Theresa Heredia has been a winemaker to watch since 2012 and continues to be. I really enjoyed sitting down with Theresa of Gary Farrell Vineyards and Winery. Not only is she savvy, she’s quite playful too, further adding to the enjoyment.

Gary Farrell Vineyards and Winery is one of the early producers of Pinot Noir in Sonoma County, and remain in the forefront of bottling cool climate Pinot and Chardonnay. Theresa Heredia is a perfect fit. Please join us in their nicely designed tasting salon, won’t ya?

 

Theresa Heredia

 

This first of three podcast blog posts were inspired by an invitation I received a few years ago from Turismo de Portugal asking if I would write a blog about the country. It’s not what I usually do but it planted a seed. For additional reasons we chose to visit Portugal which led to this combination of podcast recordings, our travel story and images. I hope it inspires exploration, spontaneity, and not always following the beaten path.

Exploring Portugal, Drinking Wine Part – 1  features my interview with
Carlos de Jesus of Amorim Cork at the end of the blog.

My wife Meredith and I decided to explore Portugal in late spring, 2020. As we began making plans, COVID locked in on the globe removing our ability to travel and gather. A year later, the world was slowly opening up, our flights were still available, so we dove back into our plans to travel in October and November of 2021.

Fortunately for us, Portugal had just begun receiving travelers. We learned they were thrilled to see new faces.

As we expected, lodging, restaurants, even car rental, were quite affordable. We wanted to get a real feel for Portugal and the people, so we planned our route with the intent to see as much of the country as we could within 12 days (14 counting travel).

If I say so myself, we did an awesome job planning our schedule. We balanced short jaunts and stays in lesser known places with quality exploring time in Lisbon, Pinhão in the Douro River Valley, and Porto to avoid wearing ourselves out.

map of our route

Source: Google Maps

And this is how it played out….  

Lisbon – Lisboa wine region

We wanted to stay near Lisbon’s older areas of Barrio Alta and Alfama so we chose Hotel Lisboa. It was just off the main corridor, Avenue de Liberdade. It was a perfect location. The hotel was modern and fairly small, yet offered an extensive breakfast (referring to it as a “continental” breakfast wouldn’t do it justice!)  The hotel offered a car service to pick us up at the airport which was greatly appreciated. The local driver shared helpful details during the 20 minute ride.

Just around the corner from the hotel and down a few blocks we found Sr. Lisboa. We were anxious to dive into the local fare. They offered Portuguese versions of Spanish tapas, which hit the spot. It was like a country diner with excellent food and the crew made it even more enjoyable.

In front of Hotel Lisboa

Exploring Portugal

 

In July of 2021, I was invited to join an international online event sponsored by Wines of Portugal. Rather serendipitous, I thought. The moderator was the Portugal Wine Ambassador to the U.S., Eugenio Jardim. The event featured interviews with winemakers from various regions, a couple of which made it on to our itinerary. As we ventured through Lisbon we came across the Praça do Comércio, a large public square on the coast. Along the western row of buildings was the Wines of Portugal tasting room. It featured wines from every Portugese region along three walls of wine bottles – an unexpected discovery which we took full advantage of! Later, we came across the second location in Porto.

The Wines of Portugal tasting room

 

We really enjoyed walking around the Alfama neighborhood, one of Lisbon’s oldest areas, lined with shops, cafes, and convenient historic trams. If you go, try to catch Tram 28, which carries tourists and locals on the most popular route. My sweet tooth couldn’t resist the local pastry, Pastéis de Nata.

Exploring PortugalThe popular Tram 28 in the Alfama district

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Historic Rossio Railway Station, circa 1890

Historic Rossio Railway Station, circa 1890

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you go to Lisbon, or any other foreign city for that matter, try to set up a dinner or a tour through the WithLocals website, or something similar. You can choose a variety of tours or experiences with local residents. You’ll learn much about the country’s culture and their favorite things to do. It’s certainly worthwhile. We decided on the home dinner experience and chose Isabel. She offered multiple courses that included fried salted cod balls, fruit and vegetable items, and a local delicacy, black pork. Isabel also provide a selection of cheeses and two wines. She turned us on to Porta da Ravessa white wine, and the red Vila de Frades, both produced in the large Alentejo wine region east of Lisboa and Tejo. Isabel was a delight to spend time with, and her dog was pleasant and chill…sleeping at my feet while we ate.

Dinner with Isabel from WithLocals

Exploring Portugal

This vinho branco was an ideal starter wine. The blend of Roupeiro, Fernão-Pires, Arinto was light and fresh, and a bargain at 2.49 Euros!

A very nice red blend of Aragonez (Tempranillo), Trincadeira & Alicante Bouschet. It paired very well with the black pork.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I could create a full post on the day trip we took to Sintra, but I’ll provide a short synopsis. Sintra is located on the Portuguese Riviera. A 45-minute train ride drops you into the magical, wonderous mountainous region with magestic castles, royal palaces, historic structures and mansions. And then there’s the Quinta da Regaleira. Its dazzling archecture and grounds are “condusive to the contemplation of the beautiful and the sublime.” To avoid the tourist groups and lines we chose a zippy way to tour Sintra – the electric Twizy from Go2Sintra Eco Tours. It’s a kick!

Exploring Portugal

The night before we left Lisbon we searched for a bar or restaurant that offered live fado music. It’s the country’s mournful folk music about the sea, losing loved ones, struggles of the poor, and it can nearly bring a tear to one’s eye. Due to the slow recovery of the pandemic there were no live performances in the area; however, luck was on our side. As we wandered and searched, we came across Fado & Wine. There was no one in the place, but Fado filled the air. Shelves of wine were on every wall. Finally, a young woman came in. After discussion of what we liked in wine, she provided a couple of options. I fell in love with the 2010 São Domingos Garrafeira from the Bairrada region. (Remember that region, it comes up again.) She also served us some tasty tapas, then left us alone to enjoy the music and delectable wine and fare. She returned to let us try other libations she thought we’d enjoy, one of which was Ginja wild cherry liqueur. It was fantastic! Such long lasting, intense flavor.

Meredith enjoying tapas and wine in Fado and Wine

Meredith enjoying her gooey entrada.

Exploring Portugal

This bold blend of Touriga Nacional, Merlot and Cabernet featured floral and spicy notes, and blanketed the my tongue with red and dark fruit, with a touch of toast and spice. Delicious!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Évora – Alentejo wine region

After two and a half days in Lisbon, we rented a Peugeot SUV and headed east to the ancient walled city of Évora. It’s also the capital of the Alentejo region. A larger town has since grown around the walled city but the interior has maintained its historic character. In the city’s center stands the ancient Roman Temple of Évora (also called the Temple of Diana). Nearby, whitewashed houses surround the Cathedral of Évora. It’s the largest medieval cathedral in Portugal. The massive Gothic structure was built between 1186 and 1250. Not far is the must-see skeleton adorned Chapel of Bones. It’s as fascinating as it is creepy. All four walls were completed with the bones from the dead of the 17th century. The Franciscan monks believed the use of their bones guaranteed the absolution of their sins while providing a site of contemplation for the living. Those zealous Franciscans!

ancient Roman Temple of Évora

The ancient Roman Temple of Évora, also called the Temple of Diana

Igreja de São Francisco dating from the 12th century

The Franciscan Gothic and baroque Igreja de São Francisco dating from the 12 century

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The creepy but fascinating Chapel of Bones

The Chapel of Bones

Exploring Portugal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To our delight, a half block from the catherdral was the Rota Dos Vinhos-Alentejo, which means Alentejo Wine Route. The tasting room offered a good number of wines from the region. Helena poured us a couple of whites and two reds. Grape varieties included Bical, Grand Noir, and the region’s traditional Aragonez, Trincadeira, Alicante Bouschet, Castelão and Antão Vaz (a new one for me!). 

Exploring PortugalRota Dos Vinhos-Alentejo tasting room

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coimbra – Bairrada wine region

You know how sometimes you see a photo and you say to yourself, “I would love to see that in person”? That’s how I felt when I saw this photo of the University of Coimbra high above the city. It’s among the oldest universities in continuous operation in the world! At night, it’s stunning.

The historic University of Coimbra

Fortunately, we found the Hotel Oslo Coimbra with a rooftop terrace, and a room facing the university. Established in 1290, the university moved locations a few times, and in 1597 it ended up in Coimbra at the Alcaçova Palace, previously owned by the Royal Family. On the drizzly evening following our dinner of Portuguese-inspired pizza, we walked the parkways along the rows of shops. There, next to the Igreja de Santa Cruz, was a cafe and we stopped in for a drink. What luck, Fado de Coimbra was performing. The sound was mezmerizing as it reverberated through the historic architecture.

Click here to see and hear it for yourself.

Exploring PortugalIgreja de Santa Cruz

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mozelos – Amorim Cork

In the months leading up to our original travel plans, I had been in touch with the Director of Marketing and Communications for Amorim Cork, Carlos De Jesus. Traveling from Coimbra to Mozelos, Amorim was a 1-hour 40-minute trip. While the rain varied in intensity, the freeways were easy to travel through the mountains and valleys. We met up with Carlos at their headquarters and production facility. What an experience! We spent nearly two hours touring the production area and labratories. Cork is one of the most useful materials on earth. As Amorim states, cork oak forests “contribute to climate regulation, are a driving force for sustainability development, and play a crucial role in the world’s ecological balance.” Also, harvesting cork bark does not harm the oak trees, which has an average life span 200 years.

image of harvested cork bark

Piles of harvested cork tree bark

Interviewing the Director of Marking at Amorim Cork, Carlos de Jesus

 

 

 

 

 

Amorim cork's huge facility

Part of Amorim’s huge facility

Cork punched out from the bark traditional way, by hand and leg pump.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Exploring Portugal

Shaped cork in various levels of quality

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s my compelling converation with Carlos about the extreme efforts Amorim undertakes in their mission to achieve perfection and 100 percent sustainability.

 

 

In Part 2 we make our way to the Douro River Valley with its majestic hillside vineyards.

 

 

 

Tracy Dutton

In the 20th century until the mid-70s or so, west Sonoma County was about as rural as a region could be. When it came to agriculture, it wasn’t far removed from the centuries prior in the farming, orchard, and grape growing regions of the old world. And like many small towns across America, it was common to marry “the boy next door.” Or girl. That’s part of the history of Dutton Ranch and Kozlowski Farms; two small family run businesses who managed to gain success through determination and ingenuity. Out of that setting Tracy and Joe Dutton eventually founded Dutton Estate Winery. Tracy joins me to share their impressive story, which still embraces their family’s essential attributes.

 

The Dutton Family

 

Tracy Dutton

The Dutton Team

I’ve taken the trip to the San Francisco Wine School a number of times in the past to expand my wine knowledge while enjoying a selection of fine varietals. Heading into “the city” is something I enjoy.

Since I’ve been impressed with the classes and tastings I have attended at the San Francisco Wine School I thought you might find it an appealing option as well. They offer so many workshops, programs and events there’s bound to be one that appeals to you. So I sat down with co-owner, Master Sommelier and Certified Wine Educator David Glancy a couple of weeks ago for this interview, and it gave me the chance to ask…what led him to opening the school.

 

San Francisco Wine School

From the January 2022 class featuring Australian Shiraz

 

San Francisco Wine School

The different Shiraz wines we tasted. And yes, they were fantastic!

When you see this banner on Grand Ave in S. San Francisco, you’ve found the school

 

 

With this podcast you can join me on a trip to the Hospice du Rhone event. It’s not a typical wine tasting. The Côtes-du-Rhône region in France features a great number of delicioius wine varieties. Twenty two of them were featured, and 125 wine producers from California, Oregon, Washington, and France were on-hand sharing their versions. The orginization’s slogan is “Twenty-two Varieties. One Vision.”

I spoke with General Manager and family member Jason Haas from Paso Robles’ Rhone winemaking pioneer Tablas Creek Vineyard. The co-Founder Robert Haas had the foresight to partner with Rhone Valley producer Château de Beaucastel.

Just off the Paso square I met up with winery owner Ted Ross of Hayseed and Housdon. I liked his wines, especially the La Macha Spanish blend, and Warrior. When you listen to the podcast and you’ll be impressed with his charitable generosity.

I also visited with Elena Barrios, who with her winemaking husband Stanley, are gaining attention with their outstanding Rhone varietal blends at Top Winery.

In conclusion, if you like Grenache, Syrah and Viognier but haven’t tried Picpoul Blanc or Bourboulenc, you’ll want to join the fun next year. Otherwise, visit Pas Robles for their own style of popular and rare varietals. Listen to the podcast and get inspired!

 

Tablas Creek

Hospice du Rhône

With Jason Haas at the event

The distance to their French partner

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The large neutral oak French barrels behind glass in the tasting room

Hayseed and Housdon

Hospice du Rhône

Ted Ross with 3 of his wines that benefit charity partners

The back half of the tasting room

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The building of Heyseed with versatile garage door

Top Winery

Hospice du Rhône

Sharing a taste with Elena

The clever labels of Top’s wine blends

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hospice du Rhône

My wife Meredith with a majority of the tasting room behind her

 

I think of Alicia Sylvester as a shooting star because, to me, she appears to be speeding through life…even when she’s standing still; when she can stand still. Her passion is invigorating. Her energy is inspiring. And at times you could even say she glows.

This podcast can serve as a sort of Master Class on how to rise through the ranks. You’ll get a kick out of how this small town central Cali girl ended up working harvests across the globe, playing a role in winemaking with respected brands, then landing her current gig at Banshee Wines. Alicia Sylvester crafts small vineyard designate wines for their club, and up to 70,000 cases wholesale. Any aspiring young winemaker should take notes!

 

 

Alicia Sylvester

This post with Ravenswood Winery founder Joel Peterson is a bit different than my usual podcast. As the Visual Oral Histories Chair of the Sonoma County Wine Library Association, you may be aware that I began videotaping oral histories as a way to capture the stories of those who made major contributions to the wine industry. We feel it’s imperative to preserve these stories for future generations. Joel Peterson, the founder of Ravenswood Winery and now Once and Future Wine, certainly deserved to be included. This is the audio from his Visual Oral History. If you’d like to see the video click here.

You may have heard the radio interview I posted in 2017 but this interview delves much deeper into his past. Join me in the historic Bedrock Vineyard in Sonoma County with Joel.

 

Cannabis Infused Wine

It was only a matter of time before cannabis would end up in wine. As it turns out, it’s not an easy process. However, the proficient hand-picked crew at House of Saka have managed to make it happen.

Looking for a different kind of lift from your Pinot Noir and sparkling Chardonnay that doesn’t include alcohol? They can accommodate you. In this podcast Co-Founder and CEO Tracey Mason will share how they built the House of Saka and their vision of the future. You’ll hear how years of experience in the wine and cannabis industries, Napa Valley grapes, and the will of Warrior Women have come together to create this transformative beverage within the House of Saka.

 

 

House of Saka

House of Saka

Infused Luxury

 

Gracianna Winery was built on a history that stretches back to World War II. His great-grandmother’s perseverance helped her escape Europe to start a new life in California.

Gratitude was the result of what the New World had to offer. There were struggles, but maintaining a farm and living a full life was rewarding. Owner Trini Amador speaks lovingly of Gracianna, the woman who taught him gratitude. He so appreciated and respected his great-grandmother he captured her story in a book (pictured  below).

In her honor, with their son’s unintended coaxing, Trini and Lisa have created the successful Gracianna Winery, which also took some perseverance. They’re grateful for the appreciation expressed by their club members and the many who have paid a visit to their Sonoma County tasting room. Hear Trini tell the tale of Gracianna in this podcast.

Click Play to listen now:

Click to listen later: OTWR_Gracianna

Gracianna Winery

Gracianna – The book

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Transcription:



You may recall I interviewed owner John Balletto a few years ago. His story is a perfect example of perseverance. He was only 17 when his father died, leaving 5 acres of vegetables to John and his mother. Now, 43 years later, Balletto has grown to include 800 acres of estate vineyards across Sonoma County. The wine is excellent, their prices are moderate, and have been referred to by wine magazines as a “Best Buy”.

The man responsible for the wine is Anthony Beckman, the subject of this interview, although John chimes in as well. Anthony hit pay dirt when he left his newspaper career behind to pursue his other love – good food and excellent wine. His journey to Balletto Vineyards is fascinating, and what he and John accomplish together is remarkable.

Click here to listen now:

Click here to listen later: OTWR_BallettoAB

 

Balletto Vineyards

Owner, John Balletto

There were two reasons that prompted me to reach out to Todd Graff. First, in October  my step-daughter Jackie told me in that her favorite wine is Frank Family Vineyards‘ Cabernet Sauvignon. Then in December, I watched as Todd received “Napa Valley Winemaker of the Year” from the North Bay Business Journal’s Annual Wine, Spirits and Beer Industry Awards.  That solidified my desire to interview him.

Aside from his history in the industry, Todd shared why he chose to travel early on. His wanderlust was further satisfied when he was chosen by Schramsberg Vineyards for a project in Portugal. For the last 18 years he’s enjoyed working with Frank Family and making a good list of wine varieties.

Why is Frank Family Vineyards often chosen as Napa’s Favorite Tasting Room? As the winemaker and General Manager, he has a pretty good idea. He’ll share that opinion.

As you’ll hear, Todd Graff is a casual guy, down to earth, and a bit humble…like most winemakers I interview.  Enjoy the conversation!

Play now

Download for later:  OTWR_ToddGraff_FrankFamily

 

The old winemaking barn is the first thing you’ll see when visiting Frank Family Vineyards

 

Todd Graff

Todd caught contemplating the answer to a question, and the wine he served us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Todd Graff

The tasting room Craftsman House from the 1930s

 

Todd developed a taste for sparkling wine during his time at Schramsberg Vineyards. He’s showing off his Brut Rosé as we hung out, literally, on the back porch.

Both wineries featured in this podcast, Mersenne Wines and Capo Creek Ranch, pay tribute to musicians. Mersenne created a wine label for a British Indie-Pop band, and Capo Creek has named a vineyard after a beloved singer, guitarist. That’s one aspect of each winery you’ll appreciate as I get in-depth with their stories of overcoming obstacles.

Mitch Rice of Mersenne Prime Artisan Wines entrance into the industry wasn’t too complicated. He had experience as a home winemaker before taking the leap as a winery owner. Though his beginnings were less challenging, delicate maneuvering was needed to “secure” his partner. As it turned out, their brand features a love story that is wrapped in historical lore…which I greatly respect.

However, if you buy a vineyard there are many more hurdles. Sisters Mary and Nadine Roy of Capo Creek Ranch did purchase land and it took several years to get their footing. They’re strumming along now and offer a wine and food pairing that is par excellence! It was quite an unexpected chapter following their lives as owners of a medical practice in Chicago, when one day an unsolicited pamphlet arrived in the mail that completely changed their life’s direction…eventually.

Join me for these tales of persistence by Mersenne Wines and Capo Creek Ranch, as heard On The Wine Road…

Play now 

Download for later   OTWR_Mersenne_CapoCreek

 

Mersenne Wines logo
Illustration by Michael Gray

 

Robin and Mitch

Mersenne Wines & Capo Creek

2018 Prospére Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2016 Rutherford, Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

 

2020 North Coast Wine Challenge Best of the Best 98 pt. score!

 

 

 

 

 

 

2015 “SO45” Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon produced in collaboration with the British Indie-Pop band “Scars on 45”. Click the image to learn about them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Capo Creek Ranch

Mersenne Wines and Capo Creek

Social distancing with Nadine and Mary Roy

All of their varietals feature familiar curves of an acoustic guitar. This is one of our favorites, the 2018 Open Mic Grenache Red Blend

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The filling and delicious Ultimate Food and Wine Pairing overlooking Dry Creek Valley

Marsenne Wines and Capo Creek

What we enjoyed that day. Incredible!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s plenty of space at Capo Creek Ranch

The Triple Berry Galette with Chantilly Cream. They are not skimpy portions

These interviews were aired on my radio show on March 6th in celebration International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month. It was a real pleasure to spend half the day with these two talented winemakers.

My first guest will be Danielle Cyrot who has held enviable positions in her career, the last 12 years of which have been at CADE Estate Winery on Howell Mountain.  Danielle is working with two interesting projects, the details of which we’ll cover.

Colleen FitzGerald is the enologist and a winemaker at Pine Ridge Vineyards in the Stags Leap District. She’s been handed an intereresting wine wine project which led to a sparkling brand that is the first new label for the winery in 25 years.

Has it been a challenge for these women to work in such a male dominated field? You may be surprised by their answers. Join me as I celebrate the contributions these ladies have made to the Napa Valley wine industry.

 

 

International Women's Day

Danielle Cyrot in the CADE Estate tasting room

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

International Women's Day

Colleen FitzGerald with her Chenin Blanc+Viognier blend

In this podcast you’ll hear how you can obtain fine wines from the Far Niente Family and Benchmark Wine Group.

The Far Niente Family of Wineries and Vineyards has created a lower priced wine called Post and Beam. That led me to interview winemaker Michael Accurso. He’ll take us through the full portfolio which includes Nickel & Nickel, Dolce, En Route and Bella Union. You’ll also learn how Far Niente came to be revered winery that it is today, the beginnings of which go back to 1885. Far Niente helped create the high-end Napa Valley wine market and has continued that role for more than three decades.

Benchmark Wine Group is the leading source of fine and rare wine for wine retailers, restaurants and collectors around the world.  It’s the largest online seller of rare wines and they can be obtained by YOU!  Do you want a 1995 Châteauneuf-du-Pape? A 1999 Antinori Brunello di Montalcino? Or how about a 1977 Graham’s Vintage Port?  Hear how Benchmark can obtain these sought after wines, and how you can buy rarities from a collector’s cellar. David Parker fills us in on this episode of On The Wine Road Podcast. 

 

 

Far Niente Family and Benchmark Wine Group

Winemaker Michael Accurso

Far Niente Family and Benchmark Wine Group

David Parker, Benchmark

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Far Niente Family and Benchmark Wine Group

These fine and rare wines can be yours!

Today’s offering comes to you in a timely fashion. The Stay at Home Order in California has been lifted. As a result, winery tasting rooms opened again last week for outdoor service. However, the order went into affect the day we arrived in the Sierra Foothills region back in December. Nonetheless, both winemakers were happy to meet with us, at a safe distance, of course.

Both interviews in this podcast feature winemakers in Amador County; Bill Easton of Domaine de la Terre Rouge and Easton Wines, and his neighbor Paul Sobon of Shenandoah Vineyards, Sobon Estate and his boutique brand, Paul J wines. I get a kick out of the winding country roads and the small towns of the Sierra Foothills, and the welcoming nature of the people who enjoy the slower pace there.

For years,  winemakers Easton and Sobon have shown you don’t have to live in a world-renowned wine region to make world-class wines. That said, the time is coming when the wine regions of the Sierra Foothills will be mentioned in the same discussion as Napa and Sonoma counties.

Here’s to a return to a more normal year in 2021!

Play now

Download for later:  OTWR_Easton_Sobon_R

 

Winemakers Easton and Sobon of Amador County

The mid-December day we visited was comfortable enough to interview Paul Sobon in his backyard. It wouldn’t stay that way.

Winemakers Easton and Sobon of Amador County

Behind the bar with Bill Easton. Notice the recently received Wine & Spirits Magazine award between us. It’s one of several awarded to him.

 

Winemakers Easton and Sobon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winemakers Easton and Sobon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winemakers Easton and Sobon

Winemakers Easton and Sobon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winemakers Easton and Sobon of Amador County

Later that day, winter arrived. It was welcomed as it brought the holiday season to life in downtown Placerville.

 



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On this podcast I feature Seghesio Family Vineyards & Shadowbox Cellars. Winemaker Andy Robinson and Sonoma County’s Seghesio Family Vineyards are celebrating 125 years of grape growing this year. Seghesio is one of the few that made it through Prohibition and continue to this day.

In comparison, owner Justin Preiser’s Shadowbox Cellars is in its infancy at 11 years of winemaking. His fairly new tasting room in downtown Napa was the first wine entity granted an outdoor space, the parklet, during this covid era.

Seghesio Family Vineyards and Shadowbox Cellars are producing outstanding wines and offer enjoyable experiences. Justin’s Salt and Acid Pairing is nearly one-of-a-kind, utilizing a gourmet food item paired with his aged wine. To hear more details about the Salt and Acid Pairing you’ll just have to listen to the podcast. I’ll tell you this, it was surprisingly tasty.

Hit play to join us under the ancient trees in Healdsburg, and streetside in Napa.

Download for later  OTWR_Seghesio_Shadowbox_R

 

Seghesio’s outdoor lawn. Perfect for outdoor tastings, when it’s allowed.

Seghesio Family Vineryards & Shadowbox Cellars

A line up of some of Seghesio’s varietals

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seghesio Family Vineryards & Shadowbox Cellars

Shadowbox Cellars Salt and Acid Pairing

Seghesio Family Vineryards & Shadowbox Cellars

The streetside Parklet in front of Shadowbox Cellars. A fun place to taste, when it’s allowed.



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John Williams has had quite a career. The story of Frog’s Leap didn’t begin until after John worked with Napa Valley icon Warren Winiarski at Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars. He helped launch Glenora Wine Cellars in the Finger Lakes region. Afterward, he returned to Napa Valley as winemaker for the esteemed Spring Mountain Vineyard. All this, before and during the founding of Frog’s Leap, where early business decisions, like their comical slogan, were made with his partners in the Frog Farm hot tub.

40 years on, John continues to evolve, innovate and successfully sustain the Frog’s Leap brand, all while maintaining his sense of humor.

Join me as John fills us in the details, with cameo appearances from Larry and Julie.

 

Frog's Leap

The lobby of The Vineyard House

Frog's Leap

The back porch of The Vineyard House where wine tastings are offered

 

 

The Red Barn in Rutherford



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My guests from Chenoweth and Chev have a history together. Charlie Chenoweth grows sought after Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and Charlie’s wife Amy and friend Michael Browne craft their own versions of epic Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

Russian River Valley also plays a role on this podcast.  Its diverse soil, fog-filled valleys, rolling hills and redwood trees have inspired my two guests.

Chenoweth Wines

The Chenoweth Wines tasting experience was quite a venture, as you’ll see below. That was before the pandemic. But you can make a reservation to taste their fantastic wines within their picturesque Redwood Grove. It’s quite a setting. As you’ll hear, Amy and Charlie are quintessential Sonoma County residents.  Amy has a rock ‘n roll attitude, and Charlie is as laid back as a country boy can be.

Michael Browne

Michael Browne has sourced grapes from Chenoweth’s highly regarded Treehouse and Bootleggers Hill vineyards in Russian River Valley for his previous Kosta Browne cult wines, then in Michael’s Browne Family Wines brand, Cirq. He continues sourcing from the Chenoweth’s and other Russian River Valley vineyards for his newly released brand Chev. The project was inspired by the crafting talents of his father, Bob. If that hasn’t kept Michael busy enough, we’ll discuss his new autobiography that was just released on Amazon, Pinot Rocks: A Winding Journey through Intense Elegance. The man does have quite a few stories to tell. 

Which brings us to today’s tales featuring Chenoweth and Chev On The Wine Road…

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Chenowith & Chev

Amy, greeting her guests with wine and a smile

Chenoweth and Chev

A ride through the vines

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Charlie in another section of the Redwood Grove

A portion of the Redwood Grove

The handcrafted Chevy bench

Charlie, enjoying the view of Russian River Valley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Pinot grapes going through versaison as they ripen

One of a couple bottles we enjoyed that day

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chenoweth and Chev

Michael Browne enjoying his craft

A throwback to Michael’s previous brand, Cirq, crafted with grapes from the Chenoweth’s Treehouse Vineyard

Chenoweth and Chev

The new brand, hearkening back to the ’40s, featuring little gems for car fanatics

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The book thing



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Insane Lightening

Wild fires? I was hoping it would be quite a while before I had to cover this topic again. Mother Nature hit with a vengeance in mid August. The late summer storm was a nice surprise, but not for the Hennessey Fire survivors. The 12,000 lightening strikes in four days across Northern California was insane! (That’s a National Weather Service quote, by the way). The resulting 585 wildfires produced 18 large infernos, one of which was the Hennessey Fire.

Close Call

Today’s podcast features two wineries who “miraculously” survived the firestorm, Green and Red Vineyard & Nichelini Family Winery of Napa’s Chile’s Valley, not far from Lake Hennessey.  As you’ll learn, I have come to know both of these families and have conducted multiple interviews with them in the past. Because of that fact I was keeping a close eye on the active fire maps around both wineries during that harrowing week to 10 days as fires raged in both Napa and Sonoma Counties. Other firestorms picked up elsewhere in the state during that period as well.

Thankfully, both survived thanks to valiant help from Cal Fire, volunteer fire men and women, and the owners themselves. Click the play button to hear the families share their harrowing stories.

 

Green and Red Vineyard

 

Hennessey Fire

The terraced rows of Green and Red’s unique Tip Top Vineyard.

Hennessey Fire

You can see how close the fire came to the Tip Top Vineyard, stopping at the road.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The fire was close enough to singe some of the leaves but didn’t burn the vines. Smoke tainted grapes are now the concern.

Like many vineyards, Green and Red has a vineyard dog. Uno is small but he’s mighty! He makes an appearance during the interview.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The day I joined the crew for harvest. From L to R, Ray Hannigan, Tobin Heminway, Mary Kate, winemaker Mike Penn and me.

Processing the Syrah grapes. There’s an optimistic feeling that the grapes may have escaped smoke taint.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nichelini Family Winery

 

Hennessey Fire

The historic Nichelini home and winery previously on a sunny day.

As it looks today. You can see the blackened ridge behind the home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hennessey Fire

Family member Kenny Wainright does his part to save the winery. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)

Hennessey Fire

Across the street from the winery from the hillside. You can hardly make out the winery on the road. The fire was on all sides.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5th generation winemaker Aimee Sunseri in front of the winery’s original Roman wine press. Thankfully the winery and home survived and can continue the 130 year legacy. (Photo-Napa Valley Register)

I met Mike Tracy at an industry party on a cool February evening, prior to the coronoavirus altering our social activities. It’s common to meet people of various winery positions at these after hours gatherings. I’ve struck up the occasional friendship during one of these evenings. He’s a pleasant guy, smart, and when he told me which wineries he works with it raised my eyebrows. Not one, not two, but FOUR high-end Napa Valley wineries. That’s what led to this interview.

Mike Tracy’s boss (bosses)?  Married winemaking couple Mark Porembski and Jennifer Williams Porembski. The three of them have an enviable business, and friend, relationship. What are the duties of an assistant winemaker? (Often they do as much or more hands-on work than the winemaker).

Which esteemed wine brands do the three of them craft? Well, you’ll just have to listen to discover the answer. And when this whole virus era settles down, I can’t wait to try more of them with Mike. Press play to join us safely on the wine road.

 

Mike Tracy