As the harvest season was looming I felt it was a good time to talk with a grape grower. I wanted to get answers to questions I was receiving from people about the weather. We had heavy and late rains well into spring, then occasional heat spikes began happening the past couple of months. Would that affect the grapes and vines? After meeting Gus Gamba recently Gamba Vineyards and Winery seemed like the place to visit. And what a story he has to tell about his old vine zinfandel and Italian heritage.

My second interview is with the sommelier at Justin Vineyards and Winery in Paso Robles, CA. I sat with Jim Gerakaris a few years ago but it didn’t make it onto a podcast. Not much has changed, including Justin’s well respected reputation and wine. It’s still a worthy interview. Jim is very good at explaining the brand and their philosophy.

My Wine Uncorked feature exposes a little known fact about King Tut. It all begins when  you hit the Play button.

 

The Etrusca Proprietary Blend

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.

 

LaRue Wines

With Katy during her 10th Anniversary Celebration

This podcast offers something a little different. Yes, I do talk about wine – Italian and French varietals, but tasty cuisine as well.

The settings for VJB Cellars and The Girl and the Fig Restaurant are entirely different, yet each offer extraordinary experiences. My guests are Italian immigrant Vittorio Belmonte and Sonoma chef & restaurant owner Sondra Bernstein. Their wine and culinary businesses are successful but both started from humble beginnings. Needless to say, that provides a compelling story.

 

 

Cappuccino with Vittorio & a Chat with Sondra of Girl and the Fig

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!

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.

 

Jordan Vineyard and Winery

During the tasting and interview with Rob Davis

Jordan Vineyard and Winery

CEO and family member John Jordan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jordan Vineyard and Winery

 

 

Jordan Vineyard and Winery

When you walk through those French doors you’re elevated tasting experience will include award-winning wines and exceptional hospitality.

Jordan Vineyard and Winery

Jordan Vineyard and Winery

The directional sign at Vista Point that John and I reference.

 

It’s another day on our incredible, beautiful and struggling planet. This podcast focuses on the positive impacts people are making as I present Part Two of my Earth Day celebration.

Much like the Slow Food Movement, Italy’s Slow Wine crusade promotes sustainable practices within the winemaking industry. The Slow Wine Guide features those who operate within those parameters. The 2019 edition contains 370 wineries from Italy, 121 from California, and new this year, 50 Oregon wineries. I chose two from Northern California who have been selected by Slow Wine; Larkmead Family Estate in Calistoga, Napa Valley, and Littorai Wines of Sebastopol, Sonoma County. They’re both highly respected in the industry. You’ll be impressed with the efforts they put forth to create their exceptional wine. Cheers to that! Happy Earth Day.

On this podcast we celebrate the Earth, and those who are doing their part it keeping it as livable as possible.

Earth Day is coming up on April 22nd and the Wine Institute is presenting their 8th Annual Down To Earth Month. They’re promoting celebrations throughout the month, across California. You can find more details on my Events page Down To Earth Month Celebrations. You might also want to visit Discover California Wines.

In this podcast you’ll hear my interview with Allison Jordan, the Executive Director of the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance and Vice President, Environmental Affairs for Wine Institute.

I have a brief conversation about sustainable winemaking and vineyard practices with Ana Diogo-Draper, Director of Winemaking at Artesa Vineyards and Winery. Then I talk with C.O.O. and winemaker John Olney of Ridge Vineyards Lytton Springs about their April 20th event celebrating organic farming. We’ll also chat about the rich history of Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello as well. I mean, it’s iconic. I couldn’t pass up that opportunity.

Let’s drink some wine and celebrate this big blue marble we call home!

 

 

Down To Earth Month

The old zinfandel vineyard on a fog covered morning at Ridge Vineyards Lytton Springs in Dry Creek Valley, Geyserville, CA.

 

 

This podcast includes stops at a favorite winery and restaurant; Spring Mountain Vineyard and A16.

As  you’ll hear, Spring Mountain Vineyard features three distinct vineyards and a history that makes it a special place. What I love about the experiences are the library wines the offer. In three visits I’ve tasted vintages from 1988, 2001, ’04, ’08, ’10, and ’15. The cabernet sauvignons and their Elivette (reserve) blends are made in the Bordeaux style; meaning not a big, ripe, chewy Cab, but an elegantly complex wine that invites you to enjoy taste after taste. They also bottle a sauvignon blanc. Winemaker Justin Hirigoyen is my guest.

**Update: Wine Spectator just released scores for 2015 Bordeaux Blends in Napa Valley. Spring Mountain Vineyard topped the list with a score of 96. (BTW – 15 of the top 30 are priced higher than Spring Mountain Vineyard). Don’t hesitate, pay them a visit!

A16 Restaurant offers authentic Italian Pizza Napolitana, fresh pasta, and house cured meats inspired by the Campania region. My guest, Wine Director Shelley Lindgren, selects wines that highlight grapes of the Compania and nearby regions.  We’ve enjoyed dining there. You’ll find A16 in the Marina District on Chestnut Street and in Oakland in Rockridge. They also operate the Michelin Star restaurant SPQR in the S.F. Fillmore district.

French and Italian wine and food. What’s not to love?

 

 

Spring Mountain Vineyard and A16 Restaurant

Justin on the day of our interview and tasting

Spring Mountain Vineyard and A16 Restaurant

The tasting we did on our first visit. We love those library wines!

Spring Mountain Vineyard and A16 Restaurant

The barrel room behind the attractive facade

Spring Mountain Vineyard and A16 Restaurant

One of Spring Mountain’s three vineyards

Spring Mountain Vineyard and A16 Restaurant

A recent tasting I attended in the beautiful Miravalle Estate

Spring Mountain Vineyard and A16 Restaurant

A16 Restaurant on a San Francisco evening

Spring Mountain Vineyard and A16 Restaurant

A partial shot of the restaurant. The wood-firing ovens are to the right and the seating wraps around.

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!

 

A Trip to El Dorado County

On the deck, in the rain, with Kevin Jones of Lava Cap

A Trip to El Dorado County

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.

A Trip to El Dorado County

Winemaker Adam Smith of Skinner Vineyards stompin’ the grapes.

A Trip to El Dorado County

Making my way through the back roads of a vineyard on Friday. Dry and green.

A Trip to El Dorado County

Waking up Saturday to 7 inches of snow. Thankfully, it was expected…and beautiful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Trip to El Dorado County

The wine club party at Lava Cap Winery in one side of their large barrel rooms.

A Trip to El Dorado County

A sample of Elisheva’s mixed media artwork. Her art hangs throughout C.G. Di Arie winery.

Trip to El Dorado County

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.

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.

 

Belden Barns

The set up in the milking barn.

Belden Barns

There’s a good story about the reason for the Poetry Room. Ask them if you ever see Nate or Lauren

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Belden Barns

Their vineyard atop magical Sonoma Mountain

 

Mighway and Harvest Hosts

This episode is a bit different than my usual podcast. You’ll hear about Mighway and Harvest Hosts who work with each other to provide unique experiences on the road.

Mighway is a peer-to-peer rental platform, like Airbnb, but for RVs. Harvest Hosts has relationships with wineries, breweries, farms, golf courses and other appealing destinations that allow you to stay overnight on the properties in an RV.

Traveling on the road in an RV is something my wife and I have discussed doing, especially when I travel to visit wineries and other experiences On The Wine Road. Mighway and Harvest Hosts has made it easier to do. If you like being on the road these two options offer a great way to travel to the experiences you enjoy.

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!

Two Wineries of the Santa Rita Hills

Interviewing Chad in the storage and fermentation building

Two Wineries of the Santa Rita Hills

Interviewing Bryan in the Vineyard Tasting Room

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two Wineries of the Santa Rita Hills

Babcock’s larger tasting room space

Two Wineries of the Santa Rita Hills

The outdoor patio of Melville’s winery tasting room

 

Two Wineries of the Santa Rita Hills

Babcock’s Soul Struck Lounge

Two Wineries of the Santa Rita Hills

Melville’s modern tasting room in Santa Barbara

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two Wineries of the Santa Rita Hills

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.

Two Wineries of the Santa Rita Hills

The Library Wine tasting room just off Melville’s barrel room

 

As we approach the end of another year, now my 6th On The Wine Road, I’d like to reach back to share a version of this previous post. It’s been an extreme pleasure to meet many fascinating personalities in the wine business. This recording highlights those who have expressed their passion about the wine industry. The winery owners, winemakers and growers I have chosen speak eloquently, philosophically, poetically, and often spiritually about wine and vineyards. I’m confident that if you listen it will make the wine you love taste even better. Cheers!

Guests include Greg LaFollette of Alquimista Cellars, Julie Johnson of Tres Sabores, Ulysses Van der Kamp of Van der Kamp Vineyards, Mark Topel of Topel Wines, Jean-Charles Boisset of Boisset Family Estates, the late George Macleod of MacLeod Family Vineyard (who we lost earlier this year), Delia & Janet Viader of Viader Vineyards and Winery, Gary Breen of Campovida, and Randy Ullom of Kendall-Jackson/Jackson Family Wines.

Click image for larger view

The Passion Expressed Within the Wine Industry

 

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 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.

Over the years I have featured wineries in the burgeoning regions of Arizona, primarily southern Arizona, my former stomping ground. On this podcast you’ll meet Lisa Strid of Aridus Wine Company of Willcox, east of Tucson. They also have a tasting room in Scottsdale in the Phoenix area.

Interestingly, Lisa presented a seminar at the Napa Valley Wine Institute before I met up with her in Arizona. That provided a great opportunity to try a few of their wines before our scheduled interview in Tucson. As you’ll hear, I think they’re a standout in the Arizona wine industry.

To see the winery and their unique variety of wines click here.

 

Aridus Wine Company

Lisa at the Napa Valley Wine Academy

 

Aridus Wine Company

The Aridus Wine Co. tasting room in Willcox

Aridus Wine Company

The Aridus Wine Co. tasting room in Scottsdale

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.

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.

Find their website here.

 

La Pitchoune     La Pitchoune

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

La Pitchoune

Peter Joachim Nielsen, Tracy Nielsen, Andrew Berge

 

You know, some of the world’s most respected wines are made right here in Northern California. However, I do like to branch out and learn about wineries across the country…and the world. I thought you might be interested as well. In this podcast I’m reaching across the globe to talk with Brand Marketing and Communications Manager, Jelena Meisel of Italy’s Zonin1821. They’re a nearly two centuries old vine growing and winemaking company, the largest private and family wine producer. Their web address in the states is ZoninUSA.com, and Zonin1821.it is the Italian website. The number “1821” signifies the year the company was formed. Jelena joined me on the phone to fill us in about the family and brands. Someday I hope to see a few of the properties in person. If you get a chance, visit the website to see them. Bellissima!

Zonin1821

Jelena Meisel

 

Zonin1821

Francesco Zonin, Domenico Zonin, Michele Zonin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zonin1821

Map of Zonin1821 properties – click to enlarge