Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Year in Wine: 2010

Thanks for making 2010 a great year for WinewomenPSP and the charities we serve. Besides your help in boosting membership and event attendance all year long, we appreciate how you rolled up your sleeves to give your time and support at the milestone Coachella Wine Festival and Women Leaders Forum's L.E.A.D. educational conference. Thanks too for spreading the word about the WinewomenPSP Facebook page we launched and comments you've shared.

In no particular order, these outstanding 2010 wine events deserve a toast. Chime in with your memorable 2010 wine experiences.

Wine spot:
The summer opening of 3rd Corner Wine Shop and Bistro was a welcome addition to the valley wine scene. General Manager Marc Plummer guides visitors through their balanced and intriguing wine inventory and gives tableside tips for choosing a wine match you'll like. Executive Chef Matt Smith's cuisine, special wine-pairing and tasting events satisfy wine-curious diners or experienced wine lovers in a comfortable, energized setting. Go.

Wine reading: Daring Pairings by Evan Goldstein was a favorite wine book of the year. See this post for more details. It's not too late to pick it up for the wine-foodie on your list or your own library. After all, Valentine's Day is just around the corner.

Wine online: Sorry Gary V, but's re-release of wine expert Hugh Johnson's 1984 series How to Handle a Wine takes top billing. Learn, laugh and love, as Johnson takes you through the basics with charm and British wit.

Wine values: The best wine prices in years made it tough to decide between bargains and specials that streamed in from all directions. Keep looking and shopping in 2011 as more mark-downs roll in. Stock up on 2008 Pinot Noir from Oregon and big reds from Washington and heavenly picks in 2007 California Cabernet Sauvignon.

Wine tourism: Visits to Los Olivos, Napa, Oregon's Willamette Valley and Washington's Woodinville wine country in 2010 brought exciting wine leads to explore. Napa standouts in 2010 were Robert Biale Vineyards, Regusci (be sure to try their estate olive oil, too), Luna, Hill Family and Signorello. We also checked in with solid producers whose great juice and strong portfolios make them worth return visits. If you haven't built your own list of go-to wines and wineries you like, find a way to taste or visit Byron, Stolpman, Longoria, St. Supery, Failla, Alpha Omega, Lang & Reed, Andrew Rich and Carlton Winemakers Studio, Bergstrom, DiStefano, DeLille and Januik.

Empty bottles: Use the search function or wine listing at the lower right column to bookmark 2010 wines and values from this blog worth a pour. For more, you might want to seek out these winners we tagged in 2010:

Red Wine
Skylight Cellars 2007 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
Santa Ema Amplus One 2006 Old Vines Carignan
Otis Kenyon 2006 Merlot
Coho 2005 Merlot, Michael Black Vineyards
Chateau Virecourt Pillebourse 2005 Bordeaux
Seven Hills 2005 Petit Verdot
Cantele Primitivo 2006
Bodegas El Nido 2007 Clio Jumilla
Zaca Mesa Syrah 2005
Vallado 2007 Douro
Clos de los Siete 2006
Millworks 2008 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
Becker Estate 2007 Pinot Noir
Adelsheim 2008 Pinot Noir Willamette Valley
Tamarack Cellars DuBrul Vineyard 2006 Reserve Rattlesnake Hills

White Wine
Botani 2008 Dry Moscatel
Zolo 2008 Torrontés
Bethel Heights 2009 Pinot Gris
Mönchhof Robert Eymael 2007 Mosel Riesling Spätlese
Andrew Rich 2008 Roussanne
Stolpman 2007 L'Avion

Bodegas Borsao 2009 Rosé
Barnard Griffin 2009 Rosé
Truett Hurst Salmon Run 2008 Zinfandel Rosé
Argiolas Serra Lori 2009 Isola di Nuraghi Rosato

Dessert Wine
Royal Tokaji 2000 Tokaji Aszu 5 Puttonyos
Andrew Rich 2007 Late Harvest Gewürztraminer

We're looking forward to a tasty 2011 as more Pacific Northwest 2008s hit the shelves. Look for more blogging too at writeonwines, writeonhealth or winefoodhealth. Drop a line at gmail for more information.

Have a fabulous, healthy New Year!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Holiday Gifts: Best Wine Clubs

We posted holiday gifts ideas for the wine lovers in your life on our Facebook page today. They include a WinewomenPSP one-year membership that includes a fabulous custom-designed sterling silver and Swarovski crystal wine bottle necklace, gift certificates to our local wine merchants and gorgeous hand-painted wine aerators that bring taste and festive color to your holiday table.

If your wine lover is really special, you might treat him or her to a wine club membership. With wine clubs springing up all over, it can be hard to know where to begin. Here are a few ideas for wine clubs that deliver the goods – excellent and intriguing wines, from travels and tastings over the years.

Byron Wines
We have yet to taste a Byron wine we didn't love. The focused portfolio of this Santa Barbara County winery features a range of styles in Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from a variety of vineyards. They also make a delicious Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris. You can order only Pinot Noir or a mixed collection from their wine club. Either way, you'll get to know beautifully textured and balanced Byron wines. Club members also receive special invitations, which gives you another good reason to visit Los Olivos.

Byron Wines
Santa Maria Winery (805) 934-4770
Los Olivos Tasting Room (805) 938-7365

Oregon Pinot Noir Club
Former journalist and owner Bob Wolfe is an avowed PinotGuy and engaging wine writer. Wolfe makes it his business to uncover gems and values from Oregon's best Pinot Noir producers, big and small. OPNC offers two wine club tiers: World Class and Premium. Choose Premium and your summer shipments will automatically be held until the weather is cool enough for safe transport. OPNC also offers other types of Northwest wines from whites to exotic blends and special bottles from Burgundy. If you're serious about Pinot Noir, this your club.

Oregon Pinot Noir Club
(800) 847-4474

St. Supéry
Napa's family-owned St. Supéry has a remarkably broad portfolio, and it's all good. Their Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon are two sure bets you can find at Vons and Albertsons. While they're both good and excellent values, they only hint at St. Supéry's quality reach. In fact, the limited edition 2006 Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon drinks so well that you could enjoy it alone, or with a wedge of cheese. We didn't encounter a single ho-hummer among the many we tried at their Napa tasting room, from single-varietal whites to elegant white and red blends. They also make a juicy rosé and a fresh, light Moscato to end your holiday meal with a kiss of sweetness. The Wine Club offers discounts, special events and a choice of all red, white or one-and-one shipments. The Divine Club is for lovers of robust reds, and St. Supéry makes quite a few that are indeed, divine. Ask about their new Case Club with special discounts on case purchases.

St. Supéry Vineyards and Winery
(866) 963-4535

Other wineries with clubs that tap into terrific portfolios are Andrew Rich, Beringer and Maryhill. Do you have a favorite wine club we should know? Tell us what makes them special and we might include them in another post.


Sunday, December 5, 2010

Winning Washington Wines

The Discover Washington cover stories in this month's Wine Spectator are definitely worth a read. We had that distinct pleasure last year, as we tasted our way through nearly 100 Northwest wines. The occasion was the first Renaud Society wine competition, held in conjunction with the 5th International Wine and Heart Health Summit in Walla Walla that you read about here.

At the 2009 competition, the Renaud Society – an international organization of medical and wine professionals with an interest in better health and a passion for wine – awarded its best-in-show Tastevin to little-known Skylite Cellars for their 2006 Columbia Valley Reserve, a blend of Malbec, Carmenere and Cabernet Sauvignon.

This year's Renaud Society competition was a bit different. First, the venue had changed to Silverado Resort, in the heart of Napa Cab country. As before, the 2010 contest was held blind using the same 20-point scoring system as in Walla Walla, but with a different panel of judges that tasted their way through a new batch of wine entries. In the end, a surprise outcome carried a familiar ring: the winner of the best in show Renaud Society 2010 Tastevin was Skylite Cellars once again, this time for their 2007 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.

Scoring a second coveted Renaud Society Tastevin recognizes talent at young Skylite Cellars, founded in 2003 by owners Tom and Cheryl Hodgins. To make Skylite's winning 2007 Reserve, winemaker Robert O. Smasne uses 100% Cabernet Sauvignon fruit from three Walla Walla vineyards.

Other Washington wines that landed top-ten scores for gold medal awards were four reds by Maryhill Winery. A Columbia Valley 2009 Gewürztraminer by Maryhill received the highest white wine score for a gold medal. Located along the northern bank of the Columbia River in the gorgeous Gorge region, Winepress NW named Maryhill Winery the 2009 Washington Winery of the Year.

Filling out the 2010 competition's top ten picks were red wines by Napa's Rocca Family Vineyards Grigsby Vineyard 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon and 2007 Syrah; 2006 M by Michael Mondavi Family Wines; and Lamborn Family Vineyards Howell Mountain 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon. Check out the full list of competition winners from 2009 and 2010 on the Renaud Society website.

As the nation's second-largest wine-producing state, Washington is producing terrific wines worth a pop. More than 30 different grape varieties are under vine with acreage dominated by its big four: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay and Riesling. Add to that Syrah, a variety that appears destined for signature status, much as Pinot Noir dominates Oregon's wineprint.

Find tips for your next visit to Washington wine country on our WinewomenPSP website, with updates coming soon. In the meantime, treat yourself to Washington wines. Many wines flagged by Wine Spectator are available at local outlets. Find wines by large producers Columbia Crest and Chateau St. Michelle at grocers and big-box stores. Wines by smaller wineries noted in Steiman's articles and those hailed by the Renaud Society can be found at valley wine shops, online at Avalon or from the wineries themselves.

Pick up the December 15th Spectator and start your own Washington wine discovery. Wines by Leonetti, Cayuse, Woodward Canyon, Tamarack Cellars, Pepperbridge, Buty, K Vintners, Abeja, Walla Walla Vintners and Otis Kenyon are just a few you won't want to miss. Give your 'buds a treat, Washington style.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Cheers for Rosé Revolutionaries

Two Yarra Valley Aussies have declared the Rosé Revolution. Starting today, November 30, the last day of spring in the Southern Hemisphere, Leanne De Bortoli and Stephen Webber have summoned corks to pop worldwide to herald the inaugural Rosé Day.

De Bortoli and Webber want to see rosé take its place as a contender on the world's wine stage, even if rosé isn't quite as serious as many reds, whites, ports, and bubblies. Rather, these Rosé Revolutionaries seek to give rosé respect as dry tasty pinks with texture and finesse to satisfy any wine lover.

While international wine-makers have gravitated towards nuanced rosé production worthy of more refined enjoyment, many still perceive rosé as a one-dimensional, syrupy or candy-like beverage with an alcoholic kick. Blame the cotton-candy we ate as kids or little girls' pink clothing for cementing an association between pink and sweetness. Some rosé snobs point to White Zinfandel to explain their scorn. But the blush wines known as white zins today are produced differently from rosés, with a vastly different result.

The runaway success of White Zinfandel began in 1975 with a wine-making goof at Sutter Home. As told by Bob Trinchero, the mistake involved free-run juice bled off from red Zinfandel grapes. Instead of being fermented to dryness, uncooperative yeast "stuck" the fermentation process, yielding a wine with excess sugar content. Trinchero tasted that slightly pink, sweet wine and decided it was good and different enough to bottle. The rest is history. With a decision that unleashed a sugar-rush of sales, Sutter Home catapulted to success as the second largest independent family-owned winery in the country. In fact, fallout from the White Zinfandel success story is more worthy of praise than scorn. By popularizing Zinfandel in general, Sutter Home's triumph also helped reverse the decline of red Zinfandel viticulture and gave legions of wine newbies their first introduction to the world of wine.

Today's New World rosés look and taste much like their counterparts in the Old World, where the popularity of rosé has never wavered. From tony tourist towns of Provence to sleepy coastal fishing villages along the Mediterranean basin, rosé is a dependable partner for a bevy of fish dishes, fowl, lighter meats, vegetables, legumes, cheeses and dishes with figs or sweeter nuts such as pistachios. Pale or salmon-pink to the pour, these dry roses offer floral and fruity aromas with fresh strawberry to juicy watermelon flavors, often with a delicate streak of dried herbs or a hint of cinnamon spice or nutmeg on the finish.

However you're wired to think about pink, there's a fresh face to rosé that's chiseled, racy and sure to please. A sip of Domaine Tempier Bandol 2009 Rosé at Chez Panisse shows how savory-crisp, food-friendly and sophisticated rosé can be. Try other rosés made from Grenache, Sangiovese, Cabernet Franc or Nebbiolo to discover textured and delicate roses or a lush fruit-bombshell worthy of a pop on a hot summer day. In order words, rosé has come calling and today's as good a day as any to take her on. Vive la Rosé Revolution!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving Weekend Wines

Ah, the flavors of a Thanksgiving meal. With tastes and textures that range from savory to sweet, delicate to heavy and herbaceous to creamy, it can be tough to find wine pairings that work.

We gave you a few tips last year and they still hold as general guides and specific wine recommendations. Here are a few more tips to help you through the holiday meal.

Two whites that work better with traditional Thanksgiving foods than go-to Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc are Pinot Gris and Riesling. Look to Oregon for Pinot Gris that are richer in style and body than Italian Pinot Grigio, made from the same grape. Most Northwest Pinot Gris have soft fruit and floral flavors with a light earthiness and plump body that pairs well with turkey and traditional Thanksgiving side dishes. Try Bethel Heights 2009 ($15 at LQ Wine on Washington, near the La Quinta Trader Joe's), Elk Cove and other reliable producers such as A to Z Wineworks, or California's tangent for a homegrown taste of Alsace style.

Riesling is another white that can carry the Thanksgiving meal. Two German Rieslings that finish dry and have the added bonus of low-alcohol content are Mönchhof Mosel Slate 2009 Riesling Spätlese ($16 at LA Wine Company) and, for closer to $10, Dr. L Riesling by Loosen Bros. in the gorgeous sleek teal bottle (Dan's Wine Shop, Trader Joe's and grocers). Both are screw-cap and go down smooth and easy. Flavors of stone fruit, green apple and lime work well with turkey while both have just enough kick and slatey earth to pair with more exotic holiday spices. If you haven't tried too many Rieslings - or if you think all Rieslings are sweet - here's your chance to discover why this varietal is so food-friendly and a chef favorite.

Rosé is another wine that stands up to holiday fare. Rosés made from Cabernet Sauvignon can be a tad tannic for turkey so look for Provençal and other French styles, or American rosé made from Pinot Noir or Sangiovese. Plus, rosé delivers the biggest bang for your holiday buck, especially if you have lots of hungry, thirsty mouths to satisfy. Look to sunny Spain for the dry 2009 Márques de Cáceres ($7 at Trader Joe's) or 2009 Borsao (also $7 at LA Wine Company). Ask local wine merchants about their favorite rosés from Oregon, France and California producers such as Frog's Leap and Belle Glos. Chances are you won't go wrong with rosé.

If only red will do, Pinot Noir fits the bill. Low in tannin and medium in body, Pinot Noir has bright cherry flavors, floral and baked spice aromas and the mouthfeel to pair beautifully with many traditional Thanksgiving foods. Splurge with a special bottle from Oregon (Shea, Domaine Serene, Adelsheim) or Elk Cove for quality at a gentler price. Our local wine merchants carry excellent Pinot Noirs – ask about their favorites. We love California's cool-climate gems Millworks for value and reliable, delicious Byron. BTW, Byron's Pinot Blanc also makes a good Thanksgiving pick.

Another red alternative is Gamay, the grape of Beaujolais. Unless you're feeding a group of guzzlers, spend a couple dollars more for the greater complexity and elegance of cru Beaujolais over fruitier Beaujolais Nouveau. Look for the quality designation cru on the label. And, while you're in the French section, many red or white Côtes-du-Rhône wines are worth a pop with holiday foods.

End your meal with a refreshing Moscato and let the skinny kids devour the rest of that pumpkin pie. Or bust open that bottle of port you haven't been sure about. Enjoy a dessert wine and walk away from your holiday table feeling lighter – and thankful for all we have in this beautiful country.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Wine Down with Two November Events

Yes, it's official - season is here. Traffic, horns and more events than we can cram into our already-busy schedules. After the summer doldrums, we're sure you'll agree, it's all good!

Our WinewomenPSP Summerland wine dinner on Sunday, November 21 at Bellatrix Restaurant at the Classic Club promises to be another memorable event at that gorgeous venue. Bellatrix did such a great job for us last time, we heard you wanted to go back for more. Done! See the full list of wines from this Santa Barbara boutique winery and Chef's gorgeous menu here and make your reservations with Kathleen today by calling 760.799.7076. Come out in support of education and local scholarships for students attending Cal State San Bernardino's Palm Desert campus.

Kathleen and Kajon Media are bringing a fall version of the Coachella Wine Festival to Miramonte Resort and Spa this Thanksgiving weekend, too. Be done with that turkey and make your way to Miramonte for some real eating and libations at your choice of three events:

Saturday, Nov. 27: Summerland Winemaker Dinner with Etienne Terlinden; 6:30-9 PM on the romantic, outdoor Piazza Terrace ($85 by advance reservations only)

Saturday, Nov. 27: Just Desserts Soiree with boutique wines and desserts; 7-9 PM at the outdoor Mediterranean Lawn ($30 by advance purchase; $40 at the door)

Sunday, Nov. 28: Tulip Hill Winery Winemaker Lunch with Kristi Brown; 11 AM- 2 PM at the outdoor Piazza Terrace ($45 by advance reservations only)

Multi-event passes or tickets to individual events are available online on the Coachella Wine Festival website - click here.

It's heatin' up - see you there!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Tivens is Tops at Winewomen and Song

We can't stop crowing about the magnifique Ahnfeldt wine dinner, your amazing support for Well in the Desert and the heart-stopping voice of Jessica Tivens. Our Winewomen and Song evening under the full moon at Miramonte on Friday was nothing short of magical. In case you weren't there, here's what you missed.

First off, thanks to Randy Hazard for five awesome Ahnfeldt wines and Chef Robert Nyerick for a beautiful fall dinner anchored by ol' reliable filet mignon and lobster, both tender and letter perfect – which, for more than a hundred hungry guests that included quite of few VIPs, is not an easy thing to do.

As for all of you who came out to support Well in the Desert, the West Valley's safety net for the working poor and homeless – a giant thank you. God bless Arlene Rosenthal (pictured, to Jessica's right) and the Well staff for the incredible job they do for so many on a shoestring budget. You are true humanitarians.

Lola Rossi Meza sang a fitting People – a daring enough feat in itself – to recognize and honor Arlene and the stellar Well supporters and staff. With barely any prep or notice, accompanist Gale Enger was, as always, right on it. He is the consummate piano pro.

After the festivities, foods and wines, Jessica Tivens took to the stage to give the massive full moon a run for its money. Her vocal dexterity and poise ran a gamut of styles from Sondheim to Andrew Lloyd Webber, Massenet and contemporary Broadway tunes with gusto and humor, always hitting her notes. With stage presence, youthful grace and humor, Jessica lifted the evening to another orbit of sheer musical delight. Listen to her accompany pianist and producer Mike Garson here on Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata, which she absolutely must perform next time as an encore.

As much as we're dying to tell you about our next event at Bellatrix on November 21 in support of local scholarships to Cal State San Bernardino's Palm Desert Campus (and yes, you can start calling Kathleen at 760.799.7076 to reserve), we want to bask in the glow of Tivens' voice and the magic that was Winewomen and Song at Miramonte on Friday. More November event news coming soon.