Gundlach Bunschu’s story began way back in 1858 when Jacob Gundlach purchased 400 acres in Sonoma and named it Rhinefarm. He then returned to Bavaria (in Germany) married, and traveled through Germany and France with his new wife Eva, buying up the rootstock they would need to plant on the land in Sonoma when they returned to the property.
When planting began on Rhinefarm in 1859, Jacob had three partners (Dresel, Kuchel & Lutgens), and they planted the first 60,000 vines on the ranch. (This was a number that towered over the perhaps only dozen other vineyards in wine country at the time with only 27,000 vines.) The first vintage was in 1861, but Gundlach & his partners were already producing wine and brandy from locally grown grapes and fruit.
In 1868, Charles Bundschu joined the winery after working in the produce industry for six years.
During the phylloxera outbreak in the 1870’s, Gundlach and his partner Julius Dresel averted the crisis by grafting the sickly European rootstock to the vines that Dresel had brought from Texas, making them the first in Sonoma to use this procedure. The grafted plantings produced high quality grapes for almost 100 years, until being replanted by Jim Bundschu in 1969.
In 1875, Charles Bundschu joined the family by marrying the eldest child of Jacob Gundlach, Francisca. Jacob retired and Charles managed the winery’s business in San Francisco for many years. Following Jacob’s death in 1984, the winery was renamed Gundlach Bundschu.
The winery was at the height of its success, when disaster struck in 1906. The San Francisco earthquake and fire destroyed one million gallons of wine and three family homes. The family took refuge at their country home at Rhinefarm and began plans to rebuild.
By 1910, 68-year-old Charles Bundschu passed away (never fully recovering mentally from the trauma of the fire and physically ill from an illness he came down with during the devastation). His sons Carl and Walter took joint command.
In 1919, prohibition closed the winery, and the company was liquidated. The family was able to hold on to the 130 acres of land and continue to grow grapes to be sold to the “juice grape” market, but half the vineyard was ripped out and replanted with Bartlett pears and some was used as pasture land.
in 1933, prohibition was repealed, but Walter’s wife Sadie remained a prohibitionist and was against reopening Gunlach Bundschu as a winery. Carl Bundschu was soon hired by Suzanne Niebaum to run Inglenook Winery in Napa and to mentor John Daniels, Jr., who eventually took control in 1938.
In 1938, Towle Bundschu took over Rhinefarm following the death of his father, Walter. He also restored Rhinefarm to 200 acres by acquiring an adjacent parcel of land. Soon after, a long contract with Almaden Winery was signed. Towle also served in the Korean War as an aerial gunner until he was discharged in 1946.
In 1969, Rhinefarm was replanted (for quality reasons) by Towle’s son Jim. By 1973, Jim crushed 20 tons of Zinfandel to produce the first wines in the old stone winery in over 50 years. When Towle saw the passion and commitment to the quality and success of the winery Jim possessed, he gave his blessing to use the family name and so Gundlach Bundschu Winery was given new life!
In 1976, Gundlach Bundschu released its “first” three wines: a 1973 Zinfandel, a 1975 Riesling, and 1975 Kleinberger, all estate grown and produced. Also in 1976, the winery became one of the first in California to produce a Merlot.
In 1981, came a Cabernet Sauvignon release, and a Best Red Wine award for it at the annual Sonoma Harvest Fair.
Jim Bundschu had a cave for the wines dug and completed by 1991, to mimic wine caves he had seen while visiting France. The 10,000 square foot, 430-foot-long cave ultimately benefits the 1,800 barrels it can accommodate by keeping the temperature and humidity at optimal levels.
Jeff Bundschu took the helm of the winery in 2000, and in 2001, it is decided the winery will produce estate-grown only wines. Currently, the winery produces Gewürztraminer, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Mountain Cuvée, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo and a Vintage Reserve.
Why are they able to grow all of these different grapes (who need all different climates to flourish)? Because Rhinefarm is located at the intersection of four AVAs––Carneros, Napa Valley, Sonoma Valley and Sonoma Coast. If you visit the property you will see its elevation changes. Parts of Rhinefarm are hilly and parts are flat. The land is cooled by the coastal influences of the San Pablo Bay from the south and Pacific breezes through the Petaluma Gap on the west. This cool climate allows for slow ripening and more complexity, structure, and overall more control of the outcome of the harvest. If you’d like to see an interactive map of the vineyards you can click here and congratulations, you have completely geeked out (but that’s a good thing!!)
I wanted to share a little history of the winery because I think it is so interesting. During our visit we tasted the wines listed below, and were hosted by a tasting associate named Ronni, who literally told us everything I wrote about in the paragraphs above and had the whole story committed to memory. If you get stuck with her for a tasting, you’re in for a treat.
Artist Nate Reifke came to Gundlach Bundschu Winery to help turn a rusted 1953 International panel truck that had been collecting weeds in Huichica Creek on Rhinefarm for four decades into a centerpiece at the entrance to the winery.
If you plan on visiting, there are even different tours you can experience. There are the Pinzgauer Tour (aboard a 12-person, 6-wheeled, Austrian Army Vehicle), the Cave Tour, the Heritage Experience, the Vista Courtyard and the Historic Tasting Room options from which to choose. (We enjoyed the historic tasting room option.)
Sacramento Hotel Association Fundraiser Farm-to-Fork Fall Fundraiser set for September 29th at Hyatt Regency Sacramento
The Board of Directors of the Sacramento Hotel Association is proud to announce that the Association is expanding its community service activities with a new fundraiser as part of its program: The Hospitality Industry Helping in the Community. For 2016, the new fall fundraiser—set for September 29 at the Hyatt Regency Sacramento—will benefit two local organizations that work with youth in our community.
• Festive Farm-to-Fork Food Stations from local hotels and restaurants
• Craft Beer Tastings from local brewers
• Wine Tastings from area vintners
• Silent Auction of delightful gifts and prize packages
• Musical Entertainment
Tickets—$35 plus processing fee per person Buy your tickets HERE.
About the Beneficiary Organizations
SkateMD is a nonprofit with a mission to heal hearts by spreading kindness and skateboarding to special populations of children facing developmental, physical, emotional or family challenges. SkateMD serves special populations of children who may not otherwise be able to pursue skateboarding, who may not have easy access to skateboard equipment or facilities, and/or who just need some extra kindness in their lives.
Sacramento Sheriff’s Toy Project functions as the charitable arm of the Sacramento Sheriff’s Department. The Sheriff’s Toy Project is a year-round program supporting the less fortunate children and families in the Sacramento area. They support area schools with after-school programs, school supplies, computers, clothing, shoes, jackets, bikes for transportation, summer kid’s camps and support scholarships for college-bound students.
Andy and I will be there to cover the event, so I hope to see you there!
Join us on Saturday, October 1st, 2016 from noon to 4:00pm for the Downtown Truckee Wine, Walk & Shop. This annual event brings nearly 1,000 local and visiting participants to sip wine and sample local food tastings while enjoying shopping in historic downtown Truckee.
Over the past 13 years, the event has donated more than $25,000 to local non-profit organizations. Some of our past partners include: Tahoe Safe Alliance, Girls on the Run, The Humane Society of Truckee-Tahoe and Sierra Senior Services. This year our partners are Tahoe Food Hub as well as Big Brothers Big Sisters of Nevada County and North Lake Tahoe
Attendees will receive a commemorative wine glass to sample wine at 30+ venues as well as five food tickets and a map to all participating venues. Get ready to wine, walk and shop!
If you’re a first time attendee, here are some helpful hints to ensure the best experience!
1. Plan Your Route
Four hours may seem like plenty of time to peruse downtown but you will be surprised by how many friendly faces there are to chat with, unique finds to shop for and wines to try. Make sure to take a minute after check-in to look at the map and make note of any wine, food or stores you want to see.
2. Don’t Skip Lunch
Admission to the event includes five food tickets that can be exchanged for food samples at various locations. The food can range from a savory gourmet bite to a more substantial item. Make sure to stop by your favorites early in the event; food has been known to run out.
3. Savor and Sip
Some wineries bring one or two varietals, some may bring five or more so there can be more than 90 different wines to try with no limit on tastings. Need help remembering that incredible Malbec or crisp Sauv Blanc? Ask the wine representative for a cork so your favorite wine shop knows what you’re looking for.
4. Plan Your Ride
Whatever you do, don’t drink and drive. The event contracts with High Sierra Taxi, which gives attendees free rides within town limits during the event and for Reno residents, there’s the Bliss Babe Bus.
Bliss Babe Magazine, Roundabout Grill and Reno Tahoe Limousine have partnered to offer an incredible package deal. For $65, attendees will start their day with mimosas, bloody mary’s and pastries at Roundabout Grill, located in Whitney Peak Hotel in downtown Reno and then ride up to Truckee in style. The package also includes advanced VIP check-in, exclusive gifts from Bliss Babe and a ride back to Reno at the end of the event.
The Downtown Truckee Wine Walk & Shop, benefiting Tahoe Food Hub and Big Brothers Big Sisters of North Lake Tahoe and Nevada County, returns Saturday, Oct. 1 from noon to 4 p.m. Tickets can be purchased in advance for $40 or day of for $45. CLICK HERE to purchase tickets. Hope to see you there!
I have never experienced such an interesting wine tasting as the one I’m going to feature in this blog post. For a few years now, we have worked with HALL Wines and attended their events at the winery such as the Annual Cabernet Cookoff Fundraiser and the Kathryn Hall Cabernet Release Parties. We were first introduced to WALT Wines at one of the HALL events (Walt is owned by Vintners Kathryn Walt Hall and Craig Hall), and WALT was also at the Pinot on the River event we attended 2 years ago in Healdsburg.
Since then, both WALT Chardonnay and Pinot Noir have been on my list of wines I would recommend if you are a fan of either varietal, but I never got a chance to visit the tasting room or learn more about the wines they make until a few weekends ago when Andy and I were invited to participate in a new food and wine pairing/tasting called Root 101.
Root 101 examines one Chardonnay and five Pinot Noirs by appellation (geographical region where the grapes were grown). These different appellations can inflect various characteristics in the wine, even though it is the same varietal.
Even though the Root 101 tasting focuses on one Chardonnay and five Pinot Noirs, it should be noted that WALT actually makes 12 different Pinot Noirs, 3 Chardonnays, and 1 Rosé of Pinot Noir and sources their grapes from the Sonoma Coast, Los Carneros, Sta. Rita Hills, Santa Lucia Highlands, Anderson Valley, and Willamette Valley appellations.
Not only does the Root 101 tasting showcase a variety of distinct single vineyard wines from regional appellations, the experience comes paired with seasonal bites from Sonoma eatery “the girl & the fig.”
Our tasting was led by Chris Brock, a truly knowledgeable host and wine educator. Before coming to work in the WALT tasting room, he had served a number of years as a sommelier. We were lucky to have him to ourselves, because that would allow Andy and I to get super wine nerdy without boring other guests.
First Chris would introduce the food pairings and tell us we were free to nibble on the food and taste the wines throughout his commentary.
A. Duck liver mousse crostini with Pinot Noir shallots
B. Comte with roasted beet
C. Hot-smoked salmon with créme fraiche and chives
D. Mushroom flan with smoked Shitake mushrooms
E. Terrine with pistachios
F. Truffled Pecorino
Now that we were familiar with what we would be eating (and warned to avoid the truffled pecorino until the end because of its very strong presence on the palate), we were ready to taste and learn about the wines.
First up was the sole Chardonnay of the Root 101 tasting. The Bob’s Ranch Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County. It is luscious and full and it is the most expensive of the three Chardonnays available at WALT. The richness of the wine no doubt comes from the sandy and well draining soils that impart stress on the vines. It has just the right balance of oak and fruit. At the tasting I was thrown off a little because this Chardonnay almost stole the show (we were at a primarily Pinot Noir tasting of course) with its floral and fruit and soft vanilla (still a powerful wine) without being all heavy butter and oak.
The First Pinot Noir of the tasting was the Savoy Vineyard Pinot Noir sourced from Anderson Valley. The Savoy was something I would describe as Burgundian––less fruit and more earth and mineral notes present in the wine. The Savoy Vineyard is the northernmost vineyard in California from which WALT sources their Pinot, however, there is also the even further north Shea Vineyard in the Willamette Valley (Oregon), where WALT sources grapes for another Pinot which we did not taste that day. I appreciated the omission, because it seemed more appropriate to taste just WALT‘s Pinot Noirs sourced from California and juxtapose their terroirs to examine how vast their differences can be.
The second Pinot Noir we tried was the Pinpoint Extreme, also sourced from Alexander Valley, but from The Corners Vineyard. Interestingly, the letters in Pinpoint Extreme can be reorganized to form the words “Pinot Experiment”. A fitting name because this Pinot Noir is a wine that is a deliberate nod to cutting edge winemaking. It is non-formuliac and is guaranteed to be different from vintage to vintage.
And speaking of cutting edge, I wanted to mention the fantastic rebranding I have seen at Walt Wines. I asked about the logo change and our host Chris explaned that the older logos were similar to HALL Wines in color and at first WALT was sort of housed under the HALL label. More recently, WALT has established a name of its own, and therefore the new logo. The logo is a two-colored “W” with the mainly color being a dark blue, and features a different highlight color from bottle to bottle. The highlight color is actually color coded to reflect each vineyard from which the grapes were sourced.
For instance, the Shea Vineyard, Willamette Valley has an olive green highlight. The Anderson Valley wines have a light blue highlight on their “W”. Wines from the Sonoma County Vineyards are highlighted in yellow. Carneros has an orange highlight, and the Central Coast wines have a “W” highlighted in red.
I have been in graphic design for over 15 years, and I am in love with this style of branding, so if I am getting off track in describing the wines, I apologize. I just really like the color coding and think it’s a great learning tool in identifying the differences in appellations.
Moving on, our next wine to taste was my favorite of all, the Gap’s Crown, from Sonoma Coast. The Gap’s Crown had all my favorite characteristics. Medium to high acidity, jammy, ruby fruit and a tad bit of forest floor. Most of the acidity and fruit-forwardness in the wine comes from the vineyard being stressed during its growth. The fog and strong winds and intermittent bright afternoon sunshine are typical for this part of Sonoma County and the Petaluma Gap, and almost always (in my opinion) make for a Pinot Noir packed with personality.
Next up was the wine that happened to be Andy’s favorite, the Sierra Mar, sourced from the Santa Lucia Highlands. Sierra Mar translates to “mountain sea” in English, appropos
for an area with an extreme mountain coastal terroir. The Walt Sierra Mar has more of a smoky presence which most likely originates from the granite and gravely soils the vines grow in. The smoke characteristic along with acidity is Andy’s favorite in a Pinot Noir, and it lends itself to be a very good food pairing wine, especially with foods that also smell/taste earthy. I’m talking about beets, mushrooms, and even salmon, for it has the presence of the sea that pairs with the slight salinity in the wine.
We ended up buying a three year vertical of the Sierra Mar, as Chris was gracious to allow us to sample the newest release and included a previous release. I am already looking forward to opening them all at a time, along with enjoying a meal I have created specifically to pair with the wines.
We ended our tasting with the WALT Clos Pepe Pinot Noir, sourced from Clos Pepe, a 29-acre vineyard in the Santa Rita Hills near Santa Barbara, because it had the most heft. These are the kinds of Pinot Noirs that are pairable with even richer foods, such as the truffled pecorino we had on our appetizer plate. I would call the Clos Pepe slighly brooding, yet refined. There’s full fruit and minerality present like in the wines before it, it’s just a little more melodramatic.
Andy and I both truly savored this opportunity to try so many of the Pinot Noirs in WALT‘s library. The Chardonnay was definitely the icing on the cake and we definitely purchased a few bottles of that, too.
Since place is so important in the outcome of a wine (the point of the tasting), here’s an appellation map so you can see the areas I have discussed where Walt sources their grapes.
About the winemaker: Megan Gunderson Paredes is the winemaker at both WALT and HALL wines. Megan possesses degrees in both Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics, and the knowledge of these subjects lend themselves to the scientific aspects of winemaking.
Root 101 is offered daily at 11am & 2pm. The Experience is by reservation only and lasts approximately 60 minutes. It is $60 per person and $40 per person for wine club members. To reserve the Root 101 experience, please call Thrace at (707) 933-4440 ext 3102 or email tbromberger(at)waltwines.com. You can also specifically book a Root 101 tasting by clicking here.
It was a tasty scene for fans of food, wine, beer and spirits August 25 – 28, 2016 at Eat Drink SF. The event was held at Fort Mason in San Francisco.
Andy and I attended on the last day of the event on a Sunday afternoon and were introduced to some restaurants we had never tried, as well as a few new wines. There were also some familiar vendors, as Sunday was the “Legacy Grand Tasting” featuring San Francisco eateries that have stood the test of time.
Almost immediately after we arrived, we heard about a “beverage classroom” presented by San Francisco Wine School. The first presentation was on the Wines of Portugal. It was officially titled ViniPortugal. Since we are always looking to broaden our knowledge of wine, we decided to sit in on the seminar & tasting.
It was led by the founder of San Francisco Wine School, David Glancy. Glancy is one of only twelve people in the world to hold both the revered Master Sommelier diploma and a Certified Wine Educator credential.
The tasting was a very worthwhile experience, and a chance to get to know a little bit more on the wines of Portugal as well as a little bit about the San Francisco Wine School, which currently offers 65 different wine education classes.
Of course, we were also there to eat. Some of my favorite bites were as follows:
Nectarines wrapped in speck from Tosca Cafe.
A caprese salad on a stick.
This Lahmbiajeen (Arabic for “Meat in Dough”) It is fresh baked flatbread with housemade tomato beef sauce, labneh parsley and lemon zest from Reem’s.
And my food favorite item was this pintxo from Teleferic Barcelona. Pintxo is a Basque word that means “skewer.” This particular pintxo is called a Torito (bull). It has xistorra (spanish chorizo), natural honey and manchego cheese and it is wrapped in puff pastry with dulce de leche.
This smoked salmon bite was Scoma’s featured dish, and a favorite of Andy’s.
Now, back to drinking. There was much to choose from. We didn’t taste any beer, but if you are a beer or cider lover, Stella Artois, Stella Artois Cidre (that IS how it is spelled), and Gowan’s Heirloom Cider had you covered.
One of the beverage highlights for me was this Whispering Angel Rose made primarily from Grenache, Vermentino, and Cinsault. A big reason I am a rose fan is because it is a wine that can pair with many different kinds of food.
Beaulieu Vineyards was at the event pouring both their classic Tapestry (a Bordeaux blend) and the Georges De Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. It was a treat to taste these wines, because we know their retail value. Tapestry is around $50 and the Georges De Latour is around $100 per bottle. I actually buy Andy a bottle of the Tapestry as one of his Christmas gifts every year.
There were also cocktails featured at Eat Drink SF, and my favorite was this one at the Hangar Vodka booth. It is a combination of grapefruit, elderflower, sage and sparkling wine.
I love the inspiration I get at tasting events like these and the enthusiasm I see from all the chefs, sous chefs, cooks, bartenders, and tasting room associates. It’s a joy to have another excuse to come into the city and visit Fort Mason and drive over the Golden Gate Bridge. I only wished we could stay a little longer!
Eat Drink SF supports the Golden Gate Restaurant Association Scholarship Foundation. The foundation grants financial scholarships to students from the Bay Area entering culinary and hospitality programs. Golden Gate Restaurant Association‘s mission is to celebrate and empower the restaurant community through advocacy, education, marketing, events and training.
To see more images from the event, you can head over to their Flickr page here.
Care Begins with Me, Sacramento’s premier annual health and lifestyle event focusing on inspiration and connection, will take place this year on Tuesday, October 4th, 2016 from 5-9pm at the Sheraton Grand Hotel.
Guests will have the opportunity to attend care talks with Dignity Health doctors and hear from our featured keynote speaker Kimberly Williams-Paisley. There will also be a lifestyle, fashion, and beauty galleria, along with gourmet food and drinks.
Looks like a lot of fun!
Tickets to the event are $20 for a Care Begins with Me member and $25 dollars for a Care Begins with Me non-member.
To register for Care Begins with Me, click here.
You can find the Care Begins with Me event page on Facebook here. Register and let all your friends know you’re going! See you there.🙂
I can’t believe it’s been five years since I met Andy at the Curtis Park Wine Tasting and now we live here in Curtis Park together. We are really looking forward to taking our annual walk over to the Sierra 2 Center in a few weeks to enjoy food, wine and friends.🙂 If you’d like to read how we met at this event, you can click HERE.
I am happy to share information on this event (which happens to be one of the BEST food and wine tastings of the year in Sacramento) put together by the Sierra 2 Center and I hope you will join us for the 26th Annual Curtis Park Wine Tasting! -cg
The 2016 Curtis Park Wine Tasting, Silent Auction & Beer Garden Event promises to be one of the best ever! In it’s 26th year, the event boasts more than 20 of the best restaurants in Sacramento, more than 50 wineries, and the always popular Beer Garden orchestrated by Pangaea Bier Cafe & Bottleshop. We will have special demonstrations by culinary students of American River College and Oak Cafe along with hundreds of silent auction and raffle items.
The annual Curtis Park Wine Tasting, Silent Auction & Beer Garden Event is the largest fundraising event for the Sierra 2 Center and Sierra Curtis Neighborhood Association. Proceeds from the event help us fund artistic, cultural, educational and recreational activities at Sierra 2 Center and throughout Sacramento, including the operations of the Senior Center and community building events. Additional beneficiaries of this event include Bret Harte Elementary School and C.K. McClatchy High School. The event’s success helps fund many different important community activities.
Online ticket sales will close at 11:59pm on Oct. 5. After Oct. 5: $60 all. REGISTER FOR TICKETS HERE.
Online tickets available until 11:59pm, Oct. 5. After Oct. 5, tickets available at Sierra 2 Center office and at the door the day of the event. Tickets are also available for purchase by visiting the Sierra 2 Center office at 2791 24th Street or by calling 916-452-3005 prior to 5:00 p.m. Friday, October 7, 2016. Tickets will also be available for purchase at the door prior to the event.
10 Tasting Room Tips for the Aspiring Wine Lover
No matter if you are new to wine or wine tasting, or if you visit tasting rooms often, it’s useful to remind ourselves of good etiquette and read up on ways to improve your experience. Whether you are a first time visitor to a winery, or if you know enough about wine to impress your friends, this list of tips is for you!
1. Avoid wearing heavy cologne/perfume/body spray.
This is without a doubt the number one tip. When you are tasting wines, you need the ability to smell what is in your glass without any interference. A key factor in tasting a wine (as it is in tasting food) is smelling it. Many wines have floral, herbal, spicy characteristics that can be masked when a stronger scent is present, so it’s important that the wine is the only thing you can smell! If you must wear a cologne, apply it at least 2-3 hours before you plan to head to the tasting room. P.S.: Do wear deodorant, but make it unscented if possible.
2. Wine with friends!
Wine is always more fun with friends! Groups of 2-4 people work really well for a number of reasons:
A. 2-4 people do not overwhelm a tasting room associate like a larger group might. Imagine if a bus load of people all arrive at the same time and the craziness that would ensue.
B. A group of 2-4 is bound to have different opinions on what they thought of the wines. One person might hate something that you loved, but that is totally OK! Learn to discuss the wines and get different perspectives at the end of the day.
3. Take a photo of your favorites!
Sometimes you might not be in a traditional tasting room, but at an event where there are nearly hundreds of wines being presented. Maybe there is not an opportunity to purchase the wine at the tasting, but there will be at a later time. This is the perfect opportunity to whip out the camera or cell phone and snap a picture of what you loved so you can make it a part of your cellar later on!
4. Take notes.
Remember when we used something called a pen and paper? Jot down your favorite wines if you don’t have a camera. Write down what you liked about a wine or what it brings to mind. If the tasting room associate says something important (like a food pairing or their recipe for meatballs) get that on paper, too! The most important thing is to document your experience, because most of us have been on tastings and have forgotten parts of them.
5. Use the dump bucket.
But not like that. Part of why we sometimes can’t remember what we tasted is because we have not used the dump bucket to its full potential. The plastic or metal container sitting on the bar beside the wines is there for a reason. So you can taste and spit and keep a sound mind. By all means, taste as many wines as you can, but don’t feel obligated to drink the entire pour. Keep your taste buds refreshed so you can still distinguish wines even if you are at your 3rd or 4th stop. Additionally, a winery is really the only place where spitting in public is NOT frowned upon, so sometimes I have a smaller cup I spit into and then pour it into the main dump bucket, so I am not directly spitting into the bucket. Trust me, I have seen this technique go awry and the liquid ricochet into the spitter’s face when they spat into a mostly full bucket. And they were wearing a white shirt. Not pretty.
6. Get your taste, then step aside for the next person in line.
Be aware of others around you who might be thirsty. It’s really rude to monopolize a tasting room associate when there are other people behind you waiting to taste the long awaited release of Matchbook Arsonist Chardonnay. You can always get back in line for another taste, but don’t just stand there like an oaf and prevent someone from getting one! (I am only 5’1″ tall and have been corkblocked many times!)
7. Ask questions.
Tasting room employees are not there to intimidate you. They are there to share information with you and to hopefully sell you tons of wine and maybe convince you to join their wine club. Ask questions about the wine. Ask about wine in general. Ask about the wine club. Ask about the perks of the club. Joining a wine club might be a great deal of savings to you if you like the winery and the wines they make. Sometimes wineries through big parties during releases of a particular varietal they make and the parties are for wine club members only. PS: Do ask questions, but adhere to rule #6 and do step aside as to no monopolize the tasting room associate so others can taste/ask questions, too.
8. Plan your day ahead of time.
Plan to visit 2-3 wineries maximum and spend quality time at each. Most tasting rooms have put time and effort into making their property somewhere you might like to be for while (maybe even all day). Visit the winery website (almost all of them have some sort of web and social media presence) before your visit, and learn about what makes the winery you choose unique. Some wineries have food and wine pairings/tastings. Some have live music or get food trucks to come by to provide food for purchase. If you like food and music (like I do) those are the most attractive! If you do find a winery with musical entertainment, there will also be comedic entertainment by someone who has had a little too much to drink and has decided to bust out some awesome dance moves!
9. Pack snacks and water!
So if the places at which you are tasting do not offer food, call them and see if you can bring food, more appropriately snacks to the tasting room or winery grounds. I am not talking about getting a Domino’s pizza and having it delivered to the winery, or rolling up a Weber BBQ next to the bar, but I do suggest calling the winery ahead of time and asking them if it is OK if you bring cheese, crackers, dried fruit, etc. with you. Sometimes there might be food sold on the premises, and in that case outside food might be frowned upon. In all cases it is best to call the particular winery ahead of time and ask. If you are bringing something to snack on, keep it classy and bring in a nice picnic basket or small cooler. Water is a no-brainer when it comes to drinking and helps prevent a hangover if you do accidentally overindulge.
10. Buy at least one bottle of wine from each place you visit.
You don’t have to always follow this rule, but it’s just good practice. When you buy a bottle of wine after a tasting, almost always the tasting room will refund your tasting fee. It’s a very strategic move especially in places that charge more than $10 for a tasting. At the very least you get to take home a memento from where you have been that day.
And it’s always nice to have a souvenir from a great trip you had. When you open the wine, you can relive your tasting room visit all over again. Invite your friends over (if you have not gravely embarrassed them from the winery visit and they are still speaking to you) and have a great dinner built around the wine. There are recipes all over the internet geared to almost any common varietal you can buy.
Hopefully my tips have prepared you for your next visit to wine country! Cheers!
The Sacramento Greek Festival is back this Labor Day weekend and will be celebrating its 53rd anniversary!
Come experience the culture, traditions and fabulous food of Greece right here in Sacramento. All of the food at the festival is homemade by volunteers and is derived from authentic recipes passed down through generations directly from the Greek Mediterranean.
The food menu includes classics like:
- Pitas – traditional tiropita (feta) or spanakopita (spinach & feta).
- Saganaki – flamed kefalograviera cheese with a hint of lemon and brandy.
- Loukaniko – traditional spiced Greek sausage, served with pita bread.
- New Loukaniko – sausage with mountain feta and Kalamata olives, served with pita bread.
- Keftethes – Greek meatballs with tzatziki (cucumber, garlic, and yogurt sauce) and pita bread.
- Gyro – savory slices of lean beef cradled in pita bread, topped with onions, tomatoes, and tzatziki sauce.
- Calamari – seasoned strips of crispy fried calamari.
In the dining court there will be:
- Spanakopita – phyllo dough filled with herb seasoned spinach and a blend of cheeses
- Tiropita – cheese puff triangles made with a blend of cheeses, eggs and seasons wrapped in buttered phyllo dough.
- Fasolakia – tender green beans baked with potatoes, tomatoes, onions, herbs, olive oil and seasonings.
- Beef Dolmathes – grape leaves stuffed with rice, ground beef and seasonings.
- Vegetarian Dolmathes – grape leaves stuffed with rice and seasonings.
- Pilafi – rice flavored with butter and lemon juice..
- “The Old Spaghetti Factory” Spaghetti – with browned butter and Mizithra cheese
- Kota Psiti (a la carte) – Baked chicken basted with lemon juice and Greek oregano.
- Horiatiki Salad – traditional village salad made with fresh veggies, Kalamata olives, feta cheese, olive oil, and seasonings.
- Pastitsio – macaroni layered with Greek seasoned beef and cheeses, topped with a creamy Bechamel sauce.
- Roast Lamb (a la carte) – dinner sized portion of the all famous Greek-seasoned lamb.
- Moussaka – layers of eggplant and Greek-seasoned ground beef topped with a creamy Bechamel sauce.
- Shrimp Santorini (Friday only) – shrimp in a tasty sauce with feta cheese and herbs with Pilafi and Fasolakia.
- Stifado Dinner (Saturday only) – a popular and uniquely spiced beef stew with cloves and cinnamon, originating from the island of Cyprus. Served with Pilafi and Fasolakia.
Beverages include Kafeneion (Greek Coffee), Greek Wines and Beer, as well as water and soda. A full menu can be viewed here.
There are also several activities planned during the festival. There will be live music, dancing lessons, choir presentations, and the famous festival raffle. In addition there will be cooking demos and a few eating contests! For a full schedule of events each day, you can click here!
The hours of the festival are as follows: Friday 11am-11pm, Saturday 12pm-11pm, and Sunday 12pm-9pm.
Price of admission is as follows: General $5, Senior $4, and Children (Under Age 12) Free. On Friday (9/3) from 11am-3pm admission is FREE. The price includes admission only. Food and drink are an extra charge and the price varies for each item. The Sacramento Convention Center is located at 1400 J Street, Sacramento, CA, 95814
By Andy Harris
Opening night of the 2016 Wine Bloggers’ Conference kicked off at Mohr-Fry Ranches, with locally catered food and live music by Snap Jackson & The Knock On Wood Players, a bluegrass band. All in the backyard of fourth-generation Lodi grape farmers Bruce and Peggy Fry. Coincidentally, the Frys were not only hosting this party, but celebrating their 53rd wedding anniversary. But, let’s not forget the purpose of this gathering: Wine!
Multiple tasting booths were set up in a semi-circle in the Fry’s backyard, with many familiar wineries represented. Fields Family Wines, St. Amant Winery and Turley Wine Cellars were in attendance, and they are very well regarded as being among many area wineries leading a renaissance in Sacramento Valley wine making. But I was out to try something different. Maybe something I’d heard of before, but did not really know that much about.
I had heard and read about Harney Lane Winery, and was anxious to try a tasting of what they were pouring. I also wanted to get the back story on when and how the winery was established. It turns out that this winery is only in its eleventh year, having first tried their hand at making wine with their 2006 vintage. The owners, Kyle and Jorja Lerner, told me that Jorja’s great-great grandfather bought land in Lodi in 1907 and started farming grapes, which he sold to others for wine production. Up until 2006, the Lerners were doing the same, but never producing their own wine. Then that all changed…
Their line-up of wines at this event started with a very crisp and fruity 2015 Albarino. This one won a silver medal in the 2016 California State Fair wine competition, and definitely lives up to its billing. It won’t break the bank for $20.00.
Next up was their 2013 Tempranillo. At 15% alcohol, it was a big, tannic wine, but not overpowering. At $26.00 a bottle, it certainly won’t overpower your bank account. Probably slightly more costly than typical Tempranillos, but try it and you’ll see why. I believe this one will improve with age. It was awarded Double Gold, best Tempranillo, 2016 San Francisco International Wine Competition.
Last but not least were a duo of Zinfandels that I believe represents what is unique and wonderful about Lodi Zinfandels. First up was their 2012 Estate Zinfandel. This one was aged 21 months in American Oak, and comes in at 15.5% alcohol, but doesn’t taste even slightly hot. This one has the distinctive Lodi spice and fruit, and is very competitively priced at $22.00 per bottle. It is also an award winner, garnering a Silver Medal at the 2015 California State Fair Wine Competition.
Then I sampled the 2013 Lizzy James Vineyard Old Vine Zinfandel. Lizzy James is a 20-acre plot of land that is so special, the Lerner’s named it after their children, Kirsten Elizabeth and Ian James. The property is within the Mokelumne River Sub Appellation which is characterized by its deep sandy soils, common for the Lodi region. Also at 15.5% alcohol and aged in American oak for 21 months, this is a wine of uncharacteristic complexity and power derived from 109 year-old vines. Definitely the best wine I tried that evening, and possibly the top wine of the entire conference. Somewhat more costly than your average Lodi wine, but at $36.00, still a relative bargain as compared to Napa wines twice the price. This wine won a significant award at this year’s California State Fair Wine Competition, a Double Gold, Best of Class of Region. Only 650 cases produced, so get some before they run out! Visit Harney Lane Winery & Vineyards at harneylane.com.
WBC16’s Saturday night dinner party was aptly named Dinner With Lodi Wine. And that it was. But before I start talking about the wine we shared that night, let me tip my hat to local Sacramento restaurant South. South is a downtown Sacramento establishment specializing in barbeque, and they were the caterers for this special dinner. They prepared an outstanding three-course dinner to pair with typically-hardy Lodi wines. The huge conference hall at Hutchins Street Square was divided into several round dining tables with each table hosted by a different Lodi winery.
Kristy DeVaney and I had the distinct pleasure of sharing dinner and wine with Cassandra Durst of Durst Winery & Estate. She shared her wines with us and we sat right by her at our table. We also sat with Neal and Alyse of Winery Wanderings. I had never heard of Durst, which is not surprising, as the number of wineries in Lodi have gone from 30 to about 200 in the last 15 years. At this point, I can’t keep track!
The first course was a fantastic kale salad paired with their 2015 Albarino, which was very crisp and fruity with just the right balance of acid. This is an outstanding summer wine at only 13.4% alcohol.
Next up was the main course, which was actually five different items, highlighted by a chili rubbed pork loin and dry rubbed smoked brisket with garlic mashed potatoes and baby carrots. The three cheese macaroni and cheese topped with breadcrumbs is something I avoid because of wheat, but it was offered. (Kristy and I shared a gluten free pasta dish instead, which is pictured below). This course was paired with the fantastic Durst Winery 2013 Fairbanks Blend. This wine was 56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 41% Malbec and 3% Petit Verdot for added structure. At 14.8% alcohol and aged in American oak for 18 months, this is a perfect pairing for barbeque.With smooth tannins and a peppery nose, this was a truly excellent wine.
Finally, it was time for dessert. This was a treat for me, as I don’t normally have dessert. But the wine pairings were too good to ignore, so I gave them a try. Featured were 2013 Durst Winery Amada Mia White Blend and 2014 Durst Winery Amada Mia Red Blend. These wines were paired with an excellent brown sugar cinnamon streusel with whipped cream. I liked it so much, I ate mine and Kristy’s!
Amada Mia is in reference to the house at the 90 year-old vineyard in nearby Acampo that was scheduled for demolition before Dan and Cassandra Durst rescued and restored it to its former glory. Along with the house, they also restored adjoining 50-acre vineyard which had fallen into complete neglect. Now, after years of hard work, they are making some of the best wine in the Lodi area. Visit them at durstwinery.com.
These are only two examples of the passion of the wine makers who make Lodi such a unique region. In every tasting room you will find wine makers who farm the land and take the big risks to put something special in your bottle. Enjoy!
You can find Harney Lane Winery online here, find them on Facebook here, and follow them on Twitter here. They also have an Instagram account you can follow here and if you are into Pinterest, you will find them here.