#DrinkMontsant Day 3: In Soil There is Truth

Celler de Capçanes Soils & Garnatxa
Celler de Capçanes soils & Garnatxa

When we last left off from this #DrinkMontsant adventure in D.O. Montsant, we discussed why the people of this sparsely populated region work so hard to keep their vines, wines and village moving forward into the future. Virtually all of the DO (wine appellation) is contained within the Priorat county, yet the population of the county hovers only around 10,00 dedicated souls. In part 1 of this series we gave a short introduction to this amazing wine region.  It is now that I’d like to answer the other pressing question that I had before embarking on this delicious media trip: why did the winegrowers and winemakers of Montsant work so hard to create this DO In short: the true gift of this region is its soil.

Celler de Capçanes
Celler de Capçanes

We shall start this dirty lesson (see what I di..oh never mind!) actually on the morning of our last day: in the winery of Celler de Capçanes, located in the tiny village of the same name. Our host was winemaker Anna Rovira, who also works with their consulting rabbi team to make some incredible kosher wines, as well (see the Peraj Ha’Abib review below, nom!).  We had a fascinating lesson about the incredible efforts it takes to create a kosher wine, particularly if the actual winemaker is not a rabbi.  My vino colleague on the trip, Becca of The Academic Wino and The Alcohol Professor, wrote a killer breakdown of the kosher winemaking process. Anna then led us through one of the most informative and fascinating wine tastings I’ve ever had the luck to partake.  Like all winemakers in Montsant (and most wine regions in Europe, in fact) the quality and typicity of their wines all come down to the soils in the vineyards.

Fira del Vi FalsetNow, Montsant has a famous wine festival every year in April/May, Fira del Vi de Falset, indeed it just took place.  At that festival, Celler de Capçanes began making a special set of 4 wine lots that were 100% garnatxa (grenache), one for each of the distinct soils found in their vineyards.  These wines weren’t for sale, only the final vineyard blend (still 100% garnatxa).  These became the star of the festival however, and thus they were forced to begin marketing them locally in small quantities and now, across the world. They call these wines La Nit de Les Garnatxes, and package them with very unique cartoons, pictured above. It was this presentation of wines that really brought home the importance of *soil* to these wines of Montsant. The Sand wine from sandy soils brought with it very bright and juicy acidity, with a plushness to the red fruit. Clay brought out more plummy and round fruit, with a fuller body the wine, as a contrast to the medium-full Sand. Meanwhile and perhaps not surprisingly, the Limestone soils brought out a flinty minerality, that greatly complemented the more-structured, medium-body aspects, complete with cool and ripe cherry fruit. Lastly, the Slate soils expressed a much more tannic and plummy wine, with lower acidity and very ripe fruit…fascinating!  You can find the full reviews, below.

Jesus del Rio Matheu - Mas de l’AbundànciaAnother remarkable morning visit was had at the isolated vineyards of Mas de l’Abundància. Owner and maverick winemaker, Jesus del Rio Matheu hosted us in the midst of his vineyards, above his home and little river offshoot, and below the historical site of a longtime hermitage.  Indeed, in some ways, Jesus is a hermit himself, proudly stating that he finally was hooked up to the internet only two weeks prior.  Highly opinionated, yet also humble in many ways, Jesus ended up being one of the most interesting winemakers that we met on this trip. I had the good fortune to be seated near him during our crushingly good lunch at Celler del l’Aspic, where we were further regaled with many an unusual tale and plenty of hard-earned winemaking knowledge.  But, that’s a little ahead of ourselves! Jesus is very in tune with the sort of unknowables that go into his vines and resultant wines. He seems to work by gut, trusting “the energy” of his little place in the world and always try to work with that energy, not against.  The result is a set of truly remarkable wines, dripping down the sides of the glass with a sense of place (slate & sandy soils) and in the case of the first wine we tasted, the Montsant Calpino was the best white that I tasted on the entire trip. I could have spent the entire rest of the morning tasting through the wines again and again, while learning more at the seat of this interesting hermit of wine.

Acústic Celler

We had another vineyard tasting lined up, straight after Jesus of the River, to taste through the music-infused wines of Acústic Celler. Here the tasting was a little more challenging, unfortunately.  The cold, bracing wind that had started to pick up at the end of our time with Jesus had become a full gale, hitting +35 mph for the gusts…this made evaluating the nose of each wine pretty impossible, not to mention very cold.  That said, you could immediately tell *why* Albert Jane and his team wanted us to taste in their vineyard: the view was absolutely stunning.  You could truly see the highly varied elevations, soils and accompanying plant life that define this wine region from our little perch in the wind and sun. Since ur visit, the certified organic, minimally manipulated wines of Acústic have been well scored over al Wine Spectator this month, with the 2014 vintage of the Auditori making the cover as one of the tope grenaches in the world (we tasted the delicious 2009, a #NewWorldWK winner).

And then we were off to the last two wineries of the day, Cellers Unió and Portal de Montsant.  Both were quite a contrast with each other. Unió is another coop, working to create inexpensive, easy-drinking wines that could still be defined as Montsant. Portal was a part of a larger family portfolio of wineries, itself something of a spinoff of a massive Spanish wine family portfolio. Unió’s Perlat line of wines had some good value to them, particularly the #QPRWK badge winner, 2015 Cellers Unió Montsant Perlat Blend.  Portal, meanwhile hit great strides with their Brunus line, where the 2016 Rosé and 2015 Brunus red blend were two favorites.

Red clay soils of Acústic Celler.

Our last tasting of the day was in the little wine bar that was attached to the back of our lunchtime feast of a restaurant (Celler del l’Aspic), called 2 Origens.  Here we were greeted by Marta Carbonell, who would lead us through the wines of her employer, Josep Grau Viticultor. Here the 2016 Josep Grau Viticultor Montsant Figuerals Garnatxa stood out the most for me, but all of the wines were quite good, if definitely some of the priciest we’d tasted so far (the 2016 is pegged around $85 or so).

And so it was, that our best wine education of this #DrinkMontsant trip ended.  We finished the third day with a phenomenal meal alongside many of these same vintners at the rather awesome Hotel Lotus Priorat bar & restaurant. This meal, how shall we say it, was a bit more boisterous than the rest and it was so nice to have such a rollicking time with these winegrowers and winemakers in a much more casual atmosphere.  The food remained top notch however, and again lived up to the axiom that with good, terroir-driven wine comes highly localized, wonderfully paired cuisine. Thus, in their soil lies the truth of this DO, for their wines, their food and their community.


DO Montsant

This trip was a fully paid media trip, courtesy of DO Montsant.  Check out the first and second posts in this series for further background of this distinctive wine region. ¡Salud!

Featured wines from the #DrinkMontsant media trip Day 3 (and a teeny bit of Day 4), reviewed on my Vivino:

2015 Celler de Capçanes Montsant La Nit de Les Garnatxes Panal-Sand

* C Darker ruby here, ruby edges
* N Slight smoke in the toast here, with darker fruit of mainly black and some black cherry, some slight herbs too.
* P Very bright here, with much more plush and bright cherry fruit, Med tannin very round and Med to full weight, some raspberry here as well, great juicy and lightly toasted finish. Good.

2015 Celler de Capçanes Montsant La Nit de Les Garnatxes Argila-Clay

* C Med to dark ruby here, ruby edges
* N Brighter red fruit here, still toast, but no smoke, also some plum.
* P Deeper plum fruit here, also very round but more full here with fuller weight and more structured tannin. Acidity is still bright, it less crisp than sand. Very good.

2015 Celler de Capçanes Montsant La Nit de Les Garnatxes Calissa-Limestone

* C Med ruby, ruby edges
* N Flinty black fruit, with toast and some clean minerality near the rim. Nice.
* P Very good here, tighter and more structure than previous. Cool ripe cherry fruit, lighter tannin, medium body and more linear than previous. Good.

2015 Celler de Capçanes Montsant La Nit de Les Garnatxes Llicorella-Slate

* C Darker ruby, ruby edges
* N More oxidized plum here, with toast and marzipan.
* P Round and plummy here almost jammy, much more tannic than previous. Fruit is more ripe, but the wine is definitely more structured and with lower acidity. Not my favorite from this set, but still good.

2015 Celler de Capçanes Montsant Flor de Primavera Peraj Ha’Abib

* C Garnet core with almost some brick on the edge
* N Leather and cool black fruit in the nose, some toast as well and a zing of slate.
* P Much more plush red and black fruit here than anticipated. Good roundness, Med tannin, medium weight, the. Leather and toast into the good finish.

2016 Mas de l’Abundància Montsant Calpino

* C Very light hay
* N Beautiful, extremely aromatic nose of lemon, lemon blossom, pitted white fruit and light minerality.
* P Very bright, well balanced round light mouth, with that great pitted fruit from nose. Lemon and florals come in at the long, bright finish. Outstanding. #AwesomeWK

2013 Mas de l’Abundància Montsant

* C Med ruby with plenty of sediment.
* N Beautiful deep cherry berry nose, some light flint.
* P Med to full, very smooth feel here, tons of plush red fruit, balanced bright acidity, then flinty minerality and fresh tobacco leaf into the very long finish. Quite good.

2015 Acústic Celler Montsant Braó Vineyes Velles de 60 Ans

* C Ruby bright
* N Earthier toast here, deep and ripe plush red fruit of black cherry.
* P Very juicy but nicely deep and dark toasted black cherry, medium full and round with balanced acid, Med tannin, fine and good finish.

2009 Acústic Celler Montsant Auditori

* C Dark garnet core, Med garnet edges.
* N Big toast here, with some unsweetened chocolate, earth and black fruit.
* P Big boy pants here, round and full, black chocolate and fruit here, balanced acid, flinty oak into finish. Good, diff from all rest. #NewWorldWK

2015 Cellers Unió Montsant Perlat Blend

* C Lighter ruby
* N Smokey toasty black fruit
* P Savory red and black fruit here, with some meatier toasty under and balanced acid chalky feel. Solid. #QPRWK

2016 Portal del Montsant Monsant Brunus Rosé

* C Medium deep watermelon colors here, darker than many
* N Celery and herbs a bit at first, cherry citrus fruit
* P Medium roundness and weight, maybe lighter. Zingy tart cherry and strawberry here with a long juicy finish.

2015 Portal del Montsant Monsant Brunus Blend

* C Darker ruby here, with ruby edges
* N Deeper chocolate toast here with black fruit that shows some brightness near the rim.
* P Med to full, dry nice cool fruited mouth, great acid, coating tannin, for the cherry fruited mid, blackberry underneath. Long finish and chalky feel into that finish. Good.

2016 Josep Grau Viticultor Montsant Figuerals Garnatxa

* C Med to dark ruby with ruby edges
* N Deep and ripe plush red fruit here, raspberry and black cherry, with some nice dustiness in it.
* P Rounder and with more fresh earth here, this has more structure as welll. Still quite bright with the acidity, with layers of bright and dark red fruit. A bit of that earth lurking into tannic but nicely bright finish. Pricey, but very good.

#DrinkMontsant Day 2: The wine engine of the village that could and does

Montsant & me!

One of the first questions that I wanted to explore during our #DrinkMontsant media trip to D.O. Montsant was about the people behind this great #wine region: what drives them to make their wine in this sparsely populated appellation? Well, I didn’t have to wait long, indeed, that question was answered during our first morning stop of our first full day. It goes beyond merely a passion for creating the wine that defines this DO, in fact it is an on-going effort by both young and old, to preserve their land, vines, villages and Catalunyan way of lifeThe wine is their saving grace and they are the creators of that beautiful grace.  It is a magnificent (and delicious) circle of life.

That first stop was the cooperative winery, Celler Masroig, in the tiny village of El Masroig. It’s an innovative take on the cooperative approach to winemaking, so popular in Europe.  All members of the coop are also partners in what is now a private business (normally they would just be guaranteed to be able to sell their wine to the coop, without partnership).  We were hosted by Eulàlia Roca, born and raised in Masroig, she came back to help run what she calls the “family business”.  She describes the winery as “the engine of the village” and you can see why; the celler is the only business in this ancient village of 500 inhabitants and virtually everyone in the village either is a partner, winegrower or works at the winery, itself.  It was that moment when I realized that they make the wine, but it is also the wine that makes them; that beautiful circle, come to life. Their wines reflect that all-consuming dedication to their craft and their way of life, showing the structure, freshness and great food-centric acidity of the carinyena (carginan), alongside the deeper and rounder fruit from the garnatxa (grenache) and garnatxa blanca.

Miquel Coca i Fito

From there we moved on to one of the vino highlights of the trip for me, Coca i Fitó.  Just a short, but gorgeous walk up the village’s hill from the previous celler, CiF is owned and run by two brothers, Toni and Miquel Coca i Fitó. Miquel hosted us and gave us a tour through the multistory, old building that now houses their winemaking efforts and cellar space.  Miquel has had quite an awesome life, having been a prominent chef for many years (including a stint at the legendary El Bulli), and he also told a familiar story we would hear for the rest of the trip: family and need to get back to his roots drove him to form the winery with his brother as the winemaker.  He led us through seven wines and each of them were good to fantastic.  Unfortunately, I can only feature a couple below, their delicious (though pricey) 2016 Rosa (rosé) of 100% syrah, and the 2011 Negre blend of syrah, carinyena and garnatxa.  The 2011 was still so fresh, I had to give it a #KeeperWK #WKbadge…I would love to try that wine once it has 3-4 more years of age. It was an additional pleasure to be seated across from Miquel during our lunch at Restaurant Quinoa, a few hours later.

Following the remarkable wines of Coca i Fitó, we headed off to further tastings and lunch.  Celler Cairats was next, where the absolute fastidiousness of owner Ramon Masip, along with the labor and support of wife and son brought us further proof of the detailed care of the vintners.  Cairats goal is to provide an anchor for their tiny village of Darmós and to fully incorporate the most sustainable, organic practices possible in their vineyards, winery and even their home. This dedication to fully sustainable, clean living and working, and determination to support their village was further reinforced by Jaume Giral, the somewhat maverick owner of Celler Ronadelles. His three properties in the village of Cornudella de Montsant are testament to his determination to stay local and produce local, rather than transport everything elsewhere to single larger building.

Serra de Montsant, behind Cellers Sant RafelOur last visit before a phenomenal dinner back at our hotel, Hostal Sport, was with Xavi Peñas, at his palatial estate for this region and outside of the villages, Cellers Sant Rafel. Tucked into its own little valley, against the mountains of this region, their a great example of the ancient stone-walled practice of vineyard terracing (marges) along the steep mountain slopes. It is also one of the closest estates to the sea within the DO.

It was here that we tasted through his selection of back vintages and current releases.  We went into his cellar with the sun still just above the mountain tops, and when we finishedwe were treated to a spectacular sunset splashing red, pink and orange across the naked stone Serra de Montsant cliff-face. It was a perfect template of colors and natural canvas to finish off our first full day tasting wines colored the same shades.

DO MontsantThis trip was a fully paid media trip, courtesy of DO Montsant.  Check out the first post in this series for further background of this distinctive wine region. ¡Salud!

 

 

Featured wines from the #DrinkMontsant media trip Night 1 and Day 2, reviewed on my Vivino:

2012 Falset Marçà Montsant Lo Senyor del Castell ⭐⭐⭐½

Color: Darker garnet here, with lighter garnet edges.
Nose: Super meaty and leathery here, with earthier red fruit.
Palate: Cool mouth to start off and fruitier than expected, then mixed cherry flavors come in with great acidity. Coating, smooth tannin and fuller mouthfeel take into the good long finish.

2016 Celler Masroig Montsant Les Sorts Blanc ⭐⭐⭐⭐

C: Lighter canary yellow
N: Nice toasty pear and lighter Meyer lemon here
P: Medium full here with very bright acidity, but also nicely creamier feel from battonage, toasted lemon medley here, also with some nice spicy notes towards the end. Good.

2015 Celler Masroig Montsant Carinyena ⭐⭐⭐⭐

* C Darker violet and ruby core, with ruby edges
* N Deeper red cherry fruit here, delving into fresh pie, with air, more of that pie crust aroma, also some black fruit underneath, good and deep.
* P Bigger and round and smooth here, with deep black and Bing cherry fruit, medium smooth tannin, some of that toasted pie crust towards the dark and juicy finish, quite good and would be interesting in about 4yrs to see how it ages.

2016 Coca i Fitó Montsant Rosa ⭐⭐⭐⭐

C very light coral
N Light juicy raspberry here, blood orange aroma too
P Very juicy great acid here, light bodied and some slight smoothness, Very tart finish of blood orange as well, good and fresh.

2011 Coca i Fitó Montsant Negre ⭐⭐⭐⭐

* C very dark ruby here, ruby edges
* N Earthier notes here, but then deep depths of black fruit as well with black plum near rim.
* P Big dark and deep black and red fruit here, with very good acidity still quite young. Very long and savory/dark fruited finish with integrating oak and earth. Quite good. #KeeperWK

2014 Celler Cairats Montsant Selecció ⭐⭐⭐⭐

C Med to darker ruby in the core, med ruby edges
N A little earthier red fruit here, with darker red fruit, some spice here as well, along with darker toast. Deep cherry.
P More structured here, with medium to full weight, tannin is more coating here and the fruit takes a darker note. That great acidity is still here but more integrated and less bright than the 2015 above. Integrating toast into the long, more dark red fruited finish, light earthiness.

2013 Celler Ronadelles Montsant Cap de Ruc Cuvée Premium ⭐⭐⭐½

* C darker ruby core, ruby edges, from a magnum
* N Meaty flinty, earthy here, almost all savory, with deep black fruit underneath.
* P Full and structured here, with all of the good savory notes from the nose, but also good black fruit in the mid palate. Good acidity here to balance, with a long black fruit and leather finish. Good and unique flavor profile so far. Brett here and the nose, but is balanced and complementary.

2006 Cellers Sant Rafel Montsant Solpost Tinto ⭐⭐⭐⭐

* C Brick core medium intensity, light brick edges.
* N Fully integrated red fruited nose here, on the drier side, with wet earth and women bready notes
* P Very good and round here with black and red baked fruit, pie crust, great acidity to keep it fresh. Drier tannin but still comes off with good life and quite good right now.

2015 Cellers Sant Rafel Montsant Xavi Selecció ⭐⭐⭐

* C darker ruby with ruby edges
* N Deeper lack cherry here, with some light toasty notes and pie crust.
* P Good and round here, with complement of toast and mix of cherry fruit. Slight earth and blackberry notes as well, juicy acidity. Easy drinker. #QPRWK

2015 Cellers Sant Rafel Montsant Carinyena ⭐⭐⭐⭐

* C medium ruby, light ruby edges
* N fresh plum here, with some light French toast, the. With air some juicy cherry comes in.
* P Medium full, super round and very fresh. Light to Med tannin, very juicy cherry and plum fruit, some flinty toast and earth into the fresh finish. Good. #NewWorldWK

 

D.O. Montsant: Decade 2 of a Spanish #wine region & #DrinkMontsant!

DO MontsantFirst off, welcome to the new Vinopanion.  A massive thank you to HoustonWino (Another Wine Blog) for the clean facelift and major troubleshooting.

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

Wine DO of Spain
Created by Emilio Gómez Fernández

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.

DO Montsant Map
Image courtesy of DO Montsant.

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 trip, courtesy of DO Montsant.

#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.

Vivino

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.

#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

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