January 2014


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John On Wine – The Perfume of Zinfandel

Originally published in the Ukiah Daily Journal on January 30, 2014 by John Cesano

I love women. I love perfume. I love how the same perfume can smell different on different women. I am fond of all things sensual, and scents from flowers, foods, wines, and a woman’s perfume are all wonderful.

Generally speaking, I concur with John Barlow and Bob Weir; “too much of everything is just enough,” is a phrase from their song I Need a Miracle that just makes me smile. Perfume at a wine tasting, however, is the exception, and almost any is too much. Men, and their cologne, can trigger an inner groan, a silent shriek of exasperation, as well.

Wine tasting, whether at a winery tasting room, or a big event like last weekend’s Zinfandel Experience, put on by the Zinfandel Advocates & Producers, is about pulling notes from a wine; aroma and bouquet for the nose, taste for the mouth, and deciding if this is the wine for you, if this is a wine worth plunking down your hard earned dollars for.

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It is hard to discern subtle nuance, the difference between green apple and yellow apple, apricot and nectarine, plum and cassis, in a wine when your nose is assaulted by waves of woody, floral, citrus, or other fragrant notes of perfume or cologne, sometimes freshly reapplied in the car moments before entering a wine tasting.

Wine tasting in a spring garden with fresh and fragrant blooms is similarly unkind to the wines, as is tasting in a room that smells of recently applied paint, wood floor polish, or other maintenance or cleaning products.

Last Saturday, coincidentally my birthday, I was at the Presidio in San Francisco to take part in three tasting track sessions, each held in a different building located at the Parade Ground.

The parade grounds at the Presidio in San Francisco

The parade grounds at the Presidio in San Francisco

The Terroir Tasting track, held in the Observation Post offered an incredible view of both the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz, and grouped Zinfandels by appellation, so you could visit a table and taste wines from Mendocino and Lake Counties, or the Dry Creek Valley, or Lodi, or Paso Robles, or any of the other main growing regions for Zinfandel, and explore how these different growing regions affect the varietal’s characteristic notes.

I was joined by my friend June Batz, and we tasted Zinfandels from nearly every region. There were good wines from every growing region. It was a treat seeing Anne Alderette pouring wines for Dry Creek Valley and Zinfandel icon Joel Peterson wearing a stylish black cowboy hat.

Mendocino and Lake County wines lined up for tasting at the Terroir Tasting track

Mendocino and Lake County wines lined up for tasting at the Terroir Tasting track

The Sensory Tasting track was held at Herbst and was most similar to the old Grand Tasting, featuring the most producers in one spot, arranged alphabetically, pouring their Zinfandels. I talked with producers and tasted their Zinfandels made from Mendocino County grapes.

Carol Shelton, Carol Shelton Wines

Carol Shelton, Carol Shelton Wines

My good friend Carol Shelton poured me a taste of her 2012 Wild Thing Zinfandel, Mendocino County. We worked together eight years, she made great wine, and I traveled the country selling her wine. We worked a spectacular dinner together in Chicago. Made from organically-grown old-vine grapes, Carol’s Wild Thing showed plum and pepper with a little edge on the finish. $19.

Next up, I tasted a Zinfandel from Artezin, the 2012 Artezin Zinfandel, Mendocino, $18, made from bench fruit grown on the east side of Ukiah. The wine was medium bodied, but had a big nose, rich and deep, leading to a medium mouth of cherry and spice.

Edmeades Winery poured four Mendo Zinfandels; the 2011 Mendocino $20, 2010 Piffero $31, 2011 Shamrock $31, and 2010 Perli Vineyard $31. My favorite, the Perli Vineyard Zinfandel saw a little blending of Primitivo, some suitcase cuttings, and Merlot into the Zinfandel, and was grown above the fog line on the Mendocino Ridge, yielding bright acid to provide structure and balance for loads of spice and fruit notes of raspberry and darker berry.

Rich Parducci of McNab Ridge Winery

Rich Parducci of McNab Ridge Winery

Finally, I tasted three Zinfandels from McNab Ridge Winery, poured by winemaker Rich Parducci. First, I enjoyed the 2010 Cononiah $26, soft and drinkable with delicate white pepper and French oak smoothness, lovely classic Zin fruit from 100% Zinfandel grapes. Next, I tasted Rich’s 2011 Mendocino Zinfandel $18, which has a little Petite Sirah blended in, and is all chocolate and ripe berry cherry fruit. Finally, I tasted the 2011 Zinzilla $13, an unpretentious blend of Mendocino and Lodi grapes that I carried with me and paired with cheeses, an aged Gouda, a Manchego, a soft blue. Completely unfair to all of the other Zinfandels tasted but, when paired with cheeses, the Zinzilla was the best wine of the Sensory Tasting track.

The Reserve and Barrel Tasting track, held at the Film Center, should have been my favorite track, and my two favorite wines of the day came from here, but the words “Reserve and Barrel” acted as a magnet for every overly perfumed woman, and the Film Center had recently received a splash of paint and application of floor wax, and I could not stand to taste wines in the room. I did get a pouring of 2012 Bedrock Wine Company Zinfandel, Monte Rosso, Moon Mountain, $50, which I took back outside to experience, and what another fine wine, in an endless series of them, Morgan Twain-Peterson has produced. Weighty, full, balanced, with big bold flavors of fruit and spice harmoniously blended.

The Film Center at the Presidio, site of the Reserve and Barrel Tasting track

The Film Center at the Presidio, site of the Reserve and Barrel Tasting track

While outside, Christopher Watkins, writer of 4488: A Ridge Blog, and manager of Ridge, stopped to say hello to me. We have enjoyed each other’s writing in the past, he has kindly linked to things I have written, and we both love the wines he pours daily. We shook our heads, together, at the unfortunate smells inside the Film Center that made outside tasting necessary, and he extended an invitation to quarterly tastings at Ridge which I leaped to accept.

Inspired by my meeting with Christopher, I ventured inside for one more taste; winemaker Eric Baugher poured me a barrel sample of the 2012 Ridge Vineyards Jimsomare Zinfandel. This wine will be bottled in March and be released in November but, tasted outside, was drinking beautifully now, with lush plum, cherry and strawberry fruit notes, wedded to a little classic pepper spice.

I am sure no one wears perfume to a wine tasting maliciously; I’m sure no one has had the gumption to ask you not to, explaining that the result is about as welcome as a fart in an elevator, for fear of causing you pain through embarrassment. I loved the Zinfandel Experience, but between building maintenance and perfume smells, I was driven right away from what should have been the most overwhelmingly amazing part of the experience after only two spectacular tastes.

Venues are booked well in advance, and the folks at ZAP had no idea that one of their tasting track locations was going to get some fresh paint and polish applied too shortly before a wine tasting. Nothing that can be done about that. The heavily perfumed women flocking to the Reserve Tasting was also beyond control, and can only be addressed through education.

Class dismissed.

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John On Wine ­ – Crab, wine & more

Originally published in the Ukiah Daily Journal newspaper on January 23, 2014 by John Cesano

 

This week, I look back at last weekend, reflect a bit, and look ahead to more events this week.

On Saturday night, I went to Patrona in Ukiah for a winemaker dinner boasting a very crab-centric menu, because the Mendocino County Crab, Wine & Beer Fest is going on. The meal also featured the sparkling and still wines of Roederer Estate winemaker Arnaud Weyrich from nearby Anderson Valley. I was thrilled to use the event as a reconnecting date, the first in over 20 years, with a dear friend, June Batz, who will likely be accompanying me to more wine events in the future.

Arnaud visited each table, welcomed guests to the event, and shared some information about the winery, and the night’s wines. Showing far more humility than I would have, he refrained from noting that one of the night’s wines, the Roederer L’Ermitage was named the #1 wine of 2013 by Wine Enthusiast magazine.

Some of the folks attending included Lorie Pacini and Allen Cherry, who are two of the biggest supporters of Mendocino County wines I know, Gracia Brown from Barra and Girasole along with her husband Joseph Love, and Christina Jones, owner/chef of Aquarelle restaurant in Boonville – who is doing her own winemaker dinner tonight, Jan. 23 at 6:30 p.m. with wines from Handley Cellars.

The three bubblies, Roederer Estate Brut, the L’Ermitage, and a Brut Rose, were everything you would hope and expect, simply perfect when paired with crab egg rolls, crab stuffed chicken, and an orange marmalade crepe with whipped cream respectively.

The two surprises of the evening were a pair of still wines, the 2012 Carpe Diem Chardonnay, barrel and tank fermented, with a majority of used oak, yielding a gorgeously balanced wine that paired beautifully with butter poached crab and avocado, and the 2011 Carpe Diem Pinot Noir, a delightfully characterful wine that went well with pork belly.

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Overheard at Barrel Tasting 101 last weekend: “Why is this Chardonnay cloudy? I think it is corked.”

Whoa there; a wine that is still in barrel, a wine not ready for bottling yet, a wine that has never seen a cork, can’t be “corked.”

Often time, Chardonnay in barrel is held “sur lies” or with the spent yeast of fermentation to provide the wine with a little weightiness or richer mouth feel. Barrel samples of these wines will be cloudy. Similarly, red wine barrel samples are colored, but often not clear. I will write more in advance of the next barrel tasting event I point to.

The most important thing to know about barrel tasting is that wines tasted from barrel are not finished wines, some do not taste particularly good, but will eventually yield delicious bottled wines. Barrel tasting provides clues, hints, at what you might expect from future wines. Some wineries offer cases sales on wines tasted from barrels, wines that are not released yet, but will be released in the future, and these offerings and sales are known as “futures.”

Tasting room folks that I talked to reported an interesting mix of folks attending the event; some who knew what a barrel tasting was about, other folks who were open to learn, and still other folks who were interested in consuming as much wine and crab as they could for $10.

June and I visited Maria and Rusty at Testa Vineyards in Calpella on Sunday, and it was great to see the crew working, pouring wines, serving up tasty treats.

Rusty pulled samples from the barrels in the cellar; I enjoyed the barrel samples I tasted, and thought the Petite Sirah would be great held separate instead of used up in blending. Charbono, Carignane – all my old favorites – tasted great from the barrel. Rusty is usually busy manning the grill, barbecuing chicken or oysters for an event, when I see him, so it was a treat to hear him talk about the wines and wine making.

Back upstairs and outdoors, we enjoyed tastes of current release bottled wines with Maria, paired with mighty delicious crab spread atop a slice of toasted French bread. Well, yum.

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The folks at Ole Smoky Tennessee Moonshine contacted me and asked me if I would be interested in writing about their Blackberry Shine and Champagne cocktail, the MoonMosa. I’ve written about spirits when I visited with Crispin Cain and the folks from Germain Robin in Redwood Valley, and I work for a place with two Double Gold sparkling brut wines, so, sure, why not?

I received a mason jar of Ole Smoky Blackberry Moonshine. The packaging is fantastic.

Gary Krimont, a friend and wine industry socialite, helped me evaluate this unique beverage.

First, Moonshine might be pushing it. While the folks at Ole Smoky do produce a few products at 100 proof, the Blackberry Moonshine is just 40 proof, or 20 percent alcohol.

Honestly, the lower alcohol is a good thing, as it made this an easily enjoyed, flavorful sipper. The aroma is pure blackberry pancake syrup, but the flavor is more complex and layered. We mixed equal parts Shine and Brut, and both Gary and I felt that the cocktail was less than the sum of its parts. If you see one on a retail shelf, pick up a jar, and enjoy Ole Smoky Blackberry Moonshine by itself, it is light enough to drink uncut, and too delicious to dilute.

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Saturday is my birthday, and I will be attending ZAP, the Zinfandel Advocates and Producers Zinfandel Experience event at the Presidio in San Francisco. Sessions include a Sensory Tasting, a Terroir Tasting, and a Reserve & Barrel Tasting. Two Mendocino County wineries participating are McNab Ridge Winery in Hopland and Edmeades Estate Winery in Philo, and I look forward to tasting their Zinfandel, plus the Zinfandel wines made by many friends outside the county as well.

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Crab Fest continues this weekend, with the big events moving to the coast.

The Crab Cake Cook-Off & Wine Tasting Competition will take place this Saturday, Jan. 25 from noon to 3 p.m. under the big white tent at the corner of Main and Spruce in Ft. Bragg.

There is an all you can eat crab dinner, with wine, from 6 to 9 p.m., that Saturday night at Barra in Redwood Valley.

A host of winery tasting rooms along Highway 101 inland, and Highway 128 on the way to the coast, will be offering up crab taste pairings with their wines this last weekend of the Crab Fest, so get out and enjoy the bounty of our county.

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In today’s wine column in the Ukiah Daily Journal, I recapped the results of the 2014 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition (see my previous blog post).

The only thing substantially different from the piece I posted here earlier was a thought on who Mendocino County’s big wine winner was:

“While a case could be made for Husch, Handley, Navarro, or McFadden as the big winner, based on number of big medals or percentage of Gold medals to wines entered, for me the big story is the success of Campovida. The Best of Class, Double Gold, and three Gold Medals for Campovida amply validates the wine program expansion and winemaker’s direction. Kudos to Campovida’s owners Gary Breen and Anna Beuselinck, and winemaker Sebastian Donoso on your successes!”

Campovida Bottles

Campovida’s success doesn’t take away from any other winery’s success. Everyone who got a medal, even a single Bronze, is deserving of congratulations. That said, what Campovida accomplished, with essentially a brand new wine program, was, to me anyway, very worthy of notice.

Campovida Barrels

Here’s the results for Campovida at this year’s 2014 San Francisco Chronicle wine Competition:

BEST OF CLASS – 2012 Campovida Grenache, Dark Horse, Mendocino County $36.00
DOUBLE GOLD – 2012 Campovida Roussanne, Bonofiglio, Mendocino County $32.00 
GOLD – 2012 Campovida Arneis,Spirit Canyon, Mendocino County $36.00               
GOLD – 2012 Campovida Riserva Rose di Grenache, Mendocino County $34.00     
GOLD – 2012 Campovida Negroamaro, Chiarito,  Mendocino County $36.00            
SILVER – 2012 Campovida  Chardonnay, Oppenlander, Mendocino County $36.00  
SILVER – 2012 Campovida Riserva Campo di Rossa (Rhone Blend), Mendocino County $38.00       

Impressive.

The San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition is the big daddy of wine competitions, the largest judging of American wines in the world. This year’s competition started on Tuesday and finished today. There were 5,825 wine entries for the judges to taste. The very best wines earned a Gold Medal, a Double (unanimous) Gold Medal, or Best of Class award. There were also Sweepstakes awards for Best red, white, bubbly, dessert, etc.

These best of the best wines will be poured at Ft. Mason in San Francisco at a Public Tasting on Saturday, February 15, 2014 from 1:30-5:00pm. Tickets regularly sell out, click HERE to buy your tickets.

I’ve pulled together a list of all of the wines made from Mendocino County grapes that won a Gold Medal or higher at the 2014 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition – I wonder which of the two Double Gold Medal Dry Sparkling wines from Mendocino County I’ll toast the winners with…maybe both!

Best of Class Chardonnay $15.00-$19.99
2012 Husch Vineyards Chardonnay, Estate Bottled, Mendocino $15.00

Best of Class Grenache
2012 Campovida Grenache, Dark Horse, Mendocino County $36.00

Double Gold Medal Dry Sparkling
NV McFadden Vineyard Cuvée Brut, McFadden Farm, Potter Valley $25.00

Double Gold Medal Dry Sparkling
2009 McFadden Vineyard Special Reserve Brut, McFadden Farm, Potter Valley       $40.00

Double Gold Medal All Other White Varietals
2012 Campovida Roussanne, Bonofiglio, Mendocino County $32.00

Double Gold Medal Pinot Noir Up to $19.99
2012 Navarro Vineyards Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley $19.50

Double Gold Medal Pinot Noir $30.00-$34.99
2010 Handley Cellars Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley $32.00

Double Gold Medal Pinot Noir $50.00 and over
2011 Cakebread Cellars Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley $50.00

Double Gold Medal Pinot Noir $50.00 and over
2010 Handley Cellars Pinot Noir, RSM Vineyard, Anderson Valley $56.00

Double Gold Medal Zinfandel Up to $19.99
2012 Navarro Vineyards Zinfandel, Mendocino $19.50

Double Gold Medal Zinfandel $25.00-$29.99
2012 Husch Vineyards Zinfandel, Old Vines, Mendocino $25.00

Double Gold Medal Merlot $10.00-$14.99
2011 Bliss Family Vineyards Merlot, Estate, Mendocino $13.95

Double Gold Medal Cabernet Sauvignon $30.00-$34.99
2011 Moniker Wine Estates  Cabernet Sauvignon, Mendocino County $30.00

Double Gold Medal All Red Blends $25.00-$34.99
2012 Husch Vineyards Heritage, Old Vines, Mendocino $28.00

Gold Medal Sauvignon Blanc $14.00-$19.99
2012 Husch Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc, Mendocino $14.00

Gold Medal Sauvignon Blanc $14.00-$19.99
2012 Husch Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc, Renegade, Mendocino $18.00

Gold Medal Chardonnay $10.00-$14.99
2012 Kimmel Vineyards Chardonnay, Kimmel Vineyards, Potter Valley $14.99

Gold Medal Chardonnay $10.00-$14.99
2012 Parducci Wine Cellars Chardonnay, Small Lot Blend, Mendocino County $13.00

Gold Medal Chardonnay $15.00-$19.99
2012 Naughty Boy Vineyards Chardonnay, Thornton Ranch, Potter Valley $15.50

Gold Medal Chardonnay $25.00-$29.99
2011 Husch Vineyards Chardonnay , Special Reserve, Mendocino $26.00

Gold Medal Chardonnay $25.00-$29.99
2012 Navarro Vineyards Chardonnay, Premier Reserve, Anderson Valley $25.00

Gold Medal Chardonnay $25.00-$29.99
2012 Seebass Family Wines Chardonnay, Seebass Vineyards, Mendocino     $29.99

Gold Medal Chardonnay $25.00-$29.99
2012 Wattle Creek Winery Chardonnay, Yorkville Highlands $25.00

Gold Medal Chardonnay $40.00 and over
2011 La Follette Wines Chardonnay, Mendocino Ridge $48.00

Gold Medal Chardonnay $40.00 and over
2012 Tom Eddy Wines Chardonnay, Manchester, Mendocino $55.00

Gold Medal Gewurztraminer
2012 Highway 253 Gewurztraminer, Mendocino County $16.99

Gold Medal Riesling RS<1.49
2012 Handley Cellars Riesling, Anderson Valley $22.00

Gold Medal Riesling RS<1.49
2012 Navarro Vineyards Riesling, Anderson Valley $19.50

Gold Medal Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio $15.00 and over
2012 Handley Cellars Pinot Gris, Anderson Valley $20.00

Gold Medal Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio $15.00 and over
2012 Navarro Vineyards Pinot Gris, Anderson Valley $19.50

Gold Medal Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio $15.00 and over
2012 Philo Ridge Vineyards Pinot Gris, Marguerite Vineyard, Anderson Valley $21.00

Gold Medal Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio $15.00 and over
2012 Philo Ridge Vineyards Pinot Gris, Klindt Vineyard, Anderson Valley $20.00

Gold Medal All Other White Varietals
2012 Campovida Arneis, Spirit Canyon, Mendocino County $36.00

Gold Medal Dry Rose RS<1
2012 Campovida Rose di Grenache, Riserva, Mendocino County $34.00

Gold Medal Grenache
2012 Navarro Vineyards Grenache, Mendocino $29.00

Gold Medal Pinot Noir Up to $19.99
2011 Bliss Family Vineyards Pinot Noir, Estate, Mendocino $14.99

Gold Medal Pinot Noir $50.00 and over
2011 Tom Eddy Wines Pinot Noir, Manchester, Mendocino $60.00

Gold Medal Zinfandel $20.00-$24.99
2010 Brutocao Cellars Zinfandel, Hopland Estate, Mendocino $22.00

Gold Medal Merlot $15.00-$19.99
2011 Bonterra Vineyards Merlot, Mendocino County $15.99

Gold Medal Merlot $25.00-$29.99
2010 Byrd Vineyard Merlot, Byrd Vineyard, Mendocino County $29.00

Gold Medal Cabernet Sauvignon $30.00-$34.99
2010 Parducci Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, True Grit Reserve, Mendocino County $30.00

Gold Medal Bordeaux Blends $30.00-$39.99
2009 Alder Springs Vineyard Estate 13 Tasks, Alder Springs Vineyard, Mendocino $39.00

Gold Medal All Other Red Varietals
2012 Campovida Negroamaro, Chiarito, Mendocino County $36.00

Gold Medal All Red Blends Up to $14.99
2012 Kimmel Vineyards Redessence, Kimmel Vineyards, Potter Valley $14.99

Gold Medal All Red Blends $15.00-$24.99
NV Cesar Toxqui Cellars Heirloom IV, Mendocino $24.99

Gold Medal White Dessert RS>4
2011 McFadden Vineyard Late Harvest Riesling, McFadden Farm, Potter Valley $18.00

Gold Medal White Dessert RS>4
2012 Stephen & Walker Chardonnay Botrytis, Mendocino Ridge $65.00

Mendocino County is a farm county. We grow grapes that are often sold and blended into Sonoma and Napa county wines to make them better. It is really nice to see so many wines held separate, made from Mendocino County grapes, and recognized for their excellence. Congratulations to the grape growers, winemakers, winery owners who made these wines possible; and thanks to the terrific crew of judges at this year’s San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. We consumers, tasters, and folks working in the tasting rooms are grateful to you all.

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John Cesano of John On Wine

John Cesano of John On Wine

John On Wine ­ – January is busting out all over.

Originally published in the Ukiah Daily Journal on January 9, 2014 by John Cesano

 

I know the saying is “June is busting out all over,” and I love June, but we’re in January and there are lots of events this month, so here goes:

Patrona Restaurant & Lounge, located at 130 West Standley in Ukiah, is a wine-friendly restaurant that I am finally getting around to mentioning. In their own words, “we serve refreshing lunches and inspired dinners using the freshest Mendocino sourced ingredients. We have a huge Mendocino wine list and a full bar serving the cocktails of your dreams!”

Having eaten there a dozen times in the last six months, I can attest that they have delicious food, a terrific wine list and possibly the best cocktails in Ukiah. I’m a wine guy, but I love stopping in after work to sample whatever brilliantly conceived special cocktail is being offered that day.

Patrona is pairing Roederer Estate wine maker Arnaud Weyrich with Patrona chef Craig Strattman for a very special Crab and Wine Dinner starting at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 18.

The working menu, subject to change, features a crab eggroll in sesame aioli and Roederer Brut; poached crab, green apple and avocado in a saffron curry and 2012 Carpe Diem Chardonnay; chicken and crab with a Winter Pin Nut Pistou and 2004 Roederer Estate L’Ermitage (Wine Enthusiast magazine’s #1 wine of 2013!); pork belly with crab or mushroom pastry in a crab sauce and 2011 Carpe Diem Pinot Noir; and a Crepe and Roederer Estate Sparkling Rose.

The dinner, food and wine, will run $75 per person. For more information, or to secure your spot, call Patrona at (707) 462-9181.

On a related note, Patrona is making Monday a little more magical with a special wine 50 percent discount on all bottles of wine. You can look over your menu, choose the perfect bottle to pair with your food, enjoy the wine at half off, and take any unpoured wine home for later enjoyment.

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Second Saturday in Hopland will take place on Jan. 11th. This January edition of Second Saturday sees several tasting room managers featuring the crab dishes that will be paired with wine over the following two weeks. Visit Ray’s Station, McFadden Vineyard, McNab Ridge, Cesar Toxqui Cellars, Graziano Family of Wines, Milano Winery, Naughty Boy, and Rivino tasting rooms to sample delicious complimentary appetizers and wine pairings. Don’t forget to stock up on local wines at the very affordable Hopland-wide January Case Sale event.

The Mendocino County Crab, Wine & Beer Fest is January 17-26 this year. More than 40 winery tasting rooms throughout Mendocino County, with roughly half along or near Highway 101 and the other half along Highway 128, will be celebrating January’s bounty of the county: Dungeness Crab.

Enjoy the most delectable crab creations, from crab and corn chowder at Milano Family Winery to crab mac and cheese at McFadden in Hopland, and crab and Pennyroyal Farm Laychee Wontons at Navarro to Blini with creamy Crab at Yorkville Cellars along Highway 128. Most of the winery tasting room crab dishes will be served on the weekends, but the many restaurants of Mendocino County, whether inland or on the coast, will be serving up special crab-centric menus during the event, and the biggest event of the festival falls on my birthday (a coincidence, I’m fairly sure) with the 15th annual Crab Cake Cook Off & Wine Competition taking part on Saturday, January 25 from noon-3 p.m.

For more information about everything Crab this month, go to VisitMendocino.com/crabfestival

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Barrel Tasting 101, runs Saturday, Jan. 18 and Sunday, Jan. 19, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day, during the Crab, Wine & Beer Festival, and stretches from Hopland to Calpella and Ukiah to Redwood Valley.

The $10 price includes one commemorative wine glass. Each tasting room will be offering crab themed pairings.

Participating winery tasting rooms include: Barra of Mendocino, Brutocao Cellars, Campovida, Cesar Toxqui Cellars, Frey Vineyards, Graziano Family of Wines, Jaxon Keys Winery & Distillery, Jeriko Estate, McFadden Farm Stand & Tasting Room, McNab Ridge Winery, Milano Family Winery, Naughty Boy Vineyards, Nelson Family Vineyards, Parducci Wine Cellars, Ray’s Station, Rivino, Saracina, Seebass Vineyards, Simaine Cellars, and Testa Vineyards.

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Check out Zinfandel Advocates & Producers’ (ZAP) ­ The Zinfandel Experience on Wednesday, Jan. 22 through Saturday, Jan. 25 at various spots in the bay area. If you love Zinfandel, this is your event!

The event kicks off for trade and media at Rockwall in Alameda on Wednesday when Tim Fish moderates a panel that includes Morgan Twain Peterson of Bedrock, Tegan Passalacqua of Turley, and Mike Officer of Carlisle; three Zinfandel powerhouses.

My two favorite events from the past fall on Thursday at The Presidio and Friday at the Four Seasons, both in San Francisco. Thursday features Epicuria, an evening tasting of food from top restaurants and caterers paired with Zinfandel from some of California’s best producers, is an amazing event. Friday’s panel tasting, Flights, is enjoyable for the sit down, off the cuff comments offered by Zinfandel luminaries on a Zin-centric topic, with flights of Zinfandel poured to illustrate points.

Friday evening is the big and fancy event, the Winemaker’s Dinner and Auction at the Four Seasons. Everyone who has attended raves about this event. I have not attended…yet. There is a small chance, space permitting, that I may be able to attend this year.

Saturday is the big day, with the giant Grand Tasting, which has been changed into smaller educational tasting tracks this year: Sensory Tasting, Reserve & Barrel Tasting, and Terroir Tasting. All three events within an event take place at The Presidio. For more information, or to grab tickets to these very limited space events, visit Zinfandel.org.

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January offers many great events, and you’ll see me at a number of them. I know we need rain, and that means the winter cold that comes with it, but this January I find myself wishing I was surrounded by June. I love June’s warmth, and the perfect combination for me, not for farmers but for me, would be to enjoy a little June in January. Cheers!

I attended Passport to Dry Creek Valley last year. Here’s a link to the recap piece I wrote: http://johnonwine.com/2013/05/15/passport-to-dry-creek-valley-2013-a-recap/

I LOVE this event, and will be going again this year. I don’t want to say too much and jinx things, but I think I will be blessed with the company of the uber coolest, hottest, gal – yes, I said cool and hot – at the event.

More on Passport, and tickets, and why you should buy your tickets as soon as they are offered (Feb. 1, and because they sell out quickly) coming in future posts and columns.

This post is to announce a giveaway. Several pairs of tickets – value: $240 – will be given away, and you want them, so get to liking and entering. Here’s the info you need:

Win one of 12 pair of tickets to Passport to Dry Creek Valley!

This year marks the 25th anniversary of our signature event, Passport to Dry Creek Valley, April 26 – 27 (tickets on sale February 1st at 10am PST!!). To mark this special occasion, we’ll give away 3 pair of Passport tickets EVERY WEEK from January 6-31 for a total of 12 pair!

To enter, simply “Like” our Facebook page, click on the sweepstakes link and fill out the entry form. Once you’ve entered, you’ll see a link that you can share on your Facebook page (or via email or Twitter) and every time someone uses your link to enter, you’ll be entered again, increasing your chances of winning.

As an added fun bonus, we’ll reveal the Passport theme of one, Dry Creek Valley winery a day from January 6-31st, and include the sweepstakes link on the post as a reminder to keep entering or sharing your unique link with friends and family.So visit our Facebook page every day to find out what fun theme your favorite winery has chosen for this year’s Passport to Dry Creek Valley and enter for your chance to win a pair of tickets. Good luck!

Note: here’s where you do the magic: https://www.facebook.com/drycreekvalley?v=app_150794994973742&rest=1

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John On Wine – ­ Welcome to 2014

Originally published in the Ukiah Daily Journal on Thursday, January 2, 2014 by John Cesano

 

Welcome to the new year. For me, that means looking back at last year while also looking forward to the year ahead.

First, last year. It was a great year for wine. I tasted so many delicious wines. Red, white, and rosé; dry, sweet, and super sweet dessert; still and bubbly ­ I enjoyed wines of every description.

There are so many great wines being made here, it is a testament to the fantastic growers and their vineyards, the winemakers and their wineries, and the tasting room folks and their shops throughout the county. From grape to glass, Mendocino County is the best value for wine in California.

Thanks to two folks who accompanied me on tastings, or invited me to accompany them; Gracia Brown and Serena Alexi. Tasting wine with you two gals is always fun, and I genuinely benefit from the unique and different perspective each of you share with me. My boss asked me to ask our newsletter subscribers to pray for rain. Last year was the driest year, going back 120 recorded years, in Mendocino County, with less than 8 inches for the year.

Guinness told me a couple of years back that 20 inches during the winter works out perfect for him, the farm, and our grapes. If you’ve taken a look at the Lake Mendocino reservoir, then you know we could use those 20 inches and a more than a few more inches on top of those.

Whether you pray, or are more inclined to send good thoughts, please direct some mental attention to asking for some rain for our county’s farmers. I have promises from Bob Swain at Parducci, Hoss Milone at Brutocao, Rich Parducci at McNab Ridge, and Greg Graziano of Graziano to sit down and taste me through the wines they make.

Occasionally, I hear a grumble about not having covered a particular winery here in the column. Look at these amazing winemakers, I haven’t got to them yet, trust me, I’ll get to your favorite too. Mostly, the fault is mine; I work during the week, and asking a winemaker to meet on a weekend is tough.

 

New Year’s resolutions

Most people set them and then break them shortly after. I’ll set some for me and the column, and hopefully I can keep most if not all of them.

Okay, here are my resolutions for the new year: First, I resolve to taste more wines in 2014 than I did in 2013. Second, I resolve to write more notes on the wines I taste. I cook with wine, and have a glass of what I cooked with at dinner. While delicious, there isn’t enough to make a column out of a night’s wine pairing. Still, through social media, Facebook and Twitter, I can give a tip of the cap to wine pairings that work particularly well. I resolve to do just that, and after writing enough of them, cobble several into a column here.

Third, I resolve to reduce the number of times my boss has to call with the “John, you know I don’t control what you write, or censor you in any way, but I got this call…” request that I be more mindful of the sensibilities of those I write about.

Fourth, I resolve to eclipse by dedicated tasting the best taste of 2013. In 2013, I tasted a rare and special 1973 Westcott Cabernet. Some would say it was old, but I’m 52, so at just 40 the Westcott was just a young girl to me. One of the most enjoyable nights spent in 2013, I explored with all my senses, delighting in the aroma, taste, body, balance, and finish. I hope to be able to repeat the experience one day, and uncork another in the future. To enjoy a wine fully, you need to do more than simply taste it in the tasting room. Wine needs to be brought home, and given your full attention. Between loads of laundry and other household chores, I resolve to do this more.

Fifth, I have concentrated on the wineries of inland Mendocino County, the folks along Highway 101 and the Russian River from Hopland to Redwood Valley and Ukiah to Potter Valley. I’ll continue to spend most of my time here, because this area receives far too little attention from most wine writers.

That said, this year, I resolve to begin taking in the wineries along Highway 128, as well. There are just too many gems there to not mention.

Finally, inspired by my good friend Margaret Pedroni, I will endeavor to make inclusiveness my focus in 2014. Bigger events with more participants, starting fresh and tasting at places previously not loved, heading over the hill to taste outside the Highway 101 corridor ­ or even outside the county, and never forgetting that this column is a terrific opportunity to share wine enjoyment with folks who aren’t that into wine, including everyone in my writing and demystifying wine, making it more accessible and desirable.

That’s it, my New Year’s resolutions. It will be fun to look back at year’s end and see how many I kept. I wish you all a great 2014, made more delicious by wine.

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