Monthly Archives: November 2013

Livermore Wines; Old Friends

We went wine tasting in our backyard last weekend.  Provided that we can define our backyard as our home territory, otherwise known as the Livermore Valley.  The first winery we went to was Cuda Ridge, which we hadn’t been to since they moved into a new facility in Livermore a few months ago.  Cuda Ridge specializes in Bordeaux varietals, and they do a pretty good job at it.  We really liked their Petit Verdot, which is the fifth red Bordeaux grape, after Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec.  It’s usually used just for blending, but this was really nice on its own.  

More important than the fact that we hadn’t been to the new Cuda Ridge tasting room was that they were having music there.  The guy with the guitar, Tim Gomes, was one of my friends at UC Berkeley, eons ago.  And now, like me, he has children; his daughter Audrey (now a sophomore in college) came and sang with him.  Fortunately, she didn’t ask me for any stories about her father, and even more fortunately, she didn’t ask Tim for any stories about me.  Tim can play the guitar really well, but it gets a lot better when his daughter accompanies him.  She’s got a great voice.  We also got to see Tim’s wife Nancy, who was a classmate of my brother, also at UC Berkeley.  Doesn’t get much better than a beautiful day, a nice glass of wine, and shooting the breeze about ancient history.  

Another winery that has recently changed locations is Mitchell Katz Winery.  This is another case of ancient history, although not quite as ancient, as Mitch and I used to play pickup basketball together a couple times each week, early mornings before work.  That was before knees started getting a bit less reliable.  Mitchell Katz Winery is one of the relatively older wineries in the Livermore Valley, at a ripe 15 years now.  And Mitch has an even longer history in winemaking, having helped his grandfather make wines.  

My consistent favorite from Mitch is the Sangiovese.  He just seems to have a nice touch with this wine.  He know regularly makes two different single vineyard Sangioveses; we went home with a few bottles of the Crackerbox Vineyard version.  Easy drinking, nice balance, good fruit, works with food, and a good value too.  Can’t ask for anything more than that.  

One more thing about Mitch and his winery:  great customer loyalty.  Customers keep coming back, whether to talk to Mitch, or because they have a favorite wine (we also liked the Merlot, the Zinfandel, and the nonvintage sparkling on this last visit), or because they just like the vibe and want to hang out there.  It’s great to see a friend be successful in something as tough as the wine industry.  



Italian Wines and Japan

In my day job I sell software development and test tools for a small company called Imperas Software.  Last week I was in Japan, Yokohama specifically, for a trade show.  Great view of Mt. Fuji from my hotel room.  The picture below, where Mt. Fuji is that white (snow-covered) spec in the middle, does not do it justice.  Cell phone cameras do have their limitations.  

One of the things we did as part of the trade show was to serve wine to our customers, and prospective customers, at the end of one of the days of the trade show.  My task was to go out and find a few bottles of wine.  So I checked out a couple of the local wine shops around the convention center, and ended up at this smaller shop, a little off the beaten path.  I was surprised to find that this shop had an excellent selection of German wines.  Better than most wine shops in the Bay Area, although maybe that isn’t setting the bar too high.  However, German whites weren’t going to do me much good, since I had no way of keeping the wines cool for the day, until we served.  

So I went for the Italian reds.  (Not a real good selection of California reds, and the Italians seemed a better value than anything else in the store.)  When I brought the wines up to the register to pay, I complemented the proprietor on her German wine selection, not knowing if she would understand English that well.  Fortunately, she did.  Her story was spending 4 years in Boston at the Berklee College of Music, studying piano.  Having lived in the Boston area myself for a few years, I know of Berklee, and its reputation for producing outstanding musicians.  So I said to her that she must be a very good piano player, to which she replied that it’s hard to make money at music, and wine was and is her other love.  Thus the shop.  

At the show, we opened a 2009 Brigaldara Valpolicella, and a 2007 Abrigo Giovanni Nebbiolo d’Alba.  A Dolcetto went unopened, taken home by my local sales rep.  Both wines were very good.  The Nebbiolo a bit bigger up front, with tanins on the finish, probably would have been better with food, but still quite good standalone.  The Valpolicella was smooth, really well balanced, and quite enjoyable.  

As for the show, it was a success.  Customers enjoyed the wine, and who knows?  They might even buy some of our products.