Support Small Wineries

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 142013
 

Winemaker Trione VineyardsIn the fall of 2012, as the bounty of harvest was coming to an end, we had the opportunity to meet winemaker Scot Covington at the beautiful Trione Winery. Trione Vineyards and Winery sits in the heart of Alexander Valley, just north of Healdsburg in Sonoma County. For over 35 years the Trione family has been involved in Sonoma vineyards and winemaking . We were lucky enough to be on site during the Trione staff harvest party, complete with grilled wild duck, compliments of Mark Trione’s hunting skills. Scot’s excitement over the 2012 wines was contageous. The barrel and tank tastings showed exceptional promise.

In 2005, when the Trione family decided  to venture back into winemaking, it was Scot they tapped to design and build the winemaking facility. He is a warm and friendly person dedicated to the winemaking arts. As you will read, Scot was well traveled before Trione, though now he seems to have, paraphrasing Jimmy Buffett, “found a life that suits his style.”

B&B: who do you see when you look in the mirror?

SC: Well, that is a good question. Some days it’s Brad Pitt, some days George Clooney some days Archie Bunker…more often than not I see my Father. I see his eyes, ears; laugh lines. I wish my Father was still around to taste the wines that I am making now. He was a big fan of mine as I was of him and I see him often in the mirror especially now that I am a father. The mirror gives perspective. Continue reading »

Jan 312013
 
rockandvinebookjacketYou Can Win a Free Copy of Rock and Vine …Read on….

CONTEST CLOSED…CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL THREE WINNERS

Many California wine lovers have heard the stories of Napa and Sonoma pioneers from the 1960’s, 70’s and earlier. Even the movie Bottle Shock celebrated their early successes. But what about now? Who are the rising wine stars that wine lovers need to know? Many of the up and comers have it in their genes…they are the children, grandchildren and even in some cases the great-grandchildren of the early wine country pioneers.

Due out early February 2013 is the beautifully written and photographed book, Rock and Vine which “reveals the lives and innovations of next generation changemakers in California’s wine country. Continue reading »

Dec 062012
 
wine blogWinestyr and Amazon Wine Marketplace – A Comparative Review

So what is a “Wine Marketplace?” Think of the Marketplace like a Farmer’s Market for wine lovers and craft winemakers…with one simple checkout experience. This is the term being applied to a few websites where smaller boutique wineries can go to sell their craft wines directly to the public, bypassing the outdated and monopolistic three-tier distributor system. The Marketplace serves as a go-between by conveniently taking the orders, even for multiple wineries, in one easily navigated spot.

How does this differ from online wine sellers? The Wine Marketplace does not sell the wine. The wine actually comes to the buyer from the winery. The Wine Marketplace simply serves as a portal to bring wine lovers and winemakers together. Many of the wines found in the Marketplace are smaller production, unique and artistic craft wines you may not find in your local retailer.

To date, there are two main Wine Marketplaces Amazon Wine and Winestyr. They both have similar business models. The winery pays a subscription price to the site and a percentage of the online sales. In both cases the wines are priced very close to, if not exactly the same as they are at the winery website. The sites may offer promotions on certain wines when the opportunity arises. Both offer better shipping prices than you will often get from the winery itself. Wine shipping can get quite expensive. The few wines found on both Amazon Wine and Winestyr appear to have similar if not identical pricing. Continue reading »

Feb 202012
 
vml tasting room

Wine BlogOn our recent trip to northern Sonoma we were graciously hosted by VML Winery . We arrived on a sunny 65 degree Saturday to a winery boasting beautiful gardens, decks that begged you to take a seat and enjoy a glass of wine, live music in the tasting room and barbeque. This Texas girl was already happy.  I understand that there is barbeque and live music every Saturday creating a relaxed almost party atmosphere. Continue reading »

Aug 062011
 

Earlier this summer Donna and I had the opportunity to spend a morning with winemaker Cathy Corison of Corison Winery. Cathy’s looks can be deceiving. She’s tiny, barley five feet tall, but exudes a modest confidence that raises her stature another foot.

Wine Blog

Our tasting view overlooking the Kronos Vineyard

We met Cathy a couple of months earlier at the CIA in St. Helena during her seminar for a bunch of wine writers on the attributes of great Cabernets. There is no question she knows her stuff in spades and is an excellent educator, in addition to being a superb winemaker.

Cathy Corison is a pioneer, entering the realm of winemaking at a time when few women were seen in the cellar. Obviously the 1970’s were a different time for women in male dominated workplaces but this petite powerhouse made it work. As you will see, even after a winemaker hired Cathy for her first crush/harvest she was fired by the winery owner before the job even started. She was too small and not tough enough for the physical rigors of the cellar, he believed. Persistent, that same winery hired Cathy back the next year.

Corison Winery is truly a family winery located on Hwy 29 near St. Helena. It is old Napa Valley, small and quaint. The tasting room, located in the winery’s barrel room, is open daily. Corison offers a personal experience that stands in striking contrast to the glitz and glamour, hustle and bustle of so many Napa wineries.

The Cabernet Sauvignon created by Corison Winery is aptly described as “power and elegance.” The same holds true for Cathy Corison herself. Please join us at our tasting in the top floor of the barn at Corison Winery overlooking the 40 year old Kronos cabernet vineyard. Continue reading »

Jul 232011
 
best wine blogger

Paso Robles Town Square

Over the past year, this wine blog has made numerous trips to Napa Valley and Sonoma. My son finished his winery internship at Rombauer Vineyards (Napa Valley) and needed to drive his pickup to Austin, TX so he could work crush and harvest with his friends at Solaro Estate Winery (Dripping Springs, TX). What could be better than winemaking in 100+ heat?

The 24 hour drive across the desert southwest is long and boring, so I generously offered (note sarcasm) to fly out to CA and drive back with him. The catch, you ask. Well, we just had to spend a couple of days exploring and of course drinking wine, in Paso Robles wine country. Neither of us had been to Paso so we weren’t sure what to expect. In the end we met some great people and innovative winemakers, had creative and delectable meals and best of all, drank some excellent wines. We will definitely be back for another visit.

Continue reading »
Jul 122011
 

Wine Blog“Follow the money,” a quote from  All the President’s Men where Deep Throat advised Bob Woodward that the key to understanding the Watergate mystery was the money. In the case of HR 1161 “The Care Bill” or what should be called the “Wholesaler Protection Act” which seeks to limit or stop direct sales of wine to you from wineries and wine clubs, one only needs to “follow the money.” X

Direct shipment is a critical part of the business plan for many small, family and artisanal wineries.  Small wineries can not compete with large wineries for shelf space in your local wine shop. Direct shipments to happy customers and wine clubs are their best avenue for survival. Continue reading »

Jun 292011
 

Wine BlogThe drive from Calistoga to Volker Eisele Family Estate in Chiles Valley (a sub-ava of Napa Valley ava) is a 30 minute climb along a scenic winding two-lane road. As I drove I wondered why anyone would choose to grow grapes in this upper valley. I later learned that Francis Sievers founded Lomita Vineyards in 1870 on the same plot where Volker Eisele planted his predominately Cabernet vineyards a hundred years later. I was greeted at the old Lomita winery building, which now serves as the offices and a museum of sorts, by Volker Eisele himself. His German accent is still pronounced, giving the whole experience an old world feel. Being something of a Napa history buff, I was excited to meet this iconic pioneer vintner. Volker Eisele is featured prominently in the historical book, Napa: The Story of an American Eden by James Conaway. Continue reading »

Jun 122011
 
Wine Blog

Happy CO Wineauxs

How many frogs must you kiss to find a handsome prince? An important philosophical question for a wine blog to ask when wine tasting in non-traditional grape growing areas. Saturday (June 11th), we attended Denver’s first Colorado Winefest. Driving through a downpour most of the way across town, we wondered if outdoor Winefest would become a washout. The wet weather made it seem like a perfect day for frog kissing. But lady luck smiled, moved the storms off to the east and the afternoon turned perfectly sunny  for this very well run and attended event. The wines were better than expected and as a result, fewer frogs were kissed. Continue reading »