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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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 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