Search Articles

Please Share

FacebookTwitterDiggDeliciousStumbleuponGoogle BookmarksRedditTechnoratiLinkedin

Subscribe to Blog via RSS

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner


Search for Events


Most Read Articles


Warming Threatens Future of Premium Napa County Wine Grapes: Research

A new study indicates that Napa County could suffer a loss of 50-70% in available acreage for growing of high-quality wine grapes by 2039. This decrease would be due primarily to an increase in the number of excessively hot days in the effected areas. The study was a collaborative effort led by Noah S. Diffenbaugh of Stanford University. It was published on June 30, 2011 in Environmental Research Letters.


The intent of the research was not to cause a panic or sudden rush to sell vineyard land. The goal was to generate projections of climate change impact on premium grape growing. That can be used in designing ways to adapt to the increased heat, thus reducing its impact. The researchers applied their projections to four premium wine growing regions: Napa County, Santa Barbara County, Walla Walla County (Washington) and Yamhill County (Oregon).

The most severe impact of global warming was seen on the growing regions of Napa County. That region, among those studied, already has the highest mean growing season temperature. Further increases in temperature due to global warming were projected to push much of Napa beyond the threshold appropriate for high-quality grapes. This is based both on 20 degrees Celsius being the maximum acceptable temperature for high-quality grape growing on any given day and A. Winkler’s Growing Degree Days (GDD) summation. On the Winkler scale, Napa County is currently categorized as a Region III (1671 to 1950 GDD), suitable for volume production of good wine. The study shows much of Napa Country transitioning to Region IV (1951 to 2220 GDD). That is also good for production levels, but wine quality decreases to acceptable or worse. The study only examined the impact of temperature on change on vines and grapes. It did not examine how temperature increases might impact water supply, weather patterns, etc.

More bad news is that it doesn’t take much warming to cause harm. An average increase of just a single degree Celsius would cause the substantial losses mentioned above, according to the stduy. However, as the researchers point out, that means finding ways to adapt to that one degree increase — essentially raise the maximum acceptable temperature from 20 to 21 or 22 degree Celsius — could eliminate all of those losses. Clearly, quickly finding effective means of adapting to higher temperature is critical.

The complete study is here: Climate adaptation wedges: a case study of premium wine in the western United States (it’s very technical, but not very long).

For more about growing degree days: Winkler A et al 1974 General Viticulture 4th edn (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press)

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 Copyright 2011 NorCal Wine. Global Warming graphic by created by MikeEdwards. All rights reserved. Temperature change banner courtesy of NASA.

7 Wine Events for this Weekend, April 26 - 28

Passport to Dry Creek Valley - Saturday and Sunday

The biggest event this weekend is Passport to Dry Creek Valley. However, if you don't have tickets already you will need to hope for cancellations. You can get on the waiting list at 707-433-3031.

Soirée “An Evening of Luxury Unveiled” in SF - Friday, April 26 6 - 10pm

Wine Luxury invites you to taste wine from 40 excellent wineries, see designer fashions, dance and more at The City Club to benefit Share Our Strength and ACCESS. There will also be food, live music, special guest appearances, etc. Visit Wine Luxury for more information and for tickets (starting at $95).

Cabs of Distinction Grand Tasting in Paso Robles - Saturday, April 27 2 - 5pm

Explore premium award winning Cabernet and red Bordeaux wines from Paso Robles’ top producers. The prestigious Windfall Farms Stallion Barn, with its rustic elegance of copper spires, iron and copper framed stalls, green sprawling lawns and panoramic views of majestic rolling hills will provide a seductive backdrop for this exclusive gala. The ornately designed structure and majestic landscape are the perfect pairing for a day of live music, delectable bites from local restaurants and artisanal food purveyors paired with tastings of the best bottles these winemakers have to offer.

Screen Shot 2013-04-23 at 2.52.38 PM

Participating wineries:
ADELAIDA Cellars, B & E Vineyard, Chateau Margene, DAOU Vineyards & Winery, Eberle Winery, HammerSky Vineyards, J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines, Jada Vineyard, JUSTIN Vineyards & Winery, L’Aventure, Niner Wine Estates, Parrish Family Vineyards, Rangeland Wines, Record Family Wines, Robert Hall Winery, Sextant Wines, Still Waters Vineyards, Venteux Vineyards, Vina Robles, Wild Horse Winery
For tickets and more information

2nd Annual Spring of the Vine at Wine & Roses in Lodi - Sunday, April 28 2:00 - 9:00pm

The is a Lodi New Releases wine event at the lovely Wine & Roses Hotel and Spa. There is a walk around tasting ($35 in advance, $45 at the door) which include tasting, tasty bites, live music and an artist showcase. That’s followed by a Family Style Wine Dinner ($85). Combined tickets are $105.
For reservations and information call Wine & Roses at 209-371-6117 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Steiner Road Spring Fling in Plymouth - Saturday, April 27 11am - 4pm

start on steinerEveryone is invited to enjoy spring with the wineries of Steiner Road, in Amador County. This FREE food and wine event will delight the senses. Guests can stroll through the beautiful grounds of nine wineries, taste a variety of wines, listen to live music, experience all the blooming flowers and enjoy special treats. Taste some small bites of spring lamb sausage, turkey & vegetable wraps, asparagus bruschetta, apricot pastry wrapped baked brie, wood fired pizza, Italian fare appetizers, tapenade cheese spread & crostini, tri-tip sliders, and artisan cheese & wine parings!! Steiner Road-is home to many award-winning wineries. Just 45 minutes from Sacramento and 2 hours from Reno, Tahoe & the Bay Areas, it is an easy day trip to the friendly Amador County Wine Country. Visitors also can enter to win two tickets to the sold out Barbera Festival June 8th, 2013 by visiting at least 9 of the participating Steiner Road wineries.
For more information

Meet the Winemaker: Patland and Fama Wineries in San Francisco - Saturday, April 27 1:30 - 6pm

Golden Gate Wine Cellars invite you to taste the wines of Patland Vineyards and Fama Wines at the shop on Saturday. The winemaker will be on hand to tell you about these high-quality Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc wines. $10 tasting fee.
For more information and to buy tickets, call Golden Gate Wine Cellars at 415-337-4083.

4th Annual Hall Winery Cabernet Cookoff in St. Helena - Saturday, April 27 11am - 2pm

Chefs from The Grill at Meadowood, Oenotri, Cuvée and Bounty Hunter square off in a contest to see who can produce the best “bites” to accompany the 2010 Hall Cabernet. Attendees will join chefs from Terra, Solbar and La Toque in deciding the winners. Proceeds from tickets go to the winning team’s specified charity. Tickets are $65.
For information and tickets

California Wine Appellation Specialist Program begins at San Francisco Wine School - Monday, April 29

Register now for the full course and certification or for individual classes. There are eight 3-hour classes on successive Monday nights, each focusing on a different region. Every class includes lecture and tasting of 8 or more wines. I'll be teaching Sonoma County on May 20 and San Luis Obispo County/Paso Robles on June 17.
Click for more information and to register.

sanfranciscowineschool logo

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 Copyright 2013 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.

Everybody Loves the Bedrock Heirloom Wine

I have to thank Tom Johnson, all the way out in Kentucky, for calling my attention to an article published down in Los Angeles that covers wines practically made in my own backyard. I've been so busy lately studying for WSET Diploma tests on sparkling wines and distilled spirits that I've missed some great stuff on my primary beat.

The LA Times article by W. Blake Gray is all about Zinfandel-focused field blends. The feature wine in the article is Morgan Twain-Peterson's Bedrock Wine Co. Bedrock [Vineyard] Heirloom Blend. Based on 18 different grape varieties from a Sonoma Valley vineyard that was first planted by William "Tecumseh" Sherman and Joe Hooker, before they made names for themselves as Civil War generals. I love this wine. I gave the 2008 Bedrock Heirloom Wine the highest rating of all in my overview of this year's ZAP Grand Tasting. The article also includes a video that Morgan made in which he talks about the vineyard.

Coincidentally, I found this wine on the list at Central Market restaurant in Petaluma last Friday. I was there with friends who left me in charge of selecting the vino. We started with a nice, approachable Grenache from the south of France that went well with our wide range of appetizers. Then we dove into the 2008 Bedrock Heirloom Wine. And then we killed a second bottle of it. This is a wine that will make you a hero with your friends. If we hadn't been so stuffed from the excellent and generously-portioned food Central Market puts out, we'd have probably stayed for a third bottle. [If you're near Petaluma around dinner time, you owe it to yourself to try the Crispy Pork Confit.] In the meantime, check out that LA Times article.

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

Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for breaking wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on Facebook.
Also 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.

North Coast Rhone Rangers Build Momentum with Second Tasting

The Rhone Rangers North Coast Chapter is fairly new as an active group. The tasting they held on Tuesday was just their second. Despite that, the event was thoughtfully organized, a pleasure to attend and included a number of excellent wines.

It’s a little surprising to me that there hasn’t been an active chapter of Rhone Rangers until recently. Napa Valley, Sonoma County and Mendocino County all have excellent sites for growing Rhone-variety grapes. Some of California’s best come from those areas. Of course mindshare for varieties such as Syrah, Grenache, Viognier and Grenache Blanc, not to mention Marsanne, is still much lower than that of Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay or even Sauvignon Blanc. Which makes it all the more important for this to group thrive.

Tuesday’s North Coast Rhone Rangers tasting was held at the Napa Valley Museum in Yountville. The museum was an excellent venue—clean, quiet, temperature-controlled, easy to get to and just the right size. The fresh white walls and attractive art also brought an elegance usually missing for group tastings. That said, I hope that the group outgrows the facility soon.

Fifteen wineries poured at this tasting, a respectable number and a manageable size for attendees. I’d love to see three times that many producers participate. There are more than enough quality producers to make that an achievable goal. However, the chapter only has 34 members at present and just six from Napa. Come on, Napa...

The majority of the producers at this tasting were small. Of the wines poured, about 45, only five had case volumes above 500. Quite a few are below 200.

The tasting also confirmed a trend toward leaner, less syrupy Rhone-variety wines in northern California. Of all the wines poured, only one exceeded 15% alcohol and that just barely at 15.1%. More than half of the wines offered come in below 14% alcohol.

Map: Rhone Rangers North Coast Chapter

 Wines to Covet

I own way too much wine. This is only a problem in that I try very hard not to acquire any more these days. And sometimes I taste wines that I really, really want to buy. Here are the three wines that most made me regret having put myself on double-secret wine-buying probation.

William Allen made just half a barrel of the 2012 Two Shepherds Marsanne Russian River Valley. That’s very sad because it’s an absolutely beautiful wine. The people, probably club members, who get some are going to be very happy and I hope they are able to share with friends (or wine writers). The wine is floral but in a subtle, pretty way. There are hibiscus, peach blossom, marzipan and mineral on the nose and palate. Medium-plus body with satiny texture and a lengthy finish make it elegant yet satisfying in the mouth. $35, Highly Recommended+

My "rosé of the day award" goes to the 2012 Cornerstone Corallina Syrah Rosé Napa Valley, Stepping Stone. It’s flat out delicious. The generous aromas and flavors include guava, peach, strawberry and melon. It has medium-plus body and a silky glycerine feel in the mouth that literally made me come back for more. $20, Highly Recommended.

The red wine which most tempted me to feign temporary amnesia while whipping out a credit card was the 2007 Ridge Petite Sirah Dynamite Hill, Spring Mountain. Though a 2007, this is a current release for Ridge because... Petite Sirah. And, though a Spring Mountain Petite Sirah, it has ample acidity and just 13.7% alcohol because... Ridge. It was dark ruby in my glass with powerful aromas of black cherry, spice, tobacco and cedar. Whole berry fermentation and a few years of bottle age have resulted in moderate tannins with a lightly chalky texture and a Petite Sirah that can be enjoyed with our without food. $32, Highly Recommended.

Wineries to Watch

Kale Wines is the personal project of winemaker Kale Anderson and his wife, Ranko. Kale’s main gig is director of winemaking at Pahlmeyer Winery. Previously he worked at Cliff Lede and Terra Valentine and he interned at Colgin Estate. Ranko poured two wines on Tuesday. The 2009 and 2010 (just released) Syrah Alder Springs Vineyard, Spirit Rock. Both were very nice with excellent intensity and cool-climate Syrah typicity. [BTW, Kale is a Hawaiian moniker (Ka-le). He wasn’t named for the leafy green, so lettuce not hear any jokes about that.]

Petrichor is a great word. It refers to that aroma created by the first rain after a long dry spell. I love that smell and I was fond of the Petrichor Vineyards wines as well. They are small production (173 cases in 2010, 250 in 2011) blends of Syrah and Grenache made by Duncan Meyers of Arnot Roberts winery. The fruit comes from the Jim and Margaret Foley's estate vineyard, north of Santa Rosa. I tasted three vintages on Tuesday, each was unique and all were very good—balanced and attractively savory.

Highly Recommended Wines (and Recommended+), alphabetically by producer

2011 Cornerstone Cellars Napa Valley Syrah, Stepping Stone, $35
Flavors and aromas of black cherry, leather, black pepper, dry herb, cocoa and earth. Engaging and complex with moderate fine-grained tannins and the ability to improve for 5+ years in bottle.

2012 Cornerstone Cellars Corallina Syrah Rosé Napa Valley, Stepping Stone - see Wines to Covet above.

2010 Donelan Syrah Kobler Family Vineyard, Green Valley of Russian River Valley, $45
Lean but satisfying with savory complexity: black pepper, dark flowers, dried herb and blackberry. Medium-plus body and tannins of fine powder and chalk but—refreshingly—just 12.8% alcohol.

2010 Donelan Syrah Walker Vine Hill, Russian River Valley, $45
Yin to the Donelan Kobler Family’s yang. Ripe cherry richness, brown spice and leather reined in by moderate tannins of fine powder.

2009 Kale Syrah Alder Springs Vineyard-Spirit Rock, Mendocino County, $40
Loads of black fruit, especially black cherry, on the nose along with a grind of black pepper. Black cherry, pepper and cocoa nib on the palate of medium-plus body. Concentrated and lengthy.

2010 Kale Syrah Alder Springs Vineyard Spirit Rock, Mendocino County, $45
Cooler than 2009, the 2010 vintage tends to emphasize savory over sweet. The 2010 Kale Syrah leads with earth, leather and black pepper but there’s a backdrop of black fruit and spice. Just released this month, the wine rates Recommended+ now but a little time in bottle should bring even more goodness.

2009 Meyer Family Cellars Syrah Yorkville Highlands, $28
Game meat, sweet herb, red plum, red rope and oak are the aromas and flavors in this full-bodied wine with moderate alcohol (13.70%). Good length.

2009 Meyer Family Cellars Syrah Reserve “High Ground,” $40
The deluxe edition of Meyer’s Syrah is both darker and more savory. Earth, leather, black pepper and ripe dark fruit are mated with moderate tannins of fine powder.

2009 Petrichor Estate Les Trois Sonoma, $48
Okay, “Les Trois” is mildly confusing as this is a blend of just two grapes, Syrah and Grenache. Perhaps it refers to the triad of flavor, acidity and texture, because this wine’s got that covered. Petrichor’s inaugural release is juicy and medium-plus in body with tangy dark fruit, dry herb and spice. The tannins are moderate with the mouthfeel of fine powder and talc.

2010 Petrichor Estate Les Trois Sonoma, $48
Earthy dark fruit, spice, licorice and dry herb. Medium-plus, light-grained tannins suggest this wine has room to grow. Give it a year or two.

2011 Petrichor Estate Les Trois Sonoma, $TBD
There was some hesitation in pouring this fine for me as it’s at least eight months from release. They need not have worried though. It’s quite good, full of earthiness, spice, garrigue and black pepper. Something to look forward to.

2007 Ridge Petite Sirah Dynamite Hill Spring Mountain, $32 — see Wines to Covet above

2009 Ridge Syrah Grenache Dry Creek Valley, $32
A 50-50 blend with flavors of cherry, plum, oak and spice. Moderate tannins of light grain and talc. Try it with some tender, meaty ribs. (Recommended+)

2011 Stark Grenache Blanc Santa Ynez AVA (Saarloos Vineyard)
Some people buy Stark wines because they’re fans of the (rapdily dwindling) clan on Game of Thrones, or of Ironman. That’s cute, but the wines can stand on their own. Gentle aromas of pear, lime and white flowers. Medium+ body and a little juicy. (Recommended+)

2012 Two Shepherds Grenache Blanc Saarloos Vineyard, Santa Ynez, $35
Grenache Blanc essentially launched this brand and William Allen continues to set the bar for that variety. Focused notes of white flowers, tangy stonefruit and spice lead into a juicy palate with medium-plus body. There’s a light texture, fine and powdery, plus persistent saline minerality.

2012 Two Shepherds Marsanne Russian River Valley, $32 — see Wines to Covet above

2011 Two Shepherds Syrah Saralee’s Vineyard, Russian River Valley, $35
Syrah from the cool side: black pepper, dark cherries and garrigue. Body and tannins are medium to medium-plus with a fine, powdery texture.

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 Copyright 2013 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.


Tasted—5 Rhone Variety Wines from Clos Solene

I was in Paso Robles last weekend for the Cabs of Distinction events (more on that soon). There I met up with Guillaume Fabre, production manager at L’Aventure winery where he’s worked since arriving from France in 2004. As of 2007 he’s also been producing Rhone-varietal wines under his own label, Clos Solene. I stopped by for a tasting of his current releases on my way out of town.

I first tasted Clos Solene at a Rhone Rangers Paso Robles Chapter event several years ago. Guillaume poured just one wine then, a Roussanne, but it was gorgeous and easily one of the best wines that day. Subsequently I’ve tasted with him twice, both times in the barrel room at L’Aventure where he makes his wine. Recently, Clos Solene took a big step forward, opening a downtown Paso Robles tasting room with three other producers.

Paso Underground features the wines of Aaron (excellent Petite Sirah), Clos Solene, Edmond August (Rhone varieties from Paso’s west side) and Turtle Rock Vineyards (not to be confused with Turtle Rock Ridge of Ramona Valley). The room has just opened, so tastings are by appointment. The address is 1140 Pine Street but its dedicated entrance is actually through a gate on the back side of the block next to the party patio at Villa Creek restaurant.

Clos Solene uses only hand-picked westside Paso fruit, principally from the Russell Family Vineyard right next to the L'Aventure Vineyard in the Templeton Gap, a funnel for cool Pacific breezes. Clos Solene white wines include Saxum, Booker and James Berry grapes. The de-stemmed berries undergo a cold soak for most of the wines, red and white. Barrel fermentation is also a common thread and Fabre gets hands-on with that, vigorously rolling barrels several times a day to mix fruit and juice.

My tasting notes follow this photo of Guillaume Fabre pulling samples from his barrels in 2011.

Photo: Fred Swan

2011 Clos Solene Essence de Roussanne, Paso Robles - $60
This winsome wine of 100% Roussanne from the Saxum and Booker Vineyards opens with pretty aromas of pear, stone fruit, white flowers and a squeeze of sweet citrus. The palate is nearly full-bodied but supple with flavors of nectarine, white flowers, sweet citrus and spice that glide effortlessly across the dance floor. The best Roussanne I've had in some time. 7 months in French oak, 20% new. 100 cases made. Drink now through 2015. Highly Recommended+

2012 Clos Solene La Rose, Paso Robles - $35
La Rose was made saignée-style from Russell Family Vineyard Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre. The fermentation was cool and the wine saw no oak. A pretty, light coral pink color and scents of strawberry and raspberry lead to the lithe palate of medium body with light, talc-like tannins and red berry flavors. Good length. 50 cases made. Drink now through 2014. Recommended+

2011 Clos Solene La Petite Solene, Paso Robles - $55
The 2011 La Petite Solene and 2011 Harmonie, poured sequentially, stand in marked contrast. La Petite Solene is 70% Syrah, 30% Grenache and spent 15 months in once- and twice-used French oak. The ruby red wine has a gorgeous, ebullient nose of blackberry, black cherry and that thick raspberry syrup you find inside some chocolates. Fine-grained tannins and acidity, both just north of medium, preside over delectably ripe black cherry and spice on a palate of medium-plus body. Satisfyingly long. 50 cases made. Drink now through 2018. If you decant, do it immediately before consumption.Highly Recommended+

2011 Clos Solene Harmonie, Paso Robles - $80
Like La Petite, the 2011 Clos Solene Harmonie fruit comes from the Russell Family Vineyard. This time, however, the blend is 41% Grenache, 27% Syrah and 22% Mourvedre with 15% of the barrels new. The result is a much more masculine wine. The nose, earth and blackberry, shows confidence but not the big smile of La Petite. The palate is again medium-plus in body and has just slightly less acidity but tannins that are a step heavier and create a lightly chalky texture. The tall, dark and handsome flavors include black cherry, blackberry, and tangy dark spice and will open up further if you serve them a plate of duck. 100 cases made. Drink now through 2020. Very Highly Recommended

2011 Clos Solene Sweet Clementine, Paso Robles - $60/375ml
I suspect Sweet Clementine could be habit-forming. It's a sweet, fortified wine made in the style of Banyuls (at least 50% late-harvest Grenache Noir, no Muscat, fortifying alcohol added during maceration). In this case, the wine is almost all Grenache with just 3% Syrah. It was barrel-fermented and aged for 14 months in French oak barrels, 50% new. The nose and palate are full of lively, fresh red berries, cherry and brown spice. The considerable sweetness is checked by mouthwatering acidity and moderate, talc-like tannins. The wine is limber in the mouth, not at all syrupy or cloying. The classic pairing for this type of wine is a chocolate dessert and I can't argue with that. But it would be just as good with a savory-sweet dish like duck with cherry glaze or molé sauce. Or all by itself... 50 cases made. Drink now through 2016. Very Highly Recommended

Interpreting my wine ratings


Disclosures: The FTC has tightened its guidelines with respect to online ads, reviews, blogs, etc. in response to people who are passing paid adds off as personal recommendations or who getting samples of expensive hard goods in exchange for reviews. My lengthy disclosure here is meant to address those guidelines.

The review above reflects my personal experience with the product. It is not a paid ad, nor do I accept ads or compensation for reviews directly from wine producers. Reviews may cover products that I have purchased, received as samples, or tried under other circumstances I consider to be good tasting conditions. Receiving a product as a sample does not obligate me to review it positively (or at all) and I do not consider samples to be compensation or “free wine.” I have purchased plenty of wine over the years and have more of that than I can drink. Samples are opened for review purposes, not added to my personal cellar or taken to restaurants.

Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on Facebook 

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