Winemakers gathered to pour and chat about their Monterey County wines.
Georis Wine. Greg Freeman, Winemaker
Explore these seductive wines.
The table was busy, the line of tasters was long. And no wonder.
Georis crafts Bordeaux varietal wines with estate grown fruit from the Cachagua Valley
area of the Carmel Valley.
The three pours of the day were:
Albatross Ridge. Garrett Bowlus, Winemaker
Pet Nat is quickly coming back into wine fashion and is an enticing alternative to Champagne.
The lightly, bubbly, fizzy wine is fresh, approachable, and a wine to enjoy on the deck.
Yet the hint of yeast gives it the elegance to serve during the holidays.
2018 Rose' Pinot Noir Petillant Natural a.k.a Pet Nat, : Estate grown, Monterey.
J.Lohr Vineyards and Wines
Valdiguie', a red varietal to add to your repertoire.
2018 Valdiguie', Arroyo Seco Monterey, estate fruit.
Michael of J. Lohr Wines shared that the Valdiguie' grape is a cousin to Gammy,
sharing earthy flavor characteristics..
Bright flavors and good acid on the mid-palate make for an appealing wine with flavors
of fresh pomegranate and hints of flint.
This wine could be the poster-child for the color “garnet-red” in the dictionary,
or for you design people, the next Pantone color of the year.
A Rose' of its own.
Caraccioli Cellars is known for its sparkling wines, but its Rose' was a stand out in the crowd.
2018 Rose' of Pinot Noir Escolle Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands.
Enjoy hints of lemon, pineapple, and soft watermelon.
Dry, with just a hint of sweetness; sunset blush in color
A local Cabernet for your local foods.
2016 Cabernet Sauvignon, Estate Grown, Monterey: flavors of dark cherry and
raspberry are balanced with soft oak, along with hints of spice and green pepper.
Ruby in color.
The generous tasting pours gave me a chance to sip this wine and with food.
It's versatile and would pair will with blackened salmon, lamb, or steak.
I. Brand Family Wines
La Marea...True love.
Vince from I. Brand Family Wines was pouring a Cabernet Sauvignon.
But this time, it was their La Marea 2018 Albarino that caught my attention.
With a nod to the mineral and flint often found in Sauvignon Blanc, this white
varietal evoked feelings of the first of Spring, early mornings, fresh grass and leaves.
Thank you, Monterey County Vintners & Growers, for the invitation to cover the 2019 Winemaker's Celebration! For more on these wineries visit montereywines.org/
Chalone Vineyards. Gianni A. Abate, Winemaker
Wines from an intriguing region.
While Chalone Vineyards crafts beautiful Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, their Grenache is just as enticing.
2016 Grenache, Chalone Vineyard, Estate Grown Heritage Vines, Chalone Appellation.
This wine offered hints of salinity that begged to be served along side paella or cioppino.
Shale Canyon. Keith Prader, Winemaker
Coastal-influenced Tempranillo with just the right balance.
2014 Tempranillo, Arroyo Seco, Monterey County.
The Arroyo Seco area is an ideal growing region for Tempranillo.
It offers heat but is close enough to the coast to keep the grapes from getting too hot.
This Tempranillo is tannic, dry, dark, and lightly syrupy (but not jammy or too sweet.) Enjoy cherry, and spice in this medium-body wine.
A Pinot Blanc to remember
2017 'Il Campione' Pinot Blanc, Carmel Valley, estate fruit.
This lightly acidic white wine gives way to soft florals on the palate,
then to a slightly toasted sweetness similar to roasted marshmallows.
Pair with grilled shrimp or dishes with toasted hazelnuts.
Lepe Cellars. Miguel Lepe, Winemaker & Owner
Don't just think dessert wines for dessert
2016 Petite Verdo, San Antonio Valley, Monterey County.
Today I made two new friends.
Miguel's Petite Verdo, along with a dark chocolate, fuggy brownie. The perfect match!
Think out of the box, and try wine with your dessert.
Sometimes dessert wines can be too sweet, or the flavors may compete with a dessert.
So instead, look to dark reds and creamy white wines to pair with chocolate, nuts, fruits, and cheeses.
Pierce Ranch Vineyards. Josh Pierce, Owner & Winemaker
I'll be back for this Cosecheiro blend!
2016 Cosecheiro, San Antonio Valley, Monterey County: a thoughtful blend of Tempranillo, Malbec, Touriga, Petite Verdot, and Souzao.
I'm always intrigued with Josh's Iberian varietals,
and the chance to expand my notions of local wine.
This wine is smooth with soft acidity and back tannins that make it
inviting on its own—or a companion to a meal.
Monterey County Wines have a good thing going.
They are one of my favorite 'go to' regions.
Always offering flavor, consistency, and that something amazing.
Be sure to check out Wine Enthusiast magazine, June 2019 page 59,
for their shout-out to a handful of Monterey Winemakers!
Cheers to your summer wines ventures & tastings!
For a few tips on wine care, visit my feature on Wine Closures...Keeping a Lid on It
Closures. I don't mean the relationship kind.
But the kind that keep the desirable in and the unwanted out in wine.
Closures can seem like such a random idea, but we use closures daily in a host of ways.
Opening and shutting the fridge, the jam jar, a car door, or entering/exiting our places of work.
Wine closures may be low on the list of dinner topics, but key when opening a bottle of wine at the end of the day or when hosting friends. If a wine is not closed or sealed right, it can spoil. After growing the grapes, making the wines, and distributing it to customers, if too much or too little oxygen is allowed in the stored wine, it can make or break what you drink in your glass!
Closures come in a variety of styles: natural cork, compressed cork, synthetic (a.k.a.) plastic cork, and twist tops. Newer to the scene are Plant Based Closures.
Made with sugar cane based polymers, these corks are "easy on the environment, recyclable, and provide a reduced carbon footprint." Best of all, they offer a more predictable closure, giving winemakers the controls to allow more or less oxygen absorption into their bottled wines. This makes for more stable and constant wines, so you can be more confident of your purchase.
A taste is worth a thousand words. Ergo, the Cabernet Experimental Palate Test.
Don J. Huffman, Wine Quality and Education Manager at Vinventions (Link)
lead a WIN Expo session on the affect of closures, oxygen management, and how closures can be tailored to different wine styles and needs.
The tasting included three 2014 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons.
(Bonus tasting: a 5 year old Sauvignon Blanc, which was still fresh and bright!)
What happened? Attendees voted on their favorite wine of the three.
All three wines offered different color, flavor, and aroma profiles!
If your wine comes with a foil wrapper at the top, how do you know what kind of cork closure is used and how to lay your wine?
Closures are one more aspect to consider when looking for that bottle of Syrah or Fiano. While you may not be thinking corks vs. twist tops, every closure allows or blocks a certain
amount of transferable oxygen—which influences the flavor profiles of your wine.
From luxury winemakers to low-cost fast-rotation wines, each wine needs something different.
Just as each wine customer is looking for something different.
Here's to the right closures; so your wine can open up to its full potential and beauty!
For a look at Five Wine Trends for 2019...more
Dare to Pair 2019
Local Culinary, Hospitality, and Wine students offered an event
to rival the Bay Area food and wine scene.
The Cabrillo College students spent almost two months preparing for the Dare To Pair.
Small bites were beautifully plated.
Each dish presented its own flavor elements to pair with the wine students chose.
Food and wine were served under awnings, deep in the dark cellars, in tasting rooms,
and under the gorgeous Santa Cruz sun.
All of the wines were gifted by Surf City Vintners (Link).
A heartfelt “Thank you” to each winery who donated their wines for the D2P and to
the Cabrillo Culinary, Wine, and Hospitality Program throughout the year!
Cheers to you for supporting our local students and the wine and food industry.
A 'thank you' to Chef/Instructor Jeremy and Chef/Instructor Eric from Cabrillo College!
Guests enjoy the pairings and time together. Cathy Bentley, D2P's faithful coordinator!
#1 Host Winery, Equinox Winery
Team: Hannah S., Kim T., China P., and Elaina G.
Dish: “Provencal Pies.” These upscale artisan pot-pies offered flavors of lemon chicken, with roasted garlic, and a swirled topping of brown butter mashed potatoes.
Wine: 2001 Equinox Sparkling Blanc de Blanc, Santa Cruz Mountains.
Pairing Highlights: Honey, apricot, and yeast notes from the Champagne-method sparkling-wine perfectly accented the buttery-rosemary crust, the earthy carrots and poultry, fresh lemon, and decadent mashed potatoes. As one taster said, “Chicken and bubbles go well together.”
Destination: This dish took me to a farm-to-table dinner set in an apple orchard. Long, narrow farm tables are covered with white linens and jars of field flowers. Complete with hanging lights, and warm evening breezes.
#2 Sones Winery
Team: Natasha F., Jessie C., Alekzander M-N., and John B.
Dish: Hamachi crudo with fresh citrus, avocado, and leche de tigre sauce.
Wine: The“Hedgehog” is a blend of Torrantes and Sauvignon Blanc, California
Pairing Highlights: The fresh, almost floral white wine set the stage for this clean-flavored dish. The compilation was a soothing orchestration of 9 plating elements. An attractive color palate greeted the eye.
Destination: Appreciate this Californian-Asian inspired pairing in a metropolitan highrise—complete with a view of the city lights and night time stars.
#3 Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard
Team: Joseph R., Fatima D., Thomas G., and Jade B.
Dish: Sopes de Carnitas de Pato con Mole
Wine: 2015 Melange Rouge, Santa Cruz Mountains.
Pairing Highlights: Thick, rich, and full of balanced flavors, the subtle chili and chocolate of the Mole paired well with the earthy duck. The acidity of the pastoral Melange wine rounded out the dish, giving the pairing cohesion.
Destination: This is the dish to savor with friends during a midnight dinner tucked in a Spanish courtyard.
#4 Quinta Cruz Wines
Team: Conall M., Max G., Ismael A., and Julie P.
Dish: Manchego and Almond Stuffed Squid
Wine: 2016 Sauzao, Santa Cruz Mountains.
Pairing Highlights: Tasters enjoyed pan-seared squid stuffed with Manchego cheese, garlic, tomatoes, and almonds, atop arugula leaves. The browned squid, the subtle crunch of the almonds and notes of creamy cheese played off each other with an affinity.
Destination: Get your style on because this pairing would be perfect for a pop-up dinner at a home. Artists, musicians, writers, and food lovers would wax-on eloquently about this combination.
#5 Storrs Winery:
Team: Laura R., Alex A., Gabe A., and Damian F.
Dish: Bunuelos de Bacalao with Chili/Lime Aioli
Wine: 2017 Chardonnay, Santa Cruz Mountains
Pairing Highlights: The salinity of the fish fritters, the light but full flavored Chardonnay, and the peppery arugula were an enticing flavor trio. The chili mayo gave this dish a powerful punch.
Destination: This dish took me to a beach side cafe' on the Iberian Coast. The lapping water and salty sea air would add to this pairing.
#6 Bottle Jack Winery
Team: Sean A., Michael G., Sarah C., and Anita L.
Dish: Durham Ranch Braised Wild Boar with Porcini Polenta and Pickled Fennel
Wine: 2016 Firenze Tuscan Blend, Santa Clara County
Pairing Highlights: The alluring flavors of the wild boar and umami polenta tied the knot with the Firenze. The wine's dark cherry, acidic, earthy, and almost farmyard flavors guaranteed tasters would hold a fork in one hand, and a glass of wine in the other.
Destination: This dish will transport you to a hidden French bistro. The type of place where the locals eat, and tourist hope to get reservations.
#7 Silver Mountain Vineyards
Team: Susan C., Erin D., Natalie B., and Wednesday H.
Dish: Grilled Ostrich Sausage with Potato Croquette and a Red Wine Gastrique
Wine: 2012 Oscar's Wild Red blend, Santa Cruz Mountains
Pairing Highlights: Simply put, if this team decides to market and sell their sausage, I'll be their first customer. The balanced flavors of herbs, hints of dried cherries, and Manchego cheese give a bit of richness to the lean sausage. Starchy potato and fresh greens round out this dish, while the Merlot in the wine-blend offers soft tannins and dark berry flavors.
Destination: Picture yourself siting on the dining-deck of a snow-capped mountain resort. The blue sky, warm sun, and fresh air will whet your appetite for this arresting dish.
#8 Bartolo Wines
Team: Konrad S., Fajah J., and Jennifer P.
Dish: Braised Pork Belly with Green Garlic Puree, Cauliflower and Herb Sauteed Fava Beans.
Wine: 2013 Grenache, Santa Clara Valley
Pairing Highlights: This pairing is full of striking contrasts. The rich, smokey flavors of the pork belly. The green, grassy flavors of the garlic. The cruciferous, fresh cauliflower and fava beans. All these tastes met up with the rich, yet smooth, Grenache.
Destination: Tuck into this pairing while at an Eastern European restaurant. From your seat, you can see the chef in the kitchen cooking and braising the pork belly. Outside are views of presidential palaces.
The 10th Annual D2P Awards....
Favorite Wine: 2001 Equinox Sparkling Blanc de Blanc, Santa Cruz Mountains
Favorite Dish: Wild Boar
People's Choice Awards for the Best Wine & Food Pairing (guest polls)
1st Sones Cellars and Hamachi crudo
2nd Bottle Jack Wines and Wild Boar
3rd Bortollo Wines and Braised Pork Belly
The Judges Awards for the Best Wine & Food Pairing
1st Bottle Jack Wines and Wild Boar
2nd Bortollo Wines and Braised Pork Belly
3rd Sones Cellars and Hamachi crudo
Professional and hospitable, the students' dishes were noteworthy!
As one taster shared, “the Culinary programs of our colleges need our support.”
To donate to the Cabrillo College Culinary, Hospitality and Wine Program,
or to dine at the student-run Pinot Alto Restaurant, visit (Link.)
Until next year's D2P,
For a behind the scences look at D2P and its origins, visit my post....
The annual 'Amador Four Fires Festival' hits the bull's-eye.
Serving local Amador County wines & foods,
come enjoy wines representing four key wine regions.
Experience Iberian wines under one tent. Then Italian wines.
Now try Rhone/Southern France.
And of course, Heritage Californian wines honoring
California's wine history from the mid-1800s.
Wine sessions, pairings, gifts, local cuisine, and wine stations
at your leisure keep it fun and relaxing!
If you're up in the Foothills and panning for wine, find tickets & events details here (Link.)
Choices, choices...so many wine events to choose from!
For a look at Amador Four Fires 2018, visit my post on 4Fires 2018.
World renown for its superior Pinot Noir and Chardonnay,
Monterey County is home to Carmel-by-the-Sea.
The coastal village is laced with quaint paths that lead to dining, sea vistas, and wineries.
As I walked to the Sunset Center, the slight crunch of the pathway gravel greeted my ears
and I was eager to try other varietals from the region.
At the Annual 'Monterey County Wine Trade Tasting,' hundreds of Monterey County wines
were poured...all with a passion to share the wines of the region.
Highlights of my tasting afternoon...
2018 Sauvignon Blanc, Griva Vineyard. White peach gives way to tall-grassy notes, with hints of ocean saline. I am always drawn to a winery that produces Sauvignon Blanc, one of my favorite wines. It is versatile, fresh, and pairs with the California Coastal food lifestyle. 'KORi' Wines is the partnership between Santa Lucia Highlands grape/citrus grower Kirk Williams & his step-daughter Kori Violini. (from their site.)
2016 Brix Pinot Gris Estate Grown, Camel Valley. The floral notes, and ever-so-slight sweetness would cover a gathering of palates. Light on minerals, it gives a hint of dairy and graham then meets up with tropical flavors.
With 4 Styles of Sangiovese, Emily Hunt is a winemaker to take note of. She's new to the Monterey wine scene and is gifted with creativity in spades. All of her pours were a blend of 75% Sangiovese and 25% Petite Sirah. What's so special about that? Well, she offered a Rose' and three different styles of red wine—all made from the same blend of grapes.
All of the fruit arrived to Emily at once. But she used different production methods and timing to achieved wines with completely different flavor profiles. That's a gutsy undertaking! Some wines were on the skins for 4 hours, others for 6. Some soaked with the stems. One was aged more, another less. Emily's wine mentor and the fruit hail from the Napa area. But her wine is Monterey style through and through.
Hahn Family Wines
2017 Pinot Gris, Monterey County. Soft green melon and fresh floral notes round out this slightly sweeter yet pleasing wine. This white wine is food-friendly without any heavy dairy on the palate.
Winemaker, Bill Brosseau, shares his craft. Testarossa offers wine tasting in their Camel Valley and Los Gatos locations. My light write up offers a peek at the Los Gatos tasting room...'Testarossa, Wine for Collectors & Beginners.'
Windy Oaks Estate
2015 Grenache, Santa Lucia Highlands. This coastal grown 100% Grenache offers a pleasing light to mid-weight mouth-feel. A bit of acidity offers a base for foods, but the wine fitting on its own. Fruit forward, but not jammy.
This family winery is located up Hazel Dell Road, in the Corralitos area. The vineyards cover almost 30 acres. You'll find their tasting rooms in Carmel-by-the Sea and the Carmel Village.
Pierce Ranch Vineyards
2017 Verdelho, San Antonio Valley. Embrace currents of honeysuckle and soft citrus in this white wine. Josh Pierce offers wines that are like a treasure chest. Each one is subtle, then opens up to an arc of flavors and character. Hands down, when I serve Pierce Ranch wines to my guests at home, they always garner a comment of praise!
Other wineries to check out...(pictured above)
Joyce Vineyards, Scratch Wines (staff,) Josh Pierce of Pierce Ranch Vineyards, and
Miguel Lepe of Lepe Cellars. Also, pouring, Rexford Winery.
Thank you, Monterey County Wines, for the Trade Tasting invitation.
For more on the following wineries, and dozens of additional tasting rooms, visit MCVG's site (Link.)
Big Sur Vineyards
2015 BSV Red Wine, Monterey County. Lenora Carey journeyed from being a documentary filmmaker to the owner of Big Sur Vineyards. With Ryan Kobza as winemaker, the first vintage was released in 2013. The Arroy Seco growing region provides the precise weather for BSV's olive trees, essential oils gardens, and vineyards.
Who Attended & Why?
Instead of buying dozens of bottles of wine to try, the restaurant industry
sampled and selected wines in one location to pair with their menu and and customers' desires.
Grocery and market buyers seek out wines to stock and sell in their stores.
Wine publicists and writers come to get a taste of what's current in Monterey.
People are looking for crowd-pleaser wines. And for wines that exemplify a region.
They also seek out the hidden gems. The unexpected wines that someone special will be looking for.
So here's to your everyday wines and
the hidden gems for your special occasions.
Coming up, the Monterey Winemaker's Celebration is a day of wine tasting for new wine fans
and the devoted. For your tickets and more, visit my Wine News post...
Join me at California Wine