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Thirty Seven Candidates try but only two pass the Court of Masters three day Master Sommelier Exam

Date: Wed, Mar 3, 2010 Wine Tasting Winery Blogs Wine Business

The nation’s top wine professionals gathered at the Meadowood Resort in California’s Napa Valley last week to administer the Court of Master Sommeliers’ Masters Exam, a daunting three‐day test that measures a sommelier’s knowledge of wine theory, beverage service and tasting ability. After years of preparation, thirty‐seven candidates attempted the exam, but only two would pass: Melissa Monosoff of Savona Restaurant in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Eric Entrikin of Alexander’s Steakhouse in Cupertino, California. They join a select group of 103 other Americans who have successfully completed the rigorous examination and are members of the Court of Master Sommeliers.

Masters Monosoff and Entrikin were officially welcomed to the Court at a champagne reception sponsored by Krug on Thursday, February 25, 2010. “On behalf of the entire Court, I would like to congratulate all thirty‐seven candidates for reaching the final stage of the examination process, and heartily welcome both Master Monosoff and Master Entrikin to our organization,” said Jay Fletcher, Chairman of the American Chapter of the Court of Master Sommeliers. “They truly represent the best of the best and we look forward to their future contributions to the Court and the wine industry as a whole.”

“The quality and caliber of the candidates at this exam was outstanding,” noted Tim Gaiser, the Education Director for the American Chapter of the Court. “However, Melissa and Eric stood a head above the rest, demonstrating a superior knowledge of wine theory, an advanced understanding of beverage service, and an unparalleled tasting ability.”

Master Monosoff began her journey as a Master Sommelier in culinary school, but soon learned that her true passion was wine. She first enrolled in the Court’s Introductory Course in 2002 in Napa Valley and has spent the last eight years pursuing the goal of Master Sommelier with dogged determination. Her studies led her to London, California, and even Ohio, but the night before her exam found her in the exact same hotel where she had first stayed in 2002.

“I am thrilled to have passed the Masters Exam in the very same place where my journey first began,” said Master Monosoff. “It has been a long and sometimes difficult road, but earning the title of Master Sommelier has made it all worth it. It is an incredible honor and I am very grateful to all those who have helped me along the way.”

Master Entrikin leads the wine team at Alexander’s Steakhouse in Cupertino, California, and cited both the support of his restaurant and the mentorship within the Court as key factors in his successful examination last Thursday.

“Passing the Masters Exam is the greatest moment of my life,” said Eric. “It was extraordinarily difficult and took years of preparation, but standing here among this remarkable group of Master Sommeliers is both humbling and inspiring. I look forward to the opportunity to mentor others through this process so they can share in the joy of this moment.”

“As just the third Master in the United States, it has been a pleasure to watch the Court grow and mature over the years,” said Frederick Dame, Chairman Emeritus of American Chapter of the Court of Master Sommeliers and current President of the Guild of Sommeliers Education Foundation. “Having thirtyseven worthy candidates in one sitting is remarkable. I look forward to working with all of these sommeliers in the future and offer my sincere congratulations to Masters Entrikin and Monosoff on their outstanding exam performances.”

Our congratulations to both Melissa and Eric for achieving this lifetime accomplishment

Cheers !

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Whole Foods Market and RAOs celebrates the launch of RAOs wines with a winemaker dinner

Date: Sun, Feb 28, 2010 Wine Tasting Winery Blogs Wine Business

Whole Foods Market has changed the way many Americans live by providing fresh organic , sustainable food and many other products.

Founded in Austin Texas in 1980, Whole foods today can be found in 38 states and the UK with over 280 stores. In addition , Whole Foods has been named by FORTUNE magazine as one of the “100 Best Companies to Work For” in America every year since the list’s inception 12 years ago, ranking number 22 in 2009.

Whole Foods is always "out in front " providing many different events for their customers. On any given day one can stroll through their local store and have the opportunity to sample , cheeses , salsa , beer , wine and many of the other products they provide. We have been to many winemaker dinners over the years but never have we attended a winemaker dinner in a "market " until now.

We have met Susan and Robert Summer from The Vineyard at Strawberry Ridge in the past. They have provided their wines to the famous Rao’s restaurants in New York and Las Vegas and on this occasion a launch of their wines in Whole Foods Market. Their wines are hand crafted and are sourced from prime estates in Napa and Sonoma County.
Frank Pellegrino Jr from the legendary Pellegrino family of RAOs was on hand as well to give the guests at this winemaker dinner a real exploration of these great wines.

The staff at Whole Foods market has always been very helpful but little did we know that many of them are so very talented. At this one of a kind dinner at the Whole Foods Market in Summerlin just outside of Las Vegas we discovered many hidden talents. Some of the team members are Chefs , Wine Experts and renowned Opera singers. The staff put all of their skills together to provide the guests with a wonderful evening.

Robert Summer explained how he and the Pellegrino family have worked very closely to provide high quality wines with the RAOs label to their very famous restaurants. He even surprised many of us with a barrel sample of his latest wine to take on the RAOs label , the 2009 Pinot Grigio.


Cesar Salad ,
crisp romaine with a creamy dressing topped with shaved Parmesano Reggiano

Artichoke Pesto Crostini ,
baby artichoke hearts , shallots , olive oil , Italian parsley and Parmesano Reggiano

RAOs 2007 Napa Valley Chardonnay


Grilled Rosemary Lamb Italian Sausage
with tender asparagus


Parmesan Fettuccine
served two ways-choice of creamy alfredo with black pepper
RAOs signature Marinara

RAOs 2007 Napa Valley Merlot



Espresso chocolate covered almonds , shaved
chocolate and masscapone mousse

The wine parings were right on , with each wine paring nicely with each course. The last paring was the most interesting and provided a good contrast in flavors with the last course.

Robert Summer and Frank Pellegrino Jr were always gracious and provided the guests insight into the winemakeing and and an intimate look at RAOs and their own wine label. The team members of Whole Foods provided a real first class dining experience and for a few hours that evening got to show off many of their passions .

Join Elaine from VINO LAS VEGAS as she speaks with Whole Foods Market Speciality Manager Robert Davies about the RAOs wine and the Whole Food Market philosophy.

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Champagne maker Jean-Christophe Gremillet brings the best of Champagne to Garfields Restaurant

Date: Fri, Feb 19, 2010 Wine Tasting Winery Blogs Wine Business

The Gremillet family has been winegrowers for several generations and in 1979 decided to create Their own Champagne. The estate composed of 33 hectares of vineyards is situated in a small village 45 kilometers from Troyes, the historic capital of Champagne, 180 kilometers south of Paris.

The vines from which their Champagne is produced lie on steep, sun-drenched hillsides and interestingly enough, one out of every 1000 bottles of Champagne sold in the World was produced in their cellars.

This amazeing family produces a wide variety of Champagnes. On this very special night we had the opportunity to enjoy two of these historic Champagnes.

The Greediness

The Blend : 100% Pinot Noir.

In the Glass : A genuine rosé with a pretty, deep pink, sun-drenched hue. Bright, luminous and limpid with fine, colorful, lively bubbles.
The Nose : The nose surprised us with a nice blend of freshly picked red fruit that moved into the palate .
The Palate : On the palate its is fruit came through and linger into the finish. The bubbles kept us entertained with a variety of fruit from cherry to blackberries and even strawberry with each sip.

We moved on to our next heavenly treat with their blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.


The Blend: 50% Pinot Noir, 50% Chardonnay.

In the Glass : This Champagne showed us a golden bright color with creamy bubbles.
On the Nose : Delicate aromas of earth and flowers give way to a slight mint and vegital notes.
On the Palate : The Champagne was rich and luscious with as nice marraige of flavors and structure..

Champagne is a very complicated process that requires allot of hard work and patience. Having Champagne maker Jean-Christophe Gremillet at our table provided us the perfect opportunity to learn first hand about "the life" of Champagne. J

This is best illustrated by the dormant state of the buds that do not show any form of growth during this period. The vines continue to feed on their stored nutriments and resist temperatures of -15 to -17°C. This is the time when they prune the vines which consists in cutting back the stems thus reducing the number of buds to produce less grapes and therefore better quality. As soon as the soil starts to warm up, the cellular activity starts to develop in the roots and the stems secrete moisture, thus the term ‘weeping’. This is the first visible sign that the vines are awakening from their winter rest to an active state.

This term refers to the gradual opening of the buds from which the shoots will develop and later the stems that produce the grapes.

The tiny flowers free their pollen that fertilizes the pistils from which the grapes will develop. This is known as the ‘setting’ of the vine.

The cells cease developing and the berries start to change from their bright green color to either black or pale green according to the grape variety. At this stage the berry will continue to swell and store nutritive elements. The colors deepen and the grapes develop their aroma and bouquet.

As soon as the grapes reach the stage where there is perfect balance between the level of acidity that continues to decrease and the level of sugar that continues to increase, the grapes are considered to have reached full maturity and are ready to pick. The harvest can begin. This is only the first stage of the Champagne's life.

Join Jean-Christophe Gremillet as he explains the rest of the Champagne making process to Scott of Vino Las Vegas

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Executive Chef Jean-David Groff-Daudet and Garfields Restaurant provide an intimate visit with one of the world's greatest brandies.

Date: Sun, Feb 7, 2010 Wine Tasting Winery Blogs Wine Business

It is not often we get to sample perhaps one of the world's best Brandys . Executive Chef Jean-David Groff-Daudet , "Chef JD " invited VINO LAS VEGAS to an intimate lakeside tasting of ARMAGNAC-Joy at his restaurant Garfields.

Roland Gessler arrived from France and did not disappoint us . We started with the 1974 Vintage and worked our way back in time with the 1962 , 1940 , 1936 , 1912 , 1908 , 1900, and 1897 Bas Armagnac Millesime vintages and then for the finish , a taste of Bas Armagnac Exception that has been valued at $ 10,500 with only 36 bottles having been produced.

One of the finest producers of Armagnac, generations of the Gessler family have lived in the Bas-Armagnac region. The current generation, brothers Olivier and Roland Gessler have combined their love of Armagnac with their expertise and heritage to create the Joÿ collections. They have made some of the rarest brandies in the world.

Their Collection is a blend of the finest brandy produced over the last 200 years. The Vintages all from all of the appellations ( Haut Armagnac , Bas Armagnac and Tenareze ) and on the pallet one can tell that these brandys show off the entire region at its finest. The bottles themselves are a work of art deigned by Paco Rabanne consisting of hand blown crystal adorned with silver.

Armagnac is situated southeast of Bordeaux. It is distilled only once and has a lower alcohol strength normally about 53% where as Cognac is around 70%. The single distillation leaves more flavoring elements . Armagnac employs local black oak for aging allowing for faster ageing in the barrels. The result is that Armagnac is silky smooth but fuller-flavored than Cognac.

Vintages are to Armagnac what "grands crus" are to the finest wines. The difference being that wine continues to age in the bottle. Armagnac ceases to age once bottled , thereby preserving its qualities intact. The secret is knowing when to capture its unique flavor and Joy Armagnacs do this better than most any other producer in the region.

GARFIELD's at Lake Jacqueline at the Desert Shores.

Garfield's is named in honor of Sir Garfield Sobers, Knighted by Queen Elizabeth II on the playing fields of Barbados in 1975. Sir Garfield is considered the greatest all-around Cricket player of all time. Garfield's is a lakefront, casual dining restaurant that provides healthy dining that we always enjoy.

Executive Chef Jean-David Groff-Daudet, "Chef JD" has brought his years of experience from France to this wonderful lakeside venue.

Oliver and Rolland Gessler are now the heirs of this legendary collection. Their love of the region and training have continued to spur them on to continue to make the regions finest product. This Armagnac ranks among the worlds greatest brandies. Naming it JOY after their wine estate shows to us and the rest of the world their commitment to quality.

Bravo Chef Jean-David Groff-Daudet and Rolland Gessler for very special evening . For more on JOY Grands Armagnacs , please visit www.Armagnac-Joy.com

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Court of Master Sommeliers Hosts First National Conference

Date: Thu, Feb 4, 2010 Wine Tasting Winery Blogs Wine Business

The Court of Master Sommeliers, American Chapter held its first National Conference at The Inn at Spanish Bay in Pebble Beach, California, bringing together the largest group of Master Sommeliers in the history of the organization. The conference served as an occasion for Court members to gather, share ideas, and establish goals for the organization’s future. It also allowed each attendee the opportunity to bring and share a favorite bottle of wine – creating an extraordinary collection that was well‐enjoyed by the group during the three day event.

“I am so proud to have had the opportunity to join my fellow Master Sommeliers for the Court’s first National Conference,” stated Jay Fletcher, Chairman of the American Chapter of the Court of Master Sommeliers. “The conference solidified the Court as a cohesive group of wine professionals and gave us a platform to discuss and demonstrate ways in which we can work to
support one another and our vocation.”

During the event, 72 Court members participated in wine tastings, food pairings, membership meetings, and various informational seminars. A special presentation, dinner, and tasting by Wine Australia allowed conference attendees the rare opportunity to taste Seppeltsfield Tawnies from 1908, 1953, and 1977, as well as a 1935 Seppeltsfield brandy. The 1953 and 1977 vintages were specifically drawn from their casks for the event to commemorate the years the Guild of Sommeliers and the Court of Master Sommeliers were each founded. They will not be available to the public until 2053 and 2077, respectively.

“We are very lucky to have such a diverse membership,” said Fred Dame, the Chairman Emeritus of American Chapter of the Court of Master Sommeliers and current President of the Guild of Sommeliers Education Foundation. “Each Master follows a distinctive path to become an MS and therefore brings a fresh and valuable voice to the organization. We were able to celebrate and enjoy that diversity together this past week.”

The decision by the Court’s American Chapter to assemble its members for the first time was driven in part by the significant growth experienced by the organization in recent years. Though the path to become a Master Sommelier is as difficult and time consuming as it was in 1977, the Court’s growing numbers in all parts of the country have helped usher in new candidates from
wildly different backgrounds and experiences. The Court’s objectives for the coming year include continuing on this path and bringing its educational programs to still more new audiences.

The Court of Master Sommeliers was established in England in 1977 to encourage improved standards of beverage knowledge and service in hotels and restaurants. The first Master Sommelier Diploma Exam to be held in the United States was in 1987. The title Master Sommelier marks the highest recognition of wine and spirits knowledge, beverage service abilities, and professionalism in the hospitality trade. Education was then, and remains
today, the Court’s charter. There are four stages involved in attaining the top qualifications of Master Sommelier: 1) Introductory Sommelier Course; 2) Certified Sommelier Exam; 3) Advanced Sommelier Course; and 4) Master Sommelier Diploma.

There are 103 professionals who have earned the title Master Sommelier in North America. Of those, 89 are men and 14 are women. There are 168 professionals worldwide who have received the title of Master Sommelier since the first Master Sommelier Diploma Exam.

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Date: Sun, Jan 31, 2010 Wine Tasting Winery Blogs Wine Business

A virtual Who's' Who of the Las Vegas Food and Beverage world descended upon the Palazzo's newest venue the LAGUNA Champagne Bar for a
VIP event hosted by Moet Hennessy.

Laguna Champagne Bar , located on the Palazzo's casino floor is a relaxing and inviting bar that welcomes all of its guests who enjoy premium beverages in a high-end, luxury environment. This new venue can and will impress even the most distinguished beverage connoisseur.

Lindsay Price, celebrated the exclusive Grand Opening After a red ribbon cutting ceremony with Sebastian Silvestri, Vice President of Food and Beverage at The Palazzo and The Venetian. She then joined the VIP
guests for an evening of champagne cocktails and glasses of Dom Perignon.

Laguna's one of a kind beverage menu features variety of classic champagne cocktails that pleased our palate. Some of the selections include Buck’s Fizz with fresh orange juice and Moet & Chandon Brut Imperial, Flower Eclipse with St.Germain elderflower Liqueur, fresh lemon juice, and Veuve Clicquot Demi Sec, and Bubblicious with Campari, fresh orange juice, and Moet & Chandon “Nectar” Champagne.

“Champagne is one of the finest beverages of all time,” said Sebastien Silvestri, executive director of food and beverage for The Palazzo and The Venetian. “Laguna Champagne Bar offers guests the option of indulging in fine amenities such as high end flights, being educated by master sommeliers while deciphering taste preferences, and sipping signature champagnes all in one amazing experience.”

A signature ritual at Laguna is the Champagne “Boom Boom” shooters. They are served on a wooden plank by a Champagne Sommelier. After discussing beverage choices and selection, the guest taps the shooter on the plank twice, making the champagne foam before shooting it down.
Many Shooter choices are available. We could choose from Sparkling Café with Navan, Patron XO Café, Moet & Chandon “Nectar” Champagne; La Poire with Absolut Pears, Pear Coulis, and Moet 7 Chandon Brut Imperial; Orangina with Belvedere Citrus, Grand Marnier, Orange juice, and Moet & Chandon Brut Imperial; and Imperial with Grey Goose L’Orange, TY KU Citrus Liqueur, and Moet & Chandon Brut Imperial.

Along with their menu of champagnes, Laguna Champagne Bar features entertainment including a professional harpist performing delicate arrays of sound every Friday and Saturday. Additionally, Happy Hour specials occur daily from 5:00 p.m.-7:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m.-12:00 midnight but the Bar is open 24 hours a day.

After spending an evening at the VIP event we can only say that Laguna Champagne Bar adds even more class to what we believe is one of the classiest resorts on the strip, The Palazzo Resort. It was a real pleasure to enjoy great Champagnes and live music in a venue that you can speak in a normal tone of voice at your own table. Laguna will be a favorite of ours to stop in for a dink whenever we are in the Venetian or the Palazzo .

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VINO LAS VEGAS relives the glory days with World Heavy Weight Champion "Smokin" Joe Frazier at Legasse's Stadium in the Palazzo Resort

Date: Mon, Jan 25, 2010 Wine Tasting Winery Blogs Wine Business

We have been very fortunate over the years to have had the opportunity to meet Celebrities , Michelin and James Beard Award Winning Chefs , and renown winemakers. But , meeting World Champion Fighter "Smokin" Joe Frazier was an experience that we will cherish.

We had the opportunity to relive the glory days with World Heavyweight fighter Joe Frazier at The Venetian and The Palazzo’s Legends of the Sport. The night began with a highlight reel of the critically-acclaimed film, “Thrilla In Manila,” with a focus on the background of the rivalry, how the rivalry divided America, the post-fight aftermath, and the fight’s place in history.

After the viewing, Frazier conduced a brief Q&A and then lead a discussion on topics such as the sport of boxing, great rivalries, putting your life on the line and the sport of boxing today.

After the Q & A he was presented with a Legend of the Sport trophy thanking him for his contribution to the sport of boxing.

For those very few people who may not know much about this legendary fighter, Joe has quite a remarkable story.

Joe Frazier was born January 12, 1944 and was an Olympic (1964) and World Heavyweight Champion, active from the mid 1960s to the early 1980s.

Frazier had a bullying fighting style, depending on bobbing, weaving and power punching. He is perhaps most famous for his vicious left hooks. Compared to Ali's style, he was close enough to the ideal bruiser that some in the press and media characterized the bouts as the answer to the classic question: "What happens when a boxer meets with a brawler."

According to Joe in the HBO special documenting "The Thrilla in Manilla" fight, he was partially blind in his left eye due to a training accident in 1965. This would indicate that throughout his entire professional career, he fought with only partial sight on his left side.

Today ,Frazier is still training young fighters, although he needed multiple operations for back injuries sustained in a car accident. It has been reported that he and Ali recently attempted a reconciliation, but as of October 2006 Frazier still claimed to have won all three bouts between the two. He declared to a Times reporter, when questioned about his bitterness toward Ali, "I am what I am."

One of the most interesting facts about Joe Frazier was that some of the most memorable moments in the 1976 boxing-themed feature film, Rocky - such as Rocky's carcass-punching scenes and Rocky running up the steps of the museum of art , as part of his training regimen - are taken from Joe's real-life exploits, for which he received no credit. "But he never paid me for none of my past. I only got paid for a walk-on part. Rocky is a sad story for me." Joe said.

Join Scott from Vino Las Vegas as he speaks with "Smokin" Joe Frazier before his event at Legasse's Stadium

Meeting Joe Frazier and having the chance to speak to him was inspiring. The drive and determination that he had as the young man who started as an Olympic Champion and went on to become Heavy Weight Champion of the World is still there today at 66 years of age. We can all take a lesson from people like "Smokin " Joe Frazier.

Thanks Champ !

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VINO LAS VEGAS finds a hidden gem in Napa Valley. Hugo Family Cellars 2008 VERIS Sauvignon Blanc

Date: Sun, Jan 24, 2010 Wine Tasting Winery Blogs Wine Business

VINO LAS VEGAS has not spoken about an individual wine in several issues. As many of our passionate readers are well aware , we are always on the look out for those "hidden gems". Many times they have productions of less than 100 cases.

We have found another one of those hidden gems , this time in Napa Valley. The Hugo Family Cellars 2008 Veris was a nice find. This lovely , 100 % Sauvignon Blanc from Napa Valley was a real treat. The 2008 Veris is their inaugural release of a Sauvignon Blanc . Veris in Latin is defined as “the production of spring”. With only 200 cases produced , this wine is one of those small production world class wines that we are always in search of.

On the nose , This Sauvignon Blanc wine exhibited surprisingly complex aromatics of citrus and tropical fruit that can bring back distant memories of a warm summer day over looking a tropical ocean.

The Palate explodes with flavors of orange peel, papaya, guava , and freshly cut grass . Grapefruit notes also some through with a wonderful mouth feel that featured underlining acidity for a nice clean finish.

Glenn Hugo's relationship with Girard winery began over three years ago . Located in St Helena , Napa Valley with the soil composed of Riverbed remnants 80% Clay and 20% pebbles was the terroir that brought this great Sauvignon Blanc to life.

Pam and Glenn met in 2001 while working for a large restaurant company in Houston, Texas. In 2003, they took the chance , got married in April and in October packed up and moved to Napa, and began to live their dream.

Through the next few years Glenn got an education from from some of the great winemakers of Napa Valley. In 2007 they purchased two tons of Napa Valley Syrah, 1/2 ton of Russian River Syrah and 1/2 ton of Russian River Grenache.

After surviving their first harvest , Glenn and Pam vowed to produce quality, well-balanced wines to be enjoyed with food as well as on their own. Their passion for having fun with wine amongst family and friends is their passion and can be tasted in their wines.

The Hugo Cellars Wine labels a very unique to say the least. Painter, illustrator and designer Natasha Wescoat did a wonderful job creating original art for the labels. Her work has been on ABC's Extreme Makeover Home Edition, a Lifetime Channel original movie and the blockbuster film, Marley & Me. As part of Abrakadoodle's artist of distinction program, Wescoat's work is being taught in schools nationwide. Natasha is active in a variety of groups, donating work to worthy causes like Social Media For Social Change, Twestival and the Black Card Circle Foundation. In 2007, Natasha was named "Emerging Artist and Trendsetter" by Art Business News, the largest trade publication in the U.S. In February 2009, the artist exhibited her work at the Ritz-Carlton. For more information on Natasha Wescoat and her work , please visit http://www.natashawescoat.com/#.

Hugo Family Cellars is one of those "boutique" wines that show the passion and hard work from the nose to every sip of their very special wines. For more information on Hugo Family Cellars please visit them at http://www.hugofamilycellars.com/index.html

Cheers !

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Vegas Uncork'd gets the culinary masters lined up for another fabulous year . Join VINO LAS VEGAS May 6-9 in Las Vegas

Date: Fri, Jan 22, 2010 Wine Tasting Winery Blogs Wine Business

Vegas Uncork’d Presented by Bon Appétit Celebrates the World of
Culinary Arts May 6-9, 2010

More than 30 Events Headlined by 50 Celebrated Chefs Including Paul Bartolotta,

Alain Ducasse, Bobby Flay, Michael Mina, Wolfgang Puck and Joël Robuchon

Vegas Uncork’d Presented by Bon Appétit is one of the fastest-growing epicurean events in the United States, will be held May 6-9 in Las Vegas, coinciding with this year’s Mother’s Day weekend. The four-day fête features new events, new chefs and a diverse and richly enhanced program with the ultimate who’s who in the food world, celebrating the status of Las Vegas as an international gastronomic destination.

In 2009, Vegas Uncork’d Presented by Bon Appétit experienced record attendance across the board—featuring an increase in participating chefs, new business partners and sponsors, and a 17 percent spike in ticket sales year over year. Building on that momentum, this year will feature more than 30 events blending the worlds of food, gaming and entertainment in the distinct way that makes Las Vegas so memorable.

The playground for Vegas Uncork’d Presented by Bon Appétit is destination wide and features this year’s anchor partner resorts, each of which offers an enviable roster of on-site restaurants and in-house chefs: Bellagio, Caesars Palace, MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay and Wynn | Encore. Joining the lineup for the first time this year as an associate partner is The Venetian | The Palazzo. The event’s charitable partner is the Three Square Food Bank, which is dedicated to providing wholesome food to hungry people, while passionately pursuing a hunger-free community.

“Due to its extraordinary cuisine and its international draw, Las Vegas is a global destination that offers wonderful fun in a unique setting,” said Bon Appétit Vice President and Publisher Paul Jowdy. “Vegas Uncork’d Presented by Bon Appétit is a perfect opportunity to see the breadth of Las Vegas with its celebrity chefs and exquisite resorts paving the way.”

Sponsored by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA), Vegas Uncork’d Presented by Bon Appétit is designed to celebrate Las Vegas’ ranking as the world’s most exciting culinary destination. “Vegas Uncork’d Presented by Bon Appétit celebrates our culinary scene in a way unique to Las Vegas,” said Cathy Tull, senior vice president of marketing, LVCVA. “It appeals to visitors drawn to top-tier epicurean experiences as well as the world-class resort atmosphere Las Vegas offers.”

“2009 was an extremely successful year for the program in a difficult economic climate,” said Rob O’Keefe, executive director of Vegas Uncork’d Presented by Bon Appétit. “Each year the program continues to build off its own momentum. As we enter into our fourth annual event, the growth continues as our partners and consumers spread the word that the combination of Las Vegas and its top culinary talent presents an epicurean festival not to be missed.”

Highlights of this year’s Vegas Uncork’d Presented by Bon Appétit schedule, which includes many new events, follow:


Culinary Conversation with Chef Wolfgang Puck – New to the program this year, Bon Appétit Editor-in-Chief Barbara Fairchild holds a tête-à-tête at Bellagio’s Fontana Lounge with the icon that created the world of the celebrity chef, Wolfgang Puck. Together, they trace the growth of Las Vegas as an international gastronomic destination.


Masters’ Series Dinners –This event will be hosted at Caesars Palace with Bobby Flay at Mesa Grill, Bradley Ogden at Bradley Ogden, Restaurant Guy Savoy with Guy Savoy and Rao’s with Carla Pellegrino.

· Masters’ Series Luncheons – Brand new to the line up this year are luncheons at The Venetian | The Palazzo with Wolfgang Puck at CUT, David Burke with David Burke, Restaurant Charlie with Charlie Trotter and Piero Selvaggio’s Valentino with Luciano Pellegrini and Piero Selvaggio.


Ultimate All-Star Interactive Luncheon – Step into the kitchen and play sous-chef to an all-star lineup of Wynn Las Vegas and Encore Las Vegas chefs at this incredible interactive luncheon at Wynn | Encore with Paul Bartolotta, Frédéric Robert, Alex Stratta and David Walzog.

· Grand Tasting at Caesars Palace – A delectable evening featuring 50 restaurants and 50 vintners at the wildly expanded, five-acre Garden of the Gods pool complex at Caesars Palace.

· Better by the Bay with Alain Ducasse and Charlie Palmer – Dine under the stars with a beachside barbecue at Mandalay Bay’s 11-acre tropical water environment and 1.6 million gallon wave pool. Enjoy an East Coast-inspired menu from Charlie Palmer and tastes from coastal France created by Alain Ducasse. Beach attire required. New to the program this year.

· Chef’s Table with Alain Ducasse – New to the event lineup this year is a seat at the table with Chef Alain Ducasse, considered to be one of the most renowned French chefs of his generation, at miX, high atop THEhotel at Mandalay Bay. For the first time ever, a small group of Vegas Uncork’d guests will join him as he conducts his seasonal menu changes.

· Fashion Feast: A Delicious Evening of Style and Taste at BellagioHaute cuisine meets savory couture––intricate details, impeccable lines and quality down to the last accessory on and off the plate. This event will deliver front row access to the most celebrated Bellagio chefs and the hottest Via Bellagio designers, while you indulge in a delectable five-course dinner accompanied by wine pairings selected by Bellagio's Wine Director and Master Sommelier Jason Smith. New to the program this year.

· Celebrity Chef Blackjack – Try your luck poolside at Encore with icons of the culinary world such as Bobby Flay, Charlie Palmer, Joël Robuchon, Alex Stratta, Kim Canteenwalla and Carlos Guia. Afterward, the excitement continues at the spectacular XS nightclub.

· Wine Immersion Experience at Bellagio – Want to know what the numbers really mean? Gain a better understanding of wine scores and ratings at a behind-the-scenes panel discussion hosted by Bellagio’s Wine Director and Master Sommelier Jason Smith at Jasmine.

· Payard Pâtisserie and Bistro Tea & Dessert Demonstration at Caesars Palace – Celebrate Mother’s Day weekend with a unique and scrumptious glimpse into the technique of this celebrated chef and his classic Parisian pastry shop. New to the program this year.

· Culinary Theatre: Two Master Chefs CollideRick Moonen of rm Seafood Cafe and Hubert Keller of Fleur de Lys and Burger Bar have mastered the art of entertainment––both in the kitchen and on the stage. As they prepare their favorite signature dishes and "dish" about each other, you’ll enjoy their delicious creations with a side of comedy and a cocktail or two. New to the program this year.

· Mother’s Day Brunch at L’Atelier at MGM Grand – Join Barbara Fairchild and Chef Joël Robuchon for an unforgettable celebration of mom on her special day. New to the program this year.

Many of these events are already on sale. To purchase tickets and to see more information about this year’s event lineup, please visit www.VegasUncorked.com. There, you may also opt in to receive information about additional events as they are added to the schedule.

This is one of the premier events that we cover and has become one of the most important culinaary and wine events in the United States. Vegas Uncork'd is an event that anyone who enjoys food , wine and entertainment should attend. See you there and ,


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New Years 2010 shines bright for the Venetian / Palazzo in Las Vegas

Date: Mon, Jan 18, 2010 Wine Tasting Winery Blogs Wine Business

VINO LAS VEGAS found ourselves beginning 2010 at the Venetian /Palazzo and its many parties. Whether toasting with Christina Aguilera or Nicole Richie during the midnight countdown, staying energized at the Red Bull No Limits New Year's Eve Party at Lagasse's Stadium or attending the Grand Opening of Smokin’ Hot Aces. Venues at The Palazzo featured special New Year’s Eve festivities that included LAVO, Lagasse’s Stadium, FIRST Food & Bar and Salute Lounge. Just a short stroll away at The Venetian, parties were held at TAO, Smokin’ Hot Aces, V Bar and La Scena.

The Red Carpet and its lights shined bright as we rang in the New Year with Nicole Richie as she hosted LAVO’s New Year’s Eve celebration with a special DJ set by Joel Madden and sounds by DJ Eric D Lux.

VINO LAS VEGAS visited many of the fine dinning venues at both resorts leading up to the midnight festivities. Stops at CUT , SUSHI SAMBA , CANNONITA and CARNEVINO got us started off on the right foot.

Over at the Venetian , Christina Aguilera hosted New Year’s Eve 2010 at TAO Asian Bistro & Nightclub, presented by Stephen Webster. World-renowned DJ Five was on hand to ring in the New Year with a memorable, high-energy set that kept the guests dancing into the early morning hours of 2010.

Singer, songwriter, performer, producer, Christina Aguilera was a real pleasure to meet. She is one of the most accomplished performers of the last decade, she has sold more than 25 million albums worldwide, achieved four #1 singles on the Billboard hot 100 chart, and has won four Grammy Awards and a Latin Grammy Award, as well as two top five albums in the United States. She has collaborated with other great artists including Herbie Hancock, Andrea Bocelli, Sean “Diddy” Combs and most recently, the legendary Tony Bennett.

She is well recognized with the 2007 Grammy Award Best Female Pop Vocal Performance: 'Ain't No Other Man'2006 MTV Europe Music Awards Best Female Artist2004 MTV Asia Award Favorite Female Artist2003 MTV Europe Music Awards Best Female 2003 Grammy Award Best Female Pop Vocal Performance: 'Beautiful'2001 Grammy Award Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals: 'Lady Marmalade'2001 Latin Grammy Award Best Female Pop Vocal Album: 'Mi Reflejo'. It really does got get much better than this to start off the new year.

Nicole Richie was over at the Palazzo in LAVO ringing in the New Year as well. In 2003, Richie and best friend Paris Hilton starred in Season 1 of the reality series The Simple Life, in which they lived for a month with a family in the rural community of Altus, Arkansas. The series debuted on Fox on December 2, 2003, to high ratings. The premiere episode drew 13 million viewers, increasing Fox's Adults 18-49 rating to 79%.

In 2005, Richie wrote a semi-autobiographical novel, The Truth About Diamonds, which was released by Bharell Jackson Publishing. The novel is loosely based on her life, but is mostly fictional. It chronicles the life of Chloe Parker, the adopted daughter of a singer who makes her way through all of the hottest nightclubs and parties in Hollywood and battles a drug addiction. In early January 2006, The Truth About Diamonds peaked at number #32 in Hardcover Fiction on The New York Times Best-Seller List.

With fireworks lighting up the strip , a stop at MORELS French Steak house provided us with a "strip side " view of the opening seconds of 2010 . The Venetian / Palazzo resorts teamed up with an A list of celebrities , partys and the always fabulous dining opportunities top start 2010 off in the right way .


Cheers !

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Vino Las Vegas begins a journey through Monterey County , Its AVAs , History and Agriculture

Date: Sat, Dec 26, 2009 Wine Tasting Winery Blogs Wine Business

Vino Las Vegas has traveled extensively and brought our readers along with us. In almost every occasion , we have concentrated on the Wine and Food aspects of the city we were in.

Recently we had the pleasure and honor of being invited to spend four days in Monterey County and discover not only the wine and food of the area but its history , attractions , and agriculture. They call this living the "Monterey Food and Wine Lifestyle". We could not agree more. The journey begins !

Monterey County highlights everything that's best about California. From the seaside restaurants to the Salinas Valley's hillside vineyards, to Pebble Beach's perfectly groomed golf courses. It has a life style that is just waiting to be explored.

Throughout the county, the story of Monterey's rich heritage comes alive in its gardens, missions, and lighthouses. It is the most historic city in California, and the the area continues to enthrall writers, artists and of course guests.

In 1945 author John Steinbeck immortalized the one mile stretch that was Ocean View Avenue in Monterey with his book ‘Cannery Row.’ The notoriety of Steinbeck’s book focused so much attention on the street that in 1953 the city of Monterey formally changed the street name to Cannery Row. Cannery Row is now one of America's top visitor destinations, attracting approximately four million people each year.

Today, visitors to Cannery Row can learn about the past, enjoy the present, and marvel at how this street has been transformed into one of the world's most beautiful waterfront destinations.

While on the road we enjoy boutique hotels. On this visit we chose the Monterey Bay Inn as our " base of operations ". The Monterey Bay Inn is a luxury hotel located on Cannery Row and within walking distance to the Monterey Bay Aquarium and they many restaurants on cannery row.

This lovely hotel offered us a relaxing sanctuary overlooking the Monterey Bay. With 49 spacious guestrooms, luxury amenities, plush bedding, and a complimentary deluxe continental breakfast delivered to our room , we could not help but open the patio door and step outside to savor the ocean aromas.

We have very busy days planned so enjoying a hearty breakfast including bagels, fresh baked breads, muffins, seasonal fruit, cereal, yogurt, hard-boiled eggs, juices, tea and local coffee from the Carmel Valley Coffee Roasting Company was a great way to start each day.
Of course a welcome gift of Ventana wines and chocolate was not a bad way to get our 4 day exploration of Monterey County started either.

Our room was decorated in soft marine-inspired hues of blue, green and brown and included deluxe feather bedding. We even found binoculars for viewing sea otters, birds, and other marine life in the room as well . The marble and granite bathrooms and stunning ocean views make this hotel a new favorite.

Vintners Reserve Opening Reception

We began our exploration of Monterey County's world class wines , culinary delights and scenic beauty at a private sunset Vintners Reserve Reception hosted by Scott Schneid of Schneid Vineyards in their tasting room on Cannery Row. Rhonda Motil , Executive Director MCVGA was a co-host and revealed to us the itinerary of our 4 day journey though the county.

The food and wine pairings created by Executive Chef Jerry Regester , The InterContinental Hotel showed off many of the great wines and food of the bountiful Monterey area and were right on.

The Scheid Vineyards Wine Lounge is located just a block from the Monterey Aquarium on cannery row. The 2,000-square-foot lounge features coffered ceilings, recycled hickory floors, and a rustic Carmel Valley stone fireplace, a perfect environment for tasting these great wines wines.

Over the past 36 Years, Scheid Vineyards has grown into one of California's largest independent producers of premium wine grapes, and a maker of distinctive wines that bear the Scheid name.
Located in Monterey County, they grow seventeen wine grape varieties on twelve diverse vineyard properties covering a span of 70 miles north to south.

The diverse vineyards enable them to grow many different varieties and clones in a variety of styles. From cool climate Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Riesling in the north, to Syrah, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc in the central Monterey County locations, and Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah and Petit Verdot in the warmer south.

They have ten separate estate vineyards covering more than 70 miles, offering an array of soils, microclimates, and sub-appellations. Each of their wines are handcrafted, using the best of new technology combined with traditional methods to showcase the varietal character of the grapes, the individuality of each vineyard, and the world class quality of the Monterey Viticultural Appellation. Less than two percent of Scheid's grapes are selected for its label.


This reception was about showing off a few of the many wineries in the Monterey County AVAs. Morgan wines are very well known.
Their Double L Vineyard is in the northern section of the Santa Lucia Highlands sub-appellation of Monterey. This organically farmed site has 45 acres currently producing fine Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Syrah.We enjoyed the opportunity to sample all of them and were impressed with their complexity and well represented the variety and terrior appropriately.

Estancia wines are known nation wide . Roughly translated from the Spanish word for “estate,” Estancia’s name emphasizes their founder, Augustin Huneeus' conviction that the world’s best wines capture the essence of their place of origin. In
1999 they branched out further from their home in Monterey County and acquired almost 700 acres in Paso Robles as the vineyard base for Estancia Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel and Red Meritage.

The Bernardus estate vineyards of Marinus and Featherbow Ranch are located in the Cachagua region of the Carmel Valley. Carmel Valley is a relatively new but up and coming AVA .

Of the 220 acres, 50 acres have been planted to vineyards of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Sauvignon Blanc. B. Their Marinus Estate Bordeaux-style red wine is the centerpiece of Owner Ben Pon's dream. It is complemented by Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc from cool coastal climate vineyards. In addition they also offer limited bottlings of small production and vineyard designate wines, which are available exclusively through their tasting room and wine club.

In addition to the "big names " we had the pleasure of sampling wines from Ludwig Winery. They specializes in northern European varietals. and currently offer two vineyard designated Rieslings and a Gewurztraminer. Once again, growing these cold climate European varietals as well as the many other varietals in Monterey County show all is vast diversity.
If this reception is just a small sampling of what the next 3 days will be like , we waited with anticipation.

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Vino Las Vegas embarks on a Literary and Agricultrual Tour of Monterey County

Date: Sat, Dec 19, 2009 Wine Tasting Winery Blogs Wine Business

The morning rays of the sun rose over Monterey Bay and began to shine through the wooden shutters of our spacious room . Sounds of seagulls and waves gently splashing on the rocks below reminded realize that we were no longer in the desert .

A quick breakfast on the patio and we were off to explore the many interesting aspects that Monterey County has to offer. Monterey County is famous for many things, however no true exploration of Monterey and the Salinas Valley could not be complete without exploring the works of Author John Steinbeck.

Pulitzer and Nobel Prize-winning author John Steinbeck was born and raised in Salinas not far from Monterey. His novels East of Eden, Tortilla Flat, Cannery Row and Sweet Thursday are among the stories that use Monterey county as the backdrop for his novels.

Monterey County Agricultural expert Evan Oaks, Owner of Ag Venture Tours took us on a journey through Steinbeck country like a true native. As we headed down Highway 68 towards Salinas he explained that Steinbecks Novels reflect his deep-seated roots in Monterey County.

Steinbeck first received attention with a novel set just after World War I in Monterey, titled Tortilla Flat. This book focused on Monterey residents of Mexican descent. His work at ranches and farms in Salinas informed his "California novels" set in the Depression-era farmland of the Central Valley, including Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath.

We arrived at Castle Rock which was the inspiration of John Steinbeck's Camelot castle in his book The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights, along with other stories, such as Pastures of Heaven, in which Steinbeck says that it has “so serene a beauty.” In this short story, “The Murder,” he starts the book with “This happened a number of years ago in Monterey County...At the head of the canyon there stands a tremendous stone castle, buttressed and towered like those strongholds the Crusaders put up in the path of their conquests. Only a close visit to the castle shows it to be a strange accident of time and water and erosion working on soft, stratified sandstone.”

The bluffs and castle-like turrets of stone that fascinated Steinbeck were featured in his Pastures of Heaven ( 1932 ). As Evan read to us from Pastures of Heaven we could not help but almost feel that John Steinback himself was looking down on us from the ramparts of his beloved Castle Rock.

Salinas Valley

As we proceeded down highway 68 to the Salinas Valley , Evan informed us that the Salinas Valley is the center for Monterey County’s 3.8 billion-dollar agriculture industry.

Due to its temperate, Mediterranean-like climate and fertile soils, the county has become the number one vegetable-producing region in the nation.

He continued to point out that this area supplies 80 percent of the nation’s lettuces and nearly the same percentage of artichokes. Broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, strawberries, peppers, squash, carrots, asparagus, celery, tomatoes, mushrooms, brussel sprouts, garlic, onions and flowers are also grown in abundance.

In addition, Monterey County has become one of the largest premium grape growing regions in California, with over 40,000 acres of wine grapes planted

Local growers and shippers in the Valley lead the industry in all phases of crop growth including seed technology, planting and irrigation, harvesting and marketing. Pre-packaged salads and precut fresh vegetables were created in the Salinas Valley, and this innovation has changed the way we buy vegetables.

The technologies that we developed in the Salinas Valley are being recognized and imitated by farmers around the world.

Today , Monterey County continues to be a leader in agricultural exports with over 570 million pounds of produce exported annually. Top importers of Salinas Valley produce include Canada, Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Mexico and the European Union

The highly sought after Organic produce is and has been incorporated into the holdings of most large companies and many are continually working on experimental projects . There are currently over 14,000 acres of organic vegetables growing in Monterey County. More than 40 crops exceeded $1 million in production value in 2008.

D Arrigo Farms home of the Andy Boy name
80 Years in the making

It is hard to imagine that when Andrea and Stefano D’Arrigo brought broccoli seeds from their native Italy in 1923, this delicious and nutritious mainstay was virtually unknown in America.

Along with broccoli, the D’Arrigo family brought a family passion for growing fresh vegetables that has continued through the decades.

Margaret D Arrigo , Executive Vice President was waiting as we pulled up to her family's sprawling headquarters facility . She explained that she was going to take us on a drive to their cactus pear farm to show us a new project they are working on and then for lunch.

Our 30 min ride to the farm took us along side of the Santa Lucia Highlands and the ancient alluvial fans that produce some of the countries finest wines. We turned down a dirt road and into a cactus farm. It seemed quite out of place right between of some very famous vineyards.
Margaret explained Edible cactus is also known as nopales (no-PAH-les), nopalitos or cactus pads. This vegetable is popular in Mexico and other Central American countries, parts of Europe, the Middle East, India, North Africa and Australia.

Its popularity is increasing in the United States where it can be found at Mexican grocery stores, specialty produce markets and farmer’s markets. In addition to the food aspect she has plans to use the cactus pear puree in various cocktails including Richard Oh's OH Zone vodka. 80 years ago D Arrigo was a pioneer in the Salinas Valley. Margaret and her brother seem to be keeping up the cutting edge tradition with their latest project.

Today, D'Arrigo Bros. Co., of California (Andy Boy) specializes in Romaine, Romaine Hearts, Iceberg Lettuce, Green Leaf, Red Leaf, Butter Lettuce, Broccoli Rabe, Broccoli, Shrink-Wrap Broccoli, Cauliflower, Cactus Pears, Nopalitos and Fennel. They service customers in the retail food, foodservice, and the food wholesale sectors and farms some 24,000 acres . On the way back to the headquarters building and what promised to be a great afternoon with lunch and a Pinot Noir focus tasting , Margaret explained that she conducts cooking classes for local children to educate them on eating and cooking better and she added the program as has had fantastic results.

D Arrigo Lunch was nothing but spectacular

After spending most of the morning in the farms and fields of the Salinas Valley we were now ready to enjoy some the great food and of course wine that they are so famous for. Margaret D' Arrigo pulled out all the stops and put on a lunch that has to be one of the best we have had the pleasure to enjoy.

When you combine the talent of a great local Chef and a 5th Generation winemaker those are all the ingredients you need for a wonderful time.

Karl Wente , Fifth Generation Winemaker , Wente Family estates joined us for lunch. Karl explained that his family's vineyard is the country's oldest , continuously operated vineyard and was founded in 1883. With over 3000 acres of Sustainably farmed grapes , they have created a very well known and vast portfolio of wines.

He went on to add that Wente Vineyards has a restaurant , golf course , does catering events and even concerts. On this day , he enjoyed the fresh creations from Chef Todd Fisher with each course being paired with a Wente wine.

Chef Todd Fisher showed off his culinary talent and created a lunch that showed off the products of this fertile valley. His Caesar salad with Andy Boy Romaine Hearts was probably the freshest that we have had, understating we were very close to where it was grown. Of course a lunch in Salinas would not be a lunch with out Guacamole and Fresh Salsa. Chef took it one more step and made a Guacamole Rabe and ended our lunch with Prickly Pear Sorbet and Lemonade.

Broccoli Rabe & Carne Asada Tacos
paired with Wente Vineyards 2006 Small Lot Syrah was a pairing that was spot on.

Chef Todd Fisher really captured to flavors of the Salinas Valley with his
Colored Cauliflower Enchiladas and contrasted it by pairing the Nth Degree 2007 Pinot Noir
THE CUISINEIST Culinary Magazine takes a "foodie" look at this wonderful lunch and speaks with Chef Todd Fisher. Stop in and take a look !

Just when one may think the afternoon could not get much better , It did. Vino Las Vegas sat down with some of the founding winemakers in Monterey County and explored 5 of the 8 AVAs at a Pinot Noir Terroir Focus Tasting

Some of the best Pinot Noirs' in our opinion come out of Monterey County. With its cool climate and maritime influence , Pinot Noirs do well in most of the AVAs in the county. This area provides the proper temperature , warm days, a shorter frost season and less chance of unseasonable and damaging rains. The primary attribute of this singular climate is the cooling air of the Monterey Bay, which creates a longer growing season. As air in the southern part of the county warms at noon each day and rises, cool air from the Bay fills the void left by the rising warm air.

Grapevines in Monterey County tend to produce buds in the Springs, two weeks earlier than vines in other regions. Due to the cool growing season, the Fall harvest typically beings two weeks later than other regions. Thus, local grapes remain on the vine a full month longer, developing the characteristic intensity of flavor.

We had the opportunity to sample Pinot Noirs from Arroyo Seco. This AVA is almost in the middle of the county next to the Santa Lucia Highlands. The first Pinot Noir we sampled was 2007 J Lohr Fog's Reach Pinot Noir . This was a young Pinot but represented itself well. Monterey County legonary founder Steve
McIntyre was on hand and presented us with his 2006 McIntyre
Vineyards Misson Ranch Pinot Noir. Having more time in the bottle , this Pinot Noir showed what the Arroyo Seco AVA is all about , showing off the AVAs unique qualities. The Santa Lucia Highlands may be the county's biggest name. Located in some of the highest elevations of the county. This AVA is well known for its Pinot Noirs. Several Pinot Noirs were sampled from this appelation. The 2007
Bernardus Vineyards Rosella's Santa Lucia Highlands , 2007 Hahn Estates SLH Pinot Noir , Steve McIntyre was up to the task with his 2007 McIntyre Vineyards Estate Pinot Noir and was followed by Morgan Winery with there 2007 Morgan Winery Twelve Clones Pinot Noir and 2007 Morgan Winery Double L Vineyard Pinot Noir.

The next AVA we explored was the renowned Chalone AVA which is the oldest and located on eastern side of the county at very high elevations. Who else could start the tasting of this AVAs Pinot Noirs was legendary winemaker Michael Michaud. His 2005 Michaud Vineyard Pinot Noir was a great way to get our Pinot Noir trip started. Of course Chalone Vineyard was on had to show off their 2007 Chalone Vineyard Pinot Noir as well.
Not be be left out Carmel Valley AVA was well represented by Bernardus Vineyards and their 2007 Bernardus Vineyards Ingrids Carmel Valley Pinot Noir. The Monterey AVA was represented by

Carmel Road Winery and its 2007 Carmel Road Sierra Granite Pinot Noir. And Scheid Vineyards with their 2007 Scheid Vineyards Pinot Noir to finish this very special Pinot Noir journey through the hills and valleys of Monterey County.

A Visit to Monterey Bay Aquarium

If your staying on Cannery Row the world famous Monterey Bay Aquarium is worth a visit. The Monterey Bay Aquarium is located on the site of a former sardine cannery and has an annual attendance of 1.8 million and holds 35,000 plants and animals representing 623 species.

The basic design of the aquarium pumps 2000 gallons/minute of Monterey Bay ocean water, night and day, through the more than 100 exhibit tanks. During the day the water is filtered for viewing clarity. During the night, raw (unfiltered) seawater is pumped through exhibits, bringing in food in the form of plankton. Waste ocean water from the aquarium is returned to the Bay. This design makes the aquarium ecologically essentially part of the ocean in the Bay, and allows the culture of organisms such as Giant Kelp which are not suitable for ordinary saltwater aquariums.

We stolled amongst numerous sea life and were in totall awe of their beauty. This Aquariium is one of best known in the world and just another aspect that Monterey County has to offer to its visitors. Located on Cannery Row it is easlity accesbale and walking distance to many of the hotels.

In addition to appreciating the beauty of the sea life, we were at the aquarium in the evening for a very special event. There were winemaker dinners all over the county and ours was right here in the middle of the aquarium with great wine from Estancia and Chef David Anderson's culinary delights.

Estancia wines are very well known. Their winemakers strive to combine the best of both worlds with a state-of-the art winemaking facility, and a traditional, hands-on approach to to take advantage of the beneficial advances in winemaking technology that has developed over the years.
Scott Kelly joined Estancia in 2007 as Director of Winemaking and is responsible for the day-to-day activities of winemaking this includes walking the vineyards, tasting each barrel to determining blending, aging and bottling.

Scott knew wanted to be a winemaker from the time he was 17 years old. He worked his way to assistant brewmaster for Carmel Brewing Co. in Salinas, managing all aspects of brewing.

A year later, he joined Golden State Vintners in Napa Vally as a laboratory supervisor then promoted to cellar master and eventually assistant winemaker. Following Golden State Vintners, Scott then worked as winemaker for La Famiglia and then Robert Mondavi Private Selection before joining Estancia in 2007.
He continued on to earn Bachelor of Science degree in fermentation science from University of California at Davis and was also awarded a Certification of Master Brewers Program.

We walked into the Aquarium and realized at night this was a whole different experience than during the day. Guests had the very special opportunity to walk amongst sharks , large kelp forests , and even penguins while sipping on some great wines and tantalizeing treats from Chef David Anderson , Portola Resturant Executive Chef.

It was now time to dine. and dine we did. Each table had a winemaker or host from the winery to enjoy the wine , dishes and answer any questions we may have.

Chef Anderon's Farmed Artic Char Blanquette Crep paried with Estancia Reserve 2007 Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands paired great with the dish as its soft silky tanins and spice lead to a lingering finish which was a true complement to the dish.

Braised Beef Short Rib, red wine risotto was paired with the 2006 Estancia Mertage Paso Robles which melted in our mouth. Flavours and aromas of chocolate , black cherries and even rosemarry combined for a great marriage with this dish.

Last but certainly not least was a Rustic fig-almond tart and of course not surprisingly was paired with Estancia 2008 Riesling , Monterey County.

Chef David Anderson , Scott Kelly , Estancia wines and the Monterey Bay aquarium gave us all a memorable experience in a venue that was created by nature itself. We walked along the famed Cannery Row, marveling at the stars and taking in ocean aromas on the way back to the Monterey Bay Inn and preparing for a visit to Carmel Valley the next day.

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Kris O'Conner from the Vineyard team speaks to all of us about Sustainability not only on the Farms but in the Vineyards as well.

Date: Sun, Dec 6, 2009 Wine Tasting Winery Blogs Wine Business

In these days and times a big "buzz" world is Sustainability . The practice of Sustainable , Organic farming not only applies to our food but now , literally from the ground up, in the Vineyards.

The Monterey Plazza Hotel located on Cannery Row offered us an opportunity to meet Kris O' Conner from the Central Coast Vineyard team. She lead us in a discussion on their acclaimed Certification program.

It is important to realize that true sustainability includes the Farms, People and the environment. Kris O'Conner made the point that we recognize how the farm affects the land beyond the fence line and that farms work to protect the environment and care for their workers. The vineyard team encourages farms to plant cover crops to reduce erosion , minimize the tractor use and use alternative fuels. Kris O ' Conner stated the team regularly scouts the vineyards checking for pest-prey balance and will only use reduced risk materials as a last resort. Water conservation is also important as the vineyards are monitored for water use . A factor that many people over look when they talk about sustainability is the people. Social Responsibility O'Conner stated means to offer competitive wages , medical insurance , training and education because the workers are a very valuable resource.

The SIP Certified Vineyards have meaningful standards that are set by experts and the Growers must meet the highest level of performance just to be eligible. Independent inspectors confirm the grower has met the standards and an independent panel grants the certification based on audits or reports.

It is so important to our food supply that we look for the SIP seal that assures us , the consumer, that the growers protected our natural resources , treated their employees well and have sound business practices.

Some of the Vineyards that have achieved this highest level of sustainability are Ampelos Cellars , Edna Valley Vineyard , McIntyre Vineyards , Robert Hall Winery and Paraiso Vineyards just to name a few.

For more information about SIP Certified Vineyards please go to Sipthegoodlife.org

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Vino Las Vegas vists Carmel Valley , stops for lunch at a Chateau , takes a 17 mile ocean drive and samples wine from a new AVA

Date: Sat, Dec 5, 2009 Wine Tasting Winery Blogs Wine Business

Over 200 years ago a viticultural tradition began in Monterey County. In 1983 The Amercian Vinticultural Association granted appellation status to 19,200 acres in Carmel Valley . Today , nine tasting rooms give visitors a chance to sample award winning Cabernet Sauvignon , Merlot and Cabernet Franc. But Carmel Valley is much more than just wine . VINO LAS VEGAS set out on a journey from Cannery Row to Carmel Valley to find many of the opportunities this interesting area provides.

We left the cool fog of Monterey Bay behind and drove down the famous Highway One that connects California's Big Sur to Carmel and from Carmel to Monterey in what John Steinbeck called the most dramatic meeting of Land and Sea.

We continued to meander down Highway One and then on to Carmel Valley Road under the guidance of Elizabeth Vitarisi Suro , Managing Director of Carmel Valley Chamber of Commerce. The Sun came out as we drove by wildflowers and majestic oak trees. Suro explained that Carmel Valley was once the home of dairies, ranchers and farms; and in some cases, it still is. But most of the historic family holdings have evolved into award-winning wineries, one-of-a-kind Carmel Valley shopping villages, world-class golf-links, unique resorts and lodging and fine-dining restaurants and even organic vegetable stands. Relatively left untouched since the Spanish Land Grants , the valley is still home to redwood canyons and ancient pines.

On this day we were on our way to explore not just the wines that Carmel Valley is famous for but the shopping , art galleries , the 5000 acre Garland Ranch and relaxing hotels and spas such as the renown Carmel Valley Ranch.

We entered the Carmel Valley road at the mouth of the valley where we found pristine golf courses and passed through mid valley with its resorts and shopping then our anticipation grew as we pulled into Carmel Valley Village and its artisan community and of course great food and wine.

The first stop we made in Carmel Valley Village was Heller Estate Organic Vineyards. Heller Estate Organic Vineyards has 120 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc,Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc and Pinot Noir are planted at an altitude of 1200 - 1500 feet

The vineyards are dry-farmed with the roots of the vines descending deep in the sandy soil to the "Cachagua" springs. These stressed vines produce outstanding luscious fruit.

The Heller Cabernets have been described as "super-rich, with lots of tannin and explosively long finishes". The Chardonnays have been described as "dramatic, blockbuster wines which are rich, exceptionally age worthy, and can easily last 5-7 years - an uncommonly long time for a California Chardonnay"

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of stopping by the tasting room is the chance of meeting Toby Heller, internationally known sculptor of large works. A sculpture garden has been added to the property, as well as another adjacent to the tasting room in Carmel Valley Village. The sculptures are the inspiration for the Heller labels. A great example is the label, "Dances on Your Palate". It is based on a fifteen-foot high, bronze sculpture overlooking the vineyards, and the motto "Magical Wines That Dance on Your Palate " is featured on the label. If you appreciate wine and art , Heller is worth a stop.

The tasting room offers its guests the opportunity to taste the entire range of these award winning wines (Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Port and Late Harvest Reisling), and even delicious Merlot-filled Chocolate. The Tasting Room also offers a selection of wine accessories and wine related gifts, a Mini Art Gallery, and a unique collection of Santon dolls and Mrs. Toby Heller's world famous and award winning pieces of art displayed in the sculpture garden and tasting room.

The vineyards are certified 100% organic. No herbicides nor pesticides are used in the production of the grapes. The certification was granted after three vintages of clean farming.

Rich Tanguay, formerly of Topolos & Buena Vista, is the winemaker and overseeing the production of these award-winning wines. Renamed "Heller Estate Organic Vineyards", the wines are all estate bottled and, as stated above, organically produced. The current production is approximately 25,000 cases annually.

Frank Joyce owner of Joyce Vineyards produces some great very small production Estate grown wines and has a very interesting story on how he got into the science of being a grower and winemaker. Dr. Frank Joyce, a successful local dentist, discovered an unknown talent for turning the grapes into fine, premium wines. The Estate vineyard is situated on five acres including an extreme hillside slope behind his house, a determination was made that a landslide could occur from the hillside above the house and in order to protect the property, vegetation needed to be planted throughout the hillside.

Considering the southwest facing slope and the soil composition it was decided that the best vegetation would be grape vines using European style cross-hill terracing.

The first vines planted on the hillside in 1987 named his first born son, Russell and created the vineyard which produces the estate Cabernet for Russell’s Vineyard.
In 1993, a second vineyard was planted on the hillside above Russell’s Vineyard on a forty-one degree hillside and named after his second son, Michael.

This vineyard produces the estate Merlot, known as Michael’s Merlot. An additional vineyard was added in 1997 located in the front of the family home producing the Joyce Estate Pinot Noir.

After studying with such noted winemakers as Paul Hobbs of Paul Hobbs Wines and Kathy Joseph of Fiddlehead, he decided to pursue wine making in addition to dentistry as As the production of wine grew, the winery was relocated to a larger facility in Salinas, California and now produces four Pinot Noirs, two Merlots, two Cabernet Sauvignons, one Chardonnay , one Syrah and one pudding wine. Joyce produces some outstanding wines with his Syrah being a real stand out. The tasting room is located in Lyonshead Art Gallery featuring local artists provides a relaxing, comfortable environment in which to taste these great wines.

Carmel Valley is fast becoming a "place to be " which is saying alot when Carmel , Pacific Grove and Monterey are their neighbors . Our journey continued past OH and Otter Cove wines by winemaker Richard OH and then on to the historic Talbot Winery tasting room.

In 1982, Robb Talbott began planting his original Diamond T Estate vineyard in Carmel Valley.

Robb established one of the area's best estate programs, featuring two of Monterey County’s grand cru sites: Diamond T Estate and the legendary Sleepy Hollow Vineyard in the Santa Lucia Highlands. This area of Sleepy Hollow has earned a reputation for producing wines of great depth and are very well respected.

VINO LAS VEGAS had the opportunity to speak with winemaker Dan Karlsen as he took us through some of these legendary wines as well as a few new projects as well.
Dan Karlsen is a renowned Chardonnay and Pinot Noir specialist, who brings three decades of winemaking and viticultureal experience to his role as winemaker for Talbott Vineyards.

Dan's road to winemaking started with David Stare’s team at Dry Creek Vineyard. Dan fell in love with winemaking, and became an integral part of every aspect of the winery’s operations.

After four years with Dry Creek Vineyard, he joined Dehlinger Winery as assistant winemaker. While at Dehlinger, Dan honed his skills making Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, In 1988, he joined Claude Tattinger’s team at the newly founded Domaine Carneros. After several years of working alongside original winemaker Eileen Crane, he was promoted to winemaker in 1992—a position he held for the next five years. Dan helped to guide the winery’s acclaimed sparkling wine portfolio, while also playing a pivotal role in establishing Pinot Noir at Domaine Carneros.

In 1998, Dan was named winemaker and general manager for Monterey County’s Chalone Winery, a position he held until 2007. During his ten years at Chalone, Dan helped to revitalize the winery’s Pinot Noir program and further elevated the status of its Chardonnays.

As Dan went through the wines he pointed out the 2006 Talbott Cuvée Carlotta. Now in its third vintage, Cuvée Carlotta has quickly emerged as one of Talbott's defining wines and the
2006 vintage of Diamond T Chardonnay earned 92 points from Wine Enthusiast.
And lastly a wine made by Dan himself was unveiled . The 2008 Talbott Logan Pinot Noir. Dan explained Unlike previous vintages, which employed cold soaks and partial whole-clusters, the grapes for this wine were pressed off immediately and fermented warm. The resulting wine blends the purity and sophistication achieved through classic Old World techniques. It was a real pleasure to meet yet another legend in Monterey County and sample some great wines.
If you would like more information on want pay them a visit. Please go to http://www.talbottvineyards.com

Monterey county is so vast and provides much to our country. We departed Carmel Valley village for lunch at the esteemed Chateau Julien's Petite Chateau were we were joined by Chateau Julien's proprietor Bob Bower , Jack Galante and Dawn White proprietors from Galante Vineyards and Jane Beery from Cima Collina Wines for lunch and of course wine.

The Petite Chateau at Chateau Julien brings back memories of the French Country side.The old-world French Chateau is a replica of a home on the French-Swiss border. Beautiful stained glass embodies rich antiques with dramatic 30-foot cathedral ceilings in the Chateau’s Great Hall. French doors swing open towards the Estate Garden Cobblestone Courtyards and glass covered-Conservatory.

Chef Terry Teplitzky of Michaels Catering provided us with a delicious luncheon in the lovely vineyard. Terry's dry figs filled with blue cheese and spiced Pecans was a mouthwatering surprise. The fresh harvest rice salad with dry fruit and fetta butternut squash and green bean salad lead us into a delicious braised loin of pork with cranberry chutney that paired perfectly with the many wines at the table.

Jane Beery from Cima Colina wines took us through three of their handcrafted wines from Monterey County.
"Monterey is still a viticultural frontier where new, superb growing areas are being discovered and planted. We translate our own sense of discovery and excitement into the wines we produce through a meticulous, artisan approach to winemaking that preserves and enhances the best Monterey's vineyards have to give." Annette Hoff, Winemaker.

Winemaker Annette Hoff could not have said it better. The 2007 Cima Collina Meritage with its spphistcated fruit notes and long finish was a great way to start off . Jane moved on to their 2007 Chardonnay that delivered rich, dense flavors of ripe apple, melon and grapefruit. Being espacially know for their Pinot Noirs our anticaption grew with the next two Cima Collina wines.
Cima Collina 2006 Monterey county Pinot Noir showed off the classic notes of the appelation with and blend grapes cultivated from the Chula Viña Vineyard, Tondre Grapefield and Hilltop Ranch Vineyard. We finsihed our jouney through Cima Collina wines with the 2005 Hilltop Ranch Pinot Noir which provided us with a a powerful, dark, rich wine with aromas and flavors of plums, blueberries, leather, earth, smoke and spice.

Jack Galante was on hand as well and shared his very unique
wines as we enjoyed the Chef''s culinary delights. Jack Galante's philosophy is simple: grow the finest grapes possible and let the fruit express itself in the wine. Since all of his grapes are estate grown, each bottle of wine they produce embodies the characteristics of their unique region, exhibiting the natural flavors that are born from the land.

Jack was not messing around when we were given his 2008 Galante Sauvigon Blanc which scored 92 points from The Wine Enthusiast (Nov. 2009). Wine Enthusiast stated " This distinctive Sauvignon Blanc is from Carmel Valley… It’s utterly dry and crisp, with Citrus, Asian Pears and spices, and an intriguing floral note suggesting lavender " Jack continued on with his 2005 Almond Flat Pinot Noir which is an excellent example of a Monterey County Pinot Noir with its classic maritime influence. Jack would not be finsihed untill we had a chance to sample his 2007 Red Rose Cabernet Sauvignon that scored 90 points from The Wine Enthusiast (Nov. 2009). They commented " A very nice cab that is Bordeaux-like in its dryness, modest alcohol and tannic earthiness that grounds the blackberry and cherry fruit." Galante Vineyards and Jack Galante himself provided us with his best.

In the late 1970's, Bob and Patty Brower set out to fulfill their dream. Originally from the East Coast, they had a passion for wine and admired the French hospitality encountered while traveling in Europe. They saw the potential in Monterey County as a quality wine growing region, and in 1982 began building what is now known as Château Julien Wine Estate in Carmel Valley, California.

The winery's first release came in 1985 with Chardonnay and Merlot from the 1982 vintage. Today, the entire process of wine production takes place on the 16-acre estate, including the aging of nearly 2000 oak barrels of wine. Winemaker Bill Anderson joined the Browers in 1982, and produced the winery's first 100% Merlot with the premier vintage. Bill continues to produce wine at Château Julien Wine Estate, and has played an integral part in establishing Merlot as the winery's flagship varietal.

It was a true honor to have Bob Brower pour his own wines for us in the Chateau. Bob's Private Reserve wines signify the heritage of the winery. The label dates back to the first release of 1982 Merlot and represents the highest quality wines produced from each vintage, with only 600 six packs produced annually.

He started us off with one of these very limited wines. 2008 Private Reserve "Sur Lie" Chardonnay. Produced in traditional French “Sur Lie” style, this wine stays in contact with the lees (or inactive yeast cells) throughout 100% barrel fermentation and aging. The result is a rich, creamy Chardonnay with a round full texture.

Bob explained Chateau Juliean also produces a few specialty wines. He explained that winemaker Bill Anderson highlights select vineyard lots, unique proprietary blends and extremely limited production varietals for a exclusive collection of wines, available only through allocation or at the Wine Estate in Carmel Valley. We had the opportinuty to sample two of these highly sought after labels. The first was the 2006 Black Nova II. Black: because of the rich darkness of color it attained from the beginning. Nova: because the fruit and flavors of this wine are a “burst of brightness”, as defines the birth of a celestial Nova. Harvested in September of 2006 from the San Antonio AVA this blend of 60% Zinfandel and 40% Syrah was lovely. Being barrel aged for 16 months in new American oak this wine is BIG. The fruit aromas and flavors of raspberry burst through right away and settle into a warm , long finish due to its 15% alcohol content. This was a very elegant wine and a real pleasure to enjoy.

Bob finished us on another Chateau Julien specialty wine, the 2006 la Conviviance. This Proprietary final blend consists of 46% Merlot, 38% Malbec and 16% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. Grown in small lots, each varietal was harvested and aged separately in 60% new French Nevers and American Missouri oak barrels for fourteen months, 12 days. On the nose dark cherry and ripe blackberry comes throufg . On the pallet flavors vanilla and anise add to the soft, fruit flavors all combine for a long mouth-filing finish and beautiful deep garnet color in the glass.
After a wondefull day of exploreing Carmel Valley it was time to head back to Cannery Row.


We discovered many treasures as we headed back to the Monterey Bay Inn on Cannery Row along the very famous 17 Mile Drive. It is one of the most scenic drives anywhere in the world. The drive , which runs through Del Monte Forest, is seventeen miles of sea and sky, immaculate golf courses, and dream homes set graciously behind elegant gates...

We stopped at The Lone Cypress where we watched the sunset and snacked on Apple Pie from the Freedom Bakery and a Pear Tart from Patisserie Boissiere Resturant in Carmel. Of course a 2006 J.Lohr Late Harvest Riseling and a 2004 Late Harvest Desert Wine Santa Lucia Highlands was a great way to end our journey to Carmel Valley . We continued our drive by Seal and Bird Rocks, Fanshell Beach, Point Joe, as well as the natural habitat of the black cormorants, brown pelicans, California sea otters, harbor seals, and idle sea lions.

We saw the the the emerald fairways of such famous golf courses as The Links at Spanish Bay, Spyglass Hill and the world-renowned Pebble Beach Golf Links. The Monterey Bay Inn looked better than ever but the day was not quite over.

The Santa Antonio Valley in and around the Bradley-Lockwood area at the southernmost tip of Monterey County is the newest th AVA in the county and was designated as an official American Viticultural Area in June of 2007. Since then it has undergone a renaissance as growers and winemakers have come to rediscover the area’s suitability for growing robust, fully mature fruit. This area has attained a growing reputation for producing intensely flavored, complex wines of the sort more often associated with Paso Robles than with Monterey.

We stopped in the newly opened tasting room of PIERCE Ranch Vineyards located right off of Cannery Row and met with owner Josh Pierce as we sampled from great seafood from Chef Bert Cutino , Chef at the Sardine Factory which is famous throughout the world.

Josh explained that Pierce Ranch Vineyards is a small, family-owned operation in a highland valley at the southernmost tip of Monterey County. Their plantings consist of a mix of Bordeaux, Rhone, and Iberian varietals that have been selected not only for their ability to excel in their climate, but also for their complementary qualities. Even though their AVA is perfectly suited to producing Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah and Zinfandel, They also produce Spanish and Portuguese varietals such as Tempranillo and Touriga Nacional and are always exploring their potential.

Josh started us out with the 2008 Albarino . The grapes were fermented in stainless steel at low temperatures. In the glass it is light bodied and on the nose aromas of slate and apricot give way to lemon. This Albarino reflects its terrior with refreshing citrus notes and minerality on the finish. We were not familiar with the varietal of Cosecheiro which was the next wine we explored.

Cosecheiro is a blend that derives its name from the Spanish cosechero, referring to the small, independent winegrowers of the Iberian Peninsula. The 2006 Cosecherio is a blend of 48% Tempranillo, 42% Touriga, 10% Tinto Cão of which only 60 cases were produced. Moderate tannins come through with aromas and flavors of cherry and plum are accented by notes of clove, and cocoa on the finish.

Tempranillo is a varietal that we are very familiar with. The Pierce Ranch 2006 Tempranillo is a blend of 94.2% Tempranillo, 4.3% Syrah, 1.5% Grenache of which only 135 cases were produced.

This Tempranillo with its medium tannins, velvety texture, and bright fruit, show similar to a Pinot Noir. Cherry and raspberry combine with notes of cola, and a touch of floral notes on the finish and shows very nicely.

Josh once again showed us a varietal that we have not had too much experience with , Touriga. "Touriga" is the name applied to a pair of Portuguese varietals that create exceptional wines prized for their richness and remarkable aromatics.. Though U.S. labeling laws only allow the use of the generic term "Touriga", this designation usually refers to either one or both of the two varietals known in Portugal as Touriga Francesa and Touriga Nacional. The Pierce 2006 Touriga is a blend of 70% Touriga Nacional, 30% Touriga Francesa and only 97 cases were produced. Dark in color and large bodied , the 2006 vintage is defined by rich blueberry and raspberry with accents of starfruit, clove, cinnamon, and creme brulee. Notes of cocoa , earth and ripe fruit all combine with soft tannins on the finish.

It was a real pleasure to met a young , upstart vineyard owner from one of the newest AVAs in the US. Pierce Ranch , in our opinion is off to a great start and could be the next rising star.

With the long but wonderful day coming to an end , memories of this day will linger with us for a long time. But, there is always the Grand Finale to come.

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