Recently in Wine Varietals Category

Napa and Carneros Appellation Wineries Near American Canyon

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On your next trip to the Napa Valley or Sonoma Wine Country, consider booking your stay in American Canyon situated just outside the town of Napa and closer than you think to Sonoma County! Visit Napa and Carneros region wineries, play some golf, go hiking or birding in nearby wetlands and trails, spend quality time with the family at year-round, fun events and then stay at top-rated American Canyon hotels.

See our recommendations of nearby wineries in Napa and the Carneros Wine Appellation (situated in both Napa and Sonoma Counties and well-known for producing cooler climate varietals Pinot Noir and Chardonnay):

Jamieson Ranch (Napa, CA)
Jamieson Ranch Vineyards, formerly known as Reata, is the southernmost winery in Napa Valley reminiscent of a majestic western mountain lodge. Sip a Pinot Noir in front of a cozy fire or relax with a glass of Chardonnay on the spectacular wraparound veranda that affords sweeping views of the Napa Valley and San Pablo Bay. Tastings begin at $15/person.

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Bourassa Vineyards (Napa, CA)
This winery, also located in Southern Napa, is a hidden gem; don't be fooled by the exterior! The charming warehouse exterior belies the gorgeous interior of a working winery and tasting room. Upon entering, escape to luxurious private lounge where friendly, expert staff will guide you through their portfolio of wines. Much more than just a tasting, it's also a wine education experience. Tastings begin at $20/person.

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Acacia Vineyard (Carneros AVA)
Situated in the heart of the Carneros appellation , Acacia Vineyard has beautiful views of the entire San Francisco Bay Area. Tucked away and off the beaten path, discover this tasting room with friendly staff, and a great place to learn about Acacia's special history, as well as taste delicious Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays.

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Pinot & Mushroom Weekend at Chateau St. Jean

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event_ChateauStJean_PinotMushroom.jpgNo need to forage for mushrooms on your own this season. Join local Sonoma County mushroom experts at Chateau St. Jean February 23rd and 24th for a weekend of discovery with perfect pairings of fine St. Jean Pinot Noir and artisanal mushrooms. This special event will feature special wine and mushroom flights, a bountiful, mushroom-centric marketplace, informative lectures on fabulous fungi, an incredible Station-to-Station tasting experience, and a sumptuous Earthly Wonders luncheon, all which will leave you with a renowned sense of awe for the so-called simple mushroom and Pinot Noir. See more details below!


Chandon for New Year's Eve Toast!

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chandon_NewYearsEve.jpgIf you can't attend Domaine Chandon's Sparkling Gala this year for New Year's Eve, not to fret; check out their recommendations for hosting a Chandon-style soiree at home!

1. Start the night a Chandon Sidecar: Begin with this brandy-based, citrus-infused cocktail classic, made distinctive with some sparkling flourishes and sure to please your guests. Click here for recipe.


2. Every good party needs a soundtrack, so try creating a playlist of your favorite songs from the past year. It'll infuse the celebration with your unique personality and is a nostalgic, toe-tapping way to send off the year.


3. Make it a magnum: Always a popular option to keep the bubbles flowing on New Year's Eve, a magnum of Chandon Brut Classic is both economically and conversationally effective. One magnum equals two regular-sized (750ml) bottles of wine.

CLICK HERE for more creative pointers for hosting a successful New Year's Eve party!

Don't forget to relax and enjoy your guests, look forward to what the new year may hold and don't forget the midnight kiss!



1976 Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon

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chMontelena_Blog_1976Cab.jpgChateau Montelena makes some wonderful Napa Valley wines. If you've been saving some of their Cabs for a special occasion and wondering how they are holding up in your wine cellar, read what one of Chateau Montelena's customer's recently said about their 1976 Cabernet Saugvignon . . .

"Last night I had a small dinner at my home in Healdsburg, CA, in order to honor a friend, and to try out some Napa "Cult" Cabs I had assembled.  Screaming Eagle, Harlan Estate, Bryant Family etc.... But the most amazing surprise was a 1976 Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon North Coast ... wow! 

Whoever made that wine should be very proud, it's drinking wonderfully, even after 35+ years!  Please give my regards to the Barretts and anyone else who had a hand in that very fine bottling. What a pleasure, I'm a winemaker myself, and I just had one of the best wines I've ever had. Bravo!
"

Read more at the Chateau Montelena Blog.




Kick Off Your American Summer with Chandon

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chandonLimitedEdition_MemorialDay.jpgNothing says summer like picnics and pool parties. With Memorial Day - the official start of summer - right around the corner, Chandon celebrates its American Heritage with the launch of its Limited Edition Bottle.

The perfect accessory for summer, this special edition of Chandon Brut Classic sparkling wine is wrapped from head to toe in patriotic red, white and blue. Available June 1 through September 1, 2012, the bottle will be sold nationwide and on http://www.chandon.com in both 750ml (SRP: $22) and 187ml (SRP: $7).

With its fruit-forward taste, Chandon is also ideal for mixing in refreshing cocktails that are perfect to pair with summer fare. Here is a favorite:

Chandon Citrus Fizz

Ingredients
  • 3 oz Chandon Brut Classic
  • 2/3 oz Belvedere Vodka
  • 1/3 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
  • Dash of Simple Syrup

Directions: Shake Vodka, lemon juice and syrup ingredients over ice, strain into a flute and top with 3oz Chandon Brut.

Sweet Whites: A Napa Valley Itinerary

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girlsDrinkingWhiteWineOutside.jpgby Courtney Cochran

If you enjoy a crisp, off dry Muscat (aka "sweet wines") on a warm afternoon or kicking back with girlfriends, this itinerary's for you. Come along as we visit three Napa Valley wineries offering pours of sweeter whites, and learn about shopping excursions and nightlife options, too. Here's to enjoying a sweet day in wine country!

Bridge Wines: The Ultimate List

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Red with meat, white with fish?  Not necessarily! 

By Courtney Cochran

For years, the annals of wine drinking 101 have told us that we must drink whites with light dishes like fish and reds with sturdier fare such as steak.  Not so!  Turns out there are many wines that manage to work well with foods on both sides of the intensity spectrum - and they're primed for your food and wine pairing pleasure.  We call them bridge wines, and we've prepared a whole list of our favorites for you below, along with tips - natch - on the best fare with which to pair them.  

Get ready to start drinking outside the proverbial wine box. 

Holiday Sparklers

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Tis' the season to be sparkly! Our present to you? A perfect sparkling and festive accessory- for your glass that is! After all, what could be more beautiful and festive than the red, white and sparkling wine swirling in your hand? To receive this gift, simply click to our friends below and get ready to choose that perfect holiday accessory to sparkle your glass!

Champagne & Sparkling Wine

Deals on Champagne & Sparklers

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champagne2.jpgAccording to Paul Gregutt in a recent article for the Seattle Times, prices for Champagne and sparkling wine have decreased. In fact, worldwide demand has fallen by at least 10% which can only mean one thing for you and me - it's time to buy and stock up! And for those gearing up for the holidays, it couldn't be more perfect timing.

The articles suggests a few tips in what to buy:

(1) Be adventurous. Try something new instead of sticking to the brand you always buy.

(2) Buy a vintage Champagne rather than a brut

(3) Look on the bottle to see if the grapes are grand cru. Apparently grand cru vineyards are considered to be the best and well worth if it, even if a few more extra dollars..

(4) Splurge without breaking the bank. Purchase a half bottle

Paul also recommends asking the wine seller what is on sale. One deal out there right now is from Duval-Leroy where they have half bottles of brut at $18 and a full bottle of Cuvee Paris at $35.

Other articles on picking out sparklers for the holiday season:
Bubble, Bubble Everywhere



Nouveau Sips: Wines to Savor in 2010

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By Courtney Cochran

Let's face it: the recession taught us many of things, perhaps the most important: you've got to appreciate the small things in life. And with 2009 drawing to a close, we can all look forward a renewed perspective (not to mention uptrending economic indicators, whew!) in the new year. To go along with this reinvigorated view of things, we offer the following ten wines that are destined to be hot in 2010. Because if another thing is altogether clear as we head out of this strange era: wine is and always will be a hallmark of the good times. And, it's time for each and every one of us to start living the good life again.

So go on: The little things in life are beckoning - and go down swell with a swill of some excellent vino

Boo Worthy Wines

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by Courtney Cochran

dessertWine1.jpgIn a curious twist of linguistic fate, some decidedly frightening-sounding statements have been lately transformed into vehicles of praise. Mostly refashioned, as far as I can tell, by loquacious members of the surfer/skater culture prevalent in California, the phrases run the gamut of topics and references, but given the time of year I've singled out two that undoubtedly invoke Halloween.

A sampling: .

"These [insert noun in the plural form] are scary good!"

Translation: These [things] are delicious.

"That [insert noun] was wicked bad."
Translation: That [thing] was very cool/extremely impressive. (Note: True to the ironic spirit of this group, the use of two negative descriptors - "wicked" and "bad" - in this one makes it all that much more complimentary.

And so, to borrow a page from this verbally adventuresome sub-culture, I'd like to say that the following sweet wines are scary good, and that serving them on Halloween this year would be wicked bad of you.





Mendocino High: Phillips-Hill Estates Pinot Noir

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PH-Oppenlander-06.jpgBy Courtney Cochran

In the world of wine as we know it, few winemakers have followed so circuitous a route to oenophilia as Toby Hill, owner/winemaker for Phillips-Hill Estates in Philo. A California native who grew up in Manhattan before returning to the Bay Area for high school, then heading back to New York to pursue a successful career as an artist and ultimately settling down in Mendocino, Hill literally began making wine on a whim when a friend gave him several bottles of unfinished wine one harvest. Several years later, the self-taught winemaker is turning heads with his extremely limited, Burgundian-style Pinots made from Mendo's emerging comptche sub-region. Read on for notes on my favorite of his current offerings.

P. S. I Love You

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ps.jpegby Courtney Cochran

Once upon a time, there was a wine so big, so bold and so outrageously outsized that its fans felt ashamed admitting it was their favorite. "Oh no," naysayers would insist, "a wine that big just can't be good with food. Why, it's so ridiculously over the top as to hardly even resemble what I think of as a wine."

Despairingly, lovers of Petite Sirah would retreat to enjoy their prodigious darling in the privacy of their own homes, away from the prying eyes of fellow drinkers who insisted that a wine must have impeccable balance - meaning it could harbor neither outsized fruit nor high-octane alcohol - in order to be enjoyed.

San Francisco International Wine Competition Results

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After scores of wine tasting and much deliberation the results of the San Francisco International Wine Competition were announced over the weekend. According to the press release "Forty-five wine industry professionals from throughout the United States convened June 19th, 20th and 21st to taste, score and rank 4,274 wines from 1,195 wineries" and "judged from 26 states and 21 countries".

Several domestic wineries took home honors.
By Courtney Cochran

Chère Rosé, you mean the world to me.  You are so pure, your flavors so balanced (More approachable than red!  More filling than white!) I find myself fantasizing about you night and day.  Often I picture myself, feet up at the end of a long day, meditating on your pale pink robe, pausing to savor a sip so lush it takes my breath away.  

O Rosé!  You are so refreshing, you are so lively, you are the perfect companion to a slice of pâté or nutty frommage comté.  

I love you just as you are - never change, Rosé!

Signed,

Your Biggest (AKA most loyal, ahem) French Fan

Cool, Refreshing White Wines for Summer

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It's not officially summer, but it's starting to warm up across the country. Which can only mean one thing - break out the tank tops, shorts, BBQ grills, a couple of beers and of course some wine to relax with in the backyard.

Gary from WineLibrary TV has some excellent suggestions for chill, crisp, white wines.


What to Sip This Spring? Why Pinot, Of Course!

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sundawg_wine.jpgBy Courtney Cochran

The 2007 Pinot Noir harvest in the Russian River Valley was a thing of beauty, leading to the production of wines with elegance and power, grace and personality. I know all this because I was there, working as a cellar scourge for a couple of glorious days when I played hooky from my responsibilities in the city. And now, as the results of that harvest begin to trickle in for release nationwide, I couldn't be more pleased to taste the positively delicious results in the bottle.

Bubble, Bubble Everywhere

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Sifting through the sparkling wine clutter this holiday season

by Courtney Cochran

It never fails: the holidays arrive yet again and you still have no idea how to tell your Prosecco from your Cava. When to serve vintage versus non-vintage Champagne? You're clueless.

With all the stress that comes with the holidays, worrying about your sparkling wine selection seems like an unnecessary burden. Happily, help is here when it comes to the sparkling wine thing. Read on for the low-down on some of the most popular styles of sparkling wine, so that this holiday you can really mean it when you insist that - ahem - you're quite certain a sparkling Chenin Blanc is just the thing to pair with your honey-baked ham.

Winter Wines

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Enjoy robust Italian Nebbiolo Barolo and luscious Canadian ice wine paired with your hearty winter meals.

by Courtney Cochran

There are all sorts of things that are wonderful about winter time. Snow, comfort food and roaring fires are just a few of them. But one of the best things about brisk weather and the winter months is the opportunity they afford to switch up your wine routine.

Colder temperatures and heartier fare are important reasons to look to new wines at this time of year. But another, in all likelihood less obvious reason, is quite simple: state of mind. The arrival of winter signals a change in our routines and activities.

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.

This Mother's Day, Go Pink or Go Home

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rosewine.jpgBy Courtney Cochran

With rosé wine enjoying an unprecedented level of popularity stateside - The Nielson Company recently revealed that sales of premium pink wine rose an astounding 53.2% this year - there's never been a better excuse to drink pink on Mother's Day.  Indeed, from supermarkets to Costco to the nation's most tony wine merchants, bottles of pink are appearing on store shelves in greater numbers than ever before, leaving you no excuse not to go pink this Sunday.

Sipping Pretty: Winning Wines for the Spring Season

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by Courtney Cochran
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When the weather turns warm many of us feel inclined to pursue decidedly spring-like activities. Our short list of favorites includes spending time outdoors, foraging for fresh produce at farmer's markets and seeking out new wines to pair with the season's exuberant flavors and favorable forecast. Read on for some of our favorite selections for spring, along with - naturally - advice on food pairings and occasions for sipping. Santé!


Merlot Fights Back

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A stunning new Merlot helps dispel the varietal's bad rap

by Courtney Cochran

Ever since Sideways' curmudgeony wine geek Miles dismissed Merlot as something he'd rather skip a meal over than swill, Merlot's been suffering under the blight of crashing sales and a seriously downtrodden image.

In fact, the backlash against the varietal has been so bad that Swanson Vineyards - Napa Valley's largest producer of estate-grown Merlot - recently launched a PR campaign called "Merlot Fights Back." Their message? Don't diss the misunderstood varietal just because a fictional down-on-his-luck oenophile with a penchant for Pinot says it's not worth your time.

P.S. I Love You

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by Courtney Cochran

psleaf_logo_100.jpgOnce upon a time, there was a wine so big, so bold and so outrageously outsized that its fans felt ashamed admitting it was their favorite. "Oh no," naysayers would insist, "a wine that big just can't be good with food. Why, it's so ridiculously over the top as to hardly even resemble what I think of as a wine."

Despairingly, lovers of Petite Sirah would retreat to enjoy their prodigious darling in the privacy of their own homes, away from the prying eyes of fellow drinkers who insisted that a wine must have impeccable balance - meaning it could harbor neither outsized fruit nor high-octane alcohol - in order to be enjoyed.

Sweet and Local -- American Dessert Wines Are Coming of Age

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DessertWineGlass.jpgIt's no accident that most great wine-producing regions of the world have a signature dessert wine. Bordeaux, Tuscany and the Rheingau are the most famous homes of "stickies," as dessert wines are sometimes called, but the list is far longer. The reasons are simple: sweet wine makes a great finish to good meals, and it takes good grapes to make good dessert wine. So superior stickies tend to be made in places where good wine and good food go hand in hand.

Jessie's Grove Vineyards

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Ancient Vines Still Growing Strong in Lodi

Though they're gnarled and twisted with age, a little hunched over and not at all interested in new-fangled ideas like, say, trellises and grafting, there's still plenty of life left in the wise, old vines of Jessie's Grove. They've made it 115 years, after all.

Given names like Yoda and Royal-tee, these relatively ancient vines are the oldest in Lodi--and among the oldest in the state. Planted in the late 1800's, not long after the madness of the Gold Rush and some of the earliest plantings by the viticultural Johnny Appleseed of the California's Central Valley--Captain Charles Weber--the vines continue to produce intensely flavored, highly prized Zinfandel and Carignane wines.

Dry Creek: The Zin Tour

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The Dry Creek Appellation of Sonoma County, California produces outstanding Zinfandel worth seeking out. Take a tour of some regional favorites from this picturesque Northern California wine growing region.

If any grape could truly be called Californian, it is the bold and wily Zinfandel. Though its roots harken back to sunny Italy (say most, though its heritage remains a bit murky), Zinfandel has become synonymous with the bright, fruit-forward, come-as-you-are attitude of many California wines.

Dry Creek Zinfandel Recommendations

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Zinfandel has been on a rollercoaster of popularity for nearly 150 years - today's mad passion is only the latest peak for the bold-flavored red. Throughout most of that time, Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma has been a bastion of Zinfandel quality and tradition. A quarter of the valley's vineyard acreage is planted to Zin, yielding up an abundance of Zinfandels with "Dry Creek Valley" on the label every year.

While it's hard to go too far wrong with Dry Creek Zin, prices have crept up steadily during the grape's latest burst of popularity. There's also been a major move toward higher alcohol and more saturated color and flavor. So there's more reason than ever to choose carefully in order to find a Dry Creek Zin with a style and price you like.

Nearly Native Son--Zinfandel is as American as Fine Wine Can Get

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Dry Creek Zinfandel RecommendationsZinfandel's more passionate adherents got some wind knocked out of them in 2002, when the premium wine grape they described as "America's own" turned out to be European - and from a never-heard-of-it neighborhood to boot.

In the years leading up to this discovery, Zin fans had become increasingly creative in defense of their chosen vine. When a southern Italian grape called Primitivo turned out to be genetically almost identical to Zinfandel, some Zin fans came up with a "reverse immigration" theory: the American grape was so good, they said, that Italian-Americans must have exported it back home to their winemaking cousins. (As if Italy, with more than 2,000 indigenous grape varieties, needed another one.)

Syrah Shows That Change Is Intrinsic to American Wine

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Centuries of wine tradition are ending in a single generation. In just the past few years we've been given premium wine in boxes and cans, $160 Cabernet with screwcaps and imported wine named for small marsupials - and it's all wonderful. Wine is good for us and the earth, and today's trends toward an easier, friendlier wine experience are all positive.

But just a short time ago, almost none of them were on the horizon. In fact, some of the grapes we now take for granted were still struggling for a place in American wine.

Take Syrah. In the early 1970s, there were a few Syrah vines scattered here and there in northern California, but they were usually mixed in anonymously with other varieties. No one made anything with "Syrah" on the label. The University of California at Davis had vines which it had propagated from cuttings taken from a famed French vineyard in the northern Rhône Valley, but the faculty was divided on whether Syrah was worth planting in California. So the vines remained in the university's teaching vineyard.

Oregon Wine Country - Facts and Figures:

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Think you know Oregon wine? Chances are you might be surprised to know that since 1986, the number of Oregon wineries has gone from a paltry 47 to more than 314 in 2004. Or, that grapes were first planted in the Willamette Valley in 1847? Read on to find out what you need to know about Oregon's booming wine industry.

The Merlot Lovers Tour of Napa Valley

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Though Cab may reign supreme in Napa these days, Merlot has always been a member of the royal family--though somewhat in exile these days. But tastes are a fickle thing, and those who know the true beauty of a silky, carefully crafted Merlot aren't slaves to fashion, or the whims of Hollywood.

For those who remain true to great Napa Merlots, this is a wonderful time to taste the grape that steadfastly refuses to slink away quietly while others have their moment in the sun. In fact, 2002, according to published reports was one of the best years ever for Napa Merlot, with several top wines receiving stellar scores and launching a quiet renaissance of this noble grape.

Take a special varietal-inspired tour of Napa's best Merlot producers, located primarily along the Silverado Trail, but dipping into Rutherford, as well.

Santa Cruz Cab takes first in a re-visit of the 1976 Paris Tasting

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If anyone thought the 1976 Paris tasting, where several virtually unknown Napa wines bested their French counterparts was a fluke, they'll have to contend the 2006 COPIA tasting. In May, two panels convened--one in England, and other in Napa at COPIA--to re-evaluate the original wines and see who's stood the test of time. The results: the 1971 Ridge Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignon from the Santa Cruz Mountains finished in first, followed by the 1973 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars S.L.V. Cab, with a third place tie between the 1970 Heitz Martha's Vineyard Napa Valley Cab, the 1971 Mayacamas Vineyards Cab and a 1972 Clos du Val Napa Valley Cab.

Passport to Calaveras County

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calaveras.jpgBest known for its jumping frogs (courtesy of Mark Twain) and the once-bustling gold mines dotting the region, Calaveras County is a historic Gold Country outpost nestled into the foothills the Sierra Nevadas. And though each year, the county holds its jumping frog festival and eager tourists still pan for gold in the hills, Calaveras has another attraction bringing eager tasters from near and far--wine.

There's just something about Pinot Noir that inspires near fanaticism in both winemakers and wine drinkers. Some say it's the inherent difficulty of growing the grapes that makes the reward all the sweeter. Others insist that, unlike other grapes, Pinot Noir holds the imprint of the grower and winemaker like no other varietal. Whatever the case, hordes of Pinot lovers will converge in Oregon's Willamette Valley this July to celebrate their passion for this amazing grape.
Pinot Noir got its start in America a little over 100 years ago in a rather surprising spot: Santa Cruz. Brought over by Paul Masson, a French immigrant (yes, that Paul Masson, of jug wine fame), the first cuttings were reportedly from the Burgundian vineyards of Louis Latour.

Now known as the "Cradle of Pinot Noir", this mountainous region is producing elegant Burgundian-style Pinots with intense fruit and complexity. Gaining the respect of increasing numbers of Pinot drinkers, the Santa Cruz appellation--which spans a wide swath from Half Moon Bay to Watsonville--has firmly established itself as a hotspot for this notoriously fickle grape by winning award after award for its steadfastly individual wines.

Petite Sirah, The Not So Little Prince

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fa_little_prince.jpgIt's one of the most heart-warming wine stories of recent times: a tale of love and loyalty, family tradition, and the perilous passage through deserts of neglect to reach the lush garden of commercial success. The hero of this romantic journey? A forgotten prince known as Petite Sirah.

Petite Sirah was born of French parents in the 1800s. His father was Syrah, long renowned for the famed red wines of Hermitage and Côte Rôtie. His mother was the less noble but passing fair Peloursin. Yet somehow they abandoned or lost their offspring. He finally turned up in Livermore Valley east of San Francisco, planted by Irish immigrant James Concannon in 1883. But no one knew who he was.

Syrah's Star Keeps Rising in Santa Barbara County

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syrahGlasses.jpgMany years after the movie debuted, they're still giving "Sideways" tours down in Santa Barbara County, and they will be for years to come. That's how it is with movies that cement an image of a place in the popular mind. Santa Barbara's wine country is now Pinot Noir country, and that's that.

Except that it isn't. For some of us, Santa Barbara County's chunk of the massive Central Coast appellation is Syrah country.   It's where Zaca Mesa winery, founded in 1972, still preserves what it calls the oldest Syrah vineyard in the Central Coast and still makes illuminating Syrah. It's where Bob Lindquist went to work in 1975, and then founded Qupé to make some of California's first breakthrough Syrahs in the early 1980s. Those wines made it onto the wine list at Chez Panisse, which wielded more influence in those days than most people can imagine, and Syrah was effectively launched on its current rocket ride to star status.

Closet Merlot Drinkers, Unite!

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There's no reason to hide our love of top-notch Merlot.

The current attitude among wine fans about Merlot - don't get caught dead with it - is a fashion trend, not a wine evaluation. Like many bashin'-fashions, it arose in response to over-exposure. Starbucks was cool once, before it was on every block downtown. Even Jennifer Lopez went from scorching hot to the, ahem, butt of jokes when she put out too many movies, videos, and albums too quickly. Same with Merlot. So it's useful to remember when Merlot was first emerging into the limelight.

Closet Merlot Drinkers, Unite!

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lrg_merlot.jpg

There's no reason to hide our love of top-notch Merlot.

The current attitude among wine fans about Merlot - don't get caught dead with it - is a fashion trend, not a wine evaluation. Like many bashin'-fashions, it arose in response to over-exposure. Starbucks was cool once, before it was on every block downtown. Even Jennifer Lopez went from scorching hot to the, ahem, butt of jokes when she put out too many movies, videos, and albums too quickly. Same with Merlot. So it's useful to remember when Merlot was first emerging into the limelight.

Vigonier: An Exotic Alternative Alternative to Everyday White Wine

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There are some who think that Americans should get past an obsession with Chardonnay and start drinking other white wines, such as Viognier, as a white wine of choice.

Granted, many of the people who put this thought forward have a vested interest -- they make Viognier and would like nothing else than to be in the position of not being able to make enough of this wine, made from the white Rhône grape variety of the same name. But having tasted through a number of Viogniers from around the United States recently, I'm beginning to see the light as well.

California Syrah Recommendations

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By Thom Elkjer

syrahGlasses.jpg

The marriage of Syrah and California has one of the hottest trend lines in wine. Ten years ago, the state had 800 acres of the grape ­ about 2% of the acreage held by Cabernet Sauvignon. Today it's on its way to 16,000 acres and growing faster than any other major grape, red or white. It's easy to see why. Syrah comes from a region in the south of France known for sun and wind ­ which California has in even greater abundance. It's easy to grow and easy to make into wine. And its flavor profile fits California's Mediterranean-style dining trends like a lock and key.

Pinot Noir Recommendations

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By Thom Elkjer,
Anderson Valley is in the throes of America's Pinot Noir culture clash. Two-thirds of the wines tasted of freshly picked red fruit with both sweet and sour qualities, such as raspberries and cranberries. These wines were medium-bodied, well-balanced and made long-time valley vintners nod approvingly. The other dozen or so wines tasted of cooked black fruit laced heavily with dark baking spices and toasted oak flavors. They were big, brawny wines that the younger winemakers at the tasting understood and appreciated immediately.

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