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!
The Korbel brothers
The original Korbel building with the Brandy Tower in the background
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.
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…
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.
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.
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
It was two years and two months after the wine country wildfires when I returned to Paradise Ridge Winery to see how the rebuild was coming along. I had no idea it was the first day of their soft opening.
In October of 2017 their hospitality center and production facility burned to the ground. I’ve come to know the Byck family fairly well over the years and I’m thrilled to see the return of Paradise. Owner and family member Rene and I sat down in January so he could catch us up on the challenges his family faced the past two years, the new building and some changes they have in mind. See an artist’s rendering of the new building and more at PRWinery.com.
To hear Rene talk about the loss of the winery just 4 months after the fire and see photos of the devastation click here.
Faire La Fête
In this interview I talk with Master of Wine Peter Neptune about the rich and centuries long tradition of Mardi Gras. You won’t believe how many centuries! You’ll also hear about the sparkling wine that was developed in southeastern France that ties into the historical roots of the celebration, Faire La Fête Brut. As you’ll hear, sparkling wine was developed in the Limoux region, (no, not Champagne) making Faire La Fête the ideal sparkling for Mardi Gras celebrations. You gotta love a history lesson with a party theme!
The week of the soft opening during a foggy winter’s day.
A small part of the new tasting room featuring the new art work referenced in the interview.
The Paradise Ridge Blanc De Blanc sparkling wine and Vineyard Select Russian River Valley Pinot Noir.
https://onthewineroad.us/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Paradise-Faire-OTWR.jpg5061400Jeff Davishttps://onthewineroad.us/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo.pngJeff Davis2020-02-19 21:58:442020-02-19 21:58:44Return to Paradise & Faire La Fête!
On this first podcast of 2020 you’ll hear about ZO Wines and Napa Valley College.
I talk with owner and winemaker, David Eckert about ZO Wines, in Sonoma County’s Dry Creek Valley. Not only do they have a number of tasting spaces on the property, a stunning vineyard view, a good variety of interesting wine varieties, they also have a lovely 100+ year Craftsman home that is available for overnight stays. David also answers the question of why they chose an elephant as their mascot. And no, it doesn’t mean their wines are big.
You’ll also meet esteemed winemaker Daniel Baron, who spent many years at Napa and Sonoma County’s Silver Oak Cellars and Twomey. He joins Molly Hodgins of the Napa Valley College Viticulture and Winery Technology Program to discuss some of their courses. The college is an excellent option as a path to get started in the wine industry.
https://onthewineroad.us/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ZO-Wines_Napa-College_sans-logo.jpg446792Jeff Davishttps://onthewineroad.us/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo.pngJeff Davis2020-01-25 13:56:072020-01-25 15:19:00ZO Wines & Napa Valley College Viticulture and Winery Technology Program
A Distiller and An Author: Jeff Duckhorn and Paula Moulton.
On this podcast I’ll take a detour from the wine road to talk whiskey. It’s another adult beverage that has really be exploding in the last decade or two. In the California town of Graton, head distiller Jeff Duckhorn and his team are crafting Redwood Empire Whiskey. They’ve gone through a transformation with new branding and adding two more whiskey’s to their line-up.
Then you’ll meet author Paula Moulton. This multi-faceted woman gave up city life to become a grape grower, an author, an accomplished chef, a winemaker and all while raising children. She tells you how you can do it too! Maybe not all of it but even some of it would be cool. Her first book and follow up are called Seasons Among the Vines: Life Lessons from the California Wine Country. Strap yourselves in for another ride On The Wine Road.
The Lost Monarch photo is courtesy of Mario Vaden. I thank him for allowing me to share that stunning image.
Half of Redwood Empire Whiskey’s warm barrel room
The Lost Monarch with the lovely Kiera providing reference to the size of this giant redwood.
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Jordan Vineyard and Winery is an ivy covered icon. It’s one of Sonoma County’s most stunning wineries fashioned after a French chateau. It stands boldly yet gracefully among the sweeping lawn, beautifully manicured trees, and recently planted cabernet sauvignon vineyard.
Needless to say, it was a pleasure to spend a couple of hours there interviewing CEO and family member John Jordan and winemaker Rob Davis. He and I chatted for 90 minutes, way more than I could squeeze into my one hour radio show. Fortunately, a majority of the outtakes can be heard in this podcast. For you Napa wine history fans you’ll love the stories Rob shares about “the Dean of California Winemakers,” André Tchelistcheff.
As you listen you’ll understand the reasoning behind Wine Enthusiast Magazine choosing Jordan Vineyard and Winery as American Winery of the Year in 2014. Since they produced their first vintage in 1976 their wine has lived up to the elegance of the chateau.
To see their tours and tasting options, wine and so much more click here.
During the tasting and interview with Rob Davis
CEO and family member John Jordan
When you walk through those French doors you’re elevated tasting experience will include award-winning wines and exceptional hospitality.
The directional sign at Vista Point that John and I reference.
https://onthewineroad.us/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Jordan-OTWR-1400x506.jpg5061400Jeff Davishttps://onthewineroad.us/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo.pngJeff Davis2019-05-10 17:18:012019-05-13 14:54:21The Story of Jordan Vineyard and Winery
It’s another day on our incredible, beautiful and struggling planet. This podcast focuses on the positive impacts people are making as I present Part Two of my Earth Day celebration.
Much like the Slow Food Movement, Italy’s Slow Wine crusade promotes sustainable practices within the winemaking industry. The Slow Wine Guide features those who operate within those parameters. The 2019 edition contains 370 wineries from Italy, 121 from California, and new this year, 50 Oregon wineries. I chose two from Northern California who have been selected by Slow Wine; Larkmead Family Estate in Calistoga, Napa Valley, and Littorai Wines of Sebastopol, Sonoma County. They’re both highly respected in the industry. You’ll be impressed with the efforts they put forth to create their exceptional wine. Cheers to that! Happy Earth Day.
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Oliver Ranch is a unique 100 acre preserve dedicated to Site-Specific Art.
In 1985, Steven and Nancy Oliver commissioned their first piece. Since then, the Olivers have added 18 works that rise up over the rolling hills of the ranch’s landscape. The most recent addition is Ann Hamilton’s The Tower where commissioned dance, poetry, theatre, and music performances take place.
You are invited to join the Friends of the Sonoma County Wine Library as we spend two and a half hours
at Oliver Ranch on April 6th. This is a rare opportunity as the ranch is not open to the public. Tours are strictly for the benefit of non-profit groups such as the FOSCWL. We will meet at Francis Ford Coppola Winery in Geyserville, 300 Via Archimedes at the 101 freeway. We will gather at 9:00 am, leaving for Oliver Ranch at 9:30. Park near the bus. The tour will be completed about 12:30pm. Your ticket includes a wine tasting at Coppola following the tour if you’d like to join us!
Tickets are $100 and are limited to 50 people. This tour will sell out! We are excited to have you join us for this one-of-a-kind experience at Oliver Ranch! For tickets please click this link to Brown Paper Tickets. Please keep in mind there are no bathroom facilities at Oliver Ranch. However, the bus will have one.
Proceeds from all tickets sales benefit the Friends of Sonoma County Wine Library, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. Your attendance will help us continue our mission to support the Wine
https://onthewineroad.us/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Oliver-ranch9.jpg300765Jeff Davishttps://onthewineroad.us/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo.pngJeff Davis2019-03-16 17:40:442019-03-16 17:40:44Tour of Oliver Ranch Sculpture Collection with Friends of Sonoma Co. Wine Library
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
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As we approach the end of another year, now my 6th On The Wine Road, I’d like to reach back to share a version of this previous post. It’s been an extreme pleasure to meet many fascinating personalities in the wine business. This recording highlights those who have expressed their passion about the wine industry. The winery owners, winemakers and growers I have chosen speak eloquently, philosophically, poetically, and often spiritually about wine and vineyards. I’m confident that if you listen it will make the wine you love taste even better. Cheers!
https://onthewineroad.us/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Cheering.jpg6831024Jeff Davishttps://onthewineroad.us/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo.pngJeff Davis2018-12-22 16:29:292018-12-23 12:39:52The Passion Expressed Within the Wine Industry
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…
In an effort to take you behind the scenes at a wine judging competition I recorded a couple of interviews with fellow judges. This is from the recent 2018 Harvest Challenge wine competition that took place on November 13 & 14th in Santa Rosa, Sonoma County, CA. It was an international competition that featured about 900 wines. Click the play button to hear the interviews, click the Best Of Awards link to see the winners. It’s quite a list!
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
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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!”