Posts

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Two Wineries Gathering Accolades in the Santa Rita Hills

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

 

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A Wine Industry Icon: Warren Winiarski

Sometimes good things come in twos. It took over two years for me to nail down this interview with Warren Winiarski, I recorded over two hours of audio, and it took two visits to do so. Yet every minute I spent with him was a pleasure. You may be aware that Warren was the founder of Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars and it was his Cabernet Sauvignon that outscored the French Bordeaux wines in the famed Paris tasting of 1976. But that was early on. He has accomplished so much in his 90 years and, remarkably, continues to do so. He semi-retired in 2007 but is still involved with grape growing in his Napa Valley Arcadia Vineyard. He continues to learn yet his depth of knowledge is astounding, and the way his looks at life and winemaking is fascinating. Warren is engaging, charming, and kind of like a great uncle you rarely see but when you do you just want to give him a big hug…and drink his wine.

Author’s note: Here are the other California wines that made the final list of the Paris tasting based on an average of the judge’s scores in the Paris tasting, also known as The Judgement of Paris.

Red Category: Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello (5th), Heitz Wine Cellars Martha’s Vineyard (7th), Clos Du Val Winery (8th), Mayacamas Vineyards (9th), and Freemark Abby (10th).

White Category: Chateau Montelena (1st), Chalone Vineyard (3rd), Spring Mountain Vineyard (4th), Freemark Abby (6th), Veedercrest Vineyards (9th), David Bruce Winery (10th).

A exceptional accomplishment to those who were entered!

Warren Winiarski

Warren Winiarski

Warren’s Arcadia Vineyards was hit hard by the Atlas Fire a year ago October. He lost a barn, the tractor trailer with all of the equipment, and three homes.

 

 

 

 

 

Warren Winiarski

The 1973 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon

Warren Winiarski

The Arcadia Vineyard. You can still see the remnants of the Atlas Fire’s damage on the hillsides. The grass has grown back but a number of burned trees are evident.

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ZD Wines Celebrates 50 Years

A couple of weeks ago I had the honor of being invited to attended a grand affair at the Culinary Institute of America at Copia in Napa. About 700 people were in attendance, culinary fare was being served, several musicians performed and all for the purpose of celebrating ZD Wines’ 50th Anniversary.

The Rutherford AVA Napa Valley winery has been building something special for quite some time. They also make one of the most unusual wine blends I’ve heard of in the U.S. Abacus is pricey but because of the decades it takes to craft that unique blend you could argue that it’s worth it.

Just a few days before the celebration I had the chance to sit down with winemaker Brandon deLeuze so you and I could hear more about ZD Wines. Click the player below for the interview.

Follow up: I felt this was noteworthy – since this post went out Brandon was promoted from Assistant Winemaker to Winemaker, and Winemaker Chris Pisani has been promoted to Senior Winemaker. Robert deLeuze, CEO and Director of Winemaking said, “Chris and Brandon are exceptionally dedicated to producing the highest caliber wines. We appreciate their effort in advancing our commitment to quality and are honored to have them on our team.”

Congratulations to both of them from On The Wine Road.

ZD Wines' 50th Anniversary

The sun set as the Bash continued.

ZD Wines' 50th Anniversary

This 1994 Merlot was one of many library wines offered that evening. What a nice gift for ZD to share.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ZD Wines 50th Anniversary

It took a one-of-a-kind barrel rack to hold the one-of-a-kind Abacus wine.

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The Backyard Conversation About La Pitchoune Winery

In preparation for this year’s Taste of Sonoma event I spoke with Tracy Nielsen of La Pitchoune Winery. Part of the interview was about Taste, but the remainder concerned her winery and their unanticipated success.

As you’ll see below by the artistic photo from their blog post they picked up a Best of Class Award at the 2018 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. 7000 wineries entered the contest! A six year old winery just isn’t expected to take the top prize in their category. Hear how Tracy struggled to get into the business, met her winemaker at a party, and at the behest of her husband (and chief strategist) decided to start their own winery. Their motto? Nothing is impossible.

Find their website here.

 

La Pitchoune     La Pitchoune

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

La Pitchoune

Peter Joachim Nielsen, Tracy Nielsen, Andrew Berge

 

Russian River Valley Winegrowers’ Paulée Event

This over-the-top Paulée event brings winemakers and collectors together to enjoy an elegant multi-course meal paired with wines from winemakers and guests’ personal cellars, including special, limited and rare vintages.  The date is Friday, August 31st at Sonoma-Cutrer. This Annual Paulée features over 30 Premier Russian River Valley Wineries pouring world class Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Syrah, Zinfandel and Sauvignon Blanc.

Click below for my conversation with Sonoma-Cutrer’s Director of Winemaking Mick Schroeter, and Winery Chef Kevin Markey. For tickets visit Russian River Valley Winegrowers. We hope to see you there. Cheers!

 

Paulée event

Kevin Markey

Paulée event

Mick Schroeder

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paulée event

Tables from last year’s event at Hop Kiln Winery

Paulée event

A happy crowd with plenty of well crafted wine and food

The Story of Rombauer Vineyards

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

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

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

For more details on the winery click here.

Rombauer Vineyards

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

Rombauer Vineyards

K.R. Rombauer and daughter Sheana

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Russian River Valley Winegrowers Single Vineyard Night

Join Russian River Valley Winegrowers for an amazing tasting experience of Russian River Valley single vineyard wines. More than 30 wineries will be pouring small-lot, single vineyard wines from the Russian River Valley, including Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Zinfandel, Syrah and Sauvignon Blanc. Guests will dine on delicious appetizers while enjoying single vineyard wines.

This year the event takes place at the Hyatt Regency Sonoma Wine Country

My interview with RRVW Board President Giovanni Balistreri and Executive Director Wendy Hilberman is below. I apologize ahead of time. We were drinking Russian River Vineyards Rosé.

I hope to see you there!

Russian River Valley Winegrowers

Single Vineyard Night Single Vineyard Night Single Vineyard Night

 

 

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Ram’s Gate Winery, An Exceptional Experience

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

 

Jeff Gaffner and David Oliver

 

In the organic garden

The Vineyard Table that offers inspiring views

 

 

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The Respected David Ramey of Ramey Wine Cellars

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

 

ramey wine cellars

Photo compliments of Mark Spivak

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Kendall-Jackson’s Winemaster Randy Ullom

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

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Radio-Coteau, A Wine & Spirits Magazine Top 100 Winery

Each year Wine & Spirits Magazine chooses the Top 100 wineries of the world. Each winery is featured in their Winter Issue and is invited to attend their annual tasting event in San Francisco. It’s quite an event! This is the third year Eric Sussman of Radio-Coteau has been chosen. He makes remarkable cool climate Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Syrah, and Zinfandel. As a “pioneering micro-climate negociant” he works with as many as 16 different vineyards. His property in Occidental is quite historic and has its own story to tell. His vineyards there are maturing nicely. I find it interesting that he only has two subject tabs on his website yet it’s deeper in content than almost any winery website I’ve seen. Eric is quite prolific. I was happy to have finally tracked down this highly respected winemaker.

 

Eric Sussman

Eric at the Top 100 event, 2017

 

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Ben of Papapietro Perry Winery

(Garagiste – A French term used to describe a garage-based winemaking operation. Once seen as a negative, garagiste wineries are now treated with cult-like status.) Ben Papapietro was a garasite in San Francisco. His desire to get into the wine business found him living in his van in a vineyard for months at a time. Some how he managed to keep his newspaper job during his decades-long venture. Along with friend and partner Bruce they managed reached success in Sonoma County with Papapietro Perry Winery. Ben shares his tale with me in this podcast.

 

 

 

papapietro perry

 

 

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Paul Mathew Vineyards, Worth Discovering

You know, one wine country’s best-kept secrets are the smaller, boutique wineries who, more often than not, make stellar hand-crafted wine. Without cruising around Northern California in person you wouldn’t know of most of them. This podcast features one, Paul Mathew Vineyards. Winemaker Mat Gustafson and his wife Barb make a great team, and if you happen to be in Sonoma County they offer fantastic food and wine pairing dinners. The road Mat traveled in becoming a winemaker was long and took many turns, most in the right direction. I think you’ll enjoy his story. Heck, it might even give you hope while you pursue your dream.

 

 

Paul Mathew Vineyards

Paul Mathew Vineyards

 

Clouds Rest Estate Vineyards

Meet winery owner John Saemann and General Manager Scott Schuette of Clouds Rest Pinot Noir. John and his team make exceptional hand-crafted, small production Pinot Noir, as well as Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. As John believes, which you may too, the vineyard is a magical place there on Sonoma Mountain where the clouds rest.