Archived entries for Pinot Noir

An Oregon State of Mind with Jackson Family Winemakers and Julia Jackson

Photo Credit: Susie Drinks Dallas

Jackson Family Wines came through Dallas this month with its Oregon:  A State of Mind – The Rocks, the People and the Vines tour.  The event featured Gilian Handelman, a wine educator and moderator, as well as Winemakers Eugenia Keegan from Gran Moraine; Erik Kramer from WillaKenzie Estate; Craig McAllister from La Crema Winery; Lynn Penner-Ash from Penner-Ash; Tony Rynders from Zena Crown and Ryan Zepaltas from Siduri as well as Julia Jackson, a proprietor of Jackson Family Wines.

For the multitude of folks that filled my social feeds when Jackson Family Wines announced its aggressive push of acquiring Oregon wineries, take heed that in the words of the Talking Heads Once in a Lifetime Song, “things are the same as it ever was.”  One of my favorite quotes during that time was a friend who said, “I feel like Jackson Family came to my house, peered into my cellar and acquired every boutique Oregon Pinot Noir that I have stored.”  However, like many larger company acquisitions where these become part of a bigger portfolio and cost cutting and consolidation occur, this does not seem to be the case.  Julia talked about the autonomy the wineries have and how they speak for themselves, but they now have the deeper pockets of Jackson Family.

The diversity of the winemakers was as evident as the diverse Oregon terroir. You had old school pioneers who saw the vision of Oregon years ago to those who came from places like Napa because they wanted the camaraderie and spirit of helping grow the region, working closely with other winemakers and making the best wine possible that reflects a sense of place.

Photo Credit: Susie Drinks Dallas

Just hearing the winemakers talk, it is evident that they thrive on the dirt and its characteristics.  Gillian Handelman said, “that this panel is not afraid to lick a rock or two…”  And she wasn’t kidding.  Oregon wine country is formed by a few influences — the ocean that once covered the region which is now considered the Coastal Range, the volcano that erupted and formed the Cascade Mountains and the aftermath of the Missoula Floods that occurred around the last ice age.  Approximately 75 percent of the grapes are in Willamette (it’s said like dammit) Valley.

Photo Credit: Susie Drinks Dallas

The winemakers talked about the vintage-to-vintage variations and the farmer first “all in” mentality that exists in Oregon.  I loved Lynn Penner Ash’s encapsulation of being a winemaker in Oregon, “I do it all.  I make wine, I fix the toilet.  It’s the reality of making wine in Oregon.” These are the folks that don’t just attend winemaker dinners and press the flesh.  These guys roll up their sleeves and do the work.

Naturally Pinot Noir was a focus of the conversation as that is such a focus of Oregon Wines – and the discussion was about place and restraint in letting the grapes express themselves naturally.  Erik Kramer from WillaKenzie Estate summed it up – “When I first had an Oregon Strawberry, that taught me what fresh strawberries should taste like.  I’ve carried that through in my winemaking.”  Of course, there was a “Send in the Clones” discussion since there has been such an evolution in climate, clones and the evolution of wines being produced today vs 30 years ago.  Eugenia Keegan from Gran Moraine underscored that the site is imperatively more important than the clones.  Tony Rynders from Zena Crown jokingly mentioned that the only thing separating terror from terroir is an “i.”

Julia Jackson, Jackson Family Wines

Julia talked about how her dad, Jess, talked about how mountains, hillsides, benches and ridges were the key to making great wines and this holds true in Oregon.  We also had a chance to sample through the wines from the different AVAs – Dundee Hills, Yamhill-Carlton, Eola-Amity Hills and the Chehalem Mountains areas.  The diversity of the wines was pronounced and it was clear the terroir, the AVA and the winemaking style played a big role.

I also had a chance to spend some one-on-one time after the tasting with Julia and she talked about the influence her mom, Barbara Banke, today’s Chairman of Jackson Family Wine, had on her.  The theme of male domination in the wine industry is still alive and well, but Barbara has always marched to her own beat, investing in Oregon and other countries outside of the US like Chile, South Africa, France, Italy and Australia while breaking stereotypes along the way.

Julia said, “Our families mission is to invest in quality.  We are privately held and have no shareholders.”  Jackson Family Wines owns 44 wineries and produces a total of five million cases.  But the important thing to note is that this is a family that immerses itself in the wine business.  There are not figureheads and task masters.  When a winery enters the Jackson Family, it truly becomes an extension of that family.  And, that is why I must address my friends who feel any trepidation that the wines in their cellars are going to change.  That will only happen if the winemakers in charge choose to make that decision or nature charts a new course.


A Conversation with Merry Edwards: Icon, Trailblazer, Philanthropist and Winemaker

Merry and Ken, Courtesy of Merry Edwards Winery 

This week, I had the pleasure of talking with Merry Edwards, an icon, a trailblazer, a philanthropist and a winemaker who has single-handedly shattered the glass ceiling for women in wine in California and at UC Davis in the 70s.  Merry is being honored next weekend in Dallas with the Tête du Cuvée award, the highest award given at the Côtes du Coeur, the annual fine wine auction and celebrity chef dinner benefitting the American Heart Association (AHA).

Merry’s passion for cardiovascular research was first related to love.  Her husband, Ken Coopersmith, had a history of heart disease in the family, but wasn’t aware of how serious his condition was.  Shortly after they were married, his heart started to fail and he had a heart valve replacement.  Ten years later, he kept putting off the doctor because he knew he had gained some weight with the Sonoma food and wine lifestyle.  That decision literally almost killed him.  He went into congestive heart failure and was a two of 100 statistic that lived through the operation. At that point, Merry knew that this was a cause that has a direct meaning and impact for her and millions of others.

“The AHA has a hard-core benefit.  This is a cause that I am passionate about, I believe in this charity and I will continue to be supportive.” she said.  “I believe in giving more.  It’s my job to do my day job, but to be a leader and inspire others to give.”  Merry focuses on charities that have directly impacted her family, which also include the disabled and children’s health.  Merry lives her life facing challenges head on – from raising a disabled child to becoming an advocate for women in any industry.

Several years ago, I attended a wine dinner at Lakewood Country Club where Merry told her story.  After a storied career in wine working for others it was time for Merry to do her own thing, to found Merry Edwards Winery.  She did that in 1997 with a focus on producing Pinot Noirs with a true sense of place from Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast.

We spent some time talking about her breaking ground and being one of the first women winemakers and the work to be done to recruit more women to the industry.  After 44 harvests, she told me that very little progress has been made.

“If you look at the current studies done on the subject by UC Davis, the statistics are not that encouraging as female winemakers have increased to ten percent today from six percent in the 70’s,” she said.  We talked about the rampant problem in science, in technology and in farming.

“Even my own father thought I should be in a supportive role so I went to Berkeley to be an RN.  Then my career morphed to nutrition and then to food science and finally to wine making,” she said.

She talked about approaching life to try to fix what wasn’t right – not only as a woman, but as a human.  When she was first at UC Davis, affirmative action had just been implemented.  She wasn’t invited to interview on recruiting day because she was a women and marched to the chancellor’s office to help reverse that decision.

She still feels that way today.  “Most people respect me for being here.  I am a role model to prove this can be done,” she said.  “I’m not just talking about women in wine, but for other women in other professions that love wine.”

She left me with the words – “Be an inspiration to others.”  And through her commitment to helping prevent cardiovascular disease in a place where one of every three deaths in the US are from heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases, she continues to live those words.

My personal affiliation with the American Heart Association is also due to family.  When my younger brother was 17, we discovered a heart condition that took way to long to diagnose that resulted in an emergency open heart surgery.  Because of the life-saving research that was conducted by the AHA, his life was saved.  My husband and I were chairing the Dallas Heart Ball at the time and found out later that the surgeon who saved his life was in the audience.

Proceeds from Côtes du Coeur go directly to the AHA for cardiovascular research and heart health educational programs both locally and nationwide. During its 25-year history, Côtes du Coeur has attracted more than 22,000 attendees and has raised more than $30 million.  The event is scheduled this Saturday, April 22 at the Omni Hotel Dallas.  For more information, click here.


Living the American Dream: An Ordaz Family Journey

It’s funny how things in life happen when you least expect it. I had a last minute business trip for a paying gig to Las Vegas, which meant I participated without wine in the first session #winestudio for Ordaz Family Wines. I was completely excited about the next session as I knew that Jesus (“Chuy”) Ordaz is a walking success story of the American dream.  Unfortunately, a flu completely knocked me out the next week and the only fluid in my glass was a cocktail of Dayquil and Nyquil.

So here I am this week tasting the gorgeous wines of Ordaz Family Vineyards – this time from a family Spring Break trip to the gorgeous resort of the Four Seasons, Punta Mita.  And, let’s just say that I am in a much better place in all aspects as compared to last week.  However, I did rely on Twitter accounts (except for the first tasting) and other great blog posts from those who did a great job covering the story that needed to be told.

Jesus Ordaz is the kind of guy that doesn’t take no for an answer.  For him, it took 33 times to make it to the U.S from a family fruit stand in Michoacán, Mexico.  He was the type of person who was going to do anything he could to support his family.  He started chopping wood at Korbel Cellars and later went to Kenwood Winery as a migrant picking grapes.  People who work hard get noticed and soon he was promoted to foreman where he led the charge for the benefits of organic farming.  After Kenwood was sold, his next path took him to start his own vineyard management company, Palo Alto Vineyard Management Company.  Fast forward almost 20 years and they now manage 400 acres of vineyards.  His son, Eppie, joined the business after realizing accounting wasn’t his calling and began his quest of making wines and founding Ordaz Family Wines with his brother, Chuy Jr.  His founding principal was to make wines from one vineyard in small parcels of land made from grapes harvested by the company.

We tried two wines during #winestudio that shattered my preconceptions of what I thought to be typical of Sonoma wines.  Eppie, the winemaker, talked about the two wines we tried and covered the very storied history of his family.

- 2014 Pinot Noir from the Placida Vineyard in the Russian River Valley, which is named after their grandmother. It is an awesome Pinot with black cherry, cranberry, raspberry, spice and earth.

- 2012 Sonoma Valley Malbec from the Sandoval Vineyard Malbec produced from only two acres of grapes from rocky clay soils. It was an intense wine with cassis, plum, mocha and black fruit.

As we wrapped, Eppie shared his mantra for producing wines – to make exceptional wines reflecting unique characteristics of the places they are farmed.  It’s all about embracing what is unique about the vineyards.  I love seeing the successful fruition of the realizing the American dream and building a legacy to be enjoyed for generations to come.

 


February: The Month of Just Opening That Bottle(s)

We have all done it.  Spent a ton of time cultivating some great wines in our cellars (or even holding on to a special bottle or two) and then let it sit … and sit … and sit.  Occasionally, when we finally get to that special bottle, it is past its prime and so frustrating to experience.

Chef Mike Smith Explains the Third Course

For me, it’s been an epic month of finally getting to break into the cellar and enjoy some wines that needed to be consumed.  We had a few great opportunities.  First, we had an amazing dinner that we purchased at a North Texas Food Bank auction, an organization that does amazing things to help feed the hungry in DFW.  It was a dinner with well-known chef, Mike Smith, who has a storied career at The Green Room, Arcodoro/Pomodoro and The Common Table before he joined Utopia Food and Fitness, the group who donated the dinner.  They have a great fundraising campaign going right now  – click here to help.

Zach Coffey, Musician

We all brought amazing wines and I’m not going to admit how much wine we consumed, but it was an incredible time with friends who are like the family you would choose, if you could.  We even had a private concert from Zach Coffey, a well-known Texas musician.

For me, it was time to break out a magnum of Reserva Barolo that was off the charts delicious and opened at the perfect moment.   Pol Roger, Gary Farrell, Paul Hobbs and Domaine du Pre Semele were the dinner wines and several were opened after the fact.  It may have been a foggy Sunday, but well worth it.

 

My husband took our daughter on her first ski trip to Vail and I had an opportunity for a girl’s overnight at a friend’s lake house.  She is an amazing cook and consummate entertainer, so we knew we had to bring wines that live up to her culinary skills.  And, well, we did.  There were several of us (I am not going to disclose how many) and work has been a little crazy for all of us.  This was about 30 hours of great food, amazing wine (I got to open another magnum – this time of Tablas Creek Esprit de Tablas).  I also brought Ehlers, Foresight, Naia, Fel, Cartograph, Veuve Clicquot and my friend, Julie, may have brought a few more.  In terms of left overs … well, not so much.  It was Cards Against Humanity (kinda), lots of discussions about life in general, amazing food, Saturday Night Live and old movies.  I even met a person who followed me on Instagram who happened to know Jennifer and came down for a glass of wine.

And, I got to bring our new rescue pup who did well except for his walkabout when we were cleaning up on Sunday morning.

After all, what good is keeping great wines in the cellar if you don’t share them with good friends?

 


Pinot in the City: Wine Event Now Bigger With the Texas Addition

 

Beacon Hill Liberty Pinot Noir

I’ve said it often and I’ll say it again.  Texas is a force to be reckoned with in the wine drinking market and wineries from all over the world have taken notice.  But, we have never had the highly-regarded Pinot in the City event come to not one, but two Texas cities – until this week.

Oregon Wine Country and the Willamette Valley Wineries Association, a non-profit focused on achieving recognition for the region – still not over the euphoria of the Willamette Valley being named the Wine Enthusiast ‘s 2016 Wine Region of the Year – assembled a crew of 65 winemakers and winery owners, the largest number of Willamette Valley wineries to ever visit Texas at one time.  The Pinot in the City  event has been at maximum capacity from coast to coast since it began in Seattle five years ago.  The event focuses on Pinot Noir – Oregon’s flagship wine — along with several other varieties, from Chardonnay to Riesling.  The event first came to Dallas at the Westin Downtown with a consecutive event in Austin, that started with trade in the afternoon and then a consumer event in the evening.

The trade and consumer response illustrated that Oregon wines are well loved in this city and the wineries that attended make fantastic wine.  Because I spent some time in the Willamette Valley at the Wine Bloggers Conference in 2012 and got to meet many of the participants paired with the fact that you never want to be an over served carpool mom, I narrowed my strategy, for the most part, to wineries that I had not yet tried.

Me, Terry Hill (Texas Wineaux), Michelle Williams (Rocking Red Blog) and Lori Sullivan (Lori’s Twisted Cork and Spork)

I met up with several of the #dallaswineaux and we met with a number of wineries that were recommended, that others had tried and loved, those where we were literally dragged across the room with someone we respected who said, “you’ve GOT to taste this one,” or were on the radar for a story that someone in the group was writing.  There is never enough time and I know I missed some amazing wineries.

Here’s the photo line-up of my notable wineries, some of the wines that we tried and characters that made the story fun, the wines great and kept us entertained.

John Grochau, Owner and Winemaker, Grochau Cellars

Jim Prosser, Owner and Winemaker, J.K. Carriere Wines

Pat Dudley, President and Co-Owner, Bethel Heights Vineyard

Clare Carver, Cow Boss (Best Title Ever), Big Table Farm

Chris Williams, Winemaker, Brooks Winery

Sanjeev Lahoti, Owner, Saffron Fields Vineyard

All  with that “It’s Willamette.  Dammit” sense of fun.  Charm that I adore.


100 Wines, 30 Days and Wine Loving Ways

Since I left the corporate gig, which gave me ample opportunity to open a multitude of sample wines on a weekly basis, I’ve come to a point where I was completely swimming in fourth quarter samples.  I rectified this by hosting the Southern Methodist University MBA wine club, with Michelle Williams, where we conducted a brown bag blind tasting of more than 40 wines.  I  was the guest speaker of an executive Women Who Wine Group where I brought a variety of wines, talked about balancing my blog and a fulltime career with family.  And, of course the usual hosting of a variety of friends over the holiday season.

Of the nearly 100 wines we sampled, these are the favorites of the tastings.  They are diverse – several regions around the globe, different varietals and different price points.  I’ll be brief with descriptions since there are so many.

Whites

2014 Ferrari Carano Tre Terre Chardonnay – this traditional Russian River Valley Chardonnay was full of citrus, apple, melon and vanilla flavors. The word I would use to describe it is creamy.

2012 Duchman Trebbiano – this has always been one of Texas’ award-winning wines (provided by Texas Fine Wines) at a fair price point.  The wine is full of tropical and citrus fruits and is best enjoyed on a patio.

2014 Martin Ray Chardonnay – another Russian River Valley beauty with a balanced acidity with green apple, white stone fruit and vanilla.


2013 Brennan Vineyards Lily – another selection from Texas Fine Wines – it’s a dry wine with apricot, fleshy nectarine, citrus and notes of honeysuckle.

2014 Gloria Ferrer Chardonnay – this is tropical in a glass – it’s full of stone and citrus fruit with nice acidity.

2013 La Scola Gavi Bianco Secco – it’s fruity, yet dry and refreshing. When Spring rolls around (or December in Texas), this is a great patio wine.

Reds

2014 Martin Ray The Tower Red Wine – this Bordeaux-style wine was full of black fruit, berries and cherries, herbs and spice.  It was surprisingly easy to drink with its rich, dark color.

2013 Gundlach Bundschu Mountain Cuvee – this was a great Tuesday pizza wine with an attitude.  It was a Bordeaux blend that had notes of blackberry, blueberry, chocolate and herbs.

2013 Flora Springs Ghost Winery Red – Artist Wes Freed designed the label depicting a zombie picnic watched by two diligent crows.  I tasted herbs, spice, cinnamon, black and red fruits along with licorice.

2013 Antigal Uno Malbec – deep berry, cassis, plum, spice and flowers.  This was a great representation of a Malbec.

2014 Flora Springs Ghost Winery Malbec – since Flora Springs is one of Napa’s original “ghost wineries,” they have fun with the designation (and are one of the few that have restored the winery back to its original form).  Notes of mocha, black cherry, cassis and spice.

2010 Agly Brothers B Cotes-du Roussillon Villages – this well-balanced Rhone blend was full of chocolate, cassis, Fig Newton, blackberry and herbs. This is a great example of why people should drink more Rhone style wines.

2014 Garzon Tannat – big ripe red fruit with notes of pepper, mocha and spice.  This was a very nice version of a wine that shows its fruit while keeping its power.

2013 Chateau Ksara Reserve Du Couvent- cassis, chocolate and herbs.  It was balanced, but had some depth to it.

2013 Odfiell Orzada Cabernet Sauvignon – this cabernet begged for beef.  It had red and black berry, chocolate, vanilla and herbs. It evolved with time in the glass.

2014 Angeline Cabernet Sauvignon – notes of red cherry pie, black fruit, savory spices and mocha.

2015 Angeline Reserve Pinot Noir – this was a perfect Thanksgiving wine with notes of cranberry, cherry, herbs and spice.

2014 Carmel Road Pinot Noir – a very nice drinking Pinot with cherry, spice and some herbs.

2014 Martin Ray Puccioni Vineyard Zinfandel – rich red fruits, spice and jammy, yet with a balance.

I also received samples for #merlotmonth #merlotme (more than 20 in total), so I’m playing catch up here with a few great ones that didn’t make the Merlot-focused round-up a few months ago.

2014 Chelsea Goldschmidt Merlot – this wine was full of black fruit, red fruit, vanilla and cassis.  It was approachable and was a crowd favorite.

2013 Rutherford Hill Merlot – this was elegant and had notes of blackberry, cherry, minerality, blueberry pie and herbs.

2013 Rombauer Carneros Merlot – notes of red stone fruit, flowers, mocha and spice.

2013 Duckhorn Merlot – notes of orange, raspberry, plum, mocha and cedar.  This had a great structure.

Texas Fine Wines provided samples of reds from Bending Branch, Brennan, Duchman and Pedernales.  These were my favorites.

NV Brennan Vineyards “W” Winemakers Choice – notes of stewed plum, blackberry and cherry as well as spice, Twizzlers and chocolate.

2013 Pedernales Tempranillo Reserve – notes of cherry, terroir, herbs and spice.

2012 Bending Branch Tannat – this is the signature red for Bending Branch winery and it had lots of red fruit, plum, mocha and caramel notes.

2011 Duchman Montepulciano – another nice every day wine from Duchman with red and black fruit, spice and herbs.

 

 

 

 

 

 


December to Remember: My Favorite Wines of the Season

Well, here we are at year end and I have once again let the wine pile up, so let’s consider this one hell of a holiday celebration.  This quarter (for the record, not by myself), I hosted a Halloween party, brought wine to the neighborhood holiday party, was the guest speaker at a Women Who Wine Executive Group, brought wine to numerous neighborhood parties as well as co-hosted a gathering with the Southern Methodist University MBA wine club.  All in all, we went through about 95 wines and today I’m writing about my “special shout outs,” the crème de la crème – my 12 A list choices.  The other 28 good ones will follow next week, but I thought a 40-wine line-up would give you, my readers, a blog hangover.

2009 Ferrari Perle Champagne – elegant, rich and beyond good. I tasted brioche, apple, citrus, stone fruit, almonds and French toast.  This is made with Chardonnay grapes and is the personification of what makes Champagne, well, Champagne.

NV Champagne Bruno Paillard Premier Cuvee –this was a delicious compilation of more than 35 of 320 crus of Champagne. It was a blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier.   I tasted lime, grapefruit, cassis, white stone fruits, raspberry with plum, almond and toasted bread.

2015 Gundlach Bundschu Gewürztraminer – A Gewürztraminer from Sonoma?  Yes, you should.  This delightfully dry wine that Jacob Gundlach brought from his homeland in Alsace.  There are beautiful floral notes and minerality.  I also love the fact that the winery pairs this hip hop music – a perfect match to old school Run DMC.

2015 Naissance Sauvignon Blanc – The Galerie collection was named Naissance, which is French for birth or beginning, to blend Old World and New World wines.  You get an elegant blend of peach and tropical fruits, lemon zest, apple and great minerality.  Such a great expression of Sauvignon Blanc.

2014 Byron La Encantada Vineyard Pinot Noir – this is a big, ripe, rich pinot with notes of blackberry, black cherry, flowers and terroir.  It is complex and muscular, like my husband.

2014 Byron Pinot Noir Nielson Vineyard – I tasted blackberry, earth, herbs, spice and flowers.  This was very elegant and aromatic.

2014 Byron Monument Pinot Noir – this is the blend of the best vineyard blocks.  This was my favorite of the pinots with a pure elegance and notes of deep cherry, berry, licorice, Asian spice and floral notes.

2013 Flora Springs Holiday Kisses Red Blend – from the cool etched Mistletoe themed bottle to the great wine inside, this limited-edition Cabernet Sauvignon blended Napa wine, was a true gift.  It had notes of blackberry, blueberry, chocolate, mocha, plum, vanilla and Christmas spice.  A fantastic holiday themed gift both on the inside and out.

2012 Pleinair Napa Cabernet Sauvignon – this Galerie wine is named after the outdoor French painting method.  I tasted blackberry, spice, flowers, Heath bar and mocha.  It was silky and elegant – easy to drink today or would be even better with some bottle age.

2012 Cesari Amarone della Valpolicella – this was a big, traditional raisined Amarone that needed more time to open, but was clearly the crowd favorite of the tasting (and therefore did not have the time it needed to develop).  I tasted red fruit, cherry and spice.  For being so young, it was still elegant.

NV Proprietary Red CA Locations by Dave Phinney, which represents a blend of the best wines by region across the globe.  This California blend is aromatic, flavorful and nuanced.  I tasted black cherry, raspberry, cigar, blackberry pie, tobacco and black tea.  It’s getting the least expensive wines of a well-known winemaker at a fraction of the price of his other wines.

NV Proprietary Red OR Locations by Dave Phinney – this was a blend of great grapes from Oregon.  This was Thanksgiving in a glass with cherry, cranberry, pomegranate, floral notes and spices.  This was such a lovely wine!


Green Valley: The Coolest, Foggiest Region of Sonoma County You Have Never Heard Of

Robert Larsen and me

A few weeks ago, I had an inquiry from one of my favorite PR folks, Robert Larsen of the Larsen Projekt to taste wines from Green Valley, an AVA I knew nothing about.  Robert represents the trend of many of my friends who recently left the safe corporate world where he handled PR for Rodney Strong to represent small boutique wineries in Sonoma.  If you know Robert, his passion and need to evangelize the word of Sonoma is fun to behold and aside from being an all-around good guy, he understands what a wine blogger needs to be successful.

Robert asked a few folks if we’d be interested in tasting a few wines from this AVA and provided a gift card to cover the cost to prepare a special pre-determined recipe to pair with it.  I had to ask the chef in our family, my husband, as this recipe would have suffered in my non-cooking hands.  Thankfully, Chef John stepped in to cook the Tri-Tip and we were on our way.

Green Valley is one of the smallest appellations in Sonoma County located on the Southwestern part of the Russian River Valley.  It is self-marketed as the coolest, foggiest region of the Russian River Valley.  The area is known for its distinctive soils, especially the Goldridge soil that is known for making extraordinary Pinot Noir wines.  There are over 100 growers in the areas and while there are some well-known wineries like DeLoach Vineyards, Dutton-Goldfield and Iron Horse Vineyards, there are many boutique treasures also waiting to be discovered.  Because Green Valley is not well known, many producers choose to go with the Russian River Valley designation.  This is the reason why the AVA officially changed its name to Green Valley of Russian River Valley Sonoma County.  Marketing can be everything.

We tried three wines from three different vineyards to go with our meal.

 

2013 Sedition Pinot Noir Chenoweth Vineyards Green Valley of Russian River Valley Sonoma County

This wine completely makes me understand the magic of Goldridge soil.  I tasted red fruit, herbs and earthiness.  This was one of my new favorite Pinot Noirs that is incredibly hard to find, but worth the journey.

 

2013 Callow Cellars Magna Porcum Estate Pinot Noir Green Valley of Russian River Valley Sonoma County

Deep dark berry, cherry, spice and pure power in a glass.  It’s a big Pinot with an inky red color, but is balanced in nature.  I’d like to give it a few years and try it again.

 

2012 Scherrer Winery Syrah Calypso Vineyard Green Valley Sonoma County

This is a rich wine that begs for meat.  It has notes of berry, lavender, herbs, earth and black pepper.   On the website tasting note, it is described as “hedonism and nuance in equal measure.”  Great description of what happened in my glass.  The second day it was more nuanced and complex.

As for the Tri-Tip, which isn’t usually my typical dinner choice, it was a great match with the wines.  As usual, I am lucky to have a husband who has a gift for cooking and served a meal that was a worthy match for these wines.

 


Rex Pickett’s Next Journey: Vertical, The Next Chapter of Miles and Jack

Vertical Beachside Read at the Four Seasons Punta Mita Resort

For those of you who read Sideways by Rex Pickett, the book that almost single handedly changed consumers’ willingness to drink Merlot, you remember the premise.  Two good friends, Miles and Jack, go on a last hurrah trip the week before Jack is to marry in the Santa Ynez wine country.  Jack is facing the life change of marriage and Miles is facing the life change of divorce as well as the instability of his career and not knowing his place in the world.

The book started a movement – of pinot, of pilgrimage to the places featured in the movie and showcased the love of wine from two not so likeable wild and crazy kind of guys.  The book focuses on relationships – friendship, wine and relationships – and exposes the flaws in all.  Rex has now written his second book, Vertical, which tells the next journey for these two men.

Fast forward seven years and the tables have turned.  Jack is a divorced, down on his luck alcoholic who has definitely lived his glory days.  Miles is now a successful author with a movie that has become a blockbuster.  He is now the celebrity.  But his life is far from perfect.  He is spiraling into a cycle of drinking, depression and self depreciation.  But the speaking gigs keep happening, the wine keeps pouring and even after he publicly drinks the spit bucket at a tasting (with no recollection), he continues the downward spiral.

His mom, Phyllis, has suffered a stroke that has left her incapacitated and stuck in an assisted living home – and frequently tells Miles how miserable she is.  He knows she wants to go live with her sister in Wisconsin and he finally has a way to get her there.  Since she is wheelchair bound and Miles is deathly afraid of flying, he decides to engage Jack to help drive her from the assisted living home in Carlsbad to Wisconsin by dangling $10,000 and a trip to the International Pinot Noir festival in Oregon.

It’s funny – insert a pot-smoking caretaker, a dunking machine, a Viagra mishap and lots of other laugh out loud moments – and you can see this is the next successful screenplay.

It’s poignant – anyone who has had to deal with the loss of a parent, watching a friend go down a dark path, dealing with alcoholism or making bad decisions leading to the loss of someone you loved – will see this is more than two wild and crazy guys on a last rampage.

It’s a great snapshot of the Willamette Valley – the wineries, the people, the tasting rooms, the scenery and the new pilgrimages that will begin because of this book.

And, finally, it’s an introspective by Rex.  I only met him once briefly at the Wine Bloggers Conference, but you can see the self depreciation, the fear of losing the success and when you hear him talk about what he wished he had known prior to the movie, you get those flashes of the fears that Miles has.  He’s a great writer who brings the people, pinots and pathways truly to life.


A Perfect Score: A Book Review and Conversation with Kathryn and Craig Hall

When I was invited to the launch of “A Perfect Score: The Art, Soul and Business of a 21st Century Winery,” I knew I was in for a great story.  The book, written by Kathryn and Craig Hall, launched on September 13 and chronicles a very honest story of people, wine, art and politics.

It is about two people with very different backgrounds – Kathryn’s family had a wine making background and Craig originally thought Rosé was red and white wine mixed together.  As Craig said, “With wine, I continue to be a work in progress.”

Together, Kathryn and Craig formed what is today Hall and Walt Wineries.

 

The book talked about their journey.  From meeting when Kathryn was running for Mayor in 1991 to moving to Austria for her Ambassador position to buying their first vineyard (a dilapidated winery that had seen better days, which happened right before the Ambassador appointment) to navigating Napa politics and ramping up wine production right in time for the market crash.

It wasn’t an easy journey.  But it was about two people who gathered together and formed a marriage, a family, a business, a winery, and a storied political career.  I had a chance to talk to both Craig and Kathryn at the Dallas reception and Craig told me they started the book about a year ago and he didn’t remember why they originally decided to do it.  Kathryn remembered differently.  “We had a chance to tell our story to a different audience.  I believe that people want to tell the story of wine and the important people that made this winery successful.”

She talked about reliving the experiences – the good, not so good and having the perspective of time.  Kathryn was honest about the tension of working with one’s spouse and how that tension created a better winery and book.

From the story of how the Hall landmark rabbit sculpture, Bunny Foo Foo, a work of art by Lawrence Argent, came to stand tall as a symbol of Hall Winery.  How fun that it was meant to capture the heritage and memory of Kathryn leading her kids through her parent’s Mendocino County Vineyard singing “Little Bunny Foo Foo.”  The book is a juxtaposition of these types of memories and how they built the foundation of the winery’s hospitality experience.  It comes down to having fun – drinking great wine, enjoy the hospitality of a winery, hanging out with people you love, giving back to the community and eating great food.  And the title comes from the first designation of 100 points for the 2010 Hall Exzellenz Cabernet.

The Hall’s imagination and vision truly made what is today known as a well-regarded, highly-ranked, boutique winery come to life.  It’s about attention to detail – from sustainability of the vineyard to taking care of the people who have made the winery successful to a focus on the customer.  If you can’t visit Hall and Walt Wineries, reading this book makes you almost smell the grapes in the barrel room, feel the crunch of walking through the wet ground of the vineyards and taste the juice right out of the wine thief.




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