Wine for A Summer Cookout
- Mary at Vindulge has joined us for the first time with Smoked Beef Short Ribs, Wine Braised
- Michele at Rockin’ Red Blog writes about Summer Grilling and Wine Pairings
- Nancy at Pull That Cork will share Grilled Chicken and Rosé, of Course, for #winePW
- Wendy at A Day in the Life on the Farm will be pairing Raspberry/Mango Glazed Ham Steaks with Edna Valley Pinot Noir
- Camila at Culinary Adventures with Camilla – have planned Grilled Octopus and Potato Salad with Donkey & Goat’s Pet Nat
As part of this year’s “Open That Bottle Night 2017” event, we decided to open a bottle of 2012 Kenzo Murasaki and pair it with bacon wrapped Filet Mignon. We imagined it was going to be a good pairing, but it was one of the most memorable pairings we have done, one for the books!
Open That Bottle Night is an annual national event every last Saturday of February, dedicated to making sure that those bottles of fine wine put away for a special occasion, are used and enjoyed. The event was organized in 2000 by “Tastings” columnists Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher. In a way, it is a day declared to make sure that you indeed find that “special occasion.” This year we looked at our cellar and decided that we were going to venture in opening one of our most prized bottles.
About Kenzo Murasaki
2012 Kenzo Murasaki is a proprietary red blend made by famous Napa Valley winemaker Heidi Barrett. The 2012 vintage of Murasaki is a Merlot prominent Bordeaux blend. This blend has Merlot (75.6%), Cabernet Sauvignon (18.9%), Cabernet Franc (2.4%) and Petit Verdot (3.1%). Murasaki represents nobility and elegance. This wine offers intense well-integrated oak aromas, blackberries, currants, violets, rose petals, leather, tobacco, coffee bean, cinnamon, and dark chocolate with lingering notes of black pepper, tart cranberry and medium tannins on the palate. This is an outstanding wine with great ageability at a suggested retail price of $250.
About the pairing
We paired Murasaki with Filet Mignon wrapped in bacon and topped with caramelized onions. Following a recipe from Ina Garten, we cooked the onions in a bit of brandy. To add insult to the injury, we had it with truffle fries. Magnifique! A meal like this you don’t pair with any wine. Then again, Murasaki deserves no less. The marriage of flavors is a play in your palette. The pleasant tannins from the wine were a perfect compliment to the richness and tenderness of the Filet Mignon, and both food and wine enhanced each other.
About Kenzo Estate Winery
Kenzo Estate Winery is located on the slopes of Mt. George, in the southeastern part of Napa Valley. The Estate lies hidden in the upper meandering ways of Highway 121. A scenic pathway through unspoiled preserved areas and Leoma Lake leads the way to breathtaking rolling hills planted with perfectly manicured vines. This beautiful Estate it is worthy of a visit by every wine lover.
Kenzo Estate exquisite wines are the result of the convergence of three major influences: fruit expression, careful vineyard management, and masterful winemaking. In the winery is nestled in a valley at 1,550 feet, the Estate encompasses 3,800 acres, of which only four percent is dedicated to the growing of Bordeaux varietal wine grapes.
Napa Valley wines distinguish themselves from many others around the world. Unique terroir gives this American Viticultural Area the advantage among many others. It is refreshing to see Estate Wineries taking a different approach to grape growing. Wine connoisseurs know that mountain and valley fruit provide different characteristics and nuances to wines; derived from differences in altitude, sun exposure, and geologic soil content. Not only the location of this Estate distinguish the wines, but cultural influences in the approach of treating the grapes, its surroundings and winemaking makes Kenzo Estate Winery unique in beauty and quality.
The Estate fruit expression is the result of the estate’s elevation, cool climate, and extended growing season. Harvest at Kenzo Estate occurs later than Valley vineyards, where temperatures are often warmer. Mountain vineyards also benefit from a wider diurnal temperature difference. Longer growing period allows evenly ripening while higher diurnal temperatures help with acid preservation.
Carrying the fruit for a few extra weeks allows the Kenzo Estate vines time to complete the complex process toward ideal maturity. Each block is planted to maximize the vine’s varietal characteristics with ideal soil and individual care that reflects the high quality of the wines offered by the Estate.
A visit to Kenzo Estate starts with a warm greeting and a glass of Asatsuyu, a crisp and delicate Sauvignon Blanc. The visit includes a ninety minutes wine tasting and tour of the grounds and wine cave. The beautiful and elegant Tasting Room embraces its surroundings in a balance between nature and architecture, filling you with awe and anticipation. While you taste a glass of Asatsuyu, you get to enjoy a walk among the Estate vines and a visit to state-of-the-art white and red wine production facilities, constructed in the style of traditional California barn.
Your visit continues at the wine cave, where the wine aging magic happens. The cave entrance sits directly behind the winery structures, in balance with the surrounding landscape. Inside, French oak barrels are lined up with precision, lent to a detailed method of inspecting wines during aging. Sitting in peace the Estate wines get to rest and age undisturbed for up to twenty months in new and used French oak barrels.
Back in the Tasting Room, you get to sip through more Estate wines while enjoying you’re the view of the vineyards.
About Kenzo’s Winemaker
Kenzo Estate celebrated Winemaker Heidi Barrett, brings her signature wine style honoring the sense of place and respecting vineyard heritage and vintage personality, she draws on her intuitive connection with Kenzo Estate, which began as a youth when honing her equestrian skills on the mountain trails.
Heidi Barrett grew up in the Napa Valley, and is the daughter of California winemaking pioneer Richard Grant Peterson. Heidi even spent much of her childhood riding horses in Wild Horse Valley, today’s Kenzo Estate. After graduating from U.C. Davis in 1980 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Fermentation Science, she went to work for Justin Meyer at Franciscan Vineyards and Silver Oak Cellars.
In 1988, Heidi took her talents to the next level as Winemaker for Dalla Valle, by creating wines that achieved “cult” status. Her powerful, yet elegant, Cabernets from Dalla Valle Vineyards, including “Maya”, a proprietary blend, received perfect 100 point scores in two consecutive vintages (’92 and ’93) from Robert Parker. In 1992, she began making wine for Screaming Eagle. The 1992 and 1997 vintages garnered perfect 100 point scores from Parker as well, which, when added to the two perfect scores at Dalla Valle, established her on a level that few winemakers ever achieve.
In 2000, a 6-liter bottle of the 1992 Screaming Eagle set a world record for the highest price ever paid for a single bottle of wine at the Napa Valley Wine Auction, selling for $500,000. Robert Parker proclaimed her the “The First Lady of Wine”, and TIME magazine dubbed her “The Wine Diva of Napa Valley”.
Check out what other special bottles of wines our fellow #WinePW bloggers opened during Open That Bottle Night 2017:
Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm will post “How #OTBN happens while on vacation in Dominica“
Jen from Vino Travels will share “Baked sausage rigatoni with Vignavecchia Chianti Classico Riserva“
Sue from A Palatable Pastime is pairing “Pork Carnitas with Saint Cosme Cotes-Du-Rhone“
Michelle from Rockin Red Blog is writing about “South of the Border for Open That Bottle Night“
Cindy from Grape Experiences is posting “Wine and Dine: Two New Zealand Pinot Noirs and One-Pan Chicken“
Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla is pairing “Red Wine Chorizo + 1994 Argyle Reserve Oregon Pinot Noir“
Nancy from Pull That Cork will post “Our OTBN Celebration: The Château Léoville-Las Cases Stole the Show“
Lori from Dracaena Wines is sharing”Wine is in Boxes. It’s OTBN. Still turned out to be a night not to miss”
Martin from ENOFYLZ Wine Blog will post “Batting A Thousand for OTBN Vol 8- A Celebration With Friends“
Jill from L’occasion is opening “A Gigondas from the Cellar“
Gwendolyn from Wine Predator is posting “Cheers to Open That Bottle Night 2017 with Champagne from Bollinger“
David from Cooking Chat is posting “Shiitake Beef Stew with a Special Wine“
Santa Maria Valley is nestled between San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara. Part of the Central Coast of California, within Santa Barabara County. The Santa Maria AVA (American Viticultural Area), runs east to west. Delimited by the San Rafael Mountains/Los Padres National Forest to the east, and by the Solomon Hills and the city of Santa Maria to the west. The Opening to the Pacific ocean allows for the fog and coastal breezes to pass through the valley, providing for a longer growing season. It is the northernmost appellation in Santa Barbara County, and the region’s first officially approved AVA.
The Santa Maria Valley has recognition for high-quality grape growing and winemaking. With just over 30 established wineries, their vineyards, owners, and winemakers gained respect statewide. Due to their cold climate, a high percentage of the 7,500 acres planted to vine are Chardonnay and Pinot Noir with a lesser amount of Syrah. They also grow Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Viognier, Grenache, Merlot, Roussanne and Cabernet Sauvignon. The three more famous vineyards in the region are, Tepusquet, Sierra Madre, and Bien Nacido. There are three predominant soil types in the area, well-drained sandy loam, clay loam soils and alluvial soils. The terrain has slopes with elevation variations from 200 to 800 feet.
The three more famous vineyards in the region are, Tepusquet, Sierra Madre, and Bien Nacido. There are three predominant soil types in the area, well-drained sandy loam, clay loam soils and alluvial soils. The terrain has slopes with elevation variations from 200 to 800 feet.
Over our four-day visit to Santa Maria Valley, we had the fantastic opportunity to visit small family own wineries and bigger corporate operations. All of them have something in common, flavorful well made quality wines that represent the soil and climate that surrounds their vines.
Great Quality Wines
1. What a delight to share quality wines with Dave Corey “Mister Moreved,” owner and winemaker for Core Wine. Dave poured many of his well-crafted wines at his beautiful tasting salon at Oldtown Orcutt. Dave does not grow any grape vines, but source grapes from several grape growers. He maintains solid relationships with local grape farmers and produced outstanding wines. Among the well-crated wines we tasted with Dave, we enjoyed 2007 Cuvée Fletcher and 2008 Mister Moreved, both made with fruit from Alta Mesa Vineyard. Core wines are well balanced, showing intense fruit flavors, pleasant acidity and restrained oak nuances.
It was a real pleasure to chat with Dave, it was like talking to an old friend. He is very knowledgeable about wine and willing to share his vast knowledge with us.
2. Also located in Oldtown Orcutt is Nagy Wines tasting room. Winemaker and owner Clarissa Nagy greeted us in her eclectic and charming space. Clarissa shared with us her passion for wine and how she started in the wine industry.
Photos by Julie Santiago
“It was never my plan to make wine. My original plan was to work with food. Fortunately, food and wine go together. Through that means, wine found me. I met my husband while working at Byron Vineyard. We made a barrel of 2002 Viognier as a wedding favor. I do not grow grape vines but work with several vineyards, mainly in the Santa Maria Valley AVA, to get the best fruit expression. In the course of my career, I have been blessed to work with some amazing people and vineyards in Santa Barbara County. Our region and specifically Santa Maria Valley has captured my heart and my palate. I balance my time between family and winemaking.”
Clarissa poured a delicate and flavorful 2013 Nagy Pinot Blanc, made with grapes from Bien Nacido Vineyard. Lemongrass and honeysuckle aromas, with crisp acidity and flavors of tangerine, ripe Anjou pear, and notes of tamarind. We followed with an elegant and crisp Viognier, two distinctive vintages of Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir (2011 and 2012) and an oak restrained yummy Syrah.
The white and red wines at Nagy wines showed intense fruit flavors, pleasant acidity, and judicious use of oak contact on the red wines. Clarissa believes in minimal intervention during the winemaking process, allowing the grapes to express the character of their place of origin.
3. Cambria Estate Vineyards and Winery its own and run by the Jackson family. Tasting Room Manager, Nate Axline shared with us the history of the property. For the last 30 years, the Jackson family has farmed the property with sustainable practices, respecting the land and allowing the grapes express the crushed seashells in the alluvial soils and climate conditions around the vineyards.
The cold weather, temperature fluctuation and the fog that lurks in from the ocean at night; creates the perfect conditions at Cambria’s estate vineyards to grow Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. A highlight of the visit was trying four clones of Pinot Noir side by side. We tried Clones 2A, 4, 23 and 115. We enjoyed the experience of identifying the difference between the various clones; more or fewer fruit flavors, earthy notes, mineral properties, texture differences and more.
4. Riverbench Vineyard located on the southeastern edge of the Santa Maria Valley specialized in Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. They started planting Chardonnay and Pinot Noir vines in 1973. Riverbench Estate vineyards consist of 107 acres planted to Pinot Noir and 77 acres of Chardonnay grapes. After decades of selling grapes, they produced their first wine in 2004. At the Riverbench tasting room, your furry four-legged family member is welcome, and you can even buy a sparkling squeaky toy bottle. We enjoyed four delightful Pinot Noir wines and a Blanc de Blancs and Brut Rosé sparkling wines. Their winemaker Clarissa Nagy achieved well balanced elegant wines that entice you for more.
At the Riverbench tasting room, your furry four-legged family member is welcome, and you can even buy a sparkling squeaky toy bottle. We enjoyed four delightful Pinot Noir wines and a Blanc de Blancs and Brut Rosé sparkling wines. Their winemaker Clarissa Nagy achieved well balanced elegant wines that entice you for more.
5. Built into a hillside, Presqu’ile Vineyard sits in a privileged location with ocean and vineyard views all around. Estate Manager Cameron Porter walked us trough the state of the art production facility, caves and welcoming tasting salon. Cameron shared with us:
“The Murphy family, from Louisiana, bought the property in 2007. 200 acres, sixteen miles from the Pacific Ocean with 11 acres planted to Pinot Noir grapes. They called the estate Presqu’ ile (the Creole word for “almost an island”), honoring a dear Gulf Coast family gathering place lost to Hurricane Katrina, and because they envisioned the property as an island-like haven among the vines.”
The Murphy’s planted sixty more acres of vines. With the help of a Santa Maria Valley vineyard expert, they designed the new vineyard as a mosaic of various blocks ranging in elevation between 700 and 1,000 feet. The vineyard estate features 32 acres of several clones of Pinot Noir, 17 acres of Chardonnay, 16 acres of Sauvignon Blanc and small blocks of Syrah and Nebbiolo.
Cameron offered us several wines while walking trough the multi-level modern style building. We tried a refreshing Sauvignon Blanc, well-balanced Chardonnay, several expressive Pinot Noirs and elegant Syrah. We also tasted older vintages of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, confirming our opinion about how well crafted these wines are. Presqu’ ile produce 85% of their wines with their estate vineyards but also make a small production from some of the premium vineyards in the area, including Rim Rock, Steiner Creek, and the famous Bien Nacido Vineyard.
6. Under heavy rain, we arrived at Foxen Winery and Vineyard. We started our visit on their newest solar-powered tasting room and winery estate. In this property, you can taste their Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Rhône-style wines. Great hospitality at arrival, we stood at the bar. Our host was a local woman with family history back to the early 1800’s. She shared with us the winery history, “Bill Wathen and Dick Doré started the winery back in 1985 at the historic Rancho Tinaquaic. The winery is named in memory of William Benjamin Foxen, and English sea captain and Dick’s great-great grandfather. Captain Foxen adopted the distinctive anchor as his ranch cattle brand, which became the trademark of the Foxen Vineyard & Winery.”
Our first wine, an elegant 2014 Chenin Blanc from old vines, Ernesto Wickenden Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley. Elegant wine with ripe yellow fruit flavors, bright acidity, and pleasantly dry finish. We tried several delicious Pinot Noirs and Syrahs, all of them had a particular intense fruit character. Some of the Pinot’s a bit more earthy, spicy, little more acidic; all of them truly representing the nuances of the soil where they grow and the pleasant cool climate of this blessed Santa Maria Valley.
Still, under torrential rain, we stop by The Shack Built in the 1860’s as a blacksmith shop. In 1987 it became Foxen Vineyards first tasting room. Today you can taste Bordeaux and Italian-style wines. We tasted robust Sangiovese, Sangiovese blend, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.
Santa Maria Valley offers an excellent selection of places to stay, from B&B’s to chain hotels. We enjoyed our stay at the historic Santa Maria Inn Hotel, located in the middle of town in Santa Maria. The hotel is close to many great restaurants and over 50 wineries and vineyards. The hotel itself has a highly rated restaurant that serves contemporary California cuisine, open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If you happen to visit in Christmas time, take advantage of their famous Christmas day brunch buffet.
Santa Maria Valley BBQ
Santa Maria Valley is known for their traditional style of BBQ. Their particular flavor profile comes from a dry rub that includes salt, granulated garlic, black pepper, and herbs. According to local barbecue historian R.H. Tesene, “The Santa Maria Barbecue grew out of this tradition and achieved its ‘style’ when residents began to string cuts of beef on skewers or rods and cook the meat over the hot coals of a red oak fire.” The origins go back to the mid-1800’s when cowboys from the local ranches met to have a meat feast over open fire pits. The tradition is to serve the meat with sides of pinquito beans, fresh salsa, vegetables, tossed salad and fresh grilled bread.
On the early days, the favorite cut of meat for BBQ was the Top Sirloin. Back in the 1950s, a local butcher named Bob Schutz accomplished mastery in cooking the tri-tip cut, rapidly becoming a staple of Santa Maria Style Barbecue. The grilling method is an open pit, fired with red oak wood. The grill, usually made of iron, has a hand crank device that allows for lifting or lowering the grilling grid to the desired distance from the coals. We enjoyed dinner at three BBQ staple restaurants.
Our Introduction To Santa Maria Valley BBQ happened at Shaw’s Steakhouse, established in 1953. This restaurant located in downtown Santa Maria was at walking distance from our hotel. The first thing they served us was a small dish of raw vegetables, with a side of homemade salsa, something new and unexpected for us but very common here. We decided to go with pork instead of the traditional beef cuts. Both the baby back ribs and the pork chop were cooked properly and full with flavors.
Our second exposure to Santa Maria Valley BBQ was at The Hitching Post, featured in Forbes Magazine as one of the 10 Great BBQ Joints in the USA. Located at Casmalia, just a ten minutes drive from downtown Santa Maria. This restaurant feels welcoming with a lot of old western town character. What about the delicious grilled artichokes, everyone should start with this appetizer.
We are not red meat eaters, but we venture to try the fillet mignon and quail and the prime rib. Both dishes cooked to perfection with excellent seasoning and a pleasant note of red oak smoke. The red meat cuts showed a nice crust and very juicy inside. The quail was tender, juicy and full of flavor. We enjoyed dinner with a bottle of a local Bubbly. 2010 Blanc de Blancs Goat Bubbles-Sierra Madre Vineyard. A clean, refreshing sparkling wine with Brioche, green apple, and hints of citrus.
Our last dinner on this memorable trip to Santa Maria Valley Wine Country was at Far Western Tavern. Located in Oldtown Orcutt, this restaurant looks beautiful, classy and welcoming. Excellent service from start to finish. We felt welcomed from the moment we entered until the hostess greeted us on our way out. Exquisite food, we started with sweetbreads and grilled artichokes as appetizers. For entree, we order from the classics. Bulls Eye, a 14 oz. Signature boneless rib eye and the 12 oz. fillet mignon with the Pinot Filet Option (Pinot Noir Mushroom Reduction Sauce, Tobacco Onions). We also had their classic salsa with a side of beans and an order of grilled vegetables.
Photos by Julie Santiago
The fillets, cooked as we order, medium. The seasoning was just right, nice texture on the meat and very juicy. The vegetables were tender and tasty. To complement dinner, we ordered a bottle of 2014 Rancho Sisquoc Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine showed intense dark fruit flavors, mild spiciness, moderate oak and firm tannins. A great wine selection for steak dinner. We finished the Rancho Sisquoc Cab Sav with dessert, a delicious dark chocolate brownie topped with vanilla bean ice cream.
When thinking in a new California wine region to explore, take advantage of all Santa Maria Valley has to offer:
- Excellent quality wines
- Beautiful scenery wine country
- Their proprietary BBQ style and superb restaurant selections
- Wide variety of accommodations
- Hospitality wherever you go
Stags Leap District winemaking history goes back to mid-1880’s with the establishment of Occidental Winery off Silverado Trail. Today is home to Regusci Winery. The Phylloxera outbreak and Prohibition killed the booming wine industry in the region. By 1961 pioneer Nathan Fey planted the first Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards in the in Stags Leap District. From 70 acres jumped to over 34,000 acres planted to Cabernet Sauvignon in California today. In 1973 the Judgment of Paris exposed Stags Leap wines to stardom. In a blind tasting, nine renown French wine judges choose the 1973 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon over well known French producers as Mouton-Rothschild and Haut Brion.
Vertical Blind Tasting
Stags Leap District Winegrowers celebrated House of Cab Library Blind Tasting event at Jardinière Restaurant in San Francisco. What a treat to try Cabernet Sauvignon (1991 to 2010) in a blind side by side tasting, from this unique winemaking region. The tasting experience demonstrated the longevity and the sense of place of these exceptional Cabernet Sauvignon. These wines revealed a great balanced between acid, fruit, and tannins. Great fruit character, pleasant spiciness, wood nuances, velvety texture and a long finish.
From the blind library tasting some of my favorites are, 1992 Clos Du Val, 2007 Terlato Family Vineyards, 1995 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, 2005 Isley Vineyards, 2008 Baldacci Black Label and 2008 Quijote SLD.
Walk Around Tasting
At the walk around tasting, the participating wineries shared a variety of wines including Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Petit Syrah.
A unique chance to talk to vintners and winemakers about how they grow and craft their wines. From Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, Director of Vineyards Operations, Kirk Grace shared how they achieved green certification on their 142 acres of Estate vineyards by adhering to sustainable practices. “At Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars we put quality vs. quantity. Numbers are significant, but growing quality grapes and making exceptional wines is all about being in tune with the vines and down on the dirt”.
Marcus Notaro, Winemaker for Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, shared his thoughts about the 2016 harvest. “Bud break was early in Napa Valley this year and a cold season. We didn’t achieve the normal high temperature in July and August, which allowed for a prolonged hang time of the fruit. Overall, high-quality grapes in our vineyards. The grapes ripened evenly with lower than normal yield, but tasty berries. An interesting fact for this harvest is that the grapes from the cooler areas like Coombsville ripened at the same rate than the warmer areas like St. Helena.”
Michael Beaulac, Winemaker for Pine Ridge, shared the 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon from Stags Leap District, the 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley, and 2014 Carneros, Napa Chardonnay. All well balanced outstanding wines. Michael has 25 harvests under his belt, he joined Pine Ridge back in 2009, he came aboard with hi expectations of showcasing the 200 acres estate vineyards, 12 properties within five Napa Valley appellations. He enjoys creating wines that are unique to their terroir, as well as combining the various qualities of several vineyards into a harmonious blend.
Overall, The House of Cab Stags Leap District tasting event showed that top quality grapes treated with respect produced formidable wines for every taste. I share my experience with some favorite wines bellow.
- 1992 Clos Du Val Stag’s Leap District Cabernet Sauvignon: Still going strong, with aromas of ripe red fruit, vanilla, allspice, leather and hints of rose petals. On the palate, feels luscious with an elegant texture and flavors or ripe dark berries, dark cherries, brown spices and touch of sweetness and green tea. Suggested retail price $70.
- 2015 Stag’s Leap Winery Viognier: Bright acidity with ripe stone fruit, honeysuckle and kiwi. This Viognier finished clean with hints of passion fruit and guava. Suggested retail price $32.
- 2011 Quixote Petite Syrah: This wine shows Star Anise, ripe plum, dark berries and coffee bean aromas. On the palate, this Petite Syrah feels full body with substantial but smooth tannins. Suggested retail price $80.
This month’s Wine Pairing Weekend explores Grüner Veltliner; in the glass and at the table!
Though, this article is about Grüner Veltliner wine, it is also about how wine makes you feel and what, when, where or who it reminds you too. It is said that wine aromas can provoke an emotion or trigger a memory. Why is that? There are studies about the relationship between aromas and memories, and others about the sensations and perceptions you experience when smelling wine aromas. Though I will not delve into the science behind it, I will like to cite a quote from the “Making sense of wine: Cognitive Psychology’s contribution to understanding wine tasting and wine tasters,” by Wendy V. Parr, an Oenology and Wine Sensory Science Researcher from the Department of Wine, Food & Molecular Biosciences, Lincoln University in New Zealand:
“Wine is as cerebral as it is sensual. Experiencing wine is not just a physical experience but also a cognitive and emotional experience. The sensory input associated with wine tasting is subjected to cognitive processing from the moment of perception.”
I found this quote to be really exceptional, and in my personal experience, it is absolutely true.
What that has to do with Grüner Veltliner? Grüner is the first wine that helped me to recognize that emotional connection!
Back when we lived in Atlanta, we gathered frequently with good friends and wine enthusiasts, and with time the group evolved and became a Wine Club. Every month or so, we all gathered at a friend’s house to enjoy good food and wine pairings. Everybody judged the pairing, bestowed a prize and talked about the wine and food pairings they liked the most. It was a lot of fun! There is no better way to enjoy wine than with good food and great friends!
In one of those occasions a dear friend of ours, Maureen, brought a Caramelized Onion and Pear Tart to pair with an Austrian Grüner Veltliner. For me, it was the first time tasting a wine made from the Austrian grape and having a sweet/savory pear tart. I was impressed by this pairing! Few years after that event, sadly, our beautiful and vibrant friend, died tragically. Among the many memories of her, we have that night when we had so much fun about discovering this pairing and talking about making the tart. Now every single time I have a Grüner Veltliner, it evokes that emotional connection with her and brings me back to that moment in time.
While attending the 2016 Wine Bloggers Conference in Lodi, Martin Redwood (Enofylz Wine Blog) and Michelle Williams (Rockin Red Blog) talked to me about the upcoming Grüner Veltliner Wine Pairing Weekend. I immediately thought about that pairing! I thought “Why not? What a better way to remember our friend Maureen?
Since I couldn’t find her original recipe, I searched for a similar recipe. All recipes include a soft cheese. So, with the help of Wine Folly’s “Grüner Veltliner Wine – Taste and Food Pairing Guide” and the book “What to Drink with What you Eat” I think I narrowed it down to two type of cheeses that will go perfectly with the Grüner Veltliner: camembert and brie. I selected three wines to pair with the Caramelized Onion and Pear Tart, two organic wines from Austria and a Sustainable wine from Edna Valley in California.
About the Grüner Veltliner grape
Grüner Veltliner is the most important autochthonous grape variety in Austria. According to Austrian Wine Marketing Board, this white variety alone accounts for almost one-third of Austria’s vineyards with 13,518 hectares. Today, the variety is widely planted especially in Niederösterreich and northern Burgenland. As an origin-typical DAC (“Districtus Austriae Controllatus”) wine, this variety holds special rank in several wine-growing regions.
Grüner most remarkable characteristic is its vibrant acidity and peppery taste in our mouth. That acidity makes Grüners great wine food companions. Many times Grüner’s compatibility with food is compared to that of dry Rieslings. So if you are a fan of dry Rieslings, and you have never tasted Grüners, there is a great chance you will like Grüner Veltliner wines. They also have a very attractive price point, usually between $10 and $20. Alcohol percentage ranges between 11% and 13%.
About the wines
Wine Number 1
Wine: 2014 Zocker
Grape: 100% Grüner Veltliner
Origen: Edna Valley, California
Winery: Paragon Vineyard
Retail Value: $17.99
Additional Information: Estate Grown, SIP Certified (Sustainable in Practice)
Tasting Notes: On the nose, it has aromas of pear, citrus, and hints of petrol and minerality. On the palate, the wine is crisp, with medium body, grapefruit undertones, and tart apple finish.
Wine Number 2
Wine: 2015 BioKult
Grape: 100% Grüner Veltliner
Origen: Niederösterreich – Qualitätswein, Austria
Retail Value: $14.99
Additional Information: Made with organic grapes, NON-GMOand biodynamic farming
Tasting Notes: On the nose, it has notes of green apples, honey, citrus, floral, and fruit forward. On the palate, the wine has a light body, and it is crisp and tart, with notes of white pepper, grass and ends with a textured finish. The wine opens with time, becoming very approachable.
Wine Number 3
Wine: 2014 Pratsch
Grape: 100% Grüner Veltliner
Origen: Niederösterreich, Austria
Retail Value: $14.99
Additional Information: Made with organic grapes
Tasting Notes: On the nose, it has grassy, lemongrass, floral and citrus notes. On the palate, it has green apples, honey, grapefruit, tart with a mouthwatering and lingering finish. This wine has a nice acidity to compliment rich dishes.
About the pairing
The recipe I chose to follow, and I believe closely resembles our friend’s recipe, is from “Dalia cooks.” The recipe is “Caramelized Onion And Pear Tart,” and it has onions, Bosc pears, Camembert cheese, and thyme. I highly recommend this recipe to pair with any Grüner Veltliner wines. The richness and saltiness of the Camembert cheese contrast with the sweetness of the caramelized onions and pears. The lovely acidity of Grüner Veltliners is an incredible pairing for the tart. However, out of the three wines tasted for this pairing event, the 2014 Pratsch Grüner Veltliner paired the best with the tart. I have to admit that it also is the one that mostly remind me of my first experience with Grüner, and brings me closer to my memory of our friend Maureen! This wine is outstanding, alone to sip on a hot summer afternoon or with along food. This is a great value wine for $14.99. I will definitely buy this wine again.
This tasting has reaffirmed my memory of our friend. Cheers Maureen!!
Check out what my fellow #WinePW bloggers have discovered during their exploration of Grüner Veltliner in the glass and at the table:
- Michelle of Rockin Red Blog tells us Why You Should be Drinking Grüner Veltliner.
- Jill of L’Occassion recommends we Go Ahead and Say It: Grüner Veltliner
- Camilla, Culinary Adventures with Camilla is dishing- Herbs, Bitter Greens, and Halibut Cheeks with Grüner Veltliner
- Sarah of Curious Cuisinere tempts us with Backhendl (Austrian Fried Chicken) and Grüner Veltliner
- Nancy of Pull that Cork will be offering Grüner Veltliner: A Pair of Pear(ings) for #winePW
- Lori of Dracaena Wines will be sending A Message in a Bottle From Austria
- David of Cooking Chat presents a healthy Kale and Tempeh Curry with Grüner
- Jeff of FoodWineClick asks the question Is Grüner Veltliner Your Next Pizza Wine?
- Lauren of The Swirling Dervish proclaims Gruner Veltliner: A Lot Easier to Drink than It is to Say
- Cindy of Grape Experiences recommends we Wine and Dine: Gruner Veltliner and Salmon Teriyaki with Garlic Baby Potatoes.
- Jade of Tasting Pour serves up Shrimp and Corn Soup with Gruner Veltlner #winepw
- Wendy of A Day In The Life On The Farm presents Germany collides with Asia for #WinePW
- Martin of ENOFYLZ Wine Blog will be offering A Taste of Grüner Veltliner; Old World and New World #winePW
Clarksburg Wine Country, established in 1987, represents forty-six growers, twelve wineries, and forty-eight associate members. This passionate group of grape growers and winemakers is devoted to growing quality grapes following sustainable practices. They are creating awareness of the unique sense of place on the wines, characterized by the maritime influence of the Sacramento Delta.
As part of the International Food Bloggers Conference, we attended the Excursion to Old Sugar Mill, Clarksburg. Five wineries, Clarksburg Wine Company, Due Vigne Winery, Elevation Ten, Three Wine Company and Muddy Boot Wines; shared their wines paired with lunch. Over 35 bloggers participated in this event, from the 300 plus writers that took part in the 3-day conference.
We enjoyed ten delightful dishes from Chef Chris and Chef Jackson – Jackson Catering, paired with wines from the five sponsor wineries. On a fun speed tasting, each vintner sat down at every table for few minutes to present two wines and share their story with us. Great opportunity to learn about the Clarksburg AVA, a lesser known wine region of California with over seven thousand acres planted to thirty-five grape varieties. The most regarded grape varieties are Chardonnay, Merlot, Petite Sirah, and Sauvignon Blanc; Chenin Blanc showed a notable sense of origin. The vintners presented well-crafted wines that paired appropriately with Jackson Catering culinary creations.
Agriculture in Clarksburg goes back to the first settlers in the 1850’s. Most of the original families that started growing grapes in the late 1880’s are still present, among them Bogle and Heringer. Also, Peter Marks, proprietor of Six Hands, is the great grandson of Joseph Machado, who grew grapes and made wine in Clarksburg in the 1890’s.
Among the many well-made wines that we tasted, we shared our thoughts on some favorites:
- 2013 Clarksburg Wine Company Chenin Blanc: (100% Chenin Blanc) Intense aromas of lily of the valley, honeydew, stone fruit and hints of honey and wet river stones. On the palate, this wine feels medium-bodied, moderate acidity and has a slightly oily texture. Pleasant flavors of green apple, citrus, guava, passion fruit and mineral notes. Have fun with this Chenin Blanc paired with grilled trout, scallops, shrimp, chicken, turkey and your favorite pasta dish with a light sauce. Suggested retail price, $18.
- 2015 Muddy Boot Chenin Blanc: (100% Chenin Blanc) This wine is playful on the nose, with aromas of ripe peach, freshly squeezed Meyer lemon and pineapple. On the palate, this Chenin Blanc feels bright and refreshing with pleasant acidity. Enjoy flavors of ripe watermelon, tangerine, quince with hints of Asian pear and Marcona almonds. Be adventurous, try this wine with medium spiced Thai Noddle dishes, Indian cuisine or your favorite white fish grilled on a cedar plank. Suggested retail price, a steal at $13.
- 2015 Three Wine Company Old Vines Rosé:(A blend of 41.6% Zinfandel, 24.5% Mataro, and 33.9% Carignane) A refreshing Rosé with vivid aromas and flavors of ripe strawberry, watermelon, pomegranate and hints of tamarind. A youthful wine with bright acidity that you can enjoy with an ample variety of cuisines. A great companion for Caribbean Cuisine, jerk chicken from Jamaica, “mofongo” or “pińon” from Puerto Rico, “mangú” from The Dominican Republic or “picadillo” with rice and black beans from Cuba. Suggested retail price, $18.
- 2014 Elevation Ten Reserve Chardonnay: This elegant 100% Chardonnay has gentle aromas of freshly baked apple pie, lemon, toasted marshmallow and hazelnuts. On the palate, this wine feels medium-bodied with a creamy texture. Intense flavors of caramel, ripe pear, kiwi and hints of vanilla. This wine will be the perfect companion for a pasta dish with chicken, lobster or pork with a creamy sauce with a touch of fresh herbs. Suggested retail price, $34.
- 2014 Due Vigne Barbera La Collina 115: This Barbera shows aromas of black cherries, ripe plum and lavender; finishing with earthy notes. On the mouth, this wine feels medium-bodied with smooth tannins and medium to high acidity. This Barbera shows flavors of ripe cherries, figs, baking spices and hints of mushroom. This wine will be a perfect choice to have with pizza, pasta with red meat sauce, grilled hamburgers and mushroom risotto. Suggested retail price, $40.
Photography by Edgar Solis Photo
Acquiesce means “to surrender, to become quiet.” Sue Tipton, winemaker extraordinaire for Acquiesce Winery, has made that her winemaking “motto.” She submits to the nature of the vineyard and let its true character shine.
We are fortunate enough to know Sue and her husband, Rodney, for close to four years now. Our first experience with Acquiesce wines was the tasting of the 2010 Belle Blanc; so crisp, aromatic and mouthwatering. You know now a good wine through your nose, but you fell in love when your taste buds wake up to such mouthwatering feeling, acidity, and hypnotic presence. Her wines are crisp, aromatic, enticing and seductive. The pleasant wine acidity makes them extremely food-friendly, and their aromas invite you to sit back, relax and enjoy.
We recently asked Sue a series of question for this articles, and as a gracious, as she is and always willing to please her friends and customers she replied back to all of them. Hopefully, through our questions, you’ll get to know the motivation behind such outstanding white wines from Lodi, CA.
Sue, what is your winemaking mantra? What do you seek from your vines that make your wines so distinctive? “World class wine at all costs. Meaning our wines will stand with any in the world arena, and I focus on the grapes in the vineyard, the hand picking, several sortings, gentle pressing, cold fermentation and countless hours in the vineyard and cellar. Attention to quality and detail is the difference”.
That she is now in her seventh vintage and has such a loyal following is a testament to her winemaking mantra and business success. As soon as you get to meet her, you understand why her philosophy transpires into her winemaking. Self-thought and resilient, she brings to the business presence and charisma like no other.
Sue and her husband Rodney moved to Lodi in 2000. Then, in 2003 they acquired their home and twelve acres of Zinfandel grapes in Acampo, north of Lodi, CA, where her career began as a home winemaker.
I understand your first plantings were used for home winemaking. What prompted you to become a Winery owner? “It’s a love story. We purchased our home and twelve acres of Zinfandel grapes on an 18-acre property. I started making red wine with the Zinfandel grapes but was always wanting to make a lovely rosé with the grapes. I quickly realized that making white and rosé wines were entirely different that making the reds. When I tried a white Châteauneuf-du-Pape wine for the first time in 2005, I fell in love . . . What was this wine? Why haven’t I tried it before? Can these grapes be grown here?
My research showed that only 7% of the grapes grown in Châteauneuf-du-Pape were white, and they export to 50 different countries. So when you find a nice white Châteauneuf-du-Pape, it is pretty expensive. When we visited the area, we noticed the white wines on the tasting room menus were more expensive than the reds. I asked a winemaker why that was, and he said, “You should know they are harder to make!”
Lodi’s climate is similar to that of the Southern Rhone region of France where they have been growing for hundreds of years. We are a few degrees warmer during the day during the growing season summer and slightly more than a few degrees cooler at night. The grapes want to and can, reach full ripeness here because our weather stays pretty dry through harvest. In France, they must sometimes pick the grapes early due to the weather and then need to put them through malolactic fermentation to soften the acidity.
I proceeded to plant Grenache Blanc in 2008. We were thrilled with the result and wanted to plant the others. You might say this was a hobby out of control. At some point, I made the decision to “go professional” and continue my journey with the whites”.
Self-tough vine growers, Sue and Rodney, have learned grape growing by living on the property for 13 years now. They see the effects of too much water, not enough sun, too much sun, etc. They also work with a second-generation vineyard manager who was raised in Lodi and knows how to grow premium wine grapes. Sue credits his knowledge as the key to doing what they do.
“We wake up every morning and see a different vineyard . . . it is a beautiful way to live’”. Sue Tipton, Acquiesce Winery
Except Grenache Noir for the Rosé wine, why planting white grapes only? “I honestly feel that Lodi is perfect for these whites. I wanted to focus on the whites and give them their due, to make the best whites I could. I think sometimes the whites are “second class citizens” in the tasting room because the reds usually command a higher price. I wanted to focus on them because they’re sexy too and give them the spotlight they deserve”.
And sexy they are! Just look at the bottle that she chose to showcase her wines!
“I got to choose what bottle I’d like since I’m the owner, winemaker, designer, and buyer! The bottle expresses the feminine, beauty, uniqueness, classic and French. It’s pretty expensive, but I love it, and we sacrifice for love don’t we?” Sue Tipton, Acquiesce Winery
In a sassy business decision, in 2014 they decided to take all the Zinfandel vines out and plant all to Rhone varietals. To date, they have 10.25 acres of Grenache Noir, Grenache Blanc, Viognier, Roussanne, Bourboulenc, Picpoul Blanc and Clairette Blanc. Presently, they produce a Picpoul Blanc, Grenache Blanc, Belle Blanc (blend of Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, and Viognier), Grenache Rosé (from Grenache Noir), Viognier, and Roussanne. Acquiesce total annual production is now 1,500 cases but soon hope to grow to 3,500 cases with the recent 2015 plantings.
Sue credits Acquiesce success and loyal following to her passion for the wines, the focus on quality, the terroir and the way the wines pair with food. She is one of the 18% female winemakers in California. Out of curiosity, I asked Sue what percentage of Acquiesce wine club members are women, and as no surprise, she replies that about 60% of the wine club members are females. She adds, “Women love to support other women who are making strides in a male-dominated world.”
About Sue’s passion: “Early on, I was told by some well-meaning winemakers that I’d never survive without a red wine in my lineup . . . I told them if I can’t sell the wine, I’ll drink it. Wine lovers can tell when you are passionate, focused and driven”. Sue Tipton, Acquiesce Winery
How’s been the Acquiesce 2016 vintage so far? “Looks like a great year! We’ve had some refreshing rain for the young vines early in the year, and they have responded accordingly. The crop size is good, a bit more than last year. The berries are nice and small, the grape bunches are evenly spaced, and the fruit is tasting great!!”
Visitors to the one-hundred-year-old converted barn tasting room get to write in the “Before I die” blackboard when visiting.
What have you learned from your wines as you look forward to future vintages and what motives you to continue with wine making? What motivated your “Before I Die Board” at the winery? “I’ve learned that everything counts. There is no room for shortcuts. Nature loves her variables, so it is critical that we strive for ideal – world class wines. You only get one chance every year to learn, grow and improve your skills. The challenge of hopefully having only 20 harvests left in my lifetime makes me pay relentlessly close attention! I’m very excited about the new varietals Bourboulenc and Clairette Blanc and anticipating some remarkable blends using these in conjunction with the established varietals. This coincides with the “Before I Die Board” . . . I want to make better wine every year Before I Die! It’s a fun and interactive way to create discussion with your guests. It’s a way to reflect on what is important in your life and what isn’t”.
Undoubtfully, Acquiesce wines are exquisite and reasonably priced. As I said before, they have a loyal following and every year they sell out. Wine Club members are guaranteed the precious wine nectar and thus been in the Wine Club has a unique advantage. Want to be part of the action? Better get on the waiting list! If your palette is thirsty for crisp, high acidity, food-friendly, unoaked, true to nature, delicious white Rhone varietals and a beautiful Rosé of Grenache, look no further and surrender to Acquiesce!
Photos by Edgar Solis & Julie Santiago
Michael David Winery is synonym with Lodi excellence in winemaking. My experience with Michael David wines goes back to 2011 when I met Michael and Kristy Phillips for lunch at Soho Restaurant in Vinings, GA. I was just starting writing about wine at that time, the opportunity to meet a winery owner and taste his wines paired with outstanding food was incredibly exciting and new to me. After tasting wine with Mike and Kristy, I thought, “Wow, this is cool. I want to do this again”. Michael and Kristy shared their family history and their passion for wine with me like we were old friends. That is what wine does; it makes you close by sharing and experiencing intoxicating aromas and flavors.
I remember asking Michael, how did your family business start? “My great great grandparents established a vegetable farm on their 160 acres farm following the Civil War in the 1860′s near the town of Lodi. The Phillip’s farms evolved to include many different fruits, including fifteen different wine grape varieties, shipped throughout the country during Prohibition with instructions on how not to have the grapes turn into wine. Thereby, Prohibition was good for Lodi growers, with families everywhere keeping up the tradition of wine with meals by ordering these grapes and juice to be bottled at home.”
We tried well-balanced wines, like the 2009 Incognito white blend: (58% Viognier, 19% Chardonnay, 9% Malvasia Bianca, 7% Roussanne, 4% Sauvignon Blanc, 3% Symphony). This wine has intense white flower aromas, honeysuckle, ripe peaches and watermelon with beautiful notes of citrus lemon. Crisp and fresh with flavors of apricot, lemon, and hints of white pepper.
We enjoyed the 2008 Lust Zinfandel, 6th Sense Syrah and notably the 2008 Petite Petit (85% Petite Sirah and 15% Petit Verdot). This wine was dark purple-red in color and showed intense aromas of ripe plum, dark berries and dark currants with hints of violet, sweet vanilla, and caramel. On the palate, this elegant wine felt medium to full-bodied with a soft texture and pleasant tannins.
Brothers Michael and David Phillips own the winery located in Lodi, California. Mike is a fifth generation winemaker/producer and his son Kevin Phillips is the 6th generation of the Phillips Family to farm in the Lodi Appellation and has worked for the family since 2002.
“Kevin is our only son and is currently the VP of Operations for Phillips Farms and Michael-David Winery. His duties consist of overseeing all of the farming operations for Phillips Farms that includes over 750 acres of vineyards. He runs the grape grower relations side of the business which has over 65 farmers from 7 appellations and more than 20 different varieties. He also does all of the logistics and scheduling for each harvest and works hand in hand with the talented winemaking team at Michael-David Winery.” Mike shared.
Kevin also helped in the process of making all the family properties to comply with the rigorous Lodi Rules for Sustainability Program and lead Michael-David Winery as the first winery in California to give bonuses to all of their growers who achieve certification in the Lodi Sustainability Program.” Mike added.
A month after meeting Mike and Kristy, Julie and I had the great opportunity to visit Lodi for the first time. We stayed at Bare Ranch for a couple of days and were able to wander into beautiful wine country and try new exciting wines, including Jessie’s Grove Winery, Van Ruiten Family Vineyards, and The Lucas Winery.
Later on, while visiting one of the Rhone Rangers events in the San Francisco Bay area, we discovered beautiful Lodi Rhone varietal wines from Acquiesce Winery and Vineyards, immediately felt in love with the wines of Winemaker Sue Tipton. A couple of months later we came upon Bokisch Vineyards while visiting a TAPAS event at The Golden Gate Club in San Francisco. Markus and Liz Bokisch specialized in growing Spanish grape varieties in Lodi. Thanks to Sue Tipton, in 2012 we attended the Artisan Masters event in Lodi for a full weekend. Since then, we appreciated the great variety of quality wines coming from the Lodi AVA.
The Lodi AVA was approved in 1986, expanded in 2002 and revised in 2006 with the approval of seven new sub-areas within the boundaries of the existing Lodi AVA, based upon differences in soils and geographies, “With additional evidence for historical usage of the names of the proposed new AVA’s.” The Lodi wine region is growing in recognition for its quality wines and diversity of grape varieties grown. Over one hundred vitis vinifera grapes call Lodi home, including vines from France, Spain, Germany, Italy and Portugal.
No surprise the 9th Annual Wine Bloggers Conference is happening in Lodi from August 11 to 13, 2016. A couple of hundred wine lovers will be descending into Lodi to learn, taste and share experiences with their readers about the many wine wonders that call Lodi home. It will be a warm and personal gathering of wine writers, winemakers and friends from the wine industry on a highly rated hospitable environment.
Photo, Julie Santiago
JCB by Jean-Charles Boisset opened it’s the new Tasting Salon and Atelier in the town of Yountville, the heart of Napa Valley, in February 2016. The new local is all about fabulous wines and a luxurious lifestyle. The adjoin Atelier by JCB is all about the most enticing high-end gourmet foods from around the world; all wrapped in extravagant and surrealist décor.
The Tasting Salon encompasses the unique JCB approach that unites exclusive Napa Valley and French wines, luxury, and style that evokes surrealism. The JCB collection of Napa Valley wines are featured in three distinctive flights: the Premium Collection, the JCB Touch Interactive tasting at the digital touch table, and The Surrealist flight. It includes a first-of-its-kind interactive wine tasting experience at a digital touch table created exclusively for the tasting salon by Ideum. It offers, as well, wines preserved and served from Napa Technology wines stations, an electronic wine serving station. It is a vibrant, luxurious and uniquely designed tasting room that reflects and embraces the art of living elegantly, with retail pieces curated by Proprietor Jean-Charles Boisset.
The JCB Tasting Salon features a retail boutique that showcases the finest luxury goods from around the world, including JCB’s custom-designed jewelry collection, candles, and perfumes. Also, includes a collection of luxury goods from Lalique (crystal), Baccarat (crystal), Christofle (silver), Bernardaud (porcelain), to name a few, and books from Taschen, Assouline, Rizzoli, Abrams and Chronicle Books.
Inside the JCB Tasting Salon, you will also find the “Surrealist Boutique,” featuring Jean-Charles’s personally designed jewelry and Surrealist wines. The Surrealist Boutique includes an intimate tasting experience, inspired by the jewelry-adorned Surrealist wine, in a private lounge where wine tasting occurs atop a glass bar that showcases the JCB collection of jewelry. The Surrealist wine and the vessel in which the elixir is held is a piece of art and the inspiration for the Surrealist Boutique at the JCB Tasting Salon.
Boisset also launched into the world of gastronomy with the unveiling of Atelier by JCB, a gourmet “epicerie,” adjoining the JCB Tasting Salon, where offers a curated assortment of gourmet delicacies sourced locally from Napa and Sonoma alongside the best international producers from France, Italy, Spain and more. It offers salts, peppers and spices, mustards, honey, olive oil and vinegar from Boisset’s winery estates, smoked salmon, caviar, anchovies, truffles, Foie gras, terrines, charcuterie, more than 120 cheeses, chocolate, specialty teas and coffees. The Atelier by JCB is heaven for the Epicurious in all of us! Who can resist splurge and bring home some Pata Negra Iberico Chorizo, truffle honey, Pinot Noir Mustard, Foie gras, caviar, or a fabulous cheese like Taleggio, Mt. Tam, Tome de Savoie or Rabiola Lombardia? The Atelier even offers the signature Poilâne bread loaf from the famous Poilâne Bakery, flown from Paris every Thursday!
The location of the Tasting Salon and Atelier by JCB couldn’t be more fitting. In the heart of Napa Valley, the Town of Yountville is home to some of the best restaurant and hotels in California Wine Country, and the perfect backdrop to showcase JCB wine collection, specialty products, and luxury goods.
The JCB Tasting Salon and Atelier by JCB are open daily from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. at 6505 Washington St, Yountville, CA. For more information regarding wines, reservations and membership opportunities visit their website.
Grgich Hills Estate Winery, located within the acclaimed American Viticultural Area of Rutherford, Napa Valley, planted its roots Independence Day 1977. However, its story starts earlier than that. While the Judgment of Paris may have launched the seeds of the winery, the story begins with Miljenko “Mike” Grgich in Desne, Croatia many years earlier where he was born.
Mike is the youngest of eleven children, raised among the vines where his family grew grapes and produced wine. Though Croatia became part of the Soviet Union Communist Bloc after World War II, that didn’t deter him from pursuing his passion for Enology. He studied at the University of Zagreb, Croatia (then Yugoslavia), where he learned about California’s winemaking potential and dreamed of becoming a winemaker in California. Fearlessly and courageously embarked on a trip that brought him from Germany to Canada and finally to the United States to realize his dream.
Mike arrived in Napa Valley in 1958. He started to work for Lee Stewart, owner of Souverain Cellars. Later, he joined Brother Timothy at Christian Brothers, and then André Tchelistcheff at Beaulieu Vineyard, most knowledgeable winemaker known as “The Maestro,” and Mike’s mentor. Next, joined Robert Mondavi at his new winery where he helped craft the award-winning 1969 Cabernet Sauvignon that put Robert Mondavi on the map. In 1972, he became the winemaker and limited partner of Chateau Montelena, where he brought and applied his knowledge and expertise to produce the 1973 Chardonnay that shocked the wine world.
It is almost 40 years since California wines won the May 24th, 1976 blind tasting that stunned French judges, the 1976 Judgment of Paris. The tasting was organized by Steven Spurrier, a wine expert from England who ran a fine wine shop in Paris, who decided it would be fun to organize a blind tasting to coincide with America’s Bicentennial celebrations in 1976. The results of the blind tasting revolutionized the wine world and established Napa Valley’s reputation as a world-class wine region. To the French surprise the 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay, crafted by Mike Grgich, scored 132 points, the highest in the competition. California white wines won first, third and fourth places, and first place in the red wines blind tasting.
The Judgment of Paris helped to propel California’s wine industry, and paved the way for Mike to realize his lifelong dream of owning his winery. After his victory, Mike sat down with Austin Hills and his sister, Mary Lee Strebl, from the Hills Bros. Coffee family, and on Independence Day 1977, they gave birth to Grgich Hills Cellars. The Winery began producing wines immediately, and their first crush, of Chardonnay grapes was on September 5, 1977.
In 1995, Mike returned to his native Croatia to receive his degree in enology and viticulture, forty years after deserting the Communist regime to realize his lifelong dream to be a winemaker in California. In 1996 he opened Grgić Vina Winery in Croatia, his homeland, producing Plavac Mali, red wine, and Posip, white wine.
In 2000 and 2001 Mike also contributed to the discovery of the origins of California’s Zinfandel, tracing it back to his native Croatia with the help of University of California Davis Professor and winemaker, Dr. Carol Meredith, and the collaboration of his Alma Mater University of Zagreb. Though originally thought it was related to the Croatian native vine of Plavac Mali, further DNA studies revealed that the Croatian vine Crljenak Kaštelanski is genetically the same as California’s Zinfandel.
Though Grgich Hills’ pride and joy is the Chardonnay, its wine repertoire has grown to include Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Merlot, Petite Sirah, Petite Verdot and a dessert wine Mike called Violetta, after his daughter, Violet.
Grgich Hills Estate’s vision has grown and now they own 366 acres of top vineyards in Rutherford, Yountville, Carneros, American Canyon, and Calistoga. Organic farming is a staple in all the vineyards, using no artificial fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides, and relying on wild yeast fermentation in the winemaking production. As Mike often says, “From our vineyard to your glass, naturally!”
Today, Grgich Hill Estate remains committed to making distinctive wines with quality, consistency, and longevity.
Grgich Hills Estate Wines
- 2012 Napa Valley Chardonnay
Mike Grgich’s has been called “The King of Chardonnay” for a well-deserved reason. Though the Judgment of Paris planted the seed for his recognition, there was no accident why the 1973 Chardonnay won over French palettes. This wine is crisp wine with aromas of apples and melon, and a delightful nutty hint. With a honey color offers an unforgettable long-lasting luscious finish. Suggested retail price, $43.00.
- 2013 Napa Valley Fumé Blanc
This wine offers tropical notes and a touch of minerality with great balance and bright acidity for a lingering mouth-watering finish. Suggested retail price, $30.00.
- 2012 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
This wine is a rich, complex and a distinctive Napa Valley Cabernet coming from Yountville, Rutherford and Calistoga vineyards. It offers aromas of black fruit, violets, cherry and cigar. In the palette offers the notorious Rutherford dust sensation that we have learned to recognize. This is a Cabernet worthy of aging if you have the patience to do so! Suggested retail price, $65.00.
- 2011 Napa Valley Zinfandel
This wine is produced from their Calistoga Miljenko’s Vineyard. It is a sinfully delicious fruit forward wine with aromas of red and black fruit, yet earthy and elegant. It rounds up in your mouth with great balance and warmth. Suggested retail price, $35.00.
- 2011 Napa Valley Merlot
This wine is a Merlot that stands out like a Cabernet! The fruit is mostly from Carneros and American Canyon Vineyards, and it is made in the Cabernet Sauvignon style. It is dry, earthy, textured and robust. It offers black fruit aromas, yet it has savory component. Suggested retail price, $47.00.
- 2011 Yountville Selection Cabernet Sauvignon
This wine is produced from Cabernet vines than 50 years old. It has rich aromas of black fruit, violets licorice, with an incredibly smooth and round finish. A most have! Suggested retail price, $185.00.
- 2012 Napa Valley Late Harvest Violetta
A late harvest wine produced mostly from Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling, with some Gewürztraminer. This wine offers a delicate balance of acidity and sweetness. It offers aromas of pear, citrus and honey, and well-balanced finish. This is not a “one-dimension” dessert wine, expect mouth-watering finish that will leave you asking for more! Suggested retail price, $85.00.