Category Archives: wineries

Wine Bloggers Conference 2014

We are getting ready for another road trip. This time we are heading down south to Buellton which is in Santa Barbara County. It’s about 1/2 hour north from Santa Barbara. We are heading there specifically to attend the Wine Bloggers Conference 2014, #wbc14. We went to the first and second wine bloggers conference when they were held up in Santa Rosa. The first year, 2009, they concentrated on the wines from Sonoma County and in 2010 they concentrated on the wines from Napa Valley. We had so much fun and met so many nice and interesting people. This year we are very much looking forward to learning more about the Santa Barbara County wines. We will be doing a lot of tasting wine, pairing wine with food, wine blogging, learning and networking with other wine bloggers.

We are leaving Dublin on Thursday and stopping along the way at two wineries in the Central Coast region. More on those in a later post. We are going to be staying at the Santa Ynez Valley Marriott and going out to dinner at Mirabelle Restaurant in Solvang. This restaurant was suggested highly to us by my brother-in-law. After 2-1/2 days at the conference we will end our stay in Buelleton by watching the final Wold Cup game. Once that game is over then we will be heading up to San Luis Obispo to the Granada Hotel. This is a small boutique hotel near the center of town. There we will be celebrating our 34th wedding anniversary. We will most likely have dinner in the bistro at the hotel. On Monday we will drive back up to Dublin stopping at one or two wineries along the way.



One afternoon = Five wineries in Livermore Valley

Last Saturday I had to go into work for a few hours.  I had Larry drive me so afterwards he could pick me up and we could go wine tasting in the Livermore Valley.  I work in Livermore and we really wanted to visit a few wineries that we have heard about but not visited yet.  So Larry picked me up and off we went into the city of Livermore.  The city, which is large in size but small in reality.  You will find the downtown area with cute stores and good restaurants on First Street.  There are about four to five blocks with all the activity, which makes it easy to take a leisurely stroll and check out the goings on.

The first winery we went to was Ryhan Winery.  I had been there before but Larry had never been and it was close to the two wineries that Larry wanted to visit.  Ryhan winery was very nice; they had a very nice staff and some foods to pair with their different wines.  They offered pepper jack cheese, mozzeralla cheese, homemade chili chicken, olives marinated in different herbs and spices, and some chocolates.  Being a foodie I won’t go into details of what I would have done differently, but they made a great effort.  I liked their raspberry sparkling wine.  Larry and I both had their Syrah, which was pretty good; they also have a Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Gricio and many others.  This was strictly a tasting room.  Their tasting fee is $5.00 but if you buy wine they don’t charge you.  Their hours are Friday 12-5, Sat/Sun 11:30-5:00 or by appointment.

Right next door to Ryhan Winery in the same attached building was Cuda Ridge Wines.  Larry Dino the winemaker and owner was there pouring the wines.  This was the winery, cellar and tasting room all in one spot.  Larry’s specialty is making Bordeaux style wines.  Cabernet Franc is one of their specialties.  We also tried a Sauvignon Blanc, a Merlot, a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Zinfandel that is on a different label.  All of their wines are made from grapes they get in the Livermore Valley.  They opened their winery in 2007 and their tasting room this past fall ’09.  They produce 1100 cases at the present moment.  They will also be offering a Semillon and a Malbec.  The surroundings were very comfortable and Larry and his wife Margie were very hospitable.

Our next stop was about 2 miles away.  These next two wineries are next to each other in a business park that fronts onto the main street.   The first winery we walked into was Occasio Winery.  They have a nice comfortable set up with a front room with the tasting counter, then behind that is a boardroom that can be used for a crowd up to 10 persons.  In that room they offer cheese and or lunch if you’re so inclined for your purpose.  Courtney was the person behind the counter pouring for us.  She was very nice and very knowledgeable.  We found out that the winery similar to Cuda Ridge had its first vintage in ’07 and opened their tasting room in the fall of ’09.  The owner and winemaker is John Kinney.  They currently are producing 500 cases of wine but very quickly will be up to 1,200 by the end of the year.  We got a small tour of the facilities.  They have a very nice sized laboratory.  Then the back area where the winery/cellar is was just the perfect size, room for growth yet small.  Back in the tasting room we tried a Pinot Gris ’08, a Sauvignon Blanc ’08*, a Rose of Zinfandel ’09* and a Zinfandel ’08*.  The future will be bringing a Petite Syrah, Fume Blanc, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and a red blend of some sort.  We really enjoyed the wines and bought 3 bottles*.  Their wine club membership is different where they give you 20% off all wine purchased.  Their tasting fee is $5.00 but that is taken off if you purchase wine.  Their hours are Friday 12-5, Sat/Sun 11:30 – 4:30 or by appointment.

Right next door was Nottingham Winery and Satyrs’ Pond Winery.  The winemaker/owner Jeff Cranor, makes the wines for both labels.  Justin and Chris helped us with our wine tasting experience.  Similar to Occasio the feel when you walk in was very comfortable.  Their tasting area was a bit more cramped.  But they also have room for you to wander around and look at the different artwork on the walls.  The owner’s brother Pat Cranor is a thriving artist in San Diego and he has quite a number of pieces for sale there.  Chris took us for a tour of the back, which is very large for their size winery.  They like to have enough room for their special events that they host.  We sampled the Viognier from Nottingham Cellars, which was floral but not overwhelming, as it can be.  Then we tried the Satyrs’ Pond Winery Lux Alba white blend, which is a Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc blend.  Then in a decanter we sampled Satyrs’ ’06 Cabernet Sauvignon.  I really liked this.  Then in the next decanter we sampled Nottingham ’07 Cabernet Sauvignon.  Both were very good, smooth but the Satyrs’ had more potential I thought to lay down for a few years.  At the end Chris opened up the Nottingham Ralphi’s Red Blend, which is Merlot from Napa and Cabernet from Livermore.  At first this wine fell flat on the tongue.  But after a bit of swirling and waiting patiently for it to open it did so in a big way.  We had to buy one of those.  They charge a $5.00 tasting fee, which gets reimbursed if you purchase any wine.

After all of this, and I was done, Larry said do you want to go visit Linda and Earl at Cedar Mountain?  I said sure as it was only 2 minutes away.  So we went to see our old buddies.  Unfortunately they were busy but we got to sample their Sauvignon Blanc side by side with their Sauvignon Blanc Reserve.  Quite a difference – I liked the reserve better.  Then I tried their Chardonnay of which I have always felt that they make one of the best in the Livermore Valley.  We both had to sample their Tortuga Royale.  This is a port made by co-fermenting Blanches Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon grapes with Scharffen Berger 70% cacao powder and fortified with fine Eau De Vie Brandy.  You can only imagine how amazing this was.  There was just enough of the chocolate aroma and flavor with the grape flavor of the Cabernet and the brandy for the alcohol and smoothness.  I could have continued drinking this all afternoon!  However, we had grocery shopping to do etc.  Next time I’m there I’m going to buy one of those for my liquor cabinet.  For $25.00 it’s a fantastic gift for any wine lover!

So this concludes another wine tasting experience in Livermore Valley.  There are over 50 wineries there now and more popping up.  It’s a great place to go and sample wines without feeling any pressure.  I feel very fortunate that I live 20 minutes away!

Governor Schwarzenegger Proclaims September 2009 California Wine Month

Governor Schwarzenegger Proclaims September 2009 California Wine Month for the 5th year in a row.  Recognizing the Golden State’s vintners and growers for their more than 200-year-old agricultural tradition,positive impact on the state and national economies, and commitment to sustainable winegrowing practices.  The proclamation praises the wine community’s many contributions.  “Many wineries are also committed to serving their communities and promoting socially and environmentally responsible farming practices,” said Governor Schwarzenegger in the proclamation.  


       California vineyards in the summer                          California vineyards in the fall

California wine generates 820,000 jobs in the U.S., including 330,000 in California. 

The state’s vintners and growers, along with California’s 80,000 restaurants, have helped make the Golden State a top destination for culinary travelers from around the world, attracting nearly 21 million visitors each year to its wine regions.  Visitors to California can explore the state’s 2,800 wineries which produce 90 percent of U.S. wine.  First Lady Maria Shriver is promoting the California Travel and Tourism Commission by appearing on a TV spot promoting California as the “Land of Wine and Food.”  California is the fourth largest wine producer in the world.  With over 60 percent of the state’s winegrowers participating in the Sustainable Winegrowing Program, it is truly a model for wine regions in other states and abroad.  The program has won Governor Schwarzenegger’s top environmental award from the California Association of Winegrape Growers. 

           California Grapes

California Wine Month is also supported by several association partners including the California Travel and Tourism Commission, the California Olive Oil Council, the National Restaurant Association and the California Restaurant Association which recently conducted its second annual “Best California Wine List Competition.”

Retail and restaurant establishments throughout the nation are celebrating California Wine Month and several publications will feature special coverage of the state’s wines.

Retail/Restaurant Partners Celebrating California Wine Month (CWM)

Safeway, Von’s and Pavilions stores (Newspaper ads and in-store displays in stores nationwide)

Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (Posters and shelf talkers in stores throughout the state)

Kimpton Hotels (Special wine promotions in all restaurants)

Beverages & More! (Posters in stores)

Costco (California stores)

Roy’s Restaurants (Special wine promotions in all restaurants)

Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines (Special wine promotions on board all ships)

The Melting Pot (Special wine promotions in select restaurants)

Vino Volo (Special wine-by-the glass promotions in all airport locations)

California Wine Merchants (In-store tastings with vintners)

Gary’s Wine & Marketplace New Jersey (Three stores doing in-store tastings with vintners)

Grande Harvest Wines New York (In-store tastings with vintners)

Morrell & Company New York (In-store tastings with vintners)

Sherry-Lehman Wine & Spirits New York Sherry-Lehman Wine & Spirits New York (In-store tastings with vintners)

Union Square Wines New York (In-store tastings with vintners)

Zachy’s New York (In-store tastings with vintners)

Cork Bar Los Angeles (Special California wine flights throughout September)

Wall Street Journal September 12

San Francisco Chronicle August 28

Los Angeles Magazine September edition

The Restaurant Standard (California Restaurant Association) — August/September Edition

10 Reasons to Love CA Wine

California is one of the first places that come to mind when we think about wine. Why do we love it so much? In honor of California Wine Month – September 2008 – let us count the ways;

1. A living national treasure, with history and entrepreneurial spirit: California wines have been around for nearly250 years, and the industry is the fourth largest producer of wine in the world. After Prohibition, California has led a wine quality revolution by combining art, science, innovation and tradition.

2.A leader in sustainable winegrowing and winemaking practices: With its statewide Sustainable Winegrowing Program (SWP), establishing strong environmental standards and practices from ground to glass, California vintners and wine grape growers are a model for other agricultural products and other wine regions in the U.S. and the world.

3.Comprised largely of family businesses: The vast majority of California’s 4,600 wine grape growers and 2,700 wineries are family-owned and operated businesses, many involving multiple generations.

4. Offers immense choice for wine drinkers, because of diverse growing regions, soils, climates, winemaking styles and people: With wine grapes grown in 46 of the state’s 58 counties,California counts 107 American Viticultural Areas (AVAs). Starting with the Spanish missionaries, to German, Swiss, French and Italian immigrants, to the modern day entrepreneurs and researchers, all have made their mark on California wines.

5. Inspired a culinary revolution: As the popularity of California wines has risen, so has the national focus on fresh seasonal cooking and dining. Many of America’s top chefs work in California’s wine country.

6. Provides careers for thousands: The California wine industry generates 875,000 jobs nationwide, with wages totaling $25.2 billion. The overall economic impact of the wine industry on the U.S. economy is $125.3 billion.

7.Creates beautiful travel destinations throughout the state: California is the most visited state in the U.S. for food and wine-related activities, with 19.7 million tourists visiting the state’s wine regions each year.

8. Offers unprecedented opportunities for women: Women have played a critical role in the California wineindustry’s past, and today are taking lead positions in viticulture, winemaking, sales, marketing, hospitality and distribution. In the U.S., you’re just as likely to see a female as a male sommelier.

9.Keeps land in agriculture: Although less than 1 percent of California land is planted to vineyards, California wine is the number one finished agricultural product in retail value in the U.S. Wine grapes ensure that land stays in agriculture, and preserves open space and scenic pastoral landscapes.

10. Has driven a new “wine culture”in the U.S., inspiring people in all 50 states to establish wineries:Wine consumption has risen for 14 consecutive years in the U.S., and the proliferation of wine magazines, websites, blogs and yes, even a reality television show about wine, attests to the fact that wine is becoming more a part of mainstream American culture. California’s success in wine quality, production and innovation has helped inspire winemaking ventures in all 50 U.S. states.

Had a BLAST on the Fouth of July in the Sierra Foothills

Larry and I left to go up to the Sierra Foothills to visit my Mom and Bob on Friday.  Our destination was Pollock Pines, which is off hwy 50, ten miles east of Placerville.  On our way up there we stopped at Terre Rouge winery in Amador County.  One of the things I really like about this winery is that they allowed us to bring in our dog, Elmer Fudd.  He was on a leash and they have their own dog that roams around.  We sampled a few wines and liked their Syrah blend the best.  We had been there last February, enjoyed their wines and got on their mailing list.  In April we found out that they were having a photo contest to see who could come up with the best picture for their wine label called Tete a Tete, which means “head to head”.  Shortly after Larry and I had our brunch at The Epic Roasthouse in SF this spring, Larry sent in a picture that we had taken of Narsai David, local wine and food producer and connoisseur and the chef, Jan Birnbaum.  We captured a great picture of the chef and Narsai at the end of the meal discussing how things went.  This picture is what Larry submitted it to this contest.  Well, to our surprise he won!  So on our way up to my Mom’s we stopped and picked up our case of wine.  Yes we won a whole case of their “Tete a Tete” Rhone Blend!

To hear more about this story I’m going to lead you to Larry’s article.  We got to Mom and Bob’s and enjoyed a quiet afternoon sitting in the sun; it was still 90 degrees up there at 5:00 p.m.!  Mom made dinner; baked chicken breast breaded with toasted onions, coleslaw (a family recipe) and a zucchini and cheese casserole.  That night we watched the Bank Job.  Mom fell asleep; I tried to keep up with all the characters.  All in all I think it was a B- movie.

On Saturday after a nice walk we got ready to go meet our friend Al at the 4th of July parade that Pollock Pines has every year.  It was cute.  Nothing to write home about, just plain cute.  There were the horses, little leaguers, and the fire trucks.                                 

There were some very cool old cars and of course the statue of liberty.  It got a little strange when a dune buggy or two went by and a truck pulling a bulldozer.  Well there were some interesting things but everyone was throwing candy to the kids.  I even got some too!  Afterwards we went to some friends of mom’s – Lydia and Andy’s house.  It’s a 2-bedroom cabin with a very large backyard that includes a deck with a Jacuzzi and a very inviting swimming pool.  We kicked back some beers and visited while just hanging in the pool.  It was very refreshing.  We went back home and took a little nap.  We had a nice bbq dinner, which consisted of skirt steak, salad, baked baby red potatoes and frozen fresh lemonade.  Larry opened the bottle of Tete a Tete we had just picked up.  Very nice, full-bodied, very rich in fruits, not much tannin – ready to drink.  For dessert we had Dryers 1/2 fat ice cream flavor called Red, White and No More Blues.  Very good, vanilla ice cream blended with strawberries and blueberries.  Of course we had a little chocolate syrup and some had whipped cream as well.  Afterwards we sat and watched another movie.  This one was not very uplifting, Dought.  Very well acted, not too long, but difficult subject matter.

Sunday morning I slept in until 10:00!  I woke up to Larry watching Wimbledon men’s final match.  It was crazy; Federer and Roddick were tied in the 5th set and were on the tiebreaker for the match.  They were so evenly matched that it didn’t get finished until nearly 11:00.  I was rooting for Roddick, but I like Federer too.  We packed up and left to head home with a few stops along the way.  Mom and Bob tagged along in their own car.  We headed back to Amador County but went to a different part that we had never been to.  Our first stop was C.G. di Aire.  I had never even heard of this winery.  Arriving we found a sign that said, “watch out for rattlesnakes” and “no dogs in tasting room”.  Since we had Elmer with us, and it was warm out we had to hook him up to one of the picnic benches.  No big deal.  Their outdoor area is beautiful and very peaceful.  There is a nice waterfall that leads to a Koi Pond with lily pads.            

Quite a number of picnic tables in the shade and lots of room for children to run around.  The building itself wasn’t too exciting.  The folks behind the bar were nice; they answered all of our questions.  There was no tasting fee.  The winery is not at the tasting room but is about 16 miles n.e. In El Dorado County.  At the winery they have facilities for events.  They had a Rose’ and Sauvignon Blanc that we really enjoyed.  They also had a Zinfandel, Syrah, Petite Sirah and other red varietals for us to try.  I enjoyed their Syrah the best, but everyone has their own tastes.  They do not allow limousines.  They have a nice schedule of tasting events throughout the year.  Each month they have a “Tasting with the Winemaker”, for example this Saturday the 18th they are having a vertical wine tasting of Petite Sirahs.  If you like Zinfandels mark August 15 on your calendar they will do a vertical tasting with their Zins.  The winemaker/proprietor is Chaim Gur-Arieh, Ph.D.  In 1998 he and his wife bought the 209 acres they have there and developed 40 acres of it.  He designed his winery to have gravity-feed into the tanks and has new technology to helping him to make his wines.  Afterwards we drove about 3 minutes down the road into Plymouth.  There we had lunch at Incahoots.  They offer pizza, bbq, and sandwiches.  A perfect menu with a lot of different items.  Mom had the pulled pork sandwich; Bob, Larry and I got their BBQ sampler plate, which includes tri-tip, sausage (we got spicy), chicken, and pork and beef ribs.  Their baked beans are the best ever.  It’s a Santa Rosa style where they are cooked on the grill and pick up the mesquite flavoring.  The last winery we went to was Nua Dair, which is Gaelic for New Oak.  The winemaker/owner, Mark McMaster, was in the wine making/barrel room to greet us. 

Mark is a UC Davis graduate and makes wine in his spare time, as he runs his own CPA firm.  I’m sure we could have brought Elmer inside but we had already tied him up outside.  There was no tasting fee and we tried his Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Zinfandel, Barbera, Pinotage and Cabernet Sauvignon.  All of his wines are 100% of that varietal.  I liked his Barbera and Syrah the best.  The area outside offers a couple picnic benches, nothing much else.  We enjoyed our time with Mark.  We said our goodbyes to Mom and Bob and we each headed off towards our perspective homes.  On our way we stopped at Chocoholics Divine Desserts chocolate factory in Clements, which probably has maybe 1,000 population.  Very nice store, we bought some chocolate raspberry sauce (no fat!) and had a chocolate milkshake (fat!) and walked through the self-guided tour of the factory.  They offer tours for larger groups too.  It would have been perfect if the factory was active, but being a Sunday it wasn’t.  Chocoholics is famous for their “Body Frosting”.  They even have a couple games to play with the chocolate frosting such as; Truth or Dare” and “Strip Chocolate”. 

We got home before 6:00 and had a nice light dinner.  The cats were happy to see us and they didn’t leave us any surprises!  Good kitties. ☺   The weekend was great; it had a bit of everything and that is just what I needed!  I hope all of you had a Happy 4th of July celebrating “The Land That We Love”.

California Wine Festivals in June, July, August and Beyond

This is an update of what is going on in the California wine
regions.  I’m not going to post what the individual wineries or wine
shops are doing, but I will post the wine festivals that I’m aware of. 
If I’ve missed anything, please inform me at, so I
can add it to the list.  Some future events are listed down below.


          Current California Wine Events June – August ’09

June 6th & 7th, 11-5pm – Santa Cruz Mtns. (western side) June 13th & 14th Santa Cruz Mtns. (eastern side) Santa Cruz Vintners Festival

June 6th, 1pm-4pm – Two Harbors, Avalon 8th Annual Wine Festival, Catalina Island

June 13th, 3pm-7pm – Historic Escalle Winery, Larkspur – 5th Annual Marin County Pinot Noir Celebration

June 24th-28 – San Francisco San Francisco Pinot Days 2009

June 26-28th, 11-5pm – MurphysCalaveras Passport Weekend 

June 28th – San Francisco Pino Days, Grand Festival Wine Tasting

July 9, 5:30-9pm – Sacramento California’s Grape and Gourmet

July 23, – 6pm-9pm – Livermore Taste of Terroir

July 26th, – 1-6:30pm – NapaJewish Vintners Wine Trail

July 26th,  1-4 pm – Camarillo22nd Annual Wine Food Festival

August 8th, 6pm-9pm – Paso Robles Winemakers Cookoff

August 8th, 12-3:30pm – Monterey 17th Annual Winemakers Celebration

August 14-16th – Sonoma County14th Annual Russian River Valley Wine Growers “Grape to Glass” Weekend

August 16th, 2-5pm – MoragaSaint Mary’s College Wine Festival

August 29, 10am-6pm, August 30th -10am 5pm – Bodega Bay Bodega Seafood Art and Wine Festival

August 23, 3-6pm – San Francisco – Family Winemakers of California

     Belly Dancers at Mounts Winery – 2009 Dry Creek Passport Weekend –   Live band at Martorana Winery

                                   Future Wine Events

September 4th – 6th,  Healdsburg – Sonoma Wine Country Weekend which includes TASTE of Sonoma

September 6th & 7th, 12-5 each day – Livermore – 28th Annual Harvest Wine Celebration

September 11 & 12, 11-5 each day – Fort Bragg, – 25th Annual Winesong!

September 27, 12pm-6pm – LodiTaste of Lodi

October 25th – Russian River, Sonoma County 6th Annual Pinot on the River

November 18-22 – San Diego  –The 6th Annual San Diego Bay Wine and Food Festival

June 12th, 2010Russian River Passport Weekend – Sonoma County