Oct 202013
 

Sonoma WineriesI miss the bygone days of Napa Valley and Sonoma County. Those days before fanciful wineries, hospitality directors, rock star winemakers, iPhone wine apps and glossy winery maps with hundreds of tiny dots. Some of my favorite memories date back to our travels in the early 1980’s  when we would drive up back roads and cross roads never knowing what tiny winery would be around the next curve.

But what I miss most are the unexpected and hands-on experiences that today seem rare, indeed. I recall fondly meeting  Charlie Wagner, Founder of Caymus Vineyards, who tried to discourage us from a tasting by demanding we spend time touring his post-harvest, rain-soaked muddy vineyard. The stop turned into hours of education and a new respect for the farming aspect of winemaking. I miss moments like the time we randomly stopped into the new (now corporately owned) Folie à Deux Winery only to be asked by the founders (two slightly crazy psychiatrists) to help press the last of what became their 1983 vintage.

And then there was the ponytailed cannabis-aromaed gardener who found himself the winemaker of a now defunct Sonoma winery after the previous winemaker had quit mid-harvest. We barrel tasted through his wines; all barely drinkable. Then we got to one last Chardonnay barrel. The gardener-turned-winemaker said, “Dude…now this one I forgot about and didn’t do nothing, no yeast or anything and a couple of months later, shit, it was wine. I guess they forgot to teach him about native yeast fermentation in the “crash crush” course he had taken a few months earlier. And yes, Dude…it was his best wine.

So we are on a quest over the next year to find intimate winery experiences that hearken back to the essence of those earlier days when a trip to wine country was a journey rather than a destination. For those who wish to explore, learn and maybe on occasion even get a little dirty, these will be the stops for you. For those who want a wine country experience filled with “notch your bedpost” names like Opus One and Harlan in an effort to make your friends envious; stop reading now. Most of the boutique wineries we will explore together you will have never heard of (some I had not heard of before my visit) and your friends won’t get excited until they taste the wine you pour from your newly discovered winery gem.

The wineries we are set to explore most likely will not have a public tasting room and you will need to make an appointment, especially in Napa Valley. This is due mainly to the 1990 Winery Definition Ordinance that among other things, restricted wineries opening after its inception to be “by appointment only.” However, in some cases the winery’s production is so small and the wines so well regarded there is no need for a full time tasting room. Some of the wines from these boutique producers will be quite affordable while some will be expensive. The one thing they will all have in common is an intimate and unique experience with folks passionate about the wines they produce.

So join us on our intimate journey of undiscovered Napa and Sonoma… Here are the blog posts from best boutique winery experiences we’ve had so far…

Experience Bucher Vineyard – Exceptional Wines and Vines from Extraordinary People

Jericho Canyon Vineyard – A Unique Vineyard Adventure

Smith-Madrone Vineyards and Winery – The Real Deal

Kelly Fleming – Living the Wine Country Dream

Meet Winemaker Cathy Corison of Corison Winery

Oct 032013
 

Denver International Wine Festival 2013

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2013 DENVER INTERNATIONAL WINE FESTIVAL- NOVEMBER 6 TO 10, 2013 Named One Of America’s Top Fall Wine Festivals By Fodor’s!

The 9th Annual Denver International Wine Festival is the premier wine and food festival in the Rocky Mountains, showcasing more than 400 international wines from 18 countries! This incredible event also features selected premium spirits, sake, craft beer, and a Belgium Beer Garden complete with gourmet food samplings expertly paired with famous Belgium beers, served in their custom glassware. Attendees enjoy a multitude of delectable food and wine tastings, fresh produce, gourmet food products, wine accessories, fine art, and exhibits by luxury travel destinations. Continue reading »

Oct 022013
 

Lower cholesterol When we visited Valentin and Nanette Humer of Salute Santé! Grapeseed Oil in their office and processing facility on the outskirts of Napa, CA, I never thought I’d leave offering myself up as a medical guinea pig. Our intent was merely to introduce ourselves to the culinary benefits of grapeseed oil. Little did I know that this delicious all natural waste-product of the wine harvest would dramatically lower my bad (LDL) cholesterol, lower my triglycerides and improve my good (HDL) cholesterol in just a few weeks. Read on for my amazing stats.

The husband and wife team of Valentin and Nanette started Salute Santé! in 1995 creating cold-pressed extra-virgin grapeseed oil and grapeseed flour. These products have won numerous awards and have become the favorites of many celebrity chefs, including Charlie Trotter and Michael Chiarello. Chiarello even offers Salute Santé! single variety grapeseed oils along with their Gluten & GMO-free grapeseed flour in his acclaimed Napa Style Catalog. Continue reading »

Sep 222013
 

Denver International Wine CompetitionThree Giordano Italian Wines receive medals at the prestigious 2013 Denver International Wine Competition. Two gold medals were bestowed upon Giordano’s 2012 Fiano (White Italian Varietals) and the 2011 Nebbiolo. Giordano’s 2011 Primitivo took the bronze medal in the category, Italian reds under $15. New to American wine competitions, Giordano made an excellent first showing. For preferred pricing on Giordano Wines, be sure to explore the Giordano Italian Wine Club. To read more about Giordano Wines and wine reviews, see Bacchus and Beery Wine reviews. Continue reading »

Aug 262013
 

Jordan WineryJordan Vineyard and Winery has long been a Sonoma County icon for elegance and excellence. Even so, the new Estate Tour and Tasting takes wine country hospitality to the next level. It may come as a surprise that Jordan has no tasting room. Instead they choose to give their guests the more personal approach of small group tours and tastings by appointment. Currently Jordan Winery offers a one-hour Library Tasting and a 90-minute Winery Tour and Library Tasting. But that is all about to change with the addition (September 5, 2013) of the exciting new three-hour Estate Tour and Tasting. Continue reading »

Aug 182013
 
Alba, Italy

Alba, Italy

Earlier this summer we received an invitation to visit the historic Giordano winery and to tour the famed Piedmont wine region of northwest Italy. For those who read Bacchus and Beery, you know what fans we are of Giordano wines, their high quality and value. Our Giordano journey started in the quaint town of Alba, whose roots date back to pre-Roman times. Continue reading »

Jul 282013
 

Damn, it’s hot outside. We really enjoy sipping wine on the Bacchus and Beery patio all summer long. Nothing puts a damper on a good glass of vino than summer heat. Of course, you can keep your wine in a messy chiller or ice bucket but then it gets too cold to taste all the subtle flavors and you’re left waiting for it to warm up to the perfect not too hot…not too cold Goldilocks temperature.

Recently we received two sample products that claim to help beat the summer heat…and we love them! Take a look at these unique wine temperature control solutions. Both will make outstanding gifts or additions to your home. Continue reading »

Jul 272013
 

It’s peculiar the songs that pop into your head and when they choose to take up residence. In this case the tune was an 80’s British pop dance hit I never really liked. But as you will see the song may have been more prophetic than I ever would have imagined.

Strolling through Vertine

Strolling through Vertine

On the fifth day of our 2013 Italian adventure, we drove five hours from the quaint town of Alba in the Piedmont region of northwest Italy to the renaissance era Tuscan town, Gaiole in Chianti, deep in the heart of Tuscan wine country. The route was mostly along the Autostrade (Italian highways) so the driving was easy in our rented blue Peugeot, even though I had been warned by many about driving in Italy. The only real challenge came as we approached picturesque Gaiole. Both our GPS and Goggle Maps kept routing us along dirt roads across the Tuscan hillsides in a 10 mile loop, never being able to locate our B&B. Continue reading »

Jul 182013
 

“Whether I’m making a $100 bottle of wine or a $12 bottle of wine, I put just as much effort into each wine. All wines have to be balanced to be successful.” Charles Smith, winemaker

Charles Smith Charles Smith has been called everything from the Wildman of Walla Walla to Winemaker of the Year (2009 Food and Wine Magazine & 2010 Seattle Magazine). Looking more like rock star Sammy Hagar of Van Halen fame, than the stereotypical winemaker, Charles is a rock star in the winemaking world.

After years of managing rock bands across Europe, Charles landed in Walla Walla to follow his true passion; winemaking. His first vintage was a mere 330 cases of 1999 K Syrah. A self-taught winemaker, Smith created the House Wine label which he sold in 2006. Today his labels include K Vintners, Charles Smith Wines, Secco Italian Bubbles, Charles and Charles Project and Vino.

We met up with Charles on a beautiful spring morning in Austin, Texas in the courtyard of the trendy Hotel San Jose on South Congress. After the interview, we headed out for post-interview enchiladas at Guero’s Taco Bar, just up South Congress Avenue. While sitting at the bar, one fellow looked to his friend and pointed at Charles saying “look dude, this is cool thing about Austin, we’re sitting at a bar with Sammy Hagar.”

As you will see, Charles Smith is as unique an individual as are the wines he strives to create. He prides himself in creating high-quality value-priced wines that appeal to the consumer who might not reach for a glass of wine as their first beverage of choice as well as the budget conscious wine enthusiast. Continue reading »

Jun 082013
 

Mark Oldman

“I am going to make it (wine seminars) worth their while. I have a short attention span. I don’t want to be bored. I am going to do whatever I can to make them walk away and say, that over-delivered.” Mark Oldman

During the Austin Food and Wine Festival we had the chance to meet wine style guru Mark Oldman, two time winner of Georges Duboeuf Best Wine Book of the Year Award for: Oldman’s Guide to Outsmarting Wine: 108 Ingenious Shortcuts to Navigate the World of Wine with Confidence and Style and Oldman’s Brave New World of Wine: Pleasure, Value, and Adventure Beyond Wine’s Usual Suspects.

Oldman has a distinct style described by Bon Appètit magazine as “winespeak without the geek” and by Publishers Weekly as “the ideal mix of wine connoisseur, showman, and everyday dude.”

I didn’t know what to expect from Oldman, of Drink Bravely fame. He was very fun, engaging and frankly a blast to chat with. While in Austin he professed his love for the Lone Star State repeatedly, interesting for a Jersey guy. He even pulled out his Longhorn money clip in testament.

One of the funniest moments however, was during his last seminar when he pulled out a 3X5 foot blowup of his outstanding arrest warrant from the 2012 AFW festival and his newly minted “Free Oldman” t-shirt. It seems Mark was caught by the tireless (obviously with too much time on their hands) Austin police for ….drumroll… Jaywalking, which in Austin is, believe it or not, a criminal offense. The crowd rolled out of their chairs laughing. Continue reading »