Our 5 Favorite California Producers of 2013

DSC_81562013 was a bit of a renaissance year for wine in California. With American writer and columnist Jon Bonné championing the producers of “New California”, many local wine-makers are producing restraint, elegance, and a sense of terroir in their wines. There has been an influx of new blood, with young guns exploring both experimental and old-world winemaking techniques. Finally, we are able to shop in a wine store and buy a bottle of California wine that doesn’t reek of oak, stewed fruit, or buttered popcorn. Instead we can find mineral, forest sap, chapparal, white flowers and stonefruits.

The year has also been particularly kind to me. Having left my technology career in June to launch Winelandia, 2013 has been a year of soul-searching, experimentation, sometimes failing miserably, 14 hour work days, and exploring things way outside of my comfort zone. Trying to find my place in the wine industry has been trying at times, defeating at it’s worst, and absolutely transcendental at it’s best. That being said, I would much rather ride the wine rollercoaster than the tech dump-truck any day.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn 2013, I have most certainly tasted more wines than ever before. Colleen and I take every opportunity we can to go to industry tastings and visit small wineries, unearthing every stone we find in hopes of discovering something new to share with you. The most beautiful thing about wine is the sense of discovery and the sheer joy felt when you take a whiff and a sip of a wine that moves you. That’s what we want to share with you, that feeling of pure love. Wine is love.

Below is a list we have compiled of some of our favorite California producers of 2013, in no particular order. Some of them you may recall from your wine club shipments, seen in local wine shops, or read about in articles in the Chronicle. Next time you buy some wine, look for these producers, because we feel they are making some of the best wines today in California.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJolie-Laide Wines
Winemaker: Scott Schultz
Region: Russian River Valley
Style: Scott only makes a handful of wines (so far), but they unusual, thought-provoking, and unique. We have seen a Russian River Trousseau Gris with texture and unmatched complexity, an elegant Syrah from Phoenix Ranch in the cooler part of Napa, and a super-clean summertime quaffer of a Pinot Gris from the famed Windsor Oaks Vineyard on Chalk Hill. The labels for his wine change every year, are as mysterious and beautiful as his wines. He is definitely a winemaker to watch; his wines are quickly gaining cult status amongst wine geeks and are insane quality for the price.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARyme Cellars
Winemakers: Ryan & Megan Glaab
Region: Russian River Valley
Style: Ryan & Megan (a young married couple) make some really delicious, affordable, interesting wines. The style is both experimental and old-world, much like Jolie-Laide (and wouldn’t you know it, they share a winemaking facility). Some of our favorite wines made by Ryme are their Carneros Pinot Noir – a fresh and juicy wine reminiscent of cru Beaujolais, and their skin-fermented “His” Vermentino – a textural and savory skin-fermented white wine. All of their wines are super clean and beautifully balanced. We can’t wait to see what they have to offer next.
DSC_8196AmByth Estate
Winemaker: Philip Hart
Region: Paso Robles
Style: A Demeter-certified (Biodynamic) estate, Philip and Mary Hart planted their vines in 2004. They make wines in a super-natural way, mostly of Rhone varietals. It can get quite hot in Paso Robles, but the location of their estate is directly in path of the cooling coastal winds coming through the Templeton gap. The day-to-night temperature fluctuations can sometimes swing 50F, which preserves the acidity in the grapes. They tend to pick on the early side, so their wines are very unlike any others in the Paso Robles AVA (which are usually very ripe). Very little, if any, SO2 is used in the production of their wines. While they aren’t cheap, their wines are built for the long-haul. They were recently picked up by a well-respected wine distributor, so you can expect to see more AmByth wines in local shops. We highly recommend the Priscus white blend and the Mourvedre.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALa Clarine Farm
Winemaker: Hank Beckmeyer
Region: Sierra Foothills
Style: Hank Beckmeyer follows the ‘do nothing’ farming methodology of Masanobu Fukuoka, and his wines scream terroir as a result. Hank works mostly with Rhone varietals, both from his own farm and purchased from other vineyards. I can remember the first time I tasted his Cedarville Mourvedre; that was a wine that changed and excited me. I never knew that a grape which usually produces a rich, powerful, and extracted wine could make a wine with such femininity and finesse. We also love his white wines, which have so much character they can taste totally different from day to day. La Clarine wines are the Everlasting Gobstopper of the wine world, and a crazy good value to boot.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPorter Creek Vineyards
Winemaker: Alex Davis
Region: Russian River Valley
Style: Alex Davis has been quietly making some of the best wines in California for as long as I can remember. This is one of the first wine clubs I ever joined, and for good reason. They make my favorite California Pinot Noir, as well as a value-priced Carignan that is rustic, juicy and food-friendly. We love their Zinfandel, rosé, Chardonnay, Viognier… heck, we love everything they do. Alex spent a good amount of time in Côte-Rôtie, and naturally he also produces a slammin’ Syrah which is co-fermented with a little bit of Viognier, just like they do in the northern Rhone. Porter Creek is very consistent, so it will continue to be an old standby for us.

Honorable Mentions:
Arnot-Roberts
Dirty & Rowdy
Two Shepherds
Deux Punx
Massican
Matthiasson
Hirsch Vineyards
Copain
Wind Gap

 

6 Great Tips for Holiday Entertaining

PC210024_webThe end of the year is often a hectic time for people from all walks of life, but especially for those of us who get a kick out of entertaining and hosting. Too often we will decide to have “a few” friends over for drinks and snacks, and it quickly snowballs into something about as manageable as cooking Thanksgiving dinner for 20 people.

I love to entertain, and at times I feel like it’s what I was born to do. A weird calling in life, for sure, but I really do enjoy it. I throw a lot of parties, mostly centered around food and wine. I’d like to take a moment to share with you some of the tricks I’ve learned over the years to help make entertaining as affordable and easy as possible for the gracious host, so you can spend more time with your guests.

  1. Get as much of your prep done ahead of time as possible. This is something caterers have known for ages – sometimes preparing (and freezing) ingredients weeks in advance. Many recipes will tell you what can be done ahead of time, and that combined with some common sense is a great way to get ahead of the curve. Chop all of your veggies, juice your lemons, make your salad dressings, purée your dips, mince your garlic, make your soups, and anything else you can think of the day before. Focus especially on things that are time consuming, like snapping the ends off your green beans.
  2. Find ways to make ingredients stretch and repurpose leftovers. Entertaining for a large group of people can be very costly, and nobody wants to ask their guests to chip in to help with the cost of food. Did you cook a pot of beans earlier in the week? Turn the leftovers into bean dip. That stale, day-old bread? Crostini. Last night’s risotto? Arancini. Restaurants do this, so why can’t you? My favorite trick: Go pick up some fresh pizza dough from your local grocer and make flatbreads with all the odds and ends in your refrigerator that need to be used up. Just because it’s left-over, doesn’t mean it isn’t delicious and worthy of a spot on your table.
  3. Don’t wait until the last minute to sort out your menu. Seasoned pros do a lot of planning, so if you are feeling overwhelmed it’s probably a good idea to plan everything out ahead of time. I like to use spreadsheets to keep track of the dishes I’m preparing, what ingredients I need, URLs to recipes, what I need to buy vs. what I already have in my kitchen, etc. Spreadsheets can be color-coded and are a great visual planner, and if you upload it to Google Docs you can also use it as your shopping list. It’s a good way to organize your thoughts and to prevent forgetting things like tarragon.
  4. Prepare things that are rich, filling, comforting, and inexpensive. One of my favorite family-style appetizers is ricotta cheese topped with honey. The two ingredients on their own might not be especially inexpensive, but they are super rich a little goes a long way. All you have to do is plop the cheese into a bowl, cover it with honey, and serve it with bread or crackers. Another idea is to serve a fresh, sliced baguette with a side of olive oil and sea salt, like you get an Italian restaurant. Home-made hummus can be prepared ahead of time, and garbanzo beans are very inexpensive. Make a big platter of carrot sticks, celery, and other dip-worthy veggies as vehicles for your hummus or bean dip (your paleo friends will thank you!). Make a huge, healthy arugula & shaved fennel salad to cut the richness of your cheese plate.
  5. Ask your friends to help out by bringing a dish or a bottle of wine to share. It’s easy to take it all on head-first and not ask for any assistance – believe it or not, your guests are more than happy to help. If you want to deal with the food, ask your guests to help out by bringing a bottle of wine or a fancy beer. If you blew your budget on exotic wines and cocktail provisions, ask your friends to help out by bringing snacks to share. My point is, if you crowd-source your parties, your life becomes much easier. It’s way classier than asking people to chip in a few bucks as well.
  6. Be aware of the food allergies and dietary restrictions of your guests. I have several friends who have serious seafood, nut, and dairy allergies, along with a smattering of vegetarianism. While you don’t have to make everything nut, seafood, meat, and dairy free, it’s a good idea to make notes of what has what in it and to make sure you alert your guests if your dishes contain any food allergens. If I have a vegetarian friend coming, I ensure that nothing meat-related is touching the foods s/he can eat, and I also make sure that there is no cross-contamination during preparation. Your guests will be thankful that you went out of your way to accommodate their needs.

PC210053_webDo you have any awesome tips for being a great host? Most of what I know, I learned from others. Share your knowledge and entertaining tips in the comments!

Recipe: Wild Mushroom Risotto with a Poached Egg

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s winter, which means there’s an abundance of wild mushrooms at the market. One of my favorite wild mushrooms is the hedgehog mushroom – a ‘shroom which has “teeth” under the cap instead of gills. They taste very much like a chanterelle and are typically cleaner and cheaper than a chanterelle. They have hollow stems, so they weigh less than the average mushroom, which makes them quite economical to cook with.

One of the best ways to showcase the earthy, foresty flavors of wild mushrooms is by using them in risotto. Contrary to common belief, risotto is very easy to make and hard to screw up. There is definitely a technique to it, which I will describe below. Mostly, it just requires a lot of attention and stirring, but it’s not hard to make. Risotto is a very versatile dish, and you could substitute any of the ingredients here with similar ones. Instead of veggie broth, you could use chicken or mushroom. Instead of shallots, you could use an onion. I used dry white vermouth instead of white wine, because that’s what I had on hand. If you can’t find hedgehog mushrooms, use chanterelles, creminis, king trumpets, or porcinis. Don’t be afraid to adapt this dish to whatever ingredients you have available to you.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANow you may ask, why the egg? Well, it’s a cheap and delicious source of protein for one. Secondly, they are a classic pairing with wild mushrooms. Third, I like to eat risotto with something “saucy” on top, whether it be ossobucco, pork ragu, or some other sort of braised meat with a rich sauce. I don’t always have 5 hours to slow-cook a veal shank, so the ooey-gooey center of a perfectly poached egg is a great substitute.

The single most important factor in good risotto is the quality of the stock being used to cook it with. Home-made stock is best. If you’ve never made your own stock at home, now is a good time to start. Vegetable stock takes just a couple of hours (vs. chicken stock which can take 8 or 9 hours) and you can use whatever you’ve got kicking around in the fridge. If you have time for chicken stock, you can find my recipe for it here. Otherwise, you can use low-sodium stock from the market in a pinch. Just be sure it’s low-sodium, because you are cooking off a lot of the liquid and the risotto can easily wander into too-salty territory before you know it.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe next point of consideration is the variety of rice to use. I always use arborio rice, an Italian variety of startchy, short-grained rice commonly used in risotto here in the US. There are other types you can use, but arborio is the easiest to find. Carnaroli is considered to be one of the finest and creamiest varieties. If you can find some of that, let me know so I can get some too.

Be sure to read this recipe from start to finish before you begin. I’ve written it in such a way that everything will be perfectly timed. You will be poaching your egg while your risotto finishes cooking, so there is a little multi-tasking involved. Be sure that you understand how to poach an egg before you begin (I’ve included a link to my poached egg tutorial below). If you are not comfortable poaching an egg, you can fry one over-easy for a similar result. Most of all, don’t forget to stir! Risotto is all about constant stirring, and while you can rest for a minute or two at a time, be vigilant so you don’t burn it.

Wild Mushroom Risotto with a Poached Egg
Serves 2 (dinner-sized portions)
Prep time: 15 min.
Cooking time: 20 min.

Ingredients:
1 cup arborio rice
5+ cups home-made or low-sodium stock (vegetable, chicken, or mushroom)
6-8 oz. wild mushrooms, sliced (hedgehogs, chanterelle, porcini, king trumpet, cremini, etc.)
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan or other hard Italian cheese
3 tbsp. unsalted butter
1/2 cup dry white wine or dry white vermouth
1 large or 2 medium shallots, finely diced
2 very fresh eggs
2 tbsp. vinegar (any kind will do, but I tend to use white wine vinegar)
2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
Salt & pepper

Method:

  1. Heat the stock in a small pot and keep it hot (but don’t boil it).
  2. In a small skillet, heat 1 tbsp. of butter until it foams.
  3. Add the sliced mushrooms to the pan with a sprinkle of kosher salt (this helps draw the moisture out) and cook for 5-6 minutes until most of the moisture cooks off and they begin to brown. Remove from heat and set aside.
  4. In a large skillet, melt 2 tbsp. of butter over medium heat until it foams.
  5. Add diced shallots to the pan and sprinkle with kosher salt to prevent browning.
  6. Cook shallots, stirring frequently, until they turn translucent, but don’t allow them to brown.
  7. Add the arborio rice to the shallots and butter. Cook, stirring constantly, for 3-4 minutes until the edges of the rice grains become translucent. This step is important and will result in creamy risotto.
  8. Turn the heat up to medium-high. Add the white wine or vermouth to the rice and stir constantly until mostly absorbed.
  9. Add a ladle-full (or 3/4 cup) of the hot stock to the rice and stir constantly until mostly (but not completely) absorbed. The mixture should be bubbling, but not sizzling. Keep repeating this step, it will take 15 minutes or so to get through all the stock. Keep stirring, stirring, stirring, and be sure to taste it as you go, testing for done-ness.
  10. When you are about halfway through your stock additions, fill a tall-sided skillet or low-sided saucepan with 2-3 inches of water and heat it until it simmers.
  11. Add the 2 tbsp. of vinegar to the simmering pot of water.
  12. Back to the risotto – keep stirring, tasting, and adding hot stock. You will notice the liquid changes from brothy to creamy when it’s approaching done-ness.
  13. Once the risotto is almost done, you can add your eggs to the small pot of simmering water to poach. Click here to read my full tutorial on poaching eggs. Once they are in the water, cook them for 3 minutes until the yolks are still soft to the touch but the whites are cooked through. Remove them from the water with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  14. Add the cooked mushrooms to the almost-finished risotto and stir.
  15. At this point, your risotto should be done or close to it. Keep going until the consistency is perfectly creamy but not over-cooked. You want it to have enough liquid so it’s just slightly soupy. Once it’s done, add more stock to make it a little creamier, if needed.
  16. Turn off the heat. Add the grated cheese and season to taste with salt & pepper. You will probably need quite a bit of salt if you used home-made stock. Don’t be afraid of salt, but taste it as you go so you don’t over-salt it.
  17. Plate your risotto in a large bowl, mounding it in the center. Make a little well in the middle with your spoon, then lay the poached egg in the middle. Sprinkle the hot egg with a little salt, some fresh black pepper, a little extra grated cheese, and finally sprinkle with chopped parsley.

 

You’re done! It should look a little something like this:
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIf you are eating this for breakfast, you have won at life. If you’re eating it for dinner, be sure to pair it with some dry bubbly wine, such as an inexpensive crémant or even a real Champagne if you’re feeling fancy. I would even go as far as pairing it with a French sparkling rosé of pinot noir, to compliment the earthy mushroom flavors. I would avoid any wines that are excessively fruit-forward, erring on the side of mineral.

What’s your favorite way to enjoy risotto? Do you have any tips of your own? Let us know in the comments!

Day Trip: Point Lobos State Reserve

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn the past month or so, we’ve had some unseasonably sunny and warm weather here on the West coast. While the dryness and warmth is sligthly unnerving, I look at what’s happening with the weather in other parts of the world and I feel fortunate. We may be having a record-breaking dry spell, but the sunny skies and hospitable temperatures are definitely favorable to tornadoes, typhoons and snowfall. I’m sure you all can agree.

My husband’s birthday came around a few weeks ago, which happened to fall on the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. He had some time off, and his birthday wish was to go to as many beautiful places as we could. My mom had been posting some gorgeous photos she’d taken in Point Lobos the previous weekend, so I scooped him up and dragged him all the way down to Point Lobos State Reserve, just past Monterey on Highway 1. It was the middle of the day when we decided to head down there, which meant that we would make it just in time for sunset.

Point Lobos is a little swath of marine biodiversity just south of the hustle & bustle of Carmel-by-the-Sea, a popular tourist destination about 2 hours south of San Francisco. Point Lobos has gained the protection of the state of California for plenty of good reasons: It’s a habitat for many endangered plants and animals, and it’s considered to be one of the richest marine ecosystems in California. You will spot sea otters, harbor seals, whales, brown pelicans mid-migration, sea urchins, deer, and many other wild friends. Point Lobos is considered the crown jewel of California’s state park system, and it’s not hard to see why.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI have many childhood memories of this place, and I can remember being in awe of all the various little creatures in the tidal pools. Hermit crabs, sea urchins, sea stars, and all manners of seaweed can be found in these pools. This is a great place to take your kids to teach them about marine life (but leave the dog-friend at home – they aren’t allowed here).
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s also a photographer’s dream – the Husband and I both brought our cameras and spent the whole afternoon taking beautiful photos to share with you. One thing he and I have in common is our love of photography. I gifted him with a carbon fiber tripod for his birthday, and we wanted to put it to good use. With his new gear, he found many opportunities to capture his birthday moments.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe got tons of photos of little sea creatures, interesting rock formations, ocean waves, and migrating birds. Once the sun was getting low, we packed up and started walking back to where we started from. Right as we arrived at our starting point, the sun began to set and we stopped to get a few more photos before we had to go (the park closes promptly 30 minutes after sunset).
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn our walk back to the parking lot, we encountered some VERY friendly deer, who hammed it up for the camera.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIf you find yourself with an itch to get in the car and go somewhere beautiful, Point Lobos is an excellent destination. You could even take the long route, heading all the way down Highway 1 from San Francisco to Santa Cruz. Check out this blog post for some sightseeing destinations along the “Slow Coast”. Be sure to bring sunscreen, a sandwich, some water, cash for parking, and your camera. You won’t be disappointed!

Point Lobos State Reserve
Route 1 Box 62
Carmel, CA 93923
831-624-4909

Winter Hours:

8:00am to 1/2 hour after sunset.

Daylight Savings Time Hours:
8:00am to 7:00pm

Recipe: Nobu Miso Black Cod

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Most people who know me know that I am not much of a traditionalist. Although my father’s side of the family was devoutly Catholic and from Eastern Europe (tradition, anyone?), my mother’s side of the family was very much a bunch of rough-and-tumble ‘Mericans from Oakland, CA. I was the third generation in my family to be brought up in Oakland, and as a result I feel that most of the “culture” I have is a mish-mash of old-world sensibilities rooted in the soils of the Bay Area.

So, what does that mean exactly? For one, it means I don’t cook turkey on Thanksgiving. It’s a ridiculous holiday to begin with, and I cringe every time someone wants to go around the table to say what they are thankful for. Come December, my Christmas tree is adorned with disco balls, chickens, and Star Trek memorabilia. I shop for holiday wrapping paper in the Birthday section. My husband is Jewish, so every year we throw a Christmukkah party (although this year, it was Thanksgivingukkah). My point is, we don’t follow any rules, and we have a great time.

Today I am going to share with you one of my favorite Winter dishes. I’ve served it twice as the main course for Thanksgiving. Anyone who has spent T-Day with us and experienced this Miso Black Cod will tell you about the time a crowd of people stood in my kitchen after dinner was finished, picking the leftover scraps of black cod from the serving platter. I made it again this year, but with a more all-encompassing Japanese theme. Turkey can suck it.

The great thing about this dish is the ease of preparation. It may seem fussy (3 day marinade? Searing in the broiler?), but I assure you that it’s not as hard as it sounds. It’s all about patience and technique. The 3-day marinade changes the fish in a way that is hard to explain – it becomes firmer while still being melty, tender, succulent, and other-worldy. I’ve tried to speed it up and do a 1-day marinade, and it really isn’t the same. So give yourself as much time as you can – 2 or 3 days is ideal.

blackcod_freshThe most important thing to consider when making this dish is the freshness of the black cod. You are going to be marinating it for 3 days, and under normal circumstances I wouldn’t touch 3-day old fish with a 10 foot pole. My working theory is that the salt in the miso acts as a sort of cure, slowly drawing the moisture out of the fish. My advice is to get your black cod right from the source (fisherman), or as close to the source as you can. I get my fish from One Ocean Seafood – the owner does FREE home delivery, and if you work with him you can find out what days he gets his fresh-caught local fish on. My Thanksgiving black cod (from Monterey) was caught on Tuesday morning and served on Thursday evening.

Black Cod, also known as Sablefish, is a very oily fish that is not actually cod at all. Because of it’s high oil content, it is difficult to over-cook. This is a great recipe for people who are not normally comfortable cooking fish. We get it locally here from Monterey and Half Moon Bay – buy the local stuff if you can.

Anyhow, here’s the recipe. It’s from Nobu Matsuhisa, a celebrity chef who owns the high-end Nobu restaurant chain. If you’ve ever seen the $30 “Miso Black Cod” on the menu at any Japanese restaurant (many places serve variations on this dish), this is what you’ll get – although yours will be better and much cheaper.

Nobu Miso Black Cod

Ingredients:

For Saikyo Miso Marinade
3/4 c. mirin (Japanese sweet cooking wine)
1/2 c. saké (Japanese rice wine)
2 c. white miso paste (aka shiro miso)
1-1/4 c. organic white sugar

For cod
4 black cod fillets, about 1/2 lb. each
3 cups prepared Saikyo miso

Method:

Make the Saikyo miso marinade

  1. Bring the saké and mirin to a boil, and boil for 30 seconds (this cooks off the alcohol).
  2. Lower the temperature to low and add the miso paste. Stir with a wooden spoon until combined.
  3. When the miso has dissolved completely, turn the heat back up to high and add the sugar.
  4. Stir until the sugar is dissolved.
  5. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.
  6. Reserve a small amount of the miso marinade for serving.


Prepare the black cod

  1. Rinse the black cod fillets and pat dry with paper towels.
  2. Trim any ugly bits from the fillets.
  3. Place fillets into a non-reactive bowl or container and slather with the cooled Saikyo miso marinade.
  4. Cover tightly and place in the refrigerator.
  5. Flip the fillets once during the 2-3 day marinade.


Cook the black cod (2-3 days later)

  1. Pre-heat your broiler.
  2. Remove the fillets from the container and wipe off the excess miso (but do not rinse).
  3. Cut the marinated fillets into 4-5 oz serving-sized pieces.
  4. Place the fillets skin-side down on a broiler-safe, foil-lined, low-rimmed dish or on aluminum foil.
  5. Place fillets into your pre-heated broiler and broil for 3-5 minutes, or until the tops of the fish begin to blacken and caramelize (see photo). Remove from broiler.
  6. Pre-heat oven to 400F. Place fillets into the oven and cook for 10-15 minutes.
  7. Remove the bones from the cooked fish with a pair of tweezers prior to serving, or just warn your guests that there will be small bones in the fish.

That’s it, really! You can serve this with a little bit of the miso marinade you reserved on day 1 on the side. Nobu recommends serving with a stalk of Hajikami, which I have never been able to find commercially (I make my own). You could serve it with pickled sushi ginger instead. This dish is also complimented well with cooked greens such as spinach. The slight bitterness is a nice counter-point to the sweetness of the fish.

As for wine pairing, any white wine with little or no oak would be great with this. I would suggest something with a tiny bit of residual sugar (but not a sweet wine) and medium to full body. Our 2012 Two Shepherds Grenache Blanc comes to mind. It would also be fantastic with Champagne.

Let us know if you have any questions about this recipe in the comments.

Winery Visit: Thomas Fogarty Winery

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Have you spent any time at a vineyard in the winter? When all the vines are laid bare and the geometry is clearly visible? When all the work for next year’s harvest is being done on the inside, and our role is merely to observe? It’s a stark, different beauty from the height of August or September, when rows are heavy with fruit and abundant foliage. But it’s also a reminder of the details that go into a vineyard – the trellises, the cover crops, the spacing between the vines. You can’t see those things when the rows are lush and full and green.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
The story of how we wound up climbing around and through the vineyards at Thomas Fogarty is a post-modern one. One of the Fogartys found Tala on Delectable (Do you use Delectable? Find us! Follow us!), and invited us for a private visit and tasting. How could we say no to such an opportunity? Perched 2000′ in elevation up on Skyline Drive in the Santa Cruz Mountain foothills, Thomas Fogarty Winery is a boutique producer of primarily Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Since 1981, they have been making rich, elegant wines from these varietals, and producing small, successful “experiments” with others. They have two properties – the one we visited, and a smaller site further south – totaling around 60 acres planted to grapevines. Together, these properties produce Nebbiolo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay – and there are several vineyard-select or block-select bottlings within the Pinots and Chards especially. Truly, a little for everyone – including the dry and sweet Gewurztraminers that they produce with fruit they buy from elsewhere.

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Tommy Fogarty (Jr., of course) and his wife Lily shepherded us around the property in this here Jeep. If you squint, you can see him just over the steering wheel in this photo! We meandered, climbed, and blazed through vineyards, oaks, and poison oak meadows as we learned about the unique geography of this area. Fogarty is located above the fog in a lot of places, which allows additional ripening, but being so high and close to the ocean, the vines also stay cool in the evenings. It’s exactly what a winemaker wants for his vines. The property is stunningly beautiful; a maze of oak and madrone, with small vineyards planted here and there to catch the sun exposure on the various ridges. Tommy knew the land like the back of his hand – the way you would if you, too, had been raised on that acreage. What a great way to experience the property and get to the know the fruit.

The wines are produced with as little intervention as possible. They don’t use laboratory yeast, and have learned to be patient if a fermentation is slow or gets stuck – as most of the winemakers we know and love, they simply wait it out and let the wine do what it will. They use organic farming methods in the vineyard, and as Tommy said, try to do as much work in the vineyard as possible so they can do as little as possible in the winery. This includes compost tea, a specifically selected cover crop for each vineyard – which helps to add or adjust nutrients in the soil each year, and careful monitoring of irrigation. They irrigate only rarely – and only to make sure the grapes don’t turn into raisins if the end of a season is particularly hot.

If you’re looking for a stunningly beautiful, easy afternoon trip to a winery in the bay area, we highly recommend checking out Thomas Fogarty. And if you see Tommy or Lily, tell them we said hello! And, check them out on Delectable too – it’s always fun to see what industry folk are tasting and drinking.

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Thomas Fogarty Winery
19501 Skyline Blvd, Woodside, CA
Use the directions on their website to guide you – DO NOT trust your phone!
Hours: Monday 12-4pm, Wednesday-Sunday 11am-5pm. Closed Tuesdays
Tastings from $10-$20/person, with free tasting on Wednesdays!

The Winelandia Holiday Lineup!

The Holiday 6-Pack has already sold out, thanks to everyone who ordered! We do have some of the La Vigne di Alice Brut Tajad and the Celler Acustic Red blend available for purchase. We can also re-order any of these wines by the case, so please let us know if you are interested in special-ordering by emailing orders@winelandia.com.

The Winelandia 2013 Holiday Lineup

NV Le Vigne di Alice Tajad Brut
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Winemakers: Pier Francesca Bonicelli & Cinzia Canzian
Bio: Cinzia and Pier are sisters-in-law who set out in 2004 to produce artisinal Prosecco that is all their own. They started Le Vigne di Alice, an homage to Cinzia’s grandmother Alice who worked in the family’s osteria. The winery is in the northern-most reaches of the Conegliano and Valdobiaddene hills with the Dolomites in their backyard. Their focus is sustainably farming and producing natural, top-notch Prosecco.
Region: Veneto
Country: Italy
Vineyard: Estate
Blend: Verdisio, Glera & Boschera (proprietary field blend)
Aging: 45-60 days on the lees
Production Notes: Produced from sustainably farmed grapes using the Charmat method. This fun and rustic wine is produced as a field blend of three estate-grown indigenous Italian grape varietals – verdisio, glera and boschera. The chalky, rocky, lean soils lend a pure, mineral edge to this brut-dry sparkling wine. Perfect as an aperitif or with a cheese plate, this unusual Italian sparkler is sure to please wine geeks and novices alike.
Tasting Notes: Aromas of mineral and fruit; crisp and lean.
Food Pairings: Sushi, asparagus, nuts, prosciutto, Italian cheeses

2010 Suriol Cava Brut Nature
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Bio: Cellers de Can Suriol is a family estate devoted to making traditional and ecologically sustainable wines using as little intervention as possible. They have been growing grapes and making wine on the same property located in the Alt Penedés since the 15th century.
Region: Alt Penedés, Cava
Country: Spain
Vineyard: Certified Organic, calcareous soil vineyards. 25 year old vines.
Blend: 40% Macabeo, 30% Xarlel-lo, 30% Parellada
Aging: 20 months on the lees
Production Notes: Fermented with indigenous yeasts in a vat, malolactic fermentation in concrete, secondary fermentation in the bottle. This vintage-dated Cava is quite unusual in it’s richness, body, complexity, and seductive character. We love the fine bubbles and beautiful golden color – it would be an excellent wine to pop open on New Year’s Eve to ring in the new year with friends and loved ones.
Tasting Notes: Aromas of honey, citrus, flowers, and anise. Medium bodied, mineral, and fruit-filled with a long finish.
Food Pairings: Jamón, seafood (fried, fresh, grilled), hard Spanish cheeses, tapas, tortilla española

NV François Pinon Vouvray Brut Non-Dose
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Winemaker: François Pinon
Bio: François Pinon is a retired child psychologist, making some of the best wines in Vouvray since 1987. He aims to maintain typicity of the region in his wines.
Region: Vouvray (Loire Valley)
Country: France
Vineyard: Certified Organic, estate-grown. Clay and silica soil on a base of tuffeau (limestone) and silex (flint). Average vine age is 25 years. Vineyards are plowed & hand-harvested, and chemical fertilizers and pesticides are never used.
Blend: 100% Chenin Blanc
Aging: 12 months sur lie
Production Notes: Only certified Organic estate fruit is used in the production of this wine, and the care taken in the vineyard really shines through. Aging occurs in a combination of stainless steel tanks and foudres (old, large-format oak casks) to maintain balance and freshness. Non-Dosé means there was no sugar added during disgorgement, so this wine is very dry. The finished wine is then sterile-filtered instead of heavily dosed with SO2 to provide stability.
Tasting Notes: 
Have you ever had a sparkling Vouvray? It’s like drinking real Champagne without the deep regret of emptying your bank account. Chenin Blanc lends itself to this Loire Valley specialty, producing a nuanced and delicious sparkling wine. Fresh, savory, bubbly, Chenin Blanc goodness. It’s our favorite sparkling wine from Vouvray.
Food Pairings:
Oysters, shellfish, goat cheese, trout, brunch foods, salads.

2010 Celler Acústic Red Blend
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Winemaker: Albert Jané
Bio: Albert Jané, a third-generation winemaker, believes the best wines are made with old winemaking techniques.
Region: Montsant (Catalunya)
Country: Spain
Vineyard: The organically farmed vineyards (planted in 1932) are located at high elevations, between 1200′ & 2200′. The soil is composed of clay, rock and sand.
Blend: Samsó & Garnacha
Aging: 10-12 months in new & used French oak barrels
Production Notes: Hand-harvested grapes are fermented with indigenous yeasts. The wine is racked using gravity into the estate’s 200 year old underground tanks, then is aged in a combination of new and used French oak barrels for 10-12 months. The wine is unfined, unfiltered, and a true expression of Montsant terroir.
Tasting Notes:
Ripe, layered black & red fruits, balanced acidity, supple tannins, and well-integrated oak make this wine perfect for drinking on it’s own or enjoying with food.
Food Pairings:
Braised beef, stew, roasted game birds, charcuterie, mushroom dishes, or delicious all by itself.

2010 Réméjeanne ‘Les Arbousiers’ Côtes du Rhône
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Winemaker: Rémy Klein
Bio: Originally established in 1960, Rémy took over the domain from his father in 1988. He constantly strives to improve upon the quality of his wines by trying new approaches, and expands the vineyards while planting fig and olive trees.
Region: Côtes du Rhône
Country: France
Vineyard: Certified Organic vineyards rest at an elevation of 650′-900′ in sandstone and limestone soils. Vines are an average age of 25 years. The higher elevations and geographic location of the vineyard creates a much cooler climate than the surrounding areas.
Blend: 60% Grenache, 40% Syrah
Aging: 12 months in cement tanks
Production Notes: Grapes are hand-harvested, destemmed, and cold-soaked prior to fermentation. This red wine is from a cooler part of the Southern Rhone, which imparts a freshness and liveliness not usually found in wines from this region.
Tasting Notes:
This wine has density, concentration, and structure which all interplay to produce a delicious, harmonious red wine. Notes of red fruit, tobacco, licorice, mint and spice.
Food Pairings:
Roasted chicken, root vegetables, burgers, onion soup, pizza, sausage.

2011 Domaine Filliatreau ‘La Grand Vignolle’ Saumur-Champigny
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Winemaker: Frédrik Filliatreau
Bio: A 4th generation winemaker, Frédrik continues to work with his family to produce wines from various vineyards in Saumur-Champigny.
Region: Saumur-Champigny
Country: France
Vineyard: La Grand Vignolle is a well-known vineyard which rests atop a tufa-stone outcrop that runs along the Loire river. The old vines are organically farmed and yields are kept low.
Blend: 100% Cabernet Franc
Aging: Stainless steel
Production Notes: The highly calcareous soil lends acidity and juiciness that is often lost in wines from this region. The wine is aged in tanks instead of oak, which adds additional freshness to the wine. The wines of Saumur-Champigny are some of our favorite old-world Cabernet Franc – a genetic parent of the Cabernet Sauvignon grape. While this wine is drinking well now, it would make a great gift for a person who is interested in aging wine.
Tasting Notes:
Chisled red fruit, tobacco & licorice. Full-bodied and structured with herbal notes which are the hallmark of Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley.
Food Pairings: 
Aged goat cheese, lamb, duck, vegetable dishes, steak with pepper, eggplant.

Pre-Order your Winelandia Holiday 6-Pack!

Now that Thanksgiving has passed, we are ramping up to offer a 6-pack of Holiday wines perfectly suited to the month of December. There will be celebrations with friends, office parties, holiday meals, gift-giving, and New Year’s Eve. We are putting together a collection of wines that will pair with all of your events, which will include three fuller-bodied red wines and three sparkling wines in the $20 range. The total price of the 6-pack will not exceed $125, excluding tax and shipping.

The best thing about the Winelandia Holiday 6-Pack is that you needn’t be a Wine Club member to buy it – it’s available as an a la carte purchase to everyone. So if you’ve been on the fence about joining our wine club and want to see what we have to offer before making a commitment, this is the perfect time to do it.

We are finalizing the list this week but we are taking pre-orders. We will be shipping & delivering early next week. Sign up at https://signup.winelandia.com. We will get back to you to finalize your order. Delivery within San Francisco is free and there’s a $5 delivery fee for orders within the Bay Area. If you are outside of the Bay Area, UPS shipping is billed at cost.

Support small businesses this holiday season and give happiness! Give wine!

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