Do You Know Where to Buy WineGrape Vines to Start Your Vineyard?

Inside Novavine Nursery

Inside Novavine Nursery

(Contributed by Erica Schreckenghaust) – The SSU Winesense club knows where to buy wine grape vines because they recently took a field trip to Novavine in Sonoma County.  Novavine is a nursery near Santa Rosa, California that is dedicated to helping people plant successful vineyards including grapes and olives.

The tour was led Ernie and Ophelia, both employees of Novavine. They explained the complete process of grafting, growing, and packaging winegrape vines, as well as installing of vineyards.

Novavine was started in 1996 by Ellen and Milton Heath because they wanted to create a knowledgeable and high quality nursery for the Northern California area. In 2002 Jay Jensen took over as CEO and has been a key component of growing the Novavine brand to what it is today.

Rootstock

Rootstock

Novavine is made up of a 27 acre site with 45,000 square feet of greenhouse space, offices and production facility in Santa Rosa and an additional 90 acres in Yolo County. They have a great selection of rootstocks and clones because they have partnered with various nurseries in the United States and internationally to offer the best for their customers.

All of their vines are grown with symbiotic mycorrhizae in soil with a rich microbial food web to promote healthy and hearty roots. Novavine has also pioneered the sustainable aspect of the nursery industry, using many non­chemical methods to grow and protect the plants.

It was a fascinating field trip, and now everyone knows how much care and attention it takes to grow healthy winegrape vines.

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Learning How to Build Wine Barrels with Yann, Master Cooper with Barrel Builders

20516_10200355661250693_9123931652686203822_n(Contributed by  Erica Schreckenghaust) In the second installment of our field trip series, we had the honor of going to Barrel Builders, a barrel cooperage, in St. Helena.

About Barrel Builders

Barrel Builders was created in 1972, by a handful of French coopers who were sent over to assist Robert Mondavi’s people in the assembly, finish and care of the barrels. At the time Mondavi was one of the few people to begin using French oak barrels and soon after, their popularity spiraled.

Barrel Builders were the pioneers within the industry as they were the only cooperage represented in the US for years to come. Phil Burton started in the shop and has worked his way up in the company to become the sole owner in 2001.  Today, Barrel Builders is still one of the most popular cooperages in the area making quality barrels, tanks, casks and more.

Our Tour of Barrel Builder’s Workshop

11046768_10200355664330770_4861109673719685346_nOn a sunny Friday afternoon a group of Wine Sense members were given a tour of the shop and facility.  The shop manager Yann taught the students the complicated process of assembling a barrel, the process to prepare the barrels to be filled with wine and the common tools used. Yann is a Master Cooper from France and attended Ecole de Tonnellerie de Cognac, a cooper training college where his final exam required him to build a barrel from scratch in 10 hours. To say that he knows his stuff is an understatement.

The student’s feedback on the trip was excellent and we loved the opportunity to see the behind the scenes of the wonderful containers that hold and develop our favorite beverages.

We owe a huge thank you to Barrel Builders for allowing us to come visit!

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SSU Wine Sense Club Students Take Field Trip to Hamel Family Vineyards

Hamel Family Vineyards

Hamel Family Vineyards

(Contributed by Erica Schreckenghaust ) – One of the main goals of the Wine Sense Club is to create connections between wine professionals, wineries, and students. We appreciate all of the people who have come to visit us on campus over the years but wanted to create an organic way for students to get the all-encompassing experience of a brand. In attempt to do this the Executive Board have organized fieldtrips all over Sonoma and Napa Valley during the Spring semester.

Hamel Family/ Brand History:

To kick off our series of field trips we had the honor of visiting Hamel Family Wines in Sonoma. The 124-acre Hamel property has been within the family for many generations and they began making wine in 2006. The entire Hamel operation is very much a family affair, with George II and Pam as the owners, their oldest son George III the Managing Director, John the winemaker and their daughter Casey helping with administration duties.

Caves at Hamel Family Vineyards

Caves at Hamel Family Vineyards

The new tasting room was completed in June and opened to the public. The beautiful tasting room blends into the environment perfectly, so much so that you can’t even see it from Highway 12. The Hamel’s wanted the tasting room to blend in and add to the natural beauty of the property which is very evident when you step on the gorgeous patio with large minimalist couches to allow the breathtaking views of Sonoma county take the main stage.

Tour Details:

A group of students were led on a tour by Kirstie Dyer, Operations Manager, a recent Sonoma State and Wine Sense Club alum. Kirstie showed us their stunning 12,000 square foot cave, where they have invested in many concrete egg-shaped tanks. These types of tanks are breathable like regular barrels but don’t give off any of the oak characteristics to the wine. The egg shape also gives a natural stirring effect during fermentation.

The Hamel’s see the environment as an extremely important, if not the most important part of their venture so they have attempted to bring organic and biodynamic styles in their wine growing and gardens. They have a large garden full of fruits and vegetables in addition to various livestock that live on the property including baby goats and cows.

Tasting at Hamel Family Vineyards

Tasting at Hamel Family Vineyards

At the end of the tour the group was treated to a tasting on the patio of their four current releases: the 2013 Rosé, 2013 Sauvignon Blanc, 2012 Zinfandel and 2011 Isthmus, a red wine blend.

We owe a huge thank you to the wonderful Kirstie Dyer and the Hamel Family for showing us a fantastic afternoon at their beautiful new facility. We can’t wait to go back!

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Which Do You Prefer? Dry Creek Valley AVA or Alexander Valley AVA

SSU Wine Sense Board and Guests

SSU Wine Sense Board and Guests

(Contributed by Erica Schreckenghaust) – Which do you prefer – Dry Creek or Alexander Valley? This was the question on the minds of the more than 40 students who attended the SSU Wine Sense tasting last Thursday. In the end it was impossible to choose a favorite, because they were both excellent! But everyone learned much about these two distinctive and different AVAs located in Northern Sonoma County.

Dry Creek Valley Wine Association 

Location in Northern Sonoma County on the West side of 101, the Dry Creek Valley Wine Association was created in 1989. It is made up of 60+ wineries and 150 grape growers. They share a commitment to growing high-quality fruit to produce world-class wines and an interest in sustainable farming practices to ensure a pristine valley for future generations.   Dry Creek Valley is world-famous for its big, hearty Zinfandels, as well as Sauvignon Blanc and Rhone varietals.

Ann, a representative from the Dry Creek Valley AVA, led the students through a virtual tour of the Dry Creek Valley, explaining the typically foggy climate, metamorphic and sedimentary soils and the most common varietals, which are Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Sonoma AVA Map from Sonomawine.com

Sonoma AVA Map from Sonomawine.com

Next she poured three of the most popular wines from the Dry Creek Valley for us. The first, being an organically grown 2013 Sauvignon Blanc from Quivira Winery. Followed by a 2011 Grenache from Mounts Winery and a 2012 Zinfandel from Mazzacco Winery.  

Alexander Valley and Stryker Sonoma Winery

Located in Northern Sonoma County on the East side of 101, the Alexander Valley is 22 miles long, has 26 wineries and 130 grape growers. It is known for its world-famous Cabernet Sauvignon, and other Bordeaux varieties such as Merlot, Malbec and Sauvignon Blanc. In addition, the gravelly loam soil produces well-rounded Chardonnay wines, as well as some Zinfandel and Rhone varieties. 

Brian Shapiro from Stryker Sonoma Winery represented the Alexander Valley that evening.  Stryker mixes tradition with modern technology to create award-winning wines. The winemaking is focused on creating wines that speak for themselves. The tasting room won the Architectural Design Award for Northern California by AIA, due to its beauty and harmony within the landscape.  Their philosophy is “bold but thoughtful” which is evident in everything from their wines to their tasting room.

Brian poured three amazing wines, a 2012 Merlot, Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon – all made in small quantities to ensure the highest quality wines. 

Favorite Wines of the Evening

At the end of the tasting, the students were asked to vote on their favorite wines.  The winners were:

ZinmalbecMazzacco Winery Zinfandel 2012 ($52): Composed of 95% Zinfandel grapes and 5% Petite Syrah, this wine offers hints of raspberry, boysenberry and currants, with a bit of habanero pepper.

Stryker Sonoma Malbec 2012 ($50): Blueberries, pepper jam and cedar give this wine a rustic bouquet followed with cherries and a hint of baker’s cocoa.

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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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