Category Archives: Wine Events

Stags Leap District extraordinary Cabernet

House of Cab Stag's Leap District

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.

Pictures by Edgar Solis Photo

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”.

Kirk Grace, Director of Vineyards Operations For Stag's Leap Wine Cellars
Kirk Grace, Director of Vineyards Operations For Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars

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.”

Marcus Notaro, Winemaker for Stag's Leap Wine Cellars
Marcus Notaro, Winemaker for Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars

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.

Michael Beaulac, Winemaker for Pine Ridge Vineyards
Michael Beaulac, Winemaker for Pine Ridge Vineyards

Pictures By Edgar Solis Photo

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.

Discover Clarksburg Wine Country

Clarksburg Wine Country

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.

Old Sugar Mill

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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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


Michael David Winery Lodi

Michael David Winery Lodi
Picture by Edgar Solis Photo

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.



Savoring at SLH Gala 2015


A perfect day in a breathtaking place to enjoy the SLH Gala 2015. At Mer Soleil Winery celebrating the IX edition of the Santa Lucia Highlands Wine Artisans Gala tasting event. The vineyards on the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA are planted on the terraces of the Santa Lucia mountain range, verging on the Salinas River Valley; between 50 and 2,000 feet in altitude.

The fog and breeze off nearby Monterey Bay flow southeast, between the Santa Lucia and Gabilan ranges, creating a unique cool climate. This distinguished wine grape growing district enjoys a great variation between morning and afternoon temperatures. This variance in temperature allows for a prolong even ripening of the grapes. The grapes developed fully, lush in phenolic compounds, ripeness and flavors.

The event started with a VIP “Beyond Pinot… Discussion and Tasting”. A distinguished group of winemaker panelists: David Coventry/Manzoni Vineyards, Chris Weidemann/Pelerin Wines and Sabrine Rodems/Wrath Vineyards, shared their passion with us. This remarkable winemaking region, distinguished by making Chardonnay and Pinot Noir also grows seventeen other grape varieties. A unique take on the panel tasting, to show wines made with other grapes besides Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

At the Seminar we tasted:

  • Manzoni 2013 Pinot Gris, “North Highlands’ Cuvée”: Floral aromas with pear and green apple on the palate. A crisp and balanced wine that enticed you with intense aromas, velvety mouthfeel, and bright acidity. Spicy lingering notes on the finish. This wine doesn’t go trough malolactic fermentation, use of Batonnage (stirring of the lees). Half of the fruit fermented in new French oak and half in stainless steel tanks. Suggested retail price, $23.
  • Pelerin 2011 “Les Tournesols”: (72% Roussanne and 28% Viognier): Bouquet of sandalwood, lavender, fresh cut grass, and perfume. Fresh yellow fruit flavors with a punch of spice and subtle mineral notes that finish long. The wine, aged in neutral oak barrels also went trough malolactic fermentation. Suggested retail price, $30.
  • Wrath 2013 Syrah, KW Ranch: Attractive aromas of Brown spices, juniper, violets, ripe plum and cardamom. On the palate, you enjoy flavors of ripe dark fruit, smoked meats with notes of black pepper. This wine with offers pleasant tannins, nice acidity and balanced palate. The winemaker decided to leave a certain percentage of stems on the grapes to promote acid binding. Suggested retail price, $39.

After the wine tasting seminar, we enjoyed a cheese seminar sponsored by local store Star Market in Salinas and Schoch Family Farmstead also located in the Salinas Valley. Mr. Michael Burke, Specialty Cheese Department Manager from Star Market, shared his cheese and wine pairing skills. Michael talked about Star Market amazing cheese selections and recommended to try various cheeses paired with Mer Soleil Reserve Chardonnay and Belle Glos Pinot Noir. Cheesemaker Beau Schoch shared the history on Schoch Family Farmstead and two of his delectable cheese creations, Mt. Toro Tomme: Semi-hard, mild and buttery with a lactic finish. Monterey Jack: hardy and robust with a sharp finish. Exquisite cheeses paired with some of Wrath wines.

The Mer Soleil Barrel Room was the perfect backdrop for the forty plus wineries from the Highlands pouring their wines alongside delicious bites of gastronomic creations from local chefs and restaurants. Kosta Browne shared two outstanding Pinot Noirs, their single vineyard 2012 Gary’s Vineyard and the 2013 Santa Lucia Highlands. Both wines show intense aromatics of fruit and earth and powerful dark and red fruit flavors, nice acidity, and gentle tannins. The Gary’s vineyard has more of the earthy aromas and mineral notes. Enjoyable wines by themselves, but great with many food preparations, like roasted pork, smoked salmon and seared lamb chops.

From Testa Rosa Vineyards well crafted 2013 Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, both from Dos Rubios Vineyard. The Chardonnay has enticing aromas of ripe banana, green apples and hints of spice. On the palate this elegant Chardonnay has a silky texture with flavors of pear, apples, sweet vanilla and hints of citrus with a refrained amount of oak. The Pinot Noir full of red fruit, red currants hints of spice and elegant, earthy notes. Testa Rosa wines paired perfectly with the two sushi offerings from Ocean Sushi, thanks to Chef Shiho Fukishima for the exquisite culinary creations.

The Mer Soleil, the 2013 Reserve Chardonnay seduce you with citrus and stone fruit aromas and hints of honeysuckle and Brioche. On the palate, this Chardonnay feels medium-body refreshing and creamy with flavors of golden apple, tangerine, passion fruit and hints of caramel. In contrast with its counterpart. The 2013 Mer Soleil Silver (non-oaked Chardonnay) shows citrus and ripe kiwi aromas. In the mouth, you feel bright acidity with flavors of granny apple, mandarin, apricots, and guava. The finish is dry and crisp; this is a wine that will pair great with a diverse range of cuisines.

From Morgan Winery we savored the 2013 Double L Pinot Noir, this Pinot Noir lures you with vivid aromas of coffee bean, dark berries, and fresh mushrooms, with notes of dried meat and toast. On the palate, you can rejoice in intense flavors of blueberry tart, ripe plum and baking spices with a touch of butterscotch and smoke. This well crafted Pinot Noir paired very well with a delightful bite to eat from Chef Todd Fisher (Tarpy’s Roadhouse). Chef Fisher delighted us with a charred octopus tapenade, green olives, red cabbage, chickpeas, capers, parsley, lemon juice and pearl onions with a pesto aioli. Served on the side with a slice of baguette and Romesco sauce on top. The wine brought out the smokiness of the charred octopus and complimented nicely with the rest of the ingredients. The subtle pesto aioli was the magic touch that merge all the ingredients together.

The SHL Gala tasting event captivated us with a collection of impressive wines and delicious food to pair with them. The exceptional characteristics of the terroir of the SLH-AVA showed on the complexity that unified all these remarkable wines. The Santa Lucia Highlands Wine Artisans Organization is doing an exceptional job in getting the word out about this superb wine-growing region.

Beaujolais and Japanese food experience


Photo by Julie Santiago

A fun Beaujolais pairing dinner at Pabu Izakaya Japanese Restaurant in San Francisco. The Discover Beaujolais team did an amazing job hosting a diverse and happy crowd of wine lovers. Kudos to Marie Christine, Erin, Charles Rambaud and Josh Orr. Special thanks to Pabu Restaurant staff for their warm hospitality and Sous Chef Ronnie Taylor for the beautiful and exquisite food preparations.

Located south of Burgundy and north of Lyon, The Beaujolais region in France has a long tradition of grape growing, going back 2,000 years to Roman times. The whole grape growing region is about 35 miles long and 15 miles wide. Comparing this with Napa Valley is about the same length but about four times wider. Beaujolais wine production is 98% red from the Gamay grape, 2% is Chardonnay.

The wines from Beaujolais are plummy and delightful, accomplished and seasoned or vivid and lavish. These wines have many expressions of terroir, refreshing, versatile, enticing aromas, full of fruit flavors, sexy, meaty and some have great aging potential. Excellent lower alcohol wines to sip, also tremendous to enjoy with food.

Beaujolais is not the first wine that come to our mind when having Japanese food, but Wow! From now it will be ever present after the great pairing experience that Discover Beaujolais put together at Pabu Restaurant in San Francisco.

We started with two delicious appetizers: Happy spoon with Kushi oyster, ponzu Crème fraîche, and uni-tobiko ikura. Poke over crispy wonton chip. We sip the Château De Raousset, Cuvée Marquise de Robien, Beaujolais Villages Blanc 2014, delicious and refreshing Chardonnay with hints of citrus, mineral notes, and pleasant acidity.

The Beaujolais Villages Blanc was paired with the first course of Sashimi: O Toro (Fatty Bluefin Tuna), Umimasu (Ocean Trout) and Hamashi (Yellowtail). Great compliment to each other, the wine crispness accentuated the fresh fish flavors.

As a second course, we had the Tender braised pork belly, asparagus, snow peas, onsen tamago (soft quail egg), sesame and edamame puree. Paired with Pascal Granger, Les Viallières, Chénas 2011. Luscious pairing, very sexy textures play between the crunchy pork belly, silky quail egg and soft but present tannins on the wine. Just deliciousness here!

Our third wine and food experience, Skewers: Chicken meatball/Tsukune, Togarashi, Jidori egg; Trumpet mushroom/Eringi, Furikake and Beef tongue/Gyutan, sesame, lemon, scallion. Paired with Domaine Bel Avenir, Laura, Saint-Amor 2011. The robust flavors of the food were exquisite with this wine. The wine enhanced the flavors of the three main components of the dish without losing its character.

Our fourth culinary creation was a Duo of Foie Gras. Seared Sonoma Foie Gras (duck), with grilled Nori rice, pickled stone fruit and Hatcho miso. Ankimo ‘Ocean Foie Gras, monkfish liver, wakame, momiji, scallion, and ponzu. Paired with Dominique Piron, Domaine De Combiaty, Brouilly 2013. This medium-bodied Gamay with great dark and red fruit, notes of earth and stone complemented the food flavors nicely; it cut down a bit the intensity on the Sonoma Foie Gras without overpowering the food flavors.

Our entreé course had two amazing wine companions. American Wagyu NY Strip with charred squash, summer beans, porcini, and ume shiso. Paired with Domaine Bel Avenir, Les Capitans, Juliénas 2010 & Domaine Pierre Savoye, CôteDu Py, Morgon 2011. Just Yummy food with mouthwatering wines.

We appreciated the earthiness and spicy notes on the Juliénas and the ripe fruit, round tannins and hints of earth on the Morgon. Both wines danced perfectly along the appetizing flavors of the dish. I did prefer the Bel Avenir Juliénas on this dish, by a hair.

To finish the dining experience a surprising dessert, Milk Chocolate Namelaka, black sesame sponge, cocoa nibs, red bean Gelato. Paired with George Duboeuf, Beaujolais Villages 2011. A nice surprising pairing of a light milk chocolate dessert with savory notes and a light to medium-bodied red with intense dark and stone fruit flavors and seductive mineral notes; just great together.

The retail price for these wines is between $10 and $18, phenomenal quality/price ratio:

  • Château De Raousset, Cuvée Marquise de Robien, Beaujolais Villages Blanc 2014. Suggested Retail Price $16.
  • Pascal Granger, Les Viallières, Chénas 2011. Suggested Retail Price $18.
  • Domaine Bel Avenir, Laura, Saint-Amor 2011. Suggested Retail Price $18.
  • Dominique Piron, Domaine De Combiaty, Brouilly 2013. Suggested Retail Price $18.
  • Domaine Bel Avenir, Les Capitans, Juliénas 2010. Suggested Retail Price $17.
  • Domaine Pierre Savoye, CôteDu Py, Morgon 2011. Suggested Retail Price $19.
  • George Duboeuf, Beaujolais Villages 2011. Suggested Retail Price $10.

Barrel Auction Napa Valley 2015


Great wine tasting experience at Barrel Auction Napa Valley 2015. Hall Wines Winery in St. Helena was the backdrop for an amazing wine and food tasting event this year. Great meet and greet with media around 10:00 a.m. at the historic Bergfeld winery building. Delicious breakfast paired with Robert Mondavi Rosé and bubbly from Domaine Chandon. Owners of Hall Winery Craig and Kathryn Hall welcomed press members along with Honorary chairs from the Opus One Winery, lead by Vintner David Pearson and Winemaker Michael Silacci.

Hall Wines offered a great experienced at their amazing property in St. Helena. A mix of historic winery architecture (Bergfeld Winery Building) and their modern state of the art Gold LEED Certified production facility. Visitors have the opportunity to stroll around buildings and huge tents full of quality Napa Valley wines and the best expression of local cuisine. The Napa Valley Vintners members offered a great selection of local wines to taste including the exclusive selections just produced for The Napa Valley Vintners wine auction.

Among the great wine selections to taste: Schramsberg classic California sparkling wine and J. Davis beautiful Diamond Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon. At the barrel auction tasting, stellar Cabernet Sauvignon selections from Chateau Boswell, Cliff Lede, Ehlers Estate, Baldacci, Frank Family, Trinitas, Melka Wines, Shafer, Beaulieu Vineyard, Paradox, Pine Ridge, Truchard Vineyard, Robert Mondavi, Amici Cellars, Round Pond, Alpha Omega, Amizetta Winery, Darioush and Far Niente. A beautiful 100% Merlot from Coho and great 100% Pinot Noirs from Acacia, Artesa and Saintsbury, beautiful Carneros fruit. Trinchero offered an outstanding Malbec and William Hill an unfiltered well crafted Chardonnay. This year we missed the noise from the manual barrel auction bids, they gave away to digital big screens. All for technology these days, that is the way of the future.

Along with the great wine selections, local restaurants displayed and amazing collection of flavors. Mustards Grill pork ribs, Bouchon duck delight. Among many of the local restaurants great food creations from Torc, Tre Vigne Restaurant, Auberge du Soleil, Rutherford Grill and Brix. Also Morimoto, Angele, Eiko’s, Goose & Gander, Cordeiro’s Bar & Grill among others.

The Opus One team was the Honorary Chair this year. Unfortunately there was no Opus One wine to try at The Barrel Auction tasting event. We did not find any barrel auction lot to taste from Opus One either. Opus did contribute with several lots for Auction Napa Valley. But no worries, Napa Valley Vintners offered well crafted delicious wines from many family owned and ran wineries. We did try many outstanding selections of Napa Valley wines, SALUD!


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


9th Santa Lucia Highlands Gala tasting

 SLH2Photo by Edgar Solís

On May 16 Santa Lucia Highlands Artisans will be celebrating their 9th Gala tasting event at Mer Soleil Winery. Come and taste wines from forty premium wineries, they will be sharing heavenly Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah. For many of the boutique wineries participating, this is the only public tasting of the year. The event will take place in the scenic Mer Soleil Winery located on the eastern end of this coastal appellation of Monterey County.

In 1991, the Federal government designated the Santa Lucia Highlands (SHL) as an official American Viticultural Area (AVA). The grape growing history of this region goes back to the 1790s, with the arrival of the first Spanish missionaries. First commercial plantings started in 1973, with a second round of vineyard plantings in the 1980s and 1990s. Today, about fifty vineyard estates encompassed 6,100 acres of vines.

The vineyards of the SLH are planted on the terraces of the Santa Lucia mountain range, verging on the Salinas River Valley. The fog and breeze off nearby Monterey Bay channel southeast, between the Santa Lucia and Gabilan ranges, creating a unique cool climate. The high altitude vineyard sites take full advantage of the morning sunshine before the chilled, afternoon maritime winds slow down the sugar production on the grapes, allowing a prolong, even ripening. The growing season is long, starting with early bud break and lack of fall rains. The grapes developed fully, lush in phenolic compounds, ripeness and flavors.

SLH member wineries expected to pour at this year’s Gala include: August West, Belle Glos, Bernardus, Black Kite, Boekenoogen, Cattleya, Estancia, Hahn Family Wines, Hawks View, Hope & Grace, J. Lohr Highlands Bench, Joyce, Kori, Kosta Browne, La Rochelle, Loring, Mansfield – Dunne, Manzoni, McFarland, McIntyre, Mer Soleil, Miner, Miura, Mooney, Morgan, Novy, Paraiso, Pelerin, Pessagno, Pisoni/ Lucia, Poppy, Prim, Puma Road, Roar, Sarah’s Vineyard, Saxon Brown, Scheid, Siduri, Tantara, Testarossa, Tondre, Tudor, and Wrath.

Alongside quality wines, enjoy local gastronomy with sensual bites from various of the region’s best chefs. Including Dyon Foster from Hahn, Todd Fisher from Tarpy’s, Tim Wood from Carmel Valley Ranch, Cal Stamenov from Bernardus Lodge, James Waller from the Monterey Plaza Hotel, and many more. Bid on the big format wine bottle silent auction, benefiting Rancho Cielo Youth Campus. Harmonizing the event, live music from the Mario Flores Sontet.

A “VIP SLH Experience” ticket is available. The ticket includes two pre-Gala seminars: “Artisan Cheese Summit” a discussion and tasting with local cheese craftsmen, and “Beyond Pinot” seminar with SLH winemakers presenting interesting varietals other than Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. VIPs also get early admission to the main Gala tasting and auction. Get your tickets at Santa Lucia Highlands Gala.


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.

A Zinfandel and food celebration



Photo by Edgar Solís Photo

An enjoyment  of Zinfandel and food at  Epicurea. From January 29 to 31, 2015 the Zinfandel Advocates and Producers (ZAP) celebrated another successful Zinfandel Experience event. For twenty-four years, ZAP has brought us the premier single varietal tasting event in the United States. Over 3,000 attendees were able to enjoy workshops, food pairings and outstanding Zinfandel wines. ZAP is dedicated to promoting the preservation and recognition of Zinfandel as America’s heritage wine. Their mission is to study, educate and celebrate Zinfandel’s place in America’s history and culture.

Zinfandel is considered America’s heritage wine because of its rich history. Zinfandel grape plantings in California represent some of the oldest vineyard plantings in the world; adding further to Zinfandel’s critically important role in the world of fine wine. While the Zinfandel grape originated in Europe, the Zinfandel name is truly American – the earliest documented use of the name was when a Boston nursery owner advertised Zinfandel for sale in 1832. Zinfandel was introduced to California during the Gold Rush at some point between 1852 and 1857 and became widely planted because it thrived so well in the state’s climate and soil. Today, Zinfandel is the third leading wine grape variety in California, with nearly 50,000 acres planted.

Despite its great history, Zinfandel has yet to receive its well-deserved attention. To help it gain recognition, ZAP organizers bring us the Zinfandel Experience. Amongst the event, there is a one-of-a-kind experience where we learned the Zinfandel’s pairing true potential: Epicuria. The event returned this year to the Presidio Golden Gate Club with over thirty wines paired with sophisticated and whimsical Master Chef creations. Certainly, there was no shortage of ideas for inspiration.

Here are some of the sinful master pairings of the night (just to name a few):

  • Andis Wines 2011 Estate Zin with Stanley’s Steakhouse smoked duck breast with caramelized onions, blue cheese, and aged balsamic reduction
  • Artezin Wines 2012 Mendocino Zin with Artezin Estate Chef’s duck rillette with black mission fig and balsamic jam
  • Bella Vineyards 2012 Lily Hill with Presidio Social Club sea salt devil’s gulch pork leg
  • Bonneau Wines 2012 Egret with Ruth’s Chris Steak house lamb lollipops with veal demi glaze
  • Jesse’s Grove Winery 2010 Earth Zin and Fire with Breadfruit Tree Inc. baccalou cucumber rounds and savory cream cheese
  • Tres Sabores 2012 Por Que No? with Mustards Grill hanger steak with watercress aioli and red onion jam on house made potato chip
  • Rombauer Vineyards 2012 Fiddletown Zin with Kuleto’s Italian Restaurant house made cacciatore and spicy coppa
  • Rosenblum Cellars 2009 Monte Rosso Zin with Lungomare house made cracker with ciccioli, stone ground mustard, and pickled onion
  • Ravenswood 1995 Old Hill Vineyard Zin with Muleheart Farm fresh ham bocadillo

Other highlights of the night:

  • The Golden Gate Club expanded with the addition of a spacious tented courtyard for additional informal dining-around experience.
  • Bay Area Airstream Adventures brought an Airstream custom made camper that served as a lounge to enjoy the delicious Carol Shelton Wines including the famous Wild Thing.
  • VIPs were able to enjoy a vertical tasting of 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 Zins from The Heritage Vineyard in Napa Valley.
  • Ravenswood winemaker, Joel Peterson, brought a 1995 Old Hill Vineyard Zin to delight all epicureans. Who said Zinfandel wines do not age well? Just one word: WOW!

If you enjoy the pursuit of sensual pleasure from food and drinks, you will enjoy this epicurean experience and ZAP Epicuria is your ticket. Can’t wait for ZAP 2016!

Photos by Edgar Solís