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

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

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

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.

 

Congratulations to the Petaluma Gap Winegrowers Alliance for FINALLY receiving the much desired, and deserved, AVA designation (American Viticultural Area). The coastal wind and fog in the region truly produce grapes of distinction. Prior to their annual Wind to Wine tasting event last year, I interviewed Doug Cover of the PGWA Board of Directors about their pursuit of the AVA distinction. If you’d like to learn about the process and what it means for the growers and the winemakers who source grapes from the region click the link below. This is my raw interview and is less than 8 minutes. For distinctive cool climate wines look for Petaluma Gap on wine labels from this point forward!

 

Petaluma Gap

For a larger view of the wineries who source from the Petaluma Gap click the map

The Lake County wine region covers a wide area. It’s a bucolic region with stunning views of Clear Lake, the largest lake in California. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again now, if you haven’t been to Lake County wine country, it’s well worth the weekend trip. There is some fantastic wine being produced there. During our visit I sat down with winemaker Matt Hughes at Brassfield Estate Winery. As you see, it’s a beautiful property and they put as much effort into their wine as they have the facility, the property, and wildlife reserve. The Brassfield 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon picked up the Best of Class Award during this year’s North Coast Wine Challenge, meaning it topped Cabernets from Napa, Sonoma, and Marin! No small feat. Matt shares their story here.

Brassfield Estate Winery

Winemaker Matt Hughes

 

Brassfield Estate Winery

Just a part of their attractive tasting room

Brassfield Estate Winery

One of the many striking features throughout the property

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brassfield Estate Winery

Lake County features incredible views of Clear Lake like this one from the ridge above Brassfield Estate

 

 

Hear how a ski trip to Chile, which turned into a three-year adventure, inspired Randy Ullom to take his appreciation for wine and make a career out of it. Eventually, he would join Kendall-Jackson, travel the world, and make what has become the number one selling Chardonnay in America for 25 years in a row. You’ll hear about Randy’s career and learn about Jess Jackson, the maverick winery owner who took the world by storm.

 

Randy Ullom

After nearly three decades in Germany promoting her family’s business, Claudia Schug has returned to Northern California to work with her siblings at Schug Carneros Estate Winery. Although Schug is not a household name, German immigrant Walter Schug played an important roll in the growth of Napa and Sonoma’s wine industry. It’s an interesting story Claudia shares about how her father made his way to America for good with his new wife in tow and the few belongings they had all crammed into a VW bug. It’s a tale of the American Dream coming to life for this immigrant family.

 

vw

The new Schug immigrants crossing America.

 

W & G

Walter and Gertrud

 

pond

The lilly pond. A favorite home for frogs and ducks.

view

The beautiful view from the winery.