19 Nov

Rhone Rangers Ride Again

Rhone Rangers Event LogoTwelve days ago, we ventured to The Reef in downtown Los Angeles to sample wines of the Rhone Rangers, a non–profit educational organization consisting of almost 200 winemakers (initially from California, but now also claiming members from Oregon, Washington, Virginia Michigan, Virginia, Idaho, New York and Arizona) who create wine in the style of the reds (such as Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Petite Sirah) and whites (such as Viognier, Roussanne, Marsanne and Grenache Blanc) of France’s Rhône Valley. To qualify as a Rhone Ranger wine, the winery must be a member of the organization and 75% of the wine’s content must include one or more of the 22 traditional Rhone grape varieties as approved by the French government for the wines of the Côtes du Rhone, twelve varieties of which are known to be planted in the USA. Roughly 50 wineries were on hand, many hailing from Paso Robles and the Santa Ynez Valley, a few from places such as Monarch Beach to the South and Fiddletown, Templeton and Shandon to the north, several from the northern California counties of Lake, Mendocino, Monterey, Napa, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz and Sonoma and even one from Walla Walla, Washington. This very diverse spread of winemakers with a singular focus on Rhone varietals came together that day to present about 200 wines, more than we could sample in the limited time we had that day. So, what did we find? Read on…

16 Oct

Celebration of Harvest 2015

ImageWe took off Friday morning to make the quick trip from Los Angeles to the Santa Ynez Valley to get a jump on an extended weekend of wine tasting and fun. After hitting a few wineries that afternoon, we spent a relaxing evening dining at Petros, located in the Fess Parker Wine Country Inn & Spa facility in Los Olivos. The weather has been unseasonably hot recently, so we enjoyed a long walk in the late evening as the temperature trended down into the night as is typical for the area. That’s part of what makes the area perfect for viticulture. The main event—the Santa Barbara Vintners’ Celebration of Harvest Grand Tasting—was slated for Saturday afternoon at the grounds of the historic Mission Santa Inés. (The vintners also hold various winery and wine events throughout the weekend.) It’s an annual celebration of the end of the harvest, a party to mark the end of the long days and hard work involved in picking the grapes and rushing them into the wineries for processing. This year, the exceedingly hot weather resulted in an earlier harvest than usual, but everyone was still ready for a big celebration. Read on…

28 Sep

Summertime in Seattle (Part 1)

Wildflowers in Mt. Rainier National ParkOnce the kids all hit college age and beyond, the opportunities for family travel get fragmented and you savor whatever you can get. So, this past July we took our youngest with us (just before he was to go to college) as we ventured to the Seattle area in search of wine, food and nature. We spent a good deal of May and June negotiating the itinerary with our 18 year old, who is a pretty persistent negotiator. His vocation is photography and he’s particularly fond of old camera techniques using black and white media and he makes some pretty stiff demands, such as “I want to be in the middle of a river near a waterfall where no one else has ever been and where the lighting is strongest behind me and the fog is just starting to roll into the valley as the sun is dropping lower against the horizon.” He then points to a place on the map on the upper slopes of Mt. Rainier (the highest peak in the Cascade Mountain Range) where there is no road access for about 15 miles in any direction. Of course, we haven’t gone mountain climbing for—well, ever. Read on…

31 Aug

Pence Ranch

Pence Ranch Label LogoWhat a busy summer it has been! We dropped two of our three college boys off and only one remains at home for a few more weeks. We had some interesting travels the past 2–3 months and now it’s time to tell you some of the stories. But first, some of the wine. We made our way to Santa Barbara County, specifically the Santa Ynez area at the end of July to attend Palmina’s 20th anniversary party, where we were excited to sample some of Steve Clifton’s Pinot Noir experiments for his new La Voix Winery label to be launched soon. But that’s a story for another day (very soon). In the meantime, we checked into a converted barn overlooking a vineyard on Meadowlark Lane near Santa Ynez and quickly made our way over to Pence Ranch, a 200–acre working ranch and vineyard (100 acres planted) near the Buellton side of the Sta. Rita Hills AVA. We had scheduled an appointment and were eager to sample their wines. Read on…

06 Jul

Lugana DOC Tasting

Lugana Turbiana Grapes (image courtesy of Consorzio Tutela Lugana DOC)Last week, we were welcomed to a delightful tasting of some excellent white wines of the Lugana DOC. The event was organized through Ian Blackburn’s wineLA, a primary source for the LA wine scene. Lugana spans the two Italian regions—Lombardy and Veneto—in the morainic plain south of Lake Garda, but it is relatively small—about 225 square kilometers (about 15 km x 15 km). This DOC produces about 14 million bottles of wine per year, 75% of which is exported. Two-thirds of the exported wine goes to Germany, and the USA is their second largest export market. Yet, so many terrific Lugana wines are not yet exported to the USA. We were lucky enough to try them that day and we hope US importers are taking note, because we want more of them right here at home! Read on…

18 May

Vino California 2015

Vino CaliforniaVino California is a celebration of Italian wine on the West Coast. We were invited to this year’s installment and we can report that it was as good as, or even better than, last year’s event. It attracts a collection of wines from all over Italy, which offers an abundance of grape varietals and styles. The event was held once again at Valentino in Santa Monica, which is a great venue. There were many fine wines on hand that day and we couldn’t taste them all. So, we’re only going to scratch the surface by telling you about the ones we found to be the most interesting and delightful to us. Read on…

07 May

Loire Valley Wines’ Day in LA

Loire Valley Wine MapWe visited France’s Loire Valley last week, at least in our minds, when we joined a trade and media wine tasting event sponsored by Loire Valley Wines in downtown Los Angeles. The Loire Valley has five distinct wine regions—Pays Nantais, Anjou, Saumur, Touraine and Centre–Loire—that extend along the Loire River from the Atlantic Ocean to the Center of France. Each region is comprised of several appellations boasting their particular style and grape varietals. If forced to pick our favorite Loire Valley wine regions (and varietals), we’d have to choose the two most inland (eastern) of the Loire regions—Touraine (Chenin Blanc/Vouvray and Cabernet Franc/Chinon) and Centre–Loire (Sauvignon Blanc/Sancerre & Pouilly Fumé). Of course, that would be merely scratching the surface of what the Loire Valley offers. Read on…