Jun 28, 2013

Visiting Santa Clara Valley part two.

As we mentioned in a previous post, the number of tasting rooms in the area seemed conquerable in just a couple hard working visits. We were wrong! An area with a lot of history that dates back way further than most would imagine. This is an area that is easy to fall in love with, and with each visit and new place we stop at, this is just reaffirmed.

Here are some of the other great spots we tasted at on our last visit...

Kirigin Cellars; Kirigin Cellars is old! How old you ask? It was founded in 1916, making it one of California's oldest. They have two tasting areas and we chose to go to the one set inside the barrel room. Made of old large format barrels it's a bit like taking a trip back in time (in a good way) with all the old barrel wood and decorations. Standing there tasting in this environment was a real treat, with the barrels just a few feet away in the cool of the room where it all happens. Nice! There is yet another surprise, all the wines are in the **** category making them an excellent value. Even their Vino de Mocca, their famous dessert wine! This unique wine is infused with coffee chocolate & a touch of orange. This is one very unusual wine that they call "The Kissing Wine!" We think aside from an after dinner drink that at Christmas time it would be a fantastic wine to share.
The facilities are quite large and contain spaces for meetings and corporate events as well as large grass open spaces for car shows and dog shows and even cricket! Go by and check all they have to offer. Maybe go taste, buy a bottle and enjoy watching a game of Cricket on June 30th, July 4th, 5th, 21st and 28th. Been a while since Koala has bowled a bouncer in anger!

Sarah's Vineyard; Going to Sarah's Vineyard is like visiting your favorite Aunties house. She has a nice comfy inviting house, you love her and she has good stuff (comfort food). In this case instead of comfort food,  it just happens to be good wine. The tasting room has a very comfortable feel and is able to serve quite a number of people.
There is a lovely deck to sit out on and a great lawn area as well to enjoy the beautiful weather and that picnic lunch you packed to impress that date you have with you (married couples this applies to you to). By request on a first come first serve they even have bocce ball for those so inclined. Established in 1978 Sarah's Vineyard has a nice wine list to choose a tasting from. When visiting Sarah’s Vineyard you will find a Grenache vineyard 100 years old less than a mile away, and their Old Vine Zinfandel is made with grapes from gnarled vines planted, back in 1922 just a couple miles down the road. Go on by and experience that favorite Aunts place, you know the one with the tasting room.

Satori Cellars; Stopping at Satori Cellars is quite an experience. A bit like a cross between something Jimmy Buffet would set up and a Caribbean island bar. A fun friendly colorful arrangement that just puts a smile on your face even before you start on the wine. The tasting area as we understand it opened in 2008 and has been making people happy ever since.
The name Satori. Does it mean anything? well to quote their website (so as not to screw it up) 'Satori Cellars gets its name from two sources; Sandy, Tom & Riley who own the vineyard and manage the winery and from the Zen Buddhist term meaning “a taste of enlightenment” or “sudden unbidden moments of absolute stillness and peace in which time stops and the perfection and beauty of creation shine forth”.
Tasting started with some lovely bubbles, a Chardonnay and through some light, medium and bold reds. Some very nice wines! Sitting in the colorful bohemian setting, enjoying the wine and listening to an eclectic selection of music, was a great way to while away a couple hours. Next visit we will take our time. Go take it all in for yourself and see what a weekend almost island holiday is like.

Sycamore Creek Vineyards;
The history of the area is again at the forefront with Sycamore Creek Vineyards, as the winery property was originally known as the Marchetti Ranch, a pre-prohibition family vineyard and winery established at the turn of the 20th century. In 1975, the property was purchased by Terry and Mary Kay Parks, both former school teachers, who renamed the property Sycamore Creek after the small stream that bisects the vineyard.  It is now owned by Bill and Carolyn Holt of Morgan Hill who in July of 2005, purchased Sycamore Creek Vineyards.

The tasting room is set up in the working winery on a series of wine barrels and a couple tables with chairs for those who wish to sit. It is a very nice way to taste with the barrels and the stainless steel tanks right there. There is also a just recently completed out door patio with picnic tables, chairs and umbrellas set up for your picnic and tasting pleasure. Sitting out under the shade of the umbrellas on a nice day would be a great way to spend an afternoon. A nice selection of wine to taste and we took a 2008 Syrah Santa Clara Valley, to dinner with us one night. The 2012 Blanc De Rouge Santa Clara Valley, blush was just recently a WW. We purchased a couple bottles and found they do not last. Drank the first one while watching the sunset on Carmel beach the same day we bought it and the second one the next day at a friends BBQ.

Go by and discover what these wineries have to offer, we 'recommend' you do!

Happy Tasting Adventures,


Kiwi & Koala

Previous stories;

Wine tasting in Santa Clara, California

Sampling Santa Clara Valley

Jun 26, 2013

Sampling Santa Clara Valley

Tasting wine is supposed to be just that, tasting. Not seeing how many places you can hit and how fast you can move on to the next one until you drop. Sometimes though a little expeditious tasting is in order. While trying to get a handle on the *Wineries of Santa Clara Valley* region we discovered that while the numbers seemed like just a few trips would be needed, the experience did not allow for that to happen. Basically this is going to be a multi-part Adventure, as what we have discovered is, not only are there some very nice wines, there are also some very nice people to spend time talking to. The area also has a very long history that is a big part of the makeup of the area. The following places are some we have visited so far in the order they are shown on the map. This part one of, well we are not sure, but there definitely will at least a few more Adventures in this area to come.
Aver Family Vineyards. Only open on the first and third weekends of each month or for special events, we got lucky the day we decided to visit was one of those weekends. Walking up the the house we were greeted by mom, who was in charge of welcoming visitors and collecting the tasting fee and providing the redemption coupon to be applied with purchase. Tasting on the patio with none other than John Aver himself pouring, we started out with a nice light easy to drink Chardonnay. We then moved on to the reds. Some excellent wines were tasted while John gave a brief history of Aver Family Vineyards and the wines. Although purchasing one of each red was what was wanted in keeping with the 2013 resolution of more less expensive wines we left with a bottle of 2010 Family Album, a red wine blend. The story behind the label is just heart warming. However buyers remorse (or lack of buying) set in later and another trip was planned for the next time they were open to get some of the 2007 Blessings, Petit Sirah. While the 2009 was very good the 2007 was really in the zone and ready to experienced. Unfortunately on the return visit the 2007 was sold out. But not to worry there was still some 2009 Blessings Petit Sirah to be had. Lesson here is 'small case production means if you like it get it while the getting is still possible'.

Pronounced (gool-yell-mo) is a third generation family owned winery in Santa Clara Valley. They have been making wine here Since 1925. What in 1925 you say! Yes indeed, in 1925, 16 years after landing on Ellis Island, Emilio and Emilia took their saved earnings and they purchased fifteen acres in Morgan Hill in the Santa Clara Valley, commonly referred to at time as the 'valley of hearts delight' due to the bountiful orchards and rich agricultural community. It was at this time the Emilio Guglielmo Winery, was founded.
Guglielmo Winery produces a wide variety of award-winning varietals from more than 100 acres of Santa Clara Valley estate vineyards. They are one of the larger Santa Clara producers and do about  40,000 cases annually under three different labels, Guglielmo Private Reserve, TRÉ, and our oldest label, Emile's. We were lucky enough to get to spend a little time with Greg Richtarek, the Director of Marketing one afternoon. During the visit Greg was full of interesting information and stories of the history of Guglielmo Winery, and also about the area of Santa Clara. As it turns out, Greg is the VP of the Wineries of Santa Clara Valley association and so had a lot of enthusiasm and information about the area as a whole.

Greg showed off the winery with pride and talked about how things are in constant change. Improvements to different parts of the winery, so as in the end to continue to produce good wines at good prices, and to provide a great experience for their customers. They have a number of event areas of different sizes and functions to accommodate all kinds of requirements. The continued effort to improve is obvious everywhere.

With a lot of talking and walking there was only a little time for drinking on this day so had to enjoy just a couple of tastes. It was a very warm day so got on the whites fast. They have some lovely whites that will make almost anyone happy. The price point / enjoyment of the TRÉ Chardonnay was too good to pass up.
We will be headed back here for sure to taste all the offerings and to enjoy one of the great looking cheese and meat platters as well. Go by and check em out and enjoy a relaxing afternoon.

Jason-Stephens Winery
Driving down the access road into Jason-Stephens Winery is like heading out to the redwood picnic grounds through a vineyard. The area adjacent to the tasting room is a great spot to sit under the trees and listen to the nearby creek and enjoy a picnic and a good bottle of your favorite Jason-Stephens wine. There are plenty of wines to choose from that are sure to please.

Tasting one afternoon with Jason Goelz was a great experience. Talking about each of the wines we tasted, and hearing right from the man himself about the season in the vineyard, the challenges that particular vintage and or vineyard had and the different approaches to dealing with it. We even were treated to an impromptu blending seminar just for us, of a couple of white wines, blended together and how subtle percentage changes affect the balance of flavors and  and how the right combination can make 1+1=3. Taking advantage of the local micro-climates Jason talked about the very hands on approach to each and every wine they make. He is also a big believer and proponent of the SIP process and was quick to share some of the unique things they are doing to set themselves apart even in this arena. It was a great afternoon of wine and conversation and in a very nice and welcoming tasting room. Go by and check out Jason-Stephens Winery for yourself. You will be glad you did.

Lightheart Cellars
Lightheart Cellars is probably one of the smallest estate wineries in the Santa Clara Wine Region, featuring handmade, single vineyard wines. They are open on the first and third full weekend of every month and by appointment for private tastings. This is a true small, hand made style family winery. Their production is still small enough that the most effective way to bottle is by hand. Lightheart Cellars have an outdoor tasting area, set adjacent to the estate vines and crushpad. A relaxing back yard feel where the owners Jane and Sheldon Haynie are more often than not both there pouring your tastings. Along with some lovely wines they also have on offer, Mead. Jane's son Noah is the Mead Master. Noah is happy to converse on mead making, its storied history and its resurgence in popularity and how it is made from Honey instead of grapes, Mead's are a traditional libation from Northern latitudes where there were bees but not vines. Think King Arthur.

While Sheldon still has a day job he is always busy at five in the morning in the vineyards and every afternoon as well. As he puts it, he does the outside work and most of the heavy lifting. Jane is the wine maker and is deeply immersed in learning everything she can as fast as she can. Both have skilled backgrounds that have enabled them to get up to speed quickly, with Sheldon in the semiconductor field and Jane as a clinical RN, they bring a very analytic approach to all aspects of the winery. Their ability to quickly assimilate the new knowledge and apply it will help guide them to ever more success.
Spending time talking with Sheldon, Jane and Noah and getting to know then and their passion for Lightheart Cellars and Alderin's Meadery made for a great afternoon. Sitting, chatting and tasting wine with the people who have their hand on all the aspects from vineyard to glass in a comfortable relaxing setting was pretty darn cool.

Happy Tasting Adventures,


Kiwi & Koala

Jun 24, 2013

Puma Road 1st Annual Bordeaux BBQ Adventure, California

The Puma Road 1st Annual Bordeaux BBQ event was held out at the Pedregal Vineyards in Paicines. Where the heck is that you may ask? Well, its south of Hollister on the road to the Pinnacles in Sunny California and basically in the middle of nowhere.

Recently on a trip down River Road Wine Trail the new Puma Road Tasting room was discovered and an impromptu afternoon with relatively new (to Puma Road) wine maker David Coventry ensued. An enlightening afternoon of past, current and future releases were sampled and the philosophy behind the approach discussed. It was an epic tasting. While there we were told of this upcoming 1st event and we could not pass it up. There were even a couple of very uncommon and interesting vehicles used to arrive at the event (see photo below).

The drive to the event location took about an hour from Monterey, and without an actual address or GPS coordinates finding the location was a bit of a worry. But that need not have been the case as once within the general area there were many signs and balloons to lead us in. We really were heading out onto a working ranch with cattle, regular agg crops and vineyards. We drove through and saw the signs for Cabernet Savignon vines and Merlot vines and even Parking vines.

We parked in an open field and wandered up to the check-in tent. There we paid, got registered, given raffle tickets, some information and were directed to the wine glasses. Once the glasses were acquired we were straight up to one of the two bar ares for our fist taste. A nice light easy to drink Chardonnay. Wait, I thought this was a Bordeaux event you ask? Well yes, and no. Really perhaps it should have been the 1st Bordeaux meets Rhone BBQ. Anyhow, event names aside it was a lovely if not breezy day for the event. As we were saying we started tasting immediately while we waited for our vineyard tour. The BBQ was going and we were tasting some Pinot Noir and a Merlot and just as the  food was being served we were called up to head out on our tour (don't worry we were well fed after). Each of the two large ATV's were driven by one of the vineyard managers and also along to conduct the tour was David Coventry the winemaker.

The first stop for the group was up on the top of the hill adjacent to the Chardonnay vines and across from the Pinot Noir vines. As we tasted the wine from each vineyard Dave gave us the story of the vine to the glass and the vineyard managers chimed in with some of the vineyard specifics. This was the first stop of three, with a Merlot and Cabernet Savignon stop and a Malbec and Petite Verdot stop to finish. It was an educational, interesting and entertaining tour with some nice wine to boot.

Once back at BBQ central we got stuck into the food. Some wonderful Tri-tip and beans and garlic bread followed by some pork ribs and all washed down with some lovely wines.

It was an day of good wine, food and education in a great setting that we enjoyed. As far as we could tell everyone else did as well. The event looked like it was a big success and we look forward to the next one no matter what they call it! Go by the Puma Road tasting room and check out the wine, we 'recommend' you do.

Happy Tasting Adventures,


Kiwi & Koala

In the parking lot Kiwi checks out the latest way to get to a tasting...

Winery & Tasting Room is located at 32720 River Road, about one mile south of the Gonzales bridge.
Open Saturdays and Sundays 12-5pm

You can also visit them at the Carmel location, on Dolores between Ocean and 7th Street in Carmel By-The-Sea. Located right next to the Tuck Box, open daily from 2:30-7pm.

Jun 19, 2013

Wine tasting in Montecarlo, at Buonamico

In Montecarlo, no not that Montecarlo, this Montecarlo, as in Lucca Italy. The Estate of Buonamico is situated south-west of Monte Carlo, in the Cercatoia, and covers an area of ​​40 hectares. The vineyards are located for the most part in Cercatoia and Court Collodi and now cover about 30 hectares. This winery has history that dates back prior to 1870.

In 2009 there was a lot of new plantings of new grapevines that were are exclusively derived from noble strains, including white grapes such as Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Vermentino and Viogner, and red grape varieties such as Sangiovese Syrah and Canaiolo. These new plantations have been structured to increase the mechanization of the winery itself, as well as to try maintain high quality standards.

Arriving quite late in the afternoon (5pm) on a Thursday the modern yet inviting tasting room was almost empty which exaggerated the very spacious feel. This is a modern, as in relatively new and done in a modern style, spacious tasting room, and is setup to taste at the bar, or in small groups in the upper level in the back part of the tasting room. We were lucky enough to get here after spending a lot of time at another place and so unfortunately did not get a chance to tour the facilities but we did get to sample some olive oil (the traditional way) and all the wines being sold at the time (quite a few). 

Chiara made us feel at home and started out informing us of the process of picking and pressing the olives and how the terrior and olive tree clones give the flavour. Traditional olive oil tasting is for the pros and that is not us. Give us some fabulous bread to dip in it and we are happy, but to knock back a couple ounces of straight olive oil is a bit of sensory overload for our wimpy palates. 

The process is to take the small shot size glass and cup in one hand to warm the olive oil up while covering it with the other to keep the fumes in. After a minute give it a good sniff just like you would with wine to take in all the olfactory information you can. Once this information is collected knock it back like a shot! Bam! Whoa! Wow and fight the urge to cough! Yeah, nah, we prefer dipping bread into the olive oil and to keep the title of p.....'s (deleted by censor).

Chiara also walked us through the wine line up starting with some bubbly, and then a bit more bubbly once we thought our taste buds were back in gear after the olive oil incident. After what was a great bubbly Chiara lead us through the list of wines on offer and was very informed about each of the wines we tasted. Some wonderful wines were tasted and once again we broke the one bottle each rule (seeing a pattern).

We had a great tasting and wish we had arrived a little earlier to take a tour of the entire facility. From what we understand it would have been well worth our time. Don't make the same mistake we did. Call and book a visit and enjoy the whole package, we 'recommend' you do.


Kiwi & Koala

Jun 17, 2013

Taste of Mendocino 2013

A Taste of Mendocino  was to be a great way for us to get a handle on this somewhat lesser known (for us at least) wine region. Hosted by Mendocino Winegrowers, Inc. and Visit Mendocino County, at the lovely San Francisco's Golden Gate Club in the beautiful Presidio. The first part of the event was exclusive to qualified, credentialed trade and media, and they let us in anyway (thanks)!

It sure was a beautiful day, and tasting wine overlooking San Francisco Bay while the Fly Emirates Team New Zealand AC45 was out sailing was just an added bonus. The Mendocino region as mentioned earlier, is one that was somewhat unfamiliar to us, and this was the ideal event to get us up to speed and find out if an Adventure is in order.

The event seemed well organized with a quick check in, ID badges and a bag of regional information flyers to get you started off inside to get your glass. Once inside there were about 30 wineries pouring their wines and a great small sandwich / panini and crisps plate being served all afternoon. There was also some great fudge tasting as well as a couple of pie samples to be enjoyed as a break from all the wines. This was some of the best food at a tasting in a while. One minor note though, leave out the raw red onions in food from any wine event (messes with the tasting process). We did really enjoy the food!

Wandering around and talking and tasting was relatively easy, and most vendors had someone with intimate knowledge of the wines or vineyards which really is good. There were a lot of very nice wines and most have very good price points well inside the **** range which makes this area one of interest for a future Adventure.

While we try to figure out when an Adventure may happen, the following wineries are just one's that either had wines that were of a price / taste balance that caught our attention, and or we had a nice time chatting and learning about them and the area. If you make it up there before we do, maybe let us know if you stop by any of these, or for that matter any in the area. The first one we spent some time at was Albertina Wine Cellars, where we enjoyed talking with Fred for quite a while. The next one that comes to mind (and some notes) that we enjoyed was Brutocao Cellars, where we had some laughs with Aaron.

Baxter was another of the memorable stops where we talked interesting wine stuff with Phil and talked about their property. We also spent a fair amount of time chatting with Paul with Parducci, while tasting his wine. Last but certainly not least was the guy with the best spot in the place. Gary with Kimmel Vineyards, was positioned right between the Fudge and the pie vendors. The wine was good as well!

The event has definitely put the area on the map for us, and there were many other worthy wines tasted there, so rest assured there will be an Adventure in the works as soon as we can get our s___ (censor edit) together.

Happy Tasting Adventures,


Kiwi & Koala

Jun 6, 2013

Wine tasting in Santa Clara, California

Wine tasting in Santa Clara Valley? Yes, you read that correctly. One of the best kept wine tasting secrets we know of. Ok, so we didn't know of it really till recently, but now we do and you should too!

South of San Jose and situated in an area that is bordered on one side by the Santa Cruz Mountains and on the other by the Diablo Range, Santa Clara Valley has a very Mediterranean climate that lends itself perfectly to the craft that is viticulture. The grape vines in the AVA love the temperature difference that occurs with warm days and cool to cold evenings. This area has the type of climate and topography, that with some thoughtful site selection, allows you successfully grow almost any variety of vine you wish.
After tasting a number of area wines from a cross section of the wineries, it was apparent that there were some quality wines here that a lot of people need to know about. Looking into the area wines and finding that they are collecting an amazing number of credible accolades, did not come as a surprise.

With over twenty two member wineries there are a plethora of delightful tasting choices from the small family setup that offers tastings on the back patio, to some larger operations with picnic areas, banquet rooms and or wedding facilities. With many Gold and Double Gold medals as well as so many other awards among them there is solid validation of the tastings had so far. We are looking forward to doing them all! Yep, you read that correctly! Tasting from every one of the members of the Wineries of Santa Clara Valley. We will be dividing up the next stories in to west side of HWY 101 and east side north and south and unless they lock the gates on us, it should be very doable.

After spending some time talking with Greg Richtarek the VP for the association board at the Guglielmo Winery where he works as the Director of Marketing, and learning a little about the area and the history we can't wait to get stuck into it. How come you only learned a little you may ask, well information retention is not a strength and as there is a ton of info on their website, rather than just restate it, go to their website.

The Wineries of Santa Clara Valley association also organizes events through out the year and the next big event is a first. The Wineries of Santa Clara Valley tell us that you are invited to attend this inaugural wine and food event,

Wineries of Santa Clara Valley Present - Silicon Valley's Wine Escape!
featuring: 22 award winning wineries from the Santa Clara Valley AVA, and over a dozen premier restaurants from throughout the region. When is it?

Saturday, June 29th, with things happening between 9:30am to 4:00pm

Campbell Community Center
1 West Campbell Avenue
Campbell, California 95008

There is also the Santa Clara Valley Passport Weekend -- Save the Date! October 5th and 6th, $30 per person.

Take part in activities planned exclusively for passport holders:
Winery Tours - Special Discounts - New Releases - Music - AND GREAT WINES!!

Passports can be purchased at any participating winery, the Morgan Hill Chamber of Commerce and the Gilroy Welcome Center and Rocca's Market 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM

We, or at least one of us, will be attending this event to check it out as this should be a great time, and we hope to see you there!

Over the next few weeks we will also be visiting the member wineries and compiling some stories of our Adventures along the way. You have a chance to beat us to em if you hurry. Tell em we sent you and enjoy the Adventure , we 'recommend" you do.

Happy Tasting Adventures,
Kiwi & Koala

Jun 4, 2013

Enthralling Fattoria Di Fubbiano,

"Il vino rende lieto il cuore"

"Wine make's your heart happy" ~ Tommaso d'Aquino

The Villa, set among olive groves and vineyards was already listed in tax records as far back as 1392 and is the heart of the estate. This property has been in continuous operation since 1694.

This historic property is Fattoria di Fubbianoand is only 15 km from Lucca, 65 km from Florence or  35 km from the Pisa airport and along the Lucca hills, between the villages of Tofori and San Gennaro, an area where wine has been produced since the 14th century. 

This estate property covers about 45 hectares and they have just finished and started using their new winery building. 20 hectares are used for wine production with an average annual yield of around 100.000 bottles.
This new state of the art facility is hidden into a hillside and doubles as a shaded plaza area that can be used for large gatherings. There are discreetly camouflaged openings hidden into the covered area floor, and when the the grape harvest is delivered they are opened and the grapes go through the floor of the plaza which is the roof of the winery. 

This is just one of a number of things that have been enhanced and about to be enhanced on this property. 
With the new winery area up and running the barrels were all relocated there and that made for a vacated space that is now set up for lots of smaller group tastings or a very large event. The room was just fantastic.

The Villa is currently being restored and will be used as a B&B once complete. We would be lying if we said we did not want to come back and stay. It was stunning. They have a lot here besides wine and a place to stay, with farm tours and cooking classes, the whole Agritourism experience (next time).

The old barrel room
After Chiara gave us a lovely tour of the facilities it was time for us to put our finely tuned palates to work. As fate, luck, or just strange happenstance would have it, we had had a bottle of the hall mark wine from Fattoria di Fabbiano while relaxing at an outdoor restaurant in Lucca just a few days earlier. A bottle of 'First Love'. An inexpensive and lovely to drink wine, but also one with significant importance to the owner.

We enjoyed a great tasting of good olive oil and wines, as we broke the one bottle per person rule again.

This was to later become a predicament as packing wine bottles into a suitcase has its limits! Big last night in Italy headed our way!

This is a great facility with very good wines, and we 'recommend' you make an appointment and go check it out. Tell em we sent you...

Kiwi & Koala

The good news is that these wines are available in the USA through APS Wines and Spirits. www.apswine.com
Afternoon tea in Lucca, Italy