Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Petite Sirah and the Sierra Foothills

It's not cricket to start a blogpost with a diversion, but I have to tell you how much I admire Jo Diaz.  There's more than one blogger with a stick up their derriere, but she is not one of them.  Among other things, she is a tireless supporter of the varietal Petite Sirah, and she is simply wonderful at that.

The latest lauded Petite Sirah tasting in Alameda, "Dark & Delicious", was by all accounts a great success.  I missed it, but sent a photographer and a note-taker.  I followed up with some of the wineries, and here are some remarks worth noting:

Among the wines poured by Andis Wines (Plymouth/Amador County) was its 2009 ANDIS Wines Petite Sirah Reserve Goedeck-Liu and its 2010 ANDIS Wines Petite Sirah Reserve Goedeck-Liu. Both were awarded high point scores by Richard Jennings in his astounding and thorough February 21 blogpost of the event (click here to read it). (Thanks, Jo, for sending it!)

The crew from Andis
at the event
Mark McKenna, winemaker at Andis, sent some fine commentary:   "Petite Sirah is valued by most winemakers primarily as a blending grape.  I think it is fair to say the there are very few Zinfandel or Cabernet Sauvignon wines that do not benefit from 5 - 10% Petite Sirah worked into the blend.  The risk of using too much Petite Sirah in a blend or showcasing on it's own is that it can make a wine that is a bit generic in style.  It is such a powerful grape that it can easily dominate a blend or be overly tannic and heavy on its own.  Initially, our small amount of Petite was intended to be strictly for blending.  What we found however was that the vineyards we were lucky enough to be working with produced not a heavy, overwrought version of the variety, but, instead wines of grace and complexity.  The sheer beauty and deliciousness of those early wines led us to think the wine could be very interesting on its own. 

"Like many of our wines, the Andis Petite Sirah is less a result of perfect planning than open minded exploration of the wines we actually made.  We are very loyal to the philosophy of critically tasting all of our lots as they age in barrel and only then deciding what is most interesting to bottle on its own.  Our Petite Sirah program began as a single vineyard selection out of a favorite El Dorado County vineyard - Goedeck-Liu (both 2008 and 2009 bear that designation).  In 2010 we blended the Goedeck Lui Petite with Petite Sirah form the highly regarded Cooper Vineyard in Amador to produce one of our most powerful and complex wines to date," said McKenna

Twisted Oak wines with
the inevitable Rubber Chicken
Andrew & Jeff Stai, Twisted Oak
TwistedOak (Calaveras County) rolled out the Sirah.  Jeff Stai (he of the rubber chicken jokes) poured 2005 Twisted Oak Petite Sirah Calaveras County, 2006 Twisted Oak Petite Sirah Calaveras County, 2008 Twisted Oak Petite Sirah Calaveras County, 2009 Twisted Oak Petite Sirah Calaveras County.  Again, Richard Jennings gave high scores for these wines (take another look at his blogpost by clicking here)

El Dorado County wines also flowed at the PS I Love You event.  Lava Cap poured its 2008 Granite Hill Petite Sirah, which and El Dorado county Estate Bottled wine.  I personally like how this wine is described on their website, because these Foothill wines are all about PLACE:  "Lava Cap’s Granite Hill vineyard has been part of our estate production since 1995. It consistently produces some of the most highly decorated Petite Sirahs in California. The wine has the iron-red soil character, black mineral depth and green conifer edge of the Sierra Foothills."

Lava Cap also poured its 2009 El Dorado Estate Bottled Petite Sirah. 

Not present at this tasting, but perhaps next year... PaZa Winery,  is the latest Sierra Foothill winery to join the PS I Love You organization.  They were welcomed aboard in January 2012.   PaZa is located in Auburn, Placer County.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Wine Touring in the Sierra Foothills: Avanguardia, Nevada City: "Hedonic Wines"

The winding road to Avanguardia

Bitney Springs Road, 
bridge over Deer Creek, 
Newtown Road, to
Jones Bar Road, look for the sign – takes you to an in-winery tasting room that is charmingly set in the midst of cases of wine, bottling machines and winemaking equipment.   The sign that finally points in the direction of this purpose-built winery near Nevada City could say “varietal-free zone ahead” and that would tip you off that you are in for an other-worldly wine tasting experience.

Rob Chrisman is dedicated to making wines that provide a maximum sensory pleasure to the wine drinker.  He refers to his style of winemaking as “hedonic blending”.  Rob has a healthy disregard for the traditional California approach to winemaking, and is carving out a brave new world with his wines.  His scrumptious wines have fanciful names, and are handcrafted with an avant-garde flair, You are in for a new taste experience! 

Rob talks about his wines and winemaking philosophy on the SierraFoothillsWine YouTube channel, click here

Rob’s path to his winemaking philosophy began when he was a computer programmer in Los Angeles.   Like many of us, he began his wine drinking career by trying to get bottles of wine on the cheap, and he refined his palate that way.  In 1977, he visited the Foundation Plant Materials Service group at University of California – Davis.  This independent arm of the university protects, preserves and distributes disease-free plant material, particularly grapes.  From the list of 60 or 80 wine varieties available, Rob selected 29 varieties for his experimental vineyard in Tulare.

After many years as a grape grower of the experimental kind, and an avid home winemaker, Rob moved his family to Nevada County in 1990.  He had a hunch he could grow grapes quite well on his site at 2500-foot elevation.

“I believed that Sierra Foothill wines could be as good as those from any area, and we planted vines in 2000 and 2001 on 3 ½ acres here.”  Now, Avanguardia Wines blends over twenty Italian, Russian, French and University of California-created crosses grown in its estate vineyards.  “Many of the grape varieties have been imported by the University especially for us and are available nowhere else, outside of Europe.”  To his own estate-grown grapes, he adds other Sierra Foothills fruit.  He started to produce cutting-edge blends, and they’ve found a loyal following.

“I call my winery a varietal-free zone because we don’t produce traditional chardonnay, zinfandel and so on.  Although several of my wines could be considered varietals because they contain enough of one varietal to be termed that, instead we chose to give them fanciful names,” he said.

Rob sincerely believes that blending is the way to go to get the best quality, tastiest wines.  “I do non-traditional blending, what I call “hedonic blending”, because I am looking for the maximum sensory pleasure out of the wine.  I want to produce wines that are extremely food friendly.”  His wines are not high alcohol, nor are they fruit-bombs.  Subtle oak and good acidity are key.   He produces 1000 cases of wine each year, and 90% of the grapes in those wines come from his estate vineyards in Nevada County.

Rob notes that his blended wines are winning awards, in this video on the SierraFoothillsWines YouTube channel,  click here

 A chat about the names of his wines is informative and entertaining.  Premiato means “prizewinner”.   Sanginet is a 14th century archaic name for Sangiovese.  Ampio means ample, generous;  Cristallo means crystal.   Selvatico is actually an adjective about an Italian wine characteristic that is used to describe a wild berry or undomesticated flavor.  Due Fiori…two flowers.

Looking for a daytrip to nearby wine county? Head to Avanguardia’s winery at 13028 Jones Bar Road, Nevada City, CA  95959, open Saturday and Sunday 12-5. There’s also a tasting room in Grass Valley at 209 W. Main Street that’s open daily 12-5.  More information?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Syrah and the Sierra Foothills, Part 2

Image courtesy WineWithMe Blog
Celebrating SyrahDay, two special blogs about Syrah and the Sierra Foothills...   Read Part 1 (click here)

Syrah has a long history in the Sierra Foothills.

John MacCready of Sierra Vista Winery planted the first Syrah in the Sierra Foothills in 1979, and made his first syrah wine in 1982.

Mike Owen of
Crystal Basin Winery notes: ” We have been producing Syrah from the Sumu-Kaw vineyard since 1992 - 8 years before we were  a commercial winery.  There is now fruit from other vineyards included in the blend, but this vineyard has been the dominant element.  We recently heard from Paul Bush - owner of Madrona Vineyards - that they were considering pulling out the oldest block of Syrah on the Sumu-Kaw vineyard and replacing it with Malbec.  We told him that we'd take all the fruit from that block - it would be a true shame to see those vines get torn up."

Why were these Sierra Foothills winemakers attracted to syrah?
Barrels at Crystal Basin
“Syrah made properly - that is - made in a non-oaked, non-over extracted manner that allows the soil to speak through the berries and into the glass, is one of the most sublime wines that can be had, “ said Mike Owen. “Our original business plan was to make Syrah and Cabernet Franc.  Of course, we never stuck to that because other grapes were dangled in front of us and like Paris Hilton grabbing at shiny things, we couldn't resist.  We now make wines from 13 varieties of grapes.”
John MacCready is attracted to Syrah for a fundamental reason: “It tastes good.   I tried the wines of Cote Rotie and felt we have a similar climate to the Northern Rhone Valley, and we do.  I determined this doing research for my presentation at the International Colloquium on Rhone Wines held in 1990 in Napa.”

Whatever the reason you like syrah,
there's a special treat on Syrah Day for wine lovers near Sacramento – or those willing to drive there – to enjoy some excellent El Dorado County Syrah at a special tasting on the evening of Feburary 16.  And… it’s free.

Eight El Dorado county wineries -- Boeger Winery, Crystal Basin Cellars, David Girard Vineyards, Grace Patriot Wines, Lava Cap, Mount Aukum Winery, Shadow Ranch Vineyard, and Sierra Vista Vineyards & Winery – will pour from 5:30 -7:30 at the El Dorado Hills California Welcome Center.  For more information, go to the Facebook page (click here) or call 916-358-3700
Here are some of the wines you’ll enjoy at the SyrahDay tasting:

Mike Owen of Crystal Basin will be pouring two wines .  “Our 2009 Syrah that just won a Silver Medal at the SF Chronicle Wine Competition and our 2006 Syrah Port.  We are -sold out- of all of our previously produced Syrah wines. “
Crystal Basin made 311 cases of their 2009 Syrah El Dorado 'Reserve', using grapes sourced from BushBrothers Sumu-Kaw Vineyard, El Dorado County.  It’s been 18 months in neutral French and American barrels, 15.5% alcohol, and $22/bottle on the website.
Winemaker notes on 2009 Syrah:  Winemaker's Notes: The classic Northern Rhone wine grape is packed with rich ripe fruit and blackberry flavors with a touch of spiciness. We have a great history with this vineyard dating back to 1993. These grapes are potentially the most true to form for this vertical, exhibitions the traditional gamey flavors that tend to go well with lamb.
This wine exudes the character of the Rhone River Valley and has a hint of smokiness and soft tannins. This is a big Syrah with supple tannins that will go with most meat dishes. We almost always win medals (mostly Silvers) for this wine –no matter what competition we enter it into.
Our Syrah gets fermented with two different UC Davis yeast strains that distinctly complement each other. We wait until these are finished wines and then blend them at the second racking.
This wine will serve quite well up until 2015. Then it will serve better!!
Lava Cap, Placerville, will be pouring its 2009 estate syrah, from their west-facing sunshine-filled slope, planted 18 years ago. “It thrives there and we produce an estate bottled syrah as well as blend it in our Zinfandel blend called American River Red. Our winemaker Tom enjoys the rich structure of syrah and observes the varietal as ideal in blends. He is hand crafting a Grenache-Mourvedre-Syrah blend for future release, “ noted Beth Jones.   
Tom Jones produced 816 cases of the Lava Cap 2009 Estate Bottled El Dorado syrah, 14.7% alcohol, $21/bottle on the website.  Winemaker notes:  “Lava Cap’s syrah vineyard is located on a gentle, south facing slope. This location allows for extended hang-time which yields fully developed aroma, flavor and tannin resulting in wine of intensity and depth.  Dark cherry and plum provide mouth-filling intensity with a hint of carob and spice.  The flavors are as generous as they are complex, dark stone fruit and carob, woven with savory spice, white pepper and tannin.  Grilled and barbecued meats, pork and venison or a hunk of rustic bread and olive oil are great accompaniment to this wine."

John MacCready of Sierra Vista Winery, Placerville,  will be pouring his Fleur de Montagne(syrah based)  /Reserve Syrah, Red Rock Ridge Syrah.  “Over the years the Red Rock Ridge Syrah has been compared favorably to some of the best of Cote Rotie by those who have tasted fine Syrah from Cote Rotie,” said John, winemaker and owner.  Frankly, Sierra Vista’s Fleur de Montagne is one of my all-time favorite wines, so I am so pleased he is pouring it.  It’s a delicious rouge Chateauneuf-du-Pape style blend. $29/bottle on the website.

The Red Rock Ridge Syrah is Sierra Vista Winery’s flagship Syrah, and very reminiscent of a Cote Rotie. Winemaker’s Notes on the 2005:  “Deep purple in color with a wonderful bouquet of red berry and violets, the ripe, juicy raspberry and cherry flavors marry well with hints of oak and medium tannins. This wine will age nicely over the next 6 to 12 years, “ $32/bottle on the website.

Syrah and the Sierra Foothills, Part 1

Image courtesy WineWithMe Blog
International Syrah Day is February 16, and Syrah producers everywhere participate in a variety of activites.  That will happen in 2012 despite the somewhat-gloomy remarks in the recent blogpost done by Eric Asimov, the headline of which is:  “Why Syrah Hasn’t Caught On in America.”
“The real issue is why Americans don’t buy syrah. This question has caused great heartache and controversy, especially in the California syrah business,” Asimov noted.  “This, I suggest, is why American don’t buy a lot of syrah: Too many of the wines seem generic, a blend of fruit and oak that may be vaguely pleasant but could come from anywhere and be made of any grape.”

“Conversely, the best American syrahs, in my opinion, are made by producers who have been inspired by the great traditionalists of the northern Rhône,” he said.

Of course, in this last remark, Asimov must be talking about Syrah from the Sierra Foothills.

And so, it will be a treat to wine lovers near Sacramento – or those willing to drive there – to enjoy some excellent El Dorado County Syrah at a special tasting on the evening of Feburary 16.  And… it’s free.

Eight El Dorado county wineries -- Boeger Winery, Crystal Basin Cellars, David Girard Vineyards, Grace Patriot Wines, Lava Cap, Mount Aukum Winery, Shadow Ranch Vineyard, and Sierra Vista Vineyards & Winery – will pour from 5:30 -7:30 at the El Dorado Hills California Welcome Center.  For more information, go to the Facebook page (click here) or call 916-358-3700

As to Asimov’s remarks, a few comments from Sierra Foothill wineries:
Mike Owen of Crystal Basin notes:  “There are multiple issues impacting this simple question of why Americans don’t drink syrah.  Asimov touched on one of them - the big bad 3 tier system.  Mass market Syrah in grocery stores or non-major market wine shops have disappointed many a curious wine consumer.  Once the hint of Syrah becoming the 'next big thing' was communicated, the big boys raced out and planted oodles of it. This fruit from new vines, made in million gallon tanks using a chemical soup process, was inevitably not very good.  It turned off a lot of potential consumers.

"Another is that Syrah has not yet developed a dominant style that people can expect when they are picking out an unfamiliar bottle.   There is considerable consumer confusion about what Syrah "is".  On one hand, you have the French creating terrior-driven wines of highly developed style at relatively low alcohols.  Then, the Aussies pop up with Shiraz, made in an over-extracted. boozy, blueberry fruitbomb style.    Zinfandel has become successful despite being made in a very wide range of styles.  Unfortunately, having two very different styles of Syrah as global benchmarks creates a confused consumer base.

"I've been to the Rhone and sat down for a lovely dinner during the harvest of 1995 with Yves Cuilleron.  There are some EXCELLENT wines being made over there.  However, at that time, the competitive aspect of the success of the New World had not been comprehended in France and there were notable producers who were making wines that were seriously flawed with overly suphured and burnt match aspects.  The best were really the best of breed (think Brune-et-Blonde from Guigal) and the worst were equivalent to the worst stuff coming out of Ceres.
"The US market has to look past Napa and perhaps Paso Robles for good Syrah.  Washington is doing a good job and there are some outstanding versions coming out of the California Foothills.  All I can say is, "Just wait!".   

"The future of Syrah is all about fruit and getting that fruit - with the smoky meat, pepper and berry aspects that mark the variety - into the bottle,” Owen said.

 John MacCready of Sierra Vista Winery responded to the Asimov piece, and in particular this comment from Asimov:  “This, I suggest, is why American don’t buy a lot of syrah: Too many of the wines seem generic, a blend of fruit and oak that may be vaguely pleasant but could come from anywhere and be made of any grape.”  
MacCready believes that great Syrah wines do not come out of the Southern Rhone Valley. “Likewise,“ he said, “many regions in the USA are not suitable for great Syrah wine but make pleasant but not great wine much as vin de pay in Languedoc.  Many of the cooler regions in the Sierra Foothills qualify for climates similar to the northern Rhone and many do not. 

"Who determines what is a great Syrah?  I maintain that many judges at competitions do not know a great Syrah from a big high alcohol wine from a warm region in California!”
See Syrah and the Sierra Foothills, Part 2  for more information on syrah and the Sierra Foothills.

Celebrating SyrahDay, two special blogs about Syrah and the Sierra Foothills!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Pruett Vineyards Syrah - Great Ratings from Wine Spectator

Just in time for International Syrah Day (February 16), a Sierra Foothills vineyard can exult in their accomplishment producing Syrah that's been highly rated.   Here's what we heard directly from Scott Pruett, Vineyard Owner and Winemaker:

It's Valentine's Day, but that's not the only reason hearts are pounding at Pruett Vineyard in Auburn, CA.  Wine Spectator has just rated their
         Pruett Estate Syrah and Pruett Reserve Syrah a very impressive 91 points each!

Scott Pruett in his vineyard 

 "This is so exciting, and just huge for us on a personal level as well as a community level," exclaims Scott Pruett, Vineyard Owner and Winemaker.

He continues, "This is the first wine from the estate that we have had rated.  To score 91 points is both humbling and affirming.  To my knowledge this is the highest WS rating received from this area of the Sierra Foothills."

Pruett, along with his wife Judy and their entire family, take extreme pride in their Syrah vintages, as the grapes are all grown on their Auburn, CA Estate.  They are intimately involved in every aspect of the wine, from vine to bottle.

"I don't care who or where you are,  to score that high on your first Estate release, is an incredible accomplishment.  And we're just getting started!", says a happy Scott Pruett.

Issue: Wine Spectator Mar 31, 2012

Syrah Sierra Foothills Estate 2009

Score: 91
Released Price: $36.00
NOTES: Firm, rich layered, at points creamy textured, with dark berry, espresso, melted licorice and savory notes.  Remains a tempting mix of rustic minerality and rich, layered fruit.  Best from 2012 through 2022.  150 cases made. -JL

Syrah Sierra Foothills Reserve 2009
Score: 91
Released Price: $46.00
NOTES: Intense and extracted, with detailed mineral, spice and dark berry nuances.  Shows a touch more earthiness and rusticity, but also a shade more depth, than the Pruett Estate.  Best from 2012 through 2022.  100 cases made.-JL

Scott says that the Estate Syrah is available now, and the Estate Reserve will be available later this month! For more information, take a look on their website:

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Journey to a Prestigious Gold Award by One Small El Dorado Winery

A chef and a chemist went to San Francisco….
That’s the beginning of the deeper story about how Marty and Eileen Blair, owners of Mais Fica Winery in Placerville, El Dorado county, won a Gold Medal at the SF Chronicle Competition for their Rhone Blend – the Mais Fica 2008 Festa (Mourvedre/Grenache blend), in the category of under $19.99-per-bottle wines. 
Eileen loves to cook.  That’s one of the reasons they chose to plant Rhone varietals on their 2 ½ acres in Placerville.  “We chose Rhone varietals because they are so food friendly,” she said.”They can be paired with almost any food.  We just think, personally, that because zins and cabs are more heavy bodied, they are harder to pair with most foods.  We also knew that Rhone varietals do very well in our area and some of our winery neighbors were having great success with their Rhone plantings.
Today Mais Fica produces only 400 cases per year.  They do not have a tasting room, nor does the winery have standard visiting hours.  But if you call Eileen at 530-344-0725, she’ll be happy to set up a private tour and tasting.   If you can’t wait to taste the award-winning 2008 Festa, then get a ticket to the San Francisco Chronicle Public Wine Tasting  at Fort Mason on February 18 and enjoy a taste there.
The Blair family got into the winery business through “a hobby run amok”, said Eileen.  Marty, a chemist, was a  home winemaker for 10 years, making wine in their basement in Redwood City.  Marty was always interested in the chemistry of winemaking, and he decided that he wanted more control over the whole process.  After a while, buying grapes was not sufficient anymore.
“It took us 10 years to find the land.  And when we did, in 2005 it was just a bare piece of land,” said Eileen.  "We  started from scratch--  clearing it, and then putting the vineyard in.”  They planted Grenache, Mourvedre, and Syrah grapes in the Pleasant Valley district of Placerville, at 2500 feet elevation.  “Our focus is to produce the highest quality fruit possible to ensure the finest wine at a reasonable price.“
They had some helpful advice from nearby winemakers, and in particular talked to Josh and Carrie at Holly’s Hill, Chaim and Elisheva at C.G. DiArie, and John MacCready at Sierra Vista.  
This is the fourth year that Mais Fica has released its wines.  Only 165 cases of the award-winning 2008 Festa were made, but Eileen assures me that some is still available to buy:  $15.00 per bottle. The wine can be ordered directly from their website or from select wine shops and restaurants in California; the website has more information.  
Eileen shared a recipe she’s developed that pairs well with this wine:

Mais Fica Winery’s Osso Buco Recipe

This is a great winter recipe.  Enjoy it with our 2008 Festa (Rhone Blend)

4-6 veal shanks (have butcher cut into short lengths)
Salt and fresh pepper, to taste
¼ - ½ cup flour, for dredging meat before browning
Olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2-3 carrots, peeled and diced
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1 ½ cups red wine (2008 Festa)
3 cups beef or veal stock
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 fresh rosemary sprig
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme (or 1 tsp. dried)
Gremolata (for sprinkling over veal before serving):   In small bowl, stir together ½ cup minced parsley, finely grated zest of 1 lemon and 2 crushed and minced garlic cloves

Preheat oven to 325°F

Season the veal with salt and pepper and dredge in flour.  In heavy dutch oven over medium high heat, brown veal in olive oil until browned on all sides (5-10 minutes).   Transfer to a plate and keep warm.  Add the onions, carrots, and garlic to the dutch oven and saute for 5-10 minutes until onions are translucent and vegetables begin to brown.  Add wine, stock, tomatoes, rosemary and thyme and bring to a boil.  Add veal, cover, and put in oven to cook until meat is tender, about 1 ½ to 2 hours.  Check pan occasionally and add more stock if necessary to keep level about half way up the side of the shanks.

Transfer veal to bowl and discard rosemary.  Use immersion blender to roughly puree liquid in dutch oven keeping some of the vegetables intact.  Add back veal and warm until heated through.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve over polenta or risotto and sprinkle with the gremolata.

About the winery name, a note from the website:   "Mais Fica means "more for me" in Portuguese and was a favorite expression of Marty's grandmother, Margaret Azevedo. She used it most frequently when her many grandkids did not eat all the food she lovingly served them. "
Mais Fica Winery is located at 3395 Kincade Drive, Placerville, CA  95667. 530-344-0725

Monday, February 6, 2012

Doing Outreach Right -- Mellowood's Linda Neal Does a Fantastic Job

Ever since I first made contact with Linda Neal, owner of Mellowood in the South Fair Play area of El Dorado County, she has lured me time and again to open her email blitz messages.  As a writer of a wine column, I get a lot of such messages, and frankly, not many of them are compelling enough to spend more than 20 seconds reading.

But yesterday, I was looking back at e-mails I'd saved over the holiday season when I'd decided I wanted to spend more than 20 seconds of reading time but not-right-then, and her pre-Christmas message came up.
So I thought I'd reprint it for you, and perhaps you can understand why a reader might find it so compelling.  It helps substantially that her emails are anchored with a good photo, very personal, showing Linda or one of her crew involved in the vineyard, crushpad or winery.  Like the one that heads this post, which came along with the pre-holiday message.

And, if you are a Sierra Foothills winery that has a newsletter or email campaign of which you'd like me to be aware, put me on your list:  barbarakeck (dot) winenewswriter (at) gmail (dot) com.

Now, heeere's.... Linda ....

The longest night of the year, Winter Solstice, has passed and each day will grow longer and brighter.  I am so happy this holiday season, having visited with so many family and friends in recent weeks.  True, I am always wishing for moretime, one more hug, one more raising of the glass singing “cheers”.  Hopefully, your Christmas will be just as blessed.  I wish you a wonderful Merry Christmas, and a very Happy New Year, surrounded by your favorite people, food and, of course, wines.  As soon as you can, please pay me a visit at Mellowood Vineyard to share all your holiday stories.
 We will be closed December 24th & 25th, open on the 26th from 12-4.  On December 31st I will meet you by advance appointment, then closed January 1st.  Read below for a few of the Mellowood events coming up in the New Year….

 December 30th, join me at Bocconato for the final dinner with Giovanni and Sheri Gaudio in that space.  Call 530-620-2493.

 January 14, 21, 28 and February 4th, support the Pioneer Fire Department by attending one of their marvelous Crab Banquets.  Follow the link for tickets and more information.  Bring your ticket into the tasting room for a 20% discount on your purchase.  Another 20% of all purchases on Crab dates will be donated to the Pioneer Volunteer Firefighters Association.

 February 18th, take a delicious trip around the world with Mellowood and six South Fair Play Wineries.  We will feature hearty gourmet soups with an international flair.  Save the date, more details to follow.

 Late winter, watch for announcements of our pruning clinics!

 Until I see you, have a wonderful holiday, and stay in touch when you can.

Yours truly,
 Linda Neal
Mellowood Vineyard
2979 Mellowood Drive
Fair Play, CA  95684
Normally Open Friday-Sunday 10-4, or by appointment

Friday, February 3, 2012

El Dorado Vineyard Owners ~ 2012 Concerns and Communications

The fact that fruit from El Dorado vineyards is quarantine free, and the wonders of intense and flavorful grapes that come from high elevation vineyards -- those are two important messages for vineyard owners in El Dorado to communicate loud and far.

Jerry Stidham
 A conversation with Jerry Stidham, Marketing Committee Chairman for the El Dorado Wine Grape Growers Association was a dicussion of many topics concerning vineyard owners in this Sierra Foothill region.  He's justifiably proud of the fact that membership in this vineyard owners group grew from 75 to 100 members last year, and pleased that many wineries who also sell some fruit from their vineyards have joined the association too.  Expect that in 2012, you'll hear more from this group than ever before.  Their website is being improved, (click here to see it now) although in my opinion it's pretty good already.

Wine is made in the vineyard.  That's an expression so old as to make many eyes roll, but as a consumer comes up the wine self-education curve and develops his or her palate, that consumer always gains a deeper appreciation for this fact.

So what are the concerns of El Dorado vineyard owners this year?  Two major ones, says Jerry.

" We may be dealing with a situation of limited tonnage again.  More vineyards need to be planted," Jerry noted as his foremost observation.

"El Nino or Nina, whatever it is.  We are subject to the weather patterns, like everywhere else.  No one knows what is really going to happen.  Water.  Fruit Set.  We will just have to wait and see."

Look to this, and other, vineyard and winery associations to keep the news flowing as the 2012 year in wine moves forward.