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.

 

Prager Winery and Port Works Prager 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.

Learn more about the winery here.

Artesa Vineyars and Winery

My guest, winemaker Ana Diogo-Draper

 

 

Artesa Estate Vineyard and Winery

A portion of their tasting room

 

Artesa Estate Vineyard and Winery

The gift shop

Artesa Estate Vineyard and Winery

Additional tasting bar for events and overflow

 

 

One of several beautiful period paintings that hang in various tasting spaces

You can click on these photos to see a larger image

 

 

 

 

The Galatea we discuss. It’s 53% Tempranillo, 47% Cabernet Sauvignon and 100% delicious!

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 Winiarski

Warren Winiarski

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Warren Winiarski

The 1973 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon

Warren Winiarski

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.

ZD Wines' 50th Anniversary

The sun set as the Bash continued.

ZD Wines' 50th Anniversary

This 1994 Merlot was one of many library wines offered that evening. What a nice gift for ZD to share.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ZD Wines 50th Anniversary

It took a one-of-a-kind barrel rack to hold the one-of-a-kind Abacus wine.

Each year, member wineries of the Stags Leap District Winegrowers open their doors for this one weekend, giving visitors exclusive access to the wines, vineyards and people behind this iconic wine region. This year the event takes place April 27th through 29th.

Visitors enjoy unparalleled personal, backstage access to private homes and historic wineries alike. The weekend includes exclusive dinners, private tours, barrel tastings, food pairings, music, and experiences–all set amongst the glorious vineyards and towering Palisades of the Stags Leap District.

Additionally, to further support relief efforts from the recent fires last year, 5% of the proceeds from this year’s Saturday Open House tickets will be donated to the Napa Valley Community Foundation.

Here’s my interview featuring two of the participating wineries and principles; Silverado Vineyards’ G.M. Russ Weis, and Malk Family Vineyards’ owner Brian Malk. You’ll learn about the wineries past and present and hear what they have planned for the weekend. Cheers!

Stags Leap Vineyard to Vintner Event

The limited 2015 Appellation Collection of 17 handcrafted 2015 SLD designated Cabernet Sauvignons each signed exclusively by the vintners

Stage Leap Vineyard to Vintner Event

 

The name Mondavi is synonymous with wine in California, and across the globe for that matter. Riana is a 4th generation Mondavi and is a brand ambassador for CK Mondavi and Family. In early March I had the chance to sit down with her and their winemaker, Charlie Gilmore.

We met at the Sonoma County Wine Library, a true library rich with books on wine history as well as educational resources. There were a few people studying nearby so it may seem like we’re talking in hushed tones. It is a library, after all.

During this podcast we’ll discuss their 75 year history, their decades long relationships that help maintain their incredibly low prices, and keeping the brand relevant with the current generation.

 

CK Mondavi

Yes, for 50 years the Chappellet family has been crafting exceptional Cabernet Sauvignon and other varietals from their Pritchard Hill Estate high above Napa Valley. It started with a leap of faith when Donn Chappellet and family left a successful business in Los Angeles to make the kind of wine he enjoyed. He may have been a bit naive but determination, and a little help from Napa Valley icons, helped Donn and Molly Chappellet build a well-respected and sought-after brand. Vice President and owner Dominic Chappellet shares his family’s story from the beautiful estate where he was born and raised.

Chappellet Chappellet

Chappellet

When I attended Wine and Spirits Magazine’s Top 100 Wines Tasting event in San Francisco this past October I had the chance to meet Chris Phelps, the associate winemaker at Inglenook Estate Winery. I jumped at the chance to do an interview with Chris. We finally made that happen in December. You may not realize this but Inglenook was one of the first estate wineries in Napa Valley, founded in 1879 by Finnish sailor (and early entrepreneur), Gustave Niebaum. Following its sale in the mid-60s the winery’s quality and reputation suffered. Enter Francis Ford Coppola. Through his love and decades of painstaking efforts the winery is once again an internationally respected estate and remains a Napa Valley icon. This is its story.

 

inglenook

With Chris Phelps on grand staircase

Ingelnook

 

 

 

 

 

 

inglenook

The South Barrel Room event space

 

 

 

When it comes to winemaking you’ll find Cathy Corison at the intersection of Power and Elegance. You won’t locate that intersection on a map but you can find it in a Corison bottle. Cathy has worked at respected Napa Valley wineries such as Freemark Abbey, Chappellet and her namesake winery for 40 years. Not a bad run for a woman who got her start by taking a wine appreciation course “on a whim.” This year she was named a Top 100 Winery by Wine & Spirits Magazine. She’ll be the first to say her success has as much to do with serendipity and luck as it does talent. Meet Cathy Corison on today’s podcast.

 

Cathy Corison

Her Kronos Vineyard from the second story porch of her winery barn.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cathy Corison

The late season makes its mark on her old vine Cabernet Sauvignon vines.

 

Join me as I take the drive to Smith-Madrone Vineyards and Winery perched high atop Spring Mountain. It provides a unique viewpoint of Napa Valley (in more ways than one). Stuart and Charlie Smith have been up there since the early 70s crafting wine the way they feel it should be made. Their style hasn’t always been in favor but as tastes have changed they’ve become fashionable again. If you enjoy hearing opinions on the wine industry from those who have spent 45 years within it you’ll appreciate this podcast.

 

This is the second time I’ve had the chance to interview winemaker Ted Henry and each time it’s been an enjoyable experience. Now he’s the head winemaker at the historic Clos Du Val winery in Napa’s iconic Stags Leap District. Clos Du Val has recently made some dramatic changes to their wine making philosophy. The timing couldn’t have been better to get Ted’s observation on the changes you’ll be seeing and tasting in the near future. My family happened to be visiting Napa Valley that week from Phoenix and not only were they surprised by getting to attend the interview, they also received the wine tasting from Ted. It’s not often a tasting is provide by the winemaker. As I say, he’s a gracious guy.

 

 

Winemaker Ted Henry

National Rosé Day was June 10th and to mark that occasion I interviewed 3 winemakers who craft distinctive versions of refreshing pink wine. I traveled from Napa Valley (Stewart Cellars) to Sonoma County (Taft Street Winery) and hit Glen Ellen in between (Laurel Glen Vineyard). This is the season for Rosé and over the last few years that style of wine has been getting quite interesting as winemakers search for creative ways to produce it. That’s what you’ll hear on this podcast. So find a warm spot in the sun with a chilled glass of Rosé and let’s get started. Cheers!

 

National Rosé Day

Blair Guthrie of Stewart Cellars

 

National Rosé Day

Mike Martini of Taft Street Winery

 

National Rosé Day

Randall Watkins of Laurel Glen Vineyard

This interview began as a discussion concerning the 40th anniversary celebration of Raymond Vineyards’ first vintage release. Always the innovator, owner Jean-Charles Boisset had it bottled with a gold embossed red velvet label. No, really. This inspired me to sit down with him to discuss his creative inspiration. That led me to present other wine producing innovations he has been offering from Buena Vista Winery (Sonoma Valley) and JCB by Jean-Charles (Napa Valley). I enjoy interviewing J.C. because I never know what to expect from him. I take that back. I do know what to expect and it’s his playful irreverence that tempts me to return. This is the extended version of what aired on my radio show. An EP of JC, if you will. Enjoy.

 

 

jean-charles boisset

On this podcast we talk about Tannat wine grown and crafted by Bodega Garzón in Uruguay and Y. Rousseau Wines in Napa. Joining me in this discussion is Christian Wylie, the general manager of Bodega Garzón, and French American Yannick Rousseau, the winemaker of his namesake winery. We in the U.S. are not terribly familiar with the Tannat grape varietal but it is respected in South America and southwest France. Through the efforts of these two experienced wine masters and other wineries who are giving it a chance we’ll all become more familiar and appreciative of the unique characteristics this varietal has to offer. By listening to this podcast you’ll also become familiar with the state-of-the-art Bodega Garzón winery and the region. You may also be inspired to visit!

 

 

Christian Wylie of Bodega Garzon with his Tannat       Winemaker Yannick Rousseau enjoying the Tannat aroma

To hear my interview with Yannick Rousseau about his wines click here.

I had a feeling of great anticipation before meeting this international wine icon. Agustin Huneeus began his career by saving Concha y Toro in Chile, a brand now recognized across the globe. He also worked for Seagram’s, eventually overseeing their international brands. That position brought him to Napa Valley which led to his decision to get back into running his own winery again. He’s done very well and continues to do so at Quintessa and with other successful wineries here and in Chile. Like me, I’m sure you’ll be captivated by his voice which resonates with the wisdom he has gained and the miles of dusty roads he has traveled.

 

 

quintessa        the-prisoner      casillero-del-diablo

As a Frenchman in Napa, Yannick is on a mission to introduce Tannat to wine drinking Americans. It’s very popular in the Madiran region of France and is now the “national grape” of Uruguay. Aside from Tannat he’s also educating us about Colombard. Known more as French Colombard to most of us he says with a chuckle, “that’s redundant.”  He crafts other wines as well and does a superb job. I love the images he uses for his wine labels as well which you’ll see below. Y. Rousseau Wines’ tasting room is worth a visit in south Napa at 902 Enterprise Way, Suite O.

To hear my interview with Yannick and Christian Wylie of Bodega Garzon about Tannat click here.

Y. Rousseau Wines

Yannick of Y. Rousseau Wines

On this podcast we’re going to challenge your belief in mystical talent. Marc Mondavi is not only a long time winemaker from the iconic Mondavi family, he is also experienced in the fine craft of dowsing, divining, yes they even call it water witching. Go ahead, scoff if you will, but Marc is paid handsomely for this talent and he wouldn’t have been for decades if he wasn’t successful. It’s no wonder his other wine project, aside from the family’s Charles Krug winery, is called The Divining Rod Wine. You’ll walk with me as he demonstrates his talent and as he talks about his other craft, fine wine.  Ex Aqua Vinum.

 

 

jeff-marc-laughing                 marc-divining

I’m just south of St. Helena in Napa Valley at V. Sattui Winery. As they celebrate their 40 anniversary I talk with owner Dario Sattui about his early challenges, his determination, and how he successfully fulfilled a desire to continue his family’s wine making legacy.

 

V Sattui Gold Room

In this segment I visit Steve Rogstad at Cuvaison. You’ll hear about their Chardonnay & Pinot Noir from the cooler Carneros region and their Brandlin Cabernet Sauvignon from their vineyard on Mount Veeder. Steve also shares his story of becoming a winemaker. He’s had a successful run at Cuvaison and judging by the wine it’s no wonder.

 

Steve Rogstad

Each year the Napa Valley Wine Library Association host an annual wine tasting which is attended by many of Napa Valley’s wineries. 2015 was their 53rd event yet you may not have heard about it. Listen and find out why. (It’s private but there’s a way you can get in!) Michaela Rodeno, a former Napa Valley CEO, now owner of Villa Ragazzi, is my guest.