Taste Our Terroir

Taste our terrior Livermore

Page Mill Winery pours Chardonnay paired with  sea scallop, prepared by Handles Gastropub

About Livermore’s Taste Our Terroir

Taste Our Terroir is Livermore wine country’s signature event, this year taking place from July 24 to July 27. The event began on Thursday evening with a festive food and wine pairing extravaganza at Casa Real, the event center at Ruby Hill Winery. Eighteen Livermore wineries each partnered with a  Bay Area restaurant  to pair one of their wines with a chef’s creative appetizer.  We as participants were able to compare and contrast each wine with and without the appetizer. The chefs were at the top of their game, as the appetizers were being judged by Sunset Magazine.  In the photo above the Page Mill Winery’s Chardonnay paired wonderfully with the sea scallop prepared by Handles Gastropub. It was our favorite pairing of the evening. In the red wine department there were several excellent choices.  Our favorite wine and food match was the Occasio Petite Sirah paired with a stuffed mushroom from Springs Italian Cafe.  The wines and food we tasted were all delicious and the event was thoroughly enjoyable.

From Friday through Sunday, events will take place throughout the Livermore wine country at various wineries. The events include a cooking demonstration at Page Mill Winery, comparing single vineyard Cabernet at the Steven Kent Winery,  and a wine blending session at the new Wente Vineyards Winemakers Studio. This event is very popular and is sold out every year. Most of the folks we met were residents of the Livermore area and very proud of the wines produced in this region.

More about the Livermore Wine Country

 

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    Wine club perks

    This perk will encourage many to join the wine club.

    This perk will encourage many to join the wine club.

    Wine club perks when you join a wine club

    Wineries will think of all types of wine club perks (gimmicks) to get wine country travelers to join their wine clubs. It is just about the best way for a winery to sell their wine and get a good return on profit. There is no distributor, or middle man, to take a cut. Many wineries will give their employees a commission when they sign up a wine club member. Always be on guard for the old wine club push. Most use a soft sell, but a few do come on very strong. I love the line, “Our wine club is free to join.”  I have not yet found a wine club that charges a fee to join.

    Although the perk of a parking space is unusual, these are some of the advantages of joining a wine club:

    • Wines not distributed but sold only to wine club members.
    • Wines released to wine club members well before being distributed.
    • Wine club events: Release parties and the like. The best perk is when the party is at the winery and no fees are charged.
    • Free tasting for the club member and guests.
    • Use of a picnic area.

    Some not so good perks:

    • Wine shipments include a varietal that is not a favorite.
    • Finding your wine on sale for less than the wine club price.
    • Shipping costs.
    • You can quit a wine club, but breaking up is hard to do.

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      Daou Vineyards in Paso Robles

      Daou vineyards

      The view from Daou Vineyards and Winery in Paso Robles

      About Daou Vineyards in Paso Robles

      This is one of the latest wineries in Paso Robles (2007) and perhaps the winery with the most breathtaking views. Imagine yourself sitting on these chairs with a glass of wine pondering life. This is about as gorgeous as it gets in any wine country. The winery is situated on the west side of Highway 101 in Paso Robles. It sits at an elevation of 2000 feet. It may be hot in Paso Robles during the growing season, but this hilltop site is cooled by the breezes coming from the Pacific Ocean through the Templeton Gap. The soil here is all calcareous, and the Daou folks believe this is the ideal terroir for producing Cabernet Sauvignon and other Bordeaux varietals. Although the emphasis is on Bordeaux style wines they also produce some lovely Rhone style white wines, namely Viognier and Grenache Blanc. The winery is owned by Georges and Daniel Daou, two brothers who were successful business entrepeneurs in the medical industry. Daniel Daou is also the winemaker. The vineyards are Sip Certified, meaning sustainable farming is in practice throughout the estate. The tasting room is beautiful, and visitors are welcome to Daou Vineayrds in Paso Robles daily from 11am-5pm. The current tasting fee is $20, but waived with a purchase of wine. There are also food pairings available. Check the Daou Vineyards website for complete visiting details and other details about the winery.

      More about the Paso Robles wine country

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        C Casa Oxbow Market

        C casa

        The very busy C Casa Taqueria at the Oxbow Market

        We stopped at the Oxbow Market for lunch on the way home from a busy two days in the Napa Valley. It was a Friday and the Oxbow was jammed with folks shopping and enjoying lunch. We remember the days when the Oxbow first opened at the end of 2007. The place had more workers there than visitors. The recession kicked in and Oxbow suffered for years, but no longer. Judging from the crowds in Oxbow and in downtown Napa, we have to say without a doubt the Napa Valley and the town of Napa are booming with tourism. C Casa is our spot at the Oxbow Public Market for a quick but gourmet lunch. This little taqueria is totally organized. It was very busy with folks standing in line to order. From the time we stepped in line to our food being served, it was no more than 15 minutes. This is no fast food joint. This is delicious and specular food. I am amazed that they can turn out such wonderful food in a matter of minutes. “An Innovative Kitchen” as you can see in the photo is certainly the case. Janelle ordered the fresh green salad with added grilled chicken, and I had the grilled salmon taco. Wonderful!

        The Oxbow Public Market is located in the town of Napa at 610 and 644 First Street, and it is open daily from 9am to 7pm. Some merchants open as early as 7:30 and some stay open until 9:30 pm. Check the Oxbow Public Market Website for special events and a complete listing of all merchants.

         

        grilled salmon taco

        Fresh green salad with chicken and grilled salmon taco

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          Rutherford Dust

          Rutherford Dust

          Photo shot from the second floor room at the Inglenook Chateau in Rutherford

          About Rutherford Dust

          The photo above shows a portion of the Rutherford AVA. The immediate vineyards in the photo are Cabernet Sauvignon, the signature varietal of the Napa Valley and the Rutherford AVA. Rutherford Dust refers to legendary winemaker André Tchelistcheff who said, “It takes Rutherford dust to grow great Cabernet.” Vineyard and winery owners in the Rutherford AVA have formed the Rutherford Dust Society. Their mission is to promote the highest standards in vineyard cultivation, winemaking, and land preservation. This is a group of committed viticulturists who collaborate with each other to promote the wines of this appellation. The AVA is two miles wide, stretching from Mount St. John on the west to the Vaca Mountains on the east. The AVA begins just to the south of Beaulieu Vineyards and stretches to the north at Zinfandel Lane. If you travel along Highway 29 or the Silverado Trail, the AVA signs are clearly visible. The Rutherford Dust Society members introduced their 2011 Cabernet wines at a special tasting held last Wednesday at the Inglenook Chateau. 2011 was a difficult year for growers with the unusual climate conditions. It was a cooler growing year, and in the first week of October there was heavy rainfall. These Cabernet wines are medium bodied with good acidity. While this vintage is more restrained in style, the wines will age gracefully.

          Some of our favorite wineries to visit in the Rutherford AVA are Inglenook, Beaulieu Vineyards, Round Pond, Honig, Conn Creek and Provenance.

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            The Hitching Post in Santa Barbara wine country

            Hitching post in Buelton

            To culminate our wonderful weekend in the Santa Barbara wine country following the recent Wine Bloggers Conference, we didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to have dinner at the Hitching Post in Buellton. We’d last eaten there shortly before the restaurant was featured in the 2004 movie, “Sideways.” As in the movie, when Miles and Jack meet Maya and Stephanie, it’s obvious that the Hitching Post is a popular spot for locals and tourists.

            Reading the information on the menu, we found that Frank and Natalie Ostini opened the restaurant in 1986 to bring Santa Maria style Barbecue to Buellton. Today their children continue the tradition of combining old and new, and boast of serving the best French Fries in Southern California. The staff is very courteous and friendly, which is always a plus.

            When we visited on this Sunday night, the restaurant was packed with families, couples and a few singles. The menu features a good assortment of appetizers, BBQ meats, fresh salads and yummy desserts. Most of the wines, by the glass or bottle, are from the many great wineries in the Santa Barbara wine country. The restaurant also serves wines from their own winery that focuses on Pinot Noir.

             

            If you want to explore the Santa Barbara wine country and the “Sideways” wine trail, be sure you stop by the Hitching Post. You won’t be disappointed.

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              The State of Cabernet in the Napa Valley in mid July

              State of cabernet in the napa valley

              Cabernet Sauvignon in the St. Helena AVA on July 17, 2014

              The state of Cabernet in the Napa Valley

              Veraison is well underway with red grape varietals. In these two photos we see the state of Napa Valley Cabernet as of July 17, 2014. The above photo shows vineyards in the St. Helena AVA, and in the photo below are vines from the Rutherford AVA. Most vintners agree that the 2014 vintage is two to three weeks ahead of normal for this time period. As to the tonnage of grapes, things appear to be on track for about the same as the 2013 harvest. As one vintner put it, “It looks like a normal year in the Napa Valley for grape quality and amount.” The term Veraison is French and means the “change of color of the grape berries.” In other words, it is a sign the grapes on the vine are ripening. It is a signal to all that harvest activities will begin in August. It will be Pinot Noir and Chardonnay first, but for sparkling wines only. By mid August some Sauvignon Blanc is expected to be ready for harvest. These Cabernet Sauvignon grapes will not be harvested until late September or early October, depending on the climate. Wine Country travelers in July should take note of this amazing process taking place in nature.

              state of Cabernet in Napa Valley

              Cabernet Sauvignon Vineyards in Rutherford AVA on July 17, 2014

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                Paso Robles Winemakers

                Paso Robles winemaker meet at the Vina Robles winery for a seminar describing AVA's in Paso Robles

                Paso Robles winemakers meet at the Vina Robles winery for a seminar describing AVA’s in Paso Robles

                Paso Robles Winemakers

                Pictured above are three of Paso Robles premiere winemakers: Justin Smith of Saxum Vineyards, Chris Cherry of Villa Creek Cellars, and Mike Senor of Ancient Peaks Winery. The three, plus two other esteemed winemakers, Steve Lohr of Lohr Vineyards & Wines and Kevin Willenborg of Vina Robles, spoke to a group of wine bloggers about the pending approval of new sub AVA designations for the Paso Robles wine region. The Paso Robles AVA will soon be sub-divided into eleven smaller appellations. Paso Robles will remain the parent appellation. Each winemaker spoke about the unique micro climates and soil types in the vineyards where they grow their wine grapes. Once the AVA’s are approved by the The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, each vintner or winery will be able to list that particular AVA on the label of the wine bottle. The wine in that bottle must consist of 85% of grapes from the named AVA. For example, the Ancient Peaks Winery will be able to put “Santa Margarita Zinfandel” on the label. This means that 85% of the grapes for the wine came from the Santa Margarita AVA. The Paso Robles Wine Association expects the approval for all eleven AVA’s to come some time in 2014.

                More About Paso Robles Wine Country

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                  Urban Wine Xperience at Jack London

                  urban wine experience at Jack londong

                  Urban Wine Experience at Jack London Square features East Bay wineries

                  Urban Wine Xperience at Jack London

                  Do you know there are over twenty wineries in the East Bay? Of course there are no vineyards in Oakland or Alameda! These small artisan wineries ship their grapes in and make their wine locally. We hope they pass on these savings to the consumer. You can find out about these vintners and their wines on Saturday, August 2nd, in Jack London Square. The East Bay Vintners Alliance will be pouring their wines and be there to tell you all about them. This will be the ninth consecutive event, and it will give wine enthusiasts a chance to taste and discover wines that aren’t found in wine shops or supermarkets. Local restaurants and food purveyors will be on hand to prepare delicious delights that pair with these small-production East Bay wines. Wine, food and live music can all be enjoyed in the outdoor setting of vibrant Jack London Square on the Ferry Lawn. The event will take place from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. Tickets are priced at $35 for wine club members, $45 for advance tickets and $60 at the door. Designated drivers receive discounted tickets at $15. Tickets can be purchased online. For a complete list of East Bay wineries and more about this event go to the East Bay Vintners Alliance Website.

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                    Bridlewood Estate winemaker Mark Williams

                    Bridlewood estate winery

                    Mark Williams speaks about his Chardonnay and Syrah

                    About Bridlewood Estate Winery and winemaker Mark Williams

                    Bridlewood Estate Winery is located in the Santa Ynez AVA in Santa Barbara wine country. It was purchased by the Gallo Family in 2004. We had the delightful pleasure of meeting Bridlewood Estate winemaker Mark Williams this last Sunday. Mark Williams has been the winemaker at Bridlewood for the past two years. We tasted two of Mark’s favorite wines with appetizers. He described how these wines were made.

                    The 2012 Santa Barbara Chardonnay. This wine is grown in the Santa Maria Valley and fermented in cement eggs*. Each egg is 120 gallons, the size of two wine barrels. Two things happen to the Chardonnay in the egg. The first is that the shape of the egg turns the yeast by itself, so there is no need to stir the fermenting grape juice. This process gives a creamy mouth feel to the Chardonnay. Secondly, the cement gives the wine some minerality. This Chardonnay is balanced to the core, not too much oak or heaviness to the wine. The second wine we tasted with Mark was the 2010 Estate Santa Ynez Reserve Syrah. He co-fermented the Syrah with a little Viognier. The wine is “pumping out tons of licorice and cassis.” Mark states that the Santa Barbara wine country of Santa Ynez is the ideal climate for growing Syrah. Indeed this Syrah is gentle, but robust with complex flavors. We loved it paired with proscuttio and also with the avocado and sea urchin appetizer. These two wines are sold only at the Bridlewood Estate tasting room. The Bridlewood winery with its Spanish architecture and spacious views make it an ideal stop on the wine trails of Santa Barbara. The tasting room is open daily from 11am to 5 pm. Consult the Bridlewood website for complete details on the various tastings, tours, and even a carriage ride through the vineyards.

                    More about the Santa Barbara Wine Country

                    * Note: This is the second concrete egg of have encountered recently in California wine country. Andis Winery’s concrete egg made my Wine Photo of the Day.

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