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Registration Deadlines Approach for Two Wine-Related Courses


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 Copyright 2013 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.


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.


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."]

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


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
Hope & Grace
Mer Soleil
Patz & Hall
Paul Lato
Peter Michael


Latitude: 36.46° to 36.33°

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

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.


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 Copyright 2011 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'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 Copyright 2011 NorCal Wine. Photo courtesy of Livemore Valley Wine Growers. All rights reserved.

New Wines and Intriguing Blends from ZAP 2012

I attended the 2012 ZAP Grand Tasting on January 28. It was a good event. There were more than 200 wineries on hand, almost all of them pouring multiple wines. The new venue was excellent.

About the Wine

It’s safe to say that every important Zinfandel growing region and Zinfandel wine style was represented at ZAP 2012. There were released wines and barrel samples. Wineries that produce less than 200 cases of Zinfandel per year poured alongside some making many tens of thousands. Some of the wines sell for under $10. I also tasted some that go for more than $60. The only Zinfandel you couldn’t find there was White Zinfandel. And that’s okay by me.

I tasted about 50 wines. I tried enough of the usual suspects to know that you can count on them to be good again this year. But I also looked for things with which you might be totally unfamiliar.

The Best New Wines I Tried

2009-clopton-vineyard-poppy2009 Wine Guerrilla Clopton Vineyard Zinfandel Russian River Valley
Wine Guerrilla may be a familiar name to you. They’ve been something of an old vine Zinsation since people discovered their 2007 vintage at ZAP a few years ago. Wine Guerrilla has nine different wines available from the 2009 vintage. All but one are single-vineyard. Each features a different — and gorgeous — label designed by Sean Colgin.

2009 is the very first vintage of wine from the Clopton Vineyard for Wine Guerrilla. The vines at Clopton are more than 100 years old. Wine Guerrilla made just 125 cases. The wine oozed berry cobbler and spice with a touch of cocoa. Tannins are moderate and the palate smooth. You can drink it on it’s own, or with food. Highly Recommended. $35

2010 McCay Cellars Contention
I’ve written about McCay before and listed them as a recommended stop at ZAP 2012. They’ make excellent Lodi Zinfandel: complex, balanced and unique. Proprietor/winemaker Mike McCay poured me a barrel-sample from a new single-vineyard wine.

In keeping with McCay’s thoughtful style, the wine was fermented with native yeasts only and is aging in French oak, just 24% new. It will be bottled next month and released during the summer. The nose was a bit sleepy, having been rousted from barrel in the dead of night, but showed intriguing dusty berry aromatics. The palate is concentrated blue and black fruit with notes of spice. The wine will be positioned as McCay Cellars’ top-of-the-line and I expect it be a powerful and age-worthy expression of the vineyard. Look forward to it.

Delightful Zinfandel Blends

I like Zinfandel as a varietal wine, relatively unblended. It has a purity of flavor and sings with one voice. Most Zinfandel-centric, multi-varietal blends use the additional grapes to fill-in gaps in the wine without changing the core. They are still a solo performance, rounded out with some studio mixing. But, even more daring blends can be exciting and even transformative.

2009 JC Cellars The Impostor California
In The Impostor, Zinfandel is the lead singer in a group. Each member contributes something unique and identifiable. You get bold blackberry, but also leather and allspice plus notes of peach and white flowers. The blend is Zinfandel, Syrah, Petite Sirah, Grenache, Mourvedre and Viognier. It’s a complete and engaging wine. Highly Recommended. $35

2008 Bucklin Old Hill Ranch Ancient Vines Sonoma
Bucklin Zinfandel garners complexity from some of Sonoma’s oldest vines. But there are more than 20 background singers too. Most are used in small amounts; some of the varieties aren’t even identifiable in the vineyard. In my glass there was a strong core of integrated black fruit complemented by subtle herb and exotic spice. Chalky tannins and ample acidity indicate this wine will age well for a decade. Highly Recommended. $34

2009 Saldo Zinfandel California
Dave Phinney collects grapes — mostly Zinfandel — from choice vineyards throughout five counties to create a blend that is both high-quality and high-volume (more than 25,000 cases). Made from Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Syrah and Grenache it reminds me of seared venison with a delectable mixed berry sauce. Highly Recommended. $28

2009 Tres Sabores “Por qué no?”
Serious organic viticulture and winemaking don’t have to result in stuffy, intellectual wines. Tres Sabores’ Por que no? is blend of Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah and Petit Verdot aged in Bordelais, Burgundian and American oak barrels. And it’s a delightful, crowd-pleasing wine bursting with fruit and spice. Having a couple of bottles on hand, you’ll want to throw a party. Highly Recommended. $24

About the Logistics

The move to The Concourse at 8th and Brannan was a huge improvement. The new spot involves a somewhat greater amount of city traffic in the immediate vicinity. However, there are significant benefits that outweigh that inconvenience.

The Concourse is much closer major freeways than Fort Mason. Getting to the conference by car this year should have been a lot easier for most people. There was more parking nearby and the Concourse is much closer to BART, Caltrain and central San Francisco.

The Concourse was big enough to contain the entire Grand Tasting in one, long hall. At Fort Mason, the tasting had to be split between two buildings. As it happened, that wouldn’t have been a big issue this year because the weather was good. But, in past years that were cold and/or rainy, a single hall would have been very welcome.

The Concourse has a warmer, friendlier vibe. The floors are carpeted and the walls and ceiling much nicer than the cold, concrete warehouse’s dubbed pavilions at the Fort. I’m looking forward to more tastings at The Concourse.

Moving on... the ZAP group did a good job of making sure that everyone attending the trade tasting got a baguette slapped in their hand before getting to the wine. That’s a very good call and I applaud the effort to keep attendees soberish. Along those lines though... they should offer more spit cups! There were too few and they were too hard to find.


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 2012 NorCal Wine. Wine label courtesy of Wine Guerrila, artwork by Sean Colgin. All rights reserved.

Loads of Wine Events for this Pre-Holiday Weekend

wreathOnlyWithType2011webIf you survived Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and your credit cards haven't cried "Uncle" yet, this will be a great weekend to go shopping for your wine-loving friends. Or your wine-loving self. Wineries all over northern California are pouring not just wine, but holiday cheer. There are art and gift shows, tree lightings and plenty of tasty treats. And two big region-wide Passport-ish events: Rutherford and Livermore Valley. So, skip that crowded shopping mall this weekend and head out to your local wineries.

If you happen to be in Paso Robles this evening, start the weekend off right with some mulled wine and cookies at Vina Robles tree illuminating celebration. No RSVP is necessary. 5:30 - 7:30pm.

East Bay

Wine Wonderland Open House — Rock Wall Wine Company, Alameda: 1 - 5pm, Saturday Dec. 3
A variety of selections from Rock Wall and their resident producers: Blacksmith Cellars, Carica Wines, Ehrenberg Cellars, Eno Wines, John Robert Eppler Wines, Joseph Gary Cellars, Mercy and R&B Cellars! More than 65 wines in all.

Stomping Girl Winery Pop-Up — Zut! On Fourth restaurant, Berkeley: 3 - 5pm, Saturday Dec. 3
A complimentary wine tasting with the winemakers.

Tessier Release Party — BarCeluna, Alameda: 1 - 4pm, Sunday Dec.. 4
A trio of brand new Tessier wines will be poured from the 2010 vintage—a Pinot Noir from the Carneros region, the Russian River blend, and a very special bottling from Saralee’s Vineyard.

Lake County

Art & Wine Reception with Obsidian Ridge — Lake County Wine Studio, Upper Lake: 4 - 7pm, Saturday Dec. 3
Meet artist Renee Geare, while sipping delicious newly released wines from Obsidian Ridge Vineyard paired with delectable appetizers.

Livermore Valley

Holiday in the Vineyards — Livermore Valley Wineries: noon to 5pm, Saturday & Sunday, Dec. 3, 4
An annual wine country tradition where wineries showcase their tasting rooms with arts and craft vendors, special wines, festive activities, santa visits, carolers, and more.


Downtown Lodi Holiday Wine Walk — Lodi: noon - 5pm, Saturday, Dec.. 3
Sample wines at nine tasting rooms.

Napa Valley

Art & Wine at Nichelini Family Winery — St. Helena: 11am - 5pm, Saturday & Sunday, Dec. 3, 4
After 121 years [Wow!], Nichelini Family Winery hosts the opening of its first ever art show. Featured will be ceramic sculptures and functional art objects created by renowned Napa artists Wendy Spiers and Carlos Oropeza.

Rutherford Passport Weekend — Rutherford Wineries: 11am - 4pm, Saturday & Sunday, Dec. 3, 4
Enjoy special pourings, barrel and tank tastings, paired food and wines, and conversations with the winemakers

Holiday Party & Tree Lighting — Robert Mondavi Winery, Oakville: 3 - 5pm, Saturday, Dec. 3
The annual tree lighting ceremony and party, including horse and buggy rides through the To Kalon vineyard, Moscato d’Oro and other Robert Mondavi Winery wines, hot apple cider, carolers, Italian cookies, cheese, charcuterie and a visit from Santa Claus.

Paso Robles

Changala Winery Holiday Open House — Paso Robles: 11am - 5pm, Saturday Dec. 3
Enjoy live music, nibbles, great wine and chocolate, all sorts of goodies and fun.

San Francisco and SF Peninsula

Best of California Cabernet Tasting — K & L Wines, Redwood City: 1 - 4pm, Saturday, Dec. 3
13 Cabernet Sauvignon from the 2008 vintage, including Dominus, Staglin, Quintessa and Paul Hobbs Beckstoffer To-Kalon. [I'll be there and hope to see you.]

Shypoke Cellars tasting — Que Syrah Wine Bar, San Francisco: 5 - 8pm, Saturday Dec. 3
Peter Heitz will be pouring four wines from his current vintage.

Sierra Foothills

Deaver Vineyards Holiday Open House — Plymouth: 11am - 5pm, Saturday & Sunday, Dec. 3, 4
Nibbles, recipe ideas and wine tasting.

Sonoma County

Siduri/Novy Family Holiday Open House — Santa Rosa: 9am to 4pm, Saturday Dec. 3
Celebrate the Holiday Season with a large selection of wines, many offered at special Holiday prices, plus gourmet nibbles (at least as gourmet as we get), and prizes for the ugliest Holiday outfits.

Sonoma Valley Wine Market — Sonoma: noon to 4pm, Saturday Dec. 3
Unprecedented access to over 35 Sonoma Valley wineries all in one place!

Townley Wines Holiday Party — Sonoma: 1 - 4pm, Saturday Dec. 2
They will pour tastes of our new wines and serve light appetizers with lots of holiday cheer. [Randy Townley's wines aren't widely known, but I've really enjoyed his Pinot Noir and Syrah over the years. Try to get out there to taste them if you can. - Fred]

Kenwood Vineyards Art, Food and Wine Experience - Kenwood: 2:00 - 3:30pm, Saturday & Sunday Dec. 3, 4
Taste exceptional Cabernet Sauvignons while learning and viewing the renowned Artist Series Collection. These are tours, so you should reserve a spot and arrive at or before the stated start time.

Annual Catalan Holiday Luncheon at Gloria Ferrer — Sonoma: 11am - 2pm, Sunday Dec. 4
A special Catalan-inspired holiday luncheon featuring traditional Spanish feast with a sparkling wine reception. [I can tell you from personal experience that Gloria Ferrer knows how to put out an excellent spread!]

Southern California

Best of California Cabernet Tasting, Session 1 — K & L, Hollywood: 1 - 3pm, Saturday, Dec. 3
Robert Craig, Lewis Cellars, Phelps insignia, Dominus and more.

Best of California Cabernet Tasting, Session 2 — K & L, Hollywood: 4 - 6pm, Saturday, Dec. 3
Robert Craig, Lewis Cellars, Phelps insignia, Dominus and more.

Winter Wine Classic — Santa Barbara: 4 - 7pm, Sunday Dec. 4
A grand tasting of nearly 100 classic California wines.


Do you or your favorite winery have an upcoming event involving Northern California wine? Event organizers can publicize it in'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 Copyright 2011 NorCal Wine. Photo courtesy of Livemore Valley Wine Growers. All rights reserved.