August 2008 Archives

What's the Partyline on Cocktails and Politics?

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As Reported by Sam's Wine and Spirits

All eyes on politics! Unless you're living under a rock, the country is in the midst of Democratic and Republican National Conventions this week and next. Brian Rosen (President of Wine and Spirits) reports that young people are on the political scene enthused and hosting their own parties while discussing the issues of their political party.

In fact, Sam's Wine and Spirits has been receiving a high volume of orders and the breakdown across partylines is extremely interesting. See if your political affiliation and drink preference go hand in hand!

Krug Pops Cork on New Era

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krugwinery.jpgBy Robert Farmer

Happily, the more things change in Napa, the more things stay the same in Napa. And so it goes that as one legendary winery changes ownership hands, another emerges from the chrysalis to spread its wings anew.

In September, the Mondavi family will celebrate the renewal of the Charles Krug Winery--officially unveiling an $8 million restoration to the two historic national landmark buildings at the winery while also honoring the patriarch, Peter Mondavi.

A New French Paradox

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chateaumontelenaroom.jpgBy Robert Farmer

There are more than a few ways to interpret the news from Napa. You might think it ironic. You might think it sad. Or you might think it adulation. And that's the way I chose to interpret the recently announced news that Chateau Montelena was purchased by Cos d'Estournel, one of Bordeaux legendary winemakers.

Wine Country Itinerary: Santa Maria Valley

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By Robert P. Farmer

In its post-Sideways era, Santa Barbara County has cultivated Wine Country prestige even as it has survived its own reputation to emerge as one of the great, serious wine-growing destinations. Among the appellations of the region is the Santa Maria Valley, which in addition to being the county's first officially approved AVA, is also one of the few valleys in California enjoying an East-to-West orientation. It's therefore foggy a lot, and windy, as the sea air pushes in along the coastal breeze. The mild climate results in a longer growing season and ideal conditions for pinot noir and chardonnay. It's no surprise these varietals have become synonymous with Santa Maria Valley. But the intrepid wine taster will find plenty else of intrigue grown among the 19,000 acres of vineyards.

Wine Country Itinerary - Stags Leap

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By Robert P. Farmer

NAPA VALLEY, CA - In a Valley that is home to many famous regions, Stags Leap jumps out. Located near the eastern center of Napa Valley, the Stags Leap district is bisected by the Silverado Trail. Among Napa Valley's great regions for Cabernet, Stags Leap is known for wineries that produce cabs with a heralded reputation--famously described as an "iron fist in a velvet glove." The cabs are given their strength and subtlety from the volcanic soil, the moderate climate, and by the able hand of the many vintners who produce wines here. Local lore has it that the region is named for a horse that leapt across the craggy palisades to escape pursuing hunters. You will no doubt find much easier going on your hunt for fine wines.
By Robert P. Farmer

KENWOOD, CA - Though its nickname is Valley of the Moon, the Sonoma Valley is a valley of many moons. A few suns and other planets are thrown in for good measure. The many and various valleys and hills, towns and bergs--indeed appellations themselves--combine to make Sonoma Valley a land of many experiences. One such self-contained experience can be found in Kenwood. It's part of the Sonoma Valley AVA, but it's got characteristics and distinctions all its own. Like many small towns in Wine Country, it's centered on a town plaza and is surrounded by top-notch eateries, inns, and of course fantastic wineries.

Rosé Renaissance

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By Courtney Cochran

Unless you've been living under a rock, the news that pink wine is hot is hardly something new to you.  Still, the array of rosé styles to choose from is impressive - and often takes even the pink stuff's most serious fans by surprise.

Dry Rosé
By far the most common style of rosé, this is the version you see on the shelves of most quality wine merchants come summertime. Fermented entirely or nearly "to dryness," this style of rosé contains little or no residual sugar and tastes stylistically similar to the dry red and white table wines (think Pinot Noir and Chardonnay) we're most familiar with.  They key difference when it comes to dry rosé is in the winemaking style - these wines score their enticing pink color from a process called "saigner," meaning "to bleed" in French. During the saigner process, a touch of color is leeched from the skins of red grapes (all grape juice is more or less clear without skin contact) prior to fermentation, leaving the finished wine anywhere from just barely pink in color to just shy of fully red in hue, depending on the amount of time the wine spent in contact with the grape skins.

Going to the Frogs

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Chateau Montelena.jpgBy Courtney Cochran

Egoistic French monarch Louis XIV once famously said, "l'état, c'est moi" ("I am the state," as in, I AM France).  Which came to mind as I was reading about the recent sale of Calistoga's Chateau Montelena to French businessman Michel Reybier, who also owns - among a number of other significant holdings - Château Cos d'Estournel, a well-known Bordeaux second growth.

How French Can We Get?
The great irony behind the purchase?  Chateau Montelena's 1973 Chardonnay was the white wine that bested its French counterparts in the legendary Judgment of Paris tasting of 1976, a watershed moment in Franco-American wine relations.  Along with Stag's Leap Wine Cellars' Cabernet Sauvignon - which placed first in the red category over a slew of top growth Bordeaux - Montelena's Chardonnay is credited with putting American wines on a level playing field with French wines for the first time.   As a result of these wins, the wine drinking world's consciousness began a gradual shift from France towards America (California, really), and it's a shift that's been ongoing ever since. 

Wine Country Itinerary: Mendocino Coast

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By Courtney Cochran

The drive is just three hours north of San Francisco, but it might as well be a century back in time. Sometimes called "The Lost Coast" since it was largely cut off from the modern world until the mid Nineteenth Century, Mendocino's hauntingly romantic North Coast is home today to long stretches of pristine wilderness, a host of welcoming inns and B&Bs, renowned restaurants and - yes - wineries and tasting rooms that make the most of this spectacular stretch of California coastline. 

Our suggested itinerary takes you northwards on Highway 1 from the town of Mendocino to just north of historic Fort Bragg, and includes a midday pit stop for lunch.  And while the majority of Mendocino's more than 50 wineries are to be found further inland, the coast is where you'll find California's only oceanside winery as well as a handful of tasting rooms in coastal towns fit to bursting with Victorian-era charm and architecture.  But take note: In keeping with the slow pace of the region, the dramatic cliffs and myriad turns along winding Highway 1 make travel here slow by necessity.  Happily, it's a region that welcomes lingering, something you'll find all too easy to do once you get there. 

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