By Julia Hoggins
If you’re looking for something to read about wine in a short period of time, I would highly recommend Monika Elling’s Wine 123. Whether you’re just starting to like wine or are an experienced taster, this book offers a brief insight on the basics of understanding how to choose and differentiate wines. It can be overwhelming to select a bottle or even a glass of wine no matter what the occasion, so familiarizing yourself with the basics is important.
The first step is noticing the weight of wine, or “WOW” as Monika Elling calls it in her book. Color is essentially the fastest way to know the difference between heavy, medium, or light wines. This method can be used for comparing both red and white wines. The alcohol levels also contribute to the WOW scale. The darker the wine, the more weight it has and vice versa. For example, a light white would be a Pinot Grigio, but a heavy red would be a dark Cabernet Sauvignon.
If you’re wondering what wines to pair with specific dishes, Elling also gives you a breakdown of how to go about pairing. Traditionally, darker reds are good with dark meats like steak, and a nice white Chardonnay goes well with a light fish or chicken.
True wine professionals are open to trying new types of wine even if they have favorites. Professionals classify wines under two categories: Old World vs. New World. Old World wines are produced in European regions, whereas New World wines are produced in North and South America, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. In the modern era, most New World high quality wines are from California. New World wines are fruitier and have a higher alcohol content, and they can be enjoyed with meals but also on their own. Whereas, Old World wines tend to accompany a meal.
Monika Elling also reveals a corked versus screw cap bottle of wine. The problem that occasionally arises from corked wine is a fungus called Trichloroanisole (TCA). It’s reportedly found in 3-10% of naturally corked bottles creating a very undesirable musty aroma, and potentially taints the wines. As a result, many winemakers are now turning to screw-caps. There isn’t currently enough information on the age ability of screw-caped wines, but wineries are in the process of studying it. With a screw cap, customers are assured to get the full value of the wine.
Another fact that will enhance your knowledge about wine is the difference between Champagne and Sparkling Wine. Champagne is only considered “Champagne” if it comes from the Champagne wine region of France. Any other wine with bubbles is referred to as Sparkling Wine. You also might not know that Champagne is typically made from two red grapes and one white: Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay.
Did you know you can have wine for dessert? In Tokaj, Hungary in the early 1500s, dessert wine was discovered by monks who found shriveled grapes on the vine and found that the delayed harvest resulted in an intense sweetness to the wine. Delaying the harvest allows the grapes to be infected by Noble Rot, “Botrytis,” and the dried-out result contains a high concentration of natural sugars, giving the wine a sweet taste.
Whether your looking for a nice sweet dessert wine, or a perfect blend of food and wine to please your taste buds, Wine 123 is the perfect book to read in 90 minutes or less that will tell you all you need to know about the basics of wine. From history, to wine selection, pairing, and how to look like a “pro” while swirling and holding your glass, this book covers it all.
Cheers! – Julia Hoggins
With New Year’s Eve just around the corner, I thought I would give you several terrific Champagne and Sparkling Wine options that we found this fall that will make your celebration extra special. We hope you enjoy them as much as we did. I also think most of these are readily available and can be found for less than the SRP prices below.
Schramsberg 2013 “Blanc de Noirs” $42 (92)
This sparkling wine from Schramsberg was one of my favorites this year. It is medium bodied, pleasantly acidic and bright with tasty mineral infused lime and bread dough flavors. This sparkler was very popular with our tasting group.
Laurent-Perrier NV “La Cuvee Brut” $45 (92)
Another winner that the Panel discovered is this Champagne from Laurent-Perrier. This offering is light bodied, bright and lively. The Panel was drawn in by its mineral infused lime flavors with notes of bread, mild grapefruit and a hint of golden delicious apples. It was a treat!
Duval-Leroy NV “Brut Reserve” $50 (92)
This Champagne from Duval-Leroy is another winner that I discovered at the Colonial Spirits fall wine event. It is light bodied, nicely balanced and fresh. Our group really liked its tasty mild lime and mineral flavors with notes of mild bread dough. This one is another crowd pleaser that everyone will enjoy!
Besserat de Bellefon NV “Cuvee des Moines Brut” $50 (92)
Nicolay covered the Besserat “Cuvee des Moines Brut” and really enjoyed its robust and pronounced stone fruit flavors with a ginger and a tangerine finish. He felt this was one of the better showings this year.
Charles Heidsieck NV “Brut Reserve” $65 (92)
This Champagne with nice streaming bubbles was very well received by the Tasting Panel. It is medium bodied, nicely balanced and smooth. We really enjoyed its mineral infused bread dough flavors with notes of ripe lemon and tart Granny Smith apple.
Other Winners To Consider
Eric Taillet NV “Brut Egali’t” $35 (90)
This one is as clean of a Champagne as it comes. It displays higher in acidity than most Champagnes but this adds to the wine’s overall appeal. – Nicolay
J Vineyards NV “Cuvee 20” $38 (90)
This crowd-pleasing sparkler is also very good. It is medium bodied and mouthwatering with very nice effervescence. It has gentle lime and light grapefruit flavors with hints of quince.
Andre Jacquart NV “Brut Experience Premier Cru Blanc de Blancs” $46 (90)
This Champagne is light bodied, bright, fresh and smooth. It displays mineral infused tart green apple flavors with notes of white pepper and ginger. It finishes dry and refreshing.
Rose Bubble Winners
J Vineyards NV “Brut Rose” $45 (92)
This coral colored sparkler displays lots of very tiny bubbles. It is light bodied, balanced and fresh with tasty mild mineral infused gentle strawberry and bread dough flavors. A very good sparkler to serve with shrimp cocktail on New Year’s Eve!
Goldeneye 2014 “Brut Rose” $56 (92)
This Pinot based sparkler from the Anderson Valley is impressive. It was light to medium bodied, pleasantly acidic and nicely coats your mouth. I really liked its mild bread dough and strawberry flavors with notes of lime, tangerine and Maraschino cherry mixed in. Pair with fresh sliced salmon.
Eric Taillet NV “Luminosi’T Brut Rose” $40 (91)
This salmon colored Champagne Rose is lengthy and filled with the fruit flavors that linger and last. It is a sipper to enjoy with smoked halibut or roasted duck. – Nicolay
Schramsberg 2014 “Brut Rose” $45 (91)
This coral colored sparkling wine from Schramsberg very food friendly. It displays tasty mineral infused strawberry and bread dough flavors with hints of cinnamon and red raspberry.
Collet NV Champagne “Brut Rose” $50 (90)
Once again this Rose hits all the right notes. Nicolay enjoyed its smoked nut flavors with notes of stone fruits and berries. He would pair it with Asian cuisine or seared scallops.
Yorkville Cellars 2016 “Brut Rose” $36 (89)
If you are interested in an Organic Sparkler, check out this very good one from Yorkville made 100% Malbec. It has pleasant light strawberry and mineral flavors with a touch of bread dough and lemon. Enjoy with steamed mussels.
Bargain Bubble Values
Graham Beck NV “Brut” $19 (89)
This Sparkler from South Africa is very nice. It is medium bodied, bubbly and round. While this is not the most complex Sparkler, it is pleasant and priced properly. It is a very good option for a large gathering.
Prosper Maufoux NV “Cremant de Bourgogne Rose” $20 (89)
This Rose displays flavors strawberries, raspberries, candied lemons, and a nice dollop of mint on the finish. The finish is long and fresh with some acidity. Enjoy on its own. – Nicolay
Mont Marcal 2015 “Brut Reserva Cava” $13 (88)
Joe thought this Cava would be perfect if you were having a lot of friends and family over for the holidays and looking for an affordable sparkler that will please everyone. It has an enjoyable palate presence and will be well-received at your holiday party. Serve with sushi. – Joe
14 Hands NV “Brut Rose” $15 (88)
This Washington State Sparkler made from seven different grapes varieties is a very good value. It has exceptionally fine bubbles and a fruit salad like flavor profile. This is another very good party offering. – Nicolay
Paul Mas NV “Cote Mas Cremant de Limoux Brut” $16 (88)
Our last recommendation is this Cremant de Limoux. It features flavors such as peaches, granny smith apples, and the slightest hint of peppermint. Nicolay thought it would make for a perfect aperitif around the holidays.
Cheers and Happy New Year!!
The holidays are upon us and I frequently get asked for gift ideas for wine lovers. So we will start with six very good stocking stuffer ideas that I personally love. Better yet, none of these will break the bank. They will all be well received and very appreciated!
We will start with the Barvino Corkscrew. This is best waiters-styled corkscrew I have ever owned. It is very well made and it is really sturdy. It’s a great deal at $13. The recipient will love it!
My next suggestion is Wine Away. This is the best wine stain cleaner that I have ever come across. This product works great on red wine stains. A good-sized bottle costs less than $10. The only problem is that you still need to change your shirt after you use it, otherwise you will smell like a tangerine for the rest of the night. But it works great!
Any great gift is the Riedel microfiber polishing cloth. It is just terrific for cleaning stemware, which is my least favorite thing to do. That said, this cloth makes its barrable. I get a new one every year for Christmas. It is a must purchase and it is also less than $10. So be sure to get one and make sure all your stemware sparkles in 2018!
My next great gift idea are two documentary movies on Wine. The first is Somm. It is about four men who will do just about anything to pass the most difficult test you’ve NEVER heard of… The Court of Master Sommeliers, massively intimidating Master Sommelier Exam. I thoroughly enjoyed this movie and their journey. The follow up movie is called Somm: Into The Bottle. In this movie, viewers are taken beyond the exam and into the world of famous winemakers and sommeliers as they unravel what makes wine the most compelling beverage. I thought it was a great follow up and if you are into wine, you will really enjoy it.
My last stocking stuffer idea is the a daily wine calendar. Who wouldn’t want one of these. A wine thought or word everyday! Check out this 2018 Daily Wine Lover’s Calendar for less that $11.
So these do not fit in a stocking, but you should not forget a set of wines glasses for the wine lover in your life. You can’t miss with Spiegelau. They are durable and affordable. We use these with the Tasting panel. Here is a set of 4 Vino Grande Bordeaux Wine Glasses at a reasonable price. I do believe a very good glass is necessary to fully enjoy the wine you serve. Swirling the wine to open up the aroma’s and enhancing the taste through aeration is a must!
To see all the other Wine Gifts and Accessories that I recommend, check out our wine gifts page on the website!
Additionally, I get asked a lot around the holidays for Wine Books recommendations. So here are three wine books for all levels of wine lovers.
The first two books, are a great place to start for new wine lovers. We will start with the newest book that will likely become a classic. Madeline Puckette’s Wine Folly: The Essential Guide to Wine for $20 is very good. It uses unique infographics that help readers understand the basics of wine. It answers many of the questions new wine lovers have about wine. For me, the three things I really like that she covers in this book are detailed maps of wine-regions, a nice guide to pairing food and wine, and she has a very good grape flavor profile charts.
The next terrific book is the “Windows on the World Complete Wine Course” by Kevin Zraly for $18. Kevin has sold over 3 million copies. Enough said! Kevin is the ultimate wine educator. This book is set up like a basic wine course textbook. It covers the wines of the world from Bordeaux and California. It is a great wine guide. The 2017 edition updates the latest vintages. It also gives you all the tools you need to discover and enjoy the great wines of the world.
My last recommendation is the deepest offering of the three. The 2nd Edition of the Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil. This the ultimate wine book. It is by far the most informative and detailed book on wine that I have read. I use it as a resource all the time. If you have a question about wine, it is very likely covered in great detail in this book. I would say this one is more for a true wine geek vs. a beginner. You can get this gem for $14 on Amazon. It’s a steal!
To see all the other Wine Books and DVD’s that I recommend, check out our wine books page on the website!
My last recommendations of course is some High End Red Wine! Each year the Tasting Panel gets together to review High End red wines before the holidays. These are super premium wines over $50. They make great gifts for the true wine lover in your life. I have listed our Top 10 Finishers in our last blog post. Be sure to check them out. The Krupp Brothers 2014 M5 Stagecoach Cabernet is Outstanding! To see all of our recommended Collectible Wines over $50. Check out our Collectible Wine Page. It is sorted by type of wine. Have fun and happy hunting. anyone would love to receive any of these gems!
On Friday, November 17th the KensWineGuide.com Tasting Panel covered 14 wines ranging from $75 to $200.
Below is a video of the Top 10 winning bottles in order from lowest score of 91 to the highest score of 95.
1) Krupp Brothers 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon “M5 Stagecoach Vineyard” (Napa Valley) $175 (KWG 95)
2) Pina 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon “Wolff Vineyard” (Yountville) $85 (KWG 93)
3) Star Lane 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon “Star” (Happy Canyon) $200 (KWG 93)
4) Pine Ridge 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon “Stags Leap” $150 (KWG 92)
5) Gundlach Bundschu 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon “Vintage Reserve” (Sonoma Valley) $125 (KWG 92)
6) Mt. Brave 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon “Mt Veeder” $75 (KWG 91)
7) Alpha Omega 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon “Napa Valley” $100 (KWG 91)
8) Ramey 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon “Annum” (Napa Valley) $100 (KWG 91)
9) Canvasback 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon “Grand Passage” (Red Mountain) $80 (KWG 91)
10) 12C 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon “Beckstoffer Vineyard Georges III G3” (Rutherford) $115 (KWG 91)
As the scores are posted, I will link to the reviews on the KWG website. We hope you enjoy them as much as we did!
Also – If you would like to see all of our High End Recommendations – Check out our Collectible Wines page!
Cheers – Ken
Riesling in general gets a bad rap. It is a noble grape and can be made in almost every style. Most folks know it as a sweet wine grape. While it truly does make great sweet wine, this post is about the other side. It also can be made “Dry” or “Trocken” as they say in Germany. The results are equally delicious. Now here is the rub. Those that like sweet Riesling, usually don’t like Dry Riesling. So you have to gather tasters who do like this style, to truly evaluate and appreciate these Rieslings. I found some great evaluators and we recently went through some Dry Rieslings that were submitted. We found some real gems to share with you. Those plus some others that I covered earlier this year, will give you quite a few to look for, discover and enjoy!
We will start with two incredible offerings that I discovered at a tasting with Ernie Loosen this spring. These offerings are quite limited and expensive, but if you can afford them, you can truly see the higher end of Dry Riesling. The top score is this 2013 Dr. Loosen “Urziger Wurzgarten GG Reserve” Riesling for $92. Only 220 cases were made and I scored it 95 points. It is Excellent! It is light bodied, slightly acidic and refreshing with delicious mineral infused Anjou pear flavors with hints of green tea. I also picked up a touch of grapefruit towards the end. This fantastic wine finishes dry and pleasantly refreshing. It would be a perfect pairing for grilled swordfish. Next up is the 2015 Dr. Loosen “Erdener Pralat GG Alte Reben Alte Reben” Riesling for $64. This Dry Riesling is also very impressive. I gave this one 93 points. This one is a little different in that it is light bodied, pleasantly acidic and juicy. It displays tasty mineral infused lime flavors with notes of tart mild yellow grapefruit and a touch of lychee. Like the first one, this offering would also pair nicely with grilled swordfish.
Now this next wine shows that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to truly enjoy some very good Dry Riesling. The 2015 Dr. Pauly Bergweiler “QbA Dry” Riesling from Mosel, Germany is an absolute steal at $15. The Tasting Panel loved this wine and rewarded it with 92 points. We found it to be light to medium bodied, nicely balanced, soft and delicate on the palate. It has delicious mild Anjou pear flavors with notes of lemon-lime and hints of green apple and faint minerality mixed in. The Panel suggested pairing this gem with Stuart’s scallops with Brussel sprouts or something from the raw bar. Hurry to grab some, the word is out!
Another gem is the 2015 Hermann Wiemer “HJW Vineyard” Riesling from the Finger Lakes. This is one of a few very good “Dry” Rieslings from the Finger Lakes in this report. This single vineyard offering for $39 landed 92 points from yours truly. The HJW is medium bodied, slightly acidic, clean and fresh. I really liked its very tasty mineral infused quince, lime and lychee flavors with notes of apricot and a hint of white pepper. This very food friendly Riesling would pair nicely with fried clams.
Our next two 91 point Dry Rieslings hail from Australia. The first is from the southeastern Australia in Adelaide. The 2015 d’Arenberg “Dry Dam” Riesling for $17 is another steal. It is medium bodied and shows very nice gentle acidity and balance. I found it to have tasty lime and tangerine flavors with hints of green apple and a touch of pineapple. It finishes dry and refreshing. This very appealing offering is food friendly and easy to quaff. I would serve it slightly chilled on a hot day with grilled swordfish skewers. Next up is the 2014 Frankland Estate “Isolation Ridge” Riesling for $40. This was one of top finishers in our recent blind tasting. It is light bodied and nicely balanced between its gentle acidity and delicate fruit. It displays mild mineral infused green apple flavors with notes of Anjou pear and a hint of lemon and ginger. The Panel suggested pairing this food friendly offering with baked scrod or a pork roast.
Our three 90 pointers come from the Finger Lakes, Australia and California. We will start off with the best deal of the three. The 2015 Dr. Konstantin Frank “Dry” Riesling is from the Finger Lakes. At $16 it is a bargain. This wine had broad appeal with the Tasting Panel. We found it to be light bodied, juicy and have plenty of mouthwatering acidity. We enjoyed its pleasant iced tea flavors with notes of lemon-lime and a touch of green apple, peach pit and nectarine. The Panel suggested pairing this Riesling with grilled grouper or Chilean sea bass. Next up is another very good Aussie offering. The 2015 Leeuwin Estate “Art Series” Riesling from the Margaret River is medium bodied, brisk and fresh. I enjoyed its mild grapefruit flavors with notes of minerality and some hints of white pepper and lime. It finishes very refreshing and would pair well with grilled swordfish skewers. Our last 90 pointer hails from Marin County California. The 2016 Dutton Goldfield “Chileno Valley Vineyard” Riesling for $30 was also very well received by the Tasting Panel. It opens with an appealing floral bouquet with notes of rose petal and gardenia. We found it to be light bodied, balanced, mellow and delicate. Its tasty mild chamomile tea flavors with hints of lime, yellow peach and mild minerality were well received. Its dry finish takes a very long time to drift away. The Panel thought this Riesling would pair very well with baked Dover sole or a Thanksgiving turkey sandwich.
Our 89 Point Winners
Anthony Road 2015 Riesling “Dry” (Finger Lakes) $18
This wine is light bodied and nicely balanced between its acidity and fruit. It displays tasty mild grapefruit flavors with notes of gentle lime and mild minerality. Dry and refreshing. A nice beach wine!
Robert Weil 2015 Riesling “Trocken” (Rheingau) $20
Displays lots of tiny bubbles that dissipate quickly. Balanced and fresh. It has gentle lime and green apple flavors and notes of delicate minerality. Hints of grapefruit. Panel thought it was nice quaffer for the beach.
Hermann J. Wiemer 2015 Riesling “Dry Reserve” (Finger Lakes) $29
Another Wiemer winner. This one is medium bodied, off-dry and very ripe. We liked its peach and lychee flavors with notes of minerality and hints of apricot, ginger and golden apple. Reminded us of Gewurz!
Frankland Estate 2014 Riesling “Rocky Gully” (Western Australia) $25 (88 Points)
This wine is medium bodied and mouthwatering with bright acidity. The Panel liked its lychee and delicate grapefruit flavors with notes of minerality and lime. A refreshing choice for the beach with Thai rolls.
We hope you enjoy these Rieslings as much as we did. Be sure to comment on your favorite Dry Rieslings. We will post them to share with our readers.
Cheers – Ken
With over 50 wineries in the region (and growing) the Livermore Valley offers a rich history in the wine industry dating back to the time of Spanish missionaries in the 1800s. Situated in the San Francisco appellation, the valley is home to legendary Wente Vineyards, noted for putting California wines on the map, as well as other fifth generation family wineries full of stories and unique wines that reflect the region’s soil that lends itself to more flavorful grapes. The region is a can’t-miss for any wine lover looking to explore the plethora of welcoming tasting rooms offering award-winning wines and activities all year long.
For more information on where to stay, eat, and taste in the Livermore Valley, look to Livermore Valley Winegrowers Association.
Here are some notable Livermore Valley wineries that can’t be missed
Hidden down a winding country lane, Murrieta’s Well is an enchanting setting for wine tasting, private parties, and other private events. The winery has a full kitchen that offers a complete menu of small plates designed for guests to share and pair with the estate wines. Reserve a tasting at the beautiful tasting bar overlooking the estate, in the club lounge, in the historic barrel room, or on the outdoor patio.
Murrieta’s Well’s current portfolio of limited production wines includes a vibrant peach color Dry Rose composed of estate-grown Grenache and Counoise. Each varietal was cold-fermented separately to retain its distinct flavors. The Small Lot Merlot, a blend of estate-grown Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petit Verdot, was also fermented and aged separately. It’s a well-balanced wine with gripping tannins and a soft, supple mouthfeel.
Steven Kent Winery
It wasn’t until 1996 that Steven Kent Mirassou brought his love of great Cabernet Sauvignon to the Livermore Valley and started The Steven Kent Winery, with the sole focus of crafting the very best possible Bordeaux wines.
Cabernet was anything but new to the Livermore Valley, but inspired by the region’s climate and soils, Steven wanted to raise the bar, and he did. Today the winery is highly lauded for its stellar small-lot vintages of Cabernet Sauvignon and other Bordeaux grape varietals including a white Bordeaux-style blend, a truly historic Cabernet made from 100 percent best-of-vintage grapes, several limited production Cabs and blends, and Lineage, Steven Kent classic blend of the five basic red Bordeaux varietals. Wine lovers are invited to realize the true potential of the Livermore Valley in the winery’s Barrel Room (open daily) and in The Reserve Room (open Saturdays and Sundays).
Cuda Ridge Wines is a family-owned winery that produces handcrafted small-lot Bordeaux-style varietals and blends. These world-class, award-winning wines are produced from grapes sourced from the region’s premier vineyards. Their signature varietals, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, have both received 90+ point ratings and other award winners include Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Malbec. While known for reds, Cuda Ridge also produces Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, both historic varietals of Livermore Valley. Visit the winery for artisan charcuterie, picnic tables outside, local art and live music.
Since 1976 Fenestra Winery has called Livermore Valley home. It was the area’s first boutique winery and has offered a portfolio of impressive varieties of whites and reds made from grapes grown in the best vineyards in Livermore and beyond. Fenestra is a popular stop for wine lovers who enjoy the relaxed, country ambience while they taste the award-winning wines and picnic along the creek.
Livermore Wine Trolley
All aboard! Hop on the Livermore Wine Trolley and immerse yourself in the fantastical canyons and playful hills as you enjoy an all-inclusive guided wine tour. Guest can visit select wineries, enjoy lunch, and learn about the area while aboard an 18–36 passenger motorized trolley. You can even reserve a private charter for your special event or group!
The inspiration of this winery’s name comes from Robert Livermore’s Rancho Las Positas, a property of 40,000-acres with winding streams and plentiful watering holes. With a focus on Old World and New World wine production pioneering, Las Positas Vineyards offers exquisite handcrafted, small-lot wines. Make your way to the winery for food and wine events, live music, and entertainment.
Garre Vineyard & Winery
Looking back to the early 19th century, you’ll find this Italian family and their wine making skills housed in a tiny village outside of Genoa, Italy. Fast forward to the present and the same heritage and attention to care is in every glass of Garré wines made in the Livermore Valley.
With an emphasis on Old Italy, special events such as weddings will be most memorable with the option of two venues at either the Bella Rosa or Martinelli Event Center. Garre Vineyard even offers a hand-selected list of Preferred Professionals to accommodate your needs. Whether it’s the whimsical Italian gardens, the aroma of fresh baked focaccia, or their tasting room that boasts award-winning offerings, the Garre Vineyard is a bellissimo sight to behold.
Offering wines that receive 90+ point score reviews and numerous awards and accolades, Nottingham Cellars is definitely a worthwhile experience in Livermore Valley. The property houses numerous vineyards but their Casa de Vinas Vineyard is their benchmark. This is due to the fact that it houses the backbone to Nottingham Cellars: the Cabernet Sauvignon.
Accompanied with a winemaking philosophy that focus on flavors rather than numbers, it’s not surprising that Nottingham Cellars offer wines that age wonderfully in the most discerning cellar.
The following article was provided by our contributing partner – Touring and Tasting Magazine.
Cheers – Ken
The Olive Press — Sonoma, CA
Nestled in Sonoma County at Jacuzzi Family Vineyards, The Olive Press boasts the accolade of being the most highly awarded olive oil producer in the nation. With their Oil & Balsamic of the Month specials, buyers can find delicious concoctions such as their Lime Olive Oil and Coconut Balsamic at a generous 15% off discount. Whether you take a trip to Sonoma or journey to their website, The Olive Press is your one stop spot for everything olive oil.
Sonoma Market — Sonoma, CA
With locations in both Sonoma and Glen Ellen, the Sonoma Market prides itself on their farm-to-market approach. For over 50 years, the Sonoma Market has forged lasting connections with local growers and visitors, which makes it no surprise this this family-owned and operated company made FORTUNE Magazine’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” list. Whether it’s local or imported wines, artisanal cheeses, fresh baked goods, or countless other gourmet offerings, the Sonoma Market is a can’t miss. Also, be sure to sign up for the weekly e-ad to grab a hold of their Secret Special coupon that is released every Tuesday.
Zina Hyde Cunningham Winery — Sonoma, CA
Award winning and rich in family heritage, this small-lot production winery is synonymous with ultra-premium wines. A quick history lesson brings us back to 1849, where Zina Hyde Cunningham himself set out from Maine for the California gold mines. He eventually changed his focus on striking it rich to settling down on a 160-acre ranch to harvest Alicante and Zinfandel grapes. Generation after generation farmed this land until Prohibition produced a tricky situation. To keep afloat during this time, the farm was converted to a walnut, prune, apple, and pear orchard. Fast forward to 2004 where we find that a new generation brought back the Old-World techniques of producing the ultra-premium wine that is served today. With numerous wine tasting and food pairing options available, perhaps Zina Hyde Cunningham himself could be proud of his family’s winery heritage.
Schug Carneros Estate — Sonoma, CA
Underground barrel caves hold the family legacy of the fine European winemaking techniques of Walter Schug and his wife Gertrud. Started back in 1980, Schug Carneros Estate now has an environmentally conscious approach and a focus on sustainable winegrowing. In the vineyards, habitats are created for varied bird species including owls and raptors as well as beneficial insects. By focusing on sustainable ecological practices, Schug Carneros Estate utilizes natural techniques to cut down on the use of pesticides. Caring for the Earth and prestigious winemaking go hand and hand, which the team at Schug Carneros Estate clearly understands.
El Dorado Hotel & Kitchen — Sonoma, CA
The El Dorado Hotel & Kitchen prides itself on the use of locally sourced ingredients and award-winning dishes by Executive Chef Armando Navarro, which includes their signature EDK Burger, Pork Belly & Scallops, or Roasted King Trumpet Mushrooms. The wine list is just as enticing with local Sonoma and Napa offerings and international wines from Italy, France, Spain, and Australia. Organic and biodynamic agriculture is an attribute the El Dorado Kitchen focuses on and Sonoma seasonal ingredients can be seen simmering and served while comfortable casual elegance is prominent throughout this 27-room laid-back accommodation. The El Dorado Hotel offerings include plush custom amenities and furnishings found from Restoration Hardware. Whether you’re there for the food or a night’s stay, the El Dorado Hotel & Kitchen has much to offer.
Anaba Wines — Sonoma, CA
Anaba Wines was the first winery in Northern California to harness wind energy with the installation of a wind turbine in late 2009. The turbine creates enough power to harness many of the winery’s best attributes such as their renovated century-old farm house turned tasting room. The 16-acre estate provides guests with beautiful offerings such as their highly-rated Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Rhone wines. Named after the anabatic winds that soar through its vineyards, Anaba Wines creates elegant, classic wines borne by the wind. Check out the ratings on a selection of current Anaba wines on KensWineGuide.com.
Flamingo Resort & Spa — Santa Rosa, CA
Bringing Las Vegas to Sonoma County, the Flamingo Resort & Spa is a historical landmark located between Sonoma Valley wineries and downtown Santa Rosa. Offering 170 newly remodeled rooms and suites, two pools, and 8,000-square-foot health club, sauna, Jacuzzi, full-service spa, tennis, lounge entertainment, live music, dancing, and Sunday Champagne Brunch, all within walking distance to Montgomery Village Shopping Center, breweries, restaurants, and more.
Highway 12 Vineyards & Winery — Sonoma, CA
Sitting just one block south of the area’s first vineyard planted in 1825 by the padres of the Sonoma Mission, Highway 12 Vineyards & Winery is nestled the historic Mission Hardware building on the corner of Sonoma Plaza. Known for its casual congeniality, visiting the tasting room not only includes a complimentary tasting, but also a wealth of knowledge and tips on the must-see sights of the area.
Leone Wine Tours — Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino, CA
With so many great wineries to see in Sonoma, how do you choose just where to tour and taste? If you’re interested in a personalized wine tour of Sonoma’s wine country, sit back, relax and ride in the comfort of Jill Leone’s fully loaded luxury vehicle as she shows you through the intimate backroads and hidden treasures of Sonoma’s breathtaking wine country. Hear fun stories, visit boutique wineries, and enjoy picnics in the vineyards, all while learning more about wine.
Pure Luxury Transportation — Petaluma, CA
Established in 1991, Pure Luxury has become the region’s transportation leader throughout Sonoma, Napa Valley, and San Francisco with its uncompromising attention to detail, broad fleet of top-of-the-line vehicles, and the best chauffeurs around. Throughout the past 26 years, Pure Luxury has cultivated close and personal relationships with countless wineries – allowing the company to offer wine tourists special wine tastings, private tours, discounts on wine purchases and much more. Pure Luxury meets the needs of any size group and any occasion with a fleet that includes vehicles of all sizes.
The following article was provided by our contributing partner – Touring and Tasting Magazine.
Cheers – Ken
Something new is always happening in the Napa Valley. With wonderful wines, top-notch cuisine, and picturesque scenery, fulfill your greatest wine dreams in this vibrant wonderland. We have found the top-rated destinations in this popular, must-visit valley. Relax with ease knowing these picks will go above and beyond to satisfy your palate and give you the best experience. Here are eight destinations to help you ring in the spring months:
Huge Bear Wines
You can’t bear to visit the Napa Valley without stopping at Huge Bear Wines! Housed in the Calistoga National Bank building in downtown Calistoga, the Huge Bear tasting room offers the most exceptional handcrafted wines with grapes sourced from some of California’s finest vineyards. The winery’s long-standing reputation is upheld by the passionate people that make every customers’ experience positive and enjoyable.
Thomas Jefferson said, “Good wine is a necessity of life for me,” and Jay Corley, founder of Monticello Vineyards, wholeheartedly agrees. Producing 15,000 cases of premium wine each year, wine enthusiasts concur that Jefferson’s statement rings true from the estate-grown Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay produced at Monticello since 1980. If exceptional wine isn’t a compelling enough reason to visit Monticello Vineyards, the winery’s 360-degree view of the Napa Valley makes for an overall exceptional experience.
Napa Valley Tours & Transportation
Ride along with Napa Valley Tours & Transportation for a customized itinerary and wine tasting experience tailored distinctly for each client’s interests and needs. Enjoy a relaxed, yet sophisticated experience as you’re driven in a stylish car by a Napa Valley Ambassador who shares a vast amount of information about this legendary wine country and the best wineries to visit. You’ll make the best use of your time with Napa Valley Tours & Transportation as your guide.
Robert Mondavi Winery
As the quintessential destination of the Napa Valley, Robert Mondavi Winery embraces the wine, food, and art lifestyle with 50 years of winemaking. The art of fine winemaking is celebrated daily at the winery. In addition, the grounds hold an exquisite cultural center, with visual arts exhibits, concerts, book signings, and culinary pairings. Robert Mondavi continues to set the bar for excellence with wines that win international acclaim.
Beaulieu Vineyard (BV)
“Beau lieu,” or a beautiful place retains its name and legacy with a respect for classic values and the art of craftsmanship. BV is one of the only wineries in the Napa Valley that does not require an appointment to taste a selection of vintage wines. The impressive library showcases Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet, first made in 1936. Each year, BV releases yet another splendid elegant and complex vintage of this storied wine.
Grgich Hills Estate
Recognized as a leader in natural winegrowing and sustainability, Grgich Hills Estate continues to receive international awards and acclaim around the world. Celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, the winey will release an exclusive 40th Anniversary Chardonnay that illustrates the advancements the winery has made in vineyard and winemaking techniques over the past four decades. Be sure to put Grgich Hills Estate on your “must-visit” list.
V. Sattui Winery, Artisan Foods & Italian Marketplace
All you need to celebrate the spring weather is a picnic with wine and friends and V. Sattui Winery, Artisan Foods & Italian Marketplace has it all. It’s easy to pass an afternoon on these iconic grounds. The Marketplace features 200 artisanal cheeses and a portfolio of over 60 wines! Sip, learn, and savor with mind-blowing wine and culinary pairings created daily in the kitchen.
Cheers – Ken
Spring into the great weather and use those extra hours of sunlight to plan a trip to the serene Livermore Valley! We are helping you make the most of the warmer days by finding you the best local venues and events the Livermore Valley has to offer during the month of March.
Spend the weekend by yourself or with some friends enjoying Livermore’s award winning wineries and beautiful Northern California terrain to defrost from the winter with a glass of wine and an exceptional mini vacation! These seven gems offer the best quality that the Livermore Valley has to offer:
Cuda Ridge Wines
Located in the heart of the Livermore Valley wine region, Cuda Ridge Wines proudly produces Bordeaux-style wines that combine both the California culture with a taste of Southern France. The small family-owned winery takes the time to carry on the tradition with wines of intense complexity and world-class, award-winning flavors. You’ll feel like part of the family in the hospitable tasting room surrounded by vineyards and olive trees.
“Fenestra” is Latin for “window,” and Fenestra Winery is the window to the Livermore Valley. Housed in a historic Ruby Hill property, Fenestra is the region’s first boutique winery and a popular destination for wine lovers who enjoy the relaxed, country ambiance while they taste the award-winning wines and picnic along the creek. The winery celebrates many years of fine wine made with primarily handpicked Livermore Valley grapes.
Garre Vineyard & Winery
Surrounded by beautiful scenery, Garre Vineyard & Winery boasts not only a portfolio of Sparkling, Italian, and other wines, but also award-winning cuisine and elegant wedding venues. The grounds capture the culture of old Italy with a bocce court and a café offering lunch daily and dinner on the weekends. Feel part of the intimacy with friends and family for a wine tasting that never disappoints. Share in Garre Vineyard’s toast of “a glass from the past, a toast to the future”.
Las Positas Vineyards
Situated on 30 acres of property, Las Positas Vineyards is a unique venue that shares in a passion for wine and rich heritage of the Livermore Valley. One taste is all that’s needed of the novice and oenophile wines to see the character and integrity in every glass. For some excitement, evening in the Vineyards Concert Series runs May through October to satisfy both the ears and palate.
Livermore Valley Wine Trolley
Livermore Wine Trolley is the newest way to explore and experience wineries located in the Livermore Valley! Climb aboard and enjoy a tour of this premier wine region, home to more than 50 wineries. A ride on the high quality all-inclusive trolley provides a one-of-a-kind experience as you pass lush rolling hills, picturesque canyons, vast vineyards, scenic golf courses, active downtown, and intimate wineries who pride themselves in hospitality.
The mission to craft world-class wines from famed vineyards in the Livermore Valley and Arroyo Seco and offer them to the world is the driving force at Nottingham Cellars. Led by one of the valley’s youngest winemakers, the winery promotes quality and the integrity of the region. Nottingham Cellars boasts three different brands, each designed to honor the potential and history of the Livermore Valley. The wine tasting room is an ideal place to enjoy a tasting flight at the bar, or enjoy a glass of wine on the patio or among the barrels in the cellar.
Steven Kent Winery
The Steven Kent Winery is dedicated to crafting exceptional Bordeaux wines. Winemaker Steven Kent Mirassou takes pride in the past and future to continually set the bar high and exceed expectations while still holding on to tradition. The Barrel Room offers daily wine tastings Cabernet Sauvignon and other Bordeaux varietals, and the Reserve Room offers samplings of the most limited collectors’ wines. The Steven Kent Winery belongs on the “don’t miss” list for lovers of stellar Cabernet.
After you’ve visited these gems, top off the month of March at the Barrels, Bottles, & Brews on March 25 and 26. The event brings Livermore Valley’s wineries, craft breweries, and artisan distilleries together to take part in a fun-filled weekend celebrating quality and quantity. Amateurs and aficionados alike will discover the quality, attention and care dedicated to crafting all of these great beverages. Purchase your tickets to gain a new appreciation for the beverage scene and be a part of a rewarding experience.
The following article was provided by our contributing partner – Touring and Tasting Magazine.
Cheers – Ken
February is a month of love and romance and there’s no better way to observe it than by taking a romantic trip to wine country. Sonoma Valley is a mecca for the senses and a pastoral slice of paradise just 45 miles north of San Francisco. Offering a historic legacy and a leadership role in sustainable tourism, Sonoma Valley is an ideal place to say “I love you”.
We suggest you start with choosing the right accommodation to fit your style and budget and Sonoma Valley features no shortage of choices. From high-end RV Parks to 5-star luxury resorts Sonoma Valley offers the full spectrum. Here is our short list of Sonoma Valley accommodations:
If fresh air and scenery are your top priority, we recommend Petaluma KOA. Rated one of the Top RV campgrounds in California, this beautiful 70-acre property offers 312 RV sites and the best in family and big rig RV camping, just minutes away from Sonoma wineries. Guided tours of Sonoma wineries depart daily from KOA from May to October. On-property amenities include: a rec room, rock wall, pool and spa, and live weekend entertainment
Sonoma Valley Inn. For an ideal proximity to the historic Sonoma Plaza, Sonoma Valley Inn is just steps away. Besides a coveted location, this family-owned property is absolutely lovely. It’s designed around a serene garden courtyard and features a heated saltwater pool, steam room, and covered hot tub. The rooms are appointed with romantic touches including wood burning fireplaces and private balconies or patios.
Sonoma Carneros Barn House
If you’re looking for something that feels just like home, check out the Sonoma Carneros Barn House. This ideal Sonoma vacation rental features a modern, two-story barn design and offers two spacious master suites, a fully stocked chef’s kitchen, outdoor area for alfresco dining, and much more!
Flamingo Resort & Spa
This iconic hotel is as romantic as the day it opened. It’s a glamourous historic landmark ideally situated between Sonoma Valley wineries and downtown Santa Rosa. The resort offers 170 newly remodeled rooms and suites, two pools, an 8,000-square-foot health club, and a full service spa. Plus, there’s great entertainment including live music, dancing, and a Sunday Champagne Brunch
MacArthur Place Hotel & Spa. There’s a wonderful hideaway just blocks from Sonoma Plaza called MacArthur Place Hotel & Spa. The property is tucked into seven beautifully landscaped acres in a landscaped setting of hedges and serene gardens. Once a magnificent 19th century estate, it is now an award winning enchanting oasis.
Once you’ve decided where to stay, you can turn your attention to the dozens of Sonoma Valley wineries waiting to host you. Here are our top suggestions:
Schug Carneros Estate
This family owned and operated winery is just southwest of town. Known for their elegant European-style Pinot Noir, the winery also produces superb Bordeaux varietals. Guests can choose to sample wines in the tasting room or take a self-guided vineyard tour.
Highway 12 Vineyards & Winery
Located on the corner of Sonoma Plaza in the historic Mission Hardware building, Highway 12 Vineyards & Winery offers guests a complimentary tasting and a wealth of knowledge and casual congeniality.
Larson Family Winery Located in Carneros, the winery was once home to the largest rodeo in Northern California. The winery blends the family’s passion for winemaking with a fun loving country lifestyle. There’s intriguing memorabilia and a captivating mural the barn-turned-tasting room. All family members (including canines) are welcome.
In addition to considering the wineries on Sonoma Valley’s extensive list, visit heartofsonomavalley.com. Here you will find information on 28 amazing wineries offering world class wines, barrel tastings, food and wine pairings, winemaker tastings, and more all within minutes of the Sonoma Plaza. It’s also a fantastic resource for event information and wine trail passes.
If you are having trouble coming up with your own itinerary, hiring a knowledgeable, personal guide is a great option. Jill Leone created Leone Wine Tours to show visitors a variety of Sonoma Valley’s wineries and other attractions while they sit back and relax in a luxury vehicle. She can personalize a custom tour just for you. Beyond wineries, what are some of Sonoma Valley’s great attractions?
Quarryhill Botanical Garden
This woodland garden is cradled in the foothills of the Mayacamas Mountains and features more than 20,000 plants of wild origin in a natural setting. Follow the winding gravel paths set amongst exotic shaded trees and tranquil ponds and enjoy the flora along the way.
The Olive Press A great addition to your wine tasting itinerary is olive oil tasting. Visit Sonoma County’s first and the nation’s most award winning olive mill, the Olive Press. Located at Jacuzzi Family Vineyards, the Olive Press offers an array of enticing samples.
This wine country marketplace set among stunning gardens is ideal for world-class shopping, wine and spirit tastings, artisanal foods, local art, and more. The marketplace also offers seasonal classes, unique event venues and is home to Sunset Magazine’s Test Gardens and Outdoor Test Kitchen.
As you see, there is plenty to do and fall in love with in the Sonoma Valley. We hope you’ll plan to stay for several days to take it all in. Start planning your romantic getaway today!
The following article was provided by our contributing partner – Touring and Tasting Magazine.
Cheers – Ken
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