#Vinopanion #Wine Bits & Pieces: Holiday 2017 Edition

The winter sun, it burns!

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.

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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:

  1. La Marca Prosecco – 3.8 Stars
  2. Casa Vinicola Zonin Prosecco – 3.5 Stars
  3. Valdo Prosecco Valdobbiadene Superiore Marca Oro – 3.6 Stars
  4. Carpenè Malvolti Prosecco Superiore Conegliano Valdobbiadene Extra Dry – 3.7 Stars
  5. La Gioiosa et Amorosa Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore – 3.6 Stars
  6. Ruffino Prosecco – – 3.7 Stars
  7. Mionetto Prosecco Valdobbiadene Superiore – 3.6 Stars
  8. Mionetto Prosecco Treviso Prestige Collection Brut – 3.6 Stars
  9. Gancia Prosecco – 3.5 Stars
  10. Mionetto Prosecco Treviso Brut – 3.6 Stars
  11. Allini Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Extra Dry – 3.5 Stars
  12. Mionetto Prosecco Treviso Prestige Collection Extra Dry – 3.6 Stars
  13. Martini (Martini & Rossi) Prosecco – 3.5 Stars
  14. Cavit Lunetta Prosecco – 3.5 Stars
  15. Cantine Maschio Prosecco Treviso Extra Dry – 3.5 Stars
  16. Vini Santa Margherita Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore – 3.7 Stars
  17. La Gioiosa et Amorosa Prosecco Treviso – 3.5 Stars
  18. Nino Franco Spumanti Rustico – 3.8 Stars
  19. Plaza Centro Prosecco Treviso – 3.4 Stars
  20. Cantine Riondo Prosecco Spago Nero – 3.8 Stars

2016 Bervini 1955 Millesimato Prosecco DOC Extra Dry2016 Bervini 1955 Millesimato Prosecco DOC Extra DryThe 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.

Hagafen CellarsAnother 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!

Short Pours:

  • Hello Penny Bar!

    Photo courtesy of Hello Penny Bar.

    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.

#Vinopanion #wine Bits & Pieces

#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_logo_color-01CabFest 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.

You can still buy tickets and can also see the full details at their website.  See you all there!

Bodegas Cepa 21 Virtual Tasting 3/9/16 6pm PT (#Cepa21VT)

sobre-nosotrosBodegas 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…

406064_562298363799327_175257724_nI 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

65760_789077141133939_416503315085470558_nI 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! 😛

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Taking my #wine kung fu to the next level: #WSET II & Napa Valley Wine Academy

406064_562298363799327_175257724_nI have been immersing myself in the study of #wine in a semi-systematic manner for much of the last 8 years.  Indeed, #Vinopanion‘s 8 year anniversary with @WineLog is approaching in the middle of this month. Yet I have slowly realized that something is lacking in my devotion to the knowledge of the vinous delights: focus, structure and external credibility. You’d think that a trained scientist would have recognized this long ago and I did notice these thoughts in the back of my mind a few years back.  But they were always battered back by “where’s the time?” and “I’m still receiving plenty of media travel & event invites,” along with “my wine consulting services continue to expand.” Then I reached last year and I started to recognize some clear patterns in my wine work. While I had plenty of media opportunities and my fellow wine colleagues were continuing to get work, I could see that the pace of my own trade offers beginning to slow down. It was then that I noticed that most of my colleagues began to sport letters after their names on their business cards: they were taking certified educational courses to formalize their wine training. I needed to set up my wine game. It was then that I contacted the good people at Napa Valley Wine Academy (FB, Tw): “help!”

Our-certification-menu-logoThe Napa Valley Wine Academy (NVWA) was founded in 2011 by longtime wine industry veterans, R. Christian Oggenfuss, D.W.S., F.W.S., I.W.P and Catherine Bugue, D.W.S., IWP. As residents of Northern California wine country, they both perceived a lack of true connection between the schools that offered wine and spirits training and the actual regions about which they taught…and thus a fine beverage academy in the Napa Valley was born!  Featuring industry educational luminaries including Master of Wines Peter Marks and Tim Hanni, as well as Master Sommelier Tim Gaiser; they are truly “one foot in the classroom and the other in the vineyards.” The NVWA has experienced tremendous industry support and strong early success, prompting them to expand to satellite locations around the US in Tampa, Florida and Santa Barbara, CA; as well as online. 

IMG_5975The NVWA instructors are spread across all of the major industry certifications, allowing the Academy to provide a full service range of official beverage certifications, including wine, spirits, saké, and beverage service, and region-specific courses. All courses and examinations are given by the academy itself, making it a one-stop educational experience, unlike many other piecemeal organizations. I have chosen to start my wine and beverage education in the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (FB, Tw, YT, NVWA) program, starting with the WSET II Award, courtesy of the NVWA.  More on those adventures later however, as I need to get studying for my first exam! ¡Salud!

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.

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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.

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Hofsas House Carmel-by-the-Sea: A central, tasty stay

422450_10150590205892639_1292516201_nEarlier this year, the Lady and I had a chance to stay at a continually refurbished gem in one of our fav places on earth: Carmel-by-the-Sea (FB, Tw, IG, YT).  We hadn’t had a chance to stay at the Hofsas House Hotel (FB, Tw, Blog) in a number of years, so we were excited to be granted a media weekend stay at the centrally located property, courtesy of the hotel and Chatterbox Wine Marketing. Family owned and operated for over 60 years, the Hofsas is a longtime landmark for the entire Monterey Peninsula, with its Bavarian charm and singular ocean views atop the hill in Carmel-by-the-Sea.

IMG_5171Longtime Vinopanions know that Carmel-by-the-Sea and Carmel Valley are two very special places for the Lady and I.  Not only is it our preferred weekend getaway spot, but Carmel Valley is also our favorite #wine appellation (ssh, don’t tell my hometown, Napa)!  When we first started visiting Carmel back in 2000, one of the first places we stayed was right there at the Hofsas. We were taken in by the Bavarian styling and beautiful murals by featured artist Maxine Albro, famous for her murals in San Francisco, alongside Diego Rivera’s own. The Theis family has been serving guests with compassion and infectious happiness for much longer than that, but the service has always remained the same. Donna Hofsas founded the hotel in the early 1940’s with her husband Fred.  Fast forward through many beautiful years of management by various family offspring and now Donna’s granddaughter, Carrie Theis has been General Manager since our first year there, in 2000.  Carrie is not just a small business owner in town, she also sits on the city council and has been instrumental in bringing many wine and food-friendly changes to her artistic village by the sea.

IMG_5163The Hofsas sits a couple blocks north of Ocean Ave, on San Carlos Street.  It is easy and very short walking distance to anything in Carmel-by-the-Sea and Carmel Beach, and less than 15 minutes away from everything else on the Monterey Peninsula, including Pacific Grove, Pebble Beach and Cannery Row, Monterey. For this visit, we chose to stay in town and walk all weekend (something very easy to do in Carmel!).  The Hofsas offers many great, very affordable stay packages and we chose the Tail Wagging Package, as we were traveling with our little pug Jasper Tinto.  Carmel is extremely dog-friendly (off leash at the beach!) and with this package we received a number of doggie treats, a dog frisbee, collapsable dog bowl, and a number of dog-friendly tips and recommendations.

IMG_5807The Theis’ were also kind enough to comp us a Wine and Cheese Package as well, which is a phenomenal steal for #winelover’s and #foodie’s. This package includes a bottle of local wine and paired cheeses from another longtime fav, The Cheese Shop, upon arrival.  Another fantastic wine activity is the Carmel Wine Walk by-the-Sea Tasting Passport (FB, Tw, IG). Normally only $65, this gives you 9 wine flight tastings at any of the 14 participating winery tasting rooms, all just blocks away from each other and the Hofsas, which is a crazy deal. The Wine and Cheese Package plus the Walk by-the-Sea Passport together are only $95. Many of our longtime wine loves are part of the Tasting Passport: Galante Vineyards (WL, FB, Tw) and Wrath Wines (WL, FB, Tw), along with new discoveries Silvestri Vineyards (WL, FB) and the fantastic De Tierra Vineyards (WL, FB, Tw). Paired with the Carmel Food Tours (FB, Tw, IG, YT) which are also available, this here is a wine and food heaven!

We at Vinopanion can’t recommend the Hofsas House any higher, for food lovers, golfers, beachcombers, dog lovers and of course, wine lovers.  Book your summer stay now, before they completely fill up! Cheers!

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