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New Kids On The Wine Block

The Santa Cruz Mountains American Viticulture Area (AVA), in northern California, running along the Pacific coast south of San Francisco to Santa Cruz, is one of the most diverse wine growing regions in the world.  This wine country is also one of the oldest in California, dating back to the mid 1880’s when pioneers like Paul Masson were growing grapes and making wine here.  There are nearly 70 wineries that call the Santa Cruz Mountains home, and a few new kids on the block are noteworthy newcomers. Silvertip Vineyards   Silvertip Vineyards is what you would call a destination winery — but not because you’ll find a fancy chateau or Michelin-starred dining there.  You have to work to find this Santa Cruz Mountains winery, tucked away among the redwoods, only a few miles as the crow files from Silicon Valley, but a world away in this forested setting.  You do…

Don’t Drink That Drink This! 6 Go-To White Wines That Are Anything But Chardonnay

How Chardonnay remains the most popular white wine sold in America is a mystery to me.  Maybe because it is easier to pronounce or remember?  At least some California winemakers  are now showing restraint and instead of using lots of new oak they’re making unoaked wines instead.  I just had a yummy Chard which was crisp with apple and citrus from Chamisal Vineyards in the Central Coast called Stainless Chardonnay.  This bright vibrant wine is totally unoaked, very nice for sipping.

I’ll admit it, Chardonnay gets more than its share of bad raps.  People are proud to say he or she is an ABC drinker – Anything But Chardonnay that is.  So what’s the alternative?  Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio are options, but sometimes I want something richer and creamier than a zippy Sauv Blanc or citrusy Pinot Grigio.  Thank goodness for the white Rhone varieties grown in California that make wines memorable enough to compete with Chardonnay and even best it.  You may even agree with me that the white Rhones are so much more complex and interesting.  

Virginia is for Viognier Lovers (not Earthquakes)

In July I went to the annual Wine Bloggers Conference, held in Charlottesville, Virginia. I’d never been to that area of the country, but had always heard it was beautiful, with Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello, and the University of Virginia. Throw in wine, and to me it was a trip not to be missed.

If you’re a Viognier lover like me, you want to get to Virginia wine country as soon as possible or seek out some pretty amazing bottles. It’s about time the really good wines – especially the Viogniers – get the recognition they deserve. Read more

Top 10 Takeaways from the Wine Bloggers Conference

Did you know that there are enough wine bloggers to hold an annual conference? There are actually about 1500 of us more or less. Approximately 300 bloggers, me included, showed up in Charlottesville, Virginia for the 4th Wine Bloggers Conference last week. It was a big deal to Virginia. The Governor taped a special hello. There were banners in downtown Charlottesville welcoming the bloggers. We even had a special wine reception on the hallowed grounds of Monticello. Oh yeah, we were big in Virginia.

I had never tasted a Virginia wine, and knew nothing about the state’s wineries. Now that I’ve been to six Virginia wineries, and tasted dozens of the state’s wines, I can tell you that Virginia is on its way to being a player in the wine world. Not all wines were good, and they do make a lot of sweet wine. Even so, you must get to know the wines coming out of this state.

When all is said and done, there are 10 takeaways from my time at the Wine Bloggers Conference, on Virginia wine and on blogging. Read more

Chance encounter with K Viognier

I love chance encounters, especially the kind that leads you to something else. That’s the case for me, from a recent dinner at Kin Shop in New York City. The restaurant’s top toque is indeed a Top Chef: Harold Dieterle, the winner from the show’s first season. The menu features Thai-inspired dishes, so the wine list offers choices that pair nicely with the food. The bottle that caught my attention was the K Vintners Viognier. I recognized the name, and that the winemaker was Food & Wine magazine’s Winemaker of the Year in 2009.

Good Viognier is hard to find, and I wasn’t completely sure about one from Washington State. But the wine was wonderful. Honeyed and floral, with stone fruits and minerality. I added it to my list of favorite wines. I also love the label, graphic and bold and distressed. Could that be a reflection of the winemaker himself?

DRINK – Fragrant summer whites – my favs

With labor day fast approaching, it’s hard to believe summer is almost over.  If you live in northern California, you might think summer started only last week.  As today it’s already over 97 degrees in my backyard, I’m already thinking about what wine to pop the cork on this evening.  I want something fragrant, something luscious.  That can mean only one thing – aromatic white wines. Viognier, Riesling and other varieties come to mind.  Definitely not Chardonnay and probably not Sauvignon Blanc.   These are my top choices: Viognier – I love the Rhone wines, and it’s for the heady perfumed wines that Viognier, and other Rhone varietals have.  I have two choices for Viognier, Cold Heaven, made by Morgan Clendenen, with Santa Barbara fruit, and Skipstone Viognier, Makena’s Vineyard with Alexander Valley fruit.  Each has its own lovely flavors that linger on your tongue, like a delicious nectar.  Makes me…

DRINK – Wine Around the World #80sips

Do you know about Bottlenotes? It’s an online wine social media community, and totally unpretentious.  Here you can share your own tasting notes, learn about and buy wine. They have a well-edited selection in their wine portfolio. You can also get The Daily Sip, the wine equivalent of Daily Candy. Bottlenotes also organizes wine tasting events, where you can meet up with other members and taste and talk about wine (yes in person!). Called Around the World in 80 Sips, it’s a great opportunity to taste wines you may not ever come across — like a passionfruit wine from Thailand. This event was held at Crushpad, the custom crush facility in San Francisco.  Crushpad is relocating to Napa Valley, so this was probably my last time for visiting the city location.  The tasting takes place amid all the barrels of wine aging. These wines stood out for me and should…

DRINK – One of the most breathtaking wineries ever

There are no vineyards. Instead, wine barrels on the edge of the coast signal that you’re at a winery. Welcome to Pacific Star, on the northern California coast in Mendocino County wine country. Pacific Star is north of the town of Mendocino and Ft. Bragg. While the remote location is remote, Sally Ottoson’s wines are accessible and highly drinkable. Choose from a number of varietals, including a few Italian grapes, such as Barbera and Charbono and Carignane. I highly recommend Barbera with a spicy tomato ciopinno stew. She also makes a lovely Viognier/Rousanne blend. Recently the winery learned that a fault line runs directly under the tasting room and winery, which has been named the Pacific Star fault. Sally made the It’s My Fault blend — Syrah, Charbono and Carignane — in honor of that fact. This is the definition of a destination winery. Plan a visit here with a…