In this Exploring Portugal, Drinking Wine travel blog you’ll hear my interview with Quinta de la Rosa owner, Sophia Renqvist. She has been involved with the Quinta for much of her life and has contributed in numerous ways to the wine industry. It’s later in the post.

Day 7 – The Dão and Douro Valley

One of the wineries on my shortlist from the Wines of Portugal Zoom event was Caminhos Cruzados Winery. That destination gave us a reason to avoid the toll fees of highway IP3/A24 and wind our way up hills and into shallow valleys as we ventured even further northeast. The country roads continually offered interesting sites and rarely did we find slow-moving traffic. When we arrived near the town of Nelas we were disappointed to find Caminhos Cruzados closed. Well, it was a gamble as I didn’t arrange a visit ahead of time. Returning to the main road, we decided to explore. Once again, luck was on our side! We came across LusoVini Vinhos de Portugal. It’s a wine center with Taberna Da Adega (their eno-gastronomic space), a small but interesting winemaking museum, and a wine shop. They were just opening when we arrived so for a while we were the only ones in the place.

The Dão region is home to Touriga Nacional, the most widely used grape variety in Portuguese red wines. You can count on Touriga to be used in the wines of Pedra Concela, Varanda de Serra, and Flor de Nelas, the local brands featured in the LusoVini wine shop.

 

 

 

 

Click on the images for a higher resolution

 

 

We were getting hungry so we took advantage of their Taberna. Once again, we were reminded that the Portuguese tend to over-serve. We ordered two appetizers, a cheese and sausage platter, and croquettes. The olives and bread were complimentary with the wine. However, if you eat them they’ll charge you. But look at that platter and six croquetas! Again, these were appetizers. We couldn’t come close to finishing it.

A wine bottle fireplace?
Nice touch! I don’t recall ever
seeing something like this before.

Exploring Portugal, Drinking Wine - Part 2

Historic fermentation tanks are not new to us
but these copper fermenters featured in their
museum was a first.


Feeling satiated and happy with our discovery, we drove out of Nelis and kept to the countryside roads all the way to Pinhão and the Douro Valley. Since I first saw images of the valley I felt determined to see it in person. Being an avid photographer, Meredith was all for it.

A sight to see, the Douro River

After two more hours of the two-lane route N323, we finally reached the crest of the rugged mountain, and the Douro River came into view…2000 feet (640 meters) below. It sure was hard to keep my eyes on the road’s hairpin turns while trying to get a glimpse of the river and vine-covered hillsides.

Exploring Portugal - Part 2

With the grape harvest a few weeks previously, the vineyards aren’t quite as lush as they are throughout the summer. As you’ll see in the view from our room at Quinta de la Rosa, some vineyards closer to the river still appeared greener. The town of Pinhão is set above the bend in the river.

Exploring Portugal - Part 2

Exploring Portugal - Part Two

Quinta de la Rosa sits just above the Douro River. It’s more expansive than this photo indicates. Through much of its history, the Quinta was an active wine-producing facility. Now, most of the wine production is done off-site. However, barrel aging and tours of the facility continue. It’s worth taking the time to experience it.

 

The Quinta was one of the first properties to incorporate stone walls on the treacherous terraced hillsides. The narrow rows and slippery slate rock are so challenging, this La Rosa vineyard is called Vale Do Inferno, the “Valley of Hell.” Why bother with the difficulty? Because their courageous effort results in such damn good wine!

 

Quinta de la Rosa offers complimentary breakfast and their dinner options range from traditional to regional styles, like braised goat. I chose it one night and was worthy of adding it to my list of unusual cuisine experiences. During several meals, we sat next to a couple from Luxembourg, Patrick and Sandra. We had a series of coincidences, the first of which was signing up for the Quinta’s wine tour and tasting on the same day. More unexpected surprises with them were to follow.

Aging wine in their century-old barrels.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pinhão lights up at night

Before leaving for our trip, I was able to connect with personnel at the Quinta to set up an interview with the owner, Sophia Renqvist. Following lunch on our second day there, she invited us to her home on the property. We chose the dining room, with the Douro as the backdrop, as the setting for the interview. Aside from her family’s long history in Portugal, you’ll hear how her father, Sophia, and her son have incorporated new ideas for the Port, still wine, and even craft beer industry.

Exploring Portugal - Part 2

We did leave the Quinta for dinner one night. It was a tempting revelation to hear a Michelin Star chef opened a restaurant a few miles down the river in the town of Folgosa. Nestled between the roadway and the Douro is DOC by chef Rui Paula. The decor, the service, and the cuisine were exceptional! World-class restaurants show up in some of the most remote regions in this 21st-century gastronomy era.

There are more wineries or Quintas than you’re likely to have time for, but don’t let that keep you from hitting as many as you can. Aside from the wines of Quinta de la Rosa, we tasted a flight of Port wines at Quinta do Bofim, a Symington Family Estate, and chose a selection of dry white, red, and Port wines at Quinta das Carvalhas. As you can see by the picture at Carvalhas, the pours were generous. Both locations, and most others, overlook the Douro River. The wines offered an authentic expression of Portuguese grape varieties that we’ve become so fond of. Add the scenery and tasting spaces and you know you’re in one of the most distinctive wine regions in the world!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The day before we left we drove northeast into the hills to see where the road would take us. After another twisting, curving drive we made it to the top. We passed by one winery but it was closed. Driving just a few miles further we followed a sign and ended in the quaint little town of Provesende. We wandered through a couple of tight streets, then ended up at Cafe Central for tapas and wine. (Ya, no surprise). But it was very cool to witness the local activity while sitting at the table. An extended family was to our right, some coming and going, and to our left, older gents were playing cards, grumbling about a disagreement, while watching football (soccer). After eating as much as we could of the super-sized tapas appetizers again (!), we left and found ourselves among parochial churchgoers gathering for an All Saints’ Day procession heading to the cemetery. What a fantastic snapshot of a day in a small Portuguese town. Yet another travel lesson; unforgettable experiences can occur when you explore outside of your plans.

The next day we headed east. You may lament having to leave Pinhao, but the N222, then N108 routes follow the Douro River Valley for nearly an hour. We had hard-to-dismiss valley views to the left, and small towns clinging to the hillsides ahead of us and to the right. Across the river, a number of the terraced hillsides featured large billboards signifying the vineyards of Sandeman, Grahams, Crofts, and other Port producers. We were on our way to Porto, with a dreamland stop at a most amusing winery along the way. Join us for the pleasures of Part 3.

Did you know: The Douro Valley was the first Demarcated and Regulated wine region in the world. It is also a Unesco World Heritage Site.

This podcast features the segments from my radio interview with Fabiano Ramaci of Mora Estate. I’ve had Fabiano on my show before, but I felt it was worth repeating. The Sonoma County winemaker has imported Italian varieties to craft an incredible Valpolicella (Valp0) in the ripasso style, and a Valporone, an appassimento made in a method that dates back to ancient Rome. In a sense he has brought Italy to California. Aside from that, he hand paints each bottle he produces! Try wrapping your head around that one. You may have seen his colorful wines on the shelf. If not, take a look at his Trio package below.

Click the arrow below to hear the story of this impassioned winemaker.

Mora EstateMora Estate

 

 

The Magical Bhutan Wine Company

The Kingdom of Bhutan has been referred to as “magical” for quite some time. So I suppose it should come as no surprise that the introduction of vineyards, while in the shadow of the Himilayas, occurred unexpectedly. And like a centuries-old fable, the hero in this tale possessed an unwitting innocence.

Words that can best describe the project are, adventurouschallenging, and even daunting, but it has the potential to be miraculously rewarding.

Today I share the tale of the Bhutan Wine Company and its founder, the exceptional Michael Juergens.

As you can see, the grapevines are growing well.

Bhutan Wine Company

The original viticulture crew

Bhutan Wine Company

The Merlot vines on the terraced hillside

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sur Buhm Vineyard

In Paro, October 2022

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The images can be found on Instagram.com/BhutanWine

Website: BhutanWine.com

On this podcast from Saturday’s radio show, I touch upon one of October’s greatest wine events, the Healdsburg Crush event. It’s a fundraiser for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Sonoma-Marin. Winemaker Bob Cabrall (Bob Cabral Wines) joins me to share the details. The the organization is close to Bob’s heart, as is joining 60+ other wineries to pour Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and sparkling wine from Sonoma Co. The event is October 16th. During the interview I’ll share a promo code will save you $15 on admission! Hit the play button to pop the cork on this interview!

 

Healdsburg Crush

Theresa Heredia has been a winemaker to watch since 2012 and continues to be. I really enjoyed sitting down with Theresa of Gary Farrell Vineyards and Winery. Not only is she savvy, she’s quite playful too, further adding to the enjoyment.

Gary Farrell Vineyards and Winery is one of the early producers of Pinot Noir in Sonoma County, and remain in the forefront of bottling cool climate Pinot and Chardonnay. Theresa Heredia is a perfect fit. Please join us in their nicely designed tasting salon, won’t ya?

 

Theresa Heredia

 

This first of three podcast blog posts was inspired by an invitation I received a few years ago from Turismo de Portugal asking if I would write a blog about the country. It’s not what I usually do but it planted a seed. For additional reasons, we chose to visit Portugal which led to this combination of podcast recordings, our travel story, and images. I hope it inspires exploration, spontaneity, and not always following the beaten path.

Exploring Portugal, Drinking Wine Part – 1  features my interview with
Carlos de Jesus of Amorim Cork at the end of the blog.

My wife Meredith and I decided to explore Portugal in late spring, 2020. As we began making plans, COVID locked in on the globe removing our ability to travel and gather. A year later, the world was slowly opening up, our flights were still available, so we dove back into our plans to travel in October and November of 2021.

Fortunately for us, Portugal had just begun receiving travelers. We learned they were thrilled to see new faces.

As we expected, lodging, restaurants, and even car rental were quite affordable. We wanted to get a real feel for Portugal and the people, so we planned our route with the intent to see as much of the country as we could within 12 days (14 counting travel).

If I say so myself, we did an awesome job planning our schedule. We balanced short jaunts and stays in lesser-known places with quality exploring time in Lisbon, Pinhão in the Douro River Valley, and Porto to avoid wearing ourselves out.

map of our route

Source: Google Maps

And this is how it played out…  

Lisbon – Lisboa wine region

We wanted to stay near Lisbon’s older areas of Barrio Alta and Alfama so we chose Hotel Lisboa. It was just off the main corridor, Avenue de Liberdade. It was a perfect location. The hotel was modern and fairly small, yet offered an extensive breakfast (referring to it as a “continental” breakfast wouldn’t do it justice!)  The hotel offered a car service to pick us up at the airport which was greatly appreciated. The local driver shared helpful details during the 20-minute ride.

Just around the corner from the hotel and down a few blocks we found Sr. Lisboa. We were anxious to dive into the local fare. They offered Portuguese versions of Spanish tapas, which hit the spot. It was like a country diner with excellent food and the crew made it even more enjoyable.

In front of Hotel Lisboa

Exploring Portugal

 

In July of 2021, I was invited to join an international online event sponsored by Wines of Portugal. Rather serendipitous, I thought. The moderator was the Portugal Wine Ambassador to the U.S., Eugenio Jardim. The event featured interviews with winemakers from various regions, a couple of which made it onto our itinerary. As we ventured through Lisbon we came across the Praça do Comércio, a large public square on the coast. Along the western row of buildings was the Wines of Portugal tasting room. It featured wines from every Portuguese region along three walls of wine bottles – an unexpected discovery that we took full advantage of! Later, we came across the second location in Porto.

The Wines of Portugal tasting room

 

We really enjoyed walking around the Alfama neighborhood, one of Lisbon’s oldest areas, lined with shops, cafes, and convenient historic trams. If you go, try to catch Tram 28, which carries tourists and locals on the most popular route. My sweet tooth couldn’t resist the local pastry, Pastéis de Nata.

Exploring PortugalThe popular Tram 28 in the Alfama district

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Historic Rossio Railway Station, circa 1890

Historic Rossio Railway Station, circa 1890

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you go to Lisbon or any other foreign city for that matter, try to set up a dinner or a tour through the WithLocals website, or something similar. You can choose a variety of tours or experiences with local residents. You’ll learn much about the country’s culture and their favorite things to do. It’s certainly worthwhile. We decided on the home dinner experience and chose Isabel. She offered multiple courses that included fried salted cod balls, fruit and vegetable items, and a local delicacy, black pork. Isabel also provided a selection of cheeses and two wines. She turned us on to Porta da Ravessa white wine, and the red Vila de Frades, both produced in the large Alentejo wine region east of Lisboa and Tejo. Isabel was a delight to spend time with, and her dog was pleasant and chill…sleeping at my feet while we ate.

Dinner with Isabel from WithLocals

Exploring Portugal

This vinho blanco was an ideal starter wine. The blend of Roupeiro, Fernão-Pires, and Arinto was light and fresh, and a bargain at 2.49 Euros!

A very nice red blend of Aragonez (Tempranillo), Trincadeira & Alicante Bouschet. It paired very well with the black pork.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I could create a full post on the day trip we took to Sintra, but I’ll provide a short synopsis. Sintra is located on the Portuguese Riviera. A 45-minute train ride drops you into the magical, wonderous mountainous region with majestic castles, royal palaces, historic structures, and mansions. And then there’s the Quinta da Regaleira. Its dazzling architecture and grounds are “conducive to the contemplation of the beautiful and the sublime.” To avoid the tourist groups and lines we chose a zippy way to tour Sintra – the electric Twizy from Go2Sintra Eco Tours. It’s a kick!

Exploring Portugal

The night before we left Lisbon we searched for a bar or restaurant that offered live fado music. It’s the country’s mournful folk music about the sea, losing loved ones, struggles of the poor, and it can nearly bring a tear to one’s eye. Due to the slow recovery from the pandemic, there were no live performances in the area; however, luck was on our side. As we wandered and searched, we came across Fado & Wine. There was no one in the place, but Fado filled the air. Shelves of wine were on every wall. Finally, a young woman came in. After a discussion of what we liked in wine, she provided a couple of options. I fell in love with the 2010 São Domingos Garrafeira from the Bairrada region. (Remember that region, it comes up again.) She also served us some tasty tapas, then left us alone to enjoy the music and delectable wine and fare. She returned to let us try other libations she thought we’d enjoy, one of which was Ginja wild cherry liqueur. It was fantastic! Such long-lasting, intense flavor.

Meredith enjoying tapas and wine in Fado and Wine

Meredith enjoying her gooey entrada.

Exploring Portugal

This bold blend of Touriga Nacional, Merlot, and Cabernet featured floral and spicy notes, and blanketed my tongue with red and dark fruit, with a touch of toast and spice. Delicious!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Évora – Alentejo wine region

After two and a half days in Lisbon, we rented a Peugeot SUV and headed east to the ancient walled city of Évora. It’s also the capital of the Alentejo region. A larger town has since grown around the walled city but the interior has maintained its historic character. In the city’s center stands the ancient Roman Temple of Évora (also called the Temple of Diana). Nearby, whitewashed houses surround the Cathedral of Évora. It’s the largest medieval cathedral in Portugal. The massive Gothic structure was built between 1186 and 1250. Not far is the must-see skeleton-adorned Chapel of Bones. It’s as fascinating as it is creepy. All four walls were completed with bones from the dead of the 17th century. The Franciscan monks believed the use of their bones guaranteed the absolution of their sins while providing a site of contemplation for the living. Those zealous Franciscans!

ancient Roman Temple of Évora

The ancient Roman Temple of Évora also called the Temple of Diana

Igreja de São Francisco dating from the 12th century

The Franciscan Gothic and baroque Igreja de São Francisco dating from the 12 century

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The creepy but fascinating Chapel of Bones

The Chapel of Bones

Exploring Portugal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To our delight, a half block from the cathedral was the Rota Dos Vinhos-Alentejo, which means Alentejo Wine Route. The tasting room offered a good number of wines from the region. Helena poured us a couple of whites and two reds. Grape varieties included Bical, Grand Noir, and the region’s traditional Aragonez, Trincadeira, Alicante Bouschet, Castelão, and Antão Vaz (a new one for me!). 

Exploring PortugalRota Dos Vinhos-Alentejo tasting room

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coimbra – Bairrada wine region

You know how sometimes you see a photo and you say to yourself, “I would love to see that in person”? That’s how I felt when I saw this photo of the University of Coimbra high above the city. It’s among the oldest universities in continuous operation in the world! At night, it’s stunning.

The historic University of Coimbra

Fortunately, we found the Hotel Oslo Coimbra with a rooftop terrace, and a room facing the university. Established in 1290, the university moved locations a few times, and in 1597 it ended up in Coimbra at the Alcaçova Palace, previously owned by the Royal Family. On the drizzly evening following our dinner of Portuguese-inspired pizza, we walked the parkways along the rows of shops. There, next to the Igreja de Santa Cruz, was a cafe and we stopped in for a drink. What luck, Fado de Coimbra was performing. The sound was mesmerizing as it reverberated through the historic architecture.

Click here to see and hear it for yourself.

Exploring PortugalIgreja de Santa Cruz

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mozelos – Amorim Cork

In the months leading up to our original travel plans, I had been in touch with the Director of Marketing and Communications for Amorim Cork, Carlos De Jesus. Traveling from Coimbra to Mozelos, Amorim was a 1-hour 40-minute trip. While the rain varied in intensity, the freeways were easy to travel through the mountains and valleys. We met up with Carlos at their headquarters and production facility. What an experience! We spent nearly two hours touring the production area and laboratories. Cork is one of the most useful materials on earth. As Amorim states, cork oak forests “contribute to climate regulation, are a driving force for sustainability development, and play a crucial role in the world’s ecological balance.” Also, harvesting cork bark does not harm the oak trees, which have an average life span of 200 years.

image of harvested cork bark

Piles of harvested cork tree bark

Interviewing the Director of Marking at Amorim Cork, Carlos de Jesus

 

 

 

 

 

Amorim cork's huge facility

Part of Amorim’s huge facility

Cork punched out from the bark the traditional way, by hand and leg pump.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Exploring Portugal

Shaped cork in various levels of quality

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s my compelling conversation with Carlos about the extreme efforts Amorim undertakes in their mission to achieve perfection and 100 percent sustainability.

 

 

In Part 2 we make our way to the Douro River Valley with its majestic
hillside vineyards.

Did you know: In 2019, Portugal was elected for the 3rd consecutive year as “Best Destination in the World” by the World Travel Awards. Additionally, Portugal was chosen as “Europe’s Leading Destination” in 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020. and 2022.

 

 

Tracy Dutton

In the 20th century until the mid-70s or so, west Sonoma County was about as rural as a region could be. When it came to agriculture, it wasn’t far removed from the centuries prior in the farming, orchard, and grape growing regions of the old world. And like many small towns across America, it was common to marry “the boy next door.” Or girl. That’s part of the history of Dutton Ranch and Kozlowski Farms; two small family run businesses who managed to gain success through determination and ingenuity. Out of that setting Tracy and Joe Dutton eventually founded Dutton Estate Winery. Tracy joins me to share their impressive story, which still embraces their family’s essential attributes.

 

The Dutton Family

 

Tracy Dutton

The Dutton Team

With this podcast you can join me on a trip to the Hospice du Rhone event. It’s not a typical wine tasting. The Côtes-du-Rhône region in France features a great number of delicioius wine varieties. Twenty two of them were featured, and 125 wine producers from California, Oregon, Washington, and France were on-hand sharing their versions. The orginization’s slogan is “Twenty-two Varieties. One Vision.”

I spoke with General Manager and family member Jason Haas from Paso Robles’ Rhone winemaking pioneer Tablas Creek Vineyard. The co-Founder Robert Haas had the foresight to partner with Rhone Valley producer Château de Beaucastel.

Just off the Paso square I met up with winery owner Ted Ross of Hayseed and Housdon. I liked his wines, especially the La Macha Spanish blend, and Warrior. When you listen to the podcast and you’ll be impressed with his charitable generosity.

I also visited with Elena Barrios, who with her winemaking husband Stanley, are gaining attention with their outstanding Rhone varietal blends at Top Winery.

In conclusion, if you like Grenache, Syrah and Viognier but haven’t tried Picpoul Blanc or Bourboulenc, you’ll want to join the fun next year. Otherwise, visit Pas Robles for their own style of popular and rare varietals. Listen to the podcast and get inspired!

 

Tablas Creek

Hospice du Rhône

With Jason Haas at the event

The distance to their French partner

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The large neutral oak French barrels behind glass in the tasting room

Hayseed and Housdon

Hospice du Rhône

Ted Ross with 3 of his wines that benefit charity partners

The back half of the tasting room

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The building of Heyseed with versatile garage door

Top Winery

Hospice du Rhône

Sharing a taste with Elena

The clever labels of Top’s wine blends

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hospice du Rhône

My wife Meredith with a majority of the tasting room behind her

 

I think of Alicia Sylvester as a shooting star because, to me, she appears to be speeding through life…even when she’s standing still; when she can stand still. Her passion is invigorating. Her energy is inspiring. And at times you could even say she glows.

This podcast can serve as a sort of Master Class on how to rise through the ranks. You’ll get a kick out of how this small town central Cali girl ended up working harvests across the globe, playing a role in winemaking with respected brands, then landing her current gig at Banshee Wines. Alicia Sylvester crafts small vineyard designate wines for their club, and up to 70,000 cases wholesale. Any aspiring young winemaker should take notes!

 

 

Alicia Sylvester

This post with Ravenswood Winery founder Joel Peterson is a bit different than my usual podcast. As the Visual Oral Histories Chair of the Sonoma County Wine Library Association, you may be aware that I began videotaping oral histories as a way to capture the stories of those who made major contributions to the wine industry. We feel it’s imperative to preserve these stories for future generations. Joel Peterson, the founder of Ravenswood Winery and now Once and Future Wine, certainly deserved to be included. This is the audio from his Visual Oral History. If you’d like to see the video click here.

You may have heard the radio interview I posted in 2017 but this interview delves much deeper into his past. Join me in the historic Bedrock Vineyard in Sonoma County with Joel.

 

Although I am slow to get this Women in Wine podcast posted to my website, it did reach world wide podcast platforms in March.  That was my intention as it was Women’s History month, International Women’s Day was March 8th, and the 25th was the Second Annual Women in Wine Day. A week before the release I met up with Katie Madigan of St. Francis Winery in Kenwood, CA. Katie was lucky enough to develop an intertest in wine as a result of her parents love and enthusiasm about the beloved nectar. 

Pam Starr is the president and co-founder of Crocker & Starr in St. Helena. She has great enthusiasm about working in all aspects of the wine industry and has made quite a name for herself. As you’ll hear, both ladies share some common experiences.

It was a real pleasure to spend time with these ladies, and I hope you enjoy their stories of working in the male dominated wine industry. Although, that seems to be changing with each passing year.

 

 

Women in Wine

Katie Madigan

Women in Wine

Pam Starr

 

 

It’s Down To Earth Month.

Spring is here, we’re getting out to enjoy it, and many are considering how to thoughtfully take care of our beauiful planet. Each April California Wines presents Down to Earth Month celebrating Earth Day.

In this podcast you’ll  hear about events that are occuring across California. Guests include Allison Jordan of the Wine Institute, Jenifer Freebairn and Danielle Langlois of Lasseter Family Winery, and owner Dario Suttui of Napa Valley’s Castello di Amorosa. Celebrate our planet and enjoy the spring season!

Post Photo: copyright California Wine Institute

 

 

Earth Month

Allison Jordan Vice President, Environmental Affairs, Wine Institute

Earth Month

Jenifer Freebairn V.P. Marketing and Sales, Lasseter Family Winery

Earth Month

Danielle Langlois, winemaker, Lasseter Family Winery

 

Lasseter tasting room and winery

 

One of Lasseter’s colorful labels. This is for the Rhone Grenache blend.

 

Dario Sattui, owner, Castello di Amorosa

The Castello

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 450-kilowatt solar and battery microgrid

It’s that time of year to pop some bubbly, and a good time to find out how the Korbel brothers eventually created California “champagne” 139 years ago. In this podcast, owner, president and chairman Gary Heck shares the story of Korbel Champagne Cellars. It’s a multi-layered history full of drama and perseverance. The Hecks are only the second family to run the business, and as a result of their decades of determination the brand can be found across the U.S. and internationally. Click here to visit Korbel Champagne Cellars.

Cheers, and Happy Holidays!

 

Korbel Champagne Cellars

The Korbel brothers

 

Korbel Champagne Cellars

The original Korbel building with the Brandy Tower in the background

 

 

 

 

 

In this podcast you’ll meet Nate Miles, who with is partner Matt Nagy, created Groove Wines. It’s a thoughtful, stylish brand that believes in transparency. If you prefer wines that are made with little intervention; if you’re concerned about the environment, preferring less impactful alternatives, then you’ll want to hear about Groove Wines.

These intriguing varietals and blends feature names like Joyride, The Daydreamer, The Wild One and The Raconteur. What’s more, they’re ready for home or on the go!

As they suggest…Find Your Groove.

 

Groove wines

 

Gracianna Winery was built on a history that stretches back to World War II. His great-grandmother’s perseverance helped her escape Europe to start a new life in California.

Gratitude was the result of what the New World had to offer. There were struggles, but maintaining a farm and living a full life was rewarding. Owner Trini Amador speaks lovingly of Gracianna, the woman who taught him gratitude. He so appreciated and respected his great-grandmother he captured her story in a book (pictured  below).

In her honor, with their son’s unintended coaxing, Trini and Lisa have created the successful Gracianna Winery, which also took some perseverance. They’re grateful for the appreciation expressed by their club members and the many who have paid a visit to their Sonoma County tasting room. Hear Trini tell the tale of Gracianna in this podcast.

Click Play to listen now:

Click to listen later: OTWR_Gracianna

Gracianna Winery

Gracianna – The book

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Transcription:



You may recall I interviewed owner John Balletto a few years ago. His story is a perfect example of perseverance. He was only 17 when his father died, leaving 5 acres of vegetables to John and his mother. Now, 43 years later, Balletto has grown to include 800 acres of estate vineyards across Sonoma County. The wine is excellent, their prices are moderate, and have been referred to by wine magazines as a “Best Buy”.

The man responsible for the wine is Anthony Beckman, the subject of this interview, although John chimes in as well. Anthony hit pay dirt when he left his newspaper career behind to pursue his other love – good food and excellent wine. His journey to Balletto Vineyards is fascinating, and what he and John accomplish together is remarkable.

Click here to listen now:

Click here to listen later: OTWR_BallettoAB

 

Balletto Vineyards

Owner, John Balletto

On today’s podcast you’ll meet Matthieu Mangenot of Domaines Albert Bichot. It was a pleasure to head back to Beaune, France, albeit this time by telephone. 

Matthieu will talk about his background and the wines they sent me (aren’t I the lucky one?). He’ll also touch upon the vineyards of Albert Bichot in areas of the three main appellations of Burgundy – village, Premier Cru and Grand Cru. 

You’ll also hear about some experiences you can enjoy if you plan to visit in the Burgundy Region now that the world is beginning to open up.

 

If you’d like to see the wine I received, click the links:

The 2018 Chablis Domaine Long-Depaquit

The 2018 Gevrey-Chambertin “Les Murot”

Click to hear now:

Domaines Albert Bichot

Matthieu Mangenot in his element

Domaines Albert Bichot

Our 2013 trip on the Véloroute (cycle route)

Domaines Albert Bichot

…one of the many things you can do in the Burgundy region.

Join me on a road trip to southern Oregon’s Rogue Valley wine region.

I met up with Dan Marca of DANCIN Vineyards, who offer a great variety of excellent Pinot Noir from around the region, Italian varietals, and a food menu that’s nearly as long as their wine list. They’re west of Medford near the historic town of Jacksonville.  As you occasionally hear in my interviews, serendipity often plays a key role. Dan has two stories that play into that theme. 

And I sat with Eric Weisinger of Weisinger Family Winery. He’s the winemaker and G.M. of the well established family winery where he’s held numerous positions since he was a kid. His father moved his family there from Texas to pursue a dream. I’d say he captured it!  Now Eric  bottles a good number of Rhone and Bordeaux varietals, a Tempranillo and a few surprises; which includes Caldera Lager of IPA beer.
If you decide to visit, be sure to consider their Vineyard Cottage. It’s very attractive. 

We enjoyed staying at the historic Ashland Springs Hotel. It’s in the center of Ashland with many excellent restaurants just blocks away, and off the lobby.

These interviews will give you insight into what I found to be two of the best wineries in the Rogue Valley. Let’s hit the road! 

Listen now:

Listen later: OTWR_RogueValley

 

Rogue Valley

Dan and Cin Marca

Rogue Valley

Eric Weisinger during my interview

 

The front Chardonnay and Pinot Noir vineyard at DANCIN Vineyards.

One of the tasting spaces at Weisinger Family Winery with the Grizzly Peak in the background

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rogue Valley

The Ashland Springs Hotel standing proud

Part of the attractive hotel lobby

 

The back patio of the Ashland Springs Hotel


 

Edited story from Decanter Magazine

A 200-year-old ‘unicorn’ bottle of the vaunted sweet wine originally destined for Napoleon Bonaparte’s island prison has fetched 420,000.

An intense bidding session saw a single bottle of Grand Constance 1821 sell for 420,000 rand ($30,000) at the 22 May sale, said the organisers of the Cape Fine & Rare Wine Auction.

‘It’s a true unicorn wine,’ said Charlie Foley, an auctioneer at Christie’s who presided over the CFRWA. Organisers said a UK-based Christie’s client bought the bottle. It is ‘perhaps one of only 12 remaining in the world’.

It was once part of a case of the rare, sought-after sweet wine destined to keep Napoleon company on his island prison of St Helena. But Napoleon died on 5 May 1821, as that year’s harvest was still ripening in the vineyard. 

Napoleon wasn’t the only high-profile admirer of wines from the renowned Groot Constantia vineyard.

Constantia wines had begun to achieve notoriety more than a century earlier. By the 1800s, fans had ranged from George Washington to King George III and Frederick the Great.

Today, Klein Constantia’s Vin de Constance is one of the most sought-after sweet wines in the world. 

The Grand Constance 1821 sold at its 22 May auction was one of three bottles stored by South African drinks maker Distell, and its predecessor company, since being acquired at auction in the 1980s.

All three bottles were recorked in 2019, with a seal containing a unique, traceable code added.

Once in a lifetime opportunity.

Niel Groenewald, MD of Nederburg wine estate and head of CFRWA, said of the Grand Constance 1821 prior to last weekend’s sale, ‘A treasure of this calibre presents itself perhaps once in a lifetime, and anyone lucky enough to secure this wine at auction will be rewarded with an unbelievable valuable piece of wine history.’

Total auction sales at this year’s CFRWA reached 2.2m rand (£112,000), according to unaudited results.

Groenewald said after the sale, ‘Following a year that has impacted the South African wine industry like no other, the Cape Fine & Rare Wine Auction today became a beacon of resilience, showcasing the tenacious spirit of the country’s wine makers – and the massive favour they carry with wine enthusiasts globally.’

Since its creation in 1975, the auction has also supported charitable causes.

This year, organisers said more than 130,000 rand had been raised for the Pinotage Youth Academy, which provides programmes to help young people find employment in the wine industry and related sectors.  

Rare 1821 Wine

Photo Credits: Cape Fine & Rare Wine Auction, in association with Christie’s.

This interview is was a bit unusual for me, with good reason. Ehlers Estate is one of the few wineries that possess an on-going philanthropic element. But that came later.

Ehlers Estate has a rich history dating back to 1886. It is arguably one of the top Cabernet producers in the competitive Napa Valley region. The old stone winery has been transformed into a modern, fashionable tasting space. In 2018, they hired Spanish immigrant Laura Diaz Muñoz as winemaker and General Manager. Her talent and willingness to revamp the appearance and winemaking is breathing new life into the brand.
    
In 1996, French philanthropists and owners Jean and Sylviane Laducq, established the Leducq Foundation which supports research for the diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular disease and stroke. On a small level, proceeds from Ehlers’ wine sales and tastings benefit research as part of the global international network. You’ll hear details from the Foundation’s Executive Board Members, Spaniard Martín Landaluce and American Dr. David Tancredi. It’s a monumental endeavor and one you’ll appreciate if you have a loved one who has suffered from cardiovascular disease. I think you’ll be impressed.  

 

Play now

or download for later:  OTWR_EhlersEstate

 

Ehlers Estate

Laura and the 9 bottles she had waiting for me

 

Ehlers Estate

The historic stone winery building

 

Ehlers Estate

The Red Barn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The rustic yet exquisite tasting room

 

Sylviane and Jean Leducq

President of the Board of Directors of Leducq Foundation, Martin Landeluce

Executive Director of the Board of Directors of the Leducq Foundation, Dr. David Tancredi