Category Archives: Grapes

Blessing of the Grapes in Livermore Valley

Grapes are getting ready at Garré Winery.

Grapes are getting ready at Garré Winery.

This week I attended the annual Blessing of the Grapes in Livermore Valley. The event was held at Garré Winery.

Blessing of the Grapes ceremony in Livermore Valley

Blessing of the Grapes ceremony in Livermore Valley

Up front for the event were, left to right,

Rabbi Larry Milder, Congregation Beth Emek, Pleasanton
Father Mark Wiesner, St. Charles Borromeo, Livermore
Chris Chandler, Executive Direction, Livermore Valley Winegrowers Assocation
Pastor Steve Wilde, First Presbyterian Church, Livermore
Gina Molinaro-Cardera, Garré Winery

Pastor Wilde talked about the need for help from above for a successful harvest: sun, soil, rain and more all need to come together for the grapes to grow.

Father Wiesner talked about the many connections between grapes, wine and the Catholic faith.

Rabbi Milder pointed out that Noah is the first person to plant grapes and make wine (Genesis 9:20-21). He also told us about the Jewish prayer for wine, which essentially thanks G-d for creating the fruit of the vine. Finally, he led us in the traditional Jewish toast, “L’Chaim”, which means To Life.



I hadn’t been to Garré in a few years. It has always been a nice place to visit, especially for lunch, since they have a nice café. They also have bocce courts, which are fun for adults and good to keep kids entertained. They also have recently built a new event center. We had Garré wine as part of the event, and it seems to me that we should go back for a more formal tasting at the winery.

Also, the next major event in the Livermore Valley is the Harvest Wine Celebration, taking place over Labor Day Weekend. If you’re around, this is a great way to spend a day. Wineries will have their wines for tasting, and also fresh food vendors, local artisans and music. You do need a ticket; best to purchase online from the Livermore Valley Winegrowers Association.



Petite Sirah stains my thumbs!

It took over 24 hours to get the wine stains out of my right thumb after attending a Petite Sirah lunch and wine tasting last week.  If you don’t already know, Petite Sirah is a very dark and robust grape that is made into a very dark and robust wine.  Some people get confused in thinking that the Petite Sirah grape is just a smaller Syrah grape.  That is wrong.  It is its own varietal from a little grown French vine called Peloursin, and Syrah, but the name of Petite Sirah has become attached to several different grape varieties all of which have been traditionally planted together in California.  This varietal has been talked about in California wine literature as far back as 1880.  Petite Sirah produces a savory, almost meaty character and dense blackberry fruit.  Its powerful style has long made it a useful blending wine, especially for Zinfandel.  The Petite Sirah wine is often age worthy, lasting up to 20 years in the bottle.  It’s best known for growing in Mendocino and Sonoma County, and Livermore Valley in California.  It is also grown in Argentina and Brazil where unirrigated vineyards of often very old vines produce wines of considerable depth, backbone and brutal power.

One of the lead wineries in the Livermore Valley producing great Petite Sirah is Concannon Winery.  This is where the event was held.  John Concannon, who is the president of the Petite Sirah (P.S.) I Love You advocacy organization, was the host of this event.  It started out that morning with a symposium on Petite Sirah with over 100 interested members attending.  The symposium went on for about 3 hours.  When it broke, lunch was served.

We had a delicious lunch sitting under the grape arbor outside the Concannon Winery and tasting room.  Lunch started with a couple passed appetizers; one was a crostini with Brie and pancetta.  Another was duck confit wrapped in a very small tortilla.  The first course was a delicious heirloom tomato salad served with fresh mozzarella cheese and basil with balsamic vinegar and local olive oil drizzled over the top.  That was served with a Concannon 2009 Pinot Grigio from the Central Coast region.  The main course was then served.  It was a beautiful plate consisting of two small wooden skewers.  On one skewer was fish and shrimp, on the other was sausage, chicken and beef.  This was served on top of Israeli couscous, garbanzo beans, white raisins and some grilled vegetables.  To go with this course we drank Concannon 2007 Petite Sirah, Livermore Valley.  The dessert course was served in a martini glass on a plate.  It was mixed berries such as blackberries and raspberries in a white chocolate raspberry sauce, served with a dollop of whipped cream and a cookie.  Lunch was supposed to last one hour, but it went about 1 ½ hours.  Very lovely.  We sat at a table, which had winemaker Vic, and wife Beth Edwards of Edwards Vineyard and Cellars from the Ramona Valley of San Diego County.  They produce Petite Sirah and Cabernet Sauvignon.  We also sat near winemaker Kristoff Paubert of Stags Leap Winery in Napa and their P.R. manager Carrie.

After lunch we all went into the barrel room where about 40 wineries were pouring their Petite Sirah.  This is a big challenge, as I explained above to you, Petite Sirah is a robust wine and gives great pucker power.  I find it difficult to taste without having a cracker in between each glass or some chocolate to compliment it.  Before the end of my tasting experience and my tongue was reminiscent of my cat’s tongue.  I enjoyed some very good Petite Sirah.  Of course there was Concannon, who were pouring their 2007 Reserve Captain Joe’s Petite Sirah, which honors the founder James Concannon’s son, affectionately known as Captain Joe because of his service in the First Cavalry.  This wine is composed from estate lots and blended with a small amount of Syrah for balance.  They were also pouring their 2007 Reserve Nina’s Cuvee Petite Sirah.  This bottle honors their founder’s daughter-in-law, Giovanina Ferrario Concannon, who came from Italy to visit California in 1919.  These grapes were planted almost 40 years ago; they have a low yield, small berries, dense flavors and unique maturity profiles.  Both of these are bottled in a special bottle where there is a glass design of the gates to the winery.

Some of the other Petite Sirah’s I enjoyed were:
–  Grizzly Republic Winery out of Paso Robles – 2007   
–  Jazz Cellars, San Francisco – 2006 Mendocino
–  Esoterica, Napa Valley – 2007 Rutherford
–  Edwards Vineyards & Cellars, San Diego County – 2005 Ramona Valley
–  Crooked Vines Winery, Livermore Valley – 2007 Del Arroyo
–  Cinnabar Winery, Santa Clara County – 2007 Clarksburg
–  Robert Biale Vineyards, Napa – 2008 Napa

After a great afternoon of eating, drinking and schmoozing, it all came to an end.  But the good thing was that my right thumb, no matter how many times I washed it, was stained for the next 24 hours from the little bit of wine that got on the wine glass after pouring out my tastes.

My suggestion to you is to go and get a few bottles of Petite Sirah from the three different regions of California that I mentioned.  Open them all up and serve a nice heavy dish such as duck, eggplant Parmesan, or a very hearty tri-tip.  Try the wines with the meal, but leave some for dessert.  For dessert you should have either a chocolate torte or chocolate truffles and please drink the wine with dessert.  You will be amazed!  Let me know which wines you tried and what you ate with it. ☺