Attending wine country events never gets old, and attending wine country events that raise funds for great causes is really where its at. It’s wonderful to live in a community where raising funds for great causes is a lifestyle—and there certainly seems to be no shortage of those who generously give back to people in need.
About Project Zin
For the past five years, Clay and Carrie Mauritson of Mauritson Wines have teamed up with renowned Chef Charlie Palmer at his Dry Creek Kitchen restaurant, located within Hotel Healdsburg, to raise funds for the Down Syndrome Association of North Bay (DSANB). Project Zin brings together twenty-one premier Zinfandel producers and more than a dozen culinary experts with which to wine and dine guests during the fundraiser. A silent auction with astounding vacation packages, vertical wine collections, spa experiences, and more is followed by a live paddle raise in which attendees are able to donate anywhere from $50 to $2,500.
Silent Auction & Paddle Raise
This year’s main auction item, the only getaway to be auctioned off live, was a 3-Night Dream Escape to Paradise—an all inclusive stay for eight guests in a four bedroom suite at the Four Season Resort in Punta Mita. The final results of the live auction, paddle raise and silent auction totaled an impressive amount of $75,000. With this vast amount of funds raised for the DSANB, the immense opportunity this opens up for the parents and kids of DSANB is simply incredible.
Supporting DSANB Families
“We have been able to do unbelievable things with the money we have raised at Project Zin,” Clay Mauritson stated during the paddle raise. “The most important thing we are doing here is raising awareness for our children. The second most important thing we are doing here is raising funds, and these paddle raises have really enriched the lives of our children,” Clay stated proudly, with son Brady standing by his side. “We can’t thank the support of the wine community and the culinary community enough.” Indeed, as this highly successful fundraiser has succeeded in raising enough funds for DSANB to host camps, activities, classes and so much more over the last five years—making these opportunities free for the families of DSANB.
“Doing these events is all about you,” Chef Charlie Palmer reiterated during the paddle raise. “All those who have been so generous and giving—we couldn’t do this without you.” A total of more than $250,000 has been raised over the last five years—an incredible accomplishment that has supported and enriched the lives of so many families.
21 Premier Zinfandel Producers
The star Zinfandel of the event was without a doubt Mauritson Wines’ 2013 Rockpile Zinfandel. Black cherry cola and minerality aromatics give way to a medium bodied palate with soft tannins, full of blackberry, black cherry and blueberry fruit alongside subtle notes of granite, earth and baking spices. This wine shows excellent structure and complexity in its youth—definitely a fine candidate for aging.
Turley Wine Cellars’ 2013 Sonoma Valley Zinfandel showed well, with red cherry cola and vanilla on the nose, and baking spice, rhubarb, black cherry and blackberry on the palate. Another lovely, young 2013 was Ridge Vineyards’ classic Lytton Springs Vineyard Zinfandel with aromatics of vanilla, black cherry and clove; the deep, rich palate is full of complex black and red fruit with vanilla and spice. Sbragia Family Vineyards’ 2013 La Promesa was by far the most robust Zinfandel of the night—aromas of pepper and black cherry abound, while the palate boasts strong oak, a full body and flavors of vanilla, red cherry liqueur, blackberry and lingering blueberry in the background.
More Than a Dozen Culinary Experts
Leading the way in culinary expertise was none other than Chef Charlie Palmer’s very own Dry Creek Kitchen, serving up wood-grilled NY strip steak with white corn grits, sweet corn and truffle relish, and Zinfandel jus. This tender piece of steak was perfectly complemented by the Zinfandel jus, and had excellent flavor complexity with the accompaniment of the creamy white corn grits. The sweet corn and truffle relish provided a bit of contrast and brightened the rich flavors for an overall delightful tasting experience.
Diavola’s sausage pizza with plentiful olive oil, crushed tomatoes and mascarpone cheese had a unique flavor profile that went above and beyond most pizza-tasting experiences. The crust was perfectly crispy while the combination of ingredients was not too rich or overwhelming, but just the right amount of each to provide an excellently-balanced slice of Italian heaven.
Bourbon House, literally flying all the way in from New Orleans’ Bourbon Street with plentiful amounts of crawfish, served up a trifecta of New Orleans cuisine. Seriously delicious gumbo with an immense amount of depth and flavor, fresh crawfish, and a moist, flavorful hush puppy made Bourbon House’s menu complete. The incredible depth of flavor complexity in the gumbo was recognizable as hours of flavor development and simmer time, while the crawfish couldn't have been any more tender, juicy and fresh. The hush puppy was packed with delicious ingredients such as crab and andouille sausage, and fried to perfection with its delectable crispy outer coating.
Bringing together the very best in Zinfandel production, along with renowned, talented chefs from the local area, is certainly a pleasure to experience. More important though, is that the wine and food is really only a perk to an evening that is full of enrichment for the families of DSANB. Cheers to Clay and Carrie Mauritson, to Chef Charlie Palmer and his fabulous Dry Creek Kitchen restaurant in Hotel Healdsburg, and the community at DSANB—whose families deserve the immense amount of generosity that our local community has for those in need.
*Originally published on Examiner.com.
When it comes to Bordeaux varietal wines in Napa Valley, there are boundless styles to discover. Sixteen unique appellations, varying viticultural practices and endless approaches to winemaking make for an excellent range of wines with distinct levels of ripeness, oak aging and terroir driven characteristics. For this reason, it is always enjoyable to taste new releases—delving in deep to see what the newest vintage has in store and how the winemaker’s style expresses itself in the bottle.
Situated in the Rutherford appellation of Napa Valley, S.R. Tonella Cellars offers the craftsmanship of more than 100 years of winemaking experience. The family’s winemaking history dates back to 1906, when the San Francisco earthquake brought them to the valley. Several generations later, the talented Steve Tonella is now the mastermind behind the family’s vines and wines.
This spring, S.R. Tonella Cellars released two incredible wines: a Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from grapes grown at their estate Morisoli-Borges Vineyard and Niebaum-Tonella Vineyard in Rutherford; and a Sauvignon Blanc sourced from select, small vineyard sites that are owned and farmed by Rutherford grape growers. These vineyards, which are farmed sustainably and by hand, receive a lot of careful attention and admirable dedication that result in prestigious, high quality grapes. Well-drained, gravelly soils allow the vines to stretch their roots deep into the ground, bringing forward excellent terroir driven characteristics in the wines. In the cellar, very specific techniques are implemented in order to create distinct wines with depth of character and layers of complexity. Both of the new releases are truly unique, and showcase the best that Rutherford has to offer in both red and white Bordeaux varietal wines.
2014 Sauvignon Blanc
Now that many of the 2014 white wines have been released, the overall consensus so far for the vintage has been overwhelmingly positive. Gentle spring weather allowed the grapes to bloom appropriately, while a warm summer and fall with cool nights allowed the grapes to ripen steadily.
The S.R. Tonella Cellars 2014 Sauvignon Blanc is unlike anything you’ve ever tasted—and I say this to beautifully distinguish it from other Sauvignon Blancs that exhibit flavors that your palate may come to expect. What makes this Sauvignon Blanc so unique is that it is aged in a combination of three distinct vessels—French oak barrels, Acacia oak barrels and stainless steel barrels. Never have I tasted a Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc with such character, complexity and layers of structure. It’s elegance is wholly refined while still being perfectly refreshing and light. It is an excellent choice for pairing with a main course, especially if you prefer white wines, but it can certainly still stand on its own as an afternoon sipper in the sunshine.
The aromatics of this wine are vivacious and full of fruit: lime, orange peel, green pineapple, green apple, kiwi and melon all leap from the glass with secondary aromas of minerality, salinity, coconut cream and vanilla hovering underneath—no doubt a unique representation of the triple vessel aging. The palate is equally as complex, beginning with bright, juicy acidity balanced right away by a round, creamy mouthfeel and luscious body. The fruit is not over-ripe at all on the palate, but rather gentle with sophisticated restraint; tropical notes of green mango, green pineapple, and kiwi envelop themselves with spicy clove and cinnamon that linger beneath the wine’s surface. After the wine has been open for a while, notes of pear and white peach begin to show themselves as well.
The texture of this wine is also highly complex—the French and Acacia oak barrels certainly give the wine creamy roundness and rich texture, while the stainless steel helps the wine retain fresh, crisp acidity when it first graces the palate. Excellently balanced, this Sauvignon Blanc finds just the right amount of flavor and texture to offer a truly structured white wine that will seriously impress your palate.
2012 Cabernet Sauvignon
While still young, especially for Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, the 2012 vintage is already impressing wine enthusiasts, critics and consumers alike. Particularly, the S.R. Tonella Cellars 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon shows sophistication and drinkability in its youth, but certainly has the gusto to be cellared for years to come.
Luscious fruit and barrel aging characteristics are the hallmark of this wine’s aromatics, filled with aromas of cherry liqueur, red cherry, blueberry, blackberry, vanilla and a touch of fresh mint. As the wine sits in the glass, more savory aromas of sage, eucalyptus and dried leather begin to show. Simply smelling how this wine evolves in just ten minutes shows just how many layers of complexity this wine possesses.
On the palate, the incredibly smooth and silky body begins with juicy fruit at the front of the palate—boysenberry, tart blackberry, black cherry and subtle blueberry abound. Beneath the fruit, layers of pepper and gravelly minerality promise a more savory experience when given time to age. A touch of vanilla hints at the oak aging, but nowhere near identifies the 75% new French oak that is used; the oak is so incredibly well integrated that it is only gently detectable beneath the endless structure and unfolding layers of fruit and earthy qualities. This wine is balanced, finessed and perfectly suitable to enjoy now, but also promises to age superbly. I, for one, cannot wait to see how this wine evolves over time.
Both of these new releases are very small, exclusive production—and for this reason, can only be purchased in a handful of ways. Although S.R. Tonella Cellars does not have a tasting room, you can get your hands on these phenomenal new releases on their website, by visiting select restaurant and retails locations in Napa Valley and the Bay Area, or by signing up for the wine club to secure your allocation. Whichever method you choose, these incredible new releases are sure to sell out fast—so if these beauties interest you, don’t hesitate to seek them out.
For more information about Steve Tonella, S.R. Tonella Cellars or the new releases, visit the website at www.srtonellacellars.com.
*Originally published on Examiner.com.
When it comes to summertime wine and food pairing, the obvious choice is to reach for a crisp, refreshing white wine. Sauvignon Blanc is an excellent choice and in fact, has even been referred to as “summertime in a glass.” To keep in line with the theme of summertime, choosing a dish with light, fresh flavors is the way to go when pairing with Sauvignon Blanc. Weighty white fish, such as halibut, is a natural choice.
In this month’s Perfect Pairs, Vina Robles Vineyards & Winery—located on the Eastside of Paso Robles—brings together the refreshing flavors of their 2014 Sauvignon Blanc Estate with Chef Julie’s pan seared halibut. This recipe features fresh ingredients of Kalamata olives, an array of culinary herbs, pistachios and preserved lemons, and is quite simple to prepare.
In its final form, the pan seared halibut is served on top of a bed of pistachio cilantro pesto, then topped with the preserved lemon Kalamata relish—delightfully fresh, zesty and flavorful. Both the pesto and relish work beautifully to enhance the flavors and textures of Vina Robles’ 2014 Sauvignon Blanc Estate.
Halibut, being the robust white fish that it is, really works well with Sauvignon Blanc—especially one that is fermented on lees. Fermenting the wine on lees brings a fuller body and rounder texture, which really complements the rich texture of the halibut. On the other hand, this Sauvignon Blanc still retains a lot of nice crispness and acidity, which works very well with the zesty flavor of the preserved lemons, brininess of the Kalamata olives, and fresh parsley and mint.
As for the pistachio cilantro pesto, additional texture is brought to the dish with the crunchy pistachios, while the cilantro dances with the gentle minerality and fruit flavors in the wine. Guava, pear and hints of grapefruit in the Sauvignon Blanc mingle with the complex flavors of this dish and make for a perfect summertime pairing.
For more summertime pairings, and dishes appropriate for all year long, visit www.vinarobles.com. With recommendations like beef bourguignon and their Suendero blend, or braised short ribs and their Cabernet Sauvignon, there are boundless pairings for every season and occasion.
For a taste of the Vina Robles collection, visit the tasting room daily from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. at 3700 Mill Road in Paso Robles. For further information, call (805) 227-4812 or visit their website at www.vinarobles.com.
Chef Julie’s Pan Seared Halibut
Enjoy with Vina Robles 2014 Sauvignon Blanc Estate.
MAIN DISH INGREDIENTS | (Serves 4)
• 4 portions of halibut, 6-8 oz. each
• 1/4 cup preserved lemon, chopped into 1/2” pieces
• 1/2 cup Kalamata olives, cut in half lengthwise
• 1/4 cup olive oil plus 1 Tb for cooking the halibut
• 1/4 cup Italian parsley, chopped
• 1 Tb fresh mint, chiffonade
• 1 Tb shallots, chopped
• salt & pepper to taste
PISTACHIO CILANTRO PESTO INGREDIENTS | (Makes 1 cup)
• 1 cup pistachios, shelled
• 1/2 cup cilantro, cleaned and dried, leaves and stems
• 1/4 cup pistachio oil
• 1 cup olive oil
• 3 garlic cloves, blanched in boiling water for 1 minute
• salt & pepper to taste
*Originally published in Wine Country This Month magazine.
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