I am getting excited for my first time at the Wine Bloggers Conference, this year in Lodi, CA from August 11-14. Hopefully much of it will be indoors as the Central Valley can get pretty toasty in the summer!
If you happen to attending as well, then make time on Friday evening for a Charles Communications event with me spinning vinyl on the Klinker Brick patio! RSVP to Greer Shull at rsvp(at)charlescomm.com or 415-701-WINE to save your space.
The results are in! Check out the wines that won at SFIWC 2016 this year. Also, enjoy a few pics from my days judging at Hotel Nikko while you are at it. Cheers! Christopher
Pink Out! The start of a colorful flight of Rosé on Day 1; (clockwise from left); Taking a break with my fellow judges, wine guru Jeffery Stivers and New Orleans-based wine and spirits radio personality Tim McNally; #StrengthInNumbers: Selfie Deluxe with my fellow judges sommelier Eduardo Dingler of Morimoto Napa; wine educator Ian Blackburn of LA-based WineCloudInc; sommelier Tonya Pitts of One Market SF, author, wine personality and star of Check Please Bay Area Leslie Sbracco, and author, sommelier and proprietor of A16 and RN74 in SF, Shelley Lindgren; The magnificent menu for the Judges Dinner at Hotel Nikko International, with dazzling wines provided by Gloria Ferrer and Jaimeson Ranch wineries.
In this article I wrote, just published in the June issue of Napa Sonoma Magazine join me on an exploration of some fantastic winery estates; Keller Estate, Three Sticks at the Adobe, Bacigalupi Vineyards, Palmaz Vineyards, Chappellet and Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars.
First of all a big THANK YOU to the wonderful folks at Gloria Ferrer, Wilson-Daniels, Deutch Family, Keller Estate, Banfi, Ramey, Failla, Aril, Goosecross, Grieve, Arista, Garnet, Palm Bay Imports, E&J Gallo, Rodney Strong, Southern Wines & Spirits, Republic National Distributing Co & Grand Vin, and especially my assistant Teale. They all made this happen!
Warm welcome to the historic town of Telluride on Main Street with the famous Idarado Legacy Trail and Rocky Mountains in the background. (top/bottom) Exploring the complex flavor profiles of Coastal Pinot Noirs with tasty offerings from The Calling, Garnet Vineyards, Keller Estate, Arista Winery and Three Sticks Wines. Special thanks to Sonoma County Vintners & Petaluma Gap board member Ana Keller for being part of this sold-out seminar for 70 people with me!
For my pairing with the exclusive Caviar Dinner at a private residence in Mountain Village, an all-star lineup of fine European bubbles from Gosset Champagne, Pierre Sparr, and Buglioni. (Left)
-Alsatian Invasion: Fun Sunday morning photo shoot with a bottle of the Pierre Sparr Cremant d’Alsace Brut Rose and the spectacular Bridal Veil Falls in the background. (top right to bottom)
-My great friend Lars Leicht of Cru Artisan and Banfi Vintners speaking to a packed house at our fun seminar and tasting, The Extraordinary Tuscan Experience.
-Sonoma County Vintners in bubbly form! Fabulous bottles of the Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noirs and the J Wine Company Cuvee 20 featured at an amazing Saveur Pass Luncheon & Sparkling Wines to kick off the festival with the towering Mount Wilson in the background.
The brilliant Second Course at the Caviar Dinner created by talented Chef Bernard Guillas of Marine Restaurant in San Diego featuring fresh sashimi-grade Alaskan Halibut, Black River Caviar, and more flavorful accouterments! (top left)
-At the “King Georges” Gala to honor iconic French Chef George Perrier, founder of Le Bec-Fin Restaurant in Philadelphia in 1970, a Soufflé Glace Grand Marnier by Chef Jason Bayle. (left to right)
-#SawyerSelfieDeluxe with Chef Ann Cooper, founder of the Chef Ann Foundation, a magnificent charitable organization focused on making sure kids eat healthy at schools across the nation. Check out www.chefannfoundation.org to learn more information about this amazing project.
-Recreating one of Chef George Perrier’s most famous dishes during his forty-year stint at his famous restaurant in Philadelphia, the Gallette de Crabe “Le Bec-Fin” by Chef James Reaux.
For those staying local this weekend here is a nearby option to taste wines from over 30 Mendocino wineries!
Taste of Mendocino will be pouring their best wines, with numerous artisanal food producers serving up delicious bites to complement. Take a trek to SF, at the Fort Mason Center for Arts and Culture, Gallery 308, 2 Marina Blvd, Bldg A. Tickets are $60.
Take the shortcut to Tuscany, via Telluride Wine Festival! Join me and Lars Leicht from Banfi to taste through an amazing samplings of Vermentino and Bolgheri Rosso from the coast; a new single vineyard Chianti, and bringing it all together with the newly released 2011 Brunellos. Fantastico!
Another great seminar and guest at Telluride Wine Festival! Jeff Boyer of Ramey Wines, to discuss and taste through a selection of their wines.
The Taste of Two Valleys will encompass the wines of David Ramey, whom has crafted world-class Chardonnay and Syrah with premium grapes grown in Russian River Valley and the Sonoma Coast appellations in Sonoma County for two decades. Join us Friday, June 24 from 3:30-4:30pm!
Ramey 2013 Chardonnay, Russian River Valley
Ramey 2013 Chardonnay, Woolsey Road Vineyard, Russian River Valley
Ramey 2014 Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley
Ramey 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Ramey 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Pedregal Vineyard, Napa Valley
Yes, its true May 26th is a National Chardonnay Day, a festive date completely devoted to the precious golden colored grape grown in medium to cool climate areas around the globe. And I’m happy to say there is more to celebrate about Chardonnay than ever before!
In addition to the highly successful Chardonnay Symposium held in San Lis Obispo in mid May; this year represent the 40-year anniversary of when the Chateau Montelena 1973 Chardonnay won over the won over the top
producers of Burgundy at the famous “Judgment of Paris” tasting.
At the time of the Paris tasting, there were just over a thousand acres planted in California. Over the next decade, the number rose 7,000 acres. But the real turning point came in 1988, when the 45,000 acres planted primarily in the interior and coastal regions of California finally surpassed the amount planted in Burgundy.
Of course, there were pluses and minus along the way. On the good side, the special version of Wente clones developed by Wente Vineyards and university of California Davis became the dominate grape planted in almost 75 percent of the Chardonnay vineyards in California.
In the cellars, Hanzell Vineyards in Sonoma developed a special heating and cooling system that made it possible to make it possible for all wineries to create creamy flavors through the process of malo-lactic fermentation. They were also the first to use French oak barrels to create more expressive and ageworthy wines with more complex nuances of wood and spice.
While many of these historic wineries continued to produce world class wines. In the 1980s and early 1990s, the styles in the bigger US market started to shift towards big fat butterball styles highlighted by overripe flavors of baked apples, pears, tropical fruit, vanilla, a heavy creamy or buttery texture, and a good helping of oak to slam the point home. In turn, the true natural flavor and versatile character of the grape variety was lost in transition to many consumers.
But just when you though all hope was lost; Chardonnay has come back to being one of the most talked about grape varieties in restaurants and wine shops across the nation. We can thank a lot of the great brands who are focused on making wines with bright fruit flavors, vibrant acidity, and elegant natural texture. In a nutshell, the artistry of working with the grape is back!
“Every decision you make in the vineyard or the cellars is another brushstroke,” says winemaker Matt Crafton of Chateau Montelena. “So it’s really more about the judicious use of paint on that canvas, or else you can completely overwhelm the wine.”
Over the next month, look for my upcoming stories in the SOMM Journal, Napa Sonoma Magazine and other publications that are focused on my seminars and top picks from The Chardonnay Symposium; inside looks at Chateau Montelena and Bacigalupi Vineyards, which provided 40% of the Chardonnay grapes that went into the 1973 vintage that won the Pairs Tasting; Champagne producers specializing in working with Chardonnay; and detailed interviews with star winemakers, vintners, and growers who are passionate about working with this noble grape with a golden hue. In the meantime, cheers to drinking more Chardonnay every day!