Passport to Dry Creek Valley

We were fortunate enough to attend 2016 Passport to Dry Creek Valley this weekend. The event was amazing. Each of the participating 48 wineries in the Dry Creek AVA had their own theme, entertainment, food and of course wine. Overall this event is a must attend. Below are the place that stood out to us! (We were able to make 30 of 48, so this list is based on the ones we saw.)

  1. A Rafanelli – THE BEST BY FAR. Food, Wine and Entertainment A+
  2. Malm Cellars – BBQ, Games and Great Wine.
  3. Mounts – Surprise of the event, great wine, music and farm feel.
  4. Selby – Belly dancers, magician, fortune teller and New Orleans food.
  5. Roadhouse – Disco party with a DJ and great staff!
  6. Mauritson – Charlie Palmer food!
  7. Papapietro Perry – Premier Pinot and great music.
  8. Armida – Great party atmosphere with a great band.
  9. Michel-Schlumberger – Red Carpet and Fine Wine.
  10. Blanchard Family Wines – Can’t go wrong with a Beatles Tribute Band

Wine Cocktails!

A glass of wine by itself is usually divine but some days you want to mix it up or maybe that bottle of wine you bought a few months back does not taste like you remember. On these occasions I like to make some wine cocktails. Similar to how wine creates a whole new experience with food, wine can do the same to your perception of mixed drinks. Below are 17 wine cocktails to try.

A Bellini is a mixture of Prosecco sparkling wine and peach purée or nectar. A Mimosa is composed of equal parts champagne (or other sparkling wine) and chilled citrus fruit juice, usually orange juice. A Kir is made with a measure of crème de cassis (blackcurrant liqueur) topped up with white wine. A Kir Royal is a variation of the Kir with crème de cassis topped with champagne. A Ruby Dutchess is made with sugar, Angostura bitters, Champagne, brandy and a maraschino cherry as a garnish. A Kalimotxo consists of equal parts red wine and cola-based soft drink. A spritzer is a tall, chilled drink, usually made with white wine and carbonated water or sparkling mineral water. The flirtini contains vodka, champagne and pineapple juice. French 75 is made from gin, Champagne, lemon juice, and sugar. Sangria normally consists of red wine, chopped fruit, a sweetener, and a small amount of added brandy. Valencian Water is made from a base of cava or champagne, orange juice, vodka, and gin. The Black Velvet is a beer cocktail made from stout (often Guinness) and white, sparkling wine, traditionally champagne. The Prince of Wales is champagne, angostura bitters on sugar, either rye whiskey or cognac, and a liqueur. A Rosé Blood Orange Lemonade consists of Rose wine, lemon juice, sugar, water, blood orange juice, ice cubes and blood orange slices for decoration. The Moscato Bee’s Knees is made with honey, hot water, lemon juice and Moscato. The Pretty in Pink is made with Pink Moscato, cherry brandy, pitted cherries, strawberries and mint leaves. To create a Red Hot Summer, mix red wine, lemon lime soda and ice, then garnish with a lime wheel.

These are just a few of 100’s of wine cocktails you can make. I challenge you to create your own wine cocktail, name it and email me your recipe for a chance to be mentioned in an upcoming article.

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Best North Coast wines determined at North Coast Wine Challenge

The judges of the North Coast Wine Challenge sipped their way through more than 1,050 wines at the Hilton Sonoma Wine Country Hotel in Santa Rosa Tuesday in a quest to uncover the best wines grown on the North Coast, one of the state’s premier wine-growing regions. More (From Press Democrat)

From Wind to Wine!

Sonoma County is one of the most diverse places on earth; allowing us to experience diverse cultures, food, events and wine all over the county.  Much of our diversity can be attributed to our geographical location with easy access to the ocean, rivers, mountains, etc. These different locations allow our county to create distinct and different wine. Most of us know some of the major designated American Viticultural Areas (AVA’s) in our region: Alexander Valley, Anderson Valley, Dry Creek Valley, Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast.  A group of local wineries and winemakers are attempting to create an officially recognized AVA, The Petaluma Gap, which is currently a part of the Sonoma Coast AVA.

For many years, the Sonoma County wine industry has used the term “Petaluma Gap” to help define grapes that are exposed to a unique combination of wind, fog and soils that give the wine a distinctive character. Numerous wineries are located or source grapes in the region, including: Cline Cellars, Fogline Vineyards, Keller Estate, Trombetta Family Wines, Kosta Browne, Kendall Jackson, LaFollette Wines, Schug Winery and Twomey Cellars.  The Petaluma Gap AVA applied for approved designated AVA status in February of this year. Approval can often take a few years.

Geographically, the Petaluma Gap borders West Marin and Valley Ford on the west, then follows Chileno Valley and Spring Hill Roads to Adobe Road on the east, Cotati on the north and Lakeville on the southeast. As inland valley air heats up, it pulls the cool coastal air into a naturally formed 15-mile-wide “gap” in the coastal range mountains. The wind flows off the ocean between Tomales Bay and Bodega Bay, builds up speed as it funnels through the gap, then empties into San Francisco Bay. Wind and fog define the area, giving the term “micro-climate” real meaning. There are daily temperature swings of forty to fifty degrees. This cooling “wind tunnel” creates smaller vineyard yields, causes the  grapes to ripen later, and develops unique wine flavors.

It is always fun to be a part of the “ground-floor” of a movement and the Petaluma Gap is providing an opportunity to be on its ground floor as it will be holding an inaugural “Wind to Wine Festival” at the Sheraton Sonoma County in Petaluma on August 8thto showcase the Petaluma Gap wines.  For more information on the organization and event, visit www.petalumagap.com.

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Super Wine

In less than a year the eyes of the world will be on the Bay Area. On February 7th, 2016, Super Bowl 50 will be held at the home of the San Francisco 49ers, Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara.  The event is expected to generate millions of visitors to our region with all of the Bay Area benefiting from the increased tourism in a traditional off season.  Sonoma County will greatly benefit after being named the official wine supplier and official destination partner for Super Bowl 50.

It may be a little surprising that Sonoma County was picked over Napa Valley to be the official wine and destination partner but locally we know how both counties are amazing in their own way. If you spend a day wine tasting locally you are bound to hear a conversation about the differences between Napa and Sonoma County Wine. Just in case you were curious  or are asked by a Super Bowl tourist here are a few tips:

  • Sonoma County was the first wine region in California and is 3 times the size of Napa County
  • Napa County achieved worldwide recognition winning a prestigious wine award in Paris in 1976
  • Sonoma County wineries have a wider selection of wines with growers not as focused on a specific grape varietal as seen in Napa
  • Napa County has more Disneyland style wineries that are great for picture taking tourists while Sonoma County has smaller facilities more focused on production
  • The Sonoma County wine road is much easier to drive on with better backroads and less traffic
  • Napa County is the place to go for fine dining and has countless world renowned restaurants. Sonoma County has amazing places to dine as well, but Napa is unparalleled
  • Sonoma County is less expensive – wine tasting and bottles

The key thing to remember is that we are blessed to have Napa and Sonoma County in our backyard. Both wine regions are amazing and should be appreciated. Napa County may be known for its Cab’s and if you are Cab lover it will be your dream destination. Sonoma County has variety and allows you to taste such a vast range of grape varietals you feel like your palate is on a trip around the world. If I am ask which location to pick… I’ll recommend that they take an extra few days and visit both!

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Spring Cleaning Your Wine Collection

The way the weather has felt most of 2015 makes it seem like we are already in the middle of summer but in reality, spring just arrived! It’s that time of year where most people begin the annual spring clean of their house and garage but don’t forget to spring clean your wine collection.  It’s time to review your wines that may have slipped past your use during the winter months and make sure you use them before they go bad and you waste your investment.  This may mean pushing those full bodied reds (Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlots)  to the back of the line and reviewing your whites, lighter reds and rosés you still have had hibernating for the winter.

It may sound silly, the idea of changing the wine you drink with the season like you change your wardrobe for seasons change, but most people change their diet seasonally and we should consider seasonally changing our wine selections to match our new palate. Again, you will always like what you like when it comes to wine and I still drink my favorite wine all year long (a Kenwood wineries Tesoro – just in case you were curious), but part of wine tasting/drinking is about the experience and trying new things.  You most likely bought these wines for a reason and need to give them a shot, so here are a few you might want to consider opening on an upcoming sunny day.

Sauvignon Blanc and Sauvignon blends – Best paired with goats’ cheese, asparagus, burgers (try a Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc) grilled fish and other seafood.

Albariño – Best paired with shellfish, light fish dishes, spring and summer soups like gazpacho and tomato salads.

Unoaked or lightly oaked Chardonnay – Best paired with oysters (try a Dry Creek Chardonnay), pork, shrimp, apples, creamy sauces and sushi.

Grenache Blanc – Best paired with halibut, shellfish and citrus chicken.

Riesling – Best paired with smoked fish (especially salmon), crab, trout, smoked chicken, salads, Cantonese and lightly spiced south-east Asian food.

Pinot Grigio – Best paired with antipasti, light seafood pastas and risottos, and fresh tomato-based pasta sauces.

Rosé – Best paired with vegetable dishes, ceviche and grilled tuna.

Pinot Noir – Best paired with duck (try a Sonoma Valley Pinot), mushrooms, salads that include fresh or dried red berries or pomegranate seeds, and seared salmon or tuna.

Food & Wine Pairing

We live in the Wine Country and have unlimited access to the absolute best wine and food in the world, which can be overwhelming when trying to figure out food and wine pairing. Recently I was asked by a local winemaker if I pair food and wine in order to make the wine taste better or for the food to taste better. I thought for a minute and sheepishly replied, “umm make the food better.” The winemaker agreed and I smiled proudly but internally I was shocked that I didn’t already have an established goal for food and wine pairing.  I’ve tried both approaches in the past and I have been a little disappointed trying to create a meal to make a wine taste better. My greatest pairing success usually occurs when I am at a local tasting room and one of the wines stands out and triggers the flavors of one of the staple meals I make at home (where I know the flavors), causing me to instantly want to cook that meal and pair the wine. Wine should be a compliment to food and paired together they should enhance your overall experience.

I live with the belief that when it comes to wine, you like what you like. As long as you enjoy the wine you are drinking you are doing something right! Here are a few general tips you should take into consideration when pairing food and local wine: 1) Wine and cheese pair perfectly, especially when from the same region (Redwood Hill Farm Three Peppercorn Chèvre and a Rockpile Zinfandel = awesome!). 2) Match the flavors of the wine with those best paired with the food. 3) Champagne tastes amazing with anything salty. 4) Sauvignon Blanc goes well with tarty foods. 5) Pinot Noir is fabulous when partnered with earthy flavored dishes. 6) Cabernet Sauvignon and juicy red meat are best friends. 7) Syrah likes to be matched up with highly spiced dishes. 8) Tomatoes are acidic and can be tough on wine, so you need a wine with acidity to match (for fresh tomatoes use Sauvignon Blanc, with tomato sauce use Barbera and for sun-dried tomatoes use Rieseling).  9) Dessert wines should be sweeter than the dessert. 10) Most importantly – there are NO rules when matching your favorite wines and recipes. Ultimately the best match is what pleases your palate.