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Spotlight on the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA

The Santa Lucia Highlands AVA was established in 1991. Commercial wine grape cultivation there started in the early 1970’s. Today, there are 45 vineyards and just over 6,000 acres under vine. The primary wine grapes grown in the Santa Lucia Highlands (SLH) are Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. They account for 80% of plantings. After that come Riesling, Syrah, Pinot Gris and Viognier. There are 13 or more other varieties grown, but none comprise as much as 60 acres.

Location

The Santa Lucia Highlands are located in Monterey County on the eastern side of the coastal Santa Lucia Range. This gives the AVA a long and narrow, north-south orientation, just 15 miles east of the ocean. SLH vineyards are on the west side of Foothill Rd., either on the hills themselves or the benches tucked up against them. The vineyards range from 300 to 1,400 feet in elevation.

The Santa Lucia Highlands AVA overlooks the Salinas River Valley and Highway 101. The valley runs southeast from Monterey Bay, allowing a substantial influx of cool air and fog. There is also a much smaller wind gap, through Carmel Valley which opens to the ocean below the bay. The fertile valley floor is planted with a wide variety of vegetables, including lettuce, tomatoes, spinach, broccoli and more.

To the south of the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA is the Arroyo Seco AVA, also in Monterey County. In July, 2006 the TTB realigned the border between these two AVAs slightly. The result was a transfer of 200 acres from Arroyo Seco to the Santa Lucia Highlands. The petition for change was made on behalf of E. & J. Gallo. There were three purposes for the change: making the Arroyo Seco AVA boundaries more similar to those of the original Arroyo Seco land grant, making the boundaries align with land ownership lines and to unite the Olson Ranch vineyards in one AVA. The majority of the Gallo-owned Olson Ranch had been in the Santa Lucia Highlands. Now they all are. [Note: the TTB documents mispell "Olson" as "Olsen."]

slh-location
The Santa Lucia Highlands AVA, Monterey County. Map by Mike Bobbitt & Associates.

Climate

The Santa Lucia Highlands offer a long growing season with plentiful sun. Cooling breezes and fog from Monterey Bay moderate vineyard temperatures though. With just 2286 degree days, the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA is a Region I, the coolest classification on the Winkler-Amerine heat summation scale. In terms of degree days, the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA is midway between Burgundy (1982) and the Russian River Valley (2580).

Pinot Noir and Chardonnay achieve excellent ripeness, due in part to the long Santa Lucia Highlands growing season mentioned above. The growing season can be understood through the monthly distribution of degree days. They range from approximately 180 in April to roughly 400 each in July, August and September, declining to 280 in October. Burgundy, farther north and with a continental climate, has a short growing season. It doesn't begin accumulating degree days until May (140), reaches a strong peak above 500 in July and August and then drops to less than 100 in October.

One could say the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA also has a long growing day. Daily temperatures are moderate during the ripening season. The average swing is just 18°F with highs consistently below 80° and lows above 60°. This allows phenolic ripeness to develop almost 24 hours per day. Thus, full flavor ripeness can be achieved with relatively low sugar levels as compared to regions with a more extreme diurnal variation. For example, the Russian River Valley AVA reaches 83° in the late afternoon but drops all the way down to 50° in the early morning. Those lows phenolic ripening to just 16 hours per day.

Wines and Wineries

The Santa Lucia Highlands AVA is widely respected for high-quality Chardonnay and Pinot Noir fruit. There is some truly great Syrah grown there as well. That said, the area may still be better known through some of it's top vineyards than as an overall AVA. The names Garys' Vineyard, Pisoni Vineyard, Mer Soleil Vineyard and Sleepy Hollow Vineyard have, among others, been featured on bottles from top wineries up and down the state. And, while there are many excellent vineyards in the AVA now, there are still relatively few wineries physcially located there.

Here's a selection of noteworthy labels producing wines from the Santa Lucia Highlands:
August West
Bernardus
Capiaux
Hope & Grace
Kosta-Brown
Lucia
Mer Soleil
Miner
Miura
Morgan
Novy
Patz & Hall
Paul Lato
Peter Michael
Pisoni
Sequana
Siduri
Talbott
Testarossa

Details

Latitude: 36.46° to 36.33°

Altitude: sea level to 2,100', vineyards from 300' to 1,400'

Climate:
Coastal/Mediterranean, 2286 degree days

Annual Rainfall: 13 inches

Soils: The most common soil in the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA is Chualar Loam (fine, alluvial loam derived from a variety of rock types, well-drained and typically found on slopes) at roughly 2,800 acres. There are approximately 1,000 acres of Arroyo Seco Gravelly Sandy Loam (coarse and gravelly calcareous loam, well-drained} and 500 acres of Placentia Sandy Loam (fine, granitic alluvial soil, moderate to well-drained). The balance is an assortment of 25 different soils.

Vineyard Acres: 6,100

Primary Grape Varieties: Pinot Noir and Chardonnay

AVA Organization: Wine Artisans of the Santa Lucia Highlands

A Selection of Significant Vineyards

Boekenoogen Vineyard - This vineyard was planted to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in 1998 on what had been the family's cattle ranch since 1870. Their winery, completed in 2007, is on site.

Doctor's Vineyard - Owned by Hahn Estate, the vineyard includes 193 acres of Pinot Noir (Calera, 115 and 113 clones). There is 46 acres Syrah, mostly at the western (highest) end of the vineyard and 4 acres of Malbec near a small, central reservoir.

Garys’ Vineyard - The 50-acre Garys' Vineyard is in the middle of the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA. It's operated by the Gary Franscioni (Roar Wines) and Gary Pisoni families — thus Garys' not Gary's. Planted in 1997, it's holds Pinot Noir (Pisoni clone) and Syrah on Arroyo Seco Sandy Loam.

Lone Oak Vineyard - A 146-acre vineyard in north-central SLH owned by Hahn Estate. It includes 98 acres of Chardonnay, 28 acres of Pinot Gris and  20 acres of Pinot Noir on Chualar Loam.


McIntyre Vineyard - The oldest Pinot Noir vines in the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA are found in McIntyre Vineyard's 80-acre certified-sustainable plot. They are 37 acres of own-rooted "Heritage clone" Pinot planted by the McFarland family in 1973. Steve McIntyre bought the land in March, 1987. Now there are also 10 acres of clones 115 and 777 Pinot Noir as well as 13 acres of Chardonnay clones(96 and 76). McIntyre vineyard lies in the central portion of the AVA, immediately adjacent to Foothill Road.

Mer Soleil Vineyard - Named for the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA's two hallmark characteristics — sea and sun — the Mer Soleil Vineyard lies at the northernmost extent of the appellation. Its owners, the Wagner family (Belle Glos, Caymus, Conundrum, Meiomi), believe that Chardonnay couldn't ripen any farther north in the valley because the cold Monterey Bay's influence would be too great. The vineyard was founded in 1988 and consists mostly of Chardonnay but also features white Rhone varieties.

Paraiso Vineyard - Paraiso Vineyard is one of the largest in the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA at 400 acres, 254 under vine. It is located in the southern portion of the appellation, downhill and east of the Pisoni Vineyard. Founded in 1973 and is certified sustainable. It's varietal mix is Pinot Noir (117 acres), Chardonnay (66), Riesling (43), Syrah (19), Souzao (7), Roussanne (1) and Viognier (0.5).

Pisoni Vineyard - The reknowned Pisoni Vineyard, first planted with 5 acres of Pinot Noir in 1982, now consists of 45 acres made up of several blocks with differing aspects, altitudes and viticultural regimes interspersed among unaltered acreage. At 1,300 feet it is the highest vineyard in the AVA. It is also the second-furthest south. The soil is decomposed granite with some gravelly loam, hard to plant but well-draining. The Pisoni vineyard includes Pinot Noir (some own-rooted), Chardonnay and Syrah. There had been Cabernet Sauvignon as well, but that was recently transitioned to Chardonnay
.
Rosella’s Vineyard - 50 acres planted in 1996 on Arroyo Seco Sandy Loam. Almost entirely Pinot Noir (Pisoni and Dijon 777) with a bit of Syrah, it's located between the Lone Oak and La Estancia vineyards, just north of Garys'. Operated by Gary Franscioni.

Sierra Mar Vineyard - Sierra Mar is located at 1,000 feet elevation, six miles south of the Garys' Vineyard. It was planted in 2007 to Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah and Viognier on decomposed granite and gravelly loam by the Franscionis.

Smith & Hook Vineyards - A 254-acre vineyard tandem owned by Hahn Estate. It is planted to Pinot Noir (134 acres) Chardonnay (57), Malbec (29), Merlot (21), Syrah (10) and Grenache Noir (2). The Hahn Estates winery and tasting room is within the Smith Vineyard.

Sleepy Hollow Vineyards - The Sleepy Hollow Vineyard is actually three separate parcels (West, South and North), all owned by Talbott. They total 565 acrea and are all located in the northern part of the Santa Lucia Highlands. The North block is 115 acres, stretching from River Road to the base of the hills. It is almost entirely Chardonnay planted on Chualar  Loam, but there is a little bit of Pinot Noir too. The Talbott Winery is located in this block as well. The West block is immediately south of the North and somewhat larger. It reaches farther into the hills but only halfway to the road. The West block is about 60% Pinot Noir, 35% Riesling and 5% Chardonnay. The South block is a short drive down River Road. It's slighly larger than the West block and nearly evenly split between Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

Soberanes Vineyard — A new, 35-acre vineyard operated by the Garys'. Planted in 2008 it includes Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah, the latter sourced from John Alban. The soil is Arroyo Seco Sandy Loam.

Tondré Grapefield - Founded in 1997, it includes seven blocks and a total of 100 acres all devoted to Pinot Noir.
 

Tasting Rooms within the AVA

Boekenoogen - The winery is open for tasting, noon - 4pm, Saturdays and Sundays.

Hahn Estate - Open daily.

Manzoni - Open Friday - Sunday, 11am - 5pm

Paraiso - Open daily from 11am to 4pm and until 5pm on weekends.

Pessagno - Open daily from 11am to 4pm and until 5pm on weekends

Talbott Vineyards - The winery tasting room is open Thursday through Monday.

Wrath - Open Friday - Monday, 11am - 5pm.

Accommodations

There are motels very near the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA in the towns of Gonzales and Soledad. However, many people prefer to stay in the much larger town of Salinas, 27 miles north, or at one of the many resort hotels around Carmel-by-the-Sea, 34 miles to the west.


Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for breaking wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on FacebookAlso check out our comprehensive Northern California winery listings. They are very useful for planning a tasting trip or just getting in touch with a winery.

This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2011 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.

Reflections on Three Weeks as an Apple iPad Owner

After three weeks owning an iPad, I’m very happy to have gotten it. There are some areas of use I can’t evaluate fully, because the app market is still immature, but it has improved my productivity both in and out of the office. Below, I touch on some issues which have sparked a lot of discussion.

3G
Some people insist they don’t need 3G because they will only be using the iPad in WiFi zones. That is short-sighted. Eventually, they will to want to take it on the road. I opted for 3G and am glad I did. To me, it is essential. I spend so much time in places where there is no WiFi that a WiFi-only iPad would have been infinitely less useful. For the most part, the 3G performance for downloads and web surfing has been good too.

There are a number of places where AT&T phone and 3G service doesn’t do well though. These include a lot of rural areas such as western Paso Robles around Tablas Creek, much of Spring Mountain in Napa Valley, and the road between Middleton and Calistoga. Unfortunately, it also includes more than a few parts of San Francisco. While the AT&T service has been fine for the most part, I will sample other options when they become available.

Because of the spotty 3G, I’m also going to invest in GPS software for the iPad that downloads all of the maps in advance. As it stands, when you’re in the middle of nowhere and need your mapping software the most, there’s no data connection and the map doesn’t update. There are some good GPS apps for iPhone and I’m sure they’ll be out for iPad fairly soon.

In one respect, the 3G experience is too good. Between the speed of downloads and the  overall surfing experience being much better than with an iPhone, the 250 MB data plan is not sufficient. It took me about 20 days to get dangerously close to exceeding the 250 MB limit. Fortunately, AT&T sends warning messages when you have 20% left, and then again at 10%, so you have the opportunity to upgrade to the unlimited data plan rather than being surprised by over-limit surcharges. The unlimited plan is $30 per month, twice the cost of the 250 MB plan.

I never thought I would go over the data limit. I don’t do a lot of uploading of photos from  or to the iPad. Nor did I download a bunch of music or movies. I essentially used up my data allotment just by looking at news and blog sites on the web. Sites these days are so graphically intensive that, even if individual photos are very small, they send a lot of data your way. When surfing on the iPad, you’re looking at full versions of the sites too, not crippled incarnations designed for mobile phones. And, the 3G service is fast enough that you can find yourself working in that mode when you think you’re still on WiFi.

In fact, the 3G surfing experience is so good and the iPad so portable, I’ve completely stopped looking at websites (and using most apps) on my iPhone. I’m sure there will be circumstances where I will need to use the phone. So far though, the iPad and I are joined at the hip and I haven’t launched Safari on my iPhone since joining the iPad club. The same goes for apps such as weather, mapping, and news readers.

Flash
One way in which the iPhone and iPad experiences are the same is Flash. Tech bloggers and Apple anti-fanboys have screaming about Apple’s strategic decision not to support Adobe Flash. Whether or not Apple’s choice not to support Flash is wise in the long run, it does have a bit of an impact on my web usage now. There are quite a few sites whose video clips require Flash.

Sites with video that is iPad friendly include: YouTube, Vimeo, Break.com, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, ESPN, NBC (though it stupidly defaults to the mobile version of the site for iPad), Gawker.TV, NYTimes, and WSJ.

These sources have some video that works, but you need to use their app: ABC, Netflix, The Weather Channel, and BBC.

Sites with video that will leave you frustrated include: MTV, Bing.com/videos, video.yahoo.com, CBS News, hulu.com, PBS, USA Today (their app doesn’t have much, if any, video and is buggy), and Comedy Central.

Some sites are hit and miss: TMZ.com, Metacafe.com, Dailymotion.com.

There are also sites that use Flash-based widgets or interface elements. [The clock at the top of the NorCal Wine home page is a Flash module and a non-Flash replacement will probably not be available anytime soon.]  Overall, the lack of Flash support has not been a big inconvenience, since I’m usually not away from my computer for too long and have never frequented sites that happen to be Flash intensive. If there’s something I really need to see, I can use my notebook. However, were that not the case or had I not gotten used to Flashlessness by spending two years surfing on my iPhone, my irritation could be substantial.

The Screen
All of the web surfing, typing, and app usage my iPad gets means that the screen spends  hours with my finger giving it a rub down. That leaves fingerprints, a lot of them. Fortunately, when the backlit screen is on, the prints are completely invisible. It’s only when the screen is off that it looks horrible. I clean the screen daily for sake of hygiene, but it looks ugly again after just three or four minutes.

If someone wants to look at your iPad, and many people will, make sure the screen is on when you give it to them lest they recoil in disgust. On the other hand, if you don’t want people touching your Precious, make sure the screen is off when you hand it over.

While fingerprints go away with the screen on, the sun does not. The iPad screen is glossy and reflective. Glare can be an issue as can reflections of the room. As I write this and look at my iPad, I can see my plaid shirt very clearly reflected in a dark part of the screen. Actually, when the screen is off, the iPad makes a really good mirror. Stick-on screen protector sheets may mitigate the fingerprint and reflectivity issues, but I haven’t tried one yet. They don’t sell them at the Apple stores.

Fingerprints and sunlight aside, the screen is excellent. Movies and photos look great. I also find it to be good for reading. Small text is very crisp. Flipping between pages is fast and feels natural.

Some people are concerned about eyestrain due to the backlit screen and think they’ll prefer the “more natural” non-backlit E-Ink screen of devices such as a Nook or Sony Reader. I’ve used E-Ink readers quite extensively and agree that their screens are comfortable to read and have white might be called a book-like appearance. However, the non-backlit screen on those devices is problematic in low-light environments and glare from ambient lighting is also an issue.

I have found, and this is no surprise, that the backlit screen of the iPad will cause eyestrain if used at a high level of brightness in a dark room. However, the Apple iBooks software allows you to adjust brightness, font, and font size very quickly. The Kindle app for iPad has brightness and font size settings, but doesn’t offer a choice of fonts. It does, however, allow you to choose to view book with black text on a white page, white text on a black page, or both the text and page in sepia tones. I like the sepia option a lot and think it’s both more attractive and easier on the eyes than pure black and white.

To me the iPad goes well beyond devices like the Kindle, Nook and Sony Readers, even for reading, in a few significant ways.

  • Full color: While only a few books are in color, virtually all magazine and newspapers are. They look great and on the iPad.
  • Video: Many newspapers now incorporate video news items. With the exception of those sites that require Flash, the iPad lets you get the most of newspaper videos.
  • Interactivity: While you might be able to newspapers or even RSS files on one of the other readers, interactivity is limited. With the iPad, you can quickly and easily comment on articles and pass them onto others via Twitter, Facebook, etc.
  • Read anything, anytime: With iPad apps such as Instapaper, you can go to a website and almost instantly download the content of the page to read later.


Battery Life
One thing that I’m happy not to see on the screen of my iPad is the “Less than 20% of battery life remaining” message. I get that all the time on the iPhone. The phone drains quickly enough when Bluetooth and WiFi are enabled. Doing serious surfing or playing games on the iPhone drains its battery incredibly quickly. The GPS is even more of a power hog. Not so with the iPad. Surf, game, watch movies streamed over WiFi and GPS yourself from here to there. You’re going to get roughly 10 hours of active use before the battery empties.

With my normal usage, which is pretty heavy, I can go two days on a charge. On the other hand, charging the iPad seems to take forever. In reality, it takes almost exactly four hours. But, if you run out of battery in the middle of the day and aren’t in a position to use it while tethered to a power outlet, four hours is an eternity. Also be aware that, while the iPad has the same connector as current model iPhones, the iPad uses a different, more robust charger. On the bright side, you can use the iPad charger to energize your iPhone too.

Typing
Some people are concerned about typing on the iPad. They suspect that the keyboard, which is smaller than a standard notebook keyboard and lacks the tactile feedback, will be difficult to use. Both concerns are valid. But, while I have not spent a lot of time actually typing on the iPad, I find that the keyboard works pretty well.

I tested my typing speed on the iPad and came out at roughly 40 words per minute. I’m a touch typist and that’s about a third of the speed with which I could type on a regular keyboard. However, it’s still not bad.

Hunt-and-peck typists will be able to type much closer to their normal speed because the keys are both well-sized and clearly labeled. Much of the speed decrease I experience is because I’ve not spent time getting used to the slightly different size and layout. As a result, I hit some wrong keys. I have the same problem going from a desktop keyboard to a notebook. With more practice, I could probably double my iPad typing speed.

There are a couple of layout issues I find annoying with the keyboard. Most significant is that the apostrophe is on the secondary numbers keyboard. I use apostrophes a lot and it’s a royal pain to have to switch to the secondary layout for it in the middle of a word. It’s also annoying to have the numbers and ampersand on a second screen, but less so than the apostrophe.

Getting Things Done
The iPad isn’t a replacement for a notebook computer. It’s a temporary stand-in and a mobile media device. Hard core productivity tasks such a long documents, complicated spreadsheets, photo editing, etc. are not what the iPad is designed for. And using the iPad actually requires a computer. The first step in configuring the iPad is connecting it to a computer.

However, the iPad is aces at email, calendars, contacts, surfing the web, reading books and magazines, displaying photos, presentations and videos. Today, I was at a media lunch and a winery owner pulled out her iPad to show pictures of the harvest. Openign the Photos app and finding the right pictures was very fast. Because the iPad is so portable, she was able to pass it around the table like you would a stack of printed photos. That isn’t practical with a computer. Yet, like a computer, the iPad can send a video signal to a TV or projector using an RGB cable. (The RGB adapter for iPad is sold separately, as are all accessories except the basic power supply.)

The iPad works well enough for creating short documents, including letters, spreadsheets and presentations. I’ve done each of those things using the Apple iWorks applications and have been satisfied. There are features missing that I’d like to have, such as word count, but these programs are actually very feature rich and easy to use. The main complaint I have about typing longer documents though is the the stupid apostrophe issue.

Sound
I’ve mentioned the video display already, but the sound through the built-in speakers isn’t bad either. It’s certainly good enough for watching YouTube videos and most streaming TV shows. Of course, if you want privacy or better sound for music or a movie, you can use headphones.

Multitasking
There has been concern, complaints really, about the iPad not being able to run multiple applications simultaneously. For me, it has not been an issue. The apps load very quickly, so bouncing out of one and into another doesn’t take much time. More importantly, everything works so quickly on the iPad that you’re engaged with it all the time and you don’t think about doing something else at the same time.

For certain things that you may really need to do at the same time, like viewing a website and writing notes, there can be specialized apps. BrowserNotes, for example, does allow you to view a website while typing notes in a text editor. You can also use it to view two website side by side.

I think that, if the iPad did multitask, it could actually be less attractive. It would require either a more powerful and expensive processor or the speed would diminish when other apps opened. More memory would be required. There might also be crashes caused by conflicting programs. As it is now, crashes are very rare.

All in all, the iPad has exceeded my high expectations. I’m sure that, over time as more and better apps are released, I will appreciate the iPad even more.

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Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for breaking wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on FacebookAlso check outour comprehensive Northern California winery listings. They are very useful for planning a tasting trip or just getting in touch with a winery.

This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2010 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.

10 Big Wine Events to Look Forward to in Early 2012

As many people are looking forward to a spending this weekend at home with family and friends, there aren’t a lot of wine events. So, with the New Year just around the corner, this week’s event article is focused on iconic events you can look forward to for the first four months of 2012.

hdr_20_year_sealThese are the big ones. They are the multi-day events that wine lovers build their schedules around. Some sell out fast. Others offer early-bird discounts. Consider buying tickets now or as soon as they come available.

Winter Wineland — Alexander Valley, Dry Creek Valley, Russian River Valley: January 14 - 15 2012
The 20th anniversary of Winter Wineland and a great opportunity to meet winemakers, taste limited production wines, new releases or library wines. Advance sales end on January 9!

ZAP — San Francisco: January 26 - 29, 2012
Four big Zinfandel events culminating with the Grand Tasting. If you like Zinfandel, you can't miss this event. This year, the pairing and Grand Tasting events will be at The Concourse at 8th and Brannan rather than Fort Mason. It should be a more comfortable location and easier to access. ZAP Epicuria is the Thursday pairing event. ZAP Flights is a tasting seminar that's been interesting every year. The ZAP Winemakers Dinner gives you a chance to hang out with winemakers.

Bring Out the Barrel — Placerville: January 29 - 30, 2012
Enjoy barrel tasting of El Dorado wines and go on a winery scavenger hunt. Be the first to taste the upcoming wine releases.

International Alsace Varietals Festival — Boonville (Anderson Valley, Mendocino County): February 18, 2012
This annual festival celebrates Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Gewurtztraminer, Muscat and Riesling with three excellent events. a Technical Conference, a Grand Tasting and a Winemakers Dinner. Everybody knows how good Anderson Valley Pinot Noir is. Learn about the AVA's other specialty.

Paso Robles Rhone Rangers — Paso Robles: February 19, 2012
The Paso Robles chapter of the Rhone Rangers invite you to a Seminar and Winemaker Lunch followed by a Grand Tasting and Silent Auction. This is a good opportunity to gain a good understanding of how different parts of the big Paso Robles AVA differ with respect to Rhone-variety wines.

Premiere Napa Valley — Napa Valley: February 23 - 25, 2012 *Trade only*
Napa Valley opens its door to the global wine trade in this annual event. There's a three-vintage tasting of many Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot wines, tasting of special lots and then a big auction where those lots are sold. Many individuall wineries have associated events too.

Behind the Cellar Door — Plymouth: March 3 - 4, 2012
You tasted the El Dorado barrels. Now you've got to try those from Amador as its wineries open their doors for food, fun, music and tasting.

A Weekend Celebration of American Rhones — San Francisco: March 24 - 25, 2012
The annual Rhone Rangers tasting is always a really good event. It combines a big Grand Tasting (Sunday) with interesting seminars and a Winemaker Dinner/Live Auction. This year the seminars include a rare wines tasting, a pairing of Rhone wines and bacon, and a survey of Syrah from various American regions.

Hospice du Rhone — Paso Robles: Aprill 27 - 29, 2012
Hospice du Rhone is the biggest and best festival in the world devoted to Rhone-variety wines. There are 5 excellent seminars, a Tavel rosé lunch, an auction lunch (always big fun!) and two massive tastings. If you like Rhone-varietal wines — be they from France, Australia, California or Washington — HdR is the place to be.

Passport to Dry Creek Valley — Dry Creek Valley wineries: April 28 - 29, 2012
This event is perhaps the king of the regional passports. Two days and 50+ wineries in beautiful Dry Creek. This event always sells out fast. Order your tickets as soon as the online sales start at 10am on February 1 (seriiously).

Happy Holidays!

 

Do you or your favorite winery have an upcoming event involving Northern California wine? Event organizers can publicize it in NorCalWine.com's Event Calendar. It's easy and it's free. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for breaking wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on FacebookAlso check out our comprehensive Northern California winery listings. They are very useful for planning a tasting trip or just getting in touch with a winery.

This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2011 NorCal Wine. Photo courtesy of Livemore Valley Wine Growers. All rights reserved.

Registration Deadlines Approach for Two Wine-Related Courses

sanfranciscowineschool

The next round of classes for the San Francisco Wine School’s California Wine Appellation Specialist course begins on January 16. In eight evening sessions, you’ll learn the essentials of every important AVA in the state. Instructors include David Glancy MS, Catherine Fallis MS, Rebecca Chapa CWE, MS candidate DLynn Proctor and me.

Each class includes both lecture and a tasting of eight to ten wines. Pass the test on March 19 to get your CWAS certification. Register for the full course and get a set of four “The One” wine glasses and a one-year membership to the Guild of Sommeliers.

More information and registration for the San Francisco Wine School’s California Wine Appellation Specialist course

 

February 1 is the application deadline for the Foundation Course in Sonoma State University’s Online Wine Business Management Certificate. This class focuses on the strategies, costs and key decisions that go into growing, producing, marketing and selling wine. It’s taught by Tim Hanni MW who, along with being a respected wine educator, conducts research on consumer preference and behaviors with respect to wine.

More information and registration for Sonoma State Wine Business Management Foundation Course

Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for breaking wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on FacebookAlso check out our comprehensive Northern California winery listings. They are very useful for planning a tasting trip or just getting in touch with a winery.

This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2013 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.

 

Lookout Ridge Turns Wine into Wheelchairs

Gordon_HolmesGordon Holmes didn’t start out intending to make Lookout Ridge Winery a charitable endeavor. Like many successful businessmen before him, he was simply looking to buy some beautiful acreage in wine country and become a gentleman vintner. His background was in equity investment and, in addition to his own trading, he had established magazines that guided other investors. Selling off those magazines in 1998 yielded enough capital to acquire land for a winery.

Sadly, in the same year that his long-time dream of owning a winery began to come true, his wife, Kari, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of multiple sclerosis. It’s progression made Kari increasingly wheelchair dependent. Such an experience transforms not just the person afflicted, but also the people who love them. Gordon Holmes’ deeply understands the practical and emotional impacts that losing one’s mobility has. He also became aware of how widespread the problem is and how many people around the world can’t afford a wheelchair.

In 2004, Holmes met Kenneth Behring. Decades of huge success in property development allowed Behring to become a prolific philanthropist. He established the Wheelchair Foundation in June of 2000. Through that organization, Behring has provided tens of thousands of wheelchairs to need people around the world. Kari’s situation and Behring’s work inspired Holmes.

Now, Lookout Ridge has a stunning philanthropic angle. For every bottle of Lookout Ridge wine sold, the winery gives a wheelchair to someone who needs one but cannot afford it. [When you purchase a bottle of Lookout Ridge wine you, or the person to whom you give it as a gift, also receive a nice folio with a certificate commemorating the wheelchair donation and a photograph of a wheelchair recipient.] By the end of this year, Lookout Ridge will have given the gift of mobility to roughly 4,000 people. Gordon Holmes and his staff find the recipients by working with non-governmental organization’s in countries throughout the world. There is a particular focus on remote areas in under-developed countries such as Mali and Costa Rica where lack of personal mobility is especially problematic and local governments don’t have the funds to provide substantial assistance.

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The countries also tend to be ones in which there is substantial mining activity, because that is one of Holmes’ primary areas of investment focus. He leverages his work with companies in the extraction business, getting them to pay for additional wheelchairs. Since Lookout Ridge is a small-production winery, his evangelism efforts in the mining community have led to substantially more wheelchair donations than have wine sales. However, Holmes is looking for ways to step up the winery’s volume so it can help more people. Donations through the winery this year will match the total from all previous years combined.

The generous distribution of wheelchairs is not the only thing that makes Lookout Ridge unusual. As an investor and investment advisor, Holmes knows the importance of — and can sell — diversified portfolios. So, rather than offer a range of wines made by one winemaker, he has almost every wine for a given vintage made by a different, highly-respected winemaker. In doing so, the differing styles of the winemakers create more variety and the aggregated fan-base of the winemakers ensure a broad audience. The multi-winemaker approach is even more crucial now that the winery is trying to keep costs at a minimum so as to fund wheelchairs. The winemakers do their Lookout Ridge work pro bono, something that a single winemaker doing all of the wines could not do.

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The first ever Lookout Ridge wine was a 2000 vintage Camp Meeting Ridge Vineyard Chardonnay made by Greg LaFollette (of LaFollette Winery and previously Tandem, Flowers, etc.). He told me he that he thinks the charitable aspect makes Lookout Ridge “a great project” and it’s one in which he’s “very happy to be involved.” It is not his only altruistic venture either. Greg helps his wife, Mara, with Cellar Magic. That winery creates wines which are all donated to local hospitals, schools and foundations.

Currently, Greg La Follette makes Van der Kamp Vineyard Pinot Noir for Lookout Ridge. I tasted the curent (2006) vintage of that wine. It offers aromas of spice, cola, tea, cherry and sandalwood. Flavors are much the same, with cherry, spice, cola and dried herb being dominant. It’s smoothly-textured with an above-average finish. I highly recommend the wine but think it will be best with at least one year in your cellar.

I also tried the 2005 Lookout Ridge Estate Cabernet Sauvignon made by Marco DiGiulio (MarcoWine, Lokoya, Vintage Wine Estates). That wine is medium-plus ruby with pigmented legs and a nose of red currant, currant leaf, carob and dry herb. It has a generous body with powdery tannins and a medium-plus finish. I tasted red currant, cocoa, coffee and walnut. It’s an elegant wine which I highly recommend. Drink it now through 2016. Di Giulio also makes the Lookout Ridge Estate Syrah.

The other current releases from Lookout Ridge are a 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon from Kronos Vineyard made by Cathy Corison (Corison Winery), a 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon from Gerhard Reisacher (Delectus) and a 2005 Red Wine from Andy Erickson (Favia, Screaming Eagle). The latter wine is made in very small volume and is therefore only available when purchased as part of a mixed case.

While the donation of a wheelchair for every bottle is obviously a testament to the generosity of Gordon and Kari Holmes and the winemakers, it would not be possible without the benevolence of many others. The corks, capsules, e-commerce software and storage are also donated. Much of the grapes come from the estate vineyards, but some of the other vineyards also provide free or discounted fruit. (Similar deals on bottles and labels would be very welcome, please contact Lookout Ridge if you can help.)

I would like to thank fellow wine writers William Allen and Katherine Parker for inviting me to join them on their visit to Lookout Ridge. Stay tuned to their sites for additional words about the winery from them.

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This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2010 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved. Photographs courtesy of Lookout Ridge Winery.