#NapaFire: Devastation & Community

The Judge breathes safely during the #NapaFire. #Yountville
The Judge breathes safely during the #NapaFire. #Yountville

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.

Smoky sunset over The French Laundry Garden & Mayacamas. #Napafire
Smoky sunset over The French Laundry Garden & Mayacamas. #Napafire

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.

Air Support filling up with water at Yount Mill Rd & 29. #Napafire
Air Support filling up with water at Yount Mill Rd & 29. #Napafire

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.

#Yountville is open! #Napa #wine #food #art
#Yountville is open! #Napa #wine #food #art

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.

     – Ward Kadel@drXeNo#Vinopanion

#Vinopanion's new wardkadel.com is live!

#Vinopanion: Domaine Chandon #wine

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.

@BlueApron & #Beaujolais!

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:


And so it with those two tasty #recipe‘s and these two brilliant wine podcasts, I will bid you adieu until my next Ward Kadel – #Vinopanion – @drXeNo post.

Vineyards of Domaine Chandon
Loving that #NapaLife!


TasteLive!: Pinot Noir & The Influence of AVA

TasteLive!Some of my favorite wine events don’t actually exist.  Well, that’s not quite right…they don’t actually exist, physically.  Some of the most interesting and educational tastings that occur each month take place virtually, over on the rather snazzy TasteLive! (Twitter, WineLog) Twitter-based tasting platform.  Just in the last month they’ve had a phenomenal tasting of affordable Bordeaux hosted by Planet Bordeaux (Twitter, WineLog) and an even more comprehensive tasting of Spanish wines from Navarra, hosted by Wines of Navarra (Twitter, WineLog).  Join us tonight 6-7pm PST, as we taste through three Pinot Noir for “Pinot Noir & The Influence of AVA.”

Creative FurnaceThe wines that we’ll be tasting tonight from (mine were courtesy of TasteLive! & Creative Furnace) were specifically picked to demonstrate the effect that appellations have upon that finicky grape variety and wine varietal, Pinot Noir.  Pinot has as well-deserved reputation for being very sensitive to its surrounding terroir (or climate/soil/water, etc) of the vineyard.  While these wines are not all from the same producer nor vintage, they were chosen because they demonstrate the expected terroir of each of these three fine California appellations: Carneros, Anderson Valley, Russian River Valley.

You can find all of the wines that we’re tasting tomorrow night for listing in your own WineLog, tagged with “TasteLive2011PinotAVA“.  All of the wines that I’ve tasted during TasteLive events over the years can be found tagged with “TasteLive“.  Even if you don’t have the wines handy, log on to Twitter and catch the #tl_wine stream and participate!


QPRWK - WKBadges Gloria Ferrer Carneros Estate Pinot Noir 2007

Color: Lighter ruby/rose with almost clear edges

Nose: Bing cherry, bigger pepper and some sweeter violet florals and some dried rosemary.

Palate: Lots of sweeter rhubarb and creamier cola, with spicy cherry and a cooler savory herb component into the light-bodied, light-tannin, nicely bright finish. Good deal for this quality of pinot: QPRWK.

Krutz Family Cellars Anderson Valley Pinot Noir 2007

Color: Medium to lighter ruby, slight brick, clear edges

Nose: Sweet Bing cherry fruit, with some toast underlain below it, sweeter cola rounding out the nose.

Palate: Cool round mouthfeel, with some unsweetened Dr. Pepper almost, with the cherry and anise components melding on the rounder palate and more floral and creamier toast going into that finish. Fruitier, not as structured.

Davis Bynum Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2009

Color: Medium dark ruby edges, lightest ruby edges

Nose: Cool, baking spiced red fruit, definitely bright, yet quite plush, unsweetened root beer with some nice light violets to add complexity along with a hint of earth.

Palate: Fuller here, with cool and round red and some black fruit here.  Light, fine tannins and good bright acidity adds to the cherry cola and lightly toasted finish, ending with a bit of cream and more cola.

All TasteLive wines that I’ve tasted:

[winelist query=”TasteLive” num=”200″]

The Renaissance of Huge Bear & Knights Bridge

Huge Bear WinesDespite the 460+ years that separate modern times from what many scholars consider the end of the Italian Renaissance, we still hear the term “Renaissance Man/Woman” tossed around with great regularity.  Heck, running around learning stuff, spouting verse with a paintbrush in my hand sounds great.  Luck in love aside, I had a chance to share some food and wine with a fascinating man for these modern times and one whom is a true Ren-man: Timothy F. Carl, Ph.D, Co-Founder of both Huge Bear Wines (WineLog, Twitter) and Knights Bridge Winery (WineLog).

Knights Bridge WineryI met up with Tim Carl and Sean Carroll (whom provided for my appearance that night) at the very nice Bin 38 wine bar in San Francisco’s Marina District.  Tim and Sean were already settling in when I arrived and I was immediately drawn to the restrained energy of Tim and his intriguing silver fox appearance.  I’d already gotten the run down from Sean about Tim’s very impressive résumé, where just a brief summary gets one’s cultural radar pinging: part of a now 6th generation California wine growing family, a military man from the Navy, a former chef alongside such luminaries as Gary Danko and Masa Kobayashi, a businessman with McKinsey & Company and a former geneticist with a Ph.D. from the University of Colorado. It’s an almost dizzying array of accomplishments for a man that looks to be only barely pushing 50, not to mention helping raise his family that he often warmly references.  It was with complete shock however, when I found out that Tim was behind the functional discovery of one of the proteins that I work with at my day job, the SNAIL related protein, Slug. It’s not every day that I find such tight coincidences between my own numerous interests!

Huge Bear Wines Winemaker Meredith Cahill-MarslandPerhaps not too surprisingly, coming from a co-founder with such diverse interests, Huge Bear Wines and Knights Bridge Winery are two very different visions of a boutique winery. While both are small production, with estate or extended lease fruit sources, each has their own winemaker and two rather different styles of premium wines. 

Meredith Cahill-Marsland crafts her Huge Bear wines towards a cleaner style of whites, with little to no oak and very bright fruit.  Her 2007 Sonoma County Cabernet, while powerful and filled with depths of fruit, is still balanced and retains an OldWorldWK restraint.  The savory portabello mushrooms and scorched earth that are found in both the nose and palate round out the complexity in these wines.

Jeff Ames - Knights Bridge WineryMeanwhile over at Knights Bridge, winemaker Jeff Ames crafts wines that are more of a hybrid between the Old and New Worlds of wine.  His 2008 Knights Valley West Block Estate Chardonnay displays more baked citrus, light vanilla and toast to round out the white pitted fruits.  His 2007 Knights Valley Estate Cabernet has many of the OldWorldWK elements found in the Huge Bear Cab, yet it also has a richer and plusher black fruited palate, filled with fresh anise and wild blackberry.  I’ve since had the chance to try even more of Ames’ Cabs at the super awesome SF Vintners Market wine tasting events in SF and the quality is expansive across all of his wines.

Despite their separate styles, winemakers and even facilities, you can still find an important similarity between these two wineries: a very passionate focus on handmade, small lot, earth-driven wines.  Tim Carl has found success in yet another part of his varied life…and all of our glasses get to share in the pleasure of it all.

You can find all of the wines listed below that we tasted through that night with Tim, while at Bin 38.  You can find all of these wines to list in your own WineLog, tagged with “HugeBear2010“.  Cheers!

Huge Bear Wines (WineLog, Twitter):

Huge Bear Sonoma County Sauvignon Blanc 2008

Huge Bear Sonoma County Chardonnay 2008

OldWorldWK - WKBadges Huge Bear Wines Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon 2007

Color: Dark garnet core with ruby/garnet edges

Nose: Very savory nose here, with meaty portobello mushrooms, scorched earth, blackest of fruit of mainly cassis and then anise kicks in with fresh tobacco

Palate: Quite good, with a fullness, medium fine tannins, great acidity and all of that black fruit from the nose. The savoriness is here as well, with more juicy meat-like flavors along with the portobellos and juicy black olives. Finishes with a juicy, dark black cherry and that spicy tobacco.

Knights Bridge Winery (WineLog):

Knights Bridge Knights Valley West Block Estate Chardonnay 2008

OldWorldWK - WKBadges Knights Bridge Knights Valley Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2007

Color: Dark garnet with violet lowlights, garnet edges

Nose: Very dusty black fruit here, with anise, spice, light vanilla and an elegant pencil lead and slate minerality

Palate: Medium to full, with great acidity again and a beautiful balance between the medium to coating fine tannins, that acidity and the dusty, anise covered cassis and wilder blackberry fruit. Black cherry and toast poke through a little in the graphite and slate finish. Quite good: OldWorldWK

Clos LaChance, the PGA and the Frys.com Open

Clos LaChance at the PGA Tour Frys.com OpenSometimes wine can take to you places that are just plain cool. Well, cooler than the usual cool things that come with wine…or something.  In any case, last month I had one of those experiences where my interest in wine took me to something new: my first PGA Tour tournament, complete with a winery on site.  A golfer for the last few years, this understandably had me a bit fired up. Golf and wine!?  Heck yeah!  After graciously accepting a PGA Tour Media pass, the Lady, Steve and I headed into the Frys.com Open at CordeValle and Clos LaChance for a day of sunshine, wine, incredible golf and new vinopanion‘s, all along the cart path.

Frys.com OpenBeing at the Frys and simultaneously sipping fine vino from Clos LaChance was a bit of a head-slapper.  I mean think about it, how many people love wine that golf and vice versa??  A lot.  Therefore it was truly a shock to discover that this is the only known professional golf tournament in the *world* that actually has a working (and long-time) winery on site, in this case sitting right next to the 15th green of CordeValle.  Playing the tournie that weekend were quite a few heavyweights including one of my favorites, Rocco Mediate. As luck would have it, Rocco was actually in contention that day, leading to a nice win the next day on Sunday courtesy of FOUR EAGLES including one hole in one! It was his first wine on the Tour since 2002.  One of those eagles came on the 15th as we were, you guessed it, enjoying some wine at Clos LaChance.

Clos LaChanceClos LaChance is an entirely family owned and operated winery by the Murphy family, sitting on 1 Hummingbird Lane in San Martin, CA.  It’s named for the French word for a closed in space (such as a vineyard, ‘Clos’) and Brenda Murphy’s maiden name (LaChance).  It grew out of a lifelong passion for wine by both Brenda and Bill Murphy, he a longtime executive for HP.  In 1992 they decided to take their skills public and that harvest became their first commercially released vintage.  They moved to their rather awesome current digs on the course in 2001, just in time for crush.  Clos LaChance produces three tiers of wines from the Central Coast and Santa Cruz Mountains appellations.  Our very cool and accommodating host for the day was Cheryl Murphy Durzy, the Murphys’ daughter and the Vice President for the winery.

The Murphys watching the Murphys on Golf ChannelOur wine portion of the day started off in one of the upper rooms of the tasting room and winery, watching the Frys.com open on the Golf Channel, as it was taking place just a few hundred feet away outside. Indeed, the channel did a segment on the winery and we were happy to be in the room as the entire family (and friends) all watched the segment air for the first time!  Bill, himself, had spent much of the previous night helping to edit the piece with the Golf Channel wonks.  While watching the day’s golf events unfold, we started with the very interesting 09 Clos LaChance Central Coast Estate Viognier.  It was nicely varietally correct, with nice floral and white fruit aromatics and a full, juicy bright palate.  The interest comes from the salty minerality that comes out the rather long finish.

Cheryl Murphy - Clos LaChanceAs we moved through the day, Cheryl had (amazingly) some free time to give us a tour of the gravity-flow winery, still in the full swing of harvest.  We tasted through a number of fermenting wines (spitting of course!), including the intriguing sparkling wine that they were fermenting for the very first time.  It had just come in and so it still had plenty of sugar on board (high brix), but the banana that was coming out of that chardonnay was almost shocking!  As per the norm, some splashing did occur, but Cheryl was kind enough to handle all of the pours out of each tank.

Clos LaChanceFollowing the tour, we continued to taste through the wines and watching the golf heroics. There were a few that were open that day, including the very tasty 2006 Clos LaChance Central Coast Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, coming from the vineyard just outside lining the 15th fairway (usually the 3rd hole).  Bill has a passion for the Old World wines of France, particularly Bordeaux.  Here in the ’06 Cab I found plenty of similarities from my time in Bordeaux previously during the summer, particularly those wines in the Right Bank, despite its main varietal.  This wine garnered an OldWorldWK badge from the WKBadges with its good dusty red fruit and anise in the nose and the medium-bodied palate and charred, dusty red and black fruit on the palate.  As darkness fell, the party broke out for real at the Clos, rockin’ with a Journey cover band, food, wine and the Giants playoffs on a huge plasma big screen out on the lawn.  Good times!

http://www.flickr.com/photos/drxeno/5176808535/in/set-72157625268119831/A big thank you goes out to Cheryl, Bill and Brenda for their hospitality during our time at Clos LaChance and also to Benson Marketing and the PGA Tour for my media access to the tournament, along with the Lady and Steve’s general admission to the tournament.

You can find all of the photos from our fine time at the PGA Tour Frys.com Open and Clos LaChance in the set on my Flickr and tagged with “CLC2010PGAFrysOpen“.  You can also find all of the wines below for your own WineLog, tagged with the same, “CLC2010PGAFrysOpen“. Cheers!

Clos LaChance Central Coast Estate Viognier 2009

Clos LaChance Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir 2007

#WKBadges - OldWorldWKClos LaChance Central Coast Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

Color: Medium garnet

Nose: Good dusty red fruit here, mixed with some darker black anise and blackberry.

Palate: Medium-bodied, with more of an old world style Right Bank wine, with fine, medium tannins, great acidity and good mix of dusty black and red fruit from the nose, followed by an anise and char finish. OldWorldWK

Clos LaChance Central Coast Lila’s Cuvee Estate Red Wine 2006

Us at Clos LaChance

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