The second bit of big news is that I am headed back to Spain, woot! The good folks at D.O. Montsant, a somewhat younger wine appellation centered around the town of Falset, southwest of Barcelona, is bringing a big contingent of wine writers, bloggers and trade for a tour of the DO. The free media trip is compliments of DO Montsant, so our time will be intensively focused on this small, but exciting DO. You can follow along with #DrinkMontsant!
I have been quite blessed to attend multiple wine media junkets to the incomparable lands of Spain, visiting DO Navarra, then another to the highly DO contained within Murcia (Bullas, Jumilla, Yecla), and most recently, those containing properties owned by MG Wines (Alicante, Bierzo, Bullas). Joining me on this tour of Montsant will be #Vinopanion‘s old and new (and some previous Spanish wine companions): 1WineDude, James the Wine Guy, Just the Bottle, Grape Experiences, Snooth, Another Wine Blog, The Academic Wino, Drink What YOU Like, and Drinkable Grape. In addition, representatives and MW/MS/WSET wine students from the Wine Scholar Guild and the venerable (and local) Napa Valley Wine Academy.
So, what can we expect from DO Montsant? Well, this little moon-shaped wine region is found facing east towards the Mediterranean, which is about 15-20 miles away. It is contained within autonomous community of Catalunya, noted for its great city of Barcelona to the NW. The DO was founded in 2001 and is comprised of 65 wineries and 16 villages. The Ebro River flows through DO and exerts its influence on the roughly ~4700 acres of vineyards, much of which are planted along hillsides with varying inclinations and elevations up to 2500 feet. The climate tends to be warm to hot Mediterranean, but the river, the sea and the mountains all combine to also cool the vineyards down in the later afternoons and at night, maintaining good acidity. Six white grapes are allowed in the DO, with garnacha blanca and macabeu dominating those blends. Meanwhile, the reds can be any from 10 varieties, and garnacha tinta and cariñena are the predominate varieties. We will be staying in the largest village in the region with a whopping 2,900 population (similar to my hometown of Yountville :-), Falset.
That’s all fine and dandy and can be gleaned from any international wine tome, however. I want to find out why this region worked so hard to ratify their own DO…do they still feel connected to the winemaking history of the region that dates back to the Romans? What goes into their bush-trained old vines and how do they tackle sincere craftsmanship in their wines, while still trying to export to international markets? Who are the men and women that are behind these wines, who are the families that have made their mark in this region? What drives them, day to day, to continue to improve their wines, while still maintaining their traditional, Montsant identity? These are the questions I want to answer during this incredible trip. Follow along by searching #DrinkMontsant! ¡Salud a todos!
This trip is a fully paid media junket, courtesy of DO Montsant.
The end of 2017 is nigh…that means really good reasons to drink #wine and, in particular, bubbles! And while the Lady and I are lovers and club members of our very local Domaine Chandon sparkling wines, we do have quite a tasty spot for Spanish Cava. #Cava is the most renown sparkling wine from Spain and an actual DO (or appellation) in the Spanish Denominación de Origen system. Freixenet is one of the most common producers and always a solid daily buy, but we’ve tasted through a ton of good Cava over the years.
Another sparkling wine region that has been smokin’ hot the last few years has been Prosecco from Italy. It has both DOC and DOCG appellations for its finer wines and has been really making a splash in the US market for the last 3 years. I’m a Featured User for Vivino, and they’ve even put together a list of the 20 most scanned Prosecco wines of 2017 on their app, from thousands of users:
- La Marca Prosecco – 3.8 Stars
- Casa Vinicola Zonin Prosecco – 3.5 Stars
- Valdo Prosecco Valdobbiadene Superiore Marca Oro – 3.6 Stars
- Carpenè Malvolti Prosecco Superiore Conegliano Valdobbiadene Extra Dry – 3.7 Stars
- La Gioiosa et Amorosa Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore – 3.6 Stars
- Ruffino Prosecco – – 3.7 Stars
- Mionetto Prosecco Valdobbiadene Superiore – 3.6 Stars
- Mionetto Prosecco Treviso Prestige Collection Brut – 3.6 Stars
- Gancia Prosecco – 3.5 Stars
- Mionetto Prosecco Treviso Brut – 3.6 Stars
- Allini Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Extra Dry – 3.5 Stars
- Mionetto Prosecco Treviso Prestige Collection Extra Dry – 3.6 Stars
- Martini (Martini & Rossi) Prosecco – 3.5 Stars
- Cavit Lunetta Prosecco – 3.5 Stars
- Cantine Maschio Prosecco Treviso Extra Dry – 3.5 Stars
- Vini Santa Margherita Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore – 3.7 Stars
- La Gioiosa et Amorosa Prosecco Treviso – 3.5 Stars
- Nino Franco Spumanti Rustico – 3.8 Stars
- Plaza Centro Prosecco Treviso – 3.4 Stars
- Cantine Riondo Prosecco Spago Nero – 3.8 Stars
The Lady and I enjoyed a Prosecco on Christmas with her family and the 2016 Bervini 1955 Millesimato Prosecco DOC Extra Dry rather delighted the whole family with its mix of super tasty & zippy yellow apple and peach, alongside some nice yeasty and good floral notes. The wine is imported by Wine Trees USA and was a sample from Balzac Communications.
Another holiday favorite around the world are kosher wines, of course. While Kosher wine has gotten a bad rap over the millennia, there are quite a few amazing wines produced in California, as well as around the world, that also happen to be kosher. As Jay Buchsbaum, Executive VP Marketing and Director of Wine Education at Royal Wine Corp states:
To be considered kosher, Sabbath observant Jews must supervise and sometimes handle the entire winemaking process, from the time the grapes are crushed until the wine is bottled. Any ingredients used, including yeasts and fining agents*, must be kosher.
Local favorite wineries in our valley of Napa include Hagafen Cellars, just down the road from Yountville on Silverado Trail. I’ve biked past it while training for my triathlons dozens of times…it’s a beautiful estate and producer of many great, tasty wines!
Live in SoCal and need a bar for your party? The very cute, Hello Penny Bar will do just that, complete in a mobile and restored, 1946 vintage trailer. Sweet!
- Wines ‘Til Sold Out completed an incredible charity drive for #NapaFire and #SonomaFire victims, raising a total of $17,500 from WTSO members, equally matched by the wine flash sale retailer. Bravo!
- USGS geophysicists have recently completed a LIDAR study of Napa Valley vineyards that “suggests that earthquake-related deformation just below the Earth’s surface can be quite different from how it is expressed at the surface,” following the 2014 Napa Valley earthquake.
- PG&E‘s Wine Industry Efficiency Solutions (WIES) program, in conjunction with its partner wineries, has “saved its customers more than 3.3 million kilowatt hours of electricity and 150,000 therms of natural gas – enough energy to power 246 average homes for one year. The average annual energy cost savings totaled $559,000 per year.”
- The 33rd annual Winesong 2017 charity event on the Mendocino coast on September 8th & 9th in Fort Bragg was again a huge success, raising more than $700,000 for the Mendocino Coast District Hospital.
The week of October 8th, 2017 was the most bizarre week of my entire life to this point. The fires that struck the NorCal counties of Napa, Sonoma, Lake, Mendocino and Solano wreaked an incredible amount of devastation, yet as many disasters have shown around the world, it also taught the Lady and myself a beautiful lesson about community. While the #NapaFire flames destroyed much of our beautiful eastern and western hillsides in Napa along with homes, wineries, businesses and farms, it did not destroy the love that binds our Valley together, despite danger and distress.
We first sighted the #AtlasFire a little after midnight. We were celebrating our move with brand new neighbors who happened to have a third story window facing east. We all saw the flames coming over the Vacas Mountains, but I assured everyone that I had seen many fires during my life in the Valley and never had seen much destruction, much less see it make it down to the valley floor…this was obviously wildly optimistic about the final outcome. The Lady and woke up the next morning with the sun…with no power, cell phone service, internet (not that we had it anyway due to the move) or landline service, we had no idea how badly the fires had already spread. They were fanned by up to hurricane-level winds (clocked at 55 to 80 mph down the mountain ridges). Powerlines and transformers were quickly toppled, possible sparking the original fires, but definitely spreading those fires extremely quickly, at times faster than a human can run. We became worried once we saw the thick, smoky air outside and could not use any powered device or phone at our new home.
What followed was over a week of incredibly anxious and yet hazy stretches of time where we spent our days and nights pinning down fire updates by our own eye, and updating our friends & family by SM. We were briefly evacuated in our new home of Yountville, my parents were evacuated for ~3 days from their home in southwest Napa (Browns Valley), while our family HQ was at my sister and brother in-law’s home near my alma mater, Vintage High School. Our cousins’ home SW of Fountaingrove in Santa Rosa survived with minimal damage, though not all of their neighbors were quite as fortunate. All in all, we ended up being quite safe and very lucky as a family…the flames came about ~1.5mi at their closest, but were seemingly always threatening one home or another, all dependent upon the winds. The first, second, third, fifteenth responders that poured their entire, danger-wrought lives into saving people, animals and homes were brilliant and we will never be able to thank them enough for their hardest work and sacrifices. They came from all over the world in fact, Australia had a corp of firefighters fighting the #TubbsFire, as did Mexico and Canada.
It is in this spirit of support that the Lady and I quickly came to know our new community of Yountville in a very warm and loving light. Our new neighbors were constantly asking if they could help us move, as the flames and smoke would allow. Bardessono Hotel and Spa was one of the only businesses that stayed open all week, supported by their own generator and with cell and internet service the whole time. They graciously gave free coffee, power, internet and local news on tv to all locals and emergency personnel. Ranch Market Too stayed open by candlelight to provide goods for sale for locals. Bouchon Bakery provided free coffee and pastries to anyone in town. R+D Kitchen, also on a generator along with neighbor Kelly’s Filling Station & Wine Shop also stayed open and acted as a central hub to exchange news. Lastly, Pancha’s of Yountville, as always, was HQ for locals to gather, blow of stress and steam and find out the latest information from those of us that work for the city and county. Pancha’s, Bardessono, Kelly’s and all of these businesses kept our little village in a tight embrace and worked hard to take care of all of us, as they could. We can’t thank them enough during that first crazy week.
And it’s here in Yountville that I think I will finish…feeling so fortunate to be a part of a community of quirky, yes, but loving and fully supportive neighbors; blessed with wine, food, art and fun. Come support the valleys, virtually all of us are open, despite incorrect news reports that abound. You will find grateful independent business owners and industry workers, happy to serve you during what is typically the highest season of the year. If you would like to donate more directly, please click on the link below to be taken to the Napa Valley Community Foundation’s Fire Donation site. These funds go *directly* to those in need in Napa County. Thank you and I hope that all of you are safe and happy, around the world, as your read this post.
Well…the long wait is over! If not for my fellow #Vinopanions, at least for my own incessant #wine cravings and the need to blast out my ramblings de vinos. WardKadel.com is finally live, as we are in the process of shutting down the long-running WineLog.net. With this relaunch, you will find more content combining my two passions of #triathlon & wine, as well as a newfound love of cooking and of course, the chronicles of our life in #Napa.
Indeed just last night, with the Lady (featured left in the vineyards of Domaine Chandon) in NYC for a fashion convention, I knocked out two very enjoyable recipes from Blue Apron, which has been a life-changer for me to finally learn and love to cook.
Cooking and first dinner (heh) was accompanied by the deliciously juicy 2015 Domaine des Quatre Vents Fleurie (review Vivino), from Beaujolais extraordinaire Georges Duboeuf. And since the journey of wine can never end (thank goodness, right??), I listened to my two favorite wine podcasts:
#Vinopanion has been a wild ride these past 8+ years (so hard to believe!). Towards the end of last year, as life got exceedingly busy and I was unable to put my best efforts to my love of #wine writing and education, I pondered what step this blog would next take. I have always treated my wine life as a privilege and have felt grateful for every turn that it has taken. Each little or big step was only partially planned/hoped for…most things like paid wine consulting, wine judging, being flown around the world for media trips, all have been joyous surprises, though they didn’t come without hard work (on the side).
I have missed my wine world these past ~4 months, but the introspection has been useful. I’ve come up with new plans, reapplied old ones and have concocted new post formats, such as this new one: Bits & Pieces will cover multiple topics in short, 1-2 paragraph bites. Prepare for more news in a more concise format. And so… ¡Vámonos mis Vinopanions!
CabFest Napa Valley Returns 3/4 – 3/6 (tickets)
CabFest Napa Valley (WL, FB, Tw, IG) still ranks as one of my favorite wine festivals of all time. The Lady and I attended the entire first incarnation weekend, back in 2014. The event hit on all cylinders right off the bat, with a fantastic opening night, all the way through 2 grand tastings, and multiple unique breakout tastings.
This year, the highlights again include a fantastic opening concert in the main hall, this year by Mat Kearney, followed by the infamous Cigars & Guitars VIP Party. Saturday features multiple 4hr tastings, including the San Francisco Magazine Grand Tasting and the Boutique Tasting, along with multiple breakout sessions and food & wine tastings, including Cab on the Couch with Karen MacNeil. Sunday features its own suite of tastings and VIP sessions, including the Sonoma Magazine Grand Tasting and a tremendous VIP Platinum Wrap Party, featuring cuisine by local legend Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc crew.
Bodegas Cepa 21 Virtual Tasting 3/9/16 6pm PT (#Cepa21VT)
Bodegas Emilio Moro is a legendary name in Ribera del Duero DO (WL) of Spain. Bodegas Cepa 21 (WL, FB, Tw) is a newer endeavor by the Moro brothers, striving to create a modern Tinto Fino (Tempranillo) wine inside their new, super sleek winery. The winemaking brother of the duo, José Moro, is visiting the US in March and he is kind of to sit down for a virtual tasting of his wines, from his temporary home in NYC. I’ve had the fortune to try some of their wines in the past, so it will be enlightening to go through these new releases and to speak directly to José about his vinous products. Follow along that night using #Cepa21VT. ¡Salud!
NVWA WSET II Endeavors Continue…
I continue my studies of the Wine & Spirits Education Trust Intermediate (WSET II) certification this year.Napa Valley Wine Academy (FB, Tw), already leaders in wine and spirits education, is leading my efforts. Their unique position, situated in the heart of #Napa grants them special access for taking their teachings directly out into the field…and I do mean “field!”
Indeed, their WSET Ultimate Level 2+3 course two week immersive course will “take you directly into vineyards and working wineries“, all right nearby in Napa Valley. I’m looking forward to getting more intensely into my studies!
HITS Napa Valley Triathlon: The Hometown Race 4/9 – 4/10
I am also full steam back into my #triathlon training season, since the last week of December. This time I’ll finally be doing my hometown olympic distance triathlon at Lake Berryessa: HITS Napa Valley 2016. The HITS Triathlon Series (Tw, FB, YT) is a long-running, well-respected endurance race production company (HITS Endurance), particularly their multisport series.
Once again I’ll be taking on my awesome brother in-law in a race for the family. This year, it should be particularly exciting, as we’ll be going off in waves within 3 minutes of each other. I’m looking forward to chasing and passing his ass! 😛