All posts by Julie Santiago

Emotional Connection with Grüner Veltliner #winePW

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.

Maureen and Kari
On the left, our friend Maureen with Kari (Atlanta)

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

Zocker Grüner Veltliner

Wine Number 1

Wine: 2014 Zocker
Grape: 100% Grüner Veltliner
Origen: Edna Valley, California
Winery:  Paragon Vineyard
Alcohol: 13.5%
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.

BioKult Grüner Veltliner

Wine Number 2

Wine: 2015 BioKult
Grape: 100% Grüner Veltliner
Origen: Niederösterreich – Qualitätswein, Austria
Alcohol: 11.5%
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.

Pratsch Grüner Veltliner

Wine Number 3

Wine: 2014 Pratsch
Grape: 100% Grüner Veltliner
Origen: Niederösterreich, Austria
Alcohol: 12%
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

Surrender to Acquiesce Rhone varietals


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

New Tasting Salon and Atelier by JCB

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 Story

Premiere Napa Valley 2016 E-Auction lots

Edgar Solís Photo

Premiere Napa Valley (PNV) is the must-attend trade event of the year! Since 1997, retailers, restaurateurs, hoteliers, club managers and wholesalers representing the breadth of wine professionals gather in America’s leading wine region in mid-February for what has become widely known as “the best week of the Napa Valley wine business.” The region’s top winemakers offer ultra-boutique wines to the trade, crafted in as few as 60 and never more than 240 bottles, exclusively for the PNV brand.

Each PNV wine is created only once. At the auction, 225 different wineries offer futures only to the wine trade—individual restaurateurs and wine retailers—so they have the unique, and some of the best wines made from America’s leading appellation. Each wine is a “one-of-a-kind,” and will not be found in the market except by the wine sellers who secure unique wines via the annual trade auction. The winemakers take an out-of-the-box approach, often using varieties they may not bottle as a stand-alone. These wines are innovative and showcase the region’s sense of exploration in fine winemaking.

On January 15th, 2016, the Napa Valley Vintners (NVV) nonprofit wine trade association announced that as part of this year’s annual PNV, the NVV is introducing the sale of twenty-five PNV lots exclusively online. The other 200 lots will go on the auction block at the sold-out event, taking place at The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone on February 20. Bidding for the new E-Premiere Napa Valley Online Auction opens Friday, February 19 at 8 a.m. PST to pre-registered licensees anywhere in the world. Look for E-Auction wines from Beaulieu Vineyard, Ca’ Momi, Domaine Chandon, Sterling Vineyards, Chateau Boswell Winery, Sequoia Grove Winery, Corison Winery, Elizabeth Spencer, among others. To preview description of all 225 lots offer at the auction this year visit PNV’s website.

Hundreds of top wine traders will gather in Napa Valley for tastings, social gatherings and networking events as Napa Valley vintners roll out the red carpet to greet their best customers at the main event at The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone. The funds raised support the association’s work to promote, protect and enhance the Napa Valley appellation. This year the anticipation builds as the Online Auction will allow other trade members around the world to have access to some PNV lots.

During this time of the year, the Valley exudes high festive energy. Wineries and wine organizations like Atlas Peak, Appellation St. Helena, Spring Mountain District, Oak Knoll Vintners, Oakville Winegrowers Association, Stags Leap District Winegrowers, Rutherford Dust Society, Coombsville Vintners and Growers will join efforts to showcase the best of Napa Valley with tastings open to the wine trade during the days preceding the main auction event. Also, not to forget special engagement gatherings like Napa Gras! at Raymond Vineyards. A unique opportunity to taste hundreds of Napa Valley wines. The professional networking peer to peer and amongst the vintners is often compared to a homecoming for Napa Valley’s finest ambassadors.

Complement the tasting with professional development seminars, a unique Vintage Perspective Tasting and countless intimate at-winery open houses and educational tastings and you’ve got all the right ingredients for a fantastic time in the Napa Valley, just for members of the wine trade.

For members of the trade not able to attend the PNV auction event, electronic bidding will be open to pre-registered licensees anywhere in the world from Friday, February 19 at 8:00 a.m. PST through Saturday, February 20 at 6:00 p.m. PST. For more information about how members of the wine trade can register for the E-Premiere Napa Valley Online Auction, visit NVV website.

The NVV nonprofit trade association has been cultivating excellence since 1944 by inspiring its more than 525 members to create consistently wines of the highest quality, to provide environmental leadership and to care for the extraordinary place they call home.

Silver Trident Winery innovative wine tasting

Silver Trident Winery innovative wine tasting just opened in Napa Valley. The Silver Trident Winery opened its new residential-style Tasting Home, nestled in the town of Yountville. The town is the culinary mecca of Napa Valley, a great place to shop, and it is host to a variety of exciting events throughout the year and backdrop for Silver Trident’s tasting concept.

The Mediterranean-style Tasting Home is tastefully furnished and curated with Ralph Lauren Home products. Guests will be able to enjoy Silver Trident wines as they browse through the Home. The Tasting Home consists of a living room, dining room and a library showcasing the furniture, floor coverings, lighting and tabletop accents from the Ralph Lauren Home collection. Everything is available for purchase, from the chandeliers overhead to the carpets underfoot, from teak, silver and leather serving trays to crystal wine goblets, as well as the wines.

Silver Trident is a Napa Valley boutique winery producing only 1,800 cases per year. The Winery is the conception of Bob Binder and Walter Jost. Bob Binder is the co-founder of Oceania Cruises, a luxury cruise line that has partnered on projects with The Wine Spectator, Lalique, Bon Appétit Magazine and Ralph Lauren Home. The Culinary Director for Oceania Cruises is Jacques Pépin; as such, the line is regarded as serving the finest cuisine at sea. Walter Jost, the winery’s co-founder is Swiss-born an accomplished advertising and media executive. Bob and Walter ambitioned creating a small winery, hand-picked grapes and people with a passion for every step of the process, from the vine to the glass. The winery’s name is a nod to Neptune, who his three-pronged spears to create earthquakes, tidal waves, and oceans.

Alongside the wide range of Ralph Lauren Home products is a thoughtfully curated collection of antiques, books and artwork sourced from around the world. The artwork will rotate, and next art exhibition will be paintings from renowned French Chef Jacques Pepin. The new exhibit of his paintings will open in June and will run through October 2015.

There is also an intimate and inviting upstairs loft room available for private events by appointment, with capacity for 20 guests.

“We are offering the wine country visitor something that’s truly never been done before,” explains founder Bob Binder. “By combining the allure of Ralph Lauren Home and our line of hand-crafted small production wines, we feel we have created an unprecedented new experience,” he adds. “We have curated a remarkable residential setting where our guests can enjoy our wines while enjoying the magic of a Ralph Lauren Home setting and everything is available to take home,” he adds.

Winemaker Kari Auringer hands-on approach, from vineyard sourcing to a myriad winemaking details, results in the production of elegant long lasting wines where the fruit is the star. She spent the last decade, creating ultra-premium wines from some of the best vineyards in Napa Valley and Sonoma County and brings that expertise to Silver Trident to create one-of-a-kind small production wines.

Current Winery releases include:

  • 2014 Apollo’s Folly – A Rosé of Pinot Noir with delicate floral notes followed by an explosion of juicy ripe strawberry, apricot, and raspberry aromas burst out of the glass. In the palette, it has great acidity with a touch of minerality. (Sonoma Coast, $28)
  •  2014 Symphony No. 9 – A Sauvignon Blanc with crisp citrus and tropical fruit aromas. In the palette, it is refreshing with a citrus burst and a hint of minerality. (Napa Valley, $28)
  • 2012 Playing With Fire – A deep garnet blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, and Syrah with black fruit, licorice and earthiness aromas. In the palette, you will find black fruit and plums with a round velvety finish. (Napa Valley Red, $45)
  • 2013 Benevolent Dictator – An elegant Pinot Noir with aromas of cherries, baking spices, and slight notes of oak and vanilla. In the palette, it is vibrant with dark fruit, licorice and lasting finish. (Sonoma Coast, $55)
  • 2010 Twenty Seven Fathoms – A well craftedt Cabernet Sauvignon with alluring aromas of black currant, cranberry, red plum and earthiness. In the palette, there is an abundance of black fruit, elegant oak and well-integrated tannins. (Napa Valley, $90)

Photos by Edgar Solis

Napa Valley Harvest 2015 early start

Photo by Edgar Solis

Napa Valley Harvest 2015 started early July 22, eight days early than the 2014 harvest.  Mumm Napa won this year’s race by picking four acres of Pinot Noir from the Game Farm Vineyard in Silverado Trail.“Game Farm Vineyard serves as the litmus test for the Napa harvest” related Vineyard Manager Doug Springer.

The vineyard usually delivers the first crops of the Valley. The 36 acres Vineyard is located west of Silverado Trail below the Rector Creek’s Dam. Topsoil from the vineyard area was used to create the dam, stripping off the Valley floor and leaving behind rocky soils and cobblestones. The 20-year old vineyard creates a struggling environment that forces the vines to direct its energy to the fruit. Heat and light reflected by the white stones on the ground increase the grape ripening speed, helping the crops to develop early every year. Traditionally Sparkling houses pick early seeking lower sugar levels and higher acidity. There is no surprise why this vineyard delivers the perfect grapes Mum Napa seeks for the premium quality Sparkling wines at an earlier time.

To celebrate the beginning of the 2015 harvest Mumm Napa Winemaker, Ludovic Dervin, and employees with the sabering of Sparkling, toasting to the grapes and a large group, pops corks of well-shaken bubbly.

Talking to the crowd, he explained, that, in general, this growing season has been different from 2011, 2013 and 2014 seasons. This season had unusual canopy growth, smaller berries, variability in the crop and unevenness on the crop ripeness. He calls it a diamond in the rough, “We had to do a lot of carving and polishing this year to extract the beautiful quality from the 2015 harvest”.

He indicated that Pinot Noir’s crop from Game Farm Vineyard this year yielded 12.1 tons, while the same Vineyard yielded 16 tons of grapes in 2014. He added, “Prediction is coming to fruition; we are having a lighter Pinot Noir crop, but what we are not getting in quantity, we are getting on quality.”


Rocking the vines with BottleRock Napa Valley 2015


BottleRock Napa Valley 2015 will take the  Napa Valley by storm for a third year in a row.  The festival that calls Napa Valley home since its inception in 2013 embraces a new concept of music, food, wine and beer. The lineup has always been spectacular and this year is no exception. The festival will take place from May 29 through May 31, 2015. The 26-acre grounds of the Napa Valley Expo will host four Music Stages and the Williams-Sonoma Culinary Stage. Festival attendees will enjoy the best in wine and food from many of the finest vintner and culinary talents of the legendary Napa Valley.

This year performer’s lineup includes music artists and bands like Imagine Dragons, Robert Plant, No Doubt, Public Enemy, Los Lobos, Snoop Dogg, Gipsy Kings, Xavier Rudd & The United Nations, The Avett Brothers, Doe Eye, Emily Wolfe, Napa Crossroads LIVE Featuring David Pack of Ambrosia, John Elefante of Kansas, Bill Champlin formerly of Chicago, and Jim Peterik founding member of Survivor among over seventy performers.

The Williams-Sonoma Culinary Stage is all about blending great music, food, and wine,” said David Graham, CEO of Latitude 38. “For 2015, we are ramping up our culinary experience with the Williams-Sonoma Culinary Stage. Where else but the Napa Valley can you pull off a food & wine festival within a music festival? There’s just no other music festival that matches the quality of wine and food star power that BottleRock provides.”

The Williams-Sonoma Culinary Stage will be hosted by the Bay Area’s “Foodie Chap,” Liam Mayclem of KCBS. It will feature celebrated chefs, vintners, local personalities, actors, professional athletes and sommeliers participating in entertaining demos, performances, and other lively entertainment. The chef lineup includes Iron Chefs Masaharu Morimoto and Marc Forgione, Michelin-star chefs Dominique Crenn of Atelier Crenn, Brandon Sharp of Solbar, Ken Frank of La Toque, and Robert Curry of Auberge du Soleil, and Top Chefs Michael Voltaggio and Mei Lin among others.

Many of the regions finest wineries will be sharing their finest vintages, including Miner Family Winery, Robert Mondavi Winery, Silver Oak Cellars, Del Dotto Family Vineyards, Schramsberg Vineyards, Rombauer Vineyards, Clos Du Val, Round Pond Estate, Hill Family Estate, Jamieson Ranch, JCB by Jean Charles Boisset, Ca’Momi Wines, Starmont Wines, among others.

The craft brew garden will feature 20 brews from premium brewers and distillers such as Lagunitas, Crispin Cider, Boston Beer, 21st Amendment, Pyramid Brewing, New Belgium Brewing, Green Flash, Ninkasi, Heretic, and local favorite Napa Smith Brewery.

BottleRock Napa Valley has already created a name among music lovers, such that the 3-day general admission tickets are sold-out. There are still one-day general admission, VIP tickets, and Platinum tickets available. Visit the BottleRock Napa Valley website to get information regarding tickets availability and other


Chardonnay Day with Wente Vineyards

2013 Wente Morning Fog Chardonnay

National Chardonnay Day is May 21st. What a better way to celebrate the day than with a  bottle  of Wente Chardonnay, from  California’s First Family of Chardonnay.

This time we celebrated with a Chardonnay coming from the American Viticultural Area (AVA) petitioned by the Wente Family itself, the San Francisco Bay AVA. 

The AVA was created in 1999. It encompasses the counties of San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Contra Costa and Alameda, part as of San Benito and Santa Cruz counties and the San Francisco Bay and the City of San Francisco. Having the City of San Francisco as part of the AVA serves as a valuable marketing tool for wineries within the AVA helping gaining name recognition in other markets. However, not many wines use this appellation in their label.

The 2013 Morning Fog Estate Grown Chardonnay is named for the morning coastal fog pushed by Pacific wind streams into the San Francisco Bay and lured inland by Livermore’s unique East-West orientation. The daily fog moderates the climate to help produce excellent and balanced Chardonnay.

The wine was produced from various Wente clones; all vinified separately.  Fifty percent of Morning Fog was fermented in neutral oak barrels. The rest was fermented in Stainless Steel tanks. The barrel fermented portion was aged “sur-lie” for seven months, performing “bâtonnage” (French barrel stirring technique) every month. The Stainless Steel portion was half aged on lees for seven months and the other half racked clean to preserve the fruit character.

This elaborated process brings you a complex straw-color Chardonnay with apple, pineapple, oak and vanilla aromas that it is crisp and creamy on the palate. It has a smooth texture that reaches all your taste buds with a balanced acidity. An incredible wine for an even incredible estimated retail price of $15.

Mount Veeder Appellation wine tasting


The spring tasting for the Mount Veeder Appellation will take place next April 16, 2015 at the Presidio Golden Gate Club. Mount Veeder is a one-of-a-kind appellation with wine production severely limited by nature. The appellation is located north of Carneros and west of Napa and Yountville. Known as the “Mountain by the Bay,” the area has been producing richly intense, age-worthy wines since 1860’s. The wines from Mount Veeder reflect the independent spirit of its mountain growers and vintners, grown in rugged conditions that demand handcraftsmanship at the highest level.

Why Mount Veeder produces one-of-a-kind wines?

  • It has the longest growing season and the lowest yields in Napa Valley.
  • Virtually all vineyard work is done by hand, due to the rugged conditions and steep slopes.
  • Rugged mountain terrain. Extremely steep slopes, above the fog, render shallow topsoil and minimal water retention, resulting in tiny berries, with intense flavor concentration yet soft tannins.
  • It is the only hillside appellation in Napa Valley that adjoins the cool, bayside Carneros, benefiting from the cooling influence of San Pablo Bay.
  • Mount Veeder is an island of ancient seabed pushed up into a mountain, surrounded by volcanic soils that typify the rest of the Napa Valley.

Mount Veeder wine grapes benefit from different sun exposures, types of soils, and elevations and the cooling influences of the San Pablo Bay. It comes to no surprise then that we can enjoy an array of wine grape varietals from this appellation. Like the rest of the Napa Valley appellations, Mount Veeder is known for Cabernet Sauvignon. However, other wine grape varietals like Albariño, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Malbec, Merlot, Mondeuse, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah and Zinfandel are also grown.

Do not miss out on tasting all Mt. Veeder wines in one place. The Mount Veeder Spring Wine Tasting will be April 16, 2015 at the Presidio Golden Gate Club, located 135 Fisher Loop in San Francisco. Wines will be available for tasting and purchase. The event will open with a Working Media Lunch at 12:30 p.m. and for the Consumer Tasting at 5:00 p.m. For tickets visit the Mount Veeder Appellation website.