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John On Wine ­ – Summer Wine

Originally published in the Ukiah Daily Journal newspaper on Thursday, May 15, 2014; written by John Cesano
John Cesano of John On Wine

John Cesano of John On Wine

I do not know why wine appreciation breeds elitist snobs, but it does. Frasier Crane and his brother Niles, television’s most beloved pair of pretentious snobs, famously loved wine. They weren’t even aware of their snobbery or pretension, and would argue that elitism is a desirable trait.

I agree that elitism is a good thing, as the alternative is seeking mediocrity or worse, but walking around with a stick up your butt, well, that is far less attractive.

A few years back, when I first wrote a piece about blush and rosé wines, I had no difficulty finding plenty of folks damning all pink and lightly colored wines, and nearly all were simply jackasses.

Sweet wines? Same thing. So many self-professed wine experts dismiss Riesling and Gewurztraminer as “not serious” wines, unworthy of consumption.

This even affects some wine competition judges and magazine wine writers who disdain any wine not red, and any red not Cabernet Sauvignon, and can’t see to rate blush wines on a genuine 100 point scale, creating an artificial high possible mark for these non-serious wines, perhaps a 94 for the best possible example of a rosé or Gewurztraminer.

Some of the best wines, especially best summer wines, are either sweet, or pink, or both. I love Cabernet Sauvignon, but some of the best red wines aren’t Cabernet.

The best tasting wine for me at this year’s big Zinfandel Advocates and Producers event was quite possibly the least serious wine, McNab Ridge’s Zinzilla.

With a name inspired by a Japanese movie monster, and a blend sure to make all snobs turn at least half a nose up – the wine is 50% Mendocino County and 50% Lodi grapes. Folks from Mendocino County will look down on the Lodi portion, folks from Lodi will look down on the Mendocino County portion, and folks from Sonoma County’s Dry Creek Valley will look down on all of the grapes. Pure snobbery. The wine tastes good, damn good.

The fact that I happened to pair this wine with a perfect pairing cheese, which undoubtedly made Zinzilla taste better, is beside the point. Wine is meant to be paired, and the two things wine pair best with are food and friends. Either can make a wine taste better, both can make a wine taste outstanding.

Anyway, I’m seeing a nice run on our drier Alsatian styled Gewurztraminer as we head into summer temperatures, and I’m looking at baking a ginger cake to pair it with at a near future event. Serving wine with food to friends; that’s what I am talking about.

Blush or rosé wines are some of my favorite wines. I would love for my boss to reverse engineer the Navarro Rosé of Pinot, a near perfect wine, not sweet, but lovely fruit, light, crisp, refreshing. Delicious. Naughty Boy, Graziano, Ray’s Station, Saracina, Campovida, Testa, Seebass, and Carol Shelton all make delicious pink wines from Mendocino County grapes.

The most maligned wine among wine critics is Sutter Home’s White Zinfandel. In truth, I do not like it, but not because it is pink, which is enough for most critics; I do not like it because I found it to be out of balance, spiky acid and synthetic candy fruit notes. Still, drop me into a party where the host is pouring it, and I can sip my way through a glass.

Rather than taste at Sutter Home, I would rather taste at another of the family’s properties, Trinchero Napa Valley, where everything served is delicious; rather than taste Sutter Home’s White Zinfandel, I would rather taste any of many dozens well-made dry pink wines. These are just easier wines to pair with foods.

Speaking of pink wines, while Americans look down at pink bubblies, Brut Rosé, because the wrong notions of pompous wine critics have tainted the general population, in Europe the blush option is most highly sought and the bubblies of color in Champagne cost more than the mere Brut.

I LOVE Brut Rosé, and am thrilled my boss made one. We’re going to release it at our big annual farm party on July 12, and it will sell out quickly. Make tasting it a priority. Until then, Roederer, Scharfenberger, and Terra Savia all have a Brut Rosé available now.

My last wife called me a wine snob, and I certainly am discerning when it comes to wine, but hopefully I’m not a jackass with a stick up my butt. Don’t worry, there are still plenty of them, and they don’t need me to join them.

Drink the wine you like, sweet and pink wines are not just beginner wines, but can be wines worth seeking out this summer. The best wine is the one you have in front of you when your friend is beside you. Make it happen.

Maybe, I’ll be a few seats down, enjoying a non-serious wine too.

 

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John on Wine – Contests and Donations

Originally published in the Ukiah Daily Journal on September 26, 2013 by John Cesano

    Because many folks in the wine industry and my friends that work at our area’s wineries read this column, this week I am writing to let them know about two things the California Alcoholic Beverage Control – CA ABC – would like them to know about.

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CONTESTS

    It wasn’t that long ago that Sutter Home winery in Napa Valley first had to exclude Californians from entering their Build a Better Burger contest, and then had to move the contest out of the state completely to avoid breaking the laws that existed regarding what wineries could give away.

    I wrote about the contest and the laws years ago, and suggested at the time that Sutter Home’s parent company Trinchero Family Estates use some of their substantial political power to see our legislature change the laws regarding contests for wineries.

    Today, Californians can Build a Better Burger, and they can do so at Sutter Home’s winery location here in California.

    Wineries may now have contests offering participants the opportunity to receive or compete for gifts, prizes, gratuities, or other things of value as determined by skill, knowledge, or ability rather than upon random selection. Skill, knowledge, or ability does not include the consumption or use of alcoholic beverages.

    Similarly, wineries can hold sweepstakes whereas a procedure, activity, or event for the distribution of anything of value by lot, chance, or random selection where the odds of winning a prize are equal for each entry. Again, consumption or use of alcohol may not be part of the sweepstakes.

    The legislature doesn’t make simple laws for the CA ABC to enforce, so read all the rules in the industry advisory at http://www.abc.ca.gov/index.html.

    Alcohol cannot be the prize and use of alcohol cannot be part of an entry. There will be no “Win a case of wine” or “One entry with each bottle purchased.”

    That said, a winery can give away olive oil, or pottery, or logo branded t-shirt through a Facebook contest; a winery could give away a boxed gift pack of organic herbs in a drawing of people who sign up for a monthly newsletter; or a winery could give away a Christmas Tree or holiday herb wreath to the person who sends in the best holiday food recipe.

    There are many exciting opportunities to increase your marketing reach, and engage in fun new ways, that were once prohibited, with your customers.

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DONATIONS

    Sometimes the cause is good, sometimes almost frivolous. They come in. Perhaps they call. Maybe they email. Sometimes, they do all three: “Hi, I’m calling because you were out when I visited, and I haven’t received a response to my email, but …,” they’re asking for wine. Relentlessly, they ask.

    For small production winery tasting rooms like the one I work at, the requests for free wine can easily exceed production.

    This year, representatives from the CA ABC, attended winery conferences to put the word out that while anyone can ask a winery for a donation of wine, wineries may only make a donation to a non-profit with a valid liquor license.

    To keep from running afoul of state law, a winery should collect copies of both the letter from the Internal Revenue Service determining non-profit status with a tax identification number, and a CA ABC daily license authorization.

    Whether charging an event ticket price where wine is poured, or selling wine, or auctioning wine, each non-profit organization must fill out a form ABC-221, and send the application at least three weeks before the event along with a nominal required fee to the closest CA ABC district office. In time, the CA ABC will sign, date, and stamp the application, and at that point it becomes an authorization.

    When approaching a winery tasting room asking for a donation, it is best to have copies of both papers in hand. Again, the CA ABC does not make laws, but they enforce them and their recent public sharing of the requirements for tasting rooms when making wine donations may very well be the first step toward enforcement, with penalties against a wineries license for infractions.

    To be clear, David Bailey who heads up the Santa Rosa district office of the CA ABC says that a winery making a wine contribution to anyone other than a non-profit with an IRS determination letter, holding a CA ABC form ABC-221 daily license authorization is, “exceeding their license privileges,” and subject to both, “suspension and a fine.” He said the penalty can vary, but the suspension could likely be 15 days and the fine $10,000.

    If you are seeking a donation, be aware, we will not put our winery license in jeopardy, so spend a nominal fee and do things legally.

    There are plenty of folks who we donate to, they have their paperwork in order and are a joy to work with. There are a couple of folks this year that I wish we could have donated to that did not have any paperwork at all and they could easily get their license, so I hope they do so next year. Also, working for a small winery tasting room, I must confess that the law actually helped us reduce the number of requests to consider.

I am writing this blog post from a borrowed PC; I find the exercise nearly painful. I can use a PC at work, at school, but I have not used a PC at home for several years.

I have written every post on one computer, my iMac, and it was stricken a few days ago with a computer ailment and refuses to boot up.

In addition to the ease of article creation that comes with the Apple OS, allowing effortless manipulation of pictures and text, I had a second monitor linked to my iMAC allowing me two large screens to spread bits of text, quotes, pictures, articles, so that I could easily pull from them to craft a little blog post.

I have made an appoiontment with a computer psychologist to delve into why my iMac is impersonating a PC. I should be back writing posts soon. My next two posts, unless something juicier captures my attention, will be about 1) Sutter Home’s Build A Better Burger Contest (exploring the exclusion of Californians and whether the contest may be in violation of laws, codes, regulations) and 2) a follow up on my follow up of my article (or 3rd article in a continuing series) about the threat the European Grapevine Moth poses to Mendocino County’s green winemaking industry.

I visited Trinchero Napa Valley in St. Helena this week and tasted several wines poured by Michael Stopka, who was about as good as a winery representative gets – friendly, knowledgeable, and happy.

The Trinchero Napa Valley Tasting Room

For those of you unfamiliar with the Trinchero name, you have probably seen, tasted, or bought one or more of the wines made by the Trinchero family. Most famously, as I wrote in January, the Trinchero family owns Sutter Home and Bob Trinchero is generally credited with being the first to make White Zinfandel as you know it.

I also wrote about another Trinchero wine that I had with Christmas dinner, and pointed to as what wine can and should be, delicious, readily available, and affordable; the 2008 Menage a Trois from Folie a Deux winery.

From Bandit in the 1 Liter Tetra Pak to Australia’s Angove wines, from the ubiquitous Sutter Home White Zinfandel to Montevina and Terra d’Oro in the Sierra foothills, the Trinchero family are as important a name in California wine as any.

Wine Spectator honored Bob Trinchero for “having introduced more Americans to wine on the table than anyone else in history.”

The wines of Trinchero Napa Valley are the pinnacle of the family’s offerings. These are premium wines of limited production, hand crafted from single Napa Valley vineyards.

Built on the site of what had been Folie a Deux, Trinchero Napa Valley is surrounded by Mario’s Vineyard, named for the winery founding family patriarch, Mario Trinchero.

Mario’s Vineyard, St. Helena

Coincidentally, the winemaker is another Mario, Mario Monticelli. Monticelli’s father Marcello was the winemaker for the largest winery in the world, and at the age of 14, a young Mario was making wine in his father’s garage. Monticelli grew up in vineyards, learned about wine from vine to glass from his family, attended the University of California at Davis (the nation’s premier school for Enology and Viticulture), worked at the Antinori wine estates in Italy, and then at Quixote Winery before coming to Trinchero Napa Valley.

These are the wines Stopka poured for me:

2009 Trinchero Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc, Mary’s Vineyard, Calistoga $24 - This is the only white wine made at Trinchero Napa Valley. 100% Stainless Steel held, not shy, varietally correct. Stone fruit, lemon, grass/hay, and I hate to say this because people freak out, but cat pee. This is a normal and appropriate aroma for the varietal, if I didn’t mention it, you wouldn’t notice it; oddly it is not off putting, and this is a great tasting, refreshing Sauvignon Blanc. Absolutely delicious, the best I have tasted in a long time. 13.5% alc., 1,480 cases.

2007 Trinchero Napa Valley Merlot, Chicken Ranch Vineyard, Rutherford $35Biodynamically farmed. Really round, nice cedar cigar oak tannin, great smooth round fruit, dark cherry berry and herb. 14.2% alc., 1,420 cases.

2007 Trinchero Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Chicken Ranch Vineyard, Rutherford $35 - Biodynamically farmed. Dark purple perfume, cocoa, cherry, cassis, really nice structure. Rutherford dust. 14.2% alc., 3,330 cases.

2007 Trinchero Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Mario’s Vineyard, St. Helena $50Lush, delicious. great floral perfume. Purest blackberry note ever. Elegant. 15.3% alc., 950 cases.

2007 Trinchero Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Clouds Nest Vineyard, Mt. Veeder $50 - Expressive. Inky, rich, smooth. Cherry, earth, herb. Super fine  chewy tannin. 14.2% alc., 760 cases.

2007 Trinchero Napa Valley Meritage, Napa Valley $50 79 % Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Merlot, 7% Petit Verdot, and 1% Cabernet Franc. Blackberry, blueberry, cherry, rose perfume, tobacco, cedar. The complete flavor palette for your palate. . Really gorgeous balance. 14% alc., 1,770 cases.

The winery is Bordeaux focused, and the combination of great grapes, great vintages, and great winemaker allowed me to enjoy one perfect wine after another. Tying the wines together was the winemaker’s choice to let the grapes be the star; showing finesse and grace, with fine tannins, perfect balance, all were smooth, round, and easy to enjoy, while positively full of flavor; but complex and layered, displaying subtlety rather that the explosive fruit bomb all too common elsewhere. Terrifically integrated. These are grown up wines.

The grounds of Trinchero Napa Valley

In addition to daily tastings from 10am – 5pm at $15 and $20, the tasting room offers special seminars by appointment.

On Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, guests can experience “A Taste of Terroir,” a horizontal tasting and evaluation of four Trinchero Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons; Atlas Peak, Mt. Veeder, Rutherford, and St. Helena. $40 per person.

On Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday, guest can take part in “The Sensory Challenge,” featuring a test of your nose as you try to correctly identify aromas present in wines using the Le Nez du Vin aroma kits. Also included is a sit down tasting of currently released wines. $35 per person.

Both appointment seminars include a tour of the brand new state of the art winery and last about 90 minutes.

The state-of-the-art Trinchero Napa Valley Winery, tour by special appointment

Trinchero Napa Valley is located at 3070 N. St. Helena Highway in St. Helena, CA. The wine club is called the Legacy Club, and members receive a 20% discount on wine and merchandise purchases from the winery, and the phone number for information or to make a seminar experience appointment is (707) 963-1160.

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