Category Archives: Travels

Lesson Plan: Catching up on the Mendocino Appellation!

After a wonderful weekend  at Andersen Valley Pinot Noir Festival, I think is it only fitting that my readers do a little Appellation homework!

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Photo courtesy of John Cesano.

You can study your favorite wine regions at the BuyWine.com site courtesy of contributions by myself and others.

Follow the windy road to Mendocino here!

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 Cheers!  Christopher

“Zaca Mesa University” Santa Barbara Wine Seminar Spring 2015 – The Highlight Reel

I am sharing this highlight reel with you courtesy of the Crushed Grape Chronicles.  Zaca Mesa has turned out a plethora of amazing wine makers, my seminar led a discussion with 4 of the best!  Ken Brown, Jim Clendenen, Bob Lindquist & Eric Mohseni – read more in the CGC Article.

They will start releasing the full seminar in segments for you to enjoy on May 20th.  This will include the tasting with wine from each of these amazing winemakers.

Santa Barbara Vintners Festival this week, April 23-26

The Santa Barbara Vintners Spring Weekend and Festival is nearly here and tickets are almost sold out for the Friday night Vintage Party and Saturday morning wine seminar.

FRIDAY NIGHT VINTAGE PARTY

First join me at the Vintage Party, a traditional La Paulee style dinner hosted by the Santa Barbara Vintners and Mattei’s Tavern to welcome Spring Weekend visitors to Santa Barbara Wine Country on the evening before the Festival. In the La Paulee tradition, attendees will bring their favorite Vintage 2009 or older wine from Santa Barbara County or beyond to share.

THE SANTA BARBARA WINE SEMINAR

Next I will be moderating this engaging wine seminar on Saturday morning before the Festival at the Santa Ynez Valley Marriott. This year it will feature winemakers whose wine careers were influenced by their time working at Zaca Mesa. SBvint2

Trekking the wine road. . .

mtveeder2This month leads into a collection of treks that keep me moving throughout April!  So many exciting events that I want to share some details.  Perhaps a few of you will be joining me along the way. . .

Begining this week, on Thursday April 16th, I will be at the Mt. Veeder Spring Tasting, discussing the 25-year anniversary of the appellation at their media luncheon.

This is an exciting event so take advantage to participate in their public tasting, tickets are available at Mt Veeder Appellation.

Even sooner, I will be judging two prestigious wine competitions. The first is the Press Democrat North Coast Wine Challenge, April PD_NC-wine_challange14-15, at the Hilton Sonoma Wine Country Hotel at Fountaingrove in Santa Rosa. Winners of the event will be announced in the Press Democrat.  On May 17, many of these award winning wines will be featured along with dishes made by some of Sonoma County’s top chefs at The Barlowe in Sebastopol.

Then, for the long haul south, I will be at the Sunset International Wine Competition judging between April 26-28.  Besides being one of the top wine competitions in the nation, this year also marks the last time the competition will be held at the expansive Sunset Headquarters in Menlo Park.  For that reason, the other judges and I will be sure to make the most out of this experience, before final sale of the property.  Entries for this competition end on April 17th.

sunset2015You can continue to follow these exploits by virtual means, on my Social Media outlets; Facebook, Twitter  and Instagram.  There will be fun pictures and daily updates.

Last note,  don’t forget that Friday, April 24th is International Sauvignon Blanc Day!  When posting use #SauvBlanc, #nzwine, etc, and don’t forget to spread the word! -CS

Move Over Sideways! My yearly sojourn to Santa Barbara.

It’s time to taste through some of the finest new releases California has to offer at the 33rd Annual Santa Barbara Vintners Spring Weekend, April 23-26. For starters, guests will be able to visit 12 wineries involved in the Vintners Visa festivities going on from Thursday to Sunday. But for foodie lovers, the fabulous weekend kicks off with the Friday Night Vintage Party at Mattei’s Tavern in Los Olivos, where star sommelier Eric Railsback and I will help serve Santa Ynez Valley 044magnificent cellar selections from Dierberg and Star Lane Vineyards, Qupe Wine Cellars & Verdad Wine Cellars, Turiya Wines, Dascomb Cellars, Presqu’ile Winery, Imagine Wine, Rusack Vineyards, Melville Winery, and Martellotto Wines.

On Saturday morning, I’ll be leading a special seminar focused on the history of the Santa Ynez Valley, a legendary appellation established in 1983, through the eyes of gifted wnemakers who all worked at Zaca Mesa Winery during the early stages of their careers. Then, it’s time for the Grand Tasting at the River View Park in Buellton. This popular afternoon will feature offering from over 120 wineries paired up tasty bites from the best chefs in the county.

For more information, visit Vintners Spring Weekend.

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Your Favorite Limousine Service for Wine Tours: Get the App!

purelux3In a recent Press Democrat article it was announced that Pure Luxury, a local transportation service has developed it’s own on-demand car service called BlinkCar.  This Smartphone App will allow customers to  book rides instantaneously.

BlinkCar began in December but just in Petaluma.  Service is now expanding to Santa Rosa and Sonoma, and in the spring to Napa Valley.

If you have not yet, peruse the Wine Tour options on their website and definitely give Jennifer & Gary Buffo your business:  The soon to be developed Sommelier Tours will be featuring Yours Truly!

Festive Wine Events Galore!

With the main snow season for 2015 still on hold, it’s time to look at the great wine tasting opportunities that are happening in Northern California.

San Francisco: Zinfandel Experience, January 29-31

Each year, fans of red wine from around the United States flock to San Francisco to participate in the annual event put on by the Zinfandel Advocates and Producers (a.k.a. ZAP), a non-profit organization devoted to preserving the history and pageantry of world class wines made with California’s “sweet-heart” grape. Highlights of this year’s three-day event include: Epicurian, a magnificent wine and food pairing event at the Golden Gate Club in the Presidio, on Thursday, January 29; Flights!, a thought-provoking tasting hosted by legendary winemaker Joel Peterson at the Four Seasons in San Francisco on Friday, January 30; and the annual Grand Tasting featuring over 500 wines being poured by the top California producers, a silent auction, and opportunities to learn about special wines from the important appellation where the cherished grape is grown at Sommelier & Winemakers Terroir Workshops on Saturday January 31, at the Presidio, Golden Gate Club & Film Centre. If you make it to the Grand Tasting, be sure to make time for my 2pm Workshop about Lake County & Mendocino AVA too! For ticket information to all these events, visit www.zinfandelexperience.com.

Anderson Valley, Mendocino: International Alsace Varietals Festival, February 7-8

If you like aromatic white wines with fragrant aromas and distinctive flavors, I would suggest you get in the car and head directly to Mendocino County for the 10th Annual Alsace festival in Anderson Valley, an event focused on rockstar wines made with Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Muscat grapes grown in the Alsace region of France, California, Oregon, Michigan, New York, and other special appellations around the globe.

On Saturday, February 7th, the festivities kick-off with two special events at the County Fairgrounds in downtown Boonville (14400 Highway 128). The first is the Educational Session, a fantastic interactive event from 8:30 am to 12:30 pm, which allows guests to listen to and interact with winemakers from around the world as they discuss the topics of grape growing, winemaking and food pairing specific to Alsace varietals.

PrintThe special 10-year anniversary Session will include a discussion on the Appellation of Crus in Alsace, complimented by a tasting of the 8 Grand Crus produced by Domaines Schlumberger. On the sommeliers side, I will be leading a special Pinot Blanc tasting focusing on wines from three wineries using grapes grown in the same vineyard (Schrader Ranch); fellow sommelier Christie Dufault, Instructor of Wine and Beverage Studies at the CIA Greystone, will do a presentation on how to pair food with Gewürztraminer; and the morning will be rounded out with a Cooking Demonstration done by talented Chef Francois de Melogue.

In the afternoon, the Grand Tasting will offer chances to taste over 100 Alsace Varietal wines made by producers from around the world, including local producers like Balo Vineyards, Brooks Wines, Claiborne & Churchill, Cutruzzola Vineyards, Elke Vineyards, FEL Wines, Foris Vineyards, Handley Cellars, Lula Cellars, Navarro Vineyards, Phillips Hill Winery, Philo Ridge Vineyards, Robert Sinskey Vineyards, Saintsbury and Tatomer Wines, as well as special selections from the New Zealand Winegrowers and Wines of Alsace. To complement the wines, fresh oysters, Tarte Flambée and Pork Belly dishes will be served on the food tables at the event.

In the evening, the activities will conclude with the Winemakers Dinner at Scharffenberger Cellars in Philo (8501 Highway 128). The dinner will feature fabulous dishes made by Chef Janelle Weaver (Owner/Chef at The Bewildered Pig, Executive Chef at Peter Michael Winery, and former Executive Chef for Kuleto Estate), which emphasize the unique flavors of the wine s and how well they work with the bounty of the local area.

The Educational Session is $45 per person, and the Grand Tasting is $65 per person, but if you want to attend both a combined ticket is only $100. The Winemakers Dinner is $130 per person. To learn more and buy tickets visit International Alsace Varietals Festival.

Lodi: Wine & Chocolates Weekend, February 7-8

winechoc2014_0553With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about aphrodisiac wine and food pairings. For many, an easy choice is chocolate. This is what the Lodi Winegrape Commission had in mind when they started the popular Wine & Chocolate Weekend eighteen years ago. And this year’s event is bigger than ever!

Taste handcrafted sweet and savory chocolate bites with rich, spicy and complex wines at over 50 wineries. At $55 in advance and $65 at the door, tickets include an event wine glass, a chocolate treat from sponsor BRIX Chocolates, wine tasting, and admission to all participating wineries. Designated drivers are free of charge. www.Lodiwine.com.

Other upcoming events:

SRJC Wine Classic: February 8th, 2-5pm

San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition Public Tasting: February 14th, 1:30-5pm

Mediterranean Wine Cruise: July 2015

I am excited to be joining this Isles & Empires Wine Cruise in July of 2015.  It will be my second experience as a cruise sommelier.  This tour takes us from Rome to Venice on the Oceania Riviera with an amazing St. Francis and J. Lohr wine selection.

St. Francis and J.Lohr Isles and Empires Wine Cruise Reserve your tickets soon:  Something exciting to look forward to and a fantastic holiday gift!

For more information or to make reservations call 877-651-7447 or email wineclub@cruiseshipcenters.com.

Hope you can join us!

Talking turkey in the foothills.

Yes, we can see them here in Northern California Wine Country crossing roads, displaying feathers, and sharing feed with cows in the field on a regular basis. But I am talking about the upcoming feast that leaves them gobbling in terror!

Have you ever gone to the Sierra Nevada Foothills for Thanksgiving? LRVwine12We have spent much time there, particularly along Ebbetts Pass and found it to be a great place to initiate the holiday festivities. One memorable holiday meal was spent with my mother, brother and late Grandma Joanie, at the historic Murphys Hotel. Murphys is a pleasantly social foothill town sporting oodles of Tasting Rooms: As in wine! Waddle around town after your turkey stuffing right into a glass of Zin.  Hovey, Lavender Ridge, Newsome-Harlow, Twisted Oak are just a few examples of the hospitible local flavors to sample along the main strip.

The line up at Newsome Harlow Tasting Room in Murphys.
The line up at Newsome Harlow Tasting Room in Murphys.

Among the multitude of destinations heading north from Ebbetts Pass, along the historic Highway 49, another great stop for wine is the quaint town of Nevada City.  Also with a handful of Tasting Rooms sprinkled throughout the short downtown strip (some delicious restaurants as well).  For some suggestions on the offerings visit this blog from our favorite lodging there, The Outside Inn. Wherever you decide to explore, enjoy your meal!  And be sure to confirm tasting room hours before planning your trip.

Happy Holidays!