Aside from his history in the industry, Todd shared why he chose to travel early on. His wanderlust was further satisfied when he was chosen by Schramsberg Vineyards for a project in Portugal. For the last 18 years he’s enjoyed working with Frank Family and making a good list of wine varieties.
Why is Frank Family Vineyards often chosen as Napa’s Favorite Tasting Room? As the winemaker and General Manager, he has a pretty good idea. He’ll share that opinion.
As you’ll hear, Todd Graff is a casual guy, down to earth, and a bit humble…like most winemakers I interview. Enjoy the conversation!
https://onthewineroad.us/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Frank-Family_website-1.png6321196Jeff Davishttps://onthewineroad.us/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo.pngJeff Davis2021-04-26 12:28:532021-04-27 17:04:54Napa’s Todd Graff of Frank Family Vineyards
Both wineries featured in this podcast, Mersenne Wines and Capo Creek Ranch, pay tribute to musicians. Mersenne created a wine label for a British Indie-Pop band, and Capo Creek has named a vineyard after a beloved singer, guitarist. That’s one aspect of each winery you’ll appreciate as I get in-depth with their stories of overcoming obstacles.
Mitch Rice of Mersenne Prime Artisan Wines entrance into the industry wasn’t too complicated. He had experience as a home winemaker before taking the leap as a winery owner. Though his beginnings were less challenging, delicate maneuvering was needed to “secure” his partner. As it turned out, their brand features a love story that is wrapped in historical lore…which I greatly respect.
However, if you buy a vineyard there are many more hurdles. Sisters Mary and Nadine Roy of Capo Creek Ranch did purchase land and it took several years to get their footing. They’re strumming along now and offer a wine and food pairing that is par excellence! It was quite an unexpected chapter following their lives as owners of a medical practice in Chicago, when one day an unsolicited pamphlet arrived in the mail that completely changed their life’s direction…eventually.
Join me for these tales of persistence by Mersenne Wines and Capo Creek Ranch, as heard On The Wine Road…
https://onthewineroad.us/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Mersenne_Capo-website-2.png12413000Jeff Davishttps://onthewineroad.us/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo.pngJeff Davis2021-04-11 09:46:322021-04-11 10:16:10Mersenne Wines & Capo Creek Ranch
These interviews were aired on my radio show on March 6th in celebration International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month. It was a real pleasure to spend half the day with these two talented winemakers.
My first guest will be Danielle Cyrot who has held enviable positions in her career, the last 12 years of which have been at CADE Estate Winery on Howell Mountain. Danielle is working with two interesting projects, the details of which we’ll cover.
Colleen FitzGerald is the enologist and a winemaker at Pine Ridge Vineyards in the Stags Leap District. She’s been handed an intereresting wine wine project which led to a sparkling brand that is the first new label for the winery in 25 years.
Has it been a challenge for these women to work in such a male dominated field? You may be surprised by their answers. Join me as I celebrate the contributions these ladies have made to the Napa Valley wine industry.
Danielle Cyrot in the CADE Estate tasting room
Colleen FitzGerald with her Chenin Blanc+Viognier blend
https://onthewineroad.us/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/OTWR-Danielle-Colleen-1.png6041000Jeff Davishttps://onthewineroad.us/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo.pngJeff Davis2021-03-20 10:17:152021-03-20 10:17:05Celebrating International Women’s Day with CADE Estate and Pine Ridge Vineyards
In this podcast you’ll hear how you can obtain fine wines from the Far Niente Family and Benchmark Wine Group.
The Far Niente Family of Wineries and Vineyards has created a lower priced wine called Post and Beam. That led me to interview winemaker Michael Accurso. He’ll take us through the full portfolio which includes Nickel & Nickel, Dolce, En Route and Bella Union. You’ll also learn how Far Niente came to be revered winery that it is today, the beginnings of which go back to 1885. Far Niente helped create the high-end Napa Valley wine market and has continued that role for more than three decades.
Benchmark Wine Group is the leading source of fine and rare wine for wine retailers, restaurants and collectors around the world. It’s the largest online seller of rare wines and they can be obtained by YOU! Do you want a 1995 Châteauneuf-du-Pape? A 1999 Antinori Brunello di Montalcino? Or how about a 1977 Graham’s Vintage Port? Hear how Benchmark can obtain these sought after wines, and how you can buy rarities from a collector’s cellar. David Parker fills us in on this episode of On The Wine Road Podcast.
https://onthewineroad.us/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/FarNiente_Benchmark-2.png5371760Jeff Davishttps://onthewineroad.us/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo.pngJeff Davis2021-02-20 16:35:562021-02-20 16:35:56Fine Wines from the Far Niente Family and Benchmark Wine Group
Today’s offering comes to you in a timely fashion. The Stay at Home Order in California has been lifted. As a result, winery tasting rooms opened again last week for outdoor service. However, the order went into affect the day we arrived in the Sierra Foothills region back in December. Nonetheless, both winemakers were happy to meet with us, at a safe distance, of course.
Both interviews in this podcast feature winemakers in Amador County; Bill Easton of Domaine de la Terre Rouge and Easton Wines, and his neighbor Paul Sobon of Shenandoah Vineyards, Sobon Estate and his boutique brand, Paul J wines. I get a kick out of the winding country roads and the small towns of the Sierra Foothills, and the welcoming nature of the people who enjoy the slower pace there.
For years, winemakers Easton and Sobon have shown you don’t have to live in a world-renowned wine region to make world-class wines. That said, the time is coming when the wine regions of the Sierra Foothills will be mentioned in the same discussion as Napa and Sonoma counties.
Here’s to a return to a more normal year in 2021!
The mid-December day we visited was comfortable enough to interview Paul Sobon in his backyard. It wouldn’t stay that way.
Behind the bar with Bill Easton. Notice the recently received Wine & Spirits Magazine award between us. It’s one of several awarded to him.
Later that day, winter arrived. It was welcomed as it brought the holiday season to life in downtown Placerville.
https://onthewineroad.us/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Easton-and-Sobon-HDR-1.png18633384Jeff Davishttps://onthewineroad.us/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo.pngJeff Davis2021-01-31 10:20:462021-01-31 10:21:13Winemakers Easton and Sobon of Amador County
On this podcast I feature Seghesio Family Vineyards & Shadowbox Cellars. Winemaker Andy Robinson and Sonoma County’s Seghesio Family Vineyards are celebrating 125 years of grape growing this year. Seghesio is one of the few that made it through Prohibition and continue to this day.
In comparison, owner Justin Preiser’s Shadowbox Cellars is in its infancy at 11 years of winemaking. His fairly new tasting room in downtown Napa was the first wine entity granted an outdoor space, the parklet, during this covid era.
Seghesio Family Vineyards and Shadowbox Cellars are producing outstanding wines and offer enjoyable experiences. Justin’s Salt and Acid Pairing is nearly one-of-a-kind, utilizing a gourmet food item paired with his aged wine. To hear more details about the Salt and Acid Pairing you’ll just have to listen to the podcast. I’ll tell you this, it was surprisingly tasty.
Hit play to join us under the ancient trees in Healdsburg, and streetside in Napa.
Seghesio’s outdoor lawn. Perfect for outdoor tastings, when it’s allowed.
A line up of some of Seghesio’s varietals
Shadowbox Cellars Salt and Acid Pairing
The streetside Parklet in front of Shadowbox Cellars. A fun place to taste, when it’s allowed.
John Williams has had quite a career. The story of Frog’s Leap didn’t begin until after John worked with Napa Valley icon Warren Winiarski at Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars. He helped launch Glenora Wine Cellars in the Finger Lakes region. Afterward, he returned to Napa Valley as winemaker for the esteemed Spring Mountain Vineyard. All this, before and during the founding of Frog’s Leap, where early business decisions, like their comical slogan, were made with his partners in the Frog Farm hot tub.
40 years on, John continues to evolve, innovate and successfully sustain the Frog’s Leap brand, all while maintaining his sense of humor.
Join me as John fills us in the details, with cameo appearances from Larry and Julie.
The lobby of The Vineyard House
The back porch of The Vineyard House where wine tastings are offered
https://onthewineroad.us/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/Frogs-Leap-OTWR.png470540Jeff Davishttps://onthewineroad.us/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo.pngJeff Davis2020-12-07 14:48:272020-12-07 14:48:27The Story of Napa’s Frog’s Leap Winery – John Williams
My guests from Chenoweth and Chev have a history together. Charlie Chenoweth grows sought after Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and Charlie’s wife Amy and friend Michael Browne craft their own versions of epic Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
Russian River Valley also plays a role on this podcast. Its diverse soil, fog-filled valleys, rolling hills and redwood trees have inspired my two guests.
The Chenoweth Wines tasting experience was quite a venture, as you’ll see below. That was before the pandemic. But you can make a reservation to taste their fantastic wines within their picturesque Redwood Grove. It’s quite a setting. As you’ll hear, Amy and Charlie are quintessential Sonoma County residents. Amy has a rock ‘n roll attitude, and Charlie is as laid back as a country boy can be.
Michael Browne has sourced grapes from Chenoweth’s highly regarded Treehouse and Bootleggers Hill vineyards in Russian River Valley for his previous Kosta Browne cult wines, then in Michael’s Browne Family Wines brand, Cirq. He continues sourcing from the Chenoweth’s and other Russian River Valley vineyards for his newly released brand Chev. The project was inspired by the crafting talents of his father, Bob. If that hasn’t kept Michael busy enough, we’ll discuss his new autobiography that was just released on Amazon, Pinot Rocks:A Winding Journey through Intense Elegance. The man does have quite a few stories to tell.
Which brings us to today’s tales featuring Chenoweth and Chev On The Wine Road…
Amy, greeting her guests with wine and a smile
A ride through the vines
Charlie in another section of the Redwood Grove
A portion of the Redwood Grove
The handcrafted Chevy bench
Charlie, enjoying the view of Russian River Valley
The Pinot grapes going through versaison as they ripen
One of a couple bottles we enjoyed that day
Michael Browne enjoying his craft
A throwback to Michael’s previous brand, Cirq, crafted with grapes from the Chenoweth’s Treehouse Vineyard
The new brand, hearkening back to the ’40s, featuring little gems for car fanatics
Wild fires? I was hoping it would be quite a while before I had to cover this topic again. Mother Nature hit with a vengeance in mid August. The late summer storm was a nice surprise, but not for the Hennessey Fire survivors. The 12,000 lightening strikes in four days across Northern California was insane! (That’s a National Weather Service quote, by the way). The resulting 585 wildfires produced 18 large infernos, one of which was the Hennessey Fire.
Today’s podcast features two wineries who “miraculously” survived the firestorm, Green and Red Vineyard & Nichelini Family Winery of Napa’s Chile’s Valley, not far from Lake Hennessey. As you’ll learn, I have come to know both of these families and have conducted multiple interviews with them in the past. Because of that fact I was keeping a close eye on the active fire maps around both wineries during that harrowing week to 10 days as fires raged in both Napa and Sonoma Counties. Other firestorms picked up elsewhere in the state during that period as well.
Thankfully, both survived thanks to valiant help from Cal Fire, volunteer fire men and women, and the owners themselves. Click the play button to hear the families share their harrowing stories.
Green and Red Vineyard
The terraced rows of Green and Red’s unique Tip Top Vineyard.
You can see how close the fire came to the Tip Top Vineyard, stopping at the road.
The fire was close enough to singe some of the leaves but didn’t burn the vines. Smoke tainted grapes are now the concern.
Like many vineyards, Green and Red has a vineyard dog. Uno is small but he’s mighty! He makes an appearance during the interview.
The day I joined the crew for harvest. From L to R, Ray Hannigan, Tobin Heminway, Mary Kate, winemaker Mike Penn and me.
Processing the Syrah grapes. There’s an optimistic feeling that the grapes may have escaped smoke taint.
Nichelini Family Winery
The historic Nichelini home and winery previously on a sunny day.
As it looks today. You can see the blackened ridge behind the home.
Family member Kenny Wainright does his part to save the winery. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)
Across the street from the winery from the hillside. You can hardly make out the winery on the road. The fire was on all sides.
5th generation winemaker Aimee Sunseri in front of the winery’s original Roman wine press. Thankfully the winery and home survived and can continue the 130 year legacy. (Photo-Napa Valley Register)
https://onthewineroad.us/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/Hennessey-Fire-website-1.png6321400Jeff Davishttps://onthewineroad.us/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo.pngJeff Davis2020-09-21 12:14:062020-09-25 08:45:34Hennessey Fire Survivors – Green and Red & Nichelini Family Winery
Clément Pierlot is the chef de cave of historic Champagne Pommery in France. I found it appealing that the Champagne house known for creating the Brut style of bubbly is now making a sparkling wine from California grapes. It turns out Louis Pommery California Sparkling is harvested and made just up the freeway from me in Sonoma County. It was a topic worth pursuing.
That led to another interview with a fellow Vranken-Pommery winemaker, Bruno Maillard. He crafts rosé in Provence and Carmargue/Languedoc, the world’s foremost regions for the light refreshing pink wine.
You’ll hear from these Frenchman and learn about the incomparable heritage of the world’s largest winegrower in Europe, Vranken-Pommery.
The tasteful line-up: Louis Pommery California Sparkling, The Pommery Brut Royal, and the Pommery Blanc de blancs.
The refreshing Rosé: The Pink Flamingo from Carmargue, and the La Chapelle Gordon from Provence.
The underground caves, or “galleries” as they call them in Champagne, that were carved during mining by the Romans centuries ago.
I met Mike Tracy at an industry party on a cool February evening, prior to the coronoavirus altering our social activities. It’s common to meet people of various winery positions at these after hours gatherings. I’ve struck up the occasional friendship during one of these evenings. He’s a pleasant guy, smart, and when he told me which wineries he works with it raised my eyebrows. Not one, not two, but FOUR high-end Napa Valley wineries. That’s what led to this interview.
Mike Tracy’s boss (bosses)? Married winemaking couple Mark Porembski and Jennifer Williams Porembski. The three of them have an enviable business, and friend, relationship. What are the duties of an assistant winemaker? (Often they do as much or more hands-on work than the winemaker).
Which esteemed wine brands do the three of them craft? Well, you’ll just have to listen to discover the answer. And when this whole virus era settles down, I can’t wait to try more of them with Mike. Press play to join us safely on the wine road.
I traveled 2000 feet above Napa Valley to the peak of Spring Mountain to meet up with the mountain men of Schweiger Vineyards. You’ll find peaceful, picturesque views from their tasting room in the center of their rolling mountaintop vineyard.
As father and son, Fred and Andy have been working the property, with wife and mother Sally, since the 70s. As you can imagine, they have plenty of stories to tell. You’ll find their wines are an excellent representation the complex soil of Spring Mountain – full, flavorful and complex. I am impressed with the close relationship with their club members – who’s suggestions often get put into action by the family. For more details, visit their website here.
As it was planned, this interview aired on Father’s Day weekend. Here’s to the mountain men of Schweiger Vineyards!
https://onthewineroad.us/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo.png00Jeff Davishttps://onthewineroad.us/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo.pngJeff Davis2020-07-15 18:22:302020-07-15 18:22:30The Mountain Men of Schweiger Vineyards
Looking for intrigue, self-preservation and humor? It’s here, with interviews concerning The Wine Spies, HALOmask, and T.P. Reserve Wine.
I talk with Agent Red of The Wine Spies. Each day they present a tempting, world-class wine at discounted prices. How do they do it? Through covert missions and cleverly gathered intel.
On a side topic, Agent Red’s personal mission is protecting our health with HALOmask, the most protective, easy to wear face mask. He explains how the proprietary engineering sets them apart from other masks.
Then you’ll hear about a whimsical wine brand from a serious Napa Valley winemaker – Grant Long Jr.’s T.P. Reserve Wine. He chose to put a smile on our faces during these sobering times. What’s more, he and his team created a detailed video, the efforts of which I think you’ll find impressive. It’s below.
Another Wine Uncorked feature is also included. It’s all waiting for you behind the Play button.
For the T.P. Reserve Wine video click here
For the Roman mosaic tile images from Wine Uncorked click here.
This is audio from my radio show that aired on Saturday, June 13th. Elise Nerlove Rutchick of Elkhorn Peak Cellars shared details of the initiative to Save The Family Farms. Their goal is to convince the Napa County Supervisors to adjust the Winery Ordinance Directive (WOD) making less expensive, thereby easier, for smaller family winegrowers to host guests for wine tastings and sales.
I look forward to seeing how this endeavor progresses.
https://onthewineroad.us/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/Elise_Elkhorn-Peak-Cellars.jpg540720Jeff Davishttps://onthewineroad.us/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo.pngJeff Davis2020-06-16 12:08:502020-06-16 12:08:50Save The Family Farms
On this podcast you’ll hear about the many travels and discoveries of Dr. Olmo. He’s a former UC Davis professor you’re likely not familiar with but who’s decades of research led to many important discoveries in viticulture, much of which had a positive influence on the quality of wine produced across the globe. Through interviews with winemaker Dan Petroski of Larkmead Vineyards and the professor’s daughter, Jeanne, you’ll meet Dr. Harold Olmo. He was such a fearless researcher he became known as the Indiana Jones of Viticulture.
Thanks to the University of California at Davis for prompting me to pursue this story. To learn more about Larkmead Vineyard’s donation to digitize Dr. Olmo’s work, click here.
Harold and his wife Helen
An iconic shot of Dr. Olmo which appeared on the cover of Sunset Magazine. Photograph by Richard Steven Street.
https://onthewineroad.us/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/Harold-Olmo-Web.png6621400Jeff Davishttps://onthewineroad.us/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo.pngJeff Davis2020-06-07 16:57:082020-06-07 16:57:08The Many Travels and Discoveries of Dr. Olmo
While the Napa and Sonoma Vintners organizations are incredibly supportive to their winery members and their communities, covid-19 has required an even greater response.
The Napa Valley Vintners and Sonoma County Vintners are helping to promote the creative and necessary ways wineries are reaching out to the wine loving public. In some cases, they’re presenting their own virtual tasting sessions.
In this podcast, I talk with the President and Executive Director of the Napa Valley Vintners, Linda Reiff, and the Executive Director of Sonoma County Vintners, Michael Haney. These interviews were conducted to coincide with my previous post “Wineries Battle the Coronavirus Blues.”
As you’ll hear, there is no elitist attitude from either of these executives, despite the fact they run organizations in two of the world’s top wine regions. They’re pleasant, down to earth people. Many winemakers, growers and owners are the same way. As I’ve said before, that’s what I love about the wine industry.
Keep listening until the end. You’ll hear promising news that was released as I was finishing up the podcast today. We may be seeing you soon on winery patios. That’s all I’m going to say about that right now. Can’t ruin a good content tease.
How do wineries battle the coronavirus blues? By being creative, stepping up, helping their employees and keeping you smiling during these sobering times. Many wineries across the country are reaching out through social media with virtual tastings.
Here’s an updated and refined list of what the wine regions are doing in Northern California. I’m also including my interviews with Jackson Family Wines and Spring Mountain Vineyard from my show on April 18th.
Back in December – before sheltering in place and when corona referred to a type of crown or the glow around the sun – my wife and I spent a week up and down Oregon’s Willamette Valley. It was cool, with light rain and occasional heavy fog…and we loved it.
Prior to our trip I set up several interviews. You’ll meet Lynn, the dynamic former owner of Penner-Ash; Bryan and Laura Laing, the fun-loving owners of Hazelfern Cellars; and Luisa, from one of the oldest Oregon family wineries, Ponzi Vineyards. Each guest expressed their love for Willamette Valley and the wine they craft. As always, their stories are entertaining and distinctly different from one another.
Like many wineries I have promoted in Northern California, the Penner-Ash, Hazelfern and Ponzi Vineyards are offering specials to tempt wine lovers to connect virtually and keep your shelves and cellars full of quality wine. Here’s what they’re offering:
Virtual Tastings – Experience Penner-Ash wines from the comfort of your home – virtually! By reservations, Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 11am-4pm. Please contact email@example.com or 503.554.5545 to schedule your experience!
Drive-up Service – Place your wine order a minimum of 24 hours in advance and schedule a direct-to-trunk pick up from the winery on Tuesdays and Saturdays between 11:00 and 3:00. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 707.292.4153.
Social Connection – We invite you to follow us on Instagram (@pennerashpinot) and join us on Facebook for the latest happenings and to help you stay connected.
Wine To-Go Curbside Pick-Up: We are at the winery from 11am – 4pm Wednesday-Sunday for curbside wine pick-ups. E-mail us, Message us on Instagram or Facebook, or call us at 503-928-1893 to schedule a pick-up or ask any questions.
Complimentary Local Delivery: Click Here to order wines for local delivery within 30 miles of Newberg, Oregon with a 3-bottle minimum purchase. Choose “Complimentary Local Delivery” at check-out.
MAKE SOCIAL DISTANCING GREAT! ENJOY THE HAZELFERN EXPERIENCE AT HOME:
Simple Pantry Recipes and Wine Pairings: We are posting simple and delicious “pantry recipes” on Instagram and Facebook. Follow along for easy-to-make recipes using simple ingredients that pair perfectly with our wines.
In this second ZAP (Zinfandel Advocates and Producers) podcast, I feature Ramazzotti Wines & Berryessa Gap Vineyards as I promoted the annual Zinfandel Experience.
Joe and Travis Ramazzotti follow in immigrant Guiseppe’s footsteps growing zinfandel and other Italian varieties. In 2002, they decided to start bottling their grapes and others from legendary vineyards in Sonoma County as Ramazzotti Wines. I met up with Joe and Travis at Deavola Pizzaria in Geyserville for the interview. Hey, why not drink wine and eat pizza while we talk?
Nicole Salengo, the winemaker at Berryessa Gap Vineyards, fills us in on the important history of grapvines in Winters, California. It’s a warm region but evening winds funneled through the Berryessa Gap cool down the grapes. She crafts a good variety of wines but zin is one of her favorites. In this interview you’ll find out how this geology loving Vermont gal became a California winemaker.
From Sonoma County to Yolo County, Ramazzotti Wines & Berryessa Gap Vineyards do not share much in common with their winemaking style but between the two there’s something for everyone.
A Wine Uncorked feature is also included. Stay in, stay healthy and enjoy some wine while you listen. Cheers!
Joe is on my left, Travis is on the right
The Ramazzotti Wines tasting room in Geyserville
The wine that prompted the interview
Winemaker, Nicole Salengo
Berryessa Gap Vineyards with the “gap” in the upper left that funnels in cool night air.
Boxes of Martinez Orchards rootstock that has appeared in vineyards from Yolo County to Napa Valley and Sonoma County.
With Nicole in front of their downtown tasting room
Each year in San Francisco Zinfandel Advocates and Producers host ZinEX, aka the Zinfandel Experience. The past few years I’ve interviewed zinfandel winemakers and growers to help promote the event.
This podcast will be the first of two featuring this year’s guests. Napa Valley’s Robert “Bob” Biale filled the full hour of my radio show, so he’ll be the only guest on this podcast.
His Italian immigrant family has a rich history in Napa. As you’ll hear, early challenges inspired Bob’s father to get creative, selling wine clandestinely…without a permit. That audacious move led to their successful flagship wine, Robert Biale Vineyards‘ Black Chicken. It’s one of many colorful tales offered by those in the wine industry. Hit Play to hear this gracious man share his story and his love of zinfandel.
And yes, there are black chickens on the property.
One of several seating areas at Robert Biale Vineyards.
The 1940 Studebaker you’ll hear about in the interview.