Apr 022014
 

Last October we attended a wonderful event, Pinot on the River, on the town square in Healdsburg. It is a Pinot Noir lover’s dream, featuring over 100 of Sonoma’s best Pinot producers. As you’d expect, we tasted some amazing wine and met some outstanding winemakers.

Bucher Vineyard

John and Diane Bucher

As the afternoon crowd dwindles towards the end of the event, the buzz begins from those in the know. Some of the loudest buzz was around Bucher Vineyard, a 38 acre vineyard in the Russian River Valley, not far from Healdsburg. Single vineyard designated Bucher Vineyard Pinot Noirs have been created by some of the most renown Sonoma vintners, including Williams Selyem, Siduri Wines, Papapietro Perry, Arista, HoldredgeC. Donatiello Winery, and Thralls Family Cellars.

While I was familiar with the vineyard name and the wines made by other producers, the buzz was actually about the wines under the new Bucher Vineyard label. So we had to check them out. I must say they were indeed buzz-worthy. Just a day later we spent a few relaxing hours with John and Diane Bucher at their home on their 360 acre ranch which includes the vineyard and a 700 head organic dairy farm.

John’s parents, immigrants from Switzerland, purchased the acreage in the 1950’s to create a dairy farm. Interestingly, there were vineyards on the property, but they were torn out to make room for the dairy operation. John began running the farm after his graduation from UC Davis in 1984. Vineyard planting began in 1997 and now includes a section aptly named the 360 vineyard, a respectful nod to the original vineyard removed in the ’50’s. Winemaker Adam Lee of Siduru says the location “makes the wines a bit different and unique from their neighbors just south” on Westside Road in the Russian River Valley. Thralls Family Wines owner and winemaker, Ed Thralls states, “John is a meticulous farmer who understands wine growing, Pinot Noir and is willing to work with winemakers to grow the highest-quality fruit possible.”

Bucher Vineyard

The Patio view…Perfect for tasting

Our visit to Bucher Vineyards was reminiscent of our first visits to Sonoma in the early 1980’s. No fancy tasting room…actually, no tasting room at all. We drove along the dairy farm fence and up a short climb to the Bucher’s ranch style house where we were met by John and Diane. Both are warm and friendly. Since the weather was ideal we began our tasting and tour on their back patio with an expansive view across the Russian River Valley.

I was very interested in seeing the Bucher’s acclaimed vineyard, so we jumped in their vehicle and took a short ride across the property. The first thing I noticed was that different blocks in the vineyard were planted at different angles and in different directions. John explained that this was done so that each block could take advantage of the soils, hillside and sun orientation. Special care was taken to choose the right Pinot Noir clone for each panting. Diane Bucher explained, “Our 40 acres of vineyard are comprised of a variety of clones, root stocks, terrain, soil types and row directions.  No cookie cutter vineyard management here.” Adam Lee offers that much of the Russian River valley is flat space including old river bed areas “but the type of hills that Bucher has are special.”

Pinot Noir VineyardParts of the dairy farm are visible from the vineyard, making a compelling contrast. There is a definite separation, however. While Bucher vineyard employs any number of organic and sustainable farming techniques, the vineyard is not certified organic. Therefore a defined distance must separate the vineyard from the certified organic dairy farm so nothing will endanger the dairy operation’s organic status.

We returned to the Bucher’s patio to taste the wines. Read reviews of these outsanding here. The wines are made by Adam Lee of Siduri at the direction of John and Diane. When asked about the difference between Bucher Vineyard Pinot and Siduri’s Bucher Vineyard Pinot, Adam said, “John chooses all of the picking dates for his own wine, so to call me winemaker is a bit of stretch.  We make the wine for John, in consultation with him, but by directing the farming for his sections and picking dates he is really the one dictating the style….John tends to pick earlier than we do by a bit…but from a wine style point of view, John and Diane tend to want a somewhat lighter, somewhat more elegant wine.”

Bucher Vineyards

Fall Vine Colors

The tasting experience itself is the way I wish more tastings were, intimate and personal. John and Diane’s passion for their exceptional wines, beautiful vineyards and dairy farm are all evident. As Diane said, “Our visitors are drawn to the history of the farm, our dedication to Sonoma County and agriculture, and our commitment producing the highest quality products. And with some outstanding 2012 Pinots in the bottle and fantastic 13’s in the barrel, there is plenty of wine to be tasted and discussed.”

We encourage you to visit Bucher Vineyards and spend some time with John and Diane. The wine is exciting, the people delightful and the views are spectacular. The Buchers offer private tours at the vineyard by appointment from March through November, but have a limited schedule during the harvest season. If you are interested in a vineyard tour and tasting, please contact Diane at 707-484-5162 or diane@buchervineyard.net.

Mar 262014
 

“…Good company, good wine, good welcome, can make good people.” William Shakespeare, Henry VIII – 1613

“All good things must come to an end.” Geoffrey Chaucer – 1374

My emotions are today ranging from melancholy to near sadness. The Buddhist in me is reminded that attachment only causes pain. But for all my human failings, I find myself attached to what was and feeling some modicum of pain.

Tonight we will be attending a celebration of sorts, or maybe more like a wake. For tonight marks the closing of the place we thought of as our second living room, our other home and extended family, CRU Wine Bar in Park Meadows. Our Cheers Bar, if you will. Before you roll your eyes and judge, I encourage you to read on about this wonderful little wine bar that lost its lease because the mall property owner preferred to move in a high volume chain steak house. What once was interesting is now becoming another cookie-cutter experience. CRU is not the first victim as leases have come up for renewal. No doubt the little wine bar could never generate the rental revenue of the newer high volume tenants…but not all food and wine options need to cater to manic disengaged crowds when there is space for the large and intimate alike. Continue reading »

Mar 122014
 

Cartograph wines

Cartograph’s Alan Baker and Serena Lourie

Winemaker interview with Alan Baker of Cartograph Wines – We at Bacchus and Beery, are always on the lookout for stories of people who left successful careers (not millionaire investors) to start over in the wine industry. When asking around northern Sonoma, the name Alan Baker of Cartograph Wines came up over and over again. Alan walked away from career in Public Broadcasting with few prospects, a little wine knowledge and a lot of wine passion. We have now had the pleasure of getting to know Alan and his partner (in life and wine), Serena Lourie . Together they have recently opened a lovely new tasting room right off the square in Healdsburg. Being hands-on owners and winemakers, you are more likely than not, to be greeted by Alan, Serena or both, when you stop by for a visit and a glass of wine.

B&B Wine Blog: Who do you see when you look in the mirror?

Alan Baker Picking grapesAB: A guy who has more tasks on his list than he has time to complete them. I think the days are long gone when a winemaker could just focus on making great wine. If the world doesn’t know about your wines, it won’t matter how good they are. So I’m almost always in the tasting room, online, or on the road interacting with our customers. Continue reading »

Feb 032014
 

Napa and Sonoma Travel Guide

Originally published in Indulge in Denver Magazine – Feb/March Issue

Napa Sonoma Travel planMany dream about a luxurious tour of the Napa and Sonoma wine country; maybe other wine regions, the choices, experiences and outcomes can be infinite. Planning a tour of any famous icon may be overwhelmed if planning is not accurately investigated. Yes, it can be very overwhelming; often ending with frustration if not properly planned. We ask our friend Roger Beery who has logged numerous excursions in the wine country to give us his insight on how to plan the best possible wine adventure. Roger is so into wine that both of his children are employed in the California vino business.  Here are some sound tips on planning a trip to the wine country…Enjoy. Continue reading »

Jan 212014
 

Clos du valNearly two years ago we interviewed Kristy Melton of Clos Du Val shortly after she was named their first female winemaker. Since that interview Kristy has risen to Head Winemaker with a broader set of responsibilities and a new vision for Clos Du Val. Kristy has undertaken the task of taking Clos Du Val to “the next level of premium” by improving the winemaking and vineyards while refurbishing the historic facilities. Expect some exciting additions to Clos Du Val’s wine lineup including single block and single clone wines. 

As you will see, Kristy is still a hands-on winemaker, not afraid to get dirty. As we spoke, I was glad to see there is still quite a bit of the spunky Texas rodeo queen (really) left in this rising Napa winemaking star. Maybe that’s what makes her special. Read Kristy Melton’s first interview Continue reading »

Dec 072013
 

T3 Tesla Tours

Napa Valley and Sonoma Limo Tours – Try T3 Tesla Tours

There are any number of car, limo and driver services across wine country with varying levels of service, professionalism and vehicles. We were fortunate enough to spend a day touring with Napa’s T3 -Tesla Tours and Transportation. Instead of the standard limo or SUV you can find anywhere, we toured in a sexy, new, all-electric $100,000 Tesla S sedan. On top of that, Tesla Tours is no more expensive than most other services. Interestingly, all their fees and packages include taxes and driver gratuity, so total costs are disclosed up front. Visiting stunning wineries in a unique vehicle with courteous professional service…can you think of anything better? But if you need more traditional modes of transportation, T3 has that too. Continue reading »

Dec 022013
 

Wine Blogger Roger Beery of Bacchus and Beery – Interview

I was excited to be interviewed by the premiere European Food and Fashion website, Webflakes. So if you wanted to know a bit more about the guy behind Bacchus and Beery…Here you go.

Roger Beery

Wine Blogger Roger Beery from Bacchus and Beery

This week we introduce you to Roger Beery who, along with his wife Donna, started the wine blog Bacchus and Beery, which is dedicated to tasting, enjoying, discovering, and of course, just drinking wine. 

They started their love affair with wine back in college and it is now a shared passion in their family, with both their son and daughter working in the industry. 

With years of experience, Roger is now a self-appointed Wine Evangelist spreading the Gospel of the Grape – from sharing an interest with lifelong friends to passing down his family’s passion to their children. Continue reading »

Nov 302013
 

Angle 33 Thermal WineThermal Concrete Wine Chiller: This chiller by Angle 33 looks great and works exceptionally well. We now use ours almost every evening. The wine thermal can act as a chiller but we find it works best to maintain temperature for a perfectly chilled or cellared wine. The thermal is chilled in the refrigerator so ice is never used. The attractively colored thermal concrete is sealed so it does not sweat or get wet on the sides and bottom. Therefore there is no sloppy ice chiller drip.

The Angle 33 Thermal is hand crafted in Montana (see how it is made here). Priced at $64.99, the Angle 33 Premium Concrete Thermal is as handsome as it is functional. Angle 33 also offers matching coasters.

Grapeseed Oils and Flour: Earlier this year we found these delicious grapeseed oils from Salute Salute SanteSanté! in Napa, CA. They make a high smoke point cooking oil as well as herb-flavored and grape variety-specific finishing oils. GMO free, they have replaced olive oils in our kitchen. The gluten-free grapeseed flour is a great addition (20%-30%) to whole grain bread flours and gluten-free flours, creating a nutty richness. Read my personal story about the natural cholesterol reducing effects of Salute Santé! Grapeseed Oil Continue reading »

Nov 162013
 

Dry Creek AVA

A Dry Creek AVA

Barring another wine country emergency (sarcasm), our visits this fall were our last California wine journeys for 2013. The sigh of relief from winemakers across both Napa and Sonoma was audible as the harvest came to an end.

A  textbook growing season created much excitement in all the wineries we visited as bin after bin of near perfect grapes arrived to be carefully converted into the elixir of the Gods. The excitement and anticipation for these wines once bottled, is the talk of most winemakers we met.

Fall in wine country is a surreally beautiful time with acre after acre of vineyards turning Technicolor shades of yellow, gold, red and maroon. Interestingly enough some of the older vines fighting various vineyard plant diseases create the most vibrantly colored fall leaves. Could this colorful display be the vine’s farewell gift to those of us who loved their annual gift of grapes? Continue reading »

Oct 282013
 

Jericho Canyon 2The drive north of Calistoga along the Old Lawley Toll Road toward Jericho Canyon Vineyard really feels like undiscovered Napa. Even with a GPS the tiny entrance is easy to miss. We arrived on a sunny Sunday morning and were greeted by Paul, the winery mechanic (really, that’s his title) as he walked from his tomato garden. He pointed down the dirt road around the modest home, once occupied by the whole Bleecher clan, but now the abode of son, Nick. We came to a red barn which serves as both a tasting room and the façade to their remarkable wine caves.

Here we were greeted by second generation vintner Nick Bleecher and Tara Hole. The experience to be had at Jericho Canyon other that their blockbuster wines, is the Polaris Tour and tasting ($75). With Nick and Tara we jumped into a Polaris 4-wheeler for a truly unique tour along the steep vineyard trails of Jericho Canyon Vineyard. With 40 acres planted on the 140 acre site before the restrictive 1991 Hillside Ordinance, the vineyards cling to the steep hillsides and offer spectacular views. The tour is an education in vineyard management and winegrowing with plenty of fun thrown in. Be sure to bring a camera for the hillside vineyards and vista shots of the Palisades and Mt. St. Helena. Check out the photo gallery. Continue reading »