Each year in San Francisco Zinfandel Advocates and Producers host ZinEX, aka the Zinfandel Experience. The past few years I’ve interviewed zinfandel winemakers and growers to help promote the event.
This podcast will be the first of two featuring this year’s guests. Napa Valley’s Robert “Bob” Biale filled the full hour of my radio show, so he’ll be the only guest on this podcast.
His Italian immigrant family has a rich history in Napa. As you’ll hear, early challenges inspired Bob’s father to get creative, selling wine clandestinely…without a permit. That audacious move led to their successful flagship wine, Robert Biale Vineyards‘ Black Chicken. It’s one of many colorful tales offered by those in the wine industry. Hit Play to hear this gracious man share his story and his love of zinfandel.
And yes, there are black chickens on the property.
One of several seating areas at Robert Biale Vineyards.
The 1940 Studebaker you’ll hear about in the interview.
This is a shorter podcast that features the Mount View Hotel and Spa in Calistoga, Napa Valley. It’s an historic, beautifully designed art deco hotel that offers many enticing experiences for their guests.
This interview aired on my radio show last Saturday and I wanted you to hear it in case you’re panning a trip to Napa Valley or Sonoma in the coming weeks. On April 1st, The Mount View is offering a one of a kind experience that combines wine tasting, a film, dinner – featuring one of the performers in the film, and a night’s stay at the hotel. Scroll down to see the flyer for this full day of enjoyment.
If you can’t make it that night keep the Mount View in mind for a future stay. I hope to see you there on April 1st!
I’m mixing it up on this podcast with Ace Premium Cider and Harvest on Spring Mountain Vineyard.
For you hard cider fans, you’ll get a kick out of hearing from founder Jeffrey House. The former Brit brought his cider knowledge to the U.S. in the 1970s and opened Ace Premium Craft Cider in 1993. With his sons firmly in place Ace is still a family run business, now in it’s second generation.
Then you can join me on Spring Mountain Vineyard during harvest with their longtime vineyard manager, Ron Rosenbrand. You’ll hear about the unique character of this 845 acre property and how this year’s growing season was for their Bordeaux varieties. Buckle up, it’s time to venture out On The Wine Road.
The Ace In The Hole pub
Apparently Ace In The Hole was the first!
The “harvest” moon early on one of many picking mornings.
Bins to fill with harvested grapes
Harvesting the grapes
Full bins waiting to be trucked to the winery
The sun begins to rise on the vineyard following harvest
As I travel this week I’m reaching into the archives to bring you two compelling interviews. UC Davis Professor Emerita Carole Meredith shares the story of how she, with a little help from others, solved the mystery of Zinfandel’s origin. If you enjoy investigative stories you’ll get a kick out of the many elements involved in her discovery. In a nod to the original Croatian variety, Carole and her winemaker husband, Steve, bottle a version with their brand Lagier Meredith.
Kendall-Jackson‘s Winemaster Randy Ullom may not be a well-known name but it’s very likely you’ve tasted his creations, including the Chardonnay that has been the top seller in the U.S. for over 25 years straight. Who would have thought a ski trip to Chile would lead to nearly 3 decades of winemaking with one of the world’s most successful brands.
Another Wine Uncorked is also included. Let’s hit the road!
CK Mondavi and Family of Napa Valley is currently ranked at #16 in annual case production for US vintners. Needless to say, that’s large.
LaRue Wines of the Sonoma Coast region produces less than a thousand cases. Yep, that’s really small.
My guests are Randy Herron of CK Mondavi and Family, and Katy Wilson of LaRue. I thought it would be fascinating to hear the differences between these two brands. Randy crafts more than half a dozen varietals that are priced in the Value category. Katy focuses on cool climate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir priced at the Luxury level. Nevertheless, these two share an easy going nature and make wines that are exceptional for their price range.
A Wine Uncorked feature is also included in the podcast. A little trivia gift from me to you.
I was slow to develop a taste for Port and dessert wines. In retrospect that’s peculiar since I have a sweet tooth. Thankfully, I have seen the light and developed a taste for Port! For the last ten years it’s been my desire to have at least one bottle on the shelf and/or in the refrigerator. It also took a while for me to hear about Napa Valley’s own Port house, Prager Winery and Port Works.
They hit two milestones this year; their 40th anniversary, and Sweepstakes & Best of Class awards from the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Tasting – the largest competition of American Wines in the world. It was their 10-year-old Tawny that grabbed the prize.
Winemaker Peter Prager shares the story of following their father’s dream to own a winery as he takes me through each of his Ports and dry Petite Sirah. What a way to start the day! Prager Winery and Port Works is a throwback to a simpler time in the valley and truly a unique experience. Join us at the tasting bar at Prager.
https://onthewineroad.us/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/smaller-logo.jpg647650Jeff Davishttps://onthewineroad.us/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo.pngJeff Davis2019-06-12 15:35:502019-06-12 15:35:50Prager Winery and Port Works
It’s not intentional that this podcast was uploaded just a couple weeks after the movie Wine Country was released. Artesa Estate Vineyards and Winery is one of the wineries the ladies visited.
The fact is, their winemaker Ana Diogo-Draper was on my radio show in April, so she was next in line for my podcast. As you’ll hear, Artesa is influenced by Spain, Napa Valley and Portugal. You can taste those influences in the many wines Ana crafts. Varieties include Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Alberino, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, and a sparkling.
Join us in the tasting room to learn about Artesa Estate Vineyards and Winery, the rich history, and their delightful winemaker.
Jordan Vineyard and Winery is an ivy covered icon. It’s one of Sonoma County’s most stunning wineries fashioned after a French chateau. It stands boldly yet gracefully among the sweeping lawn, beautifully manicured trees, and recently planted cabernet sauvignon vineyard.
Needless to say, it was a pleasure to spend a couple of hours there interviewing CEO and family member John Jordan and winemaker Rob Davis. He and I chatted for 90 minutes, way more than I could squeeze into my one hour radio show. Fortunately, a majority of the outtakes can be heard in this podcast. For you Napa wine history fans you’ll love the stories Rob shares about “the Dean of California Winemakers,” André Tchelistcheff.
As you listen you’ll understand the reasoning behind Wine Enthusiast Magazine choosing Jordan Vineyard and Winery as American Winery of the Year in 2014. Since they produced their first vintage in 1976 their wine has lived up to the elegance of the chateau.
To see their tours and tasting options, wine and so much more click here.
During the tasting and interview with Rob Davis
CEO and family member John Jordan
When you walk through those French doors you’re elevated tasting experience will include award-winning wines and exceptional hospitality.
The directional sign at Vista Point that John and I reference.
https://onthewineroad.us/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Jordan-OTWR-1400x506.jpg5061400Jeff Davishttps://onthewineroad.us/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo.pngJeff Davis2019-05-10 17:18:012019-05-13 14:54:21The Story of Jordan Vineyard and Winery
Today we’ll travel two and a half hours east of Sonoma/Napa to the El Dorado County wine region in the Sierra Foothills. This lengthy podcast recorded in February will feature three vintners who are distinctly different. They are Chaim and Elisheva of C.G. Di Arie Vineyard and Winery, Kevin Jones of Lava Cap Winery, and Adam Smith of Skinner Vineyards and Winery. They are a good representation of the region’s wineries who are producing world class wines, and run by the nicest people you’ll ever want to hang with. To learn more about the region click here. Now, let’s head to the foothills!
On the deck, in the rain, with Kevin Jones of Lava Cap
Chaim and Elisheva of C. G. Di Arie Vineyard and Winery. Chaim is serving during their club party. Elisheva is in behind one of their wines that benefit great causes.
Winemaker Adam Smith of Skinner Vineyards stompin’ the grapes.
Making my way through the back roads of a vineyard on Friday. Dry and green.
Waking up Saturday to 7 inches of snow. Thankfully, it was expected…and beautiful.
The wine club party at Lava Cap Winery in one side of their large barrel rooms.
A sample of Elisheva’s mixed media artwork. Her art hangs throughout C.G. Di Arie winery.
I saw this photo of the snowfall that occurred at Lava Cap Winery a week before my trip. I’m glad it inspired me to rent an SUV and leave my coup at home.
https://onthewineroad.us/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/El-Dorado-Trip-wineries-header.jpg5211400Jeff Davishttps://onthewineroad.us/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo.pngJeff Davis2019-03-31 19:01:522019-04-01 12:47:02A Trip to El Dorado County
On this podcast you’ll meet Nate Belden of Belden Barns.
He grew up on a farm but spent a number of his adult years working in New York and San Francisco. After a while he felt the unrelenting tug of country life once again. Although his wife Lauren grew up in New York City, surprisingly, she had a similar dream of living a rural life. But grape growing and Belden Barns wine isn’t their only focus. They partnered with Jenny and Vince Trotter to offer Farmstead Goods. Visit their website here.
Hear how Nate and Lauren’s yearning for country life came true as we talk…in the barn.
The set up in the milking barn.
There’s a good story about the reason for the Poetry Room. Ask them if you ever see Nate or Lauren
https://onthewineroad.us/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Nate-Belden_1400x512.jpg5121400Jeff Davishttps://onthewineroad.us/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo.pngJeff Davis2019-03-04 18:14:512019-03-04 18:32:59Wine Down on the Farm - Belden Barns
This is one of the most unusual podcasts I’ve offered yet. Prompted by an invitation I spent 3 days exploring the village and area of Saratoga, California in San Francisco’s South Bay. This historic community is situated next to San Jose, Cupertino and Los Gatos in the Santa Cruz mountains south of Silicon Valley. From wineries and restaurants, to Japanese gardens, stables and a mysterious house, the area has a lot to offer. This is your invitation to ride along as my wife Meredith and I experience Saratoga.
The Village of Saratoga on Sunday morning
Our suite at the Saratoga Oaks Lodge
Winter Berries at Hakone Estate and Gardens
Plum Flower at Hakone Estate and Gardens
With Shozo Kagoshima at Hakone Estate and Gardens
The Lower House overlooking the Dry Garden at Hakone
In the Cooper-Garrod Tasting Room
Winemaker Bill Cooper of Cooper-Garrod Estate Vineyards
Horseback riding at Garrod Farms
The many rooftops of the peculiar Winchester Mystery House as seen from an outdoor balcony
One of the staircases that go nowhere in the Winchester Mystery House
One of the original cabernet vines planted at Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello Estate overlooking the South Bay
In the tasting room at Ridge Vineyards before our Estate Tasting
Enjoying a wonderful dinner at Hero Ranch Kitchen. Look at those redwood tree plates!
https://onthewineroad.us/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Saratoga-cover-1.jpg5121400Jeff Davishttps://onthewineroad.us/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo.pngJeff Davis2019-02-22 17:32:312019-02-22 17:32:31Sojourn to Saratoga, CA
I kick off 2019 with interviews from two wineries the Santa Rita Hills. You’ll meet Chad of Melville Vineyards and Bryan of Babcock Winery in the Santa Ynez Valley of California’s central coast. Primary wine varieties are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah. Bryan is also bottling Cabernet Sauvignon, Cab Franc and a few surprises. Both offer sparkling wines when they’re not sold out.
This trip to Santa Barbara offered plenty of wine and craft beer options, blue skies, palm trees and the Funk Zone. The distinctive pleasures tied in well with Chad’s unconventional winemaking style and Bryan’s innovative vineyard management. Both are gaining high praise. Melville was chose by Wine&Spirits Magazine as one of the world’s Top 100 in 2018. Babcock has received some flattering press including Food&Wine and other respected publications. Needless to say, they deserve your attention as well!
Interviewing Chad in the storage and fermentation building
Interviewing Bryan in the Vineyard Tasting Room
Babcock’s larger tasting room space
The outdoor patio of Melville’s winery tasting room
Babcock’s Soul Struck Lounge
Melville’s modern tasting room in Santa Barbara
One of the many spaces in Babcock’s hangar-sized tasting room that is jam packed with 20th century relics, some of which are for sale.
The Library Wine tasting room just off Melville’s barrel room
https://onthewineroad.us/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Social-media-image-Alt.jpg7881400Jeff Davishttps://onthewineroad.us/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo.pngJeff Davis2019-01-13 12:10:472019-01-13 12:10:47Two Wineries Gathering Accolades in the Santa Rita Hills
On this podcast you’ll hear my intimate conversation with winemaker and iconic wine producer, Michael Browne.
He gained fame with the highly respected Kosta Browne over the last 20 years. He has since moved on to a his own project Cirq. In this interview you’ll really get to know Michael, what drives him, why he loves Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley, and hear about past experiences that inspire his winemaking and fearless pursuit of his passions.
And what’s up with those early 20th Century wine labels? He’ll explain…
Sometimes good things come in twos. It took over two years for me to nail down this interview with Warren Winiarski, I recorded over two hours of audio, and it took two visits to do so. Yet every minute I spent with him was a pleasure. You may be aware that Warren was the founder of Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars and it was his Cabernet Sauvignon that outscored the French Bordeaux wines in the famed Paris tasting of 1976. But that was early on. He has accomplished so much in his 90 years and, remarkably, continues to do so. He semi-retired in 2007 but is still involved with grape growing in his Napa Valley Arcadia Vineyard. He continues to learn yet his depth of knowledge is astounding, and the way his looks at life and winemaking is fascinating. Warren is engaging, charming, and kind of like a great uncle you rarely see but when you do you just want to give him a big hug…and drink his wine.
Author’s note: Here are the other California wines that made the final list of the Paris tasting based on an average of the judge’s scores in the Paris tasting, also known as The Judgement of Paris.
Red Category: Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello (5th), Heitz Wine Cellars Martha’s Vineyard (7th), Clos Du Val Winery (8th), Mayacamas Vineyards (9th), and Freemark Abby (10th).
White Category: Chateau Montelena (1st), Chalone Vineyard (3rd), Spring Mountain Vineyard (4th), Freemark Abby (6th), Veedercrest Vineyards (9th), David Bruce Winery (10th).
A exceptional accomplishment to those who were entered!
Warren’s Arcadia Vineyards was hit hard by the Atlas Fire a year ago October. He lost a barn, the tractor trailer with all of the equipment, and three homes.
The 1973 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon
The Arcadia Vineyard. You can still see the remnants of the Atlas Fire’s damage on the hillsides. The grass has grown back but a number of burned trees are evident.
A couple of weeks ago I had the honor of being invited to attended a grand affair at the Culinary Institute of America at Copia in Napa. About 700 people were in attendance, culinary fare was being served, several musicians performed and all for the purpose of celebrating ZD Wines’ 50th Anniversary.
The Rutherford AVA Napa Valley winery has been building something special for quite some time. They also make one of the most unusual wine blends I’ve heard of in the U.S. Abacus is pricey but because of the decades it takes to craft that unique blend you could argue that it’s worth it.
Just a few days before the celebration I had the chance to sit down with winemaker Brandon deLeuze so you and I could hear more about ZD Wines. Click the player below for the interview.
Follow up: I felt this was noteworthy – since this post went out Brandon was promoted from Assistant Winemaker to Winemaker, and Winemaker Chris Pisani has been promoted to Senior Winemaker. Robert deLeuze, CEO and Director of Winemaking said, “Chris and Brandon are exceptionally dedicated to producing the highest caliber wines. We appreciate their effort in advancing our commitment to quality and are honored to have them on our team.”
Congratulations to both of them from On The Wine Road.
The sun set as the Bash continued.
This 1994 Merlot was one of many library wines offered that evening. What a nice gift for ZD to share.
It took a one-of-a-kind barrel rack to hold the one-of-a-kind Abacus wine.
In preparation for this year’s Taste of Sonoma event I spoke with Tracy Nielsen of La Pitchoune Winery. Part of the interview was about Taste, but the remainder concerned her winery and their unanticipated success.
As you’ll see below by the artistic photo from their blog post they picked up a Best of Class Award at the 2018 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. 7000 wineries entered the contest! A six year old winery just isn’t expected to take the top prize in their category. Hear how Tracy struggled to get into the business, met her winemaker at a party, and at the behest of her husband (and chief strategist) decided to start their own winery. Their motto? Nothing is impossible.
This week I’m traveling off the wine road and on to the spirit trail. Spirit Works Distillery has been on my radar for quite some time. I’ve heard nothing but good things about what they craft and witnessed them win an award one evening. It’s an interesting story how Timo and Ashby Marshall came together under extraordinary circumstances and ended up where they are today. That is, creating finely crafted variations of gin, vodka, whiskey, even sloe gin in a sustainably conscious manner with their grain to glass philosophy. I’m impressed with what doing…I even like their gin! (That hasn’t happened since that one night in high school). Learn so much more by clicking the play button.
https://onthewineroad.us/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/Spirit-Works-Logo-Header-01.png8401800Jeff Davishttps://onthewineroad.us/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo.pngJeff Davis2018-08-27 18:48:592018-08-27 18:48:59On The Road to Spirit Works Distillery
I’ve known these guys at Kokomo Winery over five years now. Winemaker Erik Miller was on my first show back in October of 2013. Winegrape grower Randy Peters was kind enough to by my guest every other month a couple years ago when I presented a feature called From Bud to Bottle. And as you’ll hear, my wife and I belong to their wine club.
When I heard they achieved a perfect 100 point score in the North Coast Wine Challenge, I was thrilled for them. Like a friend would be. Sure, it’s not quite the same as receiving 100 points from some international wine critic but when you consider the wineries entering are from six of the most respected wine regions in California, well that’s sayin’ something.
By the way, I knew that wine was special the first time I tasted it, before the award. I remember the moment. It’s sublime. A true representation of the nectar of the gods. Here’s your chance to find out how they did it.
Randy Peters (left), Erik Miller (right)
The winning 2016 Pinot Noir
The Kokomo Winery Tasting Room at Timbercrest Farms, Dry Creek Valley, Healdsburg, CA
https://onthewineroad.us/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Kokomo-Logo-extended.jpg493781Jeff Davishttps://onthewineroad.us/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo.pngJeff Davis2018-07-01 19:28:092018-07-01 19:59:24The Winemaker, the Grower and a 100 Point Score
Join Russian River Valley Winegrowers for an amazing tasting experience of Russian River Valley single vineyard wines. More than 30 wineries will be pouring small-lot, single vineyard wines from the Russian River Valley, including Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Zinfandel, Syrah and Sauvignon Blanc. Guests will dine on delicious appetizers while enjoying single vineyard wines.
This year the event takes place at the Hyatt Regency Sonoma Wine Country
My interview with RRVW Board President Giovanni Balistreri and Executive Director Wendy Hilberman is below. I apologize ahead of time. We were drinking Russian River Vineyards Rosé.
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I’ve been seeing Breathless Sparkling Wines around more and more lately. They’ve been winning awards, and I hear people say it’s their favorite bottle of bubbles. It was time to find out more about this burgeoning winery. The three sisters who share ownership and responsibilities pursued the endeavor inspired by their mother’s zest for life. I enjoyed a tasting and interview with Sharon, and admitted to her that I prefer still wines over sparkling. The one they have now captured my heart…the silky, lightly sweet Ratafia. Like liquid gold. Speaking of which, they’ve already picked up 10 Gold medals in 2018, four of which were Double Golds. To that I say “Cheers!”