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The Creator of Cult Wine, Michael Browne – CIRQ

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…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Wine Industry Icon: Warren Winiarski

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.

Lisa Strid of Arizona’s Aridus Wine Company

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

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ZD Wines Celebrates 50 Years

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.

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The Backyard Conversation About La Pitchoune Winery

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

 

Italy’s Largest Wine Producer, Zonin1821

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

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The Winemaker, the Grower and a 100 Point Score

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.

 

 

Kokomo Winery

Randy Peters (left), Erik Miller (right)

Kokomo winery

The winning 2016 Pinot Noir

Kokomo Winery

The Kokomo Winery Tasting Room at Timbercrest Farms, Dry Creek Valley, Healdsburg, CA

 

The Story of Rombauer Vineyards

I’ll bet a bottle of wine you haven’t heard a story about a successful pilot deciding after retirement to move his family to a rural area to raise his family who, without expectation or a plan, became a wine baron. This podcast is the story of Rombauer Vineyards.

In 1972, Napa Valley was a quieter agricultural area but just a few years later the region was thrust upon the world stage…and it’s been growing ever since. And like many, the wine bug bite the former pilot, Koerner Rombauer. On today’s podcast I talk with his son, K.R., and winemaker Richie Allen about their great success. You’ll also learn of a surprising development that occurred just a week following the interview. I’ll leave it at that.

And if you have heard a story about a former pilot who became a wine baron, reach out to me for your bottle of wine.

For more details on the winery click here.

Rombauer Vineyards

K.R. Rombauer, upper left – Richie Allen, upper right

Rombauer Vineyards

K.R. Rombauer and daughter Sheana

Two Hands Wines of South Australia

It’s incredible how a relationship from decades ago has led to this interview about Two Hands Wines. The details are contained in the podcast so I won’t go into it here. Nevertheless, I met Tim Hower last year over email. Finally a few weeks ago we met to record this interview. It’s interesting how an American in the oil and gas industries ended up becoming a proprietor and director with this world renowned winery. The night we met Tim invited me to taste through a line-up of Two Hands Wines (as I had hoped). I love the wines from Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale and Two Hands offers a stellar representation of the two regions. You can hear about their wines and how a fan of Two Hands became one of their principals in today’s podcast.

 

 

Two Hands Wines

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Popping the Cork on Breathless Sparkling Wines

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!”

 

 

Breathless Sparkling Wines

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Riana Mondavi Continues the CK Mondavi Legacy

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

A Trip to Telaya Wine Co. in Boise

On today’s podcast On the Wine Road travels across four states as we make our way to Boise, Idaho. Wine may not come to mind when you think of Idaho but like the Russian River Valley in Sonoma County, the Rhone River in France, and the world’s other exceptional wine growing river valleys, Boise has the Snake River Valley. The weather can be a challenge and they need more acreage planted to vines but they’re off to a good start and are determined to grow. In the meantime, Washington has been a reliable source of grapes for Idaho wine producers. While in Boise my wife and I met Earl Sullivan of Telaya Wine Co. I was impressed with not only his winemaking style but the story he told of how he and his wife Carrie chose to forgo successful careers to start a winery for the purpose of owning a family run business. It’s a story worth hearing.

 

Telaya Wine Co

Owners Earl and Carrie Sullivan

Telaya Wine Co

The Garden City tasting room

Telaya Wine Co

Paradise Lost

Paradise Ridge Winery was one of a handful of wineries that burned to the ground during the October Sonoma/Napa wild fires. Now that some time has past I spoke to family member Rene Byck about that harrowing night and following week, as well as their plans to rebuild. When I spoke to Rene in late February they had yet to begin clearing the debris. That allowed me the opportunity to take and share photos of the devastation. If you’ve been on the property before the photos below will be heartbreaking. The good news is, all but one of their many art installations and sculptures have miraculously survived. As a consumer you can help support the winery by visiting their Kenwood tasting room or buying the fantastic wine they offer from their website PRWinery.com.

Click the player for the interview

Paradise Ridge

 

Paradise RidgeParadise Ridge

Paradise Ridge

Paradise RidgeParadise Ridge

 

 

Paradise RidgeParadise RidgeParadise Ridge

 

 

Paradise Ridge

 

Paradise Ridge

 

 

 

 

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Wine Routes Can Help You Create the Perfect Day in Wine Country

When people visit wine country they often don’t know where to start. The options are endless on what people can experience. Do you want to taste in a cave? Bring your kids…your dog? What kind of wine do you like? The definition of what an enjoyable day of wine tasting is varies greatly for consumers. And how do wineries connect with you, the consumer?  Now, the app/website Wine Routes can help you hone in on what you want to experience and provide a connection to the wineries you prefer. And they’re offering these options across the country! In this podcast you’ll meet Wine Routes co-founder Adrian Tamblin and web designer Ian Scales.

 

Wine Routes

 

 

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Chappellet Winery Celebrates 50 years in Napa Valley

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

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Donkey And Goat, Berkeley’s Urban Winery

This year’s Wine Expo in Sonoma County featured a seminar on Pét Nat, or Pétillant Naturel. It’s an ancient method of making a sparkling wine with a single fermentation. It predates the more common methode champeniose that is used in Champagne and sparkling wine. On the panel was natural wine producer Jared Brandt of Donkey And Goat. He intrigued me. There’s been a natural wine movement in recent years but Jared and his wife Tracey have been at it for over 2 decades. They rarely filter their wine and add as little sulfur as possible. He explains the reasoning behind that and their process as he shares their story.

 

Donkey and Goat

Donkey and Goat

Donkey and Goat

Donkey and GoatDonkey and Goat

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The Historic Inglenook Estate Winery

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

 

 

 

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Ram’s Gate Winery, An Exceptional Experience

The folks Ram’s Gate Winery refer to themselves as the Gateway to Sonoma and the Carneros wine region. It also leads to a full sensory experience with stunning views, architecture, and design, the aroma of the organic garden, the palate-pleasing culinary offerings, and, oh ya, the wine. It truly embodies the meaning of “the nectar of the Gods.” Ram’s Gate Winery is like a spa without the massage tables and towels but just as relaxing. Managing Director David Oliver and winemaker Jeff Gaffner fill me in on its history and the experiences they yearn to offer their customers.

 

Jeff Gaffner and David Oliver

 

In the organic garden

The Vineyard Table that offers inspiring views

 

 

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The Respected David Ramey of Ramey Wine Cellars

As you’ll hear in this podcast, David of Ramey Wine Cellars is well known by most in the biz. His name came up three times in the last few months while talking with other winemakers. A lot of wineries have tapped into his knowledge by hiring him as a consultant. I’ve also heard he doesn’t hold back his opinions. Those spring forth concerning a bit of a controversy he’s in the midst of here in Sonoma County. Meet the winemaker who utilizes old world methods with modern innovations…when necessary. Here’s David Ramey…

 

ramey wine cellars

Photo compliments of Mark Spivak

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Cathy Corison and her top 100 wine

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.