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NorCal Wine Has Moved

Hi! The content here is no longer being updated. Please visit my new site at It has fresh, new content five days a week. Content from this site is gradually being migrated to the... Read more...

'Tis the Season to be Zinful

'Tis the Season to be Zinful

During this season, with visions of sugar plums dancing in my head, my thoughts often segue to Zinfandel. The soft and jammy berry fruit, welcoming spice and touch of sweetness goes wonderfully with... Read more...

New Tasting Rooms & a Grand Opening in Lodi

I’ve written numerous times about the increasing quality of wine coming out of Lodi. What I haven’t said much about is how the tasting room scene has been improving. My bad. There have been a number... Read more...

How You Can Contribute to Earthquake Relief in Napa

It’s been easy for some people from outside the immediate area to make jokes about “free run juice” and “air-lifts of water crackers,” but last week’s earthquake in southern Napa devastated... Read more...

A Tale of Two Conferences

In my last article, Cats and Dogs Blogging Together, I said there are two species of blogger: career bloggers and hobbyist bloggers. The North American Wine Bloggers’ Conferences could serve each... Read more...

Cats and Dogs Blogging Together

There are two species of wine bloggers. Within each species, there are many breeds—reporter, diarist, taster, storyteller, etc.—which have analogs in the other. But the two species are very different... Read more...

Getting the Wine Bloggers Conference We Deserve

I attended this year’s North American Wine Bloggers’ Conference in Santa Barbara last week. This was the fifth WBC I’ve attended. Some parts of the conference were truly excellent, many were interesting... Read more...

New White Wines and Rosés from Rutherford's Day in the Dust

Last Wednesday afternoon, the Rutherford Dust Society held their annual tasting for trade and media at Inglenook. Roughly 40 wineries were represented. I tasted 54+ wines (in addition to those from the... Read more...

6 More California Rhone Wines to Try at Rhone Rangers

It’s time for one more brief list of wines for you to seek out at the Rhone Rangers tasting this Sunday. Get your Grand Tasting tickets here and don’t forget to use the discount code: GT–20... Read more...

Lodi Zinfandel Goes Native

Lodi is well-known for Zinfandel. Of particular note are its many acres of old vines. Thick-trunked and twisted after all these years, they look more like short trees than grape vines. The fruit... Read more...

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Wine of the Day

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2010 Moone-Tsai Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley

2010 Moone-Tsai Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley

The exotic-sounding Moone-Tsai is a collaboration of Napa Valley business veterans (Mike Moone, Mary Ann Tsai and Larry Tsai) and star winemaker Philippe Melka. The flagship wine is Cor-Leonis, a luxurious... Read more...

2009 Hawk and Horse Cabernet Sauvignon

2009 Hawk and Horse Cabernet Sauvignon

The Hawk and Horse wines come from a sloping, 18-acre estate vineyard that reaches up to 2,200 feet in Lake County's Red Hills AVA. The deep red, volcanic soil is peppered with silicon-based crystals known... Read more...

Four from Falcone Family Vineyards

After many years of making wine together and separately at prominent wineries, Helen and John Falcone launched their own project, Falcone Family Vineyards, in 2002. Their eight-acre vineyard, about seven... Read more...

2010 Skinner Vineyards Estate Mourvedre, El Dorado

The potential for great wine growing in the Sierra Foothills is massive, particularly for Rhone varieties. In recent years, quality in the bottle has started delivering on that. Skinner Vineyards and Winery... Read more...

2012 Masut Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir, Mendocino County

Bobby Fetzer managed the vineyards and bought grapes for his family’s Fetzer Vineyards,[1] founded in 1968, until the business was sold to Brown-Forman in 1992. Four years later, he bought 1,500 acres... Read more...

2010 Gallica Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley

Holy cow, this a gorgeous wine. I tasted—no, I drank—it last night at The Restaurant at Wente Vineyards. [The restaurant is offering 50% off all bottles on their wine list this month, so now’s the... Read more...

2011 Harney Lane Old Vine Zinfandel Lizzy James Vineyard Lodi

Lodi is well-known for old vine Zinfandel with many vines planted more than a century ago. Some of Lodi’s grape-growing families have participated in as many vintages themselves. The Schnaidt-Mettler... Read more...

2006 Santana Supernatural Rosé by Mumm Napa

Mumm Napa has been making sparkling wines in concert with Carlos Santana for several years now. 100% of Santana’s proceeds from the sales go to agencies helping to prevent and/or remedy youth substance... Read more...

2011 Jekel Riesling Monterey and 2011 Jekel Pinot Noir Santa Barbara

Riesling is one of the wine world’s best values. Whether the bottle comes from Germany, Australia, Alsace, Washington State, New York or a cool region in California, you can consistently get more flavor... Read more...

2012 Matthiasson Chardonnay Linda Vista Vineyard Napa Valley

My first experience with Matthiasson wines was six or seven years ago. Jill and Steve Matthiasson hosted a crowd of wine bloggers/writers/tweeters to an al fresco buffet and tasting at their home/orchard/vineyard... Read more...

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Art & Wine: Tasting With the North Coast Rhone Rangers

Members of the North Coast Chapter of the Rhone Rangers are joining together to offer wine afficiandos a chance to taste Rhone wines from 15 wineries. The event is from 3-7 p.m. on Tuesday,... Read more...

Resonance Vineyard Sold to Maison Louis Jadot

Resonance Vineyard Sold to Maison Louis Jadot

Resonance Vineyard is in Oregon's Willamette Valley, not northern California. But it's a vineyard of significance and it's sale to Maison Louis Jadot is a stunner as Jadot has no other properties outside... Read more...

Araujo Estate Wine Dinner

Araujo Estate, one of Napa Valley’s most lauded wineries was just purchased by the owner of Bordeaux’ Chateau Latour. The move came as a surprise to many—the offer was even a surprise to Bart and... Read more...

Tickets remain for Sunday's West of West Wine Tasting

3rd Annual West of West Wine Festival 2013 showcases acclaimed West Sonoma Coast wines in weekend long event at The Barlow facility in Sebastapol. 40 top producers and growers will host the trade... Read more...

Wine Market Council Initiates U.S. Wine Club Study

New study will provide members with valuable wine club data   St. Helena, CA, July 29, 2013—Wine Market Council, the non-profit association of grape growers, wine producers, importers, wholesalers,... Read more...

La Follette Wines Launches Friday Night Music Series

Local Bands To Play at La Follette Tasting Room at The Barlow in Sebastopol   Sebastopol, CA (July 29, 2013) – La Follette Wines is adding to the attraction of its new tasting room at The... Read more...

Green Winery Opens Tasting Room at Solar Living Institute

In what I suspect is the first such tie-in ever, Mendocino County's Parducci Wine Cellars has opened a tasting room within the Real Goods Solar store at the Solar Living Institute in Hopland. This co-location... Read more...

Hess Collection Acquires MacPhail Family Wines

Small-lot Pinot Noir specialist James MacPhail has been producing high-end wines under the MacPhail Family Wines label since 2002. The wines, predominantly vineyard-designates from Sonoma Coast and... Read more...

Calling Everyone Called Raymond

I don't normally push winery promos. And, actually, I'm not pushing this one. But I do think it's fun. And it gives me an excuse to use the video clip above, for which I'm totally sure you'll thank me.... Read more...

Now Astronauts have an Excuse to Drink Red Wine on the Job

A study by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology indicates that consumption of resveratrol can slow the effects that lack of exercise has on the human body. Resveratrol is found... Read more...

Gallo Buys Edna Valley Vineyard and Winery

E & J Gallo has signed an agreement to purchase Edna Valley Vineyards and Winery. The winery is currently owned by Diageo and Paragon Vineyard Company in a joint venture. Edna Valley Vineyards sources... Read more...

Crunk and Disorderly

An American is stirring up trouble in the UK. It’s not some out-of-control tourist though, or even an ex-pat one-word-named musician. It’s a drink. In a can. Read more...

French Wine Consumption Dropped 42% in the Past 60 Years

French wine consumption has dropped by 42% in just two generations. France is arguably the most famous country in the world for producing wine and for drinking it. But now, only 16.5% of the French... Read more...

Train to Produce Wine

The musical group Train has announced that it will be offering "Drops of Jupiter" Petite Sirah. Read more...

What's Worse than Bad Counterfeit Wine

Photo: David Haberthür You've heard about scams in which fake bottles of 1945 Lafite or the like are sold at auction to rich people for massive sums. But wine counterfeiters aren't proud. They'll rip... Read more...

Food & Wine

Pork Chops to Die For and the Wine is Half-Off!


As you may know, Wente Vineyards is not only a good wine producer, they have a very nice wine country restaurant. I consider the Restaurant at Wente Vineyards to be "King of the Pork Chop." It's their signature dish and I've never had a better chop anywhere. They use high-quality, responsibly-raised pork and smoke it themselves. (For those of you from Humboldt, I mean that they put it in a smoker, not that they wrap it in a Zig-Zag and set fire to it…)

In addition to searing a mean chop and offering many other tasty delights, they've got an excellent wine list put together by Sommelier Jorge Tinoco. It exclusively features wines from the West Coast (except for the bubbly and after-dinner drinks where outlanders do make an appearance). The list includes high-end offerings such as Kongsgaard, Araujo Estate and Pol Roger "Sir Winston Churchill" champagne, but they also have a couple of pages dedicated to bottles under $40.


As if that weren't attractive enough, the Restaurant has dubbed this month "Wine Month." All bottles of wine you purchase while dining in the restaurant are half-off! I confess that I drank their last bottle of 2005 Meander Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley last night. However, they have at least another 399 selections to choose from. I'm pretty sure you would find something to love.

The Restaurant at Wente Vineyards is open daily for lunch and dinner. (And you can get a pork chop for brunch on Sundays too!) You can call them direct for reservations, or go through Open Table.

The Restaurant at Wente Vineyards: 5050 Arroyo Road, Livermore CA 94550 – (925) 456-2450

CAV Wine Bar Drops Full Dinner Menu

This just in from CAV Wine Bar & Kitchen

There is no doubt, we have really pushed the envelope; not only on the wine front but also from a culinary standpoint. No easy task given how competitive the restaurant scene is in San Francisco. We have felt very lucky over the years to have had your support, and to have built a strong community and family around CAV. Without that, we wouldn't be able to branch out and embark on new endeavors. At CAV, wine is what makes us tick and it's the very pulse of who we are. That said, we've decided to get back to our roots and focus almost entirely on wine in very new and exciting ways.

So, as of July 6, we are eliminating the full dinner menu and replacing it with one that will have an extensive selection of cheese, house made charcuturie, house made smoked fish and similar items. While cheese and charcuterie have always been a cornerstone of our menu, the new emphasis will open up the opportunity for greater creative expansion and accompaniment with our wine program.

From here on out, in addition to being your go to wine bar, a major component of our new concept for CAV is to enhance its retail service. As always, we'll have the same diverse selection, but more than ever, we'll do it with an eye toward value. There are many wines that are under $20 a bottle that are surprisingly complex and ageworthy. Many of you don't have the time to discover them but we do. And there is more. If you purchase a CAV card worth $500 or more before July 6th, you will receive an additional 10% off future retail purchases and a personal consultation with yours truly so I can make sure to steer you in the right direction. It's all very simple, just respond to this e-mail with your phone number, and I will call you to set everything up.

This leaves you with four days to get in on some of the best food you will find in San Francisco. Since joining us as Executive Chef, John Maher has marveled many of us, and many in the press. Truly a rising star chef by any measurement, it has been an honor to work with him. If you can, try to come in over the next few days and experience his sensational food for yourself–the last day to get Chef Johnny's food will be Wednesday, June 30th. To make a reservation, please call (415) 437-1770 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Pamela S. Busch
Proprietor, Wine Director

Underdog Wine Bar Grand Opening in Livermore on August 14


The Underdog Wine Bar, a new hot spot for wine and food in Livermore will be holding its Grand Opening on August 14 from noon to 8PM. Located in the recently remodeled and expanded facilities at Concannon Winery, Underdog Wine Bar will offer more than 48 wines by the glass plus tasty small plates by chef Barbara Llewellyn. The Grand Opening will include live music during the day and a DJ in the evening, fire jugglers, contortionists and plenty of good wine and food.

Underdog Wine Bar will emphasize the wines of it's parent company, Underdog Wine Merchants. These include a wide range of wines, imported and domestic. Their brands include Big House, Darcie Kent, Cupcake Vineyards, Helfrich, Montecillo and Albino Armani.

I recently attended a sneak preview of the wine bar and will post a full article on that next week.

Underdog Wine Bar
4590 Tesla Road, Livermore, CA 94550 (at Concannon Vineyard).
(925) 583-1581
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Twitter: @underdogwinebar

Taking Wine and Food Pairing to the Next Level


How do you take a food and wine pairing dinner to the next level? And how do you bridge the gap to those Millenials that are drinking a lot of wine but being increasingly seduced by craft beer? You add beer! At least that's what the folks at the Columbia Firehouse in Old Town Alexandria did recently.

They put together six courses of food, each paired with both a wine and a beer. And, because everybody — especially guys — likes contests, they made it a competition. Which pairs better, beer or wine? You can find out in Dave McIntyre's article.

On a side note, the restaurant has both a wine director and a beer sommelier! I know where you're eating the next time you're in Alexandria...

11 Join Ranks of Advanced Sommeliers


The Court of Master Sommeliers conducted an Advanced Exam on August 13 in Cincinatti. Advanced is the third level of official qualification for sommeliers. Thirty-three Certified Sommeliers took the exhaustive test. Eleven passed. They can now begin to pursue Master Sommelier certification, though only 105 people in North America have managed to pass those exams to date.