Category Archives: Wine

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. ☺

Pinot Days – 2010 San Francisco

Last Sunday Larry and I went to Pinot Days 2010.  It was held at Fort Mason in San Francisco.  This was the 6th annual event here and it looks like there will be one this November in Chicago and another one in Southern California in January 2011.  This event is put on by Bay Area Wine Project.

There were over 200 wineries, about 14 food purveyors and over 20 exhibitors represented on this given Sunday at Pinot Days.  About 95% of the wineries were from California and 80% of that was from Northern California.  Russian River, Sonoma County, Anderson Valley, Mendocino County, Carneros, Napa Valley, Monterey, Monterey County and Buellton, Santa Barbara County, are the most prominent Pinot Noir producers in California.  

Larry and I love a good Pinot Noir.  The Pinot grape is a beautiful, versatile, complex grape nuanced like a little baby grape.  Its also cranky, difficult to grow and thin-skinned, making it prone to all sorts of perils in the vineyard.  A good Pinot has a medium body, very fruit forward, a little bit of pucker power and goes great with food.  Check out my website at for some recipe ideas.  Besides a good Cabernet, Pinot Noir is the next best wine to pair with food.  It’s light enough to go with fish, yet it’s bold enough to go with tri-tip.  I love it with any Asian Food.  Pinot Noir is not made to be laid down for a long period of time; at the most, five years.  But in reality the Pinot that you buy should be drunk within two years of the year you bought it in, not the year of the vintage.  Each winery decides on how long they are going to leave the wine in the barrel vs. the bottle.  Some leave it in the bottle as long as they leave it in the barrel.  Its tricky how to handle this grape once it’s picked and how you do that will greatly show up in the final outcome.  This grape likes to be pampered, so a lot of wineries have a gravity flow system so that the juices hardly have any stress during the wine making process.  .

Of the wineries that we stopped at and sampled, here is a selection of the ones that stood out to me and was worth mentioning.  Now don’t forget we all have different taste buds and preferences when it come to wine and food.  

Alma Rosa Winery – Buellton
Blink Wines – Benicia
C. Donatiello Winery – Healdsburg
Cartograph – Healdsburg ***
Chronicle Wines – Sonoma
Cru – Madera ***
Dutton Goldfield – Sebastopol ***
Gary Farrell – Healdsburg ***
Hagafen Cellars – Napa
Hirsch Vineyard – Cazadero ***
Inception Wines – Buellton
Joseph Swan Vineyards – Forestville
Kanzler Vineyards – Sebastopol
Kastania Vineyards – Petaluma
Kendric Vineyards – San Anselmo
Lynmar Estate – Sebastopol ***
MacMurray Ranch – Healdsburg
McIntyre Vineyards – Soledad
Pillow Rd Vineyards – Angwin
Rusack Vineyards – Solvang ***
Testarossa Winery – Los Gatos
Thomas George Estate – Healdsburg ***
Windy Oaks Estate – Corralitos ***

*** Lori’s top wineries from this day

Most of these wineries were serving their ’08 vintage, however, a lot of them are not yet released.  Some were still pouring their ’07 (which is one of my favorite years for Pinot Noir) and a very few were pouring anything older.  

We also enjoyed the food purveyors that were showing their products.  Most were different cheese companies, olive oils and some chocolate companies too ☺.

If you get the opportunity to go to this event either in Chicago in November, Southern California in January or Northern California next summer I strongly suggest it.  It’s a really nice way to sample the grape, and really taste the difference in the Terroir.

P.S. I Love You – Dark and Delicious

On February 19th we went to another great event in the San Francisco Bay Area.  It was put on by the local P.S. I Love You, the Petite Sirah Advocacy Organization.  The event was called Dark and Delicious.  It was held on Alameda at Rock Wall Winery which is on an old Naval Base, so the facility was huge with very high ceilings.  The barrels that were stacked against the walls looked very small compared to the size of the room.

                    Dark and Delicious Event at Rock Wall Winery

There were about 300-400 people all willing and ready to eat and drink.  The event cost $70 per person.  There were over 40 wineries, and about 30 different restaurants and caterers.  The wineries and food companies were interspersed together.  Unlike the Make-A-Wish foundation fundraiser we went to a couple weekends ago, where the wineries poured whatever they wanted, here they just poured Petite Sirah.  

I need to apologize.  I lost my piece of paper that I took all my notes of the evening.  So, I’m going off of my memory with some help from Larry.

Some of the Petite Sirah stood out more than others such as Cecchetti Wine Company Line 39, Tres Sabores, Twisted Oak, Concannon, Heringer Estates, Michael-David, and Ursa Vineyards to name a few.  The cool thing about the Petite Sirah is that it grows in many different regions.  Such as Lake County, Sierra Foothills, Lodi, Livermore, Paso Robles to name a few.


                                         Swirling the Petite Sirah                                                                                       Serving Up Some Food

The food was overall very good.  There was a lot of meat, but that makes sense when you are trying to pair with Petite Sirah.  There were about 4-5 different versions of pulled pork sliders, one that stood out was where the pork was served with coleslaw and a lime aioli, there were a number of different meatballs too but the one with bacon in the meatball and served on a crostini with caramelized onion was great as was the wild boar meatballs.  There was deep fried curried cauliflower that was really good but didn’t stand up to the wine so well.  Our favorite of the evening was a slow braised pork shoulder served on top of a homemade savory bread pudding with a Petite Sirah plum sauce.  There also was pork served on a light Lavosh cracker with a cilantro pesto, foie gras, paella and homemade beef jerky.  There was plenty of chocolate there too.  There were brownies, chocolate with bacon bits in it, chocolate truffles filled with Petite Sirah cream, bacon strips with chocolate drizzled on top, (was that a dessert or was that an appetizer?  Whatever, it was good!) there was some seriously intense fudge, I had their peanut butter caramel chocolate, Larry had their dark chocolate.  We left that booth with big smiles on our faces. 


                                  Fantastic Fudge from Z-Cioccolato                                                          The Best Pork Dish Of The Night – Bistro 29

We bumped into a few blogger friends Thea Dwelle from Luscious Lushes and Alana Gentry from A Girl with a Glass.

We want to thank the P.S. I Love You for treating Larry and I to this event.  We loved everything about it and would highly recommend it to everyone who likes a good bold wine.

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!

Trip to Santa Rosa for Hugs, Pizza and Winery Tour

Today was a great day.  Larry and I did some work in the morning then we got on the road about 11:00 to meet Brandon and Kim (our son and daughter-in-law) for lunch in Santa Rosa.  It took us less than 1 1/2 hours to get there.  We met at Rosso Pizzeria and Wine Bar.  The main purpose for this visit was to give them a hug to congratulate them on their first pregnancy.  That means this spring we will become grandparents.  We are way too excited about the whole thing! ☺

Anyways, the lunch we had at Rosso’s was great.  The four of us shared their Fritto Misto, calamari and green beans fried in arborio rice flour and served with a green chile aioli.  This went down really fast.  Then we shared two pizzas.  One was called Uovo.  It has a red base sauce, prosciutto, oven roasted artichokes, olives, Sonoma organic egg and basil.  The other pizza was their Funghi.  This has a white base sauce with oven roasted shitake and crimini mushrooms, taleggio and fontina cheese, shaved artichokes and fresh thyme.  We added cooked prosciutto di parma on top of that one.  Both pizza’s were delicious, the crust nice and crunchy on the outside but soft on the inside.  We ordered just the right amount of food for the four of us.  The meal came to about $12.00 per person.  The atmosphere there is great.  They have booths around the periphery and tables in the middle.  They also offer casual dining outside, but the restaurant is in a shopping center so the view outside are the cars parked in the parking lot.  The service was great, the wine list incredible with a great selection of wines from around the world.  Each day they have a special that is cooked in the wood oven.  Today it was clams.  The wine bar is beautiful with a large television in the middle, only showing soccer games.  Rosso’s is in the southeast end of town off Third Street.  It’s very easy to get to, but if you didn’t know about it you would never see it.

After lunch Larry and I went to go visit Brandon at Dutton Goldfield Winery.  There was a lot of action going on there.  They were washing and sterilizing brand new French oak barrels and racking them so they will be ready to be filled with the red wines that are in the tanks going through their second fermentation.  The interns were putting dry ice into the open top fermenters and covering them which keeps the grapes at a controlled temperature. We took some samples of the chardonnay, pinot blanc, gewürztraminer and pinot noir.  Mostly we were tasting grape juice that was just turning into wine, but you can still taste the great different flavors of the grapes with the acids and sugars.

We got home before rush hour and went back to work.  Another good travel day to the California Wine Country.

You’ve Heard Of Murphy Goode Winery? Did You Hear That Hardy Wallace Got “A Really Goode Job”

I’m sure most of you have heard the term “social media”.  More and more industries are hiring a staff person to strictly be their social media person.  This means that this person will handle the media outreach for the company such as on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Linkedin, Plaxo and YouTube accounts, for example.

The wine industry has started to realize that the time is now to hire a social media person.  This could be the golden opportunity that won’t cost them a lot of money and will ideally increase their wine sales.  A winery that has been around for over 20 years named Murphy Goode in Healdsburg, Sonoma County put out a contest so they could hire this perfect social media person for their winery. 

         Murphy Goode Tasting Room

Murphy Goode wanted to hire a lifestyle correspondent who will take care of all their social media outreach needs.  This person had to send in a video of why they are this perfect person for Murphy Goode to hire, and why he/she would do “A Really Goode Job”.  The contest lasted about 3 months and each contestant had to submit their 2 minute video and get their readers, friends and Murphy Goode to vote for them.  After over 1,000 applicants submitted their video Murphy Goode narrowed it down to 10 finalists.   Hardy Wallace from Atlanta Georgia who has a wine blog called Dirty South Wine, won the contest for the six month stint!

Larry had met Hardy last year at the Wine Bloggers Conference and actually voted for Hardy’s video to win.  We saw Hardy once again at this year’s Wine Bloggers Conference which was a week after his winning announcement. 

                         Hardy Wallace

As you can imagine with all the publicity, press and piers, Hardy was flying higher than the highest kite you’ve ever seen.  

Larry and I met up with Hardy while we were in the Russian River region last weekend and interviewed him after his first full day on the job.  He is so nice, dang cute and extremely lovable.   After watching the videos below you will see why Hardy won, and why he will do such a Murphy Goode job!  Good luck Hardy!

Hardy’s winning video

Murphy Goode announces Hardy as the winner

Hardy is VERY happy!

Fox News interviews Hardy Wallace and Dave Ready Jr. the Murphy Goode winemaker interviews Hardy after his first day on the job at Murphy Goode Pt. 1 & Pt. 2

 Larry, Lori and Hardy at Murphy Goode Tasting Room

Can you drink 28 glasses of wine in 3 hours?

You wouldn’t even believe this if I told you.  What if I told you that between 9:30 and 12:00 this morning I drank 28 glasses of wine?  Well, if I had really drank everything I wouldn’t be alive to write this.  Today Larry and I had the fantastic opportunity to go and taste 28 samples of wines from the Russian River Valley, Sonoma County.  We were invited to a “media tasting” sponsored by the Russian River Valley Winegrowers. There were 24 of us media types and a panel of 6.  The panel was moderated by Geoff Kruth, Master Sommellier and Wine Director at the Farmhouse Inn and Restaurant.  The rest of the panel included John Holdredge of Holdredge Wines, Pete Opatz, viticulturalist to Picket Fence Vineyards, Dan Kosta of Kosta Browne Winery, Tom Dehlinger of Dehlinger Winery and the host, Peter Merriam of Merriam Vineyards.  Everything took place at Merriam Vineyards which is on the Windsor/Healdsburg border north of Santa Rosa.  Upon entering the room for the first flight we were greeted with 9 glasses filled with Pinot Noir from different wineries in the Russian River Valley.

Flight 1 – The first flight was Russian River Pinot Noir – Single Vineyard – 2007 – The price of the bottle and my grade of the wine
Balletto Vineyards – Burnside Vineyard – $34.00 B
Coterie Cellars – Saralee Vineyard – $38.00  B-
C Donatiello Winery – Maddie’s Vineyards – $62.00 A-
Dutton Goldfield Winery – Freestone Hill Vineyard – $58.00 B+
Forchini Vineyard and Winery – River Terrace Vineyard – $32.00 B
Freeman Vineyard & Winery – Keefer Ranch – $46.00 B-
Russian Hill Estate Winery – Tara Vineyard – $46.00 B+
Sequana Vineyard – Dutton Ranch – $40.00 B
Suacci Carciere Wines – Suacci Vineyard – $48.00 C+

Flight 2 – The second flight was Russian River Pinot Noir – Blends – 2007 – The price of the bottle and my grade of the wine
Chasseru Wines – $40.00 B
Hook & Ladder Winery – $25.00 B+  **
Hop Kiln Winery, Generations – $40.00 B
J. Lynn Wines – $19.99 B  **
Joseph Swan Vineyards, Cuvee de Trois – $28.00 C
Kenwood Vineyards – $18.00 B-  **
Moshin Vineyards – $36.00 B
Olsen Ogden Wines – $42.00 B+
River Road Vineyards – $27.00 B 
Terlato Family Vineyards – $60.00 B+
Willams Salyem, Westside Road Neighbors – $67.00 B-

Flight 3 – The thrid flight was Russian River Bordeaux’s.  The winery, vineyard, varietal, year, price and my grade of the wine
Acorn Winery – Alegria Vineyard – Cabernet Franc, 2006 – $32.00 B **
Dehlinger Winery – Cabernet Sauvignon, 2006 – $50.00 B
Ledson Winery & Vineyards – Merlot, 2005 – $44.00 B-
Longboard Vineyards – Merlot, 2007 – 24.00 B+  **
Merriam Vineyards – Miktos Red Wine, 2005 – $50.00 B-
Selby Vineyards – Azvedo Ranch – Cabernet Sauvignon, 2006 – $40.00 B-
Suncy Winery – Hedin Vineyard – Merlot, 2006 – $30.00 C
Windsor Oaks Vineyards – Chalk Hill – Malbec, 2007 – $35.00 B  **

After the third flight we were treated to an awesome lunch at the winery.  During lunch we mingled, and talked about each other business etc.  We also drank more wine!  We had 2006 Merriam Merlot and 2007 Picket Fence Pinot Noir.  Here was the menu:

Arugula & endive salad, avocado, Manchego cheese, caramelized almonds, lemon-truffle vinaigrette
Salad of baby beets, feta cheese, orange & horseradish vinaigrette

Rotisserie pork loin, pomegranate glaze, roasted red grape & farro salad

Wild mushroom & goat cheese spaetzle

Mini Chocolate cakes, caramel mousse mini chocolate chunk & banana bread pudding

                  Peter Merriam, Merriam Vineyards

All I can say is WOW!  Luckily they gave each of us a cup to spit the wine into and a bottle of water at each flight to replenish liquids.  So in reality I probably drank about 1 glass of wine.  But it sounded a lot more impressive saying 28 glasses.  Our day did not end there.  We went on to two more wineries, then out to dinner.  That is another blog for another day.

Wine Bars – The new way to sample many different wines all in one place

One of the newest hippest places to go to when in a downtown area is to go to a wine bar.  Why you may ask?  Well the main reason is that if you like wine, they usually offer a very large selection.  Some wine bars offer tastes in 2, 4, and 8 ounces besides the glass and or bottle.  I love the different sized samplers as it give you a perfect way to sample different wines.  When you find a wine that you like you should write down notes about what you liked so you could go and find it to have at home.  Usually these wine bars offer tapas or small bites to select to go with your wine.  It’s a perfect, casual and fun place to go with other wine lovers.  

A few weeks back I went to meet up with my friend Liz for just that.  We agreed on meeting at Vinoteca in Danville.  Neither of us had been there as they were pretty new to town.

Vinoteca was beautiful with its wood floors and tables, some couches with short cocktail tables and tall cocktail tables covered with black tablecloths with tall stools.  Liz and I were greeted very nicely and were taken to a nice bar table.  We looked at the menu, which is very nice, filled with beverage and tapas choices.  The food menu is divided by categories of Nibbles, Bocadillos (small grilled sandwiches), Greens and Things and Petite Plates.  The wines they offer are mostly from Europe.  This was a nice change of pace for me.  I didn’t know what to order so I asked my waiter and he made a great suggestion.  You can order the wine in 3 different sizes – glass, carafe and bottle.  Besides the wines they offer, they also make blood orange sangria that they serve with lunch, and they have draught beer from Belgium, Germany, Italy and the Pacific Coast.  They also have some bottled beer, ports and espresso drinks to end the meal with.  

I had a glass of ’07 Vaza, Crianza, Tempranillo, Espana, which was just perfect with the Tapas we ordered.  Liz had the ’07 Olvena, Chardonnay, Somontano, Espana also good but served a bit too cold.  They serve the wine in a Luigi Bormidi glass (which I’ve never heard of before.)  We ordered marinated olives, salted almonds; sheep’s cheese-stuffed Majool dates wrapped in pancetta; smoked pulled pork, caramelized onion with Piave cheese Bocadillo, and chicken and salt cured ham croquette with spicy sofritto.  When the boys came to join us Larry ordered a ‘07 Albarino, Paco & Lola, Rias Baixas, Espana and Werner ordered an ’07 Pinot Grigio, Benvolio, Furili, Italia. 

To add to what Liz and I had eaten the boys ordered heirloom tomato salad with spicy oregano and baked feta; grilled calamari with yellow fin potatoes, chorizo, piquillo peppers and arugula, and a black cod with heirloom tomato gazpacho and couscous.  Everything was delicious and served on different styled plates.  We were all full after having these dishes.

The service was fantastic and it was crowded for a Thursday night.  They have a live band in there Thursday-Saturday from 9-11, but by 9:30 when we left they still weren’t there.  I would highly recommend Vinoteca for lunch, an aperitif to dinner or for dinner.

Riedel – The Right Wine Glass for the Right Occasion

Having just got back from the Wine Bloggers Conference 2009 in Santa Rosa California where I sipped, drank and spit over 300 different wines from over 200 wineries between Napa county, Sonoma county and Portugal.  I am convinced that it makes a big difference as to what kind of glass the wine is poured into.  We were fortunate enough to have had the sponsor of Riedel glass at the conference, so all the wine that we tried were poured into the Riedel “O” glass (no stem).  This was a perfect glass for all the tasting we were doing.  It doesn’t have the stem, which keeps your hands from warming up the wine, but when you are dealing with hundreds of people going through hundreds bottles of wine, this worked out the best for this situation.  They are so easy to fit into the dishwasher and are hard to knock over and break.

Claus Joseph Riedel who was born in Austria and passed away this past March at 79, will always be remembered as the man who revolutionized the wine glass.  He transformed what was an earmark social status and aesthetic discernment to a serious tool for the dedicated wine connoisseur.  Riedel, a ninth generation glassmaker, began rethinking and reinventing the shapes of the stemware back in the fifties.  By the time Riedel died his company was making 40 precisely engineered glasses for all kinds of wines and spirits in its flagship hand-blown Sommeliers range.

Kathleen Talbert, who heads her own New York public relations firm and represents several top-tier vintners says, “My first choice is always Riedel”.  “The quality of the stemware and the designated glasses for different varietals truly enhance the appreciation of any wine.  Using proper stemware is as important to the wine experience as serving the wine at the proper temperature”.  Talbert always inquires at the restaurant as to the brand of wineglass it has.  If she is not satisfied then she asks if she can bring her own glassware.  

Once you have the right glass it is important not to over pour the wine, something restaurants tend to do in a rush to make you finish the bottle.  You need to swirl wine in your glass with sufficient room to aerate it beyond the limited exposure it receives while in transit from bottle to glass.  The capacity, height, and balance of Riedel’s shapes are ideal for just that.  

In your home you could be easily satisfied with having 5 different styles of Riedel glasses.  For the perfect drinking set you will want two glasses for reds, Bordeaux and Burgundy, two for whites, Montrachet and Chablis, and one for dessert (port and late harvest).  If you drink mostly red wine for example you could get away with two glasses for the red and only one glass for the white.

The Riedels’ mid-priced Vinum line, which are machine-made instead of hand-blown are four times less expensive.  You should be able to get a glass for about $25.00 as opposed to $100.00.  The contrast in quality seems negligible in terms of the price.  They also go into the dishwasher just great which is especially nice if you are hosting a multiple-wine dinner.  

In the end it all comes down to an informed personal taste.

Pinot Noir Lovers – Be Alerted To The Pinot Days Grand Festival This Weekend

Sunday, June 28, 2009 from 1:00 pm until 5:00 pm at the Festival Pavilion, Fort Mason
Center, San Francisco.  Cost is $50/ticket.

The Grand Tasting will showcase 200 producers of pinot noir.  This is
California’s largest
single gathering of pinot producers, as well as
its most varied.  If you go you will be able to
sample up to 400 pinots from
every important region in California, Oregon, New Zealand,

As winemaker Ed Kurtzman, Freeman Winery
says, “For anyone who already loves Pinot,
this is an excellent
opportunity to try many new wines as well as some well-established
favorites.  For those who don’t have a lot of Pinot experience; my bet
is that they’ll be in
love with this grape by the end of the weekend.” 

Enjoy the countless pinots and sample a variety of artisan cheeses & other specialty foods. 
They will feature a pinot
production demonstration in which you can learn about the
of pinot from the vine to bottling and every step in between. They will
also offer a
number of pinots for auction, benefiting various

Larry and I will be volunteering at the silent auction booth until 2:00 pm.  Then we will
be set free to taste away!  If you are a twitter friend come find us @WineTravelLori and
@WineTravelLarry.  Brandon, aka @winemakerb, assistant winemaker for Dutton Goldfield) will be
there pouring on Saturday.  If you are going to be there then I suggest that you go
“clink a toast” and say hi.

Please, if you go, reply about it on this blog next week we want to hear all about your experiences.

Happy Pinot Drinking!!!!!!!!