Napa Valley Harvest Party 2014

Napa Valley harvest

The next several weeks will be the Napa Valley harvest party

About Napa Valley Harvest Party 2014

This is the most exciting time of the year in the Napa Valley. It’s the Napa Valley harvest party 2014. For the next several weeks, the “Crush” will take place. Vineyards are everywhere in the Napa Valley, as far and as wide as the eye can see. That is why the Napa Valley is ideal for catching the “Crush.” Wine country travelers will be able to see field workers hustling through the vineyards to fill their baskets with grapes. Trucks will be transporting 1/2 ton-grape bins to wineries for sorting and crushing. Fermenting tanks will be filled with grape juice. The smell of wine will be in the air. Harvest has already begun in the Napa Valley and will continue well into October. The last grapes to be harvested are Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.

This Napa Valley welcome sign is one of the most photographed spots in the Napa Valley. This photo was shot in the morning and the sun was casting a shadow of the words “Napa Valley” on the soil behind the sign. In the background are vines ready to be harvested. The mountain peak behind the sign is Mount St. Johns in the Mayacamus Mountain Range.

Addition Information on the Napa Valley Harvest Party

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    Tablas Creek Tasting Room

    tablas creek tasting room

    Two wineries worlds apart with similar terroir

    About Tablas Creek Tasting Room and Winery

    Deep into the west side of Paso Robles we find this winery producing exciting Rhone style wines. The trek to the winery from Highway 101 in Paso Robles is through some very pretty backroads and very much worth the effort of getting to the Tablas Creek tasting room and winery. Tablas Creek has a most interesting history. The Perrin Family, owners of the famed Domaine de Beaucastel in Chateauneuf de Pape, France, visited California to meet their importer Robert Haas. The Perrin Family thought that in California there must be a spot, a growing area, similar to what they had in Chateauneuf de Pape. They found similar climate and soil conditions (limestone) in this western area of Paso Robles. They formed a partnership with Robert Haas to create Tablas Creek. The most important ingredient to this mix were the grapes. In California in the 1980′s there were no Rhone varieties of grapes they could use. And so they began the tedious task of bringing over cuttings from their Rhone winery to plant. Around the Tablas Creek tasting room deck area, visitors can view  several of the original vines brought to the U.S. Tablas Creek maintains a nursery on the property and provides cuttings for a variety of wineries throughout California. The Tablas Creek tasting room is open daily from 10am to 5 pm. There are tours available; check the Tablas Creek Website for complete details.

    Additional Information about the Paso Robles wine country

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      Amador Flower Farm on Shenandoah School Road

      Amador flower farm

      A gardener’s delight. Combine wine tasting and gardening in one wine country trip.

      About the Amador Flower Farm and wine tasting

      Here is a chance to combine two hobbies, wine country travel and gardening. One of wine country’s prettiest backroads is Shenandoah School Road in Amador County in the Sierra Foothills. The Shenandoah School Road connects at two ends to Shenandoah Road and is about a four-mile stretch of rolling hills lined with vineyards, majestic oak trees and grassland.  Among the wineries and vines of this backroad is a wonderful garden nursery, the Amador Flower Farm. Their specialty is day lilies but they have many other plants to delight the gardener. There are over 900 types of day lilies available for purchase online or at the nursery. You can also enjoy a picnic lunch, so pack your deli sandwich. On this stretch of road are several wineries, but we particularly enjoy Wildrotter Vineyards, Cooper Vineyards, and Karmere Vineyards. We enter Shenandoah School Road from the Plymouth end, and then it returns to Shenandoah Road in about four miles. The Amador Flower Farm is located at the northern end of Shenandoah School Road. The closest town to this backroad is Plymouth, but we prefer to lodge and dine in the historic Gold Country town of Sutter Creek.  Sutter Creek has much to offer the wine country traveler.

      Additional important information about this area

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        Navarro Vineyards Tasting Room

        Navarro tasting room

        The Navarro Vineyards tasting room in Philo

        About the Navarro Vineyards Tasting Room

        Are you old enough to remember Pacific Stereo? This successful company had several high fidelity stores scattered around the San Francisco Bay Area. Those stores were owned by Ted Bennett, who sold them in the early 1970′s for a huge profit. In 1974 he used his profit to create Navarro Vineyards in the Anderson Valley of Mendocino County. Today, it is the most visited winery in the Anderson Valley and has an extensive mailing list of loyal customers. The wines are sold only online, out of the tasting room or from the mailing list. A few restaurants also carry their wines. Ted Bennett and his wife Deborah Cahn have been loyal to their land, farming organically before anyone else in the Anderson Valley. Their tasting room staff is knowledgeable, friendly, and always enthusiastic. The picnic area is one of our favorites of any wine country and, when we visit the Anderson Valley, Navarro is where we picnic no matter what the season. It is so delightful! The wines are priced in the reasonable category, and are as good as any wines in the Anderson Valley. We find many of the newer wineries in the area to have many good wines to offer, but at much too high a price. The Navarro Vineyards Pinot Noir, Méthode à l’Ancienne, sells for under $30, and it is delicious. We also very much enjoy all the Alsatian wines produced at Navarro. Pinot Noir in the Anderson Valley takes center stage, but this is also Alsatian wine country. No one in California can match the terroir for Alsatian style wines. The Navarro Vineyards tasting room is open daily from 10am to 5pm. Tours can also be secheduled online. Navarro Vineyards Website

        Additional Anderson Valley Information

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          Freemark Abbey Napa Valley

          freemark abbey

          About Freemark Abbey

          Freemark Abbey is one of the most stunning wineries in California wine country. The historic stone buildings date back to the late 1800′s. As we recently drove into the parking lot of the winery, we were shocked to see a construction crew appearing to begin demolishing one of the buildings. Thankfully, once in the tasting room, we found out that the buildings were being retrofitted and added on to as part of a huge 5-year remodeling and expansion. The beautiful stone facade will remain on the existing structures. The hand-hewn stone had originally been transported from nearby Glass Mountain by horse and oxen.

          The ambitious expansion will include 2 restaurants, a remodeled kitchen to prepare appetizers for wine pairings, and a boutique hotel to house visitors and guests for potential weddings on the property.

          Freemark Abbey has a very interesting history. According to the information we were given at the winery, Josephine and John Tychson purchased the property in 1881 to pursue their dream of making wine. Following John’s untimely death, Josephine became the first woman to own and operate a winery in the Valley. In 1886, Josephine began constructing a small redwood winery and hired Nils Larsen as her foreman. Together they produced wine for 8 years, and in 1894 Josephine sold the winery to Larsen. Larsen leased the winery to Antonio Forni who began construction on a new stone building.

          Because of Prohibition, the winery was closed for 20 years. Despite its name, the winery has never been used as an Abbey. It was purchased by 3 men from Southern California in 1939 and the name is a combination of their names.

          Freemark Abbey is now owned by the Jackson Family and the winemaker is award-winning Ted Edwards. The winery has one of the most extensive library collections in the Valley and guests can enjoy a memorable tasting of these called “Decades.”

          Other tastings offered are:

          • Classic Tasting $20
          • Cabernet Comparative Tasting $30
          • Wine and Cheese Pairing $25
          • Chocolate Truffle Pairing $30

          The winery is located north of the town of St. Helena at 3022 St. Helena Highway (Hwy. 29). To schedule a tasting, call 800-963-9698. You won’t be disappointed!

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            St. Clement Tasting Room

            st clement tasting room

            View from the picnic area at St. Clement Vineyards in St. Helena

            About St. Clement Tasting Room in St. Helena

            Driving from downtown St. Helena to Calistoga on Highway 29, one cannot help turning and looking up to the hill on the left and marvel at the Victorian house that is home to St. Clement Vineyards’ tasting room. The house was built in 1878 by Fritz Rosenbaum. It is a quaint tasting room, a beautifully-appointed showcase in the interior of the historic structure. Landscaped gardens surround the area. There is an attractive picnic area that overlooks the breathtaking Valley. As you can see from the photo above, one can see across the Valley to the Vaca Mountains. The tasting fee is $20. One can purchase wine and sit at one of the tables and enjoy a picnic lunch. On the weekends, the tasting room is popular, so plan ahead. We enjoyed the 2013 Napa Valley Sauvignon and the delicious red wine they call Oroppas. It is mostly Cabernet but the grapes come from several of St. Clement’s Cabernet vineyards scattered around the Valley. The winery is owned by Treasure Wine Estates. They also own the nearby Beringer Brothers winery. The tasting room is open daily from 11am to 5pm. Tours are also available. Check the St.Clement tasting room details on the Website.

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              Bravas Bar de Tapas

              Bravas de tapas

              Bravas in Healdsburg, tapas extraordinaire

              About Bravas Bar de Tapas in Healdburg

              Bravas Bar de Tapas is a wonderful Tapas restaurant in Healdsburg. It opened about a year ago in the spot that formerly was the Ravenous Restaurant. Bravas Bar de Tapas is run by the same folks who own the successful Willie’s Sea Food on Healdsburg Avenue. We dined at Bravas Bar de Tapas last Wednesday night with a party of ten. The outside area in the summer is the place to be. There is also a full bar outside and the crowd is very jovial. It’s a happening place. With a Tapas bar like Bravas, the most fun thing to do is to share several small plates. We were lucky to have a local person in our group who started us out with six Tapas. We continued to order as the evening progressed and enjoyed every single dish. The service was quick and efficient, no doubt. The wine list has a good number of both Spanish white and red wines as well as wines produced locally. The wine prices are very reasonable. Even during the week in the summer, Bravas Bar de Tapas is very popular, so plan ahead and make a reservation. Corkage is $15 for the first two bottles and waived if you purchase another wine.

              Important Healdsburg information

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                Topel tasting room

                Topel tasting room

                The Topel tasting room is around the corner from the Plaza

                About the Topel tasting room in Healdsburg

                The Topel Winery tasting room is one of many in the wine country town of Healdsburg. Around the Healdsburg Plaza, and down the road a mile, are as many as 20 tasting rooms. I think we have explored most of them. On our last visit, we saw that Roseblum Cellars has a new tasting room next to Murphy Goode. On each visit to Healdsburg, it seems we find a new tasting room open for business. The Topel tasting room is a cozy place, and it has been open for four years. It has made quite a difference for Mark and Donnis Topel. The winery is located in Hopland, and that is where the Topels make all their wines. They own vineyards there but, in addition, source their fruit from other vineyards. Since the tasting room opened here, the Topels have dropped their distributors. They have enough folks joining their wine club or buying wine out of the tasting room. Donnis Topel said, “No more trips here and there to hawk our wines.”

                We tasted several wines on a very muggy and hot day in Healdsburg. The wines were soothing, and we enjoyed the Viognier the most among the whites. With the reds, we had an issue. Odd as this may be, the reds were above what I consider serving temperature. Perhaps the air conditioning was not working as it should have been. We found it difficult to judge the reds simply because we do not like drinking red wines above 70 degrees. My friend and fellow wine taster Mike agreed with me. Nonetheless, I would recommend two reds, the Ketcham Vineyards Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley and the estate Syrah Noir. The Topel tasting room is open from 11am to 7pm and is located at 125 Matheson Street.

                More Healdsburg tasting rooms

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                  The Cellar Worker

                  cellar worker

                  Cellar worker Miquel Kaona at the Madrigal winery in St. Helena.

                  About the wine cellar worker

                  The cellar worker is also referred to as the cellar person or cellar rat. The latter term is used because the person bounces from job to job around the cellar, hustling back and forth. The cellar worker cleans tanks, hoses off the cellar floor, shovels grape skins, racks barrels, move barrels, and cleans every piece of equipment used in the winemaking process. The cellar worker is one of the unsung heroes of winemaking. In our Wine Photo of the Day, we see cellar worker Miguel Kaona keeping records of the barrels recently filled with grape juice at the Madrigal Family Winery in St. Helena. Record keeping is most likely one of the easier tasks in the job description of a cellar worker. The good news for those who do this job is that they learn many aspects of making wine and often work their way up the ladder. There have been many cellar workers who have become winemakers. I recently interviewed one such winemaker, Rob Hunt at Anderson Conn Valley. Rob began his winemaking experience as a Cellar Rat at the Pine Ridge winery in the Napa Valley.

                  Chris Madrigal runs Madrigal Family Winery, one of the very few Mexican-owned wineries in California. Chris is the third generation of the Madrigal Family. His grandfather’s family arrived in the Valley in the 1930′s. Chris’ father started as a vineyard worker and later started a vineyard management business that is thriving today. Madrigal Family Winery last week opened a tasting room in Sausalito, California. The address is 819 Bridgeway. Check the Madrigal Website for additional information.

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                    How they make huge wine barrels

                    Making huge wine barrels at Rodney Strong in the Russian River Valley

                    Making huge wine barrels at Rodney Strong in the Russian River Valley

                    About these huge wine barrels

                    On Wednesday of this week we had a very nice visit with Mark Ketcham, proprietor of Ketcham Vineyards in the Russian River Valley. There were ten of us tasting Pinot Noir wines in Mark’s spacious home. After our visit it was lunch time, and the closest winery with a picnic area was Rodney Strong. Rodney Strong has a lovely outdoor area. It is a great spot for lunch and the Rodney Strong Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc are ideal wines for a lunch time snack on a summer day. Inside the winery, there is a walkway that encircles the tasting room, and visitors can view the wine cellar. As you can see in the photo, these huge barrels were being constructed. Loud, to say the least, was the noise level as these barrels were being put together. It was a treat to see the barrel crew work. The staves go up side-by-side and are then strapped tightly. If a stave is out of place, a large wooden mallet is used to pound it back to a tight fit. Then the newly finished barrel is filled with water (I assume) and the the staves swell together. Later, of course, grape juice will go into these huge wine barrels. I asked two different tasting room gents if they knew the gallon size of the barrels and also asked how the barrels would be used in the production of wine. Neither one could give me a definitive answer; they work in the tasting room and are not winemakers. Maybe on my next visit, the barrels will be in use, and I can get the real dope on these huge wine barrels. I am guessing that these barrels hold about 15,000 to 20,000 gallons of wine. They are definitely neutral oak, so perhaps the wine is to be aged only a short period of time. Anyone out there know exactly how these wine barrels are to be used?

                    Rodney Strong is open daily to visitors, 10am to 5pm, and I am guessing the barrel construction will go on for a few more days. If you want to visit other wineries near Rodney Strong, take the Old Redwood Road Wine Trail.

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