How I Fell In Love with Wine: Romance and Hoppy Beer

Chris Driving Through the Vineyards

Chris Driving Through the Vineyards

(Contributed by Christopher Harrison) – Look at how happy that guy looks! That picture was taken on my 1 year Dating Anniversary to the woman that 7 months ago became my wife. I planned a romantic getaway in the heart of the California Wine Country and she never had a clue it was coming.

At this point in my life I was much more a lover of beer. I had just started working for Pyramid Breweries and had become a full on Hop-Head. I wanted the biggest, baddest, hoppiest beers possible and I thought that wine was for snobs! Little did I know that this weekend would open my eyes to the world of wine and I have been hooked ever since. The drive up from the East Bay alone was worth the trip and when we pulled into the West Sonoma Inn & Spa in Guerneville her eyes lit up. After check in we headed to the room and we couldn’t believe our eyes! Our room had a private hot tub on a balcony overlooking a vineyard, tucked into a little valley. They had a bottle of sparkling wine on ice waiting for us and we couldn’t wait to do a toast to our first year together.

For dinner that first night we went to a nice little restaurant that the front desk recommended to us and had a wonderful romantic dinner with some great Napa Valley wines (I wish I had paid more attention to details like the name of the restaurant and the wines that we had, but I was young and distracted!). Dinner was fantastic and really gave me an appreciation for the power that wine and good food can have on you.

The next day we spent the whole day wine tasting for the first time for both of us. We went to Harvest Moon where she loved the Late Harvest Zin, Hook & Ladder where I became enamored with their nice spicy, tannic Cab, and DeLoach where we found a common love for their beautiful Pinot Noir. It was an incredible weekend and we both have developed a shared love for wine in the years that have passed. Since then we have joined wine clubs together and gone on trips centered solely on winery destinations. Wine has been a big part of our growth together and will continue to be a major part of the good times ahead.

NOTE:  This blog posting was written as part of the Millennial series on “How I Fell in Love With Wine.”

 

 

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How I Fell In Love with Wine: Family and the Beauty of Sonoma County

Matt Helping With Harvest

Matt Helping With Harvest

(Contributed by Matt Medeiros) – I fell in love with wine when I was a teenager because we owned a family vineyard. Growing up around grapes, a vineyard located in the Russian River Valley AVA, with high quality Pinot Noir grapes was a great privilege. I got to see a lot of the work, time, and effort that goes into growing quality grapes for a well-known highly praised wine family. My dad basically managed the vineyard, and oversaw all vineyard operations, which gave a very intimate hands on opportunity to see what goes on. I was raised in Petaluma, so being a part of this region my whole life, I have seen the wine industry grow drastically just in my short period of time on this earth, and it is very exciting to see. Almost anywhere you go here in Napa and Sonoma Counties, it is a near guarantee that there is some sort of vines growing within a mile of where you are standing at all times.

It was easy for me to love wine because I love where I live, and the influence that wine has on where I live makes it a wonderful place to be. It’s also extremely beautiful just to drive through and see all the vineyards. All the different types of vine stocks carrying different varietals. There is just a certain vibe you get when entering the Sonoma Napa areas; the feeling of warm sunshine in the summertime, the occasional rain in the winter/spring, and the cool foggy mornings that are almost year round, makes this place a diverse Mediterranean climate, absolutely perfect for vineyards. The subtle changes that are “micro-climates” here also provide a great way to grow different varietals that thrive under certain weather circumstances. The atmosphere here is second to none in my book.

Growing up around a vineyard, here in Sonoma County has been an extreme privilege, and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.  My love for wine truly derives from a combination of the magic that is the vibe when in this region, combined with my hands on vineyard experience. I am so lucky to have been put in the situation I am, and I am forever grateful.

NOTE:  This blog posting was written as part of the Millennial series on “How I Fell in Love With Wine.”

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Paul Hobbs Pinot Noir and Sbragia Cabernet Sauvignon Tie as Top Favorites in Classic Red Tasting

Sbragia Wines With Cheese Platter

Sbragia Wines With Cheese Platter

What is a classic red wine grape? It is a variety that has proved it can produce consistently high quality over a long period of time in more than one region of the world. Therefore, though there are more than 120 commercially produced wine grapes, there are only 4 classic red grapes. In California, however, we add Zinfandel as well, because it is one of our most beloved State grapes:

  1. Pinot Noir – famous in Burgundy, Oregon, Sonoma, New Zealand and many other regions of the world
  2. Merlot– famous in Bordeaux, Italy, Washington, and many other regions
  3. Cabernet Sauvignon – famous in Bordeaux, Napa, Italy and other regions
  4. Syrah – famous in the Rhone, Australia, and Paso Robles
  5. Zinfandel – famous in California, Croatia and Italy
Winning Pinot Noir from Paul Hobbs Winery

Winning Pinot Noir from Paul Hobbs Winery

In a blind tasting of these five famous varietals in Bus 305W, the 42 Millennial wine business majors tied in a vote of their favorites. Paul Hobbs 2012 Russian River Pinot Noir ($55) with dark raspberry, mushroom earth and cola notes tied with the 2011 Sbragia Cabernet Sauvignon ($49), with complex cassis cedar and earthy notes from the famous Monte Rosso Vineyard. Both wines were of high quality with good balance of fruit, oak, acid and alcohol; complex flavors, excellent concentration and a very long finish.

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Sparkling Wine, Port & Chocolate Truffle Tasting with Mumm and Sonoma Portworks

SSU Wine Sense Club Tasting

SSU Wine Sense Club Tasting

(Contributed by Erica Schreckenghaust) – Bring on the sparkle, chocolate, and the heady taste of port please! This was the siren’s call of a recent SSU Wine Sense Club meeting, where students were introduced to Olivia Najjar from Mumm Napa and Bill Reading from Sonoma Portworks!

About Mumm Napa

Most people recognize that Mumm Champagne was started in France, but Mumm has also been in Napa Valley for many years. The founding president and wine maker, Guy Devaux, worked with an architect in 1986 to create the Domaine Mumm facility in Rutherford. Three years later the first vintage of DVX, in honor of Guy, was produced.

mummIn 1990 the winery underwent a name change from Domaine Mum to Mumm Napa, and officially opened up to the public. In 2002, Ludovic Dervin was named head winemaker and has worked on many custom projects, such as a collaboration with Carlos Santana to create a series of customized sparkling wines to benefit the Milagro Foundation. Mumm was recognized in 2012 as the first sparkling winery to receive 94 pointes from the Wine Spectator for their 2004 DVX.

Olivia poured four of their most popular sparkling wines; the 2010 Blanc de Blancs, 2007 DVX and a non-vintage Brut Rosé and Demi Sec. 

About Sonoma Portworks

Next we welcomed Bill Readings, the owner and portmaker at Sonoma Portworks, the first place in Sonoma County to make port. He explained that his love of port began accidentally when chocolate essence was dropped into an after dinner wine. Suddenly, Bill was obsessed with creating the perfect chocolate port, which later became the first in the country.

petaluma-roomSonoma Portworks is also responsible for revolutionizing traditional port packaging, through the use of sleek contemporary bottles and labels. The first tasting room was opened in 2002 in Kenwood, but today do the only taste room in Petaluma.

Bill brought three different ports for us to try; Petite Verdot port, Petite Sirah port, and Deco port. 

Favorites Wines of the Evening

Mumm_WineBottles_NoVintage_BdeBlancs-LG_f1f8decoAt the end of the tasting, the students voted on their favorite sparkling and port wines.  The winners were:

  • Mumm Napa Blanc de Blancs 2010 ($42) made up of mostly Chardonnay and some Pinot Gris. Light and fruity, Blanc de Blancs means “white of whites”.
  • Sonoma PortWorks Deco Port ($20, 500ml) – composed of Zinfandel grapes blended with Grenache, Alicante Bouschet and natural chocolate essence.

We cannot thank Olivia and Bill enough for taking time to show us their amazing wines!

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Chateau Montelena Sauvignon Blanc Voted Favorite in SSU Tasting of Classic White Grapes

Chateau Montelena in Napa Valley

Chateau Montelena in Napa valley

What is a classic white wine grape? It is a variety that has proved it can produce consistently high quality over a long period of time in more than one region of the world. Therefore, though there are more than 120 commercially produced wine grapes, only 5 are considered to be classic white wine grapes:

  1. Chardonnay – famous in Burgundy, Sonoma and many other regions of the world
  2. Sauvignon Blanc – famous in the Loire, Bordeaux, New Zealand and many other region
  3. Riesling – famous in Germany, Austria and Australia
  4. Chenin Blanc – famous in the Loire and South Africa
  5. Semillon – famous in Bordeaux and Australia

wineIn a blind tasting of these five famous varietals in Bus 305W, the 42 Millennial wine  business majors identified Chateau Montelena’s 2013 Sauvignon Blanc as their favorite – even over a  delicious Semillon based Sauternes from France.

Students described Chateau Montelena’s wine as having a nose of grapefruit with appealing notes of kiwi, grass and lemon on the palate and a refreshing acidity. Made in a white Bordeaux style with moderate oak aging, the wine sells for $35 at the winery.

 

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A Great Wine Cocktail for Valentine’s Day – The Torrontes Tango

Torrontes Tango Wine Cocktail

Torrontes Tango Wine Cocktail

Here is a fun wine cocktail that is perfect for Valentine’s Day.  Enjoy it with that romantic someone or with a group of friends.

I learned about this drink when I visited Argentina last March.  It is made with watermelon and white wine – preferably Torrontes.  In Argentina it is primarily served during their summer months when watermelon is ripe (November – February in the Southern Hemisphere). Fortunately we can find watermelon in many US supermarkets at this time of the year as well.

I’ve modified the recipe with a few new ingredients, and have given it a new name — The Torrontes Tango!

History and Background 

The Torrontes grape is an aromatic white grape with a white floral nose and peach/apricot on the palate. It is similar to Muscat and Gewürztraminer, but with more delicate aromas. It is believed to be a cross between the Mission grape (also called Criolla Chica) brought from Spain to Argentina in the mid 1500’s and Muscat of Alexandria. Considered to be the signature white grape of Argentina, the most famous region for growing Torrontes is in Salta, which is located in the northwest part of the country with vineyards on the foothills of the Andes Mountains.

In Argentina they scoop out fresh watermelon and turn it into juice, and then mix it with chilled Torrontes wine. It is usually served as an aperitif, and is refreshing and delightful – especially because the white floral notes of Torrontes are lifted and enhanced with the luscious fruit of the watermelon. However, if Torrontes is not available, Argentinians will often mix the watermelon juice with other white wines.

Ingredients for One Serving

  • 3 ounces freshly blended watermelon juice (seedless)
  • 3 ounces cold Torrontes wine
  • 1 cup of ice cubes
  • 1/2 teaspoon Rose’s Grenadine
  • 5 drops of rose water (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons Watermelon Vodka (optional)
  • Fresh rose petal as garnish 

Recipe

Cut fresh chilled watermelon into small cubes. Use seedless watermelon, or remove seeds before placing in blender. Pulse blender to turn watermelon into juice. Pour watermelon juice into cocktail shaker with ice. Add Torrontes wine. Shake (and do a little tango). Pour into chilled martini glass. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon of Rose’s Grenadine. To embellish cocktail, add 5 drops of rose water and 2 teaspoons of Watermelon Vodka (optional). Garnish with rose petal. If romantic occasion, serve with a single red or pink rose.

 

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Matanzas Creek and VJB Cellars Kick Off Spring 2015 Tasting at SSU Winesense Club

Lavendar Field at Mantanzas Creek Winery

Lavender Field at Mantanzas Creek Winery

(Contributed by Erica Schreckenghaust) The Wine Sense Club members kicked off the spring semester with two special tastings with Judy and Bradford from Matanzas Creek Winery and Micah, Mike and Ryan from VJB Vineyards & Cellars.

About Matanzas Creek Winery

Matanzas Creek was founded in 1977, and was the first winery located in the Bennett Valley AVA.  Bennett Valley is a very unique area as it is surrounded three beautiful mountains, Sonoma, Bennett and Taylor, creating a perfect pocket for fog and cool air that rolls in from the Pacific Ocean. The estate is filled with native grasses, whimsical olive trees and beautiful lavender fields.

Judy and Bradford led us through a tasting of four of their most popular wines accompanied with a sensory kit containing various spices, rose petals and more to help aid students taste descriptors during the sensory evaluation of the wines. They stressed the idea that there is never a wrong answer in what you taste in a wine since everyone’s palate is very different, allowing people to pick up certain flavors more than others. They poured their 2012 Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, 2011 Merlot and the 2013 Pinot Noir.

About VJB Vineyards & Cellars

Mike and Ryan from VJB Cellars

Micah, Mike and Ryan from VJB Cellars

VJB Vineyards & Cellars is located in Sonoma where the Belmonte Family opened their doors for the first time in 2003. The name is a tribute to the youngest son, Victor Joseph Belmonte, who died unexpectedly. They pride themselves on offering some of the most popular and most obscure Italian varietals. Their wines can be paired with a cheese and meat platter from their deli or homemade pizza in their outdoor pizza oven. It’s the perfect place to enjoy a nice sunny day.

We tasted three of their very popular wines: the 2013 Primitivo, 2013 Negro Amaro and the 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon as a special treat, thanks to Mike.

Favorite Wines of the Evening

IMG_5751IMG_5757At the end of the evening, everyone voted on their two favorite wines. The winners were:

  • Mantanzas Creek 2013 Pinot Noir – a blend of Clone 777 from Bennett Valley and the Calera Clone from Haarstad. Complex cherry and spice with a hint of rose petals.
  • VJB 2013 Primitivo – the Italian cousin of Zinfandel from Sonoma Valley. Bright red fruit with aromas of strawberries and berry bramble.
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