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John On Wine – Local wine events you’ll want to attend

This piece originally ran in the Ukiah Daily Journal newspaper on Thursday, June 18, 2015

The 2012 vintage of Coro Mendocino wines will be first tasted at a 2012 Coro Release Dinner on tonight, June 18th from 6:00-8:00pm at SIP Mendocino in Hopland. A catered light dinner will be served at the event. Tickets are only $10 each. Stop reading this column, pull out your cell phone, and call (707) 744-8375 right now to secure your tickets before they are sold out.

For those who just stumbled upon my column anew, Coro Mendocino is a wonderful wine program that allows any Mendocino County winery to make a Zinfandel blend, supported largely by historic heritage field blend varieties, in a cooperative manner, with a who’s who of the best local winemakers working together to help make each individual winery’s Coro blend the best wine it can be, through multiple blind tastings of barrel samples and a pass/fail blind quality assurance tasting.

The wineries that produced 2012 vintage Coro blends are Barra, Brutocao, Clos du Bois, Golden, McFadden, Parducci, Ray’s Station, and Testa.

With each of the Coro wines priced at about $40, this is an opportunity to be among the first to taste effectively $320 in wine, and enjoy a light dinner, all for just $10. Why are you still reading and not calling?
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June 19-21 is the time to visit the wineries and (oh yes!) distilleries of Redwood Valley.

The 24th annual Father’s Day weekend A Taste of Redwood Valley event kicks off with the Winemaker Dinner at Barra of Mendocino on Friday, June 19 from 6:00-9:00pm. Start off with reception tastes from Barra/Girasole, Brown Family, Frey, Graziano, Giuseppe/Neese, Silversmith, and Testa, then move on to a dinner featuring and antipasto buffet of Italian meats, cheeses, olives, and fresh baguettes; salad with grilled eggplant and roasted red peppers; Italian style roulade served with a red wine gravy and fresh crusty bread for dipping, and a creamy three cheese tortellini; grilled fresh summer garden vegetables; and for dessert a cannoli served on a chocolate drizzle with a dollop of whipped cream accompanied by late harvest wines, ports, and liqueurs and spirits from Germain-Robin and Craft Distillers. Dinner tickets are $65.

On Saturday, June 20 and Sunday, June 21, from 11:00am-5:00pm each day, a $35 ticket includes wine tasting, gourmet foods, logo glass, gift drawings, musical entertainment, and more at Barra/Girasole, Brown Family, Craft Distillers, Frey, Germain-Robin, Graziano, Giuseppe/Neese, Silversmith, and Testa. New this year: local restaurants and caterers will be at each winery location, serving up delicious Italian food, and vying for your votes in a pasta cook-off, as part of the included ticket price event experience.

Save $10 on the three day package, and attend the dinner and two days of tasting fun for just $90.

Wine, food, and spirits. For more information, visit http://www.atasteofredwoodvalley.com or call (707) 485-0322.

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On Friday, June 26, the Funky Dozen will be in concert at Nelson Family Vineyards between Ukiah and Hopland. The Funky Dozen blends fun and funk to keep people on the dance floor all night long. Doors open at 5:30 and the music starts at 6:00pm. Tickets are $13 in advance and $20 at the door.

The site is casual so please bring blankets and chairs. Enjoy delicious, handcrafted wines and local beers, along with a tasty dinner prepared by Ingram Eatz Barbeque. Of course, pleased do not bring outside alcoholic beverages.
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On Saturday, June 27, make your way to Lakeport’s Library Park for The Winefest, a celebration of Lake County’s amateur wine & beer makers running from 1-5pm. There will also be premium Lake County wineries, music, food, raffles, an auction, and art & craft vendors; and the event benefits the Lake County Symphony and Youth Orchestra.

Tickets are just $20 in advance, or $25 at the event. For vendor information and advance ticket outlet info, call (707) 277-8172 or (707) 277-7076.

I will definitely be attending, as I get to serve a wine judge for the event’s wine competition. If you are a home winemaker, and you make a wine from Lake County grapes, call the numbers above and get your wine entered into the competition.
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My favorite wine event of the year is less than one month away, and tickets are already selling well. Now is the time to sign up for the Annual McFadden Farm Party, set for Saturday, July 11, from 5:00pm-late.

The annual party at McFadden Farm is set for Saturday, July 11

The annual party at McFadden Farm is set for Saturday, July 11

I run the McFadden Farm Stand & Tasting Room for Guinness McFadden, but I would buy a ticket to this event every year even if I didn’t work for McFadden.

Held the second Saturday of July every year, which makes planning for our wine club members from around the country easy, this is not your ordinary wine club dinner event.

First, it is open to the public, not just wine club members, and second, this is not a mere winery or vineyard, but a gorgeous, secluded, 500 acre bio diverse farm and there is so much more to do than just eat and drink…although I do love to eat and drink.

Folks show up early in the day and set up tents or park campers and RVs, then play in the Russian River beneath the spill way of Guinness’ hydroelectric plant, wander the farm taking in the sights, sounds, and smells of a real working organic family farm, from our grass fed beef to fresh herb gardens and grape vineyards to fruit orchards. Guests check in at around 5:00pm and enjoy a wine & appetizer reception, and some choose to tour the farm with Guinness. There is a sit down BBQ feast, featuring Magruder pork and lamb and farm to table vegetable, salad, and dessert dishes plus more McFadden wine and bubbly throughout. The Kelly McFarling Band will perform, and dancing goes late into the night. Most years, someone jacks an iPod into the sound system, so music and revelry can continue into the early morning hours. Overnight camping is encouraged and a fun time is had by all.

Tickets are all inclusive and priced at $85 for the general public, $70 for McFadden Wine Club members (limit two per membership), and $20 for children 12 and under.

Visit or call the McFadden Farm Stand & Tasting Room in Hopland at (707) 744-8463 to get your ticket before they are gone.

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John On Wine – Get your tickets now

This post will be published on Thursday, April 9 in the Ukiah Daily Journal newspaper

Every so often, I use my column as an event listing for my readers. Today is one of those days. While certainly not a complete list of wine country events, here are some incredibly worthwhile things to do, and most will sell out in advance, so do not dawdle, get your tickets now.

Saturday, April 11 – The annual Celebration of Mendocino County Sparkling Wines – Mendocino County’s best sparkling wines from Elke Vineyards, Graziano Family of Wines, McFadden Farm Stand & Tasting Room, Parducci Wine Cellars, Nelson Family Vineyards, Roederer Estate, Scharffenberger Cellars, Signal Ridge Cellars, Terra Sávia Winery, and Yorkville Cellars, paired with fresh oysters from Tomales Bay with Mignonette or Somendo ranch lemons, paella Valenciana, assorted cheeses with fresh bread from Schat’s Bakery, strawberries with melted Swiss dark Chocolate, Meyer lemon almond cake, and live music. Tickets are $55 online in advance and TODAY IS THE LAST DAY FOR ADVANCE TICKETS! GET YOUR’S HERE, $65 at the door. This is THE Event to go to if you love sparkling wine and great food, and is happening this Saturday – get your tickets NOW!

Saturday, April 18 – Earth Day at Barra of Mendocino – Join the Barra family in a celebration to honor Mother Earth and the rich bounty of Mendocino County, from 10-5. Be the first to taste Barra’s organic olive oil made from olives grown on the family farm of Bella Collina.  Translated as, “Beautiful Hillside,” this area provides gravelly soil for these trees to thrive right alongside Barra’s prized Petite Sirah and Zinfandel vines.  While you’re at it, taste newly released vintages of organic wines, and enjoy the gardens and scenic surroundings.  For more information:  (707) 485-0322

Saturday, April 25 & Sunday, April 26 – Passport to Dry Creek Valley – Over one weekend, Passport guests are welcomed into nearly 50 wineries throughout Dry Creek Valley, each offering a unique pairing of premium wine, gourmet food and entertainment. Take a vineyard tour for a grape-to-glass look at Dry Creek Valley wine. Sample exclusive vintages, rarely available to taste. Meet winemakers and grapegrowers – the generations of people behind the wine and magical ‘Dry Creek Valley spirit’. Savor exquisite food and wine pairings from acclaimed chefs. I LOVE Dry Creek Passport, will be attending for the third year in a row, and with so many wineries participating, no two Passports are the same. Enjoy! Tickets are $141.38 and available online at www.drycreekvalley.org

Thursday, April 30 – Thirsty Thursday at SIP! Mendocino in Hopland – Tickets are $20, or one free ticket per SIP! wine club membership. Each month offers a different terrific tasting. Last month I enjoyed a tasting of five wonderful Sake paired with delicious Sushi from Oco Time, this month could be anything from a pairing of the County’s best Alsatian whites with the foods of Alsace, or Pinot Noir with mushroom risotto. For more info, and to grab your tickets, call (707) 744-8375.

Saturday, May 2 & Sunday, May 3 – Hopland Passport – Closer to home, Hopland’s Passport event is manageable, and just the right size to be able to visit all the participating wineries without rushing. I’ll be working at McFadden, of course, and think we offer up the event’s best wines and food from our certified organic farm, but there is also proudly offered food and wine pairings at Brutocao, Campovida, Cesar Toxqui, Frey, Graziano, Jaxon Keys, Jeriko, McNab Ridge, Milano, Nelson, Rivino, and Terra Savia. Two day ‘early bird’ tickets are $45 and available at www.destinationhopland.com or $55 at participating wineries during the event. This is probably the best event value of the bunch.

Sunday, May 10 – Mother’s Day Brunch at Barra of Mendocino – Honor the special women in your life this Mother’s Day with a brunch celebration at BARRA of Mendocino Winery.  Enjoy a scrumptious brunch buffet with friends and family. Take in the sounds of a three piece jazz ensemble, stroll through blooming gardens and take family photos. Honor the women in your life with this special day of pampering! Brunch will be served from 10:00 am – 1:00 pm. Reservations are required and children are welcome. $35 for adults/ Special Pricing for Wine Club Members (limit two tickets per member) and $12 for children under 12 years of age. To purchase tickets, please call Katrina at (707) 485-0322, or drop by Barra’s tasting room at 7051 N. State Street in Redwood Valley. My son Charlie took his mother Lisa last year and both reported that it was a lovely event. Do this for Mother’s Day.

Friday, May 15 through Sunday, May 17 – 18th annual Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival – Taste the world-class Anderson Valley Pinot Noirs of more than 50 producers from around California and savor perfectly paired foods designed to complement the exceptional Anderson Valley Pinot wines. I had a spectacular time last year, and look forward to attending again this year. If you love Pinot Noir, or even like it, you will be impressed with the incredibly high quality of the valley’s flagship variety. Various tasting, technical conference, and winemaker dinner tickets are available, ranging from $50 to $135 for each event, online at www.avwines.com

Wednesday, May 20 – Graziano Chef’s Wine Dinner at Crush Italian Steakhouse – Greg Graziano makes terrific, well priced wines. His tasting room is right next to mine, and I know he has legions of fans for his wines. I’ve written many times about how great the chef’s winemaker dinners at Crush are; they operate like a well-buttered machine. I do not need to see a wine list or menu to know how good this is going to be. I’ve got my ticket already. Tickets are $75, dinner, wine, tax and tip inclusive; call Crush at (707) 463-0700 for tickets.

Friday, June 19 – 2012 Coro Vintage Release Party – Join the Coro winemakers for a gourmet dinner for two paired with our wines and take home a complete set of the 2012 vintage. Seating is limited. Reservations required. $700 per couple. Includes the full collection of the 2012 vintage ($320 value) and complimentary valet service. The 2012 vintage consists of 8 wineries: Barra of Mendocino, Brutocao Cellars, Clos du Bois, Golden Cellars, McFadden Farm Stand & Tasting Room, Parducci Wine Cellars, Ray’s Station, and Testa Vineyards. Coro Mendocino 2012 Vintage Release Party Friday, June 19th 2015 6:00 – 10:00pm at Dogpatch WineWorks, San Francisco. For the most fun, ask to sit with Guinness McFadden or me, John Cesano; we tell great Irish stories or perform stupid magic tricks, and I’ll leave it to you to guess who does which. Tickets are available at SIP! Mendocino in Hopland; or call (707) 744-8375. Do this for Father’s Day.

Friday, June 19 through Sunday, June 21 – A Taste of Redwood Valley – The weekend kicks off with a Friday night winemaker’s dinner at Barra, tickets are $65, and the fun continues with two day weekend tasting tickets at either $30 in advance or $35 at the event. Three day tickets are discounted at $90. Participating wineries and distilleries include Barra/Girasole, Brown, Frey, Germain-Robin/Craft Distillers, Giuseppe/Neese, Graziano, Silversmith, and Testa. Get your tickets in advance online at www.atasteofredwoodvalley.com

Saturday August 22 – Yorkville Highlands Wine Festival – This family-friendly festival and auction is at Meyer Family Cellars this year. Festivities start at 1pm. Highlights will include tasting scores of award-winning wines made and grown within the Highlands around Anderson Valley.  The price includes a delicious farm-fresh lunch and scrumptious desert, a tempting silent auction where you can bid on rare bottles and hundreds of bargains galore. There’s always the riotous grape stomp along with other wild and wacky games. Advance tickets are $45, or $60 during the event, and available at www.yorkvillehighlands.org

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John on Wine: The first meeting of the Mendocino Bourbon Group

Originally published in the Ukiah Daily Journal newspaper on Thursday, March 19, 2015

On a lovely Saturday in March, the first gathering of the Mendocino Bourbon Group was held at American Craft Whiskey Distillery in Redwood Valley for a tasting of four whiskeys and a barrel tasting of a new bourbon to be released in October, put on by Jack Crispin Cain and Tamar Kaye.

The Mendocino Bourbon Group was created by Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman, who is interested in the art and science of fermentation and distillation, and is a loose assemblage of Tom’s friends and family who share his interest.

A whiskey tasting is different than a wine tasting, because of the alcohol potency of spirits. Crispin and Tamar planned ahead and poured the five samples over two full hours, with breaks for food, distillation room tours, barrel room tours, and lots of time for questions and answers. Pours were just the right size; large enough to appreciate the aromatics and flavor, but small enough to prevent inebriation.

The food was delicious; I enjoyed cheeses, salmon, and a terrific vegetable soup that had Tamar telling us, “if the carnivores among you knew what was in it, you probably wouldn’t try it, but I’m glad you like it, so I’m not telling.”

All of the whiskeys tasted were hand crafted antique double distillation spirits using a copper potstill, following Cognac traditions dating back to the Bronze Age, written down in 1510, and learned by Crispin from working with Hubert Germain-Robin over many years.

Low Gap California Whiskey 2011 Malted Corn & Malted Barley Blended Whiskey, 46 percent alc/vol, distilled Dec. 28, 2011, bottled June 9, 2014 – bright, multi-noted, layered at a very subtle level, with a little bite on the end; the straightforward classic corn whiskey flavor definitely comes through.

Low Gap California Whiskey 2011 Malted Bavarian Hard Wheat Whiskey, 44 percent alc/vol, distilled Sept. 20, 2011, bottled March 17, 2014 – more focused, a little deeper, butterscotch and cereal grain, candied wheat, and is incredibly smooth.

Low Gap California Whiskey 100 Proof Malted Bavarian Hard Wheat Whiskey, 50 percent alc/vol, distilled Sept. 30, 2012, bottled Nov. 20, 2014 – sweet notes on an absolutely dry spirit. Crispin noted a, “sunshiny butterscotch finish.”

Low Gap California Whiskey 2 Year Malted Rye Whiskey, 42.2 percent alc/volume, distilled Oct. 26, 2012, bottled Nov. 20, 2014 – the rye flavors were almost like candy.

To be labeled “bourbon” a spirit must use three of four grains: corn, barley, rye and wheat; one of the grains must account for at least 51 percent of the blend, and it must spend two years at 60 percent alcohol in a standard new oak barrel.

Crispin’s bourbon is malted corn, malted barley and malted rye.

Low Gap Bourbon, barrel sample, 60 percent alc/vol – This was knocked down with rainwater from 70 percent alc/vol to 60 percent, and will be further knocked down with rainwater again to 50 percent, it will sit for a couple of weeks, then be brought down to 20 degrees Fahrenheit for another couple of weeks to cold stabilize, and then it will be bottled for release in October. With more time, this will become mellower, and additional notes will show. Currently, the bourbon is not as aromatic as the finished and bottled whiskeys we sampled, and I am looking forward to revisiting this bourbon after it has had the opportunity to become what it will become.

Jack Crispin Cain pours a barrel sample of his upcoming bourbon for Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman. (John Cesano photos)

Jack Crispin Cain pours a barrel sample of his upcoming bourbon for Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman. (John Cesano photos)

“I’ve been making whiskey for five years; I consider myself lucky,” Crispin told the group. On a tour of his barrel room, he shared with us, “Our spirits have no methanol, and that is why it tastes so good, medically pure ethanol; no one is looking over the shoulders of the cheap spirits makers, and methanol is why it tastes bad.”

The Mendocino Bourbon Group listens raptly as Jack Crispin Cain talks about the past, present and future of his American Craft Whiskey Distillery during a barrel room visit. (John Cesano)

The Mendocino Bourbon Group listens raptly as Jack Crispin Cain talks about the past, present and future of his American Craft Whiskey Distillery during a barrel room visit. (John Cesano)

The barrel room is well packed with future spirits, and there are plans to increase the size of the barrel room 400 to 500 percent. “More stills, more barrels, more cases,” promised Crispin.

My favorite tastes of the day were the 2011 Bavarian Wheat and the Rye Whiskeys. When the store opened up, I bought a bottle of the Russell Henry barrel aged dark Gin – which I haven’t yet tasted, and a bottle of Crispin’s Rose Liqueur– which I have, often.

The new Ukiah restaurant Ritual features several of Crispin’s spirits on their cocktail menu, so tasting his whiskeys, vodkas, gins, and (later this year) his bourbon is as easy as finding parking downtown. I would recommend sampling his spirits straight, before allowing them to be blended with other ingredients for a cocktail, to appreciate how clean the spirits are. Handcrafted, artisanal, attention to the minutest detail, beverages; each has clean discernable aroma and flavor notes typically lacking in larger mass-produced alcohol endeavors. With an appreciation for how great the spirits are, your cocktails will be ever so much yummier.

Crispin and Tamar will also be pouring their line up Father’s Day weekend, and serving up homemade ice cream flavored with Crispin’s Absinthe, and early bird $30 tickets to visit and taste at American Craft Whiskey Distillery, Germain-Robin Brandy (it is Cognac in all but where it is made) Distillery, Barra of Mendocino, Girasole Vineyards, Testa Vineyards, Graziano Family of Wines, Frey Vineyards, Silversmith Vineyards, Brown Family Vineyards, Giuseppe Wines, and Neese Vineyards are available online through http://www.ATasteOfRedwoodValley.com – there will also be a winemaker dinner at Barra of Mendocino on Friday, June 19 with all of Redwood Valley’s wine and spirits producers, including Crispin and Tamar’s American Craft Whiskey Distillery, pouring at the evening event.

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John Cesano of John on Wine

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John On Wine: Spotlight winery – Knez Winery

Originally published in the Ukiah Daily Journal newspaper on Thursday, March 5, 2015

ABC television’s ‘Schoolhouse Rock’ taught us that, “three is a magic number.” Knez Winery has the magic three going on three ways.

Three vineyards: Demuth Vineyard, Cerise Vineyard, and Knez Vineyard, all organic and farmed following biodynamic practices.

Three wine grape varieties: Pinot Noir, Syrah and Chardonnay.

Three wine shepherds: vineyard manager Ryan McAllister, winemaker Anthony Filiberti and tasting room manager Margaret Pedroni.

To have a glass in hand, swirling free some heady rich aromas, to sip and taste the many layered depth, to experience all that is wonderful about the wines of Knez Winery in the Anderson Valley, you have to visit their beautiful, stylish, tasting room in the Madrones, an upscale collection of winery tasting rooms, restaurant and inn, on Highway 128 in Anderson Valley’s town of Philo.

Knez Tasting Room on Hwy 128 in Philo

Knez Tasting Room on Hwy 128 in Philo

My friend Margaret runs the Knez Vineyard tasting room, and visiting with her last month, and with Jennie Stevens on a previous visit, I tasted through all of the current releases at Knez.

Straight up: Damn, these are some seriously good wines. I am so happy for Margaret that each day at work involves pouring wines that she can be proud of, thrilled to pour and excited to share the story of.

Of course, each wine Margaret pours starts as grapes grown by Ryan on one of the three vineyards, and then is made into a stunning wine by Anthony, before Margaret decides it has matured enough to be poured. Thoughtful decisions naturally arrived at, by skilled managers, make each taste a special moment to experience and savor.

The Demuth Vineyard is 15 acres planted 30 years ago by the Demuth family at 1,400 to 1,700 feet elevation, and dry farmed. There are two blocks of Pinot Noir, planted to Wadenswil and Pommard clones, totaling seven acres, and Chardonnay, planted to old Wente clone, totaling eight acres.

The 2013 Knez Winery Chardonnay, Demuth Vineyard, Anderson Valley, $39, saw a little malolactic, part of it saw new oak, some used oak, and some was held in stainless steel. The result is a multi-noted wine with nuance and complexity; delicate white peach, cream custard, pineapple, citrus. 93 Points from Antonio Galloni.

The 2012 Knez Winery Pinot Noir, Demuth Vineyard, Anderson Valley, $47, shows rose petal, violet, herb, spice, cedar, oak, brambly persimmon, candied cherry, and orange peel. 93 Points from Antonio Galloni.

The Cerise Vineyard was planted in 1995, and grows 10 different clones of Pinot Noir in 15 blocks on 38 acres planted on sloping shallow at 700 to 1,100 feet elevation.

2011 Knez Winery Pinot Noir, Cerise Vineyard, Anderson Valley, $47, was plummy, with sherry pungency, and a steamed artichoke heart earthy vegetal component, supporting the fruit, in a tight band of many flavors. 93 Points from Antonio Galloni.

2011 Knez Pinot Noir, Cerise

2011 Knez Pinot Noir, Cerise

The 2012 Knez Winery Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, $34, takes grapes from both vineyards, about two-thirds Cerise and one-third Demuth. One taste and you can hear angels sing! Dark black cherry, balancing green tea and lush fruit, smooth but evident tannins, together provide mouthfeel and promise age worthiness. This wine is an iron fist in a leather glove. 90 Points from Antonio Galloni.

2012 Knez Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley

2012 Knez Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley

The Knez Vineyard is six acres, was planted in 2009, and connects Demuth to Cerise, at 1,200 to 1,600 feet elevation. Four acres of Pinot Noir are planted above two one-acre block, the first planted to Syrah and Viognier and the second planted to Pinot Gris, Friulano and Malvasia.

The 2013 Knez Winery Syrah, Knez Vineyard, Anderson Valley, $39, shows big meaty animal fruit, with white pepper and floral notes. This Syrah has remarkable intensity, like a tightly wound spring, and shows surprising minerality considering the youthfulness of the vineyard. Bright, tight tannins. Will cellar well. 95 Points from Antonio Galloni.

Winemaker Anthony Filiburti has crafted some real gems for Knez Winery.

Antonio Galloni was noted wine critic Robert Parker’s man for California wine reviews in the Wine Advocate, before striking out on his own, then buying Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar review guide, and creating his own subscription wine review platform, Vinous. The consistently high scores for these wines from Galloni are merited, and validate the program at Knez Winery.

Knez has also found their way onto San Francisco Chronicle wine editor Jon Bonne’s current (and previous) ‘Top 100 Wines of the Year’ list.

Do yourself a huge favor, visit Margaret at her tasting room, Thursday through Monday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., at The Madrones, 9000 Highway 128, Philo CA 95466, or call (707) 895-3365 for information about joining a wine club.

WHISKEY, WHISKEY, WHISKEY

My favorite distillery, the American Craft Whiskey Distillery, will host their first Grand Whiskey Tasting event this Saturday, March 7, 2015, 1 p.m. at the distillery in Redwood Valley.

Jack Crispin Cain tasted through his array of liquid treats with me for a previous piece.

Jack Crispin Cain tasted through his array of liquid treats with me for a previous piece.

Distiller extraordinaire Jack Crispin Cain will pour a variety of Low Gap treats, including the 2-year-old Malted Wheat whiskey, Corn Barley Blended whiskey, Malted Rye Whiskey, barrel tastings of the Bourbon to be released October 2015, and more.

Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman’s Facebook group, Mendocino Bourbon Group, has grabbed up all of the spots. Happily, I am in the group, am pleased to purchase a ticket, and I’ll be attending with notebook so I can recap the event here in a future post.

The next chance for the general public to taste and purchase many of the whiskeys directly will be during A Taste of Redwood Valley, on Father’s Day weekend, Saturday, June 20 and Sunday, June 21, 2015.

Easier might be stepping up to the bar at Ukiah’s newest restaurant, Ritual, where Low Gap Whiskey is served.

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John On Wine – Halcón Vineyards, just in time for Thanksgiving dinner

Originally published in  the Ukiah Daily Journal newspaper on Thursday, November 20, 2014

“I just found your site. Great to see someone focused on Mendo. Okay if I drop off samples?”

With this e-mail introduction, I came to meet Paul Gordon of Halcón Vineyards, allowing that we haven’t met in person yet, but have traded emails and I did indeed get those samples. Paul lives in Sunnyvale, but made a detour to Hopland on the way to Halcón Vineyards to drop off three wines. In the spring, I look forward to visiting Halcón Vineyards with Paul, and I’ll add pictures to the online archived version of this column then.

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Halcón is “a vineyard on the top of Yorkville Ranch at 2,500 feet. A cold, windy location with very rocky, thin soils,” Paul wrote, continuing, “we planted Rhone varieties, mainly Syrah. We also buy Roussane and Marsanne from Alder Springs.”

With regard to the samples, Paul asked me to, “please give them some air (even the white). The Grenache particularly is better the next day after opening.”

Each of the three wines dropped off for me had fanciful proprietary names, Prado, Esquito, and Alturas.

The 2012 Halcón Prado is a 50/50 blend of Rousanne and Marsanne, two Rhone white varieties and, according to the tech sheet provided, “represents the second Halcón vintage utilizing fruit from Alder Springs…meticulously farmed, the vines are planted in low vigor, hillside soils at well over 2,000 feet in elevation.” The Prado was aged in French oak, 20% new, and bottled unfined and unfiltered. The alcohol runs 14.3%, there were 180 cases produced, and the retail price is $32.

Pouring a taste, swirling it, the color is the pale yellow of spring’s first corn, and the wine offers up aromas of rich, sweet, fleshy fruit, orchard and tropical, lemon curd, butter, caramel, and a touch of vanilla and nutmeg spice, with pleasingly delicious balanced flavors of peach, apricot, apple, juicy ripe pineapple, and a long lingering finish, tapering away slowly, with all the flavors intact, but slowly, oh so slowly diminishing. The malic acid only becomes noticeable when the last sweeter flavors melt away.

The 2012 Halcón Esquito is a red Rhone blend, of 65% Grenache, 30% Mourvedre and 5% Syrah, and the fruit comes from Halcón’s estate vineyard, at 2,500 feet, one of the highest vineyards in California, in the Yorkville Highlands appellation. The vineyards offer views of both the Anderson Valley and Pacific Ocean beyond. The provided tech sheet promises a wine that, “combines bright, red fruited Grenache with a brooding, earthy Mourvedre. The Syrah pulls the pieces together and rounds out the palate.” The Esquito was aged in neutral French oak puncheons (larger oak barrels), and bottled unfined and unfiltered. The alcohol runs 14.1%, there were 220 cases produced, and the retail price is $32.

The 2012 Halcón Esquito is midway between translucent and opaque, and a rich purpley garnet color. Nosing and tasting yield dry cherry, black pepper, woody herb, and olive aromas, and flavors of cherry, pluot, dry cranberry, all in a lip smackingly delicious sip.

The 2012 Halcón Alturas is 97% Syrah and 3% co-fermented Viognier, fermented with natural yeasts, 20% new French oak puncheons, with no fining or filtering. The alcohol runs 13.5%, there were 325 cases produced, and the retail price is $32.

Darker, more opaque, the 2012 Halcón Alturas is a deep ruby color, and is simply bursting with juicy ripe red fruit. Direct, but the right notes. On the tongue, a little candied tart strawberry fruit blends with riper black cherry and blackberry. This wine tests my wine taster’s discipline, begging to be drunk, and not sipped or spit.

These wines are delicious multi noted and perfectly suited to going up against the wide variety of foods found at a Thanksgiving dinner table and pairing well with everything. I love Rhone wines, Rhone blends, am partial to Grenache/Syrah/Mourvedre blends, so was surprised to find myself most in love with the last wine, the Alturas, the wine almost entirely made from Syrah. Both reds balance tart candied fruit with darker riper fruit, providing a broad range of flavors and full mouthfeel, on medium bodied wines.

All three Halcón Vineyards’ wines are available for purchase at SIP! Mendocino in Hopland; and may be found on the wine lists of the Boonville Hotel, Stone and Embers restaurant, and the Albion River Resort in Mendocino County.

For more information about the wines and vineyards of Halcón, visit http://www.HalcónVineyards.com.

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A Taste of Redwood Valley’s 12th Annual Holiday Wine Sale & Juried Artisan Faire is this weekend, Saturday, November 22 and Sunday, November 23, from 11-5 each day. Bring a glass and visit Graziano Family of Wines and Germain-Robin/Craft Distillers, open Saturday only, and Frey Vineyards, Giuseppe Wines / Neese Vineyards, Silversmith Vineyards, Brown Family Wines , Barra of Mendocino / Girasole Vineyards, and Testa Vineyards, open both Saturday and Sunday, for complimentary wine tasting, new releases, and discounts up to 40% on wine and spirits. For more information, visit http://www.atasteofredwoodvalley.com.

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Last night, as I write this and not as you read this, I attended the sixth Chef’s Wine Dinner at Crush in Ukiah. This one, smack in the middle of the Mendocino County Mushroom, Wine & Beer Festival, had Chef Jesse and his team serving up one amazing mushroom dish after another, and the wines were all from Cesar Toxqui Cellars and paired perfectly with the food. Two nights from now, again as I write this and not as you read this, I will be attending a similar mushroom dinner at Barra of Mendocino featuring the wines of…Barra of course! You can find recaps, word and pictures, from those two dinners online at http://www.JohnOnWine.com. Looking forward, the next big Chef’s Wine Dinner will be at Crush in Ukiah, during Mendocino County’s Crab, Wine & Beer Fest, will feature Dungeness Crab and the wines of McFadden Farm, on Wednesday, January 21, 2015 at 6:00 pm. Tickets are $75, include food, wine, tax, and tip, and are available at Crush in Ukiah, in the McFadden Farm Stand & Tasting Room in Hopland, or online at www.McFaddenFarm.com.

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John On Wine ­ – Three events for wine (and fun) lovers

John Cesano of John On Wine

John Cesano of John On Wine

Originally published in the Ukiah Daily Journal on Thursday, May 29, 2014

A Taste of Redwood Valley

The 23rd annual A Taste of Redwood Valley wine weekend is coming up Saturday, June 14 and Sunday, June 15, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day. Tickets are $30 online at http://www.ATasteOfRedwoodValley.com and include wine tasting at seven wineries as well as my favorite distillery location — all in the Redwood Valley just north of Ukiah — gourmet food tastes to pair with the wines, a collectible event logo glass, gift drawings at each spot, music, and more over Father’s Day weekend. You can also show up at any participating winery or distiller and pick up a ticket during the event for $35.

Barra of Mendocino/Girasole Vineyards, Brown Family Wines, Frey Vineyards, Germain-Robin/Crispin’s Concoctions, Giusepe Wines/Neese Vineyards, Graziano Family of wines, Silversmith Vineyards, and Testa Vineyards will all be pouring their best wines, pairing them with yummy treats, running sales, and making visitors happy to be spending a weekend in Mendocino County.

There will also be a Winemaker Dinner on Friday, June 13 at 6 p.m., with Brown Family Wines playing host to dinner attendees. If you attended last year’s Friday night Winemaker Dinner at Testa Vineyards, then you remember how delicious the dinner was. With Tia Satterwhite returning to cater the event again this year, folks that attend will be sure to have an enjoyable evening. Tickets are $60 each, also available online. Buying a ticket for both the weekend wine tasting and the dinner saves you a little, with an $85 price for all three days of fun, wine, and dinner.

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Coro Release Party

On Saturday, June 28 at 6 p.m., a lucky few will gather at the Little River Inn on the Mendocino Coast for the 2011 Vintage Coro Release Party.

Seating is limited, and reservations are required for this $500 per couple experience.

The evening kicks off with a welcome reception cocktail hour and a pouring of each participating winery’s white and sparkling wine selections paired with passed appetizers. Moving inside, Chef Marc Dym’s multi course gourmet dinner is served and features dishes created to highlight the wines, which are the stars of the evening.

The 2011 vintage saw eight wineries create Coro Wines to the exacting quality standards which set this program apart in the wine industry; they are Barra, Brutocao, Clos du Bois, Fetzer, Golden, McFadden, Parducci, and Testa.

Each couple will take home a full set of the 2011 Coro Mendocino collection, and one lucky couple will have their collection upgraded to a set of Magnums.

There are only 20 or so couple tickets left; call the Little River Inn directly to secure your seats at (707) 937-5942.

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Annual Party at McFadden Farm

This was originally a Wine Club BBQ, but has grown over the years and is more inclusive with many attendees who aren’t wine club members coming up to McFadden Farm in Potter Valley for a spectacularly enjoyable party.

Always held on the second Saturday of July — July 12, 2014 this year — tickets are limited to the first 225 who grab them, and with a 500 acre farm as the setting for the party that number seems intimate.

Tickets are $60 each, McFadden wine club members get two tickets at $50 each, and children 12 and under are welcome at $20 each. Tickets are available online at http://www.McFaddenFarm.com or by calling the tasting room in Hopland at (707) 744-8463.

Guests show up at 5: p.m. (or earlier if they want to set up a tent and camp overnight, after the festivities), park and take a hay ride to the event location on the bank of the Russian River where it begins, quickly checked in, then enjoy a welcome glass or two of McFadden wine. Guinness gathers folks who are interested and gives them a walking tour of the farm. The Kelly McFarling Band will play folks into a delicious Mendo simple dinner of grilled Magruder pork and Guntley lamb, with farm to table vegetable, salad, and dessert dishes prepared by CCA graduated chef Anne Fontaine McFadden and her team of chef friends from San Francisco.

Dinner will be served with a collection of award winning, highly rated wines, and the first ever McFadden Brut Rosé will be released for the evening, from the highly acclaimed 2012 vintage.

Raffle prizes are given away, and special sale prices are extended the evening’s guests so everyone can feel like a winner whether they take a raffle prize or not.

D.J. extraordinaire Hal Wagenet ­ also candidate for Mendocino County 3rd District Supervisor – takes over with the music, and the music continues late into the evening.

Wine and bubbly inspired dancing goes on until 11 p.m., or so. I am usually gone before then, but I have heard that some campers have pulled out a boom box and dancing continued into the early morning hours.

 

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John On Wine – Fantastic February Food and Fun Festival Fare

Originally published on February 7, 2014 in the Ukiah Daily Journal newspaper by John Cesano

I write what I write, sometimes knowing well in advance what it will be, and other times not knowing until I sit down and the words begin to flow from fingertip to computer monitor. This week, I knew what I was going to write because you, my readers, told me what to write.

I receive the occasional recommendation from readers about which winery I should visit and review, or suggestion for a wine related topic that I should turn into a column, but the number of people who stopped me to tell me that I must write about Uncorked, and the passion they conveyed when speaking about eating there, was persuasively impressive.

Last Thursday, after work, I took my son to Uncorked for dinner.

Uncorked Wine Bistro is located on the north side of the courthouse in downtown Ukiah, between Patrona and Saucy, on West Standley Street.

When Charlie and I arrived, T.J. Elton of the Felt Tips was offering up some dinner music, while owner Kerri Barnett was in near constant motion, making sure everything was going well for the evening’s guests.

I’ve been to Uncorked before, and every time it has been an ‘order several things and share’ experience. This was no different. We ordered the Scrimshaw Shrimp and Bacon-wrapped scallops from the Small & Sharing Plates section of the menu, and a French dip and Roasted Cuban Garlic Chicken from the Big Ol’ Plates side of the menu.

Uncorked offers three flights, that they call Wine Sips, where three half glasses of wine are served and can be paired with different foods, making the night more fun. I passed on the red and rose, choosing white wine; 2010 Monte Volpe Tocai Friulano, 2010 Dom de la Collonge (France) Pouilly Fuisse, and 2012 La Playa (Chile) Sauvignon Blanc.

The Scrimshaw Shrimp, poached in Scrimshaw Pilsner, was delicious, with a lovely bright acid from a spicy lemon sauce allowing the natural sweetness of the perfectly seasoned shrimp to pop.

Bacon-wrapped Scallops? Seriously, two of God’s favorite creations together in one, or more if you’re dainty, big bite. What’s not to love?

The wine flight really was great too. Greg Graziano’s sweet Tocai Friulano was a terrific food wine. The French Pouilly Fuisse, a Chardonnay, had a nice light oak and apple nose, that didn’t quite deliver on the palate. The reverse holds for the Sauvignon Blanc, which was much more delicious than first sniff promised.

The French Dip was a Panini styled sandwich with grilled onions and a horseradish mustard sauce, served with a side of Au Gratin Potatoes. Quite good.

The Roasted Cuban Garlic Chicken was flavorfully spicy and very delicious, as were the Mashed sweet Potatoes it was served with.

Everything we enjoyed was so good, we decided on a pair of desserts, too.

I had the Uncorked Smores, an enormous amount of rich dark chocolate ganache, topped with a toasted sweet meringue puff, and served with a housemade graham cracker. Excellent.

Smaller, but more concentratedly delicious is the Housemade Maple ice Cream with Bourbon Pecan Praline Sauce that my son Charlie ordered. Intensely flavorful. I’m getting one of these on my next visit.

Charlie also had an Abita Root Beer. Uncorked has terrific and tasty beverage selections for folks who are too young to drink alcohol, and a great selection of draft and bottled artisan brews for those who prefer brew to wine.  As you would expect from the name, Uncorked Wine Bistro shines in the wine selection, offering over 40 wines, carefully selected to pair well with food, by the bottle or glass.

The atmosphere invites conversation among tables, and I not only knew what everyone else had ordered, but how much they enjoyed their dishes as well.

For reservations, call (707) 463-1523.
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February Events:

The International Alsace Varietals Festival – Saturday, February 8, 2014, 8:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. – Mendocino County Fairgrounds in Boonville, CA. Tickets range from $45 to $100 for educational sessions to the grand tasting, or the complete package, and the focus is on Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Muscat. Participants include Balo, Barra, Breggo, Cutruzzola, Esterlina, Goldeneye, Greenwood Ridge, Foris, Handley, Husch, Lazy Creek, Left Foot Charley, Lula, McFadden, Navarro, New Zealand Winegrowers, Philo Ridge, Phillips Hill, Domaines Schlumberger, Toulouse, Robert Sinskey,  Stoney Hill, Thomas Fogarty, Tatomer, Valckenberg, and more. For more information, or to buy tickets, visit http://www.avwines.com/alsace-festival/

Fifth Annual Chocolate and Wine Festival – February 8, 2014, 11:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. – $20 admission gets a special glass and tastes throughout the Redwood Valley of Mendocino county. Participants include Frey, Oster, Giuseppe/Neese, Silversmith, Brown, Graziano, Germain Robin/Craft Distillers, Barra/Girasole, and Testa. http://www.atasteofredwoodvalley.com/

Second Saturday in Hopland – February 8, 2014, 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. – Hopland winery tasting rooms offer complimentary food pairing treats for special wines, and a special one day discount on those wines every Second Saturday of the year. Participating wineries include Cesar Toxqui, Graziano, McFadden, McNab Ridge, Naughty Boy, and Ray’s Station. http://www.destinationhopland.com/all-events

San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition Public Tasting – Saturday, February 15, 2014, 1:30 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. – Every Gold Medal, Double Gold Medal, Best of Class, and Sweepstakes awarded wine from the largest judging of American wines in the world will be poured; that is several hundred wines to choose from. Participating Mendocino County wineries include Alder Springs, Bliss/Brutocao, Campovida, Cesar Toxqui, Handley, Husch, Kimmel, McFadden, Naughty Boy, Navarro, Parducci, Philo Ridge, Seebass, and more.  $65 in advance, $80 at the door. http://www.winejudging.com/event_tickets.htm

Eighth Annual Dark & Delicious Petite Sirah – Friday, February 21, 2014, 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. – 46 wineries pour their big and bold Petite Sirah wines, including Artezin and Parducci from Mendocino County, alongside knock out food pairings, at Rockwall Wine Co in Alameda, CA. $65 ticket. http://www.darkdelicious.brownpapertickets.com/

 

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