Larson Family Winery – A Tale of Rodeos, Race Horses and $4 Million Dollars

 (Contributed by Jennifer Schiff) The SSU Winesense Club was honored to host Larson Family Winery at one of our recent tastings. We were all entranced to learn their amazing history, and then very pleased to taste such delicious wines.

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Picnic Tables at Larsen Family Winery

The Colorful History of Larson Family Winery

The 100-acre winery has been around since 1899 when the Millericks purchased the property. They began to hold the rodeo on the property in the 1920’s until the 1950’s, and it became the largest rodeo in the west.  The rodeo attracted many people as well as a few famous horses, including Seabiscuit who was trained at the facility on site for about 6 weeks in between races.  Another great horse that was reared at the property was Native Diver, the first horse to win a million dollars.

The family started to make wine in the 90’s under the label Sonoma Creek. The brand grew so large and became so popular that the Larson’s sold it in 2004 for $4.1 million and started a mobile bottle company. They also decided to focus on a small production of high-quality wines, which are only sold Direct to Consumer (DTC) at the winery or online. They have also created a few new wine brands, including Three Labs, Millerick Roads, and jug wines with interesting names, such as Wingo White.

Tasting Larson Family Wines

We were allowed to taste four wines at the SSU Wine Sense Club meeting. These included a Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and a Cabernet Sauvignon Blend:

  1. The Pinot Grigio was a blend of Pinot Grigio, a little Chardonnay and a very small amount of Gewürztraminer to bring in a little sweetness.
  2. The Chardonnay was steel tank fermentation and then was transferred to neutral oak for 8 months to soften up the wine but not contribute flavor.
  3. The Pinot Noir was a very light Pinot, good for the summer and was only a few shades darker than a Rose.
  4. Finally, the blend was 75% Cab, 20% Merlot and 5% Tempranillo. Being a blend, the wine was very smooth and very easy to drink for a Cabernet. It is also their best selling wine.

Favorites of the Evening

All of the wines were delicious and well made, but the favorites of the evening were:

Millerick Road Chardonnay

Larson Family Red Blend

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Kenwood Kicks Off SSU Wine Sense Club Meeting

(Contributed by Jennifer Schiff) Kenwood Winery was kind enough to kick off the first SSU WineSense meeting of the semester. Based in Sonoma Valley, Kenwood has a long reputation for high-quality wines, and is the home of the famous Jack London brand to honor the writer who wrote so many wonderful stories, including Call of the Wild and Valley of the Moon. Kenwood Winery also donates money to support the Jack London State Historic Park.

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Photo Courtesy of Kenwood.com

About Kenwood Winery

Kenwood Winery was originally started in 1906 by the Pagani Brothers, in an old barn near the site of Jack London’s property. Later the winery was purchased by the Lees Brothers who introduced a French style of wine making, and began to separate varietals by vineyard to create a more organized business. Cuvee style wine making was used to create the new vintages, enabling them to focus on boutique wines.

Eventually Kenwood was purchased by Gary Heck of Korbel, and slowly grew in size until it gained its current excellent national reputation for high quality Sonoma Valley wines. Today Kenwood is owned by Pernod Ricard, who has insured that the wines continued to be distributed nationally and appear in well-known restaurants. Kenwood has become somewhat of a household name and we were very lucky to have been able to have them come present at SSU.

Kenwood Wines We Tasted

We were presented with six different varietals, starting with three whites and finishing with three reds. Highlights included a Sonoma Coast Sauvignon Blanc that was very light and crisp with nice floral notes to it. It was the favorite white of the evening. When beginning with the reds we tried a Jack London Zinfandel that was very nicely balanced with the perfect amount of spice. We finished with a Cab that had a nice smoky finish as well as a good amount of tannins that many people appreciated.

The Favorite of the Evening

Everyone unanimously agreed that the 2013 Kenwood Jack London Cabernet Sauvignon was the favorite wine of the evening.

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A Magical Field Trip to Hanna Winery in Sonoma

(Contributed by Jennifer Schiff) In October the SSU Wine Sense Club put on an extravagant field trip to Hanna Winery in Alexander Valley. Driving up the long and beautifully landscaped driveway, everyone was very impressed with the Spanish style architecture of Hanna Winery and the sweeping views of the valley. Our tasting took place under the large oak tree below the tasting room, and was facilitated by Shelby Lozinto, an intern at Hanna and also our Wine Sense Club president.

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Hanna Winery – Photo Credit: Hanna.com

About Hanna Winery

Hanna Winery was first started in 1985 by Dr. Elias Hanna.  Then Christine Hanna, president and daughter of Dr. Elias Hanna, took over operations of the winery in 1996.  At that time, the annual production was less than 10,000 cases per year, but now the winery produces up to 55,000 cases annually and is growing steadily.  Out of the 55,000 case production, 35,000 cases are solely Sauvignon Blanc, which has become the signature wine of Hanna. This is primarily because they consistently win best of show medals on this delicious wine with notes of grapefruit, grass, and a refreshing acidity.

Wine Tasting at Hanna

It was only fitting that we started with the 2015 Hanna Sauvignon Blanc from the Russian River Valley.  This wine took best in class during the San Francisco Wine Competition and received a double Gold medal during the Sonoma County Harvest Fair.

The second wine presented to the club was the 2014 Hanna Rosé, which was produced in more of a French fashion meaning it was light, crisp, and not very sweet; a dry taste of the wine was emphasized. The Hanna Rosé is almost a 50/50 blend of Pinot Noir and Malbec. The Malbec is produced in Alexander Valley, whereas the Pinot Noir comes from the Russian River Valley. A fun fact about this wine is to achieve the beautiful light pink color, the skins of the grapes are only in contact with the juices for at most 4 hours.

The third wine the club tasted was the 2014 Elias Chardonnay.  The Elias brand name is derived from Dr. Hanna’s first name, he is also a renowned heart surgeon.  During Dr. Hanna’s career, he was known for having the “Quickest hands in the West.” Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are some of his favorite varietals to grow and consume.  This Chardonnay is grown in the Russian River Valley near the Santa Rosa tasting room. It is also barrel fermented in French and Hungarian Oak which gives the wine its smooth texture.

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SSU WineSense Club Members at Hanna Winery

After the Chardonnay the group went on to sample the 2014 Hanna Malbec, which had recently received, the Gold Medal in the San Francisco Chronical. The Malbec came across as the perfect Fall wine as it resembles pumpkin pie spice, “jammy” cranberry sauce and an essence of sage; the perfect complement to any Thanksgiving meal. Overall the wine was very lively on the palate.

The last wine the group experienced was the 2013 Hanna Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. This bold wine was given 94 points by Robert Parker and retails for $62. It is grown in Alexander Valley where the valley has the perfect warm and sunny climate to produce Cabernet Sauvignon.

Big John’s Market, Grape Tasting in the Vineyard & Horse Carriage Ride

During the Wine tasting the Wine Sense Club enjoyed refreshing and delicious sandwiches and goodies from Big Johns Market in Healdsburg. At the end of the tasting Shelby escorted the group into the vineyards where everyone was able to sample a few grapes straight off the vine. In the area, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec were available to taste. The group was astonished with how sweet the grapes actually tasted and were amazed at the transformation they go through to transform into wine.

To continue with the tour of the property, Brett Roland, a local wine tourist guide was kind enough to take the wine club on a horse and carriage ride down to the ponds. To end the tour of the property, Shelby took the group into the cellar room below the tasting room to show off the barrels and tanks.

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Horse Carriage Ride Through the Vineyards at Hanna Winery

Hanna Winery – a Truly Magical Place

Enjoying the wines, the education, the beautiful scenery and clear blue sky above, the group was enamored by the wonderful experience. Overall, Hanna Winery had been a great destination to take in the beauty that Alexander Valley has to offer and enjoy some premium wines of Sonoma County.

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A Toast to Hanna Winery for a Great Field Trip

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SSU WineSense Club Announces Fall 2016 Schedule

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Vineyards on Foothills of Sonoma Mountain

(August 2016) It was a sunny evening in August when the newly elected SSU Winesense Board of Directors met for the annual planning meeting at BBQ dinner to brainstorm about possible wineries to invite to campus for educational tastings. Living in the heart of California Wine Country with over 900 wineries to choose from between Napa and Sonoma valleys, we are truly blessed.

After some appetizers and a glass of wine, the team developed their tentative meeting schedule, listed below. Then it was time for tri-tip and sausages, just before the fog wafted in over the Petaluma Gap to blanket Sonoma Mountain in its cooling breeze. Great for the grapes, but requiring coats and sweaters for everyone gathered around the table.

Tentative Fall 2016 Schedule

All meetings are reserved for SSU students aged 21 and over. Sessions are designed to provide basic wine education for club members, featuring the wine brands of invited wineries. Meetings start at 7pm and are held in the Bennett Valley Room in the Student Union Building. Dues can be paid in full or in installments.  For additional information, please contact SSU Winesense Club President.

September 8th – Kenwood Winery

September 22nd – Benziger  Winery

October 7th – TBA (1st field trip)

October 20th – Larsen Winery, Halloween Theme

November 3rd – Languedoc Roussillon Regional Wine Tasting

November 17th – Kivelstadt Winery

December 2nd – Korbel (2nd field trip)

New SSU Winesense Board of Directors for Fall 2016/Spring 2017

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A Visit to Three Outstanding Santa Cruz Wineries: Pelican Ranch, Armida and Loma Prieta

(Contributed by Itze Monserrat Peña-Andrade) This past weekend a few members from the SSU Winesense Club took a field trip to visit the Santa Cruz wine region. This is a beautiful wine region near the ocean with over 120 wineries in the nearby hills. For more information about the Santa Cruz Winergrowers Association and wine maps, click here. We arrived Friday in Capitola, and set out to visit two small tasting rooms.

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SSU WineSense Members in Santa Cruz

Pelican Ranch

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Pelican Ranch Tasting Room

The first tasting room we went to was a small winery that produces only 1000 cases a year named Pelican Ranch. We stumbled upon this small winery and were fortunate to get an unexpected tour of the place. They specialize in Rhone and Burgundy style wines that result in rich, complex wines. It’s a quaint little winery that has only been in operation since 1997 and the generosity of the employees made this a great experience that we all really enjoyed.

 

Armida Winery

The second winery that we went to was Armida Winery and just like the first winery, we happened to drive by and decided to stop.  Located in Capitola, the Armida tasting room is one that shouldn’t be missed.  It is located near the ocean and the view is beautiful, it’s a great place to stop by for it’s nestled amongst a variety of fun shops in the center of Capitola. Armida also has a location in Sonoma County, so some of us were familiar with the brand. We tried their famous Poizon zinfandel wine that comes in a coffin shaped box, and it was a huge hit.

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Armida Tasting Room in Capitola

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The Famous Poizin Wine in Box Coffins

Loma Prieta Winery

The following day, we drove 2600 feet above Highway 17 to our next destination, and – unanimously – our favorite tasting of the trip: Loma Prieta Winery. The winery is actually known for being the largest producer of Pinotage in North America, and the view from the tasting room is absolutely breathtaking. The employees went above and beyond to make our experience enjoyable and it showed for we spent several hours there tasting and eating the day away.  Aside from tasting, we played some games outside, including a giant chess game, and the time just flew by. It is a winery we all really enjoyed and would definitely recommend.

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View From Loma Prieta Winery

The quick weekend trip was a great success. All the members and board members that were able to go had a great time and we were introduced to some new wineries that we all hope to revisit again. It is a trip that we won’t soon forget and recommend future members to attend.

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Giant Chess Game at Loma Prieta Winery

 

 

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Swimming Pools and a Wine Wonderland – A Delightful Tasting with Francis Ford Coppola Winery

(Contributed by Itze Monserrat Peña-Andrade) This week’s SSU WineSense Club meeting was quite thrilling in that we welcomed Francis Ford Coppola Winery for the very first time. The meeting and educational tasting was led by Kevin Patterson and Kaila Medina, both Hospitality Professionals working in tasting room operations. They provided information about the history, products, and special amenities at the winery.

Swimming Pool at Francis Ford Coppola Winery

The Unique Attributes of Francis Ford Coppola Winery in Sonoma County

Nestled on what was formerly Chateau Souverain Winery in Geyserville, California, Francis Ford Coppola Winery is a winery that is not to be missed.  When the winery was being renovated, Francis had a vision that it:

“Should be like a resort, basically a wine wonderland, a park of pleasure where people of all ages can enjoy the best things in life – food, wine, music, dancing, games, swimming and performances of all types. A place to celebrate the love of life!”

Today his vision is a reality, and the Coppola Winery is truly a Wine Wonderland!  Influenced by Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, the winery offers many delights for the visitors of all ages. With swimming pools, bocce courts, restaurants, event rooms, multiple tasting bars, and a Hollywood movie museum, the winery over delivers with fun activities to while away an afternoon and evening.

Some of the unique features include several of Coppola’s Oscar statues, along with memorabilia from his movies, such as Vito Corleone’s desk from The Godfather and a restored 1948 Tucker Sedan as was used in Tucker: The Man and His Dream. 

Restaurant at Francis Ford Coppola Winery

Kevin Leads Wine Tasting at SSU

Kevin and Kaila led the members of WineSense club through a tasting that featured a diverse selection of five Coppola wines:

  • 2014 Directors Cut Russian River Valley Chardonnay
  • 2014 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
  • 2013 Directors Cut Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel
  • 2014 Directors Cut Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 2012 Directors Cut Cinema Blend

They explained the special characteristics of each wine we tasted, and provided background information on the labels and unique packaging. These five delicious wines were but a glimpse of the many wines that Francis Ford Coppola Winery offers, and we were invited to visit the tasting room in the future.

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Favorites Wines of the Evening

At the conclusion of the meeting, the Millennial participants were asked to vote for their two favorite wines of the evening. The winners were:

2012 Directors Cut Cinema ($39) – A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel, this wine exudes blackberries, violets, spice and vanilla.

2013 Directors Cut Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel ($27).  Red zinfandel with notes of mixed berries, cherries and licorice, plus a hint of nutmeg.

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SSU WineSense Executive Board at Francis Ford Coppola Eduational Tasting

 

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Duckhorn Winery Explains Waterfowl Theme to SSU Millennials

(Contributed by Itze Monserrat Peña-Andrade) The story of Duckhorn Winery and how it has expanded on its waterfowl theme over the years was the topic of our most recent SSU WineSense Club meeting. Led by winemaker, Michael Accurso, he captivated the audience with both words and a tasting of four delectable wines.

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Michael Accurso with SSU Winesense Board Members 

A Little Bit of Duckhorn History

Duckhorn Vineyards was founded by Dan and Margaret Duckhorn in 1976. Throughout the forty years it has been in operation, Duckhorn Vineyards has established itself as one of North America’s premier producers of Napa Valley wines. From its modest inaugural vintage of 800 cases of Cabernet Sauvignon and 800 cases of Merlot in 1978, to its addition of Sauvignon Blanc in 1982, Duckhorn Vineyards has crafted a tradition of quality and excellence that continues to this day.

Duckhorn Winery in Napa Valley

As time passed on, Duckhorn added more brands to its winery, making sure to keep to the waterfowl theme. This was not only because Dan and Margaret had a last name of “Duckhorn,” but because they have always enjoyed birds, especially waterfowl. Therefore, the first brand they added was Paradox in 1994, followed by Golden Eye, Migration, and Decoy and Canvas Back in the ensuring years. Today several of these brands have their own winery with tasting rooms open to the public.

Michael Leads Wine Tasting at SSU

Michael led the members of WineSense club through a tasting that featured four of the brands offered by Duckhorn.  These included:

  • 2013 Migration Chardonnay from the Russian River Valley
  • 2012 Goldeneye Pinot Noir from the Anderson Valley
  • 2012 Duckhorn Vineyards Merlot from the Napa Valley
  • 2012 Paradoxx Red Blend from the Napa Valley

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The Favorite Wine of the Evening

At the conclusion of the meeting, the Millennial students in attendance were asked to vote for their favorite wine of the evening. Each participant could vote once and the favorite of the evening was the 2012 Goldeneye Pinot Noir.

It was an enriching night, the educational tasting that Michael provided kept everyone entertained and laughing. We can’t thank him enough for joining us in leading us all through this fantastic experience!

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Favorite Wine of the Evening — Golden Eye 2012 Pinot Noir

 

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