September 2010


On Saturday, I attended the Sonoma County Harvest Fair Awards Gala with my good friend Susan Johnson.

Lovely Susan Johnson, grower and sharer of delicious vegetables

Susan and I have each attended our share of Awards Galas and remembered them as being dress affairs. I have spent most of the year in shorts and sandal mode, so Susan felt compelled, unnecessarily, to remind me to dress for the event.

John Cesano in coat, tie, and dress shoes – with socks!

When I arrived at Susan’s house in the Russian River Valley, it was nearly 100 degrees, and taking mercy on me, Susan released me from the coat and tie.

We arrived at the Sonoma County fairgrounds about 15 minutes before the event start time, and drove past a long line of people on our way to park the car. Several of the people in line were dressed in shorts and tee shirts. Although I am a huge fan of the casual dress, it was disappointing to see that some people didn’t make an attempt to be dress appropriate for the event. I was a little envious.

We were in the middle of the line when the doors opened, and it took a full 15 minutes to get in the door as tickets were taken and glasses handed out. The crowds raised the heat inside of the building and made for a less than perfectly comfortable event.

Finding wineries was made difficult as they were first grouped by geographical area, or appellation, and then alphabetically. It took a while to catch on that Russian River Valley wineries were at one end and Sonoma Valley wineries were grouped together at the other end of the hall. Aldler Fels and Alderbrook would not be nowhere near each other.

We received our tickets from Heather Irwin of BiteClubEats, and Susan and I both thought that Heather did a great job emceeing that evening. We also thought she should be invited to host solo next year, because her co-emcee was droning, slow, and uninteresting.

The evening was about people for us, more than wine. I was thrilled to see Serena and Mark, Rachel, Linda and Gordon, and Robert and his new gal. It was a little too hot, and a little too crowded to really make wine tasting fully enjoyable. We did a little tasting, but it was just nice to get out together, and I was looking forward to a more select opportunity to taste in earnest.

Yesterday, Monday, I returned to attend the Sonoma County Trade & Media Tasting from 1:30 – 4:30. With 1,084 wines entered into competition, I couldn’t taste everything. 207 wines were awarded at least a Gold Medal by the judges, and I am not able to taste that many wines in a day, suffering palate fatigue long before then, so I looked to limit my tasting further. I decided to taste wines being chosen by the judges as the Best in their Class, and included Double Gold (Unanimous Gold votes by all the judges). After putting together a tasting list by varietal, I found that several of the wineries chose not to pour their wine for the trade or media; I found that was very disappointing. By winery, in alphabetical order, here are my tasting notes from the media tasting event:

Alexander Valley Vineyards 2007 Cabernet Franc Estate Alexander Valley $21.00 – Cabernet Franc Best of Class – Smooth (French oak for 14 months). Tastes nice, herb, spice, but Cab Franc will never be my favorite varietal – the varietal makes me think of sappy green wood bits – but for those that like Cab franc, this is a good one.

Alexander Valley Vineyards 2009 Chardonnay Estate Alexander Valley $18.00 – Chardonnay Retail Price up to $19.99 Double Gold – Oak, toast, cream and vanilla. Old California style, heavier in body and mouth without being fat. Clean and bright with depth. Fruit is along for the ride.

Alexander Valley Vineyards 2007 Viognier Estate Alexander Valley $21.00 – Viognier Sweepstakes White – Clean peach and pear. Would pair great with a lighter seafood pasta. A little “zingy” on the back end.

Arbor Bench Vineyards 2007 Reflections Meritage Arbor Bench Vineyard Dry Creek Valley $34.00 – Bordeaux Blends Retail Price $30 and over Silver – What? A silver medal wine gets tasted? The winery owner asked me to taste so I did. Merlot, Cab, and Malbec. Round, drinkable, very food friendly. Wonderful fruit berry medley without in your face forwardness.

Armida Winery 2008 Syrah Flora Ranch Chalk Hill $32.00 – Syrah/Shiraz Retail Price $25 and over Double Gold – NOT POURING

B.R. Cohn Winery 2009 Chardonnay Sangiacomo Vineyard Reserve Carneros $35.00 – Chardonnay Retail Price $30 and over Best of Class – NOT POURING

B.R. Cohn Winery 2008 Syrcab Sonoma Valley $32.00 – Other Red Varietal or Generic Best of Class – NOT POURING

Carol Shelton Wines 2008 Black Magic Zinfandel Sonoma County $20.00 – Late Harvest or Dessert Red Best of Class – This was my #1 favorite wine of the tasting. I had preconceptions prior to tasting it that were blasted to smithereens at first sip. I literally was rocked and exclaimed, “Oh my God.” This 15% alc Zin is simply delicious. Late Harvest wines, dessert wines, and Ports scare me, many are so over the top, and I steel myself for them, but this was disarming, and amazing. Velvet smooth, and honeyed. This Zinfandel had botrytis sweet apricot and honey notes more typical of a Sauterene. Sweet Zinfandel raspberry jam meets Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc. It is just freaky good. After already falling in love, Carol gave me a chocolate to pair with the wine, just wow.

Carol Shelton sharing some of her zinsight

Carol Shelton Wines 2006 Bacchus Laureate Reserve Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley $52.00 – Zinfandel Retail Price $35 and over Gold – Carol Shelton earned her Bachelors of Science from UC Davis 30 years ago, and this wine is a tribute to her time there. With over $5,000 from sales of this wine being donated back to Davis, the Bacchus Laureate allows wine enjoyment now to support wine enjoyment tomorrow. This is a monster Zin. Huge, powerful. I’ll be honest, I like them a little tamer.

Chateau St. Jean 2007 Syrah Durell Vineyard Sonoma Valley $40.00 – Syrah/Shiraz Retail Price $25 and over Best of Class – NOT POURING

D & L Carinalli Vineyards 2009 Chardonnay Estate Russian River Valley $20.00 – Chardonnay Retail Price $20 to $20.99 Best of Class – Multi layered fruit. Great integration. A blending of subtleties, A little vanilla on the finish. Going to be sold at Harvest Fair Friday through Sunday at $144/case or $136/case for 5 cases. Great buy!

Davis Family Vineyards 2006 Barn d’Or Sonoma County $24.00 – Bordeaux Blends Retail Price up to $29.99 Best of Class – NOT POURING

de Lorimier Winery 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Warm Springs Ranch Dry Creek Valley $32.00 – Cabernet Sauvignon Retail Price $25 to $34.99 Best of Class – Dusty cocoa, herb, fruit. Nicely balanced. Warm blackberry, boysenberry and spice. Smooth.

Eric K James 2007 Pinot Noir Carneros $24.00 – Pinot Noir Retail Price up to $24.99 Best of Class – Smoky, round, lush, integrated herb, spice, cherry, plum. Vinous.

Forchini Vineyards & Winery 2007 Papa Nano Estate Dry Creek Valley $18.00 – Italian Varietals or Blends Best of Class – An American Chianti, Tuscan style red. Soft round strawberry, vanilla, oak, chocolate. Smooth, delish. Jim Forchini is a great winery ambassador.

Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards 2002 Royal Cuvee Carneros $32.00 – Sparkling Wines Best of Class – Creamy, low yeasty, apple, lemon, small beaded bubble, nice mousse, caramel mist, round.

Hauck Cellars 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma County $35.00- Cabernet Sauvignon Retail Price $35 to $44.99 Best of Class- I was not allowed to taste before being made to make note that this is Hauck’s third year in a row with a Best of Class Cab. Are you satisfied with the pimping? Send me a bottle. Anyway, bright forward berry fruit, oak. Not a monster Cab, a little elegant, vinous.

Imagery Estate Winery 2007 Petit Verdot Sonoma Valley $39.00 – Bordeaux Varietals Best of Class – NOT POURING

Imagery Estate Winery 2009 Sauvignon Blanc Wow Oui Sonoma Valley $27.00 – Sauvignon Blanc Retail Price $17 and over Best of Class – NOT POURING

Kenwood Vineyards 2007 Merlot Jack London Vineyard Sonoma Valley $20.00 – Merlot Retail Price up to $24.99 Double Gold – Deeper, more herbaceous nose. Plum. Nice integration.

Kenwood Vineyards 2009 Pinot Gris Sonoma County $14.00 – Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio Best of Class – Really delicious. Third vintage. Lime, light garden herb, steely, stone fruit, citrus fruit, mineral.

Leveroni Vineyards 2006 Merlot Moon Valley Vineyard Sonoma Valley $16.00 – Merlot Retail Price up to $24.99 Best of Class – Really bright nose. Fruit and herb. Candied cherry follows from nose to mouth. A little deeper finish with leather and plum.

Little Vineyards 2008 Syrah Sonoma Valley $30.00 – Syrah/Shiraz Retail Price $25 and over Double Gold – NOT POURING

Macrae Family Winery 2007 Pinot Noir Bacigalupi Vineyard Russian River Valley $34.50 – Pinot Noir Retail Price $25 to $34.99 Best of Class – An in your face, or nose, Pinot. Forward everything. Surprisingly sweet note of cherry fruit after a heavier dense nose. Really nice.

Mahoney Vineyards 2009 Albarino Las Brisas Vineyard Carneros $18.00 – Riesling/Other White Best of Class – Spanish varietal. Drier, crisper. Light body. Fruit and floral. Clean.

Mayo Family Winery 2007 Meritage Los Chamizal Vineyards Reserve Sonoma Valley $50.00 – Bordeaux Blends Retail Price $30 and over Best of Class – Different varietals from different blocks of one vineyard, crushed and barreled separately. Aged about 2 years, about 70% new oak. Smooth. Drinkable. Round. Blackberry, oak, currant. Delish.

Mazzocco Sonoma 2005 Merlot Dry Creek Valley $28.00 – Merlot Retail Price $25 and over Best of Class – Herby, darker, deeper. Not loving it, but others will – and clearly did. Parker-esque? More herb, spice, oak focused than fruit in this wine.

Mill Creek Winery 2009 Gewurtztraminer Estate Vineyard Dry Creek Valley $19.00 – Gewurtztraminer Best of Class – Dry Gewurtz nose. Round, sweet honeysuckle, apricot, lychee, orange blossom

Mill Creek Winery 2007 Zinfandel Kreck Family Vineyards Dry Creek Valley $38.00 – Zinfandel Retail Price $35 and over Best of Class – Under 200 cases. Initial alcohol blossom found in many Zins. Classic peppery meaty jammy zin.

Mobius Wines 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma County $24.99 – Cabernet Sauvignon Retail Price up to $24.99 Best of Class – NOT POURING

Novy Family Winery 2007 Syrah Russian River Valley $24.00 – Syrah/Shiraz Retail Price up to $24.99 Best of Class – Blackberry and chocolate. Smooth and delicious. Complex.

Paradise Ridge Winery 2008 The Posse Hoenselaars Vineyard Russian River Valley $50.00 – Rhone Red Varietals or Blends Best of Class – Syrah, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel. A “Rhonefindel.” Wow, nice blend. Round, chocolate, lush warm fruit, spice and herb. Terrific food wine. 250 cases.

Pedroncelli Winery 2005 Port Four Grapes Dry Creek Valley $18.00 – Port Best of Class – Made with real Portuguese varietal grapes, this 18.5% alc Port has raspberry, coffee, and baking spice notes.

Sebastiani Vineyards 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley $33.99 – Cabernet Sauvignon Retail Price $25 to $34.99 Double Gold – NOT POURING

The food tables were an absolute treat, with delicious specialty meats, cheeses, breads, oils, fruit, spreads.

Sebastiani Vineyards 2009 Chardonnay Russian River Valley $14.99 – Chardonnay, unoaked Best of Class – NOT POURING

Sebastiani Vineyards 2008 Chardonnay Sonoma County $12.99 – Chardonnay Retail Price up to $19.99 Best of Class – NOT POURING

Simi Winery 2007 Late Harvest Riesling Alexander Valley $30.00 – Late Harvest or Dessert White Sweepstakes Specialty – NOT POURING

Simi Winery 2007 Petite Sirah Dry Creek Valley $35.00 – Petite Sirah Best of Class – NOT POURING

St. Francis 2008 Caro Santo Sonoma Valley $45.00 – Sangiovese Best of Class – NOT POURING

Starkey’s Court 2008 Zinfandel Pedrazzini Family Vineyard Sonoma Valley $24.99 – Zinfandel Retail Price up to $24.99 Best of Class – Nicely integrated, well balanced herb, spice, black raspberry.

Stryker Sonoma 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Alexander Valley $50.00 – Cabernet Sauvignon Retail Price $45 and over Sweepstakes Red – NOT POURING

Suncé Winery & Vineyard 2009 Pinot Noir Zora’s Estate Vineyard Reserve Russian River Valley $44.00 – Pinot Noir Retail Price $35 and over Best of Class – NOT POURING

Taft Street Winery 2008 Pinot Noir Russian River Valley $24.00 – Pinot Noir Retail Price up to $24.99 Double Gold – Dusty cocoa, oak, dark cherry, herb. Lovely integration. Lovely mouth. This and a book. Some cheese. Leave me alone.

Trecini 2009 Sauvignon Blanc Russian River Valley $14.99 – Sauvignon Blanc Retail Price up to $16.99 Best of Class – Nicely appropriate varietal notes. Hay and cat pee in the house.

Wilson Winery 2008 Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley $26.00 – Zinfandel Retail Price $25 to $34.99 Best of Class – Nice perfume. Beautiful fruit. Raspberry, blueberry, chocolate syrup, and spice.

Wilson Winery 2008 Wilson Family Red Estate Dry Creek Valley $32.00 – Other Red Varietal or Generic Double Gold – Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. Tons of beautifully integrated fruit. Lush juicy blackberry and cassis. Nice oak. What a food wine!

Gordon Harsaghy pouring for Windsor Vineyards and Windsor Sonoma

Windsor Sonoma 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley $30.00 – Cabernet Sauvignon Retail Price $25 to $34.99 Not Entered – Gordon asked me Saturday night to stop back on Monday, he would have something special. This is Gordon’s favorite wine currently available from the entire Vintage Wine Estates portfolio. Perfumed. Really damn nice. Big, but smooth. 100% Cab. Integrated, Round. Lush. Layered and very drinkable. An herbal Cabernet with gorgeous fruit. Winemaker Marco DiGiulio did a solid job by these grapes.

The only note I have for the Harvest Fair organizers: next year, please have large plastic cups available for media tasters who may want to spit without leaning over a table to use the dump buckets.

The Sonoma County Harvest Fair will continue with tastings and sales for the public Friday through Sunday, October 1-3. The wineries who chose not to pour for the trade and media will be pouring their big medal winners for you next weekend.

If you live in, or near Santa Rosa, I heartily recommend going to the Harvest Fair; I hope my tasting list and notes above are helpful to you when planning your tasting order.

It is time for the Sonoma County Harvest Fair at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa again.

Over 150 wineries submit over 1,000 wines. Seriously talented judges of wine taste over three days. Medals are awarded as earned for out and out yumminess.

Tomorrow, Saturday, September 25, from 7 PM- 9:30 PM, the awards will be announced at the Awards Gala. Heather Irwin, who writes BiteClubEats for the Santa Rosa Press Democrat will be an emcee this year. She solicited funny descriptors to add to her arsenal with the best submission winning a pair of tickets to the Gala. I took my shot, and am awaiting announcement of the winner, I would love to go to the event.

EDITED TO ADD: I have indeed won a pair of Sonoma County Harvest Fair Awards Gala event tickets for tomorrow night. Thank you Heather Irwin, ticket angel. I will be accompanied by my good friend Susan Johnson.

Tickets for the Awards Gala are $65 each, or $55 each in a block of 10.

I have attended the Gala several times in the past, usually pouring for either Windsor Vineyards or Adler Fels Winery, but occasionally as a paid attendee. The tension among the wineries is palpable as the awards are announced, with cheers rising when a favorite receives Gold or higher.

I grew up on Sonoma County wines. For better or worse, my palate is a house palate. In blind tastings, I will often gravitate to Russian River Valley, Sonoma Coast or Sonoma Valley Chardonnays, Dry Creek Valley Zinfandels and Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley Cab, Merlot, and Fume. I love Sonoma County, and Sonoma County wines, and this event is a celebration of the winemaker’s skill and artistry.

On Monday, I will be attending the Sonoma County Harvest Fair’s  Trade and Media tasting.

On Friday, October 1 from noon – 7 PM and Saturday and Sunday. October 2 & 3, from 10 AM – 7 PM, the Sonoma County Harvest Festival will be open for general admission and tastings. In addition to general tasting, there are special events each day. Friday features special accompanied flight tastings with Ziggy “The Wine Gal” Eschliman and Ray “The Wine Book Author” Johnson.

Saturday features a microbrew tasting. Both Saturday and Sunday feature a Chocolate and Port pairing.

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In my last post, I gave recipes for a two part dessert I intended to serve paired, homemade strawberry ice cream and  chili paste brushed sweet and savory banana fritters.

One change I made on the fly was going with 4 cups diced strawberries cooked down with sugar, and 2 cups diced fresh uncooked strawberries, for the ice cream to add layers of different strawberry flavor.

Impatient, I served the ice cream before an appropriate hardening and ripening time, and it was delicious, but the banana fritters were even better in the same way that beignets or doughnuts hot and fresh are absolutely delicious. The OMG moment came when I crowded my spoon with a little strawberry ice cream AND a banana fritter for a mouthful of wow. Strawberry and banana are great together anyway, but the contrasting temperatures, textures, and tastes reinforced what was great in each and made for a breathtakingly delicious bite.

I have a new show off dessert.

A couple of weeks ago, I attended an outdoor movie at Campovida in Hopland, enjoyed Mendocino Farms’ wine, and almost made a delicious picnic dinner for my son Charlie and myself.

I say almost, because while the apple slaw was perfectly delicious, I made a horrible error that doomed the main course, slow braised pork belly, to complete and utter failure.

I saw salt pork, and recognized it as pork belly, but having not worked with it before had no idea how irredeemably salty it was. I slow cooked the meat, taking over 4 hours to turn out something nearly inedible and totally unpalatable.

I mention this because I am ordinarily a very good cook, better than just about anyone I know, but when I screw up somehow it causes glee, or at least provides some twisted entertainment, for my friends. People like it when a a dose of humility comes around, and mine was self delivered.

I took the inedible meat, trimmed it to find the soft less salty inner meat, cut it up and used it, along with a host of fresh veggies, to flavor a mixed bean soup for the next day’s main meal. I was able to save a bad dish, or at least recycle, repurpose, reuse for a different, good, dish.

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The movie was absolutely wonderful. Outdoor movies on Summer evenings are one of my favorite things. Thanks to Campovida’s Gary and Anna, and everyone at Magnanimus Wine Company , for being such wonderful hosts.

Oh, one last note: a pair of bocce courts are being put in right outside the Magnanimus Wine art gallery and tasting bar at Campovida. I love bocce, and look forward to returning to play.

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Today, I am making the Banana Fritters that saw cheftestant Ed Cotton win the first half of the two part Top Chef finale in Singapore. Last year’s winner Michael Voltaggio recreated the dish in an online video. Here is the recipe as I transcribed it:

Ed’s TC Banana Fritters

Ingredients

2 Cups Flour

2 TBS Black and White Sesame Seeds

1 tsp Baking Powder

3 TBS Sugar

1 tsp Salt

1 TBS Honey

2 Eggs

2 Cups Beer

2 Cups Red Chili Paste

4 Bananas

1/2 Cup Sugar

1/4 Cup Cinammon

Directions

Add ingredients Flour through Beer, in order, to large bowl, mix with whisk for a few minutes until everything “hydrates into the beer,” taking care not to over mix.

Slice bananas into 3/4 inch medallions.

Skewer each medallion, using the large, non pointy end, for greater adhesion – skewers aid in adding paste, batter, and deep frying.

Brush each medallion with a little red chili paste.

Dip each chili pasted banana medallion in batter to coat.

Move to a 350˚ deep fryer, or a preheated small pot with vegetable oil at 350˚, letting the battered banana off the skewer.

Remove with small mesh strainer or slotted spoon when cooked, puffed and brown, to a paper towel covered wire rack to cool.

Dust with a 2 to 1 Sugar/Cinnamon mix.

Serve.

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I also bought a half flat of beautiful strawberries from a door to door fruit salesman today, and will be making homemade strawberry ice cream.

Here’s what I plan:

John Cesano’s Homemade Strawberry Ice Cream

Ingredients:

5 cups whipping cream

2 1/2 cups half and half

2 1/2 cups whole milk

2 1/2 cups plus 6 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 cups strawberries

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

zest from 1 lemon and 1/2 orange

4-7 cups rock salt

10-15 lbs crushed ice

Directions:

1. Clean, core, and quarter the strawberries; cook down the strawberries with lemon juice, lemon and orange zest, and 6 tablespoons sugar, about 5 – 6 minutes, until soft. Refrigerate mixture.

2. Scald milk until bubbles form at edge of pan, remove from heat. Add sugar and salt. Stir until dissolved.

3. Stir in half and half, vanilla extract, and whipping cream. Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes.

4. Combine refrigerated apple and cream mixtures.

5. Place refrigerated mixture into cooled 6 quart ice cream can, filling ice cream can no more than 3/4 full as it will expand during freezing.

6. With 4 cups of rock salt for making, another 3 cups for hardening, and 15 pounds of ice cubes for both, churn ice cream 20-40 minutes.

7. Pack ice cream into containers, allowing 1/2 inch for expansion, and freeze several hours to ripen and harden home made ice cream.

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I will be serving the Banana Fritters with Homemade Strawberry Ice Cream on the side, and pairing it with a 2009 J. Lohr Estates Wildflower Monterey Valdiguie. I’ll let you know how that works out.

Campovida is the name Anna Beuselink and Gary Breen gave to the 51 acre Hopland property that had once been the site of the Fetzer Wine Hospitality Center. The property was owned by Brown-Forman, and while in negotiations to buy the property, Anna and Gary met Owsley Brown III, a Brown-Forman Brown, and the owner of Magnanimus Wines.

Campovida means Field of Life, and when I visited this week, every field, vineyard, and garden was bursting with life.

From Campovida’s website:

Campovida is a family owned and operated rustic farm and working vineyard. This unique place offers deep connections with nature, wine tasting, a professional culinary kitchen, a 10-room retreat center and multiple spaces for conversations both big and small. It’s a place where you can relax, enjoy and create your custom gatherings.

Come. Play. Stay. Explore.

Anna and Gary are not just the owners of Campovida, but see themselves as stewards as well.

Anna and Gary invited Owsley Brown III to move his Magnanimus Wines tasting bar and art gallery to the building at Campovida that previously housed Fetzer’s tasting room.

Magnanimus Wines has four wine labels, Ukiah Cellars and Talmage are made using sustainable practices, Old River is made organically, and Mendocino Farms is made bio-dynamically.

In the California county best known for green practices, all four labels of Magnanimus Wines are verdantly green.

The marriage of wine to place, Magnanimus to Campovida, Owsley to Anna and Gary provides a perfect synergism, the whole much greater and more pleasing than the parts.

I visited and wrote about Campovida and Magnanimus four months ago, was met by Megan Metz and tasted wines poured by Josh Metz, during a soft open coinciding with the Hopland Passport Weekend.

Here are my tasting notes from then:

2008 Ukiah Cellars Chardonnay, Beckstoffer and McDowell Vineyards, $16 – Clear, brilliant, pale gold. Apple & pear nose, tart fruit, but not aggressively tart. Light cream and vanilla apple flavors.

2006 Old River Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Ponderosa Vineyard (near Grass Valley in the Sierra Foothills), $19 – Nice, lush fruit. Supple and complex, approachable black berry fruit.

2006 Talmage Collection Pija Blend, Mattern Ranch, $25 – A field blend, roughly 50% Zin and 45% Petite Sirah (with a smidge, about 5% Charbono from Venturi Vineyards). Bright, lush, bursting fruit of cherry and berry, with integrated acid, oak, and tannin.

2006 Talmage Collection Syrah, Maria Vineyard, $32 – Dark purple, chewy cherry nose gives way to more full flavors of cocoa, black berry and currant.

2005 Mendocino Farms Redvine Series, Heart Arrow and Fairbairn Ranches, $25 -75% Cab, 13% Petite Syrah, and 12 % Syrah. Cab fruit is obvious. Blackberry rich. lush, juicy, soft, and delicious.

2005 Mendocino Farms Syrah, Fairbairn Ranch, $32 – Delicious burst of fruit, black berry and raspberry mix. Berry fruit medley. Lush, more than the typical Syrah.

2008 Mendocino Farms Zinfandel (Barrel Sample), Dark Horse Vineyard. – Really nice round fruit, accessible dark berry fruit. Incredible potential.

I tasted these again this week with John March, and must say that I LOVE the 2005 Mendocino Farms Redvine, it drank well then, and again now. Lush, velvety, plummy oak fruit, smoky oak, delicious. With apologies to Bambi lovers, I would love to pair this wine with venison.

I tasted a wine this week that I did not taste previously, a 2007 Mendocino Farms Grenache Rose Dark Horse Ranch. First, because it doesn’t taste like it, a warning: this little blush wine is packing nearly 16% alc by volume! The flavors include strawberry, vanilla and cream, and reminded me of commercial candy strawberry taffy. Genuinely tasty, and charming for being unique.

The Magnanimus Wines tasting bar and art gallery does indeed have art. With an intention to rotate artists every three or four months, or so, the Art of Jack Stuppin currently graces the walls of the main room. Available for purchase at prices ranging from $3,200 for a 15 x 10″ acrylic on canvas Cottonwood Abiqui to $40,000 for 44.5 x 63″ oil on canvas Summer, Elephant Mountain, Stuppin’s paintings are beautifully contained bursts of color capturing nature.

Cottonwood Abiqui, 2005

Summer, Armstrong Woods, 2010

Summer, Elephant Mountain, 2010

In an adjoining room, I found a bookcase with books going back to the Fetzer days, including books that I sold to Fetzer eight or nine years ago. It was all I could do to not “merchandise” the books for Magnanimus.

Ken Boek took me on a tour of the 13 acre organic gardens at Campovida four months ago, and while beautiful, the gardens were being brought back from years of neglect. I walked the gardens by myself this week and was stunned at the transformation, the reclamation, and by the lush bursting growth of the plants.

The gardens are overwhelmingly lush, scented powerfully with floral and vegetal notes. Apples fallen on a path make me yearn for some flour, sugar and an oven.

A wet beautifully earthy smell enveloped me, and I stopped to savor the primal sensualness of the aroma.

Birds rustled in the foliage. Spiders cast webs between branches.

I tasted the tartness of morning side blackberries and contrasted that with the fall apart over ripeness of the blackberries grown on the afternoon sun side of the same plant.

I breathed in, broke off and tasted fresh basil.

I love to cook, and ingredients matter. I was near flush with desire as I imagined the food I could create with the bounty from Campovida’s gardens.

Ken Boek will be leading a 1 1/2 hour tour of the gardens this, and every, Saturday at 1:30 pm. I can not encourage you strongly enough to take a guided tour with Ken.

I am excited beyond telling that Campovida intends to share the fruits of their gardens through a Community Supported Agriculture program at some point in the future.

Last year I wrote about my trip to Oregon, and gave a paragraph to seeing the film Julie & Julia.

That Friday night, after dinner, I went to the local drive in movie theater to see Julie and Julia, a lovely film that blends food, blogging, and a little romance. I loved this movie; but really, I’m a foodie, you’re reading my blog, and I am a huge romantic.

I have seen the movie twice since then, I just love the title characters. Amy Adams as Julie Powell and Meryl Streep as Julia Child. I don’t cry often, but this movie usually leaves me with tears running down my cheeks.

Anyway, I have seen movies outdoors at vineyards in Sonoma and Napa as part of the Wine Country Film Festival, I saw Julie & Julia outside at a drive-in, I love Campovida and a bunch of the Magnanimus Wines, so you can imagine my delight when I heard that Campovida is hosting a free outdoor movie night this Sunday with Julie & Julia.

Come out to Campovida this Sunday, September 5, 2010 to watch Julie & Julia under the wine arbor, stars and moon. The movie will be starting at sunset, about 7 p.m.-7:30 p.m., show up early, meet new friends, get comfortable. Bring a low chair, blanket, plan on dressing warm as it might get cool-cold, and don’t forget to bring a picnic dinner. Campovida is providing the place, the film, and popcorn. Magnanimus Wines will be selling wines by the glass $5-$7 or bottle $18-$25.

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