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The Regions – Way Back In {July}

September 28, 2011 The Regions 1 Comment
The Regions – Way Back In {July}

So things change in a few month’s time.

We moved… again, into a different beach place much like the old beach place one (small first floor of a two-story house with a yard). Our friends vacated it when they moved to China for a year to check that out. It was a killer deal, so we packed up and came a few miles north.

… Continue Reading

Pfendler – On the Roof of Petaluma

September 8, 2011 Fifty-Two Weeks 1 Comment
Pfendler – On the Roof of Petaluma

Two months earlier it seemed like a good idea. Now, it was our honeymoon.

When I agreed to visit a winery for a future story in the middle of this once in a lifetime event, I thought it a rather cleaver scheme. “She won’t mind going, she has fun at these things too,” I reasoned with myself as I emailed our confirmation. I had even scheduled the appointment for mid-afternoon so we wouldn’t be needlessly rushed early in the day. I was, I thought, a rather considerate guy, and after all, it would probably be romantic, a cute story we would one day tell our children or our Beagle at least.

As the clock closed in on departure time and we reluctantly started to get ready, I began to rethink the brilliance of my plan. After we both agreed that we “shouldn’t stay overly long (it was our honeymoon after all),” we left our cozy vineyard cottage and fireplace in Kenwood, just off of Highway 12 and headed east.

It was a crisp and beautiful January day as we headed the back way into Petaluma. … Continue Reading

The Regions – Monterey {May}

June 28, 2011 The Regions Comments Off
The Regions – Monterey {May}

Fly-over country. I had never heard the term until a winemaker I met used it in a conversation last year. It went something like: “they like good wine in fly-over country too, in Iowa, and Ohio, and other places.”

The term “fly-over country” means exactly what it sounds like, those stretches of the Country we have all flown over to get somewhere else, say New York (or Los Angeles if you come the other way). It is a sad phrase, but an accurate description of many Americans’ traveling patterns. For many of us, we have “seen” the Midwest only from 30,000′ at 500pmh. Sorry Iowa, I do like those giant green blocks your State is made up of though.

But California has its own “fly-over” wine regions too, except here we drive by them at 80mph. None of these areas stand out to me more than Monterey County. While Lodi or even the Sierra Foothills can claim their own right to the designation “drive-by wine region” (particularly the Sierra Foothills), no place seems more fitting to me than Monterey. … Continue Reading

The Regions – Paso Robles {April}

June 8, 2011 The Regions 1 Comment
The Regions – Paso Robles {April}

Paso Robles. A city with a long history of pioneers and entrepreneurs, outlaws and hucksters. In Paso, the wine history runs deep too, with vineyards being planted by Spanish Conquistadors and Franciscan Missionaries as far back as the late 1790′s. Andrew York, a settler from Indiana, brought commercial grape growing to the area in the 1880′s and the last thirty years has seen a once sacramental operation exploded into a full-fledged and world renowned wine industry.

Today, some of the most revered American producers (Tablas Creek, Saxum, Linne Calodo) call El Paso de Robles home.

In more than one way Paso is a town of true grit, it always has been. Famed outlaw Jesse James briefly found refuge in Paso Robles before making a hasty getaway when the law caught up with him. Merchants hocked Paso Robles as the home of California’s finest natural hot springs and mud baths which, for a time, made the tiny Central Coast town a destination for tourists the Country over. So there should be no surprise that Paso winemakers know a thing or two about marketing and selling their wine while still doing whatever the hell they want. It’s in their blood. … Continue Reading

“The Beginning of the End and One Hell of a Scare” By: Wes Hagen

“The Beginning of the End and One Hell of a Scare” By: Wes Hagen

Today is a good day.  A really, really good day.  I haven’t felt so relaxed in months.  After finishing the longest day of the vintage yesterday I knew that we wouldn’t have to wake up for a 3 am pick this morning, so I initially reserved the right to go out with the crew for a few drinks last night—stay up late and be crazy—like at least 10:00 pm!

But (lo and behold), come 7:18 pm I was man down in our bed, which is a bit later than I have been going to sleep, but not exactly a bedtime that denotes an iron man party-when-I-can mentality.  And I’m OK with that.  I didn’t wake up until after 7 am and those 12 hours of pure and unadulterated sleep were a revelation. … Continue Reading

“Night Harvesting Russian River Valley Chardonnay” By: Lisa Mattson

October 4, 2010 Lisa Mattson - The Journey of Jordan, The Cru Comments Off
“Night Harvesting Russian River Valley Chardonnay” By: Lisa Mattson

Watching a picking crew harvest grapes is an unbelievable rush. Your eyes fight to follow the hooked knives slicing away at each stem. You hear the grapes shaking on the vines as the workers tug the canes. A tractor engine hums. You hear the men shout for more collection bins. But you can’t see anything–unless you follow the lights.

This is the beauty of night harvesting. … Continue Reading

Alma Rosa – The Valley of Giants

Alma Rosa – The Valley of Giants

How do you measure a man? How do you judge his life’s work? Is it by wealth, by notoriety, the opinions of others? For the banker, is it by the quantity of his assets, or the doctor by the lives he saved? What about the winemaker, is it his vineyard, his winery, his wine?

How do you measure a man?

It is a personal question that is shaped by our social and moral upbringing. Throughout the ages, man has admired men for their bravery, their acts of love, their knowledge, and their art. Each culture sets its own unwritten code of admirable values and accomplishments. Some are genuine accomplishments, while others are pure vanity, like striving after the wind.

They say, show me a man’s friends and I will show you the man, but what of a man’s heroes, his inspirations? I have asked that of winemakers throughout California, “who has inspired you?” There has been inspiration in wine’s rich history, in those who came before. Others find it in their mentors both past and present. Some, in a husband or wife. However, many have told me they find inspiration in a soft-spoken pioneer of grape growing from the Santa Rita Hills, Richard Sanford. … Continue Reading

Alta Maria Vineyards – Antithesis of Common Sense

August 12, 2010 Fifty-Two Weeks 3 Comments
Alta Maria Vineyards – Antithesis of Common Sense

James Ontiveros and Paul Wilkins have impressive resumes.

James Ontiveros is a 9th generation Californian. His great-great-great-great-great grandfather was Juan Pacifico Ontiveros, the son of a Spanish soldier and a one time Corporal at San Gabriel Mission. His family originally settled in what is now Orange County on Rancho San Juan Cajon de Santa Ana (modern day Anaheim), which Juan Pacifico Ontiveros’ father was granted by the Mexican Government in 1833. A connection to wine came early to the Ontiveros family, when Ontiveros sold 1,165 acres of the land to the Los Angeles Vineyard Society in September 1857 for the cultivation of wine grapes. It was the first commercial vineyard in California.

In 1855, Ontiveros purchased the 8,900-acre Rancho Tepusquet from his father-in-law Tomás Olivera, who acquired it in a land grant in 1837. In 1957, he relocated to the Ranch in what is now the Santa Maria Valley, constructed an adobe, and lived there until his death in 1877. During his time there he raised cattle and horses and even planted wine grapes. Rancho Tepusquet, which today includes famed vineyards such as Bien Nacido and Solomon Hills made up the north side of the Santa Maria Valley. The south side was Rancho Tinaquaic, some 9,000- acres that were granted to Benjamin Foxen, another son-in-law of Tomás Olivera and Ontiveros’ brother-in-law. Ontiveros and Foxen were the first two Anglos to settle the region (Foxen, is the namesake of Foxen winery, which was co-founded by his great-great-great great-grandson Dick Doré). … Continue Reading

Chateau Montelena – Message in a Bottle

July 29, 2010 Fifty-Two Weeks 3 Comments
Chateau Montelena – Message in a Bottle

The mid morning fog still sat over the tops of the hills as we climbed the concrete steps before us. It has been a strange Summer throughout California and the northern end of the Napa Valley was cold on this mid-morning, despite being late July.

We had passed through the valley of the giants to arrive at our destination. We drove Past Napa and on through Oakville. Past the house that Mondavi built, the seat of an empire that was once glorious. Through St. Helena and past the mighty Beringer and Beaulieu Vineyards on to Calistoga. The vineyards were never ending, the wineries palatial and grand all around us. Napa is a stunning place.

We climbed higher up the forest lined stairway. Finally, over the tops of the stairs the famed giant amongst the tress of Calistoga began to reveal itself. The stone face, embraced with the firm grasp of ivy was one of the most iconic of the entire valley. Before us, in its timeless grandeur and dignity was Chateau Montelena. … Continue Reading

Merlot, A Fall From Grace

July 21, 2010 Merlot, The Press 9 Comments
Merlot, A Fall From Grace

“It’s all crap you know, the things they say about me. It’s all crap.” Merlot took a long drag from his cigarette. A glass of half drunk scotch sat on the bar before him. It was his fourth.

“It’s bad enough that I had to grow up under the shadow of that pompous jerk Cabernet my whole life. I suffered a lot of abuse because of him. Then that movie came out.” The movie was of course Sideways, the cult classic starring Paul Giamatti. Paul’s character, Miles, at one point bluntly refuses to drink “any EXPLETIVE Merlot.” The film, which centered around two best friends’ misadventures in Santa Barbara wine country is said to have given a huge boost to Pinot Noir sales, a varietal Paul’s character was particularly fond of. The opposite was said to be the case for Merlot, with sales reportedly dipping after the damning statement. … Continue Reading

{Archives}

Bonny Doon: Day of the Doon IX {Photo Essay}

September 22, 2011

Bonny Doon: Day of the Doon IX {Photo Essay}

We have grown rather accustomed to long trips for short stays, so much so that a 500 mile weekend is not such a big deal anymore. There are a lot of events we are invited to and we can only attend a few of them. But when Randall Graham asks you to attend, you attend. [...]

Secret Project {the reveal}

August 17, 2011

Secret Project {the reveal}

A few weeks ago I posted the “Secret Project” with some shots of  a friend’s new winery taking shape. At the time, the space was still in a raw state, holes in the ground, bare walls, cut concrete. In terms of photographing a new winery, one might say there was not much to see, no [...]

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