About The Wine Adventures of Bruce and Pam

We travel the dusty back roads of California's wine country each month and recap our adventures of wineries we found, great places to eat and fun places to stay!

THREE THINGS TO DO WITH LEFTOVER WINE

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Any of you ever experience this:  a great bottle of wine, with half leftover.  Your guests are gone, you can’t drink it up alone … what to do?

Here are three ways you can use up that wine:

  1. Pour the remainder in ice cube trays, freeze, and pull out when you need wine for cooking.
  1. Get the kind of canister of inert gas, sold at wine shops, and use it to negate oxygenation of your wine as it’s stored in the fridge.
  1. Get out your cookbooks or go online, and whip up some dishes that require wine. We love Recipe Girl’s “100 Recipes Using Leftover Red Wine” (www.recipegirl.com).  Google, and you’ll find many more.

THINK OF WHAT THEY DO!

Winemakers

That bottle of artisan wine you enjoyed last night , the one from the guy who produces less than 5,000 cases a year…we know you know, but there really is a tremendous amount of effort that goes into it.

These small producers face innumerable challenges on their road to cork their wine.  They need to know about viticulture, winemaking, wine distribution, marketing, government regulations, consumer preferences … the list goes on.

Not so long ago, most people wanting to start a winery in California looked for vineyard land first. They planted a vineyard, then, as they gained capital, built a winery.

At least small winemakers today no longer are tied to that scenario.  Most of them begin their brands on a shoestring, using co-op wine facilities and buying their fruit from independent growers.

But while the capital outlay to begin a brand today is far less, the need for knowledge and the ability to wear many, many hats has increased.  A lone winemaker has to do it all – locate the good grapes, make the wine, and go out and sell it.

Some have advantages.  If it is a family business, a winemaker can focus on what he or she does best, and let other family members take care of the rest.  If a family vineyard exists, a winemaker might have a better grip on that part of the puzzle.

Also, winemakers with varied backgrounds in the wine business can have an edge. For example, Michael Quinn, who produces just 1,500 annual cases of mostly  premium Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon for his Michael-Scott Wines, has the advantage of years of experience in several areas of the wine industry.

He gave us the scoop in an interview last week for our Aged Cabernet Serie.

He began his career at the age of 18 years old, as a Napa native working in the tasting room of Beringer Winery.  He later went across the street to Charles Krug, then learned viticulture for five years at Robert Mondavi.

After a stint as a vineyard manager, Michael explored the sales and marketing side.  He became a wine seller dealing with buyers, wine shops and restaurants over a huge area covering all of northern California to Lake Tahoe.

So, by the time he decided to start his own label, buyers had lined up to buy it–he presold his first vintage before it was even ready for tasting.

But even with his amazing background, Michael tells us,

a winemaker needs to wear all the hats all the time.  “You have to be ready for anything and everything,” he says.  “I’ve been doing it so long, so nothing surprises me.”  Michael emphasized that “you have to be flexible.  You have to be ready for the changes. Vintages that are panned by the media – you still must be able to sell your wine.  And there is competition. The big guys have more

money and more clout.  And then you sometimes have a battle getting paid for your wine.”

So, next time you sip an artisan blend, you might give a toast to the hard work that made it possible.

THE NAME GAME

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Ever wonder about the names of California wineries?

Of the 468 wineries listed in The New Connoisseurs’ Guidebook to California Wine & Wineries (easy paperback, must-have reference by Charles Olken of Connoisseurs’ Guide).  By our rough count, 203 of these, less than half, were named for the founders.  This was a surprise — we thought 90% of the wineries listed would have been named for the founders. Given the amount of time, money, effort and ego that goes into creating a winery, using the family name would seem the most likely choice — but not so!

Below are 5 questions about California winery names.

If you’re surprised by some of the answers, hooray.

Got any winery names that are standouts in your book?

Always love to hear about them.

  1. What is the Napa winery named for a railroad?
  1. List all the wineries you can think of with “Robert” in the name.
  1. What do 4 out of these 5 wineries have in common (hint – it has 4 legs).

1) Rustridge Ranch & Winery

2) Marimar Estate

3) Trefethen

4) Nickel & Nickel

5) Signorello

  1. Match the winery to the appellation:

 

  1. Ladera
  2. Joullian
  3. Morgan
  4. Bridlewood

 

  1. Santa Barbara
  2. Howell Mountain
  3. Monterey
  4. Carmel Valley

Answers:

1. Iron Horse

2. Robert Biale Vineyards

Robert Craig Winery

Robert Foley Vineyards

Robert Hall Winery

Robert Hunter Winery

Robert Keenan Winery

Robert Mondavi Winery

Robert Pecota Winery

Robert Sinskey Vineyards

Robert Stemmler Winery

Robert Young Estate Winery

 

  1. All but Signorello have horses in common. RustRidge trains and races thoroughbreds.  Marimar Torres has a boarding stable and rides dressage.  Janet Trefethen is one of the nation’s top cutting horse riders.  Nickel & Nickel, with its 3 rail white fence and 2 horses, just looks like a very horsey place.

4.

1.b. Ladera/Howell Mountaon

2.d. Joullian/Carmel Valley

3.c. Morgan/Monterey

4.a. Bridlewood/Santa Barbara

Don’t Miss “Beaverstock” at Castoro!

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You’ve heard of Woodstock…now, experience Beaverstock at Castoro Cellars.

What’s with the beaver?  Well, castoro means beaver in Italian, and in his student days, it was the nickname for Niels Udsen who began Castoro, with his wife Bimmer, more than 30 years ago.  They were among the first to see the potential in Paso Robles…when we first met them, they were a young couple with toddlers operating their winery out of an old warehouse. Now the toddlers, Luke and Max, are part of Castoro Cellars, they own 1,000 acres of vines, their hacienda-like winery near Templeton is crowded with visitors and they want to celebrate–with Beaverstock.

Beaverstock is this family’s way to give back to the community they love.  It’s billed as “Two days of wine-loving peace and music in the vineyard.”  Proceeds will go to the Templeton Education Foundation which works with the Templeton School District, alma mater for Luke and Max.

The two-day line up is fantastic, including Allen Stone, The Band of Heathens, Los Lobos, Sean Hayes, Zongo All-Stars and more.  And the line-up of wines?  They’re all “dam fine” of course!

 

Visit www.castorocellars.com to buy online or call 888-Dam-Fine.

What exactly IS a wine snob?

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We know someone who years ago, was invited to go on a balloon ride with a friend over Temecula Valley wine country.  We’ll call her Joan.

The tour people served champagne to the group of six upon landing, and Joan started sharing some fun information about Champagne — number of bubbles in a glass, the fact that there is no “Champagne” grape — and her friend pulled her aside.

“What are doing?” she asked her.

“Just sharing some fun stuff about Champagne.”

“Well, don’t!”

After this, Joan could tell she was getting a somewhat cold shoulder from others in the group, who, before her Champagne talk, had been friendly.

We think this is a great example of how complicated the issue of “the wine snob” can be.  “Snob” is generally defined as someone who thinks they are superior to others, who looks down on others.  This was not Joan.

Yet, by offering information about a wine everyone was enjoying, she was perceived as a wine snob.

What is a wine snob?  It depends on the person making the definition.

For some folks, a wine snob is anyone who talks about wine in ways they don’t understand.  It may feel to them that this person is trying to show off.  In America, fine wine was viewed for many decades as something upper class and high-brow; many people felt intimidated by it.  Some of these attitudes still hang around –and so sometimes, we think, wine lovers like Joan are unfairly dubbed as snobs.

For others, a wine snob is someone who refuses to drink wines that don’t meet his or her high standards (like Miles in Sideways).  This kind of snob can make the rest of us feel like shlubs who can’t tell a good wine from a lousy wine.

For us, a wine snob is a person who feels they are vastly superior to others because of their wine knowledge.  They use that knowledge to impress, intimidate and embarrass others.

It’s possible to know a great deal about a subject, and not be a snob about it, and this can be true of wine knowledge.  Just because you know a lot about wine doesn’t mean you’re a snob — without a “superior” attitude toward others, you could actually be a wine enthusiast.

There’s another category of wine lover that we think people mistakenly identify as a snob.  That is the wine bore.  Watch out!  The wine bore is a dangerous threat to a great evening.  Wine bores can literally put you to sleep.  A wine bore may not even be a wine snob — just someone so full of wine information they can’t help spewing it out incessantly.

We still don’t think that was Joan.

So– what’s your definition of a wine snob? Any experiences with them?

Wine Country During Harvest – Go! (Oops! It might be over!)

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Depending on which part of wine country you’re visiting, harvest may already be winding down.  At tiny Dragonette Cellars in Santa Barbara County, they’re pretty much done.  “We started harvest Aug. 9th and by September 1, we had 75% of our fruit in,” said co-founder Steve Dragonette. “Why was it so early?  “It was due to an early bud break.  Winter weather was so warm, the vines started early.  And there was no frost.”  The early finish is very unusual for these guys.  “We’re planning a Halloween party for the first time ever!”

If you do make it to harvest in time, enjoy the buzz.  You’re likely to see truckloads of grapes and workers, busy crews among the vines  — the hustle and bustle of harvest.  Great photo ops. But don’t expect to meet the winemakers pouring you a glass in the tasting room– they’re usually out in the vineyard or receiving grapes in the cellar as they work 14-hour harvest days.

Have you ever visited wine country during harvest?  What’s your favorite memory?

 

Three Winemakers You’d Want to Meet

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Daryl Groom:  Daryl makes our head spin.  Not just because his Groom Wines are incredible, but also, because this guy just never stops making wine!  He’s been at it for 40 years, with all kinds of “Winemaker of the Year” honors from the likes of the Los Angeles Times and San Francisco Chronicle. Above and beyond that, this Aussie flies all over the world making wine, handling his brands in Australia and California, consulting for other wineries and judging at six international wine shows.  As if that weren’t enough, he is one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet and so willing to share his knowledge about wine.  His passion for it is infectious, and his whole family is involved, including his son Colby, who has his own wine to fund heart health and research.  A delightful person, family man and wine master.

Dan Gehrs:  Easy going, affable and absolutely determined to produce great wine.  That’s Gehrs, founder of Daniel Gehrs Wines in Santa Barbara.

And did we mention, modest?  Dan would never be the one to tell you that he was the first to make a breakout Syrah in Santa Barbara, which earned a top score from

Wine Spectator and sent the region on is quest for Rhone wines.  He’s seen Santa Barbara appellations grow up and has been part of their evolution every step of the way.  And he knows how to take time off–he and his wife Robin hop on his Harley and drive up hwy. 1, a spectacular way to visit one of the world’s most beautiful places.

Claus Janzen:  Claus is a fermentation of wine savvy, know-how and inventiveness.  He’s a delightful man to talk to about his passion wine, for he has a quick wit and amazing grasp of wine from many angles. Years ago, Claus was a somewhat frustrated non-professional wine expert in Canada, where he won that nation’s top amateur wine tasting.  Claus then decided to direct his life toward wine, first taking his family for a year to France’s Rhone country, then landing a marketing job at Caymus in Napa.  There, he began making his Bacio Divino (“divine kiss”) red blends, to immediate acclaim. Today, with his wife and son, he is still pursuing “the Great Bottle” with ongoing applause from consumers and critics.