Wine Can Tell a Story — Are you listening?

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There are plenty of people who enjoy wine without fanfare.  They uncork the wine, pour it and are happy if it tastes good. They’re even happy if it’s “not too bad”!

Then, there’s the rest of us.  We like to know where the wine came from.

Who made it?  Is it a family?  How many generations?  Why do they make wine? Did they grow the grapes themselves, or buy them?  Where are those vineyards, anyway?  In an appellation we’ve heard of?  Have they made this wine before?  Did they add other varietals to the wine, or is it a stand-alone 100% varietal?

These are stories wine tells us.

There’s nothing wrong with simply uncorking a bottle and enjoying, no questions asked.  But there’s something to learn when you question why one wine taste great and another wine doesn’t measure up.

As California winemaking and viticulture have come of age, Golden State wine has become better and better.   And its stories have become more interesting.

As the competition heats up among wineries, they are doing more and more to make a better wine each year.

The explosion of very small, artisan brands in California, often begun by passionate winemakers who buy all their grapes and own no winery facilities, has been a surprising and exhilarating phenomenon.

Yes, the big conglomerates dominate the market.  But for those of us on the lookout for better and better wine, the small family wineries and these adventurous new generation winemakers are creating some wonderful stories in the bottle.

What do you get when you pay more for wine?

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Well, that depends on the wine.

But in an ideal world–and at The California Wine Club — our more expensive wines are handcrafted in every sense of the word.

What you get is artistry, expertise and years of experimentation in the vineyard and the cellar.  Uncork the wine, and experience decades of effort in understanding how the climate, soils and aspects of a certain vineyard can express themselves in a wine; meticulous viticulture representing the best practices based on years of effort; the knowledge of how a certain vineyard needs to be tended depending on the weather that year; decades of barrel trials in the cellar to determine the exact combination of oak that melds perfectly with this particular wine.

What about you?  What do you seek in wines that cost a bit more?

Wine Dogs … Now, Wine Trucks

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Dog/wine lovers have their Wine Dogs of Napa and Wine Dogs of Sonoma books. Wine Dogs of Washington, too.

Well, step aside pups … the winery trucks are rolling in.

Wine Country Trucks of Napa & Sonoma Counties by Lisa A. Harris offers truly gorgeous photos of vintage trucks, working or not, at a variety of wineries.  And delightful commentary about each one.

There’s Mayo Family Winery’s 1931 Chevrolet pickup, gifted to Jeffrey Mayo at age 16 by his dad. Jeffrey lovingly restored it at his high school auto shop class.   It still has its original six-cylinder, 24-horsepower engine.

Or how about Old Yeller, the 1953 Chevrolet 3100 Series pickup that taught all the kids at Sonoma’s Beltane ranch to drive a stick shift, when it wasn’t acting as a prop for LL Bean, William Sonoma and NapaStyle.

Then there’s Gundlach Bundschu, the oldest family-owned winery in California with one of the oldest trucks,

a 1927 Chevrolet one-ton.  Jim Bundschu’s grandfather used it to deliver grapes, oats, hay and pears to market.   It helped Jim learn to drive in 1955, “when his father, Towle, instructed him to drive across a field littered with baled hay and to avoid the bales, which he mostly did.”

We hope you’re getting the picture–Lisa has a great fondness for trucks and has found a mother lode in wine country.

Know a guy you’d like to introduce to wine?

Here’s the perfect vehicle.

 

 

What Makes Great Sparklers?

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That’s easy.  Methode champenoise, the incredibly labor intensive, time-consuming, traditional French technique for making fine Champagne.  Among many other steps, this involves a second fermentation and at least three to five years aging in the bottle before the final steps of wine making.

All this costs money which is why great sparkling wine is more expensive than sparklers made the “industrial” way.  Is there a real difference?  Try a methode champenoise sparkler next to one that’s not.   And let us know which you like best!

4 ways to introduce Newbies to Wine

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So, your brother in-law drinks beer. ONLY beer.  Always has and always will, he says.  Can you lure him to the dark (red wine) side?  Maybe not.  However, here are a few strategies that might encourage someone new to wine to try a sip…or 2 or 3.

  1. During an outdoor project, in the heat of the day, offer the newbie a mimosa (orange juice and champagne). Yes, this is cheating a little, but at least they’ll experience some bubbles.
  1. Again, on a hot day, offer your newbie a glass of chilled Chardonnay — an easy drinker, not too buttery or oaky — or, a Pinot Gris, that user-friendly white. Plus, some super finger food that will make the point that wine and food are AWESOME.  Crab cakes, cold salmon, brie on a cracker?  What worked for you?
  1. You’re watching a movie so bring out the popcorn…and Chardonnay! A buttery Chardonnay this time — with buttered popcorn, it’s a pairing that will  stun any newbie or any connoisseurs, for that matter…
  1. Invite your newbie to dinner. A long dinner, with a main course of beef.  The newbie may want just water, or sparkling water, but rather insist they take the glass of the beautifully complex Cabernet Sauvignon you’re offering.  Ask them to humor you by sipping just a little to start with.  And then one sip every 15 minutes if that’s all they can manage.

About an hour into your dinner, your newbie may experience the transcendent power of a great wine as it unfolds from its tight, bottled beginning to luscious layers of flavors.  As the wine reveals itself, so may your newbie become more open to the real possibility that wine is worth the pour.

Let us know…did you make a convert to wine?

Don’t Forget Temecula!

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With almost all of California’s vineyards up in the northern end of the state, it’s easy to forget what’s happening wine-wise in Southern California.  It’s easy to forget Temecula.

This vibrant wine region is just an hour north of San Diego, and it has the balmy Mediterranean climate so perfect for Rhone varietals.  You might think it would be too hot for decent grape growing, but there are several factors that make its climate moderate.  Two gaps in the coastal mountains allow cool, moist marine air to drift in.   Also, situated at 1,500 to 2,500 feet above sea level, Temecula is surrounded by mountains ranging from 2,000 to 11,000 feet high. Cold air collects between the peaks and flows down into the valley at night, setting the stage for great acidity in Temecula’s wines.

If you’re thinking of visiting, don’t worry about time of year — with just 14 annual inches of rain, it’s unlikely you’ll get rained out.  Sunshine prevails.

Just as attractive as its climate is Temecula’s laid-back

Southern California ambiance.  And we’re not talking L.A.  How to describe it?  To us, it seems very South of the Border — the air has that softness you find in Baja, and the cacti you see on the hillsides, combined with birds like roadrunners, give that feeling of being 500 miles south of San Francisco, which you are.

Wherever wine country is, people tend to be in a party mode, but in Temecula, the party is combined with a special kind of warmth and relaxation that really seems to us to be unique to this wine region. It’s just incredibly easy to have fun at a lot of these Temecula wineries.

We’ve visited hundreds of winery tasting rooms throughout the Golden State, and have to say the most fun we’ve ever had was at Temeucla’s South Coast Winery and Resort.  It was one big party.  Not to mention great wine.  This winery has really led the way as far as offering a true resort wine country experience. Their guest cottages overlook the vineyards (and are very private) and their pool and spa are world-class.

A few miles away, Thornton Winery is another trend-setter in Temecula. It was one of the first to offer premium dining with its Café Champagne and has also been a pioneer among California wineries for its outdoor smooth jazz concert series.  They put on quite a show at Thornton where two generations proudly serve their own sparklers and roll out the red carpet for a never-ending stream of wine lovers.

During the past 10 to 15 years, there has been significant development in Temecula.  Many wineries are now much grander than they were (such as Mount Palomar).  Yet, most of Temecula’s 30 or so wineries remain family owned, where you might meet the  founder over a glass of Syrah or Cab or chat up the winemaker. Didn’t meet the winemaker today? Perhaps mañana, my friend.  Meanwhile, have another taste of wines like Chenin Blanc, Viognier, Tempranillo, or a Rhone Blend.  Welcome to Temecula.

Test Your Wine ‘n Food Pairing Savvy

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Are you a quaffer? One of those people who drink wine just by itself?  Or are you a foodie?  A person who finds delight in pairing wine with food? Here’s a quiz we hope will entertain all types of wine and food lovers.

  1. Which is the best wine to go with a grilled steak?

a) Pinot Noir

b)  Zinfandel

c)  Cabernet Sauvignon

  1. Which of these wines would you choose with a crab salad?

a) sparkling wine

b)  Sauvignon Blanc

c)  Pinot Noir

  1. Pinot Noir is versatile wine with food. It goes well with everything from pizza to salmon to Indian cuisine.

It would be the perfect choice for Thanksgiving dinner,

Except for one thing.  What is that?

 

  1. (c)
  2. any of the 3
  3. cranberry sauce kills delicate Pinot Noir