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Quick Sip: Waterstone 2008 Pinot Gris Napa Valley

Pinot Gris is a grape, descended from Pinot Noir, that is used to make white wines. The varietal is often called by other names, depending on where it’s made. In Germany, it is typically called Grauburgunder. That’s just a direct translation of Pinot Gris, as is Italy’s Pinot Grigio. In Switzerland, and sometimes France’s Loire Valley, it’s called Malvoisie. There is more Pinot Gris grown in Italy and Germany than in France. However, it is one of the three “noble grapes” of France’s Alsace and some of the very best versions come from that area.

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 morning session which I describe here). That article also includes a summary of the 2011 vintage overall.

Most of the wines offered at the tasting were red. However, there were some very compelling white and rosés too. I’ve dedicated this article to those wines, so they don’t get lost in the Cabernet shuffle.

Rutherford White and Rosé New Releases

Alpha Omega Sauvignon Blanc “1155” Napa Valley 2013, ~$38
Sauvignon Blanc and 4% Semillon, all estate-grown in Rutherford, were fermented in French oak barrels. Fresh, summery flavors of tart peach and dry grass are coupled with enjoyably grippy texture and freshness. Recommended

El Molino Chardonnay Rutherford 2012, $60 - 856 cases
White peach and beautiful floral notes of honeysuckle and pikake with some oak in the background. Very pretty. Highly Recommended

Elizabeth Spencer Chardonnay Rutherford 2012, $45 - 300 cases
Aromas and flavors of green apple skin, fresh herb and under ripe peach with a fresh palate. Recommended

Fleury Estate Winery Sauvignon Blanc Rutherford 2012, $50
Fermentation and aging was 50% stainless steel, 50% new French oak. This is a boldly tropical wine with passionfruit, pineapple and white flower aromatics. Medium-plus body and the flavor of piña colada on the palate. Recommended

Honig Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc Rutherford 2012, $28
Salty lemon-lime aromas with grapefruit, peppery spice and herb on the palate. Medium-plus body and very fresh. Aged in French oak, 40% new. 10% Semillon, 2% Muscat. Highly Recommended

Long Meadow Ranch Winery Sauvignon Blanc Rutherford 2013, $20
Salty lime pith, passionfruit, melon rind and herb aromas join with loads of grapefruit on the palate. Fresh, long and intense. Highly Recommended

Conspire Sauvignon Blanc Rutherford 2013, $28 - 267 cases
Welcome to Sancerre! Intensely aromatic with passionfruit, grapefruit, salty minerality and pipi du chat. Body is a light medium-plus and the finish very long. 50% Sauvignon Blanc, 50% Sauvignon Musque. Conspire is a sub-brand of Amy Aiken's Meander wines. Highly Recommended

Provenance Sauvignon Blanc Rutherford 2013, ~$23
Fresh, tasty and softened ever so slightly by 5% oak (new French). Peach blossom, guava and spice. Recommended

Provenance Sauvignon Blanc Rutherford Estate 2013, ~$29
30% usage of new French oak lends added richness to the palate of this estate wine. White peach, sweet citrus and spice. Best to let this wine breathe a good while or splash it into a decanter. Highly Recommended

Staglin Chardonnay Rutherford Estate 2012, $75
A gorgeous Chardonnay with green and yellow apples and pretty floral spice on the nose and creamy palate. Very Highly Recommended

Talahalusi Vineyards Roussanne Rutherford 2012
First things first: Talahalusi is the name the local Wappo tribe had for what we know as Napa Valley. There’s 5% Picpoul Blanc blended into this full-bodied Roussanne. It’s juicy and long with flavors of kiwi and dry grass. Recommended

Tres Sabores Rosé Rutherford “Ingrid and Julia” 2013, $24
Forget that this an unlikely dry rosé, made from Zinfandel (85%) and Petite Sirah (15%). Just enjoy the pale pink color, delicious flavors of nectarine and fresh berries in sweet cream and the refreshing, long-lasting palate. Highly Recommended

 

Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for wine news, information on events and more, or friend me on Facebook. This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2014. All rights reserved.

9 Wineries that Donote Proceeds to Charity

The California wine industry is extremely philanthropic. Some wineries support charities by donating bottles or tasting experiences to benefit auctions. Others, or their owners, “give back” through generous direct donations of cash or land. A growing number of wineries make donations that are directly tied to the sale of their wine.

Sales-based donations may not be as dramatic as an auction lot which sells for tens of thousands of dollars. And the scale of the donations are a lot lower than those made by legendary winery owner/philanthropists such as Bob Trinchero and August Sebastiani. However, sales-based giving can still be significant and allows consumers to participate, knowing that their purchase of a particular wine will help somebody.

If you’d like to complement your own direct charitable donations by purchasing wine or helping charitable wineries in some way, here are nine wineries to consider supporting (in alphabetical order):

Canine Wines
Canine Wines donates $5 to animal rescue agencies for every bottle sold. The winery offers a range of wines, mostly from respected single-vineyards. I’ve not tasted any of the current releases, but have enjoyed several of their wines in the past. Each wine features an irresistibly cute picture of a rescued dog on the front label and the dog’s tale on the back label. A bottle would make a charming holiday gift for your wine-drinking, dog-loving friends.

Charity Wines
Charity Wines teams up with professional sports stars to create “collectible” wines. Think baseball cards that come with wine instead of stale bubblegum. Past wines include ZinfandEllsbury (Boston Red Sox player, Jacoby Ellsbury), Cabernet Glavingnon (Atlanta Braves pitching great, Tom Glavine), Dan Marino Vintage “13” Chardonnay and, for old-school wrestling fans, Jimmy Snuka Superfly Cabernet. Proceeds go to support charities selected by the player. I’ve not tasted any of the wines but, at the every least, they would make an amusing gift for the sports fans in your life or look good next to your bobbleheads. There are several dozen labels to choose from. Charity Wines claims to have donated more than $1.6 million dollars to charity so far.

Cleavage Creek Winery
Cleavage Creek Winery donates 10% of their gross profits to breast cancer research. To date, their contributions exceed $70,000. The wines, which range in price from $18 to $50, are made from Northern California grapes and feature attractive (but tasteful) pictures of breast cancer survivors on the front labels. Cleavage Creek Winery also has a tasting room that you can visit in Pope Valley (northeast from Calistoga in Napa Valley).

Curvature Wines
Curvature Wines is another label that donates proceeds to breast cancer research. A joint venture between LPGA golfer Christie Kerr, who focuses many of her charitable activities on breast cancer, and Suzanne Pride Bryan who is both a breast cancer survivor and one of the owners of Pride Mountain Vineyards. Their current offering is a limited-production 2007 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. While there is just one wine, different packaging options are available including magnum and 3-liter bottles as well as a three-pack of 750ml bottles signed by Christie Kerr.

Ehlers Estate
Ehlers Estate is unique in that the winery actually belongs to a not-for-profit foundation. When founder Jean Leducq passed away in 2002, he left it in trust the the foundation that he and his wife, Sylviane, had started in 1996. As a result, 100% of the proceeds from from Ehlers Estate wine sales go to cardiovascular research. The winery, located north of downtown St. Helena, uses organic and biodynamic growing practices in growing Bordeaux grape varieties. Their tasting room is open by appointment daily and the wines are excellent.

Emtu Estate
Emtu Estate is a very small winery in Forestville (Russian River Valley) owned and operated by John and Chris Mason. The husband/wife team produce very nice Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Rosé of Merlot wine from the grapes grown in their 3 acre backyard. All the profits from sales of their wine go to charity through their Labyrinth Foundation. When the Masons aren’t busy with the winery or caring for the rescued birds of prey housed on their property, they travel around the world helping in communities of need. For more information on Emtu Estate read our detailed profile.

Humanitas
Humanitas is a Napa winery that also has a unique approach to philanthropy. Humanitas' profits all go to charity, but the charity that gets the money from your purchases is based in your own community. Humanitas works primarily with national charties that have local chapters all over the country. It gives directly to those chapters as dictated by sales. The winery also lists a large number of specific charities on its website and, if you wish, you can designate that some of the proceeds go to one of those. You do that by buying the wine from the Humanitas site and entering a specific promo code at checkout. The agencies supported include food banks, Habitat for Humanity and groups that support at-risk children.

Lookout Ridge
Lookout Ridge raises the bar on the sales-based giving. While the other wineries mentioned in this article donate some or all of their proceeds to charity, Lookout Ridge literally gives more money to charity than it takes in. For every single bottle of Lookout Ridge wine purchased, the winery gives a wheelchair to a needy individual. The buyer of the bottle (or the recipient if it's a gift) also receives a certificate and a photo of someone who has received one of the wheelchairs. Lookout Ridge relies heavily on donations of time and material from winemakers, vineyards, and other suppliers. If you can help in some way, they would love to hear from you.

Lookout Ridge offers a variety of wines produced from vineyards in Sonoma and Napa counties. Each wine is made by a high-profile winemaker such as Greg LaFollette, Andy Erickson and Cathy Corison. The wines are not cheap at $100 each. However, they are excellent (90+ points) and the cost of acquiring and distributing the wheelchairs, not to mention the wine production costs, is higher than the $100 bottle price. See our profile of Lookout Ridge which includes reviews of two of their wines.

One Hope Wine
One Hope Wine donates half of all profits to charity. Causes supported by these charities include children’s hospitals, United States military veterans and their families, and the fights against AIDs, breast cancer, autism and global warming. Specific causes are clearly identified for each wine, so you can allocate your dollars according to your preferences. The wines themselves are all varietals with general California designations except for a Pinot Noir that is from the Arroyo Seco AVA (Monterey County) specifically. To date, One Hope has contributed more than $350,000 to charity.

Just one more thing...
There's one more project I'd like to mention here, but it doesn't involve the sale of wine. Cellar Magic is a unique philanthropic wine project of Mara LaFollette (winemaker Greg LaFollette's wife). Cellar Magic wines aren’t for sale. They are all given away. Mara says, “We believe that man does not live on charity dollars alone, we want our teachers, medicos and firefighters to enjoy the fruits of our labor by having a glass of wine with their meals.” To that end, the wines are donated to community organizations such as Palmdrive Community Hospital, the Cancer Foundation, Electric Car Foundation and schools for holiday dinners, other special occasions and, occasionally, benefit auctions.

Cellar Magic still has some wine available for donation this year. There's a 2006 Semillion — I love aged Semillon! — from Amador County and Dry Creek Valley fruit and a 2005 Bordeaux-style white made from Amador County Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and a bit of Mendocino County Alvarinho. If you know of a worthy organization, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

If you enjoyed this article, please share it! Icons for popular sharing services are at the right above and also below.

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 2010 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.

Transparency in Blogging

The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) has announced new policies requiring full disclosure of sponsorships related to blog articles and reviews. Beginning in December, bloggers who are paid to mention, review or otherwise promote a product must make that completely clear to readers. Failure to do so can lead to fines of up to $11,000. (See this Washington Post article for more information on the new FTC rules.)

Falcons are for the Birds - Of Falcons, 49ers and Vineyard Bird Abatement

This weekend, the San Francisco 49ers face Atlanta for the NFC Championship. Northern Californians are normally both good-natured and nature-loving. At the moment though, we are decidedly hostile toward Falcons. We don’t like their uniforms or the way they fly across the field. We don’t want to see Matt Ryan air one out or their defense challenge our air superiority. We’ll cheer for the 49ers to ruffle, perhaps pluck, their feathers. Falcons, boo!

But, after this week, we should go back to liking falcons. And not just for their handsome profiles and breath-taking aerobatics. Trained falcons protect vineyards from grape-stealing birds.

Falconry experts Jim and Kathleen Tigan operate Tactical Avian Predators. For ten years, Jim has used his trained raptors to rid clients of troublesome starlings. The service is used by pet food manufacturers and oil companies, blueberry farmers and golf courses, car builders and even the city of San Francisco.

The customer closest to the Tigan’s heart is Hahn Family Wines in the Santa Lucia Highlands. After nearly a decade working with them, Jim Tigan says it feels like family. The feeling is mutual. “I think the world of Jim Tigan and his falcons," Bill Leigon, president of Hahn Family Wines, told me.

jimTiganTacticalAvianPredators
Jim Tigan releases a falcon at Hahn Family Vineyards.
Photo: Tactical Avian Predators

During the most crucial part of the year — a six week or longer period beginning just before veraison — the Tigan’s essentially move their household from Reno, Nevada to the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA vineyard. “We pack up the trailer, the dogs and the cats and work the thousand-acre vineyard seven days a week, sun up to sundown,” Kathleen tells me. The Tigans keep in close touch with Hahn director of vineyard operations Andy Mitchell. He tells them when and where there will be green drops or other harvest activities and where the grapes are becoming ripe. The Tigans target falcons on those areas to ensure there are no easy meals.

Starlings will rapidly devastate a vineyard. They are very intelligent and social birds, traveling in massive flocks. Starling scouts in squadrons of ten to forty birds go in all directions looking for those feeding grounds with the sweetest grapes. The scouts report back, then tens of thousands of shiny black fruit-eaters descend into the best vineyard. A single starling can eat a full bunch of grapes in just five minutes. When a starling gets full, almost spitefully, he’ll start peeling grapes and plucking out the crunchy, nutty seeds. If one bird can ravage a cluster in minutes, what will thousands of birds do to a vineyard’s yield?

Starlings aren’t the only birds that plunder vineyards. Finches and linnets are becoming an issue. They are still much less problematic though and are also protected species, so dealings with them need to be especially gentle.

Falcons hunt small birds by nature, zooming in and striking like an air-to-air missile. But the highly-trained falcons almost never injure or eat the enemy. They clear the skies through intimidation. Super-fast and maneuverable, they dive at a flock then bank and rise only to dive again. The starlings, not aware that these falcons don’t have murderous intent, head for a safer buffet. After several days of nerve-wracking fly-bys, the grape-burglars stop coming back. The falcons have established a no-fly zone.

There’s more to pest control falconry than wearing a cool leather gauntlet and watching your birds do their thing. The hours are long and physical. Jim starts at the crack of dawn with three birds and a dog. While his falcons circle, Jim and dog constantly walk the rows, looking for birds in the canopy and flushing them out. Eventually, it gets too hot for falcons, dog and falconer. They head back to the trailer until late afternoon when it’s cooler. Then, both Jim and Kathleen go out. They’ll take two dogs and six birds. Eventually, Jim heads in, leaving Kathleen and her team to take the late shift, working until dark.

565px-Peregrine Falcon 12
Peregrine Falcon. Photo: Ltshears

Jim Tigan uses four types of falcons to handle the various sizes of pests and different terrains. They also vary in their tolerance to heat. Peregrine falcons are astoundingly fast and can weigh up to three pounds. Saker falcons are a desert species renowned for their heat tolerance. Their size is, on average, similar to that of the largest Peregrines. Barbary Falcons, in the Peregrine family, are medium-sized with a very broad range of tolerated temperatures. They are fast but also highly maneuverable. They like high-altitude flying and love a good chase. Whereas the Peregrine and Barbary like to dive from great heights, the Lanner Falcon prefers low-altitude, horizontal pursuits.

The Grolier Encyclopedia tells us that Peregrine Falcons are the fastest living things on earth. In a dive, they can exceed 200 miles per hour.

Of course, most growers use other means to deal with thieving birds. Some cover vines with netting. Others tie shiny mylar strips to them. “Bird cannons” can be fired off periodically, frightening birds away with booming sound. In non-food businesses, such as oil fields, poison is sometimes used. Scarecrows don’t cut it. Strips and nets are practical and cost-effective in a small vineyard but become massively labor intensive and costly over large acreage. And you never know how much mylar is enough.

One year, driving back and forth to the vineyard each day, Jim saw a small boutique vineyard become an attraction to starlings. He’d honk his horn and try to scare them off, but had to get on with his own work. In the end, birds devastated that crop. “The next year when I came back to SLH,” Jim recalls, “there was at least one mylar strip on every single vine. The vineyard was so reflective, air traffic controllers might have had to re-route planes.”

Tactical Avian Predators’ fee works out to around 60 cents-per-acre for each day of work in big vineyards. Due to fixed costs of the business, price-per-acre would much higher for a small plot. “While a bit more expensive than netting or bird cannons, the use of falcons in the vineyard maintains our commitment to the environment and our commitment to a more humane treatment of the starlings. We see Tactical Avian Predators as an integral partner in our Sustainability program.” Bill Leigon explains. “Not only is bird netting a petroleum product, it can trap birds by the neck when they try to eat the grapes. A bird trapped in the netting can easily break its neck.” Tactical Avian Predators is a certified-green wildlife control company and Hahn Family Winery is SIP-certified.

Jim Tigan’s interest in falcons started during what he calls his “senior year of 4th grade,” (made necessary by dyslexia). He discovered My Side of the Mountain a book in which a teenage boy runs away to the Catskills, lives in the wilderness and, after reading up on falconry, captures and trains a peregrine. Jim captured his first falcon while in high school. After graduation, Tigan spent 13 years in the Coast Guard. While with the Coast Guard, he founded the Alaska Raptor Rehabilitation Center in Sitka, Alaska. When an injury forced his retirement from the service, falconry became his primary focus. Falcons became his business when Pedigree Dog Food asked him to see if his birds could get starlings out of the factory.

Starling-abatement at big vineyards is all-consuming, but it’s seasonal. Companies like Tactical Avian Predators look to work for a variety of businesses with different seasons. For example, Pacific Northwest blueberry farms and Lodi grape growers would likely see peak starling activity at different times than the Santa Lucia Highlands. And not every gig is starling abatement. Tactical Avian Predators also does educational demonstrations. One of their competitors works for the Seattle Seahawks, his trained falcon serving as their mascot.

A study, reported in Science, found a falcon’s visual acuity is 2.67 times better than a human’s. We should train falcons to be referees!

That brings us back to this weekend. Who will falconers Jim and Kathleen Tigan be rooting for? The 49ers! As Reno-residents with ties to wine country, they see San Francisco as the home team.

Colin-KaepernickThey are also hugely enthusiastic fans of 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick. The run or gun phenom was born in Milwaukee, but his family moved to Turlock when he was four years old. He went to college at the University of Nevada, Reno and was very popular there for both his multi-sport skills and his personality. Reno residents consider him a hometown hero.

If there had been the slightest chance of the Tigan’s pulling for Atlanta due to their falcon affinity, marketers blew that. “Their mascot isn’t even a real falcon,” Kathleen exclaims in disbelief. “They’ve got some guy walking around in a stupid stuffed-bird costume.” So, go Niners!

 

Freddie Falcons
An embarrassment to falconers.

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.

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

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