Which Top American Wine Was Preferred by Chinese Master Class?

(May 19, 2017) Last evening I taught a Master class in Shanghai, China entitled “Top Wines of America.” It was scheduled from 7 to 9pm at the Hyatt Regency, and all 34 seats in the class were filled with young Chinese wine professionals. Most were working in the industry as wine retailers, marketers, or educators. There were also a few importers and winemakers in the class.

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Master Class on Top American Wines in Shanghai China

The hosts of the Wine100 Competition organized the master class and arranged for the wines to be available for the event. They requested that I select 8 highly rated wine brands that were available in the Chinese market, and that could represent the major wine-producing states of California, Washington, Oregon and New York.

My translator was Melody, who had graduated from the WSET Diploma program, so she knew wine quite well. We began with a 30-minute overview of the history and statistics of American wine, and then spent some time describing the climate and soil of the four major wine regions we would be tasting (See Powerpoint below, which includes Chinese translation).

Wine100 Masterclass on American Wines by DRLizThachMW

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Line-Up of Top American Wines

Line-Up of Top 8 American Wines

We tasted through the following eight wines, and then I asked everyone to vote by a show of hand for their two favorites. Following are the results:

  1. Forge Dry Riesling 2015 New York Finger Lakes = 3
  2. Kistler Vine Hill Vineyard Chardonnay 2013, Russian River = 11
  3. Domaine Serene Evenstad Reserve Pinot Noir 2013 = 13
  4. Kosta Browne Pinot Noir 2014 Gap’s Crown Vineyard Vineyard = 11
  5. Turley Old Vine Zinfandel 2015 = 6
  6. Opus One 2012 = 10
  7. Harlan The Maiden 2000 = 8
  8. Cayuse Syrah 2010, Cailloux Vineyard = 6

The Winning Wine from Oregon

So Domaine Serene Pinot Noir from Oregon ended up edging out the others by a couple of points. Though this wasn’t a scientific poll in anyway, and cannot be generalized, it was interesting.  In addition, I had been told before arriving in China that younger Chinese are beginning to show a penchant for pinot noir, over the more tannic cabernet blends that their parents have preferred. So perhaps we are starting to see a shift in palate preferences….

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With Anita and Melody – my two brilliant translators

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Toasting Trione Winery at Over 100 Years in Sonoma County

(Contributed by Jane HofmiesterTrione Winery was the most recent guest winery in the SSU Winesense Club educational series.  Boasting over 100 years in Sonoma County, the Trione family are true pioneers in the region.

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The Old Stone Building at Trione Winery

 

About Trione Winery

Beginning as farmers and grape growers, the Trione’s own over 700 acres of vineyards in the Russian River Valley, Alexander Valley, and Sonoma Coast AVAs. They finally started making wine in 2005, and opened a winery tasting room for the public in 2008. Operated by brothers Mark and Vic Trione, along with Mark’s daughter, Denise and her husband, Kris, they opened the winery on the site of the historic Nervo winery.  Click here for a video on Trione Winery.

The Old Stone Building at Trione Winery

The famous Old Stone building was part of the original Nervo winery, and was constructed in 1908.  The Trione’s carefully renovated it, and today it is a showcase for weddings, fundraisers, live music, and other community events. The venue can accommodate gatherings of up to 250 people.

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Wines Featured for the SSU Educational Tasting

A Tasting of Four Trione Wines at SSU

What really stands out at Trione are their wines, produced by winemaker, Scot Covington. They specialize in well-balanced, handcrafted wines from their estate vineyards, with an emphasis on sauvignon blanc, zinfandel, and cabernet sauvignon from the Alexander Valley, and Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from Sonoma Coast and the Russian River. Frank Tanner from Trione was kind enough to lead the educational tasting with the following four wines:

Trione 2015 Sauvignon Blanc ($23) – Aromatic, floral, herbal, crisp, grapefruit, lemongrass, nice minerality. What makes this Sauvignon Blanc unique is that it is made with a yeast strain from South Africa that enhances the flavors and aromas.

Trione 2013 Primitivo a.k.a Zinfandel ($37) – Earthy, fig, currant, blackberry, cherry. Italian style Zinfandel

Trione 2013 Zinfandel ($37) – Blueberry, blackberry, cherry, black pepper, tobacco, plum, long-finish.

Trione 2012 Henry’s Blend ($56) – a blend of the 5 Bordeaux varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petite Verdot, Cabernet Franc, and Malbec. Soft, med-tanins, blackberry, cherry, cassis, cedar, vanilla, oak, tart finish. Will develop in the next 5-8 years.

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SSU WineSense Board with Frank Tanner from Trione

The Favorite of the Evening

All of the wines were delicious, but after the vote, the favorite wine of the evening was the Trione 2015 Sauvignon Blanc.

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Favorite of the Evening – Trione Sauvignon Blanc

 

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Russian River Vineyards – A Winery with an 1890 Historic Farmhouse Restaurant and Organic Food Garden

(Contributed by Jennifer Schiff) Is it a restaurant, a farm, a tasting lounge, an historic site, or a winery? Well actually Russian River Vineyards encompasses all five of these functions. Established in the 1960s in the heart of the 10,000 acre Russian River AVA, Russian River Vineyards has grown to be one of the premier organic and sustainably farmed grape-growing properties in California.

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1890 Historic Farmhouse at Russian River Vineyards

This past week  a group of Sonoma State University Millennials was fortunate enough to attend an educational session and tasting at the SSU Wine Sense Club Meeting, with Russian River Vineyards winemaker, Giovanni Balistreri. Giovanni is also one of four owners of the estate. The team carries with them a myriad of backgrounds/experience in real estate, winemaking, fine dining, environmental health, and more — that has helped aid in their success in producing world class wines at this state-of-the-art winery.

The Restaurant in an 1890 Farmhouse with Organic Food Garden

Today, if you visit the winery, you not only find beautiful wines in their tasting room, but just less than a hundred feet away over 45 different types of vegetables are grown with each of them being served at their restaurant daily. The restaurant is housed in a beautiful historic farmhouse dating from the 1890’s.

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Patio of Restaurant at Russian River Vineyards

Beyond the standard tasting experiences you will find at a winery or restaurant, those who visit Russian River Vineyards also have the opportunity to tour the estate, learn all about its sustainable practices and biodiversity, as well as enjoy fine wines alongside fresh produce from the estate’s farm.

Winemaking at Russian River Vineyards

Giovanni explained that they use grapes from their own 6 acre vineyard as well as those produced from surrounding vineyards, and as far away as Mendocino County. Their approach very much embodies the concept of ‘quality over quantity.’ They specialize in pinot noir and Gewürztraminer, but also make a range of other varietals. Almost all wines featured were aged in 35% New, 100% French Oak, with a range of 12 to 20 months for the aging process. Click here to see a great video of Giovanni.

 

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Members of SSU Winesense Board with Giovanni Balistreri

Tasting of Five Wines from Russian River Vineyards

Giovanni led us through a tasting of five different wines, all small lots, of which none  exceeded a case production of 700.

Varietal Vintage Vineyard/

Appellation

Notes Case Count

(Approx.)

Pinot Noir 2014 Sonoma Coast, Petaluma CA Acidic, Silky, Soft 650
Pinot Noir 2014 Appian Way, Sebastopol CA Tart, Bright Fruit, Sleek Style 490
Cabernet Sauv. 2014 R. River Valley, Sweetwater Springs Vineyard Herbal & Dry Integrated Tannins, Dark 200
Charbono 2014 Guido Venturi Vineyard, Ukiah Long Fermen.

Tannins, Grip

200
Gewurztraminer 2016 Kunde, Kenwood Balanced Acidity and Sweetness 420

Favorite Wines of the Evening

When the vote was conducted at the end of the tasting to determine the two favorite wines, the winners were the 2013 Russian River Vineyards Appian Way Pinot Noir ($65) and the 2014 Russian River Vineyards Charbono ($48).

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Wines from Russian River Vineyards

 

 

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Learning About Champagne Riddling at Field Trip to Domaine Carneros

Old wooden riddling racks were set-up around the second floor room of Domaine Carneros, overlooking the winery below.  CEO, Eileen Crane, handed everyone a glowing flute of Domaine Carneros Ultra Brut to enjoy as she explained how the riddling process works.

“The traditional method was to turn each bottle in the riddling rack by a set amount each day until all of the yeast from the second fermentation in bottle fell to the top lip of the bottle.  In this way, it could be frozen and then easily ejected.”

There were oohhs and aahhs from the thirty SSU wine business students attending the field trip, both over the delicious sparkling wine in their glass as well as the large riddling racks set up before them.

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Eileen Crane Explaining How Riddling Racks are Used

Eileen continued, “Today, however, we use gyropallets to gently rotate the wine.” She pointed  to the large picture windows with their clear view into the vast winery with its array of gyropallets – huge robotic machines that looked like large metal baskets filled with sparkling wine bottles.

About Domaine Carneros

 Established in 1987, the estate includes with their 225 acres of pinot noir and 125 acres of chardonnay in the Carneros AVA.  It is owned by the House of Tattinger in Champagne, and the beautiful chateau is modeled after the Tattinger chateau in France.

The winery is known for its environmentally friendly practices, and has one of the largest arrays of solar panels installed in a winery in the USA.  They also have multiple certifications, including the California Sustainable Wine Growing Certification and Fish Friendly Farming.

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Members of Our Class in Front of the Beautiful Domaine Carneros Chateau

 

A Taste of Sparkling Magic

In addition to the delectable 2012 Ultra Brut tasted during the winery tour, two additional wines were served in a private salon, along with generous bowls of mixed nuts. A fruity 2013 Brut Rose with bright strawberry and cherry notes, as well as the 2013 Domaine Carneros Estate Pinot Noir with notes of spice, dried cheery and subtle oak.

By the end of the tour, Domaine Carneros had made many new fans, and it was a great introduction to one of Napa Valley’s famous sparkling houses.

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Our SSU Wine Business Class at Domaine Carneros

 

 

 

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Wines for the Lawyer and Sicilian in Your Life – Emmitt-Scorsone Winery

(Contributed by Jane Hofmeister) This week, Palmer Emmitt, CEO of Emmitt-Scorsone Winery, visited SSU to share his beautiful artisan wines with us.  Palmer and his partner produce two brands: Judge Palmer and Domenica Amato.

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Emmitt-Scorsone Wines

The Judge Palmer Wine Brand

This wine was name for Palmer’s grandfather James Palmer. He served as a judge in El Dorado County, California in the 1960s and 1970s.  Palmer said this wine is a favorite of lawyers, and also is a great gift for anyone working in a legal environment. However, the velvety and rich taste of this wine will satisfy people from all walks of life.

Domenica Amato Wine Brand

Domenica Amato is made in remembrance of Michael Scorsone’s grandmother who was born in Sicily and moved to America. Her story represents the essence of these wines as Domenica Amato wines are inspired by old world style wines, but have a new world flare that’s fun, funky and fruity.

Wines We Tasted This Week

Domenica Amato  2015 Grenache Blanc  (2% Viognier) – Medium bodied blend with notes of honeydew melon, lemon, stone fruit, and oak. Wine is unfiltered and unfined, grapes grown in volcanic Sonoma soil and stored in both neutral and French oak. Pair with scallops, sea bass, cod, lobster.

Domenica Amato  2015 Chardonnay – Full bodied, Burgundian style Chard with notes of apricot, toasted marshmallow, and lemon custard. Also unfiltered an unfined. Russian River Valley AVA, Sonoma County. Pair with smoked chicken, seafood linguini, bouillabaisse.

Domenica Amato  2007 Pinot Noir – Medium-bodied, modestly tannic Pinot with notes of mushroom, cherry, pomegranate, cedar, and oak. Grapes are stomped by foot and aged in French oak. Pair with filet minion, mushrooms, duck, rabbit, coq au vin.

Domenica Amato  2015 Syrah – Rich, bold, gamey wine with notes of licorice, wet wood, chocolate and coffee with a fruity finish. Also foot stomped and aged in new and used barrels. Dry Creek Valley. Pair with BBQ: brisket, pulled pork.

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WineSense Board with Palmer Emmitt

Favorite Wine of Millennials

At the conclusion of the tasting, participants were asked to vote on their favorite wine, and the Domenica Amato 2015 Grenache Blanc was the clear winner.

If you would like to experience these incredible unique wines, please make an appointment to visit Emmitt-Scorsone’s tasting room in Healdsburg. There you can experience both labels: Judge Palmer with innovative Bordeaux style blends, and Domenica Amato, old world style wines with a new world twist. All wines are limited production. Cheers!

 

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The Unknown Story of Gloria Ferrer Champagne Cave’s First Venture into the US Market

Contributed by Jennifer Schiff – The SSU WineSense Club’s first meeting of the Spring 2017 semester featured Gloria Ferrer Champagne Caves, a prominent bubble house located in the southernmost part of Sonoma. The sparkling wine house was established in 1982 by the same folks who brought us the globally distributed Cordon Negro, Freixenet. However, there is a little known story about their first venture into the US in the early 1930’s.

screenshot_20170207-165816Multiple Wars and Unrest Delay Arrival to California

After years upon years of producing cava and becoming the largest producer and exporter of sparkling wines in the world, the Spanish company Freixenet decided to extend their reaches and break ground in the wine world here on US soil. When they first ventured to the United States, their visit was cut short due to civil unrest erupting back home, which would eventually develop into the Spanish Civil War of the late 1930s. Shortly following that conflict was World War II, resulting in a less than ideal time for the company’s out of country developments. It wouldn’t be until the 1980s that they would again venture West, this time to the Pacific Coast, in search of a property suitable for the growing of grapes. In 1982 a purchase of 207 acres, now referred to as their Home Ranch, was made. Jose Ferrer, CEO of Freixenet at the time, wisely decided that the estate was suited to be named after none other than his wife Gloria. Over the next four years, vines were planted, buildings constructed, and plans for business drawn up. The doors at Gloria Ferrer opened in 1986 and their adventure as the first sparkling wine house in Carneros began.

Gloria Ferrer Today

Thirty-one years have passed since their opening and Gloria Ferrer has established itself as one of the finest bubble makers here in Sonoma County. Today they are responsible for over 150,000 cases in production, and have accumulated hundreds of Gold Medals in recognition of their wine. The parent company, Freixenet, with over 500 years of winemaking of Metodo Tradicional, took their talents and applied that same expertise to utilizing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay under Methode Champenoise in California.

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SSU WineSense Club Tasting with Gloria Ferrer 

Tasting of Four Gloria Ferrer Wines

During the meeting, we had the pleasure of tasting four different wines from the GF portfolio, all some of their most successful and celebrated products. To ensure no bias or influence was impressed upon us by his words, our speaker opted out of providing any details beyond the name, style, blend, and vintage of the wine, so as to allow us to form our own opinions on tasting notes:

Name Vintage Style Blend Tasting Notes
Sonoma Brut NV Brut 88% Pinot Noir 12% Chard. Citrus, Tart Green Apple
Blanc De Noir NV Brut 92% Pinot Noir 8% Chard. Fruity, Dark Cherry
Royal Cuvee 2007 Brut ⅔ Pinot Noir ⅓ Chardonnay Yeast, Bread, Grapefruit
Brut Rose 2013 Brut 92% Pinot Noir 8% Chard. Red Fruit Straw. Cranberry

 

In the end, all of the wines were delicious and well-received, so it was not possible to select a favorite.

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SSU WineSense Board Members with Gloria Ferrer Staff

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SSU Wine Sense 2017 Spring Schedule Focuses on Napa and Sonoma Wineries

downloadThe Sonoma State University (SSU) Wine Sense Club has announced their Spring 2017 meeting schedule, featuring seven exciting wine education sessions. Each two hour meeting, held from 7:00pm to 9:00pm in the Bennett Valley Room includes a presentation from a winery professional and a guided tasting. Appetizers are served to pair with the wines. Participants must be enrolled as a student at SSU and be 21 years of age or older.

The Spring 2017 Schedule is:

Feb. 9 – Gloria Ferrer Winery – bubbles, chardonnay and pinot noir

Feb. 23 – TBA

March 2nd – Russian River Vineyards

March 23 – Buena Vista

April 6th – ZAP

April 27 – Domaine Carneros

May 4th – Mantanzas Creek

RSVP to: winesensessu.gmail.com.  Follow on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @sssuwinesense

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