June 2008 Archives

andersonvalley.jpgBy Courtney Cochran

Sixteen miles long and home to some two dozen wineries, Mendocino's Anderson Valley is fast becoming known as one of the best kept secrets in Northern California wine touring.  Thanks to its unique east-west orientation, the valley - situated in southern Mendocino County - channels crisp air from the nearby Pacific to its dramatic Redwood-lined vineyards, which produce some of the state's most sought-after Pinot Noir and sparkling wines.  

Even better, Mendocino wineries' trademark laid-back attitude and easy hospitality means that visitors to the valley just two hours north of San Francisco are treated like old friends, and tasting fees are often free or rightly reasonable.

Wine Country Itinerary: Alexander Valley

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AlexValley-dawn.jpgBy Courtney Cochran

Nestled at the northeastern end of Sonoma County, the picturesque Alexander Valley is eminently accessible for overnighters staying in Healdsburg, and it's also well within reach for day trippers driving in from other Sonoma hamlets as well as the Bay Area.  Originally home to prune orchards and meandering cattle herds, the valley and its gently sloping hillsides are now criss-crossed with seemingly limitless acres of vines, evidence of today's thriving wine industry.  Speaking of which, visitors have much to look forward to in the area's soulful Cabernets and Merlots, while those with a preference for whites will find plenty to appreciate in the region's rich Chardonnays. 

Beer Steps Aside for Colorado Wine

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boulderfwfest.jpgBy Robert Farmer

Boulder, Colorado: If you're like me, the beverage you equate most with the Rockies is beer - one particular type of beer, more likely. For as long as anyone can remember, the taste of the Rocky Mountains was a hops-and-barley taste. Beer in Colorado is king. That is, until now.


Like each of its 49 neighbor states, Colorado, too, has an emerging wine industry. And now that industry is starting to inch into the territory of its dominant sister beverage. While it will certainly be some time before beer is replaced on the throne, wine in Colorado is proving to be a worthy prince.

Courtney & Hip Tastes Come to St. Helena!

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htb_header.jpgBy Courtney Cochran

St. Helena, Napa Valley: I'm thrilled to announce a rare Napa Valley appearance tomorrow night, 6/25 - I'll be chatting about my book, Hip Tastes: The Fresh Guide to Wine, and signing copies as part of the 1st Annual Books on Wine Festival at the St. Helena Public Library. I'm thrilled to be included in a super lineup of wine books published in 2007, including A Moveable Thirst, New Classic Winemakers of California, Small Plates Perfect Wines, and The Art of Terroir.  Refreshments begin at 6pm and are followed by author chats from 7 to 8:15, with author signings to follow.

Benziger Swaying With The Palm

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thepalm.jpgBy Robert Farmer

I'm typically not a "chain" guy, when it comes to restaurants. Indeed in most instances I avoid them by personal writ. But of course some chains are better than others. And some are cut from different cloth entirely. So it was when I entered for the first a couple summers ago The Palm Restaurant in Miami.

I knew the Palm was one of the most feverishly followed steak houses in the U.S., and I was eager to discover what all the fuss was about. Besides, with only 25 Palms in existence, this particular chain was decidedly "short" which made it easier to bend my own rule.

Wine Popping With Climate Change

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climate2.jpgBy Robert Farmer

It's easy to overlook just how pervasive the topic of climate change really is. Not everybody lives in the South Pole, where massive sheets of ice are breaking away at alarming rates and melting into the ocean. Not does the threat of coastal waters rising to overtake entire cities sway the minds of most people on earth.

But the fact is, climate change can and will impact nearly all parts of our current lives. Yes, dear wine lover, that includes wine. And so it was with a great interest that I heard the news recently of a planned Wine Industry Seminar on Climate Change, scheduled for July 31-August 1 at Gloria Ferrer Winery in Sonoma.

Go Go Camp Mendo

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glasshand.jpgBy Robert Farmer

Those familiar with this space know that I am a fan of "immersion learning." Especially when it comes to wine appreciation, there's no better way to "go deep" into it than to live it for a few solid days. Wine camps are a great way to do it. And increasingly, regions are offering innovative, educational, and above all fun, opportunities to experience wine like you never have.

Mendocino gets into the act with Wine Camp 2008, a three-day, three-night immersion into Northern California wine and all of its various nuances and tendencies. I like this Wine Camp because it takes place in one of California's lesser-known regions and provides "insider info" to the intrepid camp-goer about one of Northern California's under-discovered gems. And, with each camp limited to just eight campers, it promises to be an intimate excursion, with ample opportunity to get one-on-one contact with winemakers and other participants.
ccwithchanel.jpgBy Courtney Cochran

It's tough for a gal not to get all gushy about Chanel, and for this gal, an auction item including some Chanel, a private jet to Paris and accommodations at the über luxe Hotel Plaza Athénée is about as good as it gets.  Add to all this fabulousness a vertical of double magnums from one of Napa's most sought-after new wines and special perks in Par-ee (think fashion show tix and a tour of Coco Chanel's private apartments), and you've got the stuff of wine-loving fashionista fantasy. 
EV_NapaAuction060908_200.jpgBy Courtney Cochran

Known variously as The American Wine Classic and "the granddaddy of all wine auctions," Auction Napa Valley 2008 went down on June 9th at the lavish Meadowood resort, though the vibe was decidedly more subdued than in previous years.  Whether you blame the scaled back fanfare on the tough economic climate, the heat (though it's typically scorching in Napa every year around Auction time) or the recent passing of Napa scion Robert Mondavi, the auction was without a doubt more mellow than usual.  

Deep In the Heart of Texas

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texaswine.jpgBy Courtney Cochran

Texas has long been known for many things - BBQ, the Alamo, Dynasty, a fantastic music festival called South By Southwest (to name just a few) - but until recently something the Lone Star State most certainly was not known for was its wine.  On the heels of this year's well-attended Texas Hill Country Wine & Food Festival (texaswineandfood.org), however, that's all changing.
solarbration.jpgNapa Valley, CA - This summer solstice, wineries at the heart of the solar power trend in Wine Country will celebrate the day of the year when the sun shines the longest with the first annual Solarbration.

On June 21, from 5:30 p.m. until sunset, ZD Wines, Honig Vineyard & Winery, and Peju Province Winery will host a solstice celebration, with special wine tastings, sustainably grown gourmet cuisine, and live entertainment at each of their facilities. Guests are invited on a behind-the-scenes tour of the solar energy systems that power the wineries. Ticket price includes entry to all three wineries. All proceeds will be donated to The Land Trust of Napa County. Land Trust personnel will be at the wineries to answer questions about their land-saving work.

Napa Valley Wine Tasting Itinerary

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napaItinerary.jpgHave friends visiting and need a tried and true Napa Valley wine tasting itinerary?  Don't spend hours researching online or connecting dots on the map. Download the trip below and let the fun begin!

Stop 1 - Alpha Omega
It's fitting that this is the first wine tasting stop on the itinerary given its name.  Alpha Omega makes some really good wines. Of particular note is the Proprietary Red which has the smooth yet complexity of a slightly aged Cabernet Sauvignon. The Chardonnay is light and refreshing for any white's fans. Their Late Harvest is just plain delicious, but they are currently out of stock!  After tasting, go around back (or front depending on your internal gps) and revel in the gorgeous view of their pool with sprawling vineyards as backdrop.
Tasting Room: 1155 Mee Ln St Helena Hwy; Open daily 11 am - 6pm
Tasting Fees: $10/person

Crazy Over Corkage

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winerestaurant.jpgBy Robert Farmer

Recently my wife and I ventured out for an increasingly rare night on the town for dinner without our new baby. To us, such an occasion is special, so we set out for one of our favorite special occasion restaurants in San Francisco.

Though the place isn't one of the high-voltage restaurants that most people in SF correlate with a special occasion, it is a local favorite, which consistently earns high marks with critics and area foodies alike. Also, they have an exceptional wine list to match their gorgeous menu.

Wine List Anxiety

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winelist.jpgBy Robert Farmer

With only one or two exceptions among my decent-sized group of regular dining-out companions, I am always first to grab the wine list. And once I get it, I rarely let it go. Not to say others don't take a look, but instead I tend to keep hold of the list throughout the meal - occasionally prying it open to peruse depending on which stage of the meal we happen to be in.

I love looking at wine lists--the imagination of the sommelier or wine-steward is in full view in these lists, which can range in size and scope from a single-sided sheet of paper, to a handsome, leather-bound book that looks more like an Encyclopedia Britannica. This I know is not the norm. Many people shy away from a wine list like the waiter was waving a plate of liver and onions beneath their nose.

Wine Tasting Itinerary: Carneros

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carneros.jpgBy Courtney Cochran

CARNEROS, CA - The Carneros American Viticultural Area (AVA) - also referred to as Los Carneros AVA - offers a cool microclimate ideally suited to Pinot Noir and sparkling wine production and a surprisingly mellow vibe when compared to Nor Cal's wine country's more highly trafficked areas. The only AVA to straddle both Napa and Sonoma counties, Carneros is cooled by marine breezes from the nearby San Pablo Bay and counts more than three dozen wineries among its bucolic rolling hills. And since it's an easy commute from San Francisco - travelers can be tasting within an hour of leaving the foggy city - Carneros is an ideal destination for day trippers.

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