September 2008 Archives

A Pairing of Wine and Livermore

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livermore_TastingRm2.jpgBy Jessica Beck
As submitted by Tri-Valley CVB

A relationship has transpired over the years between Livermore and the full and vigorous wines of the area. The Livermore Valley serves California as its oldest wine region but what is even more unique and special about the area lies in the connection between the two. Over the decades, a rapport has developed in which one supports the other and one in which each would not be what they are without the help of the other.

In 1997, the city of Livermore adopted the South Livermore Specific Plan which to date has permanently preserved over 5000 acres of vineyards. Livermore has supported the wineries over time and is very proud of the resulting outcome that is now the Livermore Valley Wine Region.

A Vintage Experience - A Taste of Tri-Valley

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livermore_grapeVineyards.jpgSubmitted by Tri-Valley CVB

Livermore Valley Wine Country offers a flourishing expanse of vineyards, vistas and wineries.  From new winemakers to fifth generation winegrowers, the traditions and legacies of the region are thriving.  Visitors looking for the best wine tasting experiences are sure to find that they are looking for in Livermore Valley Wine Country.

Wine Country Itinerary: Monterey

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By Robert P. Farmer
Long gone are the days when grapes inspire wrath in Monterey County. These days, the grapes inspire long conversations about oak and tannins and balance and, well, they just inspire long conversations--often over leisurely dinners among friends at great restaurants. Monterey's reputation as an important part of the California Wine Fabric is a given. With nearly 90 vintners in the county producing wines under dozens of labels and selling their grapes to other winemaker's in the state, it's no longer a secret that great wine thrives in one of California's most picturesque regions. Wine tasting in the county has become a popular pursuit. Many wineries among the region's nine official AVAs have onsite tasting rooms--they are typically low-key, relaxed, and friendly. Still others have opened tasting rooms in Carmel Village and in Monterey. Wherever you happen upon them, it's always a happy discovery.

Wine Country Itinerary: Dundee Hills AVA

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By Robert P. Farmer

When the wine discussion turns to Oregon the discussion usually settles in the Willamette Valley. Though it's far from the state's only wine-producing region worth talking about, it is Oregon's leading wine territory, and is home to some two-thirds of the state's vineyards and wineries and has understandably dominated the topic. There are more than 200 wineries in the Valley, a number that has grown exponentially in the past 20 years. And although the region is often considered as a whole, in fact there are six sub-appellations in Willamette--Chehalem Mountains, Dundee Hills, Eola-Amity Hills, McMinnville, Ribbon Ridge, and Yamhill Carlton. Each is interesting for its own reasons, and to best grasp the complexity and diversity of the Valley, it's best to take each appellation as its own entity. Let's start with Dundee Hills.
Oregon is of course widely known for its pinot noirs. That reputation took root in Dundee Hills, where the earliest pinot noirs were produced. Today the burgeoning AVA is a destination unto itself, populated of course by great wineries, but also by charming inns and restaurants. All of it--this friendly little slice of Oregon Wine Country--has sprouted atop the very clay and loamy soil that continues to give root to some of the best pinot noirs in America.

Hard Times: Harvest Report 2008

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By Courtney Cochran
Admittedly, California vintners have been through nothing if not the ringer this growing season. Starting with a devastating frost in late March - the worst on record in more than 30 years - that decimated as much as 30% of some vineyards' crop, 2008 has been a year that's tested the mettle of just about everyone close to winemaking in the Golden State, most of all those in hard-hit Northern California. To wit, on the heels of spring's frosts a series of devastating summer fires raged through wine country, causing winemakers to fret still more - this time about the potential impact the abundant smoke might have on their as-yet-unmade wines. Hard times, indeed.

Wine Country Itinery - Russian River Valley

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By Robert P. Farmer

Among Sonoma County's numerous and unique appellations is Russian River Valley. One of the too-often-overlooked regions, in my estimation, this charming bucolic swath of valley terrain is home to more than 100 wineries--each as unassuming as they are impressive. It's also a region known to locals for its great off-the-trodden-path eateries and markets, and where winemakers are as serious about their craft as they are about enjoying life. Russian River Valley enjoys warm summer afternoons and ample coastal fog allowing for a long growing season. A diversity of soil types allows several varietals to thrive, though the Valley.
By Courtney Cochran

Admittedly, Daniel Shanks has an important job. He's the man, after all, who fields phone calls from the Oval Office about which Chardonnay to pour for Queen Elizabeth II (Newton Vineyard Unfiltered Chardonnay, since the winery's British founder was knighted by the queen) and which bubbly to uncork for French President Nicolas Sarkozy (NV Chandon Étoile rosé, since the Napa-based winery is owned by the French). And thanks to a recent report at by one Elin McCoy, we now know a whole lot more about the method behind Washington's number one wine man's maneuvering.


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harvest.jpgCALIFORNIA - It's harvest time around wine country regions all over the country! If you haven't had a chance to experience Crush Season first hand, take a look at one staff member's journey at several wineries in Napa Valley over the past couple of days. Check back often fro updates!

However, many wine drinkers are concerned about whether it will even be a good harvest this year. Weather seemed to bounce all over the place between extreme high temperatures and then very cool days resulting in mixed reviews from wine growers, vintners, and reviewers alike. Read buzz from all over California Wine Country:

By Courtney Cochran

It's official: If one more restaurant, winery or joe-hawking-specialty-wine-tours-in-Napa bloke signs me up for his mailing list without my permission I'm going to implode. Seriously. In fact, the email deluge has gotten so bad of late that I've been forced to take the proverbial pickax to my inbox, ruthlessly unsubscribing to literally dozens of unwanted distribution lists in fits of slash and burn clean-up. In spite of this furor, I have to admit that I still DO occasionally receive the odd piece of unsolicited email which I find - irritating though it is to admit - undeniably useful, at times even intriguing.

Round Pond in the Napa Valley, CA - Part 2

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In the previous Part 1, we showed the consumer facing side of the Round Pond estate which is breath taking. Now we'd like to show you some of the backend things that go on during crush to produce their wines. The equipment used by Round Pond is amazingly clean and shined in the sun light the day we were there. See some of that equipment below.


The crush pad is very clean and the operation is very orderly. In some of the following images you can see that the grapes are sitting at the south end of the pad, they get processed on the pad, then move north into the tanks which are just inside the doors leading to the pad.

The tanks used by Round Pond to ferment their wines are large and stainless steel. You can see them and how they are arranged in the images below.

The following images show where the wine is stored. Whites are in the stainless steel barrels and the reds are in the wooden barrels. The room is temperature controlled and in the anti room where the whites are stored there is a special CO2 system that monitors the amount of the gas in the room, which is given off by the wine as it matures, and will alert those in the room when the level is too high and automatically kick on a fan to move the gas out of the room.

The Round Pond estate is large and beautiful and was a great place to visit during crush. You can reach their website by clicking here.

Round Pond in the Napa Valley, CA - Part 1

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Located off HWY 29 in Rutherford, the Round Pond estate is tucked away off the main path in a beautiful area of the valley. When you turn into the estate you are presented with a long road that is lined with palm trees and vineyard vines on either side of you. The road ends at the Round Pond tasting room. When you walk in the front doors you are greeted with a large window that allows you to see where the wine barrels are being stored. In a temperature controlled room that acts as the caves for Round Pond, all the wine they produce is kept here. You can walk up the stairs or use the elevator to reach the tasting room and terrace on the second floor. From there you are able to see amazing views of the Napa Valley with the mountain ranges on either side as the backdrop. The Round Pond owners Ryan and Miles MacDonnell took a large amount of time going over every detail of the design and layout of the new tasting room. One amazing feature is the circular window at the north end of the room. From there you can see directly down the entry path, lined with those palm trees, that leads to the building.

The wines are available there in the tasting room and can be purchased in the special wooden Round Pond boxes.

The second part of this entry will show you the Round Pond crush pad along with some of the new equipment they are using to produce their wines. Please check out Part 2 which will feature a lot more images and show you a bit of how they do crush just a bit different than other wineries in the Napa Valley.

See Part 2 by clicking here.

Robert Biale Vineyards

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This week during Crush in the Napa Valley the Robert Biale Vineyards began their harvest. They had some help with some family and friends pitching in to get all tasks done. The pictures below are all of the Biale crew crushing Zin grapes.

This first image is of Steve opening one of the large stainless steel tanks they are going to use to put the crushed grapes into. While in the tanks, the grapes and their juice will ferment. He is opening the door to put on a rubber seal that will make sure the door stays shut and no liquid gets out.


From the hopper, the grapes travel up the rig and the guys standing on next to the conveyor belt look for bad grapes, raisins, or other debris to take out before the de-stemer removes the grapes from the stems.

Once the grapes are seperated, they are put in the press at the Biale Vineyards where they get a very soft press to help some of the juice leave the grapes without fully breaking the skin.

The grapes come through the de-stemer quickly so they must be racked away into the rest of the bin so that they don't pile up and cause a problem.

Here you can see some of the Zin grape vines on just part of the Biale Vineyard lot. There are more where they came from and that is one reason why they are able to produce some 9 different versions of Zin (And yes you Black Chicken fans - they are making that special blend as we speak).


Crush 2008 Begins in Napa Valley, CA

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Napa Valley has begun its Crush. Crush is the time of year when wineries begin to pick the grapes off the vines and start the process of turning those grapes into the wines we enjoy. This blog will be devoted to covering Crush as it happens in the Napa Valley. The pictures below were taken this morning at Robert Biale Vineyards. They have picked the Zinfandel grapes and are in the process of removing the stems and other debris and then putting them in the proper bins. I'll be posting more from Robert Biale Vineyards and other places in the Napa Valley shortly. Enjoy these photos till the next post.



Wine Country Itinerary: Paso Robles South

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By Courtney Cochran

There has never been a better time to visit Paso Robles.  As little as ten years ago, the coastal town and its environs - though home to some of the most promising wineries in California - were still relatively undeveloped, with little to offer tourists in the way of entertainment, lodging and dining options.  Not so any more:  today, "Paso" - as the locals call it - is teeming with new restaurants, inns and well-appointed winery tasting rooms catering to the growing number of visitors who choose to make the Central Coast their California wine country destination of choice.

French Youths, Look West!

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By Courtney Cochran

A recent study conducted by Sonoma State University professor Liz Thach revealed a serious problem afoot in France:  French young people aren't drinking wine like they used to.   At a time when American youths (the so-called Millennial generation, encompassing young adults who turned 21 after the turn of the new millennium) are drinking more wine, more often and at higher price points than any of their forebears, French youths are drinking...a lot less than their parents.

Wine Country Itinerary: Temecula

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By Courtney Cochran

A nascent wine region as far as California goes, Temecula has only truly gained speed as a top-notch wine travel destination in the past 10 years.  Today, the region situated 100 miles south of Los Angeles and just 60 miles north of San Diego boasts more than two dozen wineries and a growing number of inns, B&Bs, hotels and restaurants ready to receive visitors who are willing to give So Cal wine country a try.  Most of the area's wineries are conveniently situated along a meandering stretch of Rancho California Road just outside of the city of Temecula, making winery hopping an easy task for travelers.