Hall Wines Cabernet Cookoff tastes great, gives help

11855799_868280449915926_2336774847356483997_nWe’re a little late on our coverage of this fine event, but we did want to send out hearty Vinopanion props to Hall Wines (WL, FB, Tw, IG, YT) and their highly enjoyable 6th Annual Cabernet Cookoff charity #foodie and #wine event this past April. Fifteen Napa Valley and San Francisco based chef teams competed to see which one could most favorably pair their small bite with the 2012 Hall Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvigon and the 2012 Hall Napa County Coeur Cabernet Sauvignon red wines.  To whet the almost 700 attendees’ palates, the festivities were kicked off with a glass of the delicious 2012 Hall Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc.  On this particularly hot April day, the SB was quite a treat, with its juicy citrus acidity, rounded out with some tropical fruit and floral notes, and finishing with some zingy minerality.  Following the SB intro, the Lady and I headed into the array of tents to taste through the many culinary delights on prep.

Bunny Foo Foo welcomes the culinary charity masses. (By Lawrence Argent, Hall Wines).
Bunny Foo Foo welcomes the culinary charity masses. (By Lawrence Argent, Hall Wines).

Hall Wines has been producing ultra high end reds and whites in the Napa Valley at their two properties since 2002.  Owners Craig and Kathryn Walt Hall are renowned art collectors and thoughtful curators of their land and ecology with 5 Certified Organic estate vineyards and a Leed Gold Certified new winery at this, their St. Helena location.  We had the lovely opportunity to attend their grand opening of the gorgeous new St. Helena facility earlier in the year, but this was our first opportunity to see it in the daytime. And it was quite an experience! While it was a bit difficult on the hot sunny day to grasp the pairings with the smoky and oaky young Napa Cab, the brighter acidity and less oaked Coeur paired brilliantly with many of the dishes, including our favorite of the day: The Farmers Market Pantry’s Ancho Chili Roasted Mushroom & Squash Blossom Quesadilla. They were sponsoring the Napa Valley Youth Advocacy Center and their alternating savory and lightly spiced quesadilla rocked it with both the sauv blanc and the Coeur cabernet.


11060935_868285769915394_6407453637873669927_nThe event was a resounding success, raising over $59,000 for the local community and satisfying the thirst and stomach of hundreds of charity-minded patrons that day.  The people’s choice and judge’s choice winners are listed below, along with a link to the fantastic drone video courtesy of Darren Chestnut.

A big thank you to Hall Wines for our attendance that day.  Cheers!

Judges’ Choice 1st Pl: Chef Zack Mutrux, PRESS & Charity, If Given a Chance

Dish: Braised lamb neck with beef fat potatoes and bacon sherry vinaigrette

People’s Choice 1st Pl: Chef Chris Jorosz, Andrea Reiter, Capital Dime & Charity, Food Literacy Center

Dish: Savory wild rice Belgian waffles, crispy duck and fig balsamic wildflower syrup

Drone video of the festivities, courtesy of Darren Chestnut.


Le Wine Buff Teaches Wine Finance

My super fine readers would have to be asleep not to know about my longtime wine project as Le Wine Buff (WineLog) for Enjoy Bordeaux (Twitter, WineLog).  Well, recently I sat down to lunch with reporter Ryan Flinn alongside my fellow ‘Buff Rebecca Chapa (Twitter, Facebook) and we discussed our efforts to get the word out about the quantity of affodable, high quality Bordeaux wine.  Lo and behold, Ryan Flinn put together a great article discussing just how relevant affordable, high quality Bordeaux wines within the context of the sky-rocketing prices of über-premium wines due to the rise of fine wine culture in China.  The article has already been picked up by Bloomberg, BusinessWeek and SFGate, so check it out at any of the prior links.  Cheers!

In Pursuit of Balance: Pinot in the Spotlight

Pinot Noir grapes at Chehalem Ridgecrest Vineyard, Newberg, OregonFollowing on the heels of my panel workshop at the very successful 9th Pinot Noir Summit this past month, I’m involved in another new, rather exciting Pinot adventure this month.  California Pinot Noir: In Pursuit of Balance (Twitter) is a revolutionary new partnership intending generate dialog about balance in Cali Pinot.  The partnership was founded by Jasmine Hirsch (Twitter) of Hirsch Vineyards and Winery (Twitter) and Rajat Par, longtime wine director for the Michael Mina family of restaurants including his own Rn74 (Twitter).  As a well-respected family winegrower and an international restaurant wine director respectively, they are knee deep in the world of Pinot each and everyday. It is through this dedication to a single varietal that they realized a conundrum: is California Pinot becoming too big and unwieldy?

Hirsch Vineyards and WineryThis conversation is very timely, as the topic of balance vs. power, elegant vs. burly in Pinot has truly reached fisticuffs a peak.  I was excited to be approached to work on this event because balanced, medium-bodied and earthy, cool climate Pinot really fits my palate.  Thomas L. Powers (Twitter) of the web-based HD food and wine series Gastrotommy, will be doing a live broadcast of the trade seminar and filming for a future Gastrotommy episode.  Rn74 - Michael MinaI will be the online moderator for the broadcast alongside panel the on-site moderator Ray Isle (Twitter), Wine Editor of Food & Wine Magazine (Twitter).  In addition, John Trinidad (Twitter) has written an awesome primer for IPOB, over at his SF Wine Blog.

The event drops 03/28/11 at high noon at the Mandarin Oriental San Francisco (Twitter) and Rn74, so come check it out online we’ll chat about @BalancedPinot!  Catch the full deets for the seminar and trade and consumer events are below and follow on Twitter with the hashtag #IPOB.  Cheers!


On March 28 twenty-one wineries will gather in San Francisco to share their pinot noirs. These wineries and their wines have been selected by Rajat Parr to promote the theme of balance and hopefully inspire passion and dialogue around this topic. Please click here for the list of participating wineries.


Seminar: In Pursuit of Balance

* Open to members of the press and trade by invitation only. Please RSVP to info@inpursuitofbalance.com in order to reserve your seat. Closed to the public.
Moderator: Ray Isle, Food & Wine Magazine
Panelists: Wells Guthrie, Copain; Vanessa Wong, Peay Vineyards; Geoff Kruth, MS, Director of Operations – Guild of Sommeliers and Wine Director – Farmhouse Inn
Location: Mandarin Oriental Hotel, 222 Sansome St. (between Pine and California
Time: noon – 1 pm

Trade Tasting

* Open to members of the press and trade by invitation. RSVP kindly requested to info@inpursuitofbalance.com. Closed to the public.
Location: RN74, 301 Mission St. (between Beale and Fremont)
Time: 2 – 4 pm

Public Tasting

* Advance ticket reservation required. Please click here to reserve your tickets.
Location: RN74, 301 Mission St. (between Beale and Fremont)
Time: 5 – 8 pm

Finished wines confirmed for the seminar (IPOB2011March):

[winelist query=”IPOB2011March” num=”100″]

5 Questions with Three Thieves

Three ThievesIt’s not every day that we as wine lovers get to stumble upon a truly good show about wine.  I’m not talking about something that involves some guy dressed in tails and swishing aged, thin wine in his mouth and spitting…no, I’m talking about three renegades digging deep around the world to find new wines to grow, to sell and to chug by the bottle: Three Thieves (Twitter) aren’t here to mess around.

Already known around the wine biz as the triumvirate to buck any stodgy trend with their affordable and tasty jug wine, Bandit Tetra Pak wines for that on the go tipple among many other fun and innovative wine brands, the guys have fully branched out with their first tv gig, Three Thieves now on The Cooking Channel.  I managed to hunt down thief Charles Bieler (Twitter) to chat about his Cooking Channel adventures with his fellow vino amigos, Joel Gott (Twitter, WineLog) and Roger Scommegna.

1. Ward (Twitter)/VinopanionWineLog (Twitter): I’ve been a big fan of the Three Thieves vino concept for some time. You guys seem like you know how to rock the party and that said, how did you *really* come up with the original plan to collaborate together…or can you remember those deets, at all? 😉

Charles Bieler - Three ThievesCharles Bieler (Twitter)/Three Thieves (Twitter): Joel and I were friends through a common distributor we had and I met Roger when I was investigating doing something on the Sonoma Coast. I decided that we’d be better all together… Neither Joel or Roger liked the idea at first but I think they are pretty happy about it now.

2. Ward (Twitter)/VinopanionWineLog (Twitter): A lot of my readers are in the wine biz and are always itching for new opportunities to push the boundaries of wine + biz + media + social media. How did you get the show started and off the ground?

Charles Bieler (Twitter)/Three Thieves (Twitter): Roger had always thought that a camera should follow us on our trips. Joel and I thought he was nuts but he kept pushing (for years) and eventually managed to get a meeting with Cooking Channel that had just started and was looking for something. It was good timing.

3. Ward (Twitter)/VinopanionWineLog (Twitter): Now that you have visited some very cool wine places of the world to film the show, where would be your dream spot to start a vineyard (besides your current ones, of course) and what varieties would you plant?

Charles Bieler (Twitter)/Three Thieves (Twitter): That’s a really hard question. There are loads of places that I’m excited about and couldn’t pick just one. And generally speaking, I like the flexibility of not owning vineyards.

4. Ward (Twitter)/VinopanionWineLog (Twitter): Tell me a story that happened during filming that couldn’t or won’t be aired on show? I *know* there’s got to be at least a few!

Charles Bieler (Twitter)/Three Thieves (Twitter): Honestly, the editor did a good job covering the fun parts. Sure, there were lots of laughs off camera but no stand out.

5. Ward (Twitter)/VinopanionWineLog (Twitter): With so much thievery happening in your vinous worlds, what could possibly be next for the big Three?!

Charles Bieler (Twitter)/Three Thieves (Twitter): I’ve got a long NEXT list. I do a lot of projects on the side outside of the 3T’s group and they tend to be pretty weird. As for next with 3T’s I want to go to China! Apparently 500,000 hectares of vineyards were planted last year. There’s got to be something interesting.

Catch replays of Three Thieves on The Cooking Channel at

12pm EST on 02/25/11 and 5pm EST 02/26/11.  Cheers!

Three Thieves - The Cooking Channel

Clos LaChance, the PGA & Original Wine

Frys.com Open - PGA TourYes, yes, yes…I *know*!  It’s been some time since my last post.  Well, that’s just what going on vacay for 2+ weeks to Carmel Valley, Spain and Portugal will do to you.  Actually, I take that back.  It’s what going back to work AFTER that vacay, that will get ya!  Anyhow, I’m back and ready to reengage my fellow vinopanions and boy do I have two cool pieces of vino news to disseminate!

Clos LaChanceFirst up, one of the coolest pieces of wine news that I’ve come across in some time, Clos LaChance (Twitter) is the very first winery to be sitting directly on the course of a PGA Tour (Twitter) event.  They are also one of the Frys.com Open‘s main sponsors and have the lucky vantage point overlooking the 15th hole at CordeValle.  This should prove to be a very exciting event and I’m quite interested in seeing how Clos LaChance and the PGA Tour integrate their activities during the week. The golfing should be spectacular, featuring a field that includes David Duval, Justin Leonard, John Daly and Rickie Fowler.  The Murphy family has been making wine in San Martin, CA since 1992, utilizing many members of their family to produce their unique wines.  I’m also fired up to finally get a chance to try some wine from this buzz winery!  Tickets are still available online, so purchase yours today and come and hang with us!

Center for Wine OriginsOne a completely different note, I’m very humbled to have been picked for the “Spotlight on Bloggers” section of the very cool Center of Wine Origins (Twitter) website.  The hard-working folks at the CFWO have reprinted an article I wrote here awhile back about how much I enjoy sharing wine with my friends (Vinopanion = wine + companion).

The CFWO has taken on the very important job of clarifying and protecting the names of wine regions around the world, through collaboration with similar organizations in the wine countries of the rest of the globe.  This means that they work to ensure that wine labeled “Champagne” is only sparkling wine that comes from Champagne, France.  Or perhaps they lay the smackdown on anyone that uses the name “Napa” on wine that doesn’t come from Napa County, CA.  It seems like a simple enough concept, but it can be quite difficult to define these names and regions globally, and it can be even harder to enforce the exclusivity of these wine naming conventions.  Fortunately, the CFWO has some very competent people to regulate and collaborate!

So come out to CordeValle and Clos LaChance this weekend if you’re in the area and sift through the great content on the CFWO website.  Cheers!

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