When visiting Napa Valley for wine tasting, there are a multitude of experiences from which to choose. Food and wine pairings, educational seminar tastings, vertical tastings of consecutive vintages—the list goes on and on. At Sequoia Grove Vineyards, located in the heart of Napa Valley in Rutherford, the Taste for Cabernet experience offers guests an intimate look at what elements of taste do and do not pair well with Cabernet Sauvignon.
A Taste for Cabernet
Hosted by Sequoia Grove’s Senior Wine Educator, Dean Busquaert, A Taste for Cabernet guides wine and food pairing enthusiasts through Sequoia Grove’s single vineyard bottlings of Cabernet Sauvignon, as well as the top-tier Cabernet blend—Cambium. Following the tasting, guests are invited to taste one ingredient that represents each element of taste, in conjunction Cambium, to experience the way the flavors interact with the wine. In this unique food and wine pairing experience, not all ingredients go well with the wine. This, Busquaert states, allows Cabernet enthusiasts to truly understand how a great bottle of wine can be enhanced, or even ruined, by the meal it is served with—reinforcing the importance of food and wine pairing synergy.
Leading up to the food and wine pairing portion of the experience, Busquaert urges guests to understand the importance of pairing Cabernet appropriately. He says that so often, someone will taste a wine and love it in the tasting room, but go home and enjoy it with an inappropriate pairing and be completely disappointed. Hearing this more than once is what inspired Busquaert to create the A Taste for Cabernet experience—and guests have been both enlightened and excited by it ever since.
Drawing on his own knowledge of Napa Valley and using slides of vineyard images and appellation maps, Busquaert delves deep into the terroir of each single vineyard bottling. Tasting through the unique soils, elevations and sun exposures, guests identify and discuss with Busquaert the influence of terroir and how it affects the finished wines. “This tasting shows you how when you move the same grape from location to location, it changes drastically,” Busquaert states.
Creating Balanced Wine
To really allow the terroir to shine in the glass, Winemaker Molly Hill ferments and ages different blocks of Cabernet Sauvignon separately, before blending together the blocks to create each single vineyard bottling—proving just how much variation in terroir there is amongst individual blocks in a single vineyard. In addition to wanting to highlight the terroir, Hill is “adamant about making balanced wines,” Busquaert says, and it certainly shows.
In all of the wines poured during the A Taste for Cabernet experience, there is the presence of perfected balance. In each of the Sequoia Grove Cabernets, fruit, acid, tannin and oak are harmonized in perfect synchronicity.
To Pair or Not to Pair
For the pairing portion of the experience, grapes, a lemon wedge, coarse pink salt, and brie and aged gouda cheeses are used to represent the elements of taste—and the results of pairing them with Cambium are enlightening. Sequoia Grove’s A Taste for Cabernet, hosted by Senior Wine Educator Dean Busquaert, is both a unique and engaging experience that should not be missed when visiting Napa Valley.
Wine Selection | Taste for Cabernet
2008 Lamoreaux Vineyard
The aromatics are full of currant, black cherry, chocolate and roasted coffee beans. Notes of blackberry, black cherry, dark red fruit, chocolate and clay abound on the palate with chalky tannins and a silky texture.
2011 Rutherford Reserve
Black olive and mint abound on the nose of this reserve wine, while the medium-bodied palate expresses flavors of black currant, black and red cherries, and espresso with gentle tannins— making for a rather enjoyable experience
2011 Henry Brothers Vineyard
Highly aromatic notes of mint and black cherry cola hover above the glass. Notes of black cherry cola, blackberry and blueberry are enveloped in a wonderful cocoa-like texture with soft tannins and a medium body.
2011 Tonella Estate Vineyard
Red cherry, black olive and mint are present on the nose of this luscious wine, while the palate brings a mix of fruit—currant, red cherry, blueberry and blackberry all mingle with notes of cocoa and spice.
2011 Napa Valley Cambium
Cambium boasts a bright nose full of red cherry and fresh raspberry, with a wonderful array of baking spices. The palate is palate full of strawberry, raspberry and blackberry with subtle hints of dark chocolate, cocoa and minerality.
*Originally published in Wine Country This Week.
Celebrate the Holidays with Ca’ Momi Winery
We know it’s only September, but it seems as though the holidays are just around the corner, and we’re already scoping out great gift ideas and potluck party goodies. We recently came across this fabulous Holiday Gift Box from one our Napa Valley friends--Ca’ Momi Winery.
About Ca’ Momi Winery
Ca’ Momi Winery was founded in Napa Valley in 2006 by Dario De Conti, Valentina Guolo-Migotto and Stefano Migotto—and their Italian-style wines have been “heartcrafted” with immense passion ever since. Their vibrant collection of Napa Valley wines includes classic, local favorites such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, as well as a few Italian-style field blends, such as their Rosso di Napa, which pairs exceptionally well with Italian cuisine.
Napa classics and Italian favorites aren’t the only Ca’ Momi wines pleasing palates though. Their Ca’ Secco Sparkling—made in the Italian Prosecco style but a touch less sweet and more dry—is the perfect bubbly to enjoy on its own, pair with food, or even serve up as a cocktail. This fun Holiday Gift Box that they are offering is going to make an excellent gift for family and friends, hosts/hostesses, and will undoubtedly be a favorite cocktail at any potluck party.
Ca’ Secco Sparkling
This lively, effervescent bubbly is made in the dry style with just a touch of residual sugar (1.3%) on the palate, which boasts flavors of pear, yellow apple, yellow peach, lemon zest and subtle tropical notes. This sparkling is made from a unique combination of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Gewürztraminer and Muscat, and then fermented a second time in pressurized, temperature-controlled tanks to become sparkling wine before bottling.
This style of sparkling wine pays homage to the dry frizzante of Italy’s Veneto region, where the family is originally from. Its light, fruity characteristics and vivacious bubbles make it an excellent choice for crafting cocktails—especially when the cocktail is comprised of ingredients that honor the family’s Italian roots!
The Monte Rua Cocktail
In Veneto, the family’s Italian estate sits in the Euganean hills alongside Luxardo—a premier Italian liqueur producer. Inspired by the terroir of Veneto, the Monte Rua cocktail features Ca’ Momi Winery’s Ca’ Secco Sparkling, one Luxardo Maraschino Maraca Cherry, and a spoonful of the delectable Luxardo Maraschino Maraca Cherry Syrup in which the cherries are soaked and preserved. This delicious combination is perfect for just about every occasion, but is particularly festive for the holiday season.
When combined, the fruity flavors, lively bubbles, and touch of sweetness from the cherry syrup mingle on the palate beautifully. The cherry itself is a rich, tiny and delectable bite at the end of the cocktail that will only leave you wanting more. To enjoy this delicious Italian treat, keep you eyes peeled on the Ca’ Momi Winery website for the Holiday Gift Box release!
*Originally published on Feast it Forward.
MacMurry Ranch Estate Vineyards
Saturday, September 5th from 11am-4pm
Taste of Sonoma at Sonoma Wine Country Weekend
The chefs serve. The winemakers pour. The proceeds matter.
With so many fabulous wineries pouring their best varietals and incredible chefs serving up their most innovate cuisine, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend’s Taste of Sonoma can initially be a bit overwhelming. It’s a wine and food mecca, and you only have five hours to make the most of it. Which wines to taste first? What wine pairs with what cuisine? Which experiences are worth exploring? Below are a few helpful tips, suggestions and details for how to make the most of your experience at Taste of Sonoma.
When tasting wine, think about it from the perspective of how you would taste at a winery. Start with the bubbles, whites and Rosé, then make your way to lighter-styled reds, moving all the way through to the darker, more robust reds.
The folks at Taste of Sonoma recommend starting with Bubbles on the Half Shell in the Gloria Ferrer Bubble Lounge—paring stunning Gloria Ferrer bubbles with deliciously fresh, locally harvest oysters. On a hot summer day, there really couldn’t be a better way to get the party started.
Next up, don’t neglect the Grill Stations! Follow the sound of sizzling meat and delight in grilled goodies such as slow-smoked ribs. Of course, with hearty cuisine like this, your best bet for pairing is going to be some hearty red wines—go for varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel. If it’s chicken or fish you’re enjoying from the grill, stick with white wines like Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
As you meander around the stunning MacMurray Estate Vineyards, think of yourself as a foodie forager. The Chef Pop Ups provide just the right opportunity for you to sample a wide array of delicious cuisine—everything from baja shrimp and smoked scallop cocktail to heirloom tomato gazpacho. Look for the Sonoma County Region Big Tents.
If you’re feeling hesitant about trusting your own instincts to pair wine and food, worry not! Featured Food and Wine Pairings will be available in every Big Tent. There will be more than 20 hand-selected wines to pair up with individual dishes from the local chefs onsite; pairings such as MacPhail Family Wines’ Rosé served with chilled melon and Rosé soup with bay shrimp are just the tip of the iceberg, so be sure to seek out these perfect pairings!
Now, getting into the experiences at Taste of Sonoma is a whole different story. Taste of Sonoma isn’t just about tasting phenomenal wine, eating incredible cuisine and raising funds for important charities, it’s also about wine and food education. There’s several ways to educate yourself this year, all while enjoying the phenomenal wine and cuisine at your fingertips.
Experience a Somm Tour—30 minutes with one of America’s most acclaimed enophiles. There will be 12 of them onsite during Taste of Sonoma, so be on the lookout for these experts as you visit the winery tables and taste your way through the day. They’ll be happy to chat and share their wealth of wine knowledge with you!
With the Grape to Glass seminar, you will get to hear Food & Wine Magazine’s Executive Wine Editor, Ray Isle, host a panel of Sonoma County winemakers and growers. This seminar will feature a sampling of freshly-harvested grapes, excellent wines form which to taste and a discussion about the grape to glass process—giving you the opportunity to learn the ins and outs of what it takes to get that delicious nectar into your glass.
Next up is the chance to cook with an accomplished chef! Sonoma Stars on Stage brings celebrated Sonoma County chefs together to demonstrate some of their kitchen tips and tricks, while they masterfully create delicious dishes for you to sample. With five shows throughout the day, there’s plenty of time to squeeze this into your schedule.
If you’re a Grand Reserve ticket holder, don’t miss the Club Reserve tent, where winemakers will pour more than 40 limited-release wines—of course, poured alongside specially-prepared dishes from acclaimed locals chefs.
When the sun begins to wane and the day is nearly done, don’t miss the chance to take a Taste of Sonoma home with you—visit the Sonoma County Marketplace, which will be chock-full of artisan goodies such as cheese, coffee, sauces and more.
Don’t forget to engage on social media and spread the good word that the proceeds from Sonoma Wine Country Weekend and its premier Taste of Sonoma event all go to worthy causes that support the children, environment and health of the Sonoma County community. With more than $16 million raised for local charities to date, Sonoma Wine Country This Weekend has had the immense pleasure of enriching the lives of so many people living in the Sonoma County community.
#TheChefsServe | #TheWinemakesPour | #TheProceedsMatter
Still have questions? Visit www.sonomawinecountryweekend.com for event-related details, directions and more information.
*Originally published on Feast it Forward.
Summer calls for refreshing dips in the pool, backyard barbecue parties and of course, hearty Zinfandel to accompany those sweet and spicy BBQ flavors. Judd’s Hill Winery has just the perfect pairing for a quintessential summer experience. It’s simple—follow this easy, delicious burger recipe, fire up the grill and pop open a bottle of their 2013 Burke’s Blazing Barbecue Zinfandel.
Made with blue cheese crumbles, fresh chives, hot pepper and Worcestershire sauces, as well as mustard, these burgers are anything but ordinary. The complex flavor profile of these juicy burgers becomes even more heightened when paired with the 2013 Burke’s Blazing Barbecue Zinfandel—full of mixed fruit aromatics and dried fruit flavors on the palate.
Highly structured and finessed, this Zinfandel possesses the right texture and body to complement the juicy burger. Right away, the Zinfandel picks up on the tasty blue cheese crumbles, bringing a bit of earthy tanginess to the wine. The chives provide a nice contrast in flavor, juxtaposing the dried fruit flavors that abound on the palate. Zinfandel is often known to have a bit peppery spice to it, and this one is no exception—lending itself well to the spicy dry mustard and coarsely ground black pepper in the burgers.
The touch of spiciness in the burgers, no doubt from the hints of hot pepper and Worcestershire sauces, bring diversity to the wine; these flavors mingle with the ripe cherry, hints of pepper, and dried fig flavors to create a lovely range of flavor complexity as the wine and burger synergizes on the palate.
For more delicious summer recipes and wine pairing ideas from Judd’s Hill Winery, visit their website at www.juddshill.com. Don’t forget to visit Judd’s Hill Winery in person, located at 2332 Silverado Trail in Napa, to taste their incredible collection of wines. They are open daily from 10:00 a.m to 4:00 p.m. and have a wide range of tasting experiences from which to choose.
Be sure not to miss the Wine & Food Balance Seminar, which educates guests about the ins and outs of wine and food pairing so they can do it at home. Hosted daily, this exclusive seminar fills up fast, so call (707) 255-2332 Ext. 111 or email email@example.com to make your reservation today!
Blue Cheese Burger Recipe
• 3 pounds lean ground beef
• 4 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
• 1/2 cup minced fresh chives
• 1/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
• 1 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
• 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
• 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
• 1 teaspoon dry mustard
• 12 fresh Kaiser or soft rolls
On Saturday, August 15th, Zinfandel Advocates and Producers hosted their Second Annual Simply Summer Celebration—an event that showcased the very best of Zinfandel from California’s most prestigious winegrowing regions. With more than sixty Zinfandel producers in one setting at Seghesio Family Vineyards’ stunning Home Ranch Vineyard, this event was without a doubt one of the premier events of the summer. For hours, guests mingled with winemakers, friends, and family while sipping on classic expressions of America’s heritage varietal.
Despite the 100 degree weather and the hazy, smoke-filled skies from local California fires, guests were still in upbeat spirits as they tasted their way through a variety of Zinfandel vintages. Many producers poured current releases of 2013, while others poured vintages as old as 2009. The vintage and style variety was incredibly impressive, but possibly most notable was the overall takeaway that the 2013 vintage, across the board, was lighter in style from former vintages.
In 2013, the growing season saw a warm, dry spring with ample sunshine and heat in the summer. Quality was high, as was the yield, and growers were shocked to see a second abundant vintage after the 2012 season. With that being said, the 2012s are quite distinguishable from the 2013s. Below are just a handful of the 2013s featured at this year’s Simply Summer Celebration, but you’ll notice right away that there are identifying characteristics that mark the vintage from others. The 2013s are simply not over-ripe like in vintages past, but are lighter in body, with more complexity and structure, perhaps even more elegant than their robust former vintage counterparts. It's certainly safe to say that because of this more finessed style across the board, that the 2013 Zinfandels are going to be excellent food pairing wines.
2013 Old Ghost Zinfandel, Klinker Brick Winery
Klinker Brick Winery is based in Lodi, and the 74 year old grapevines that are harvested for this iconic Zinfandel are grown in the region’s Mokelumne River appellation. A lovely floral nose filled with subtle caramel and cherry fruit give way to a lighter-bodied Zinfandel with excellent structure and desirable acidity. Flavors of red cherry, clove and allspice abound—making this Zinfandel less fruit-forward in style and quite balanced.
2013 Reserve Old Vine Zinfandel, Ironstone Vineyards
The 2013 Reserve Old Vine Zinfandel from Ironstone Vineyards, located in the Sierra Foothills but producing this wine from Lodi fruit, showed incredibly well. Made from 60 year old vines that are farmed sustainably by fourth generation viticulturists and winemakers, this wine show candied cherry on the nose with darker fruit on the palate. One of the darker and more robust 2013s of the vintage, this wine's palate brings a medium body with notes of dark black cherry, blackberry, black raspberry and pepper.
2013 Pauline’s Vineyard Zinfandel, Kokomo Winery
From Sonoma County’s very own Kokomo Winery, the 2013 Pauline’s Vineyard Zinfandel boasts aromas of cherry cola and pepper; the palate, which is medium in body with soft texture, possesses flavors of spiced blueberry pie and red cherry cola. This wine is less robust than Kokomo Winery’s 2012 vintage of the same vineyard, though it is equally as impressive with its own unique style.
2013 Estate Home Ranch Zinfandel, Seghesio Family Vineyards
The afternoon certainly wouldn’t have been complete without sipping on the Zinfandel that was made from the exact vineyard in which the Simply Summer Celebration was held. Made from 125 year old vines, Seghesio Family Vineyards' 2012 Estate Home Ranch Zinfandel was by far one of the oldest old vine bottlings showcased that day. The wine boasts concentrated aromas of red cherry and baking spice, while the palate shows excellent fruit flavor complexity—blueberry, black raspberry and cherry cola abound, with additional notes of violets and baking spice. The structure is strong and the body has weight while still tasting delicate and fresh with soft tannins.
Showcasing Older Vintages
In addition to the lovely, lighter-styled 2013s, there were may producers pouring older vintages—giving tasters the opportunity to see how well Zinfandel can age. Again, the below wines are merely a small handful of the older vintages that were available for tasting, but are certainly an excellent representation of the immeasurable quality of the wines shared that day.
2011 Old Vine Zinfandel, Howell Mountain Vineyards
Hailing from Napa Valley, this 2013 Old Vine Zinfandel from Howell Mountain Vineyards shows distinct aromas of cherry cola and strawberry. The light-bodied palate possesses an abundance of baking spice with flavors of gentle strawberry and raspberry, all wrapped up in a silky texture with a round mouthfeel. Though 2011 was a cooler vintage and a tough year for many winemakers, you would never know it by tasting this beautiful wine from Howell Mountain Vineyards.
2009 Black Sears Zinfandel, D-Cubed Cellars
This 2009 vintage from D-Cubed Cellars’ Black Sears Vineyard, located in Napa Valley’s Howell Mountain appellation, was showing fabulously at six years of age. Concentrated blackberry and strong pepper aromas are accented by a touch of baking spice. The palate is full bodied with flavors of serious white pepper and mixed red fruit, such as raspberry, red cherry and red plums, alongside subtle oaky, vanilla notes in the background. The wine is well-structured and round in the mouth with soft tannins—likely, this wine will hold its own for another five years of aging and drink still superbly.
If you missed this year’s Simply Summer Celebration, worry not. Coming up in February of 2016, Zinfandel Advocates and Producers will be hosting its 25th Annual Zinfandel Experience in San Francisco. A Zinfandel-lover’s affair, this 3-day event will showcase Zinfandel with a Tribute Party, Supper Club, Flights Seminar, Winemakers Auction & Dinner, and Grand Tasting. For more information about the upcoming 25th Annual Zinfandel Experience, visit the Zinfandel Experience website.
*Originally published on Examiner.com.