ARCHIVE FOR June, 2014

Summer Whites: Suggestions


There’s nothing better than a crisp white wine in your glass in the summertime.  It used to be slim pickings for American wine lovers, though.  Throughout the ‘60s and ‘70s, “Chablis” in big jugs (a mix of who knows what grapes) was the white wine on the shelf.  Today, there’s been a revolution in the variety of white wines we can enjoy.


Some of our favorites? Gamble Family Vineyards, in the heart of Napa’s Oakville appellation, delivers a terrific Sauvignon Blanc, with crisp flavors of lime and nectarine, and a touch of flint.


Rucksack  Cellars, a small winery that specializes in Sierra Foothills wines, makes a wonderful Marsanne/Roussanne blend.  It starts with a delicious whiff of Meyer lemon, pear and spice and only gets better with lovely tropical fruit, melon and honey flavors.  And we love the Pinot Patch Pinot Grigio, a bright white with flavorful notes of lemon, apple and grapefruit.  All are available on The California Wine Club website.


White wine?  You’ve got it, in California!

Your favorites?

Ice Cube in Your Wine?


Okay, survey time.  Is it okay to put an ice cube in your wine on a hot summer’s day?  What do you think?


The Winding Path of Chardonnay In Oregon

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Here’s something interesting.  Wherever Pinot Noir does well, so does Chardonnay.  These are both grapes originating in Burgundy, France so they respond well to the same conditions.

So, why is Oregon’s signature white Pinot Gris and not Chardonnay?  Pat Dudley, who founded Bethel Heights Winery in the Eola Hills appellation of Oregon’s Willamette Valley, opened a window for us about Oregon Chardonnay.

We were talking with Pat about wine for our Pacific Northwest Series.  We began that club last year, and will soon be featuring a Bethel Heights Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

She explained that in the 1970s, Oregon winemaking pioneers only had a few Chardonnay clones available, mostly abundant producers from U.C. Davis.  Those clones were much more suitable for sunny California and the Chardonnay they produced in Oregon was not all that great.  So, over time, Oregon’s go-to white became Pinot Gris.

Well, that’s all changing now.  Oregon viticulturists have planted French clones that produce fantastic Chardonnay in the state’s mostly cool climate winegrowing regions.  But no one knows about this yet!

So, here’s a tip – start checking out Oregon Chardonnay.  You’re going to have a very pleasant surprise.

Or, maybe you’re ahead of the pack and have already found some favorite Oregon Chardonnays.  We’d love to hear about them.

Our Top 3 “Easiest to Drive” Wine Regions


If you’re on a driving tour of California wine country, here’s a travel tip: some regions are much easier to navigate than others.  Here’s a list of our top 3 Easiest—

1.  Napa – That’s a no-brainer, right?  A straight shot up hwy. 29, with fabulous wineries left and right, restaurants practically in your lap …  Of course, there is the little matter of traffic in the summertime especially. We suggest taking one of the “crossings” roads over to Silverado Trail to escape any jams.  That route too has dozens of wineries worth the visit.

2. Temecula – Another easy does it valley.  Again, the wineries dot the landscape.  It’s like shooting fish in a barrel, southern California style.

3. Dry Creek Valley – Terrific wineries and one of the prettiest valleys in California wine country.  Along with its charm comes a wonderful winemaking history plus nearby Healdsburg, a wine world all by itself.

How about you? Any “user friendly” wine country to share?

2 Wine Summer Party Ideas to Get You Going


Want to give a wine party this summer?  Make it easy on yourself with these 2 simple wine party ideas.

1. BYOB & App:  Instead of a potluck, ask every guest to bring an appetizer and a bottle of wine they think pairs beautifully with it.  Easy!

2.  Appellation Match:  Choose one varietal and two appellations.  Ask half your guests to bring a varietal from one appellation, and half from the other.

So, the varietal could be Chardonnay from Sonoma and Santa Barbara.  Or Cabernet from Napa and Paso Robles.  Or Pinot Noir from Sonoma and Monterey…etc.

Meanwhile, you’ll make appetizers and a light meal where Chardonnay can be the star.

As a party host, you can appreciate how these party ideas reduce your workload so you can enjoy the party yourself.

Got any easy wine party ideas?

We salute all the “Chateaux Jeepers”


Brothers John and Steve Dragonette grew up with their father making wine in their garage.  “We called it Chateau Jeepers—when you drank it, you went ‘oh jeepers!’” Steve recalls. 

This quote from Dragonette Cellars’ co-founder Steve Dragonette, aside from being one of our favorites, makes us think about how the wine business has changed since even a few years ago.

We hope dads are still making their wine in their garages, experimenting with yeasts and enchanting their kids.  But we know many winemaker-wannabees are getting more sophisticated with their learning.

They’re signing up with custom cellars that provide the grapes and the instruction.  Taking enology classes at local colleges.  Reading up about the latest techniques, yeasts and equipment.

That’s good news for wine quality, for sure.  But we

hope there will continue to be room for downhome, in-the-garage Chateau Jeepers in California’s future.

Know of any real-time examples?


Little Sensory Details


Little details can make a huge difference in a wine. When it rained, when the grapes were picked, the type of yeast strain used, the type of wood the barrels were made of … The ability to notice these details and manipulate them for great results is the sign of a master.

In appreciating a wine, details matter too. The more details we notice, the fuller our experience of a wine can be. We recently read that if you pour a Malbec next to other red wines, the edge of its coloring is usually more magenta than red or brick. Would we have noticed this if someone didn’t point it out? Probably not.

And that is a really fun part about wine. It is a sensory experience – we see, smell, taste and savor a wine, and there can be dozens of impressions we might receive along the way. There are very few moments in life when we can enjoy this kind of sensory adventure. Everyone’s palate is different, so how one person experiences a wine can be quite different than the experience someone else has.

When you taste a wine, can you generally sort out the aromas, and flavors, texture and finish? Or, do you “skip to the chase” and focus on your overall impression of the wine?

Wine is fat free. True?


Wrap your brain around some wine teasers of the true and false variety!

1.  Wine is fat free.

2. One bottle of wine contains 300 grapes.

3.  A magnum holds 6 bottles of wine.

4.  “Reserve” on a wine bottle means the wines were all estate-grown and that critics rated the growing year as “outstanding.”




1. True.

2. False there are 500-600 grapes per bottle.

3. False.  A Jeroboam holds 6 bottles; a magnum holds 2.

4. False. There is no legal meaning for “reserve” on U.S. wine bottles. It mean whatever the winemaker thinks.

Mountain Men


What is it about mountain winegrowing that seems to grab some winemakers? After all, it’s not easy – slopes are often steep, soils can be rocky and thin, vines and workers struggle.

It can snow, making life even more complicated.

And it’s a long drive to anywhere, whether it’s a restaurant or a winemaking supply store.

Add to this the fact that just a handful of grape varieties seem to do well on a mountain, most notably Bordeaux varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon. And even though they “do well” they can be very difficult in the cellar, because mountain Cab is known for its huge and rugged tannins.

We think Mountain Men like Robert Craig, Rudy von Strasser and Randy Dunn must be the sort who love a challenge. They love taking grapes with attitude and shaping them into the best wine they can be. And the view up there isn’t bad, either. We’re glad they love a challenge, because we love their wines.