For a change of pace check out this roaming festival, making a weekend stop north of SF on June 4 & 5. The California Beer Festival comes to Stafford Lake in Novato, a lakeside encounter with beer, food and music. Sounds like a great way to get the summer rolling!
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!
After the devastating Valley Fire last autumn local organizations and citizens have been collaborating in a multitude of ways to help support the recovery and redevelopment of Lake County. It seems the efforts are making a difference, particularly in regards to their wine industry, with events in addition to ample tourism.
Read this recent Press Democrat article by Bill Swindell to find out more and perhaps think about ways we can continue supporting our neighborto the North:
Care to frolic with goats? Well here is your chance! For two weekends in May, Redwood Hill Farm offers farm tours which of course means playing with baby goats, learning to milk a goat, or feeding and brushing the goats! There will be milking parlor demonstrations, lots of kids’ activities and of course picnicking in the beautiful Gravenstein Apple orchard. But will there be wine you ask? Not sure, that depends on how you load your picnic . . .
Redwood Hill Farm tour dates are May 8 and May 21 & 22, 11 am – 3 pm. Rain cancels so be sure to check the website beforehand, then plan your trek over to 5480 Thomas Road in Sebastopol. Until then check out this interview by Daedalus Howell with the goat cheese man himself, David Bice!
With the recent relocation of Sunset Magazine headquarters, Sonoma County also inherits the 18th Annual Celebration Weekend! Join editors, celebrity chefs, vintners, craft beer brewers and renowned lifestyle experts at Cornerstone in Sonoma, CA, for this two-day series of culinary, wine, garden and lifestyle events. Enjoy the grand opening of Sunset’s Test Gardens and Outdoor Kitchen, as well as an all-new, high-design Airstream Village. More event information at Sunset Magazine.
VIP ticket holders will experience even more at Celebration Weekend, including: Early entry at 10am Welcome gift bag Unlimited tastes from wine, beer, and spirits purveyors Exclusive VIP lounge access, including live entertainment, featured regional wines, refreshments, catered meals and snacks
Purchase you tickets HERE!
See what Celebration Weekend has in store for you
in this video montage!
I am getting ready for another trip to the lovely Central Coast. This time for The Chardonnay Symposium, May 12 through 14, in the coastal resort towns of Pismo Beach and Avila Beach.
I will be moderating the seminar Taste the Difference: ExploringCalifornia’s Distinct Chardonnay Regions on Saturday (10am to 11:30am) at Edna Valley Vineyard, where I will talk about how climate, soil and elevation influence each of these five world-class regions and how to determine the origin by simply nosing and tasting the wine.
However there will be a fabulous selection of events and locations to attend starting on Thursday, here is the list, with more details on each HERE:
French Forum: Exploring The Wonders of French Chardonnay-lunch included (11:00am–1:30pm)
Wente Clone Comparative Tasting (2:00pm–3:30pm)
Pét-Nat, Sparkling Wine & Oysters Gala (4:00pm–6:00pm)
La Paulée Dinner and Vintners Awards Ceremony (7:00pm–10:00pm)
Hone Your Chardonnay Blind-Tasting Skills (10:30am-12:30pm)
What’s Oak Got To Do With It? (11:00am–12:30pm)
Pairing Chardonnay & Artisanal Cheese (11:30am–1:00pm)
Saturday Grand Tasting (1:00pm–5:00pm)
Winemaker Dinners (7:00pm–9:00pm)
Hope you are able to join me for this exciting event! Cheers, Christopher