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.
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.
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!
https://onthewineroad.us/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/Rogue-Valley-website.png6391200Jeff Davishttps://onthewineroad.us/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo.pngJeff Davis2021-06-13 11:07:482021-06-13 11:07:48DANCIN Vineyards and Weisinger Family Winery of Rogue Valley, OR
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
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.
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…
CK Mondavi and Family of Napa Valley is currently ranked at #16 in annual case production for US vintners. Needless to say, that’s large.
LaRue Wines of the Sonoma Coast region produces less than a thousand cases. Yep, that’s really small.
My guests are Randy Herron of CK Mondavi and Family, and Katy Wilson of LaRue. I thought it would be fascinating to hear the differences between these two brands. Randy crafts more than half a dozen varietals that are priced in the Value category. Katy focuses on cool climate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir priced at the Luxury level. Nevertheless, these two share an easy going nature and make wines that are exceptional for their price range.
A Wine Uncorked feature is also included in the podcast. A little trivia gift from me to you.
It’s not intentional that this podcast was uploaded just a couple weeks after the movie Wine Country was released. Artesa Estate Vineyards and Winery is one of the wineries the ladies visited.
The fact is, their winemaker Ana Diogo-Draper was on my radio show in April, so she was next in line for my podcast. As you’ll hear, Artesa is influenced by Spain, Napa Valley and Portugal. You can taste those influences in the many wines Ana crafts. Varieties include Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Alberino, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, and a sparkling.
Join us in the tasting room to learn about Artesa Estate Vineyards and Winery, the rich history, and their delightful winemaker.
On this podcast you’ll meet Nate Belden of Belden Barns.
He grew up on a farm but spent a number of his adult years working in New York and San Francisco. After a while he felt the unrelenting tug of country life once again. Although his wife Lauren grew up in New York City, surprisingly, she had a similar dream of living a rural life. But grape growing and Belden Barns wine isn’t their only focus. They partnered with Jenny and Vince Trotter to offer Farmstead Goods. Visit their website here.
Hear how Nate and Lauren’s yearning for country life came true as we talk…in the barn.
The set up in the milking barn.
There’s a good story about the reason for the Poetry Room. Ask them if you ever see Nate or Lauren
https://onthewineroad.us/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Nate-Belden_1400x512.jpg5121400Jeff Davishttps://onthewineroad.us/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo.pngJeff Davis2019-03-04 18:14:512019-03-04 18:32:59Wine Down on the Farm – Belden Barns
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!
Interviewing Chad in the storage and fermentation building
Interviewing Bryan in the Vineyard Tasting Room
Babcock’s larger tasting room space
The outdoor patio of Melville’s winery tasting room
Babcock’s Soul Struck Lounge
Melville’s modern tasting room in Santa Barbara
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.
The Library Wine tasting room just off Melville’s barrel room
https://onthewineroad.us/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Social-media-image-Alt.jpg7881400Jeff Davishttps://onthewineroad.us/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo.pngJeff Davis2019-01-13 12:10:472019-01-13 12:10:47Two Wineries Gathering Accolades in the Santa Rita Hills
On this podcast you’ll hear my intimate conversation with winemaker and iconic wine producer, Michael Browne.
He gained fame with the highly respected Kosta Browne over the last 20 years. He has since moved on to a his own project Cirq. In this interview you’ll really get to know Michael, what drives him, why he loves Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley, and hear about past experiences that inspire his winemaking and fearless pursuit of his passions.
And what’s up with those early 20th Century wine labels? He’ll explain…
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.
The sun set as the Bash continued.
This 1994 Merlot was one of many library wines offered that evening. What a nice gift for ZD to share.
It took a one-of-a-kind barrel rack to hold the one-of-a-kind Abacus wine.
In preparation for this year’s Taste of Sonoma event I spoke with Tracy Nielsen of La Pitchoune Winery. Part of the interview was about Taste, but the remainder concerned her winery and their unanticipated success.
As you’ll see below by the artistic photo from their blog post they picked up a Best of Class Award at the 2018 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. 7000 wineries entered the contest! A six year old winery just isn’t expected to take the top prize in their category. Hear how Tracy struggled to get into the business, met her winemaker at a party, and at the behest of her husband (and chief strategist) decided to start their own winery. Their motto? Nothing is impossible.
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!
Tables from last year’s event at Hop Kiln Winery
A happy crowd with plenty of well crafted wine and food
https://onthewineroad.us/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/rrvw_paulee_0.jpg448600Jeff Davishttps://onthewineroad.us/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo.pngJeff Davis2018-08-20 13:47:522018-09-12 13:49:37Russian River Valley Winegrowers’ Paulée Event
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.
Randy Peters (left), Erik Miller (right)
The winning 2016 Pinot Noir
The Kokomo Winery Tasting Room at Timbercrest Farms, Dry Creek Valley, Healdsburg, CA
https://onthewineroad.us/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Kokomo-Logo-extended.jpg493781Jeff Davishttps://onthewineroad.us/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo.pngJeff Davis2018-07-01 19:28:092018-07-01 19:59:24The Winemaker, the Grower and a 100 Point Score
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.
https://onthewineroad.us/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/RRVW-Single-Vineyard-Night.jpg5001000Jeff Davishttps://onthewineroad.us/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo.pngJeff Davis2018-05-04 17:35:422018-05-04 17:49:27Russian River Valley Winegrowers Single Vineyard Night
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.
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.
In celebration of the upcoming National Pinot Noir Day, on August 18th, here’s some Pinot trivia for you.
What inspired the French to call a grape variety Pinot Noir? You might know that noir means “black” in French, but what does pinot mean?
The pinot noir grapes are smaller and come in tight clusters. To the French centuries ago it looked very much like a pine cone. Since the grapes are darker than other varieties the word black was also attributed to them. Hence the name Pinot Noir. I guess they could have gone with Pinot Cône Noir, which does roll nicely off the tongue, but Pinot Noir is sufficient.
Whole cluster Pinot Noir in the bin following sorting during the 2015 harvest, Russian River Valley
(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.
https://onthewineroad.us/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Ben-Papapietro-bottle.jpg720582Jeff Davishttps://onthewineroad.us/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo.pngJeff Davis2017-07-28 09:30:482017-07-28 09:30:48Ben of Papapietro Perry Winery