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Livermore Stories: Pat Paulsen Vineyards

M&G WineLuv

Monty Paulsen loves to create wine brands.  He’s an eclectic winemaker, making wine from wherever he can get his hands on grapes, be that Martinez, California or the Valle Central in Chile.  On his website alone you’ll find four brands with a total of 26 different wines.  These days you’ll find Monty behind the Pat Paulsen Vineyards tasting bar of his newly opened tasting room in Livermore Valley.

A Fragrant Journey with Mandy Aftel

Artisan perfumer Mandy Aftel is a fragrance tour guide, guiding you on a scent journey through history, filled with cultural touchstones and alchemy.  The backdrop to the aromatic adventure is what Mandy calls the five “landmark scents” from around the world:  cinnamon, mint, frankincense, ambergris and jasmine. Fragrant:  The Secret Life of Scent is Mandy’s exploration into a world of mystery, power, medicinal practices and the pure pleasure of perfume.  The author, who is also the creative force behind Aftelier Perfumes writes, “Lands have been discovered and conquered for the sake of perfumed materials.”  According to Mandy, mankind has a common desire for the exotic, the familiar, transcendence, the curious and beauty.  As she writes, “Scent is a portal to these basic human appetites.” I spent time with Mandy one recent afternoon at her Arts & Crafts home in Berkeley, California that serves as her perfume atelier.  She embodies the eclectic,…

A New View for Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars

Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars in Napa Valley will be forever known as the winery that beat the French.  Many people know the role that the winery’s 1973 S.L.V. Cabernet Sauvignon played in bringing worldwide attention to America’s premier wine country.  This wine beat the best of the French Bordeaux in the famous 1976 Paris Tasting, where French judges tasted California and French wines blind.  Stag’s Leap was the number one red; the 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay, also from Napa, was the number one white. That ’73 Cab was made by Warren Winiarski.  38 years later, Winiarski, who retired and sold the winery to a joint venture of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates and Marchesi Antinori, of the Italian winemaking family Antinori in 2007,  was on hand to celebrate the opening of a $7 million visitor’s center overlooking the vineyard that grew the grapes for that earth shattering wine, the S.L.V. Vineyard,…

Autumn in a Glass: Red Branch Hard Apple & Honey Cider

When the air turns crisp and the days become short, I crave all things apple. My beverage of choice is hard cider—hard apple cider, that is. I’m not alone in my love of hard cider; it’s the fastest-growing alcoholic beverage category in the country. In Silicon Valley, there’s one label I turn to and that’s Red Branch Cider Company. Like so many labels in the wine and beverage world, Red Branch Cider started in a garage. Read my entire article in Edible Silicon Valley.

Livermore Stories: Wood Family Vineyards

This is another installment of a series called “Livermore Stories,” which takes a look at the most exciting wineries in this wine growing region located east of San Francisco.  More than 50 wineries now call Livermore Valley home.  The wines have never been better, and the wineries have great stories to tell. Winemakers come to winemaking from all sorts of backgrounds.  Take Rhonda Wood.  “I used to fly for US Airways,” says the commercial airline pilot turned vintner.  “I flew as a First Officer on the Airbus 320, the Boeing 737, the F 100, and the BAE 146, and I was side saddle (flight engineer) on the Boeing 727.”  How many winemakers can say that? Rhonda’s winery is Wood Family Vineyards, in the heart of Livermore Valley.  She actually started learning about making wine in Fremont, a community in the southern San Francisco Bay Area, where she and her husband…

A Vineyard Hike and Tasting at Big Basin Vineyards

Driving along the twisting roads of the Santa Cruz Mountains near Boulder Creek, you begin to wonder if there’s really a winery among the redwoods here. At the end of a narrow residential road you come upon a clearing, arriving at Big Basin Vineyards. “Welcome to the middle of nowhere in the Santa Cruz Mountains,” is the greeting from assistant winemaker Matt Ryan to visitors who make the journey. Read my full story on Edible Silicon Valley

Livermore Stories: BoaVentura de Caires Winery

“Handcrafted” has become such a buzzword in the wine industry that it’s almost meaningless, superfluous.  But not at BoaVentura de Caires, the Livermore Valley winery owned by Brett Caires.  His operation is truly handcrafted. Brett planted the vineyards and renovated the horse corral that’s now his winery and tasting room almost wood plank by wood plank.  He salvaged redwood, a couple of stained glass windows and a door from buildings on the nearby Concannon Vineyard property that were being demolished.  And, oh yeah, Brett farms the vineyards and makes the wine.  His hands are on every grape cluster, every vat of fermenting grape juice, every barrel of aging wine, every bottle filled and dipped in wax. BoaVentura is not your typical winery, and that’s what makes it such a wonderful place to visit.  When you pull up the steep driveway, you see a sign that says “No limos past this…

Bringing Wine Country Living to Lowcountry Living

I grew up spending two weeks each summer going to Hilton Head Island in South Carolina with my family.  The Lowcountry is a special place for me.  Those summers were idyllic.  I love the beauty of the marshes and the long, wide sandy beaches with sand dunes and sea oats.  This is my second home (thanks Dad for retiring there!). I’ve always loved the easy, breezy Lowcountry beach lifestyle, perhaps even more now that I’m living on the west coast and don’t get to Hilton Head as often as I’d like. However, I’ve also fallen in love with the Wine Country lifestyle.  After all, I did a TV show about it for 10 years, In Wine Country.  So when I found out Robert Mondavi, Jr. and his wife Lydia were building a house and launching a home collection in Beaufort, SC, I had to find out more. The Mondavi name is…

Red Wines, Good Times in Napa Valley #NapaStrong

Kathryn Hall knows how to throw a party. Maybe it’s because she spent four years as the United States Ambassador to Austria during the Clinton administration. But I think she just loves to have fun and enjoys seeing her guests have a great time. This past weekend at Hall Wines in Napa Valley, the scene was literally set in red – huge red sofas placed everywhere in a large grass courtyard.  I thought they were leather at first, but they are actually some sort of inflatable material.  Fun, clever and definitely eye-catching. You could also play I Love Lucy and stomp on freshly picked Merlot grapes that will go into making wine.  My feet are in the 2014 Merlot.  I’ll have to get a bottle when it is released. We were all at Hall for the release of the 2011 Kathryn Hall Cabernet, her top-of-the line signature wine.  It’s a blend of…

On the Wine Oh TV Wine Club: A New Label for Mat Kearney

Ok I’ll admit it.  I’m not as up on current music as I used to be.  Play most any song from the late 70’s and the 80’s and I can name that tune (a skill which recently earned me a Lava Flow at Pool Bar Jim’s in Hilton Head Island).  I pay more attention now to wine labels than record labels.  So when I first tried a red wine called “Verse & Chorus” I had to ask “who is Mat Kearney?” Maybe not knowing him or his music made me be totally skeptical about another musician fronting a wine label.  But I was pleasantly surprised when I tried this soft, rich and fruity wine, with notes of cherry, violets and chocolate.  I liked it so much I immediately went to Whole Foods, where Verse & Chorus is sold exclusively, to buy more. I got to learn even more about Mat…

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