From tractors to corks, this year's North Coast Wine Industry Expo (WIN)
offered attendees a toolbox of leading wine industry trends and information.
Hosted in Santa Rosa, attendees chose sessions on up and coming wine practices,
walked the Trade Show floor, and mingled with others in the wine industry.
Ultimately, the California wine industry is all about putting a better glass of wine in your hand.
Here are a few highlights of the day...
Behind the Bottle...a look at who pours your wine.
Have you ever been tasting and found a great wine you liked? Often, it's not just the wine that you liked. The winery's staff, its vibe, and the customer service can all enhance the tasting encounter.
Behind the bottle, the tasting room staff need to be on task and
offer guests the best possible wine experience.
Before they pour into your glass, noteworthy staff are themselves poured into thru training.
The Investing in Staff Training session offered insightful ideas for winery management
and for employees. Keys that can be applied to any industry.
For Winery management, here are a few Take-Aways
For Winery Staff, here are a few Take-Aways:
What else do wineries desire of their employees? A good work ethic. It's hard to fake that!
Luxury. “Where need takes off to want.”
Eric Guerra, from Vineyard 29 (Link) was kind enough to chat with me via phone,
while waiting at the airport for a flight. He lead the Luxury Wine Session.
Eric has a broad arch of experience in the Luxury Wine world.
His common theme was excellence!
I asked Eric what he thought about the Bay Area luxury wine market.
He's tasted some of the greatest wines in the world, including wines from Ridge Vineyards in Cupertino. Eric mentioned that Ridge proved to him
“the (Bay) Area can make some of the best wines in the world, if done right.”
If you're a winery/owner wanting to tap into the Luxury Wine market, remember:
The concept of luxury is just that—a concept. It is 100% Perception. It's a feeling that becomes a reality in people's thinking. Eric shared if there's a Pinot Grigio for $12 and one for $25, people often feel the more expensive wine has to be better! And many consumers want "better."
Does Anybody See Me? Getting your Winery Noticed.
Mike Blazac, from Balzac Communications and Marketing (Link.)
was one of the speakers at the What Wine Writers are Looking For session.
He too chatted with me via phone. (A big thanks to your guys!)
For wineries, how do your guests find you?
And what kind of winery content are you offering your guests? Wine fans, more and more, look beyond the classic brochure to other content forms:
your web site, your winery blog, social media, event write ups, and features by influencers.
Help your customers find you:
And my own personal tip...make sure your winery's web site content/info is accurate and up to date. It's handy for your customers and also those featuring your winery.
For more info on the WIN Expo, visit their link.
The jewel like liquid you sip and savor has a history.
From vineyards and production, to marketing, and operations.
You may be surprised to hear some of the singular ways
your favorite California winery goes out of their way to craft your preferred wines.
So cheers to the whole team of people behind the bottle, and to those getting the word out.
Here's a look at more Wine Jaunts beyond the Bay Area.
Cheese, wine, and chocolate are a friendly trio.
With so many delicious wine and food options,
keeping it simple over the Christmas and holiday season is ideal.
Cheese and wine make for a great starter, or dessert course.
Chocolate and wine, especially red wines, are best friends.
Aged, hard cheeses can be served along side wine and chocolate.
Cheese & Wine Pairing tips for the holidays
...and for 2019!
Brie & Bubbles.
Serve Brie with dry Champagne/sparkling wine. The yeast of the Champagne elevates the
musty-ness of the Brie. Expand the flavors with dried Slab apricots.
Try a Santa Cruz Mountain Champagne style wine...Equinox Wines (link)
locally crafts some of the best sparkling wines!
Pinot Noir & Bleu d’Auvergne.
Sharp and creamy, blue cheese is notoriously good sprinkled over grilled steak.
The tangy cheese pairs classically with a dried cranberry, walnut, spinach and bacon salad.
A Pinot Noir with a bit more body elevates these foods.
Go for a flavor explosion and add dates, honey, and dark chocolate.
Try Morgan Winery's Pinot Noirs (link.)
Chardonnay & Comte'.
One of my new favorite cheeses, Comte'
is produced in large wheels, up to 85-100 pounds.
Enjoy hints of stone fruit, toasted nuts, and cream.
Wrights Station Vineyard and Winery offers 3 local Chardonnays to choose from (link.)
Enjoy a Late Harvest Zinfandel (dessert wine) or Port with dark chocolate.
Try Storrs Winery's Late Harvest Zin (link.)
Or tuck into a glass of Merlot with chocolate cake.
Go for a cool weather Monterey County or Santa Cruz Mountains Merlot.
Bargetto Winery's 2016 Merlot, Santa Cruz Mountains, would be spot on with the cocoa flavors (link.)
Cheeses of Europe
hosted a cheese and wine pairing at the WBC.
Recently my lactose intolerant friend was in Portugal.
Being the gracious guest she is, she ate the local cheese and was fine!
But once back at home, she had difficulty with chain grocery store cheese.
I find that “cleaner” foods (natural, un-mucked foods) work better for our bodies.
Cheeses of Europe served cheeses that were from specific regions,
aged with natural methods, and made with natural, whole ingredients.
Qualities that make for an excellent product.
For recipes and cheese tips, visit Cheeses of Europe.
So find a local cheese producer or look for European cheeses made with all natural ingredients.
You may have success with that...and get back together with cheese!
Pair with Bay Area wines and celebrate the season.
Cheers to your Christmas season and to the love of cheese, wine, and chocolate!
For more flavor profiles, visit my Nose & Palate page and taste away!
This was my first jaunt into the Somerset area, and I think it's one of California's best kept secrets. Tucked in the Fair Play Viticulture Area, it's beautiful with its wide open spaces and vistas.
Shadow Ranch Vineyard offers tastings in their spacious barrel-production room for special events, as well as in their main tasting room, up the hill. Behind the scenes, Shadow Ranch Vineyards uses sustainable farming practices, organically farms their grapes, and is solar powered.
Owners Sam and Kimari Patterson run their small family owned winery. Sam has a degree in oenology and viticulture. He's hands on; from farmer to winemaker, from the vineyard to the bottle. Kimari runs the tasting room which was full of Shadow Ranch fans during my visit.
Grapes are grown under Sam's guidance. He has 30 acres of estate grapes. He also contracts with landowners and cares for other vineyards. Then, he harvests the grapes, produces his wines, and gives wine back to the landowners. A win-win for everyone.
I particularly enjoyed the tastings in the large barrel/production room.
The juxtaposition of the stacked barrels reaching up to the chandeliers
was a successful contrast in décor.
The industrial setting was highlighted with thoughtful details,
such as the beautiful cellar doors crafted by Sam's father who's a woodworker.
And the country, cowboy motif fits the place.
Shadow Ranch Vineyards makes two lines of wines.
Their Shadow Ranch line offers regional favorites such as Tempranillo, Zinfandel, Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, and more.
The 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon has a background of smoky flavors from the King Fire. It reminded me of drinking a glass of wine next to a campfire, one of my favorite summer activities!
The Sheriff line of wines is this year's addition to the Shadow Ranch lineup of wines.
These California Foothills wines are full flavored and expressive.
Budget friendly at $17 a bottle, these would make for a great house wine.
It's easy to see why their popularity has taken off in local restaurants, as well as the tasting room.
The winery served pork sliders and salad with their Sheriff wines.
The spiced and smoky flavors of the wine and the sliders complemented each other.
The barrel room setting would be perfect for a farm-style wedding or anniversary party.
Guests were smiling as the staff poured wines.
It was just a good time. That's what wine tasting is all about!
*The Sheriff Sauvignon Blanc was a lovely floral and mineral combination in the glass,
and leaned on the sweeter side.
*The Sheriff Zinfandel offered heady flavors of clove and dark cherry, and a bit of sweetness. I loved the spice to it!
*Also, look for the Sheriff Cabernet Sauvignon and Sheriff Red Blend.
Shadow Ranch has one of the best picnic areas I've seen at a winery.
The fresh air will bring out the flavors of any foods you bring!
Or, enjoy farm-to-fork local dining in Plymouth (south-ish) or Placerville (north-ish.)
The winery's wide open grassy area is perfect for families and kids—traffic free.
The Fair Play region boasts good weather much of the year.
It's a hamlet of over a dozen artisan wineries within a few miles each other.
Cheers to your Somerset wine jaunt!
Visiting the Santa Cruz area? Be sure to check out my post on Wargin Wines,
just a short drive from the beach.
Walla Walla means “many waters” but the region might be more aptly be called, a land of “Many Wines.”
Walla Walla (a.k.a. Walla2) hosted this year's Wine Blogger/Writers Conference. Wine writers, hobbyists, and wine industry professionals gathered from across the States and from around the world, including Australia, Canada, Brazil, and more. My husband and I made it a road trip and drove up from the Bay Area. We drove through hour after hour of stunning and desolate spaces to Washington's south-west wine country.
With a population of just under 33,000 people, and under 13 square miles, Walla Walla boasts 120 wineries! Those are amazing wine to people ratios by anyone's count.
This city is a culinary and wine lover's dream. After three days of the conference, I truly believed you can die from too much of a good thing. The sessions, excursions, local food and wine started at 9:00 am and continued until 9 or 10 pm. The wineries and local chefs shared their best.
You won't find a Whole Foods, a Trader Joe's, or a even a Costco here. But it doesn't matter. The fresh local produce, meats, and wines will win you over. The conference was hosted downtown at the Marcus Whitman Hotel and Conference Center (Link.) Guests can walk out the door, stand, and count anywhere from 5-10 tasting rooms within sight. If you walk and meander the downtown grid, you could wine taste for days, or weeks! And for the size of the area, the plethora of local restaurants rivals some of the West Coast's finest cities.
You would think that with so many wineries in such a small community, there would be heavy competition. But the opposite is true. Just 10 miles south is Milton-Freewater, Oregon. The two semi-connected border towns form one wine region. And since Walla2 is miles from any major cities, winemakers lean on each other to share ideas, promote the region, and spread the word on their note-worthy wines.
Here's a glance at the local wine scene:
Cadaretta Wines hosted a special evening excursion at their Glasshouse.
The Glasshouse is reserved for special occasions. Perched on the hills,
it offers dynamic views of the Milton-Freewater and Walla2 valley that are truly special!
The Middleton family owns and operates Cadaretta Wines.
With roots in the lumber business, the winery is named after the family's
early 20th century lumber schooner. The tasting room is located on Walla Walla's E Main St.
Visit the site for their current wines: https://www.cadaretta.com/
The Cadaretta's dinner and pairing was a great launch pad for
combining wines, foods, and flavors at home.
2014 Cadaretta Windthrow. This blend of Rhone varietals was served with
wild Canadian Arctic Char, Yukon potato emulsion, chanterelle mushrooms, and plum relish.
2015 Cadaretta Southwind Malbec. Served with maple braised lamb shanks,
risotto, mushrooms, and dates.
And for dessert, the 2014 Cadaretta Springboard, Bordeaux Blend,
accompanied petite fours and chocolate truffles.
G. Cuneo Cellars
Located in the Latin Corner, catty-corner from the hotel,
Gino Cuneo hosted a small winemaker's chat and private tasting.
Conference attendees had the chance to visit the tasting room and sample Gino's wines.
Gino produces classic Italian style wines from eastern Washington fruit.
If you've had Italian wines and been turned off, try Cuneo Cellar's wines.
Gino's wines are smooth, full flavored yet not heavy.
Experience pleasing acidity—no hint of vinegar here.
Full expressions of fruit frame the wines, each with its own personality.
Gino has 30 years of winemaking experience in Oregon and Washington.
He used to focus on making Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir.
In the process he started making Italian wines: then, exclusively Italian.
Each wine needs to be crafted with special care.“You don't treat your kids the same,” Gino shared.
G. Cuneo Cellars started offering their wines DTC (direct to consumer) 5 years ago.
Tastings and purchasing are available at their tasting room downtown.
Or find their wines via wine club, phone, or online: https://www.ginocuneocellars.com/
For the tastings:
2016 Rosato, dry Rose' Wine, Columbia Valley WA.
2013 Nebarro, red blend (Nebbiolo & Barbera,) Columbia Valley WA.
The grande dame of the wines was Gino's 2013 Seccopassa.
This unique wine is made in the Appassimento method.
At harvest, mature women who are not going for speed, gently pick the grapes.
They lay each whole cluster separately on a flat basket/rack to dry.
After 3 ½ months of drying and resting, the grapes are pressed.
The juice from the dried grapes is combined with juice from fresh grapes, about 50:50.
The result is this Venetian tradition-inspired wine, smooth and utterly layered with flavors.
Walla Walla isn't a town that shouts at you.
Instead, it's a place to explore layer by layer.
From its famous Walla Walla sweet onions, wheat production and apples, to the wine;
the local restaurants can offer flavorful dining.
A contrast and collection of activities is available.
Downtown, Sotheby's is located next to a local 4H display.
Rent a bike for the day, hike, walk, or visit a local farm.
The Walla Walla wine region reminds me of a patchwork quilt or a collage.
The pieces are all unique.
But as each individual feature is combined, Walla2 is
showing the world it deserves a second look in the wine world.
A toast to you as you try new wine regions!
If you're in Washington and heading North, see my post on
Church & State Wines, Brentwood BC.
If you have one afternoon for wine tasting in the Santa Clara Valley, put Blended Winemaker's Studio at the top of your list. Most people don't have nearly as much time as they'd like for friends, to relax and be refreshed, or to engage in hobbies. Wine tasting in no exception. It's a let down when I visit a winery and find it's more about the setting and the wine is lacking.
Blended is a collaboration of three boutique wineries, and here, it's all about the wine and the hospitality. One tasting room hosts wines from three very different, but three very passionate, winemakers.
The beauty of boutique wineries is that often the owners/winemakers are on site and love to talk about their wines. The day of my visit, all three Blended winemakers poured, served, and chatted about their wines. Visit the Blended Studios site for current tasting room hours and wine selection at: http://blendedwinestudio.com/
La vie Dansante
Jeff from La vie Dansante envisioned opening a wine studio in a co-op setting.
While autonomy is valued in America, collaboration has its advantages. Jeff wanted the wine co-op to be a place to share the tasting room space, equipment, labor, knowledge, the lease, and troubles. Elbow to elbow in the tasting room (literally) the Blended team welcomes wine fans.
Additionally, making wine has its challenges. Behind the scenes, they can offer support and problem solve together.
Jeff and Leanne have a multi year lease on the property. Many people look to see what they can get out of a situation. Conversely, Jeff and Leanne are focusing on what they can contribute. From the first conversation with the land owners in 2014 to today, each year Jeff and Leanne add something along the way. They turned the property's old barn into an insulated winemaking facility. Later, the tasting room was built. They like to demonstrate progress to their wine club members.
Medeiros Family Wines
Winemakers will go far if they know their grapes and they know their customers. Ted and Tammi Medeiros have a good sense of what their tasters want. They also mindfully nurture their wines from the grape to the glass.
Ted shared, “With so many (tasting rooms) opening up, tasters can pick and choose." There's been a change from the last 10 years. ”Newer tasters have a new goal--and that's more socializing." Wine fans are meeting at wineries to buy a glass or bottle, sit, and enjoy an outing or experience together.
Ted mentioned new wine-tasters “are looking for wines and wineries that are the diamond in the rough.” The Santa Clara Valley is an ideal place, in that many of the wineries are small and personal. “Winemakers can pour, serve, and chat.” It affords guests a chance to enjoy talking to the winemakers.
With the proud, glowing eyes of a parent, Ted showed me pictures of his vineyards and the fruit he manages. His Malbec is one cluster per cane. Ted can limit the size of the berries (grapes.) “Timing is critical; when to prune, when to cut back.”
More grapes per cluster, or bigger grapes don't equal better wine. It means a larger volume of juice (wine) but not better quality. He controls the quality of the grapes by growing and tending vineyards from 12 sites in the Morgan Hill—Gilroy area.
Community focused, Tammi shared how Medeiros Family Wines pour at regional wine festivals and events. Programs, like the Passport, “Are good for the community. It encourages people to discover their community.” Tammi also focuses on the tasting room and guest experience.
Medeiros Family Wines are relatively new to the Santa Clara Valley. After a few years in wine, Ted and Tammi began offering wines under their family label in 2012. “There's Old World longevity in the valley,” said Ted. “I hope to be that successful.”
I think they're on to something. Meticulous attention to fruit and knowing one's guests is core. Couple that with respecting the historic wineries of the valley, while forging their own path, the Medeiros family is poised for what's ahead in wine.
TASS Vineyards and Winery
Owners/winemakers Ron & Lynn Mosley produce TASS wines. Tradition. Art. Science. Style.
Ron's managed over 80 small vineyards in the Santa Clara Valley. As a vineyard manager, he's cleared acreage, planted vineyards, produced wine, and crafted wines for personal clients. His approach to wine is three fold. First is wine growing. Next comes winemaking by small lot production. Lastly, the wines reach tasters via marketing and direct sales.
Ron creates wines from Santa Clara Valley grapes. Since he also produces wines from a variety of vineyards for numerous owners, he also offers wines from other California regions. Ron commented that “Wine making is 90% ingredients.” He's given the right ingredients, now, as he says “Don't mess it up!”
Zigzagging through the vineyards, Ron often randomly reaches and grabs berries (grapes) off the clusters. He'll pick 50-60 berries off of 50-60 vines.
Walking between the vines, he purposefully tries not to look at the fruit, but collects samples. Why? It's natural to want to pick the best, choice fruit and check it for flavor and ripeness. But Ron figures it's better to have a read on what the cluster is producing—some ready to pick, some needing more time.
Next, he combines the samples into a plastic bag, smashes the grapes, and checks the flavors. He tastes the combined grapes. He also uses a refractometer, a tool that measures the brix (grape sugars) in the grape pulp. This two-fold check combines the benefits of senses and science.
Ron shared,“Don't stress the vines. Let them live up to their potential.” He can evaluate each year, taking into consideration the weather, the vineyards, and the fruit. From there, he can “hold back or release the vineyard to balance it out.”
And speaking of balancing, Lynn's sharp eye for good color in wines, along with her attuned sense of smell, has influenced Ron's winemaking. Ron shared how women can often pick up essence, acids, and aromas in wines.
There is a mix of horticulturist, scientist, and tease in Ron. He has a way of keeping the tasting room lively, yet he's is very down to earth. One minute he's pouring wine, the next he's outside chatting with tasters and answering their questions.
Picture making a salad with a commercial, mass market, under ripe tomato vs. a fresh, red, flavorful tomato from a local farmer. It's easy to see the difference in quality, taste, and results.
This is similar with grapes. Ron highlights the virtues of knowing the quality of the
grapes with guests who are captivated and eager to understand wine.
This collaborative effort--three tasting rooms in one location--works!
Jeff is pouring his wines and keeping an eye on the big picture of the property.
Ted is showing pictures of his healthy vineyards.
So give yourself some time to linger and taste one or all three lines of wine.
Cheers to your Gilroy wine jaunt!
For more Santa Clara Valley tasting rooms, visit my Santa Clara Wineries page.
Join me at California Wine