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The Top 10 Wine and Food Events You Should be Attending

Date: Tue, Mar 11, 2014 Wine Tasting

A timely article written by new guest contributor;Ilona Thompsonthe Editor in Chief forPalate Exposure, a self-described believer in the Sustainability of Critical Thinking and Personal Responsibility, she is also a regular contributor to theBrenner Brief.

I consider myself a bona fide, card carrying wine geek. As part of this hedonistic club, I am expected to show up at every wine event within reasonable geographical distance. Since I am an hour away from Napa, an hour and a half away from Sonomaand four hours away from Central Coast I can offer full coverage on the events that have taken place within those regions.

Over the last decade,I have attended numerous wine and food events, ranging from your basic public walk around tastings to glamorous and ostentatious bacchanalias. I have learned much and enjoyed myself even more. So here is your custom designedBucket or "To Drink" List courtesy ofPalatexposure.

It was extremely difficult to narrow my list to only 10 events due to sheer number of affairs I've had the pleasure and privilege of attending. There were some truly wonderful events that did not make this list.

My Top 10 Food and Wine Festivals were selected using the following criteria:
  • Open to the public
  • The quality of the wine and food purveyors
  • The opportunity to learn
  • The events facilitation of social interactions.
Cost was not taken into consideration. In truth, most of these events are "bargains." They offer an opportunity to a sample broad spectrum of world class wines and Michelin star quality food, that would be unattainable in most restaurant settings.
With that in mind, here are my top ten:

1.Big Sur Food and Wine Festival
Stellar event benefiting local charities in a breathtaking setting of the most dramatic Pacific Coastline. Extraordinary food & wine opportunities.

2.World of Pinot Noir
A Must for Pinot Geeks. The event offers an unparalleled opportunity to taste world class Pinot Noirs showcased by domestic and international producers. Its new home now is the fabulous Bacara Resort.

Nothing can adequately describe this three day embarrassment of riches. Who is who in the wine world shows up. It's the Oscars of the wine world. Seriousoenophilescan't afford to miss this bacchanalia.Here is a link to fullarticle:

4.SonomaHarvest Wine Auction
A beautiful, heartfelt affair, that benefits a multitude of worthy causes. It has a wonderful, homespun, grassroots feel. It features an extraordinary combination of top quality wine and food.A formidable bargain for what you will experience. See my articles.

5.West of West
The rugged, soul pinching beauty of the Sonoma coast tugs at your heart strings as you enjoy some of the best pinots and chardonnays produced in the world.Their seminars are informative and compelling. Here is a link to the full article.

The Anderson Valley's charm cannot be beat. This festival has grown exponentially. It's a Pinot lovers dream.‎

What could be better than top Napa Valley chefs and winemakers competing for your palate? Not much in my book!

8.Vineyard to Vintner
A small, but highly educational event, one which will teach you volumes about the grandeur of one of the Napa Valley top appellations, the Stag's Leap District.

9.Chardonnay Symposium
Paging chardonnay lovers! Set in Santa Maria valley, it's a great opportunity to taste the world's top selling variety and to meet the expert growers and vintners who work with this grape every day.

10.CentralCoastWine Classic
The KCBX Classic is an annual affair offers a great workout for your senses. Eat, drink, mingle.One of the wine world's most pleasurable experiences.

Occasionally we need to treat ourselves to pure, sensuous pleasure.Benjamin Franklin once said:"Wine is constant proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy."Attend anyone of these events and you'll revel in that love!

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Mumm is the Word

Date: Wed, Mar 5, 2014 Wine Tasting

"Champagne, if you are seeking the truth, is better than a lie detector. It encourages a man to be expansive, even reckless, while lie detectors are only a challenge to tell lies successfully."-- Graham Greene

Some say "Grease is the Word" but in this case, with thisbrilliantChampagne I think someone may want to rewrite the song. Here's my suggestedrewrite, what-do-ya think?
"They think our love is just a growin' pain….Why don't they understand? It’s just a cryin' shame…..Their lips are lyin', only real Champagne is Champagne…...stop the fight right now, we all know how it makes us feel - Mumm is the word!"
Today's Wine of the Week: G.H. Mumm "Mumm de Cramant" Blanc de Blancs Brut Champagne is one beautiful Blanc de Blanc, which easily shows off its lacysumptuoustexture immediately, mad sex appeal found here. I'm so glad I avoided enjoying this Champagne in aflute and instead I enjoyed it from one of my new Bordeaux stems and yes I enjoyed this bottle with a seemingly pedestrian meal of Fish & Chips, but they did make beautiful music together. Mumm is the Word!

Here's how Mumm describes this beautiful bottle of bubbles:
"Mumm de Cramant is a precious cuvée made in the purest Champagne tradition since 1882. A single cru cuvée of incomparable purity, blended in the time-honored tradition with a strict selection of 100% Chardonnay Cramant wines. Truly a great Champagne to grace any occasion."
Most of the time, these statements are just blah, blah, blah 'our wine is world class juice', but in this case I'd have to say I'm in 100% agreement with the statement above. This is my kind of lie detector, hook me up again and again.

Tasting Note: You'll find this Cramant quite vibrant and creamy. Persistent, lip smacking acidity greets you with delightful flavors of fresh baked patisserie pear, bright honey-crisp apples, toasted almonds, a drop of honey and scented by acacia blossoms. This amazing juice is punctuated by a rich note of smoky minerality, quietlyplaying bass in the background, and a long sumptuous finish will have you thinking about opening another bottle.

Is this wine worth the price of admission? I'd like to say it succinctly and in one word, absolutely. If you'd like find out why Champagne can be so very captivating and why the word Champagne is so protected, it's because in my mind, a bottle like this oneexemplifies what it means to be Champagne. There is no comparison.

I've tasted many Champagnes and I've tasted plenty of domestic bubbly but nothing prepared me for what I'd find in this bottle. I scored this bottle 94 points, this folks is how you do it, and selling for average price of $59 at a few select retailers. Full Disclosure: This bottle was sent as a media sample. Okay that's all I've for today, I hope you have a great Wine Wednesday, pop some corks and enjoy, remember Mumm is the Word cheers!

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Travel Tuesday: The Wine Road Less Taken [Ruta del Vino]

Date: Tue, Mar 4, 2014 Wine Tasting

“I was like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.~Isaac Newton

I think far too many of us; [myself included]it can become far too easy to fall into thetrap of going back to the same wine-well over and over. All of us are painfully aware that our lives on this mortal coil are short; a mere pebble in the sands of time and sadly a myopic point of view on our window of the world becomes so comfortable, like those favorite pair of shoes we cherish, and we quickly forget that we have choices.

Today as some of you know is Travel Tuesday, that means it’s time to think long and hard about removing the ‘blinders’ so many of us wear, which keep us plodding on in the same direction and sadly unwilling to bust out of safe cocoons of conformity. I’d like to encourage each of you to give the wine-world a good swirl, put something new and fresh in your collective glasses and lean into it.

As many of you know I work part-time in retail wine sales and as a wine demo specialist, where I run into folks who all too often havenodesire to adventure outside their normal everydaytried-n-true staples. Wines, like Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot orPinot Noir etc. In some ways I do totally get that, because you want consistency, but is the price of consistency worth giving up on exploration?

People say to me all-the-time, I don't want ‘that’becauseI can't taste it! But what I think they are really saying is "I'm not familiar with ‘that’ and Ican'ttrust thatuncorking an unknown wine will do for me".

That's a good point and I get that,but how do you fix that issue,one wayis togo to"focused" tastings where you can experience new wines from new regions, a great [possibly] new habitI'dhighly recommendleaning into. So ifyouwant to drill down a bit deeper and you fancy yourself as the adventurous type, you can take a wine-tourism-trip to get a first hand experience with new wines flavors and styles in their country of origin.

This where you will also learn to make a connectionto the folks behind the label, where you can not only learn to drink like a local, but eat like one too, taking the road less traveled, with each sip, swirl and slurp and possibly [maybe inevitably] the eventual burp. This folks is the tipping point for a majority of wine-geeks like me, because once you experience the wine lifestyle outside the comfy confines of the ‘states’, you're hooked.

You go abroad enamored with wine drinking and wineculture and come back with a passion that can lay siege to your very soul [maybe a bit of hyperbole]. But honestly, [speaking from personal experiences] once you have peaked behind the curtain, there's no going back to the mundane world of commodity wines.

Even folks with a cursoryknowledge of history, can see the imprintwine hasmade upon lives and culture throughout the the ages.For me, it's the kind of experience thatjust grabs you and pulls you in, like noother beverage really can or ever will, wine is in the fabric of nearly every great nation and peoples on this planet, embrace it.

As you're reading this, think of my words as type of invitation to get out there, and lay aside the mundanecommodity winesyou'vebeen drinking forfar too long, then go see for yourselves the breadth anddepth of what is available on thisvinousthird rock from the sun.

I think you too will come back with a deeper, greater appreciation and understanding of why wine is not just an ordinary beverage like that sad little bottle of Jack Daniels you slurped down on the last flight you took to Reno. I think wine exploration whether by travel or just uncorking something new could help you to find a broader and perhaps better perspectiveon the wine world.

Okay,I'mdone pontificating on the subject of exploration, but I do hopeyou'llat theveryleast consider my advice. Now that I've hopefully grabbed your attention, I wanted to shine a light on a great jumping off place for you to do exactly what I've described above, a place which in mymind is idealin helping you get out there to the; Ruta del Vino deNavarraor the simply the"wine-route" in northern Spain.

Once you click on the link above, you will find abundant information on the wineries you can visit, tours you can take and other needed travel information. I find it a bit amusing when in passing conversation, about I trip I had once taken to theRuta del Vino de Navarra, because theylook at me so puzzled when I mention theNavarra Wine Routein northernSpain.

But when I dive into the details with a bit more context, about one of the great jumping-off points for great vinous adventures, and that it happens to be in Pamplona, their eyes light up and their heads nod in knowing approval of this famous destination and that's no bull. Trulyfolks,Pamplonais a great place to stay and a great city to explore, while visiting theNavarra Wine Route, especially in the off season.

It's also a great place hang out in the evening after a long day out on the wine-route, as the city pumps with action nightly even in the off-season [which is the best time to go]. There arepintxosbars to visit,many upscale tastydining options and great tasting vino to drink all within easy walking distance from many hotels in the area.

I stayed at the stunningPalacio Guendulainwith the rest of the Navarra Five, a great place torechargeyour batteries. As our group hit the ground runningevery daysoaking in the culture and exploring the fantastic Ruta del Vino deNavarra first hand, where we saw medieval castles, Roman ruins, experiencing all the wondrous aspects of the Kingdom of Navarra.

But hey, don't just come for the bountiful wine-experience, stay for the wonderful culture. So what are you waiting for? Book it now, you'll thank me later. If you would like to see more of the pictures I took whileI was there, please click over to myNavarra Five [group shot below] page onflickr.Until next time sip long and prosper cheers!

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San Diego: Sonoma in the City

Date: Sun, Mar 2, 2014 Wine Tasting

Wine cheers the sad, revives the old, inspires the young, and makes weariness forget his toil. --Lord Byron

Want to get away? The chances are very good that you do, but getting there isn't always as that easy. There's the requesting [fighting with co-workers] for time off, the planning, and then there's the cost. But what if that place you've been wanting to see, taste and experience came to you?

'Wait, uh--what?' You may be thinking, but you heard me right, the Sonoma County Vintners are coming to a city near you, this time it's San Diego, my home-town. They are bringing all those great wines you've heard so much about, right here. So whether you're sad, mad or just plain bad, this is the event that help you forget all your toils and tribulations, so don't delay get your tickets today.

You won't need to board an airplane, or be patted down by the sometimes all too eager TSA agents. Nope none of that will be necessary, you just need to grab a pair tickets, yes I said 'pair' did you really want to go alone? Nah, didn't think so. So here's the link to order the ticketsyou'll need to get in on the all the action.

How exciting right? I mean where will you have the opportunity to taste wines from50 wineries in one shot. That means, that there is likely to beover 200 different wines, so whether Pinot Noir is your thing, or you like big-buttery Chardonnays there's something for everyone.

Heck, in-between sips, slurps and maybe even the unintentional burp you could even learn a thing or two about the hows/whysthat make Sonoma County one the perfect places to grow grapes and make wine. You could come away with some great insights about the Sonoma's Pacific coastline, fog patterns, why soil matters,microclimatesand what AVA means to you and why they matter.

Okay, this is part where you pay attention. Because this event is this coming Wednesday, the 5th. It starts at 5PM and ends at 8PM, taking place at theThe Prado at Balboa Park, the address is1549 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101. If you're worried about parking don't because according to the invite, there's free parking in all lots surrounding the venue.

The price of admission is $70 per person and in my mind that is quite the grape-deal for all you'll be getting, you certainly couldn't fly to Sonoma and have this kind of access for anywhere near that price.

Will there be something besides just wine to savor? Yes, of course what would a night of 'Sonoma in the City' be without a taste of the great cuisine to be found in Sonoma? You can count on a vastarray of passed appetizers, artisan cheese, charcuterie and such. I hope to see you all there, if you see me feel free to stop and say hello. Until next folks remember life is short. So sit back, uncork a few bottles and relax, sip long and prosper cheers!

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Harvest 2013: Weathering the Storm in Bordeaux

Date: Fri, Feb 28, 2014 Wine Tasting

Another Grape Production by Monique Soltani Founder/Host ofWine Oh .tv fame.

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Kronos: Experience A Golden (vint-)Age Of Corison Cabernet

Date: Thu, Feb 27, 2014 Wine Tasting

Ordinarily we avoid reviewing wines that sell for over $100 on Cuvée Corner. Today, I joyfully make an exception. Why? For one very simple reason, I am reviewing a wine from Cathy Corsion, a visionary winemaker with a passion for making vibrant wines that feel untouched and express a sense of place.

Passion is an active and occasionally forceful conviction. Cathy Corison discovered hers while reading for a bachelor's degree in Biology (Pomona College in Claremont, CA) and subsequently at UC Davis where she studied for a Master's in Enology. She was inspired by the concept that wine is "alive at every level". Cathy learned her craft making wine for Chappellet Vineyard, Staglin Family Vineyard, York Creek Vineyards and Long Meadow Ranch but ultimately she needed a canvas with which to express her own voice.

View across the Kronos vineyard property at the Corison Winery

She spent a long time poring over soil survey maps of land throughout Napa before selecting from benchland vineyards between Rutherford and St. Helena. Here the deep, gravel, alluvial soils provide a fine balance between stress and nurture that Cabernet vines find ideal. Kronos, Cathy’s flagship Cabernet, is a single vineyard production, whose vines are nestled in the loamy, stoney plot (approximately 8 acres) surrounding the winery and tasting room.

If I may paraphrase the information she sent me - Spring 2010 brought rain that pushed bud break back a few weeks. The cool growing season was interrupted by a heat spike in August that prompted some selective picking, but cooler temperatures continued until an Indian Summer set in in late September and October brought the grapes to full ripeness. The long, cool season yielded a small crop and a wine of uncommon concentration.

Sample provided by Cathy Corison

2010 Kronos Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon - I neatly cut the foil, gingerly prized the cork from its home and poured the contents into a decanter (and a little into my glass). Then… …I stuck my nose right into the glass, smiling as I breathed in the nascent volatiles. It felt a little like cheating but I could not wait and I was not disappointed. I did however allow the wine to breathe for over an hour before beginning my review.

From the first sniff, sip and swirl, I fell in love with this wine. From my notes - It feels genuine; suffused with notes of earth and herb, the nose melds black currants and blueberries that are layered upon violets and toasty oak. In a world filled with modernly styled CA Cabernets high in fruit and alcohol and low in acid, Cathy produces elegantly, restrained and yet stunning and fiercely addictive wines. This truly is an outstanding Napa cab.

The palate is taut, energetic and exciting. The fruit core is intensely focused, integrating layers of acai and blueberry/boysenberry and blackcurrant/cherry in a stream of sensory stimulation. The dark fruit core is pierced by acidity, lifting them to reveal plum skin, hints of bitter chocolate, spice and espresso. The finish lingers effortlessly, displaying earthy, dusty tannin and white pepper, carried on saline-infused sweet, dark fruit.

The color, texture and flavors are vivid, fresh and wholeheartedly real. Cathy avoids overripe, high alcohol wines while retaining intensity, laser-edged purity and structure. The 2010 Kronos sits at a comfortable 13.6% alc, yet there is nothing under-ripe about this or her other wines. Cathy’s philosophy is to allow the vineyards to express themselves, an idea that requires minimal intervention, sustainable vineyard management and ageing in small French oak barrels.

Corisonwines provide an outstanding complement to food, as well as favored company. My wifeand I enjoyed the Kronos with wonderful steak au poivre - filet mignon (served rare) dressed in a crushed pepper cream sauce combined with Dijon mustard and a little cognac. We served it with roast parsnip, sweet potato and carrot. I hope you can imagine the flavors. The food was wonderful, and the wine sang beautifully in their company. It was an exquisite way to spend a valentine’s evening together.
A great wine can draw you in. It can capture your attention. Drinking Corison wines can be captivating. The 2010 Kronos engages you in a conversation that you neither want to leave nor hurry. This is a wine to savor, to share, to contemplate and to know that, over the next ten years, its story will become even more interesting, complex and beautiful. I have been fortunate to try multiple vintages of this wine over the years but the 2010 may be the most memorable yet.

If you have not treated yourself to one of Cathy’s wines before, this would be an incredible wine with which to start. The 2010 Kronos Cabernet sells for $135/bottle directly from the winery (reach out to Corison for information on distribution).

I hesitate to impose a score on such an elegant creature but this has to sit comfortable in the 92-95 point range, and likely leaning towards the upper end of the range as time passes and it gently unwinds. Best after 2017.


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The Napa Valley Uncorked: The Tudal Family Winery [Part Two]

Date: Wed, Feb 26, 2014 Wine Tasting

“The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes” – Marcel Proust

Never has a statement been more true than this one I shared above. It's far too easy to become jaded and cynical as a wine drinker, and especially for wine writers and wine bloggers like myself. It's too easy to not have new 'eyes' when it comes to places you're already sofamiliarwith, I went to the Tudal Family Winery with new 'eyes' because I wanted to take it all in, with that sense ofwonderment andamazement many new to the wine trail have.

With each article I write, it's my one-man mission to provide readers with current, objective, easily readable content and hopefully even a bit of entertainment about the wonderful world of wine, associated travel, food and wine pairing adventures. So I'm spanning the globe [literally at times] looking for and eventually landing on "the intersection of where great wines meets reasonable prices".

This article is part two, time to peel back their label once more, and take another peek behind the purple colored curtain, if you will. I'd like everyone toget to know the folks who have not onlymade wine their business, but also alifelongpassion.I believe I've captured those elements with part one of this two part article about the Tudal Family Winery in the Napa Valley.

Wine is not just about what is in the bottle, it's about friends and family, it's about the place it came from, and for many it can be about how live our lives. As for me, I had quick but refreshingglimpseinto the Tudal Family Winery, and immediately felt right at home myself. I went home with a slice of the "winery-life" that now lays tucked into the good memories of days gone-by, for me personally I felt like I was home, where I should be. I'm grateful for the invitations to return and stay once more.

Wine is alive, just because it has been bottled, that doesn't mean there's no longer room for it to change, no in fact wine like each of us, continues to change and mature over time. For some of us, it's for the better, yet others may end-up being corked, there are many variables and different paths to take. Each vintage takes part of our collective history and becomes a bit like a timecapsule, once uncorked years later.

As I've already mentioned I did a bit of barrel tasting during my visit, but I had no idea that the consultingWinemaker Rudy Zuidema's dog loved barrel tasting every bit as much as I do. It was a dog-gone good day for tasting wine though.

Speaking of dogs, you'll be sure to have a visit from 'Sadie' the wonder poodle, who seems to have a knack for knowing someone has shown up on the property, as she runs up to quickly greet you. I was amazed she stood in this pose long enough for me to snap a picture, no soonerthanthe shutter clicked, she had quickly darted away from me and around the house. I was left thinking, "sheese, something I said" but later that evening she spent a good deal of time sitting near me as I cooling my heels on the plush couch, editing some of the images I'd shot earlier. I'm sure my two poodles at home with Mrs. Cuvee would have been quite jealous.

“Color on Pinot is like clothes on a woman, it’s not needed” André Tchelistcheff

I just had to smile and nod in agreement, when John Tudal told me about this quote he attributes to Mr. Tchelistcheffwho he must have met and heard this commentlive. I couldn't locate any evidence of the quote being attributed to him, but it does make a lot of sense.

I've seen many Pinot Noir's that I call "chunky" with crazy color extraction, it makes mescratchmy head a bit, making me wonder if this wine in my glass was truly100% as it had been stated.

The Pinot Noir you see pictured above is nothing of the sort. In fact its light and lean in all the right places.While sat about chatting during lunch, the abundant red fruit flavors gained new depth and elegance. This is type of Pinot Noir I often associate with fruit sourced from the Carneros region.

In word this wine is energetic; displaying seeming endless notes of spicy strawberry, raspberry and wet-earth aromas, bound with silky tannins This Pinot which I didn't want to stop drinking, was displaying appealing freshness and elegant floral nuances with each sip, slurp and sadly w/o the ultimate burp.

I had the opportunity to taste many of their wines while at lunch, of course one of the stand-out is their 2009 Legacy Lot Estate Grown and bottled Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine is classic Napa Valley at its best; it was big rich and dense, a bottle worthy a case purchase to lay down and enjoy over the years.

While more is not alway more, in this case it certainly is, fine ground minerality, the finish is long and lasting. In this wine you'll easily find a crush of blueberries, blackberry and black currant liqueur and tagging along, hints of subtle smoke, subtle vanilla and burning embers. In my opinion folks this how you do it, accessible now with a bit of decanting and worth the price of the $85 admission for those who can patiently cellar this wine in the years to come.

These two wines above are just few examples of the many very good wines they make, the range of wines they offer are quite diverse, from the Founder's series to their Vineyard Series, there is truly a wine for all price points, styles andpreferences.

Their Tudal Family 50% Napa Valley and 50% Sonoma bring the two regions together like they rarely do in real life. This has to be one of the most creative wine labels I've ever seen. Big kudos to John Tudal who designs all their labels, I think they're all very well done. The story behind this label is quite the funny one, it's the story of two competing labels and then bright idea to make those labels merge, with half of one touching the other to form the one. The TTB had a great time approving this one.

The Tudal Family Winery has a great winemaking team, withRon Vuylsteke [seen above] and consulting winemakerRudy Zuidema who form team Tudal, togetherthey bothhave a combined 70 years of crush and winemaking experience under their belts and it truly shows. If you'd like to find out more about their great history in the Napa Valley, please be sure to check out their 'about page'here.

I hope this article has somehow tempted you or at the very least wet your appetite to give Tudal Family Wines a swirl soon, and then contact them for a visit, you'll be glad you did.

If you've ever wondered 'why' I take the time to write about wine?I wonder about that sometimes myself. But it's a fairquestion, one whichI don't mind answering.For me the purpose is simple, this wine-blog exists to benefit and refresh every palate it touches whether you're advanced wine slurping machine or just the garden variety wine-swirling vino-sapien. It is my hope that the content of this blog will bring refreshment;like a well balanced wine addingvalue, joy& fun to your own wine, tour and travelexperiences.

Further it's my hope you will take from my meager musings on the subject; the joy of wine drinking, tasting and travel. And also hopefully build that desire within you to explore all the wonderful aspects of this communal experience we have with the vine. Until next folks remember life is short, take the time to sit-back and relax, pop a few corks, chat with your friends and family over a glass or two and as always sip long and prosper cheers!

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The Napa Valley Uncorked: Tudal Family Winery

Date: Tue, Feb 25, 2014 Wine Tasting

We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring
will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time. - T.S. Elliot

It's always great to be back in the Napa Valley, visiting old friends or as in this case making new ones. It was my greatprivilege, getting to know Felicia and John Tudal this past weekend. You'll find their fourth generation winery located on Big Tree Road, located in St. Helena off route 29, just a few miles down the road from Calistoga. It's easy to miss, if you drive too fast, it's the exit before orimmediatelyafter the Cal-Fire Station, depending on your direction.

If you'd like to visit and I suggest you do, it's like taking a step back in time to the classic days of the Napa Valley when things were much simpler, and tasting rooms were not built to resemble theTaj Mahal. Please note, that their tastings are made by appointment only, but that is a fairly simple thing to do of course. Seeing their 10 acre winery is what you'd call off the beaten path, slipping onto their tasting schedule should be a snap, but as always please call ahead. For the more inclement days they have small tasting salon locatednearbythe Tractor Shed, the outdoor tasting with the view of the lovelygarden and vineyards is ideal.

The view of the garden above and below the vineyard view.
Now I could go on to describe my experience here and I will. I was an invited guest, who was there to see, taste, listen, and just drink it all in. Personally, I don't just look at things through the lens of a wine-writer, but I do so more like each one of you, as a wine consumer. One who decides where I want to spend my time and my hard earned dollar, Tudal Family Winery is one of those places.

Thatsaid, whatyou see is what you get, an historic Napa Valley property one that has much to offer the average thirsty vinosapien looking for something different, than the everyday run-of-the-mill tasting the cattle call tasting rooms. This is an opportunity to sit back and relax, take it all in and enjoy a slice of the Napa Valleyas few ever really get to see it.

In the next picture, you'll see why the voice of previous visitors will ring so much more true, than the words I can convey here in this article. Their guests are invited to write on the door, to share theirexperiences. As I read through them all, I thought this is the kind of winery I want to visit when I have a long weekend, or just a couple days off from work.

If you find that you just can't make it all the way to the winery; then join them at their Cerruti Cellars urban wine oasis in Oakland, Ca. located in Jack London Square. It's named in tribute to our patriarch and 1st generation California Grower George “Baci” Cerruti, an Italian emigrant from Genoa that lived to theripe age of 99 to witness so many of our memorable occasions.

This is a great little spot to sit-back and relax after work, a place where you can also catch a taste of their 'lifestyle' brands, Tractor Shed Red [$12] and their well placed Honker Blanc [$15] which is also seeing some action in the Napa Valley via their keg wine-by-the-glass service.

As you know, I'm not a big fan of Sauvignon Blanc, I tend to prefer Fie Gris or Sancerre version of the grape, and new world styles are often too aggressive and not in a good way. But what I tasted of the upcoming Camp Ranch 2012 SB I'm thinking it's going to be a tasty one [no mal] and one I'd recommend for those who don't prefer too much freshly cut grass and overwhelminggrapefruitnotes, instead a gentle slap of peach and pineapple.

Riding around on a gator with Felicia Tudal, I had a fun opportunity to take in some of the back roads of the Napa Valley, a brief back-road excursion very few the ordinary visitors have a chance to do. I was able to meet many of their neighbors, friends, growers and vintners.

I purchased a bottle of Cabernet Franc [on Felicia's recommendation alone] from the folks atEhlers Estate, who had a very comfy and spacious tasting salon [stay tuned for that review]. Here recommendation reminded me of something she said earlier as I was through a few of their wines at lunch, "Dirt doesn't lie, it's the basis for good wines". Folks there's an undeniable truth to that statement, one I've experienced more times than I can tell.

My first day on the property, right before an amazing lunch we shared, I had the opportunity to do a bit of barrel tasting, something which I always enjoy. A quick glance if you will about what one could expect from upcoming release. Based on those impressions alone, I'd say that both 2012 and 2013 Tudal Family "Clift Vineyard" 100% Cabernet Sauvignon [clone 337] is going to be a blockbuster. I was especially impressed with the 2013 which is just bursting at the seams with finesse and power.

But don't get me wrong, the 2012, is a velvet glove, [free-run/press] dark ripe blueberries, mocha, blackberry and a ripe plum laid across canvas of bright acid, making everything pop. The fruit is sourced from a near dry-farmed vineyard, called Clift Ranch. Long timeNapaValleygrower Tom Clift, planted the vineyard in 1999, and in its 15thyear is really showing its maturity. A delicious single-vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon designate from a vineyard which is a little less than two acres, located in the heart of the Oak Knoll District of theNapaValley.

There's already quite a bit here, and I've so much more to tell about this amazing Napa Valley winery that's surprisingly still flying under the radar. It's my hope you'll take my advice, book an appointment and meet some great folks behind this great Napa Valley producer. Look for part two tomorrow, until next folks remember life is short, so sit back, relax and uncork a great Tuesday evening cheers!

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Wine Writing

Date: Sat, Feb 22, 2014 Wine Tasting

"Writers about wine should, at least on occasion, be troublesome, irritating and critical.” ~ Andrew Jefford

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Why Plonk Wines Are Here to Stay

Date: Fri, Feb 21, 2014 Wine Tasting

“The consumerdoesn'tknow. They think it comes from a guy who farmed his landand made it in his small barrels in his little winery.”

Sometimes when I see folks tweeting about or throwing up a FB posts about seemingly generic mass produced [commodity] wines, like Chateau Two-by-Four [insert mass market label here]Chardonnay for example, I cringe. I believe there are far too many wine blogs accepting these styles of wine for the review process [please stop] and in my opinion that is a real shame.

When I'm asked to accept a sample of ordinary run-of-the-mill commodity wines like that and review them, again I cringe, and I kindly reply no thanks. If I were to accept plonk or commodity wines as a sample, then I'd feel like I've not done my job properly as a wine-writer.

I'd feel like I've not shook enough trees, driven down enough winery roads, or have been to enough tastings to let folks know they have alternatives, outside of the fast-food California wine market place. Please don't get me wrong, California isn't the only guilty party here in regards to commodity wines [aka, plonk] all the other major wine producing countries are doing the same thing.I know the opinion I'm sharing here is not popular, but that has never stopped me before. So if this moment of 'frankness' closes a few doors, then I say so be it.

Let me go a step further in regards to commodity wines; to me those "kind" of wines are all too similar of a choicebetweentwo widely different options. It's more like the choice to either buy farm-raised salmon [blech] or instead going for the [pricier] "wild-caught"Sockeyethere's no comparison. Why so many folks just settle for the farm-raised alternative when it comes to their choice of wine, strikes me as sadly strange.

To be completely honest and forthright, those are not the folks reading this blog or any blog for that matter. In fact folks who would describe themselves as commodity wine drinkers don't even care about or even bother to read wine reviews of any kind or related commentary. So why are countless other bloggers and PR agencies spinning their collective wheels attempting to pedal what amounts to be nothing more than plonk? I for once, don't have any quick smartass opinions to offer, but it again it does strike me as strange.

Personally, I don't mind paying a bit extra forauthenticwines withsoul, but so many folks do and they'll not even consider purchasing wines costing more than $10. And you know I'm actually glad that the vast unwashed masses ofvinosapiensout there in thehinterlands ofwinedomhave zero to no interest in purchasing or experiencing winescosting more than ten dollars.

Going back to the one of the most easily overlooked points of his great article on the subject [which I have linked to below] is, and I'm paraphrasing, because American's as a whole drink so much wine, there is no way the small producers we all know and love could keep up with the demand.

Just imagine [a nightmare] for a moment if everyone drinking the plonk [commodity] wines today, suddenly decided "you know those5%wine drinkers are right" and they all decided they'd like to acquire the same wines we all know and love. Egad, the demand for the better wines would skyrocket, the prices would go through the roof, and we'd all experience what many do nowbecauseof the Chinese interest in the [high-end] wines of Bordeauxand Burgundy, the crazy inflation of wine prices and demand would outstrip the supply.
According to an article by Keith Wallace in 2009 "How Wine Became Fast Food" [citing thearticle]"Since most people like to stick with familiar brands andcheap prices, it’s [Plonk] a necessity. Americans consumed700million gallons of wine last year,80percent of which sold for less than $10, according to ACNeilsen and The Beverage Information Group."Read More.
It's my contention that good food and good wine shouldnotbe the rare commodity, but rather it should be a model which we strive to live-by. Sadly tho, very few vinosapiens, will ever want or desire to live their life that way.And I'm perfectly fine with that, please by all means"drink what you like"but expect a bit of [unbeknownst] friendly mockery in regards to your choice to consume the same jug-wines day in and day out, for example wines like La Crema Chardonnay, Menage a Trois, Three Buck Chuck and a bevy of other formulaic wines made in a similar style.

So it would appear that Plonk Wines actually have a purpose [who knew?] and are needed in the greater wine economy at large. It's a "give the people what they and they'll beat a path to your door type of scenario" one stained brightly withMega Purple.I'm NOT attempting to be disparaging to that segment of the wine community simplyfordisparagementsake.

But these types of wines do provide an alternative to the95%of wine[plonk wine consumers]drinkers who will not drink wines over$10, which[IMO] are simply nothing but plonk [please just be honest]. Before anyone gets their nose too far bent out of shape, I know there areexceptionsto the rule, but as we all know exceptions don't make the rule. Now that said, please join me in a loud hip-hip hooray, cheap pedestrian wines are here to stay, rejoice. Can I get ahallelujahandamen?

While many wine drinkers/consumers like you [dear reader] and I are the exception, [the 5%] yet I still don't see my choices for discovering wines with soul being limited in anyway. No instead, I actually continue to discover new and exciting regions which produce amazingly affordable wines, which are not produced like a cheap commodity, but are still wonderfullyconvenientto purchase. So again remember life is short, live well and drink well. Until next time sit back, relax and continue to sip long and prosper cheers!

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Wine Tasting Not Wine Drinking

Date: Thu, Feb 20, 2014 Wine Tasting

Out and about wine tasting? Remember it's winetasting not#winedrinking!— atMercury Wine.

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Travel Tuesday: Do You know the Way to Bordeaux?

Date: Tue, Feb 11, 2014 Wine Tasting

“I’m not sure whatI'lldo, but— well, I want to go places and see people. I want my mind to grow. Iwant to live where things happen on a big scale.”―F. Scott Fitzgerald

A visit to Bordeaux had been and is still high on my lists of places to see and experience [again and again] I can't wait to go back. And last year my I had the opportunity to see that desire fulfilled. At thebeginningof last year I had no idea that I'd be invited to take two different press trips to this amazing wine region, where "things [truly] happen on a big scale".

That said, I'd like to take this opportunity to thank the sponsors of this trip,Planet BordeauxandBalzac Communicationsfor your kind invitation to be part of this great adventure into exploration and the amazing opportunity I have to now share this experience with all you [my readers] via this blog.

To say I wasecstaticwould be a vast understatement of epicproportions. I'm happy to say it was and is still oneof the very best memories from last year, the proverbial capstone of memorable events. Butas it's often seen that with great joy, an equally great sorrow will sometimes come along for the ride, some might call this irony.

Although an opportunity to visitBordeauxwas high on my list, of winedestinationsto visit and it was ultimately granted, it was also a very tough year for me personally. It was the year [2013] I lost both of my parents and the pain of that loss is still very real and hard for me to fully grasp. I miss them both very much and the stamp of exploration they both imbued upon me at an early age, is something which still lives within me to this day. I just can't stop exploring, there's far too much to see, to do and to know before my own time on this mortal coil comes to an end.

Now with that said, let me ask do you know the way to Bordeaux? It's too easy to get lost in the perception of 'Bordeaux'and all the thing many folks imagine it to be. From an outsider perspective, it must seem quite confusing, a old wine region filled with places and names which can be hard topronounce, full of fancy Chateaux where only the rich and famous live lives of unimaginable luxury andopulence and while some that may be true to some extent, it's not even close to being the whole story.

Yes, there are many, many Chateaux strewn about the vine-covered countryside, historic centuries old buildings which easily predate theexistenceof thecountry Ilive in and are located on massive properties which are often handed down from one generation to the next. But again that is not the whole story.

“There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception.” – Aldous Huxley

As I've stated before, there are real people behind those beautifully sculpted buildings; something I think many folks seem to forget, perhaps bogged down by the weight of perception. Marc Milhade [his sister is seen to his left] the Son of Xavier Milhade, explained to us that life on a Chateau is one that is similarto anyone else running a winery or family business, whether that business is here in the Napa Valley or on the ancient vine-lands of Bordeaux.

When they say it's family run business they really mean it, it's all hands on deck. On the day we arrive, the sights and sounds of harvest were well underway, it was a hot and very humid harvest [October2013] the day, when Marc [who you see above] showed up still wearing his crush-pad boots to greet us and welcome us to Chateau Recougne.

So you want to see these machines in action? Check out the video here.

He went on to briefly explain that while they do embrace the present, its technology and the ability manage such a large endeavor so much easier than in the past, they still hold unto some of the elements of the past, weaving them together to make a bright new future for the next generation.

Our meeting with them wasfascinating, insightful and also very delightful. I was ravenously hungry by time we had arrived and was so glad to hear that 'lunch' would be served with in moments of our arrival. The setting you see pictured below, set the stage for alunchtimefeast I won't forget anytime soon.
One of the most amazing wine discoveries came the day our team [myself and two other bloggers] visitedChateau Recougne, it was also one of the very best dining experiences I had while I was in France [mind blowing really].Robert Parker at one time called Chateau Recougne one of the finest of all Bordeaux Superieur [personally I think it still is].

It is an estate that has produced wine for over400years, and its name is said to have come from King Henri IV in the early 17th century, in "recognition" of the quality of its wine.It would appear that even then, their wines were very well regarded not only for the quality, but for their inexpensive prices. So in drinking their wines it would be safe to say you can actually drink like a king.

Their vineyards [which surround the Chateau and the Crush Pad] were classified under the Fronsac Appellation back in the day, where Merlot is the majority planting taking up 75% of planted vineyard space. Merlot also happens to be very well suited to the terroir, which is then complemented by both Cabernet Sauvignon (15%) and Cabernet Franc (10%).

As you can see from the picture above we tasted the 1966, and the 1999 as well as the 2010 [not pictured]. Folks, you may not believe but look closely they have not changed the label too much in all those years. They also have not changed the recipe for producing uber high quality wines that won't break the bank. These wines sell for $15 to $19 each most places.

These wines are not suppose to age well if you listen to the so-called experts who purport to know all and see all in the wine world. But I'm here to tell you that they're dead wrong. The bottle from 1966, a 47 year old bottle had aged amazingly well, I was blown away by the depth and polish this wine was still displaying. While you can no longer purchase the 1966, it's a reminder to all guest of the great aging potential of their Bordeaux Superior.

The 1999 wow, it wanted to party like it was still 1999.This wine [decanted] still had nice body to it, and smoothly textured; a wine with light tannin and a long finish, tasting of dark plum, under brush,cassis,licorice, vanilla, andtoastyoakin the background. Another amazing blast from their past, that I thought had to be from a much finer pedigreed background, but no a Bordeaux Superior drinking like Grand Cru Classe [no I'm not kidding].

Their 2010, uh I'd grab all you can and then grab some more because it's off the charts good [to great] and will only get better with some more bottle age. If you have a case or two socked away, you'll will thank me later because it's that amazing.

Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash. ~Leonard Cohen

Folks, if you've notencounteredtheir wines before [and to be honest I've never had until that day] you owe to yourself to give their wines a swirl at yourearliestconvenience. These are wines of real substance, wines with a soul that definitely taste like the region they come from, there's no mega purple here, no fillers just solid well made wines that may not blow your mind, but they will having you believing you really are drinking like a king for apauper'sprice [don't doubt me].So until next folks remember life is far too short to drink insipid commodity wines, please don't settle, expand your vinous horizons and as always please remember to sip long and prosper cheers!

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Malbec Man Rides Again?

Date: Fri, Feb 7, 2014 Wine Tasting

“Never use jargon words like reconceptualize, demassification, attitudinally, judgmentally. They're hallmarks of a pretentious ass.” – David Ogilvy

Ha, thank you Mr. Ogilvy for that amazingly well put clarification. I'm going to attempt to avoid the use of any of those words today; but ifsomehowIjust can't avoid it, I hope none of you will be too harsh with your comments. So remember name and town, name and town if you wish to opine, something which you can feel-free to deposit below. Besides I'm saving all my dime store words for another article, so please stay tuned, don't touch that dial!

I've had the great pleasure of visiting many of the very best wine destinations in the world, and there are of course still many on my to-do list. But every once in awhile I get to thinking about the wine scene in South America. It's a place that I would love to visit myself someday [and I know I will] to see the place where great wines produced from the wine-bearing Malbec grape is made, talk with the winemakers, producers and anyone who has a hand in making the wines of Mendoza what they have been in the past.

Oh did you catch that? I said the past, that is sure to ruffle some feathers and good I really hope so. Honestly folks, I for one have not tasted too much Malbec produced wines of late that'd inspire me enough to want to write a review. That is, until today. In fact it's this wine [pictured below] that has also received some big love from Mr. Tanzer, a wine critic who has the reputationfor being a bit stingy with points [nothing wrong with that mind you].

In fact from what I read, he's not a big proponent of the whole point score for wines model anyway [perhaps I'm wrong]. But being realistic kind of guy, he knows his readers are using his scores as type of barometer when choosing wines for themselves, so there it's and there you have it. And now that Costco[who sells this wine for a song] has finally accepted his scores and tasting notes into their wine marketing system, those scores are not going anywhere anytime soon.

As many of us already know [and have read] the US Market now drinking morewine than ever before, and especially so when it comes to imports. Personally, I'd be glad to seeMalbec-Manride tosave the day once more. How could this be accomplished, well simply by providing budget [$15-$40] conscience, well made wines that could once more become realthirst-slakersthey use to be.

So willMalbec-Man ride again? If the wine in this review today is any indicator of that trend, then there is hope,a hopeto save all vinosapiens from uber high priced, and often more than underwhelming vino.

In the past [not so long ago really] Malbecs from Mendoza represented wines with lively acidity, lovely wild blueberries and dark ripe blackberry flavors and aromas. In general there has been plenty of mouth-filling fruit ripeness, a style often found very pleasing to the"California"palate.

On topthat, Malbec had a reputation of providing a very goodquality-to-price-ratio.Thus causing me to ponder, can Malbec Man once again ride to save the day, for many wine-swirlingandquaffingmasses thirsting for great wines at reasonable prices? Just one slurp of the wine in this review really makes me think it's possible once more to seeauthentic, soulful Malbec fill our collective cellars once again.

Casarena Single Vineyard Lauren's Vineyard Malbec 2010

In today's reviewMalbec-Mancan be seen sitting on a high-peak overlookingAgrelo,asmall wine-producing village about 20 miles to the south of the city of Mendoza. It's said to be one of this region'smost famous wine estates.The village is located in the western foothills of the Andes Mountains,wine-producing zone of Agrelo slopes upward from the town toward the Andes. As many of know may already know, but I think it bears repeating, thatheight is akeyelement in what makes Argentine Malbec so special.

It can be said that in many ways that like people, "whereyouattitude determines youraltitude in life"soto theMalbecgrapes ofCasarena Winery and Vineyardsgrowing on the foothill slopes of the [altitude]Andes[many thousands of feet above sea level]exposed to the sun's greater ultraviolet effects, these grapes grows athicker-skin[attitude]and with that produces wines with far more aromatics and elegant tannins, much more-so than their counterparts across the pond in Cahors, France.

So are you now left wondering, "um, okay what do you think about this wine?" I'm so glad you asked,In a word, it's quite delectable! Finally a Malbec that I can recommend to my friends, family and other interestedonlookersgathered aroundthe wine cooler.

Looking for authenticity? This Malbec has it in spades. The 2010 Lauren's Vineyard from Casarena is a true delight, uber approachable, a vein of acidity keeps the abundant blueberry and blackberry fruit in check! And yes it's high octane, tho you'd hardly notice. But those with an overactive sensitivity to any wine over 12% will be easily repulsed by its stated 14.9% abv oh-my. The finish is long and clean, plumbed nicely with vibrant minerality, a real crowd pleaser!

While the suggested price tag of $45[I didn't pay that much tho] may have youwincinga bit and places you squarely in the 5% club, you'll notregret one moment of the sheer pleasure youderivefrom one of thee most pure expressions of Argentine Malbec to come along in quite sometime.

Could this wine signal the return of Malbec Man? I'm not sure but we can only hold our collective wine-loving breath, hoping he's about to ride again. Until next time folks, please remember life is short so don't settle for the everyday commodity plonk that so many of the 95% quaff without so much as a thought. So choose wisely, slurp long and prosper cheers!

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A Glimpse into the Yamhill-Carlton AVA

Date: Fri, Feb 7, 2014 Wine Tasting

"Drinking good wine with good food in good company is one of life's most civilized pleasures." - Michael Broadbent

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