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Our most popular blog posts of 2014

Jordan Winery - Healdsburg, California - Thu, 12/18/2014 - 21:03
It’s that time of year to share Jordan Winery’s most popular blog posts of 2014. Three video blogs and two news posts with photos made the list, including our April Fool’s Day Star Wars tribute. Do any of these surprise you? Jordan Winery Top 5 Blog Posts of 2014 5. John Jordan to Open Jedi [...]
Categories: North America

Vintage 14

Shaw + Smith - Balhannah, South Australia - Thu, 12/18/2014 - 05:24

What started as an early start to vintage, slowed down with some unseasonal rains allowing the vineyards to recover from heat.  This was followed by a cool slow ripening period, keeping the grapes longer on the vines, increasing fruit intensity and flavour - always a good thing. Now we are in full swing with the cellar on 24 hour shifts. Dan, one of our vintage interns tweets "My hands are finally getting leathery, discoloured and generally manly. Thank you #v14@shawandsmith"!

Challenging vintages show the extraordinary value of years of experience and knowledge.  Ray Guerin (Viticulturist of the Year 2013) and winemaker, Adam Wadewitz have just come from the Woodlot vineyard, Balhannah and believe its some of the best Sauvignon Blanc flavours they have seen.  Chardonnay looks like the stand out variety for the season.  We are still a couple of weeks off picking the shiraz and although the yields are looking low, Ray and Adam are excited about the potential quality.

Categories: Oceania

2013 Vintage Report - Martin Shaw and David LeMire MW

Shaw + Smith - Balhannah, South Australia - Thu, 12/18/2014 - 05:24

Winter / Spring rainfall - Winter rainfall for Balhannah was 70mm below the long-term average though irrigation dams were full by late July. In Mid-September rainfall virtually ceased. From October through to harvest there was only an additional 80mm recorded.

Flowering – Flowering was underway early, beginning on November 10th, and weather conditions were excellent. This meant 2013 had the potential to be a high-yielding year, and it was important to control yields to achieve ripeness and concentration.

Weather up to and including harvest - The season was warmer than usual with an occasional one and two day heat spike. The positive was the consistently cool nights that tempered the season in general.   It was a year of high irrigation demand to establish adequate vine growth early in the season then to retain it through to harvest. However it was a very easy year in terms of disease risk, with no disease issues at all. Harvest began early on February 16th for clone 777 Pinot Noir, and was underway for Sauvignon Blanc on February 21st.

Stand out varieties  - Some great examples of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Shiraz. The caveat being that you needed good vine health to endure heat spikes and a moderate yield to allow you to pick at the optimum time. Thinning fruit to achieve our target yields was crucial, and in the case of Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, some blocks were thinned twice, and some three times.

Overall quality – taking into account a warmer than average growing season and a compressed harvest window we have been pleasantly surprised by the overall quality of fruit from the 2013 Vintage. The white wines look very solid, but it may be the reds that have the edge at this early stage as they continue to impress in the winery.

Categories: Oceania

Pre-Bottling Allocation

Stranger Stranger 2013

Book your allocation now before O’Vineyards Stranger Stranger 2013 wine is bottled.


Earn our Celebration Dinner for two!

Limited to one case of 12 bottles per person.
Available: Summer 2015



Categories: Europe

How to Ship Wine During the Holidays

Whitehall Lane Winery - St. Helena, CA - Wed, 12/17/2014 - 22:22

When planning your holiday shopping, a go-to item on many people’s list is a nice bottle of wine. It’s quick to pick-up, it’s simple to festively package (tie a bow around it’s neck and you’re golden), and it’s enjoyed by one and all (21 + that is).

Once you’ve figured out the basics: Are they a red or white wine drinker and their preferred varietal, all that’s left is how to deliver. If you’re lucky enough to live in your recipient’s neck of the woods, doorstep delivery is of course the best option. But if like many of us, you have long distance friends and family members to gift to, that’s unfortunately not an option. Since we don’t have the luxury of a sled and flying reindeer on hand, that leaves us with the mail.


Can I Ship On My Own?

Unfortunately, this is not an option unless you are a licensed wine distributor—meaning you have signed a “wine shippers agreement” which is only available to licensed alcohol retailers and wineries. This is a precaution put in place primarily to avoid minors handling/receiving a package containing alcohol.


The Winery Is Your Elf

Many wineries will be more than happy to get that holiday wine in the mail for you, hassle free. A simple phone call will establish great results. Here at Whitehall Lane, you can give us a call (800.963.9454 ext. 19) or shop our website. While Christmas may be right around the corner, we can still ensure that holiday bottle of wine makes it into the rightful hands to help ring in the New Year—and hey, it’s never a bad time to get a bottle of wine in the mail, especially if it happens to be one of our distinguished Reserve Cabernet Sauvignons.


We wish you the happiest of holidays and an amazing New Year!

Categories: North America

Waterfall Bay 2015: fine dining with a simple heart

Seresin Estate - Marlborough, New Zealand - Wed, 12/17/2014 - 08:27
Our series of lunches and dinners is one of the highlights of our year, giving us a chance not only to showcase our wines, but also to share the peace and beauty of Waterfall Bay, Michael Seresin's Marlborough home.

The building we use as a restaurant was once a boat shed, but has been decorated and adapted to provide the perfect venue for this event. Tucked into the bush, with cheeky wekas ready to pounce on any unguarded food at the kitchen door, it is a secluded and unique spot and an easy place with which to fall in love.

Nic PoelaertOur chosen chefs often prepare incredible and complex dishes for our guests, but at the heart of Waterfall Bay is true simplicity - the simplicity of a meal and wine shared, of conversation and a convivial atmosphere, of indulging the senses and having a pleasurable time in good company.

If you would like to join us in February 2015, there are still tickets available. Our chef this year is Nic Poelaert, currently head chef at Brooks Melbourne and a Frenchman with a passion for small producers and local ingredients, as well as a flair for design!

Tickets are $300, including return boat travel from Picton to Waterfall Bay and a five course menu with matching wines.

Dates and sittings:
Thursday 12th February, Dinner - 6.30pm-10.00pm
Friday 13th February, Lunch - 12pm-3pm
Friday 13th February, Dinner - 6.30pm-10.00pm
Saturday 14th February, Dinner - 6.30pm-10.00pm (limited tickets available)
Sunday 15th February, Lunch - 12pm-3pm
Sunday 15th February, Dinner - 6.30pm-10.00pm
Book now...

Tickets can be purchased online , by phoning us at Seresin on 03 572 9408, or indeed by emailing .

A boat journey through the Sounds is hard to beat...
Add some Seresin Moana sparkling wine...
Arrival at Waterfall Bay...
All set...
Our Moana sparkling wine... perfectly chilled...
Under way...
Some Sauvignon, posing for a photo...
Taking a break...
In full swing...

Categories: Oceania

Sweet Yam Pie Recipe

Sweet Yam Pie Recipe

The holiday months are a time full of work parties, family gatherings and weekend get togethers with friends. Which means it’s also a time to have a few delicious, go-to recipes up for your sleeve when the moment calls for it. This winter, when you’re tasked with bringing more than just wine to the holiday party, try making this delicious, seasonal sweet yam pie recipe from the Kendall-Jackson kitchen — it’s bound to be an instant holiday favorite. Try pairing it with some Vintner’s Reserve Riesling to take the flavor to the next level.

This winter, when you’re tasked with bringing more than just wine to the holiday party, try making this delicious, seasonal sweet yam pie recipe from the Kendall-Jackson kitchen — it’s bound to be an instant holiday favorite.This winter, when you’re tasked with bringing more than just wine to the holiday party, try making this delicious, seasonal sweet yam pie recipe from the Kendall-Jackson kitchen — it’s bound to be an instant holiday favorite.
Print Sweet Yam Pie Author: Chef Buttercup Cuisine: Dessert Serves: Makes 1 (9-inch) Pie   Ingredients

  • For the browned butter pie dough:
  • 9 oz. butter
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 tsp. water
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cake flour
  1. In a medium sized pan, add butter and bring to a simmer. Stir and scrape the bottom of the pan occasionally until the milk fat browns, approximately 8 to 12 minutes. Pour browned butter into a metal bowl and immediately place over an ice bath. Whisk butter until it begins to solidify and the brown solids no longer sink to the bottom. Remove bowl from ice bath and scrape down sides of pan and whisk again until well combined. Chill before use.
  2. Using a pastry cutter, blend butter and sugar until well combined, but not light. Add egg and egg yolk, pinch of salt, vanilla and water. Mix well to combine. Add flours and mix lightly until just incorporated.
  3. On a clean work surface, use the heel of your hand to press the dough away from you in a smooth, sliding motion while being careful not to overwork the dough. Form a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes prior to rolling.
  4. Place rolled out dough into 9-inch pie pan and bake at 350˚F just until crust begins to brown, approximately 8 to 10 minutes.
  5. For the yam pie filling:
  6. lb. yams
  7. ½ cup butter, cubed
  8. cup sugar
  9. ½ cup milk
  10. eggs
  11. /8 tsp. kosher salt
  12. ½ tsp. nutmeg
  13. ½ tsp. cinnamon
  14. tsp. vanilla extract
  15. Preheat oven to 290⁰F.
  16. Cook yams until tender. Place hot yams, butter, sugar and milk in a blender. Mix on high speed until creamy. Pour mixture in a medium sized bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Pour batter in prebaked shell. Bake for 12 minutes.

This winter, when you’re tasked with bringing more than just wine to the holiday party, try making this delicious, seasonal sweet yam pie recipe from the Kendall-Jackson kitchen — it’s bound to be an instant holiday favorite.

All photographs taken by Vianney Rodriguez of Sweet Life Bake.


For more amazing recipes, keep up with us on Pinterest.


Follow Kendall-Jackson Wines’s board Recipes on Pinterest.

The post Sweet Yam Pie Recipe appeared first on Kendall-Jackson Blog.

Categories: North America

Snowed In Game Night


Hello! Lauren here, from and while I am already dreaming of warmer weather, these snowy days have me inspired to host a fun “snowed in” themed game night. Gather some girlfriends or invite a few couples over for a wintery battle of the boardgames, complete with appetizers, some good wine, a little bit of friendly competition, and lots of laughs!Gather some girlfriends or invite a few couples over for a wintery battle of the boardgames, complete with appetizers, some good wine, a little bit of friendly competition, and lots of laughs! #KJAVANTWhile I am not usually a board game gal, there is something about winter weather that makes gathering around a fire with good friends, giggling over a game of Scrabble, with a glass of wine sound like the absolute perfect evening.Gather some girlfriends or invite a few couples over for a wintery battle of the boardgames, complete with appetizers, some good wine, a little bit of friendly competition, and lots of laughs! #KJAVANTThe goal is to create an atmosphere that is intimate and low-key so your guests feel comfortable to kick off their shoes and settle in for a long night of easy fun. Dinner parties can be a bit labor intensive, so take the pressure off and host a night filled with lots of laughs by inviting your guests to bring their favorite game. Gather some girlfriends or invite a few couples over for a wintery battle of the boardgames, complete with appetizers, some good wine, a little bit of friendly competition, and lots of laughs! #KJAVANTSet the mood by lighting a cozy fire and make sure you have plenty of seating. Grab some blankets and overstuffed pillows to place around a coffee table so your guests can have separate games going on but still have a cohesive group feel. Gather some girlfriends or invite a few couples over for a wintery battle of the boardgames, complete with appetizers, some good wine, a little bit of friendly competition, and lots of laughs! #KJAVANTGather some girlfriends or invite a few couples over for a wintery battle of the boardgames, complete with appetizers, some good wine, a little bit of friendly competition, and lots of laughs! #KJAVANTEncourage your guests to bring their favorite games, but make sure you’ve got some backups just in case! Apples to Apples and Scrabble are a sure-thing for any crowd and quick to pick up if your guests haven’t played them before.

If you are feeling extra festive, grab a large pad of paper and get a game of charades going. Nothing makes a great game night quiet like slightly embarrassing yourself in front of your best friends.Gather some girlfriends or invite a few couples over for a wintery battle of the boardgames, complete with appetizers, some good wine, a little bit of friendly competition, and lots of laughs! #KJAVANTGather some girlfriends or invite a few couples over for a wintery battle of the boardgames, complete with appetizers, some good wine, a little bit of friendly competition, and lots of laughs! #KJAVANTNow this wouldn’t be a true Lauren Kelp post without some food tips! Set out the perfect spread by filling small plates, dishes, and bowls with your favorite snacks. Flavored popcorn, good chips and guacamole, a nice baked brie and fig crackers, and a couple of bottles of good wine will keep the spirits high and the atmosphere jovial.Gather some girlfriends or invite a few couples over for a wintery battle of the boardgames, complete with appetizers, some good wine, a little bit of friendly competition, and lots of laughs! #KJAVANTGather some girlfriends or invite a few couples over for a wintery battle of the boardgames, complete with appetizers, some good wine, a little bit of friendly competition, and lots of laughs! #KJAVANTEntertaining doesn’t have to be stressful. Whether you send out a fun themed email invitation or a mass text, hosting a game night is the perfect excuse to get some friends together and have a good time! Plus, you might just make some lasting memories with those charade antics.Gather some girlfriends or invite a few couples over for a wintery battle of the boardgames, complete with appetizers, some good wine, a little bit of friendly competition, and lots of laughs! #KJAVANT

The post Snowed In Game Night appeared first on Kendall-Jackson Blog.

Categories: North America

Happy Hanukkah!

Ponte Winery - Temecula, CA - Tue, 12/16/2014 - 08:00

This evening, the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah begins. The Festival of Lights, as it is also known, will last for eight nights and days, with menorahs being lit, dreidels being spun and fried foods being enjoyed. “Hmm, why fried foods?” I wondered. As a Gentile I’m not well versed in Jewish customs and traditions, however, I am well versed in foods and I happen to love Jewish foods. Chopped liver…mmmm. Indeed, while researching Hanukkah menus I found a slew of recipes for latkes (fried potatoes), donuts and other fried goodness. There had to be a reason for this.

And there is. Oil is a very symbolic element during Hanukkah. You see, oil has been used in Jewish ceremonies ever since Moses led the Jews out of Egypt…we’re talking waaaay back in the time of Exodus. The holy lampstand that lay in the Tabernacle, and later in the Holy Temple of Jerusalem, was to be constantly lit using olive oil. Over the centuries Israel and its Temple were attacked, desecrated and nearly destroyed many times by various enemies. By the 2nd century B.C., Israel’s Judea region had been overtaken by the Seleucid Empire and Judaism was outlawed, with foreign gods being worshipped in the Holy Temple and Jewish tradition and ceremonies had stopped completely. A group of Jews successfully defeated the Seleucid’s and re-dedicated the Temple to its traditional practices, including lighting the holy lampstand. The problem was, there was only a small, single jug of oil in the Temple that remained uncontaminated and suitable for use. This amount certainly wasn’t sufficient to keep the lamp lit constantly for long. Miraculously, though, the lampstand remained lit on the single jug of oil for eight days. See the significance of Hanukkah traditions now? The menorah is lit for eight days and oil is a superstar.

Well, I say bravo to that. Who can argue that foods fried until golden brown in oil are deliciously crunchy, crispy and downright amazing? Potato latkes I’ve made and I love, but this year I found a recipe that fit the oil bill perfectly and included wine! Win. Fried pastries with wine syrup are a bit like funnel cakes – you mix up a batter and swirl it into a pot of hot oil until it is golden brown. The syrup is a thick, sweet wonder made with red wine, cinnamon, orange zest, sugar, a bay leaf and cloves. I boiled the syrup a little too long and ended up with candy, basically, but I added some orange juice and water to thin it out and it tasted just fine. A squeeze bottle will be your best friend while making these as it makes it much easier to swirl the batter into the oil in an even stream. Once with batter is in the oil, it takes mere minutes for the pastries to be done. Drain them on some paper towels, drizzle with the wine syrup, dust with powdered sugar and decorate with pomegranate arils. Pomegranates are in season right now so they are plump and gorgeous and totally perfect for enjoying in this recipe.

You guys, seriously, these were so tasty. Five minutes after I took photos, these babies were gone – devoured by my 3-year old and I. He attacked the pomegranate seeds and then discovered the “donuts.” Sticky fingers, happy bellies and big smiles all around.

They will go fast, oh yes. My son, happy to be eating “donuts” before dinner (left); the after math (right)

While we did not drink wine with our pastries, these fried fritters would be perfect with a glass of wine. They are sweet (but not too sweet) and I think Ponte Vernaccia Nera would knock them out of the ballpark. While not kosher (none of Ponte wines are), this sparkling red wine has subtle notes of cinnamon which complement the red wine syrup beautifully. Beverino and Late Harvest would also be good choices.

To those who celebrate Hanukkah, happy Hanukkah to you! May the next eight days be filled with light and lots of great food! And to my fellow Gentiles, give this recipe a try. It is quick, easy, and made with wine, for goodness sake.

Get the recipe for Fried Pastries with Wine Syrup here

–Erica Martinez

Categories: North America

Weekly Roundup for December 15th: 8000 Years of Wine Storage, Months of Great Press for Paso, and a Week of Rain

Tablas Creek Vineyard - Paso Robles CA - Tue, 12/16/2014 - 01:13

This last week, it seems we've been dominated by stories about our rain.  Whether it's in its pre-precipitation anticipation or its post-fall analysis, it's clear that California is excited about the unusual moisture falling from the sky and curious to know whether it makes a big-picture difference in our multi-year drought.  But that's not all we've been seeing.  Paso Robles got another mention in what has been an amazing year for our area, we got a nice mention ourselves from the Los Angeles Times, and we learned about how wine has been transported and stored through the millennia.  Plus, I discovered a blog I'll be following regularly going forward.

OK, About that Rain

  • We wrote about our rain twice, once looking forward to it and once mid-storms.
  • The Los Angeles Times pointed out that the storms aren't just having an impact on the vineyards directly; they're also building the Sierra snowpack, which provides so much of California's summer water source.
  • Looking back, our local KCBX Public Radio interviewed me for a piece on how the drought impacted the 2014 vintage (it wasn't all, or even mostly, negative). My conclusion was "the quality of this vintage, as is often true with low yielding vintages, looks spectacular -- but now it can rain". And it has! Listen »

In Between the Raindrops
LAventure Clouds

  • Winter isn't just about rain clouds and green grass; the interludes between the storms provide mixed skies appealing in a different way than the deep unbroken blues of summer. I loved this shot from the L'Aventure Winery Facebook page, of their iconic sign hanging under a cornflower blue sky dotted with sheep-like clouds.

Some Nice Press for Paso

  • This year has seen Paso Robles recognized in the Washington Post, in Forbes, in the San Francisco Chronicle, in Conde Nast Traveler, and in Passport Magazine. This week, Travel & Leaisure got into the act, putting Paso Robles at #16 in its list of America's Best Towns for the Holidays. Most visitors come to Paso between April and October, and bask in its warm days and clear golden light. The winter is different, softer and greener, slower-paced, and it's nice to see a piece focusing on our winter charms.
  • Paso Robles was also the feature of a great blog posted by Chef and Sommelier Shauna Burke.  Her piece, called Stopping in the Middle: A Weekend in Paso Robles Wine Country, touched on several of my favorite places to go and things to do. Like the rest of her blog, it also was beautifully written and illustrated. I was intrigued that her previous blog piece was about Vermont (where I grew up) and equally impressed with what she picked to feature in that piece. With that inducement, I ended up reading a year's worth of entries, chock full of terrific recipes, thoughtful recommendations and her terrific photography. Check it out »

And for Tablas Creek

  • It was really nice for me to see the 2012 Cotes de Tablas picked by S. Irene Virbila as the Los Angeles Times' Wine of the Week, for two reasons.  The first is that as the "middle child" (between, in price, the Esprit de Tablas line and our Patelin de Tablas) the Cotes wines, which I think have never been better, seem to struggle to get their fair share of attention.  And second, I thought her review was particularly perceptive and really nailed the wine's character: "cherries, plums and wild herbs, with a licorice kick".

Food for Thought (Drink for Thought?)

  • This last piece isn't new (it was published in March) but it was new to us, and we all found it fascinating.  It's a long-format article on the Web site Vinepair called The 8,000 Year Effort To Transport Wine Around The World, going back to when ancient Georgians invented the kvevri, a massive earthenware vessel used to ferment, age and store wine made from locally growing wild grapes.  Smaller, more portable amphorae came next, then wood barrels, and finally bottles in recent centuries.  And even once they were invented, wine wasn't initially put into bottles at the estate; it was transported in barrels and bottled nearer its eventual destination.  In any case, we found the article fascinating, and hope you will too.  Read more »
Categories: North America

Herb Roasted Pork Belly Porchetta Recipe

Jordan Winery - Healdsburg, California - Mon, 12/15/2014 - 20:57
Looking for a easy, delicious recipe for your family dinner party this holiday season? Herb roasted pork belly made in the Italian porchetta tradition (boneless pork roast with savory herbs) is a savory dinner party entrée that is simple to prepare in advance, and its fresh herbs complement the earthy notes in Bordeaux blends like Jordan [...]
Categories: North America

Jordan Winery harvest lunch menus

Jordan Winery - Healdsburg, California - Mon, 12/15/2014 - 20:36
  Harvest Lunch Menus Hosted annually in September/October at Jordan Winery in Healdsburg, Jordan Estate Rewards Harvest Lunches showcase the bounty of our garden, as well as local farms in Sonoma County. Entrees celebrate a range of ethnic cuisines from the homelands of our staff. Each Harvest Lunch menu features one entrée, one dessert, and multiple [...]
Categories: North America

How to Properly Pair Wine With Food

Faustini Wines - Napa, CA - Mon, 12/15/2014 - 15:52
Pairing a wine with the correct food, you may think that this a tricky subject that only the sommelier can tell you but the truth is its fairly simple. When it comes to food and wine pairing, you need to know that food changes the way the wine tastes and vice versa. When improperly paired you can create undesirable reactions through the wrong pairings, but if you pair correctly, then you open a new world of amazing flavor. First things first, it’s important to understand the fact that different people have different sensitivities when it comes to identifying aromas and flavors. Some may really enjoy tartness for example, whereas some may not.  Always take into account the preferences of whom you are serving for, combine that knowledge with the general rules to food and wine pairing and you’ll be golden. FLAVORS & TEXTURES  Sweetness: High amounts of sugar in your dish will make a wine taste more bitter and acidic, and lose its fruity flavors. This will often make the wine taste bland and boring. Always select a wine with a higher level of sweetness (or at least as much sugar) than the dish so the flavors complement each other instead of fighting against each other. If the wine is less sweet than the food it’s matched with, it will tend to taste bitter and tart. This is why a Port wine is perfect with dessert. Salt: Salt gives the wine more body while reducing the acidity levels, it’s pretty wine friendly. The classic one to remember is seafood in this instance. Go for a nice crisp white, like a Sauvignon Blanc. Avoid pairing big bold reds with a delicate piece of seabass -this will knock the flavors and you won’t be able to taste the wine either. Acidity: The opposite to sweetness in every way - in food this is things like lemon juice. It takes away some of the wine’s acidity while increasing its fruitiness and body.  You just need to get the balance right for this one. For highly acidic foods go for a wine with a high acid, and vice versa. If you had a wine that was low in acidity with a food that was high in acidity, the wine would feel flabby and sad. Try to match the weight of the meal with the weight of the wine too, so oily fish such as smoked salmon will work better with whites and Champagne, and heavy oily dishes such as lasagna work better with reds that have a good level of acidity. A wine should have higher acidity than the food it’s matched with otherwise it will taste dull. Spice: Everyone tolerance is different when it comes to spice (always taste your chilies before you cook with them to test the heat).  Some people enjoy the heat, some don’t. A thing to remember is that the higher the alcohol content, the more intense the heat sensation becomes and vice versa. If you enjoy this, get a 15% alcohol red. If you don’t then it’s just trial and error until you find the right alcohol content that matches your palate. A good example of a solid wine choice for spicy food is either a Sauvignon Blanc, due its acidic flavors lifting the spices or a Moscato, which is aromatic and compliments many spices. If you want red, go light. Avoid heavy oak flavors too. Heavier wines can overpower the spices, so be careful with that. Bitterness: Foods that are naturally bitter tend to increase a wines bitterness as well. Again, this does change from person to person. Tannins add to a wine’s bitter flavor and acidity making it drier and bite the gums. They are more commonly found in red wines and the odd white depending on what it has been aged in. Tannins naturally occur in wood as well as fruit skins and leaves. For example an oak aged wine will tend to have a higher tannic level. Since our tastebuds are very sensitive to bitterness, it’s important to pay special attention to not pair bitter food and high tannin wine. If you want to pair a high tannin wine, look to foods with fat, and salt for balance. As a general rule, the more textured or fatty the meal, the more tannin you need. Steak with a Cabernet Sauvignon or a Malbec is a great example here. The number one guideline is to bring out the best characteristics of a wine. A high tannin red wine will taste like sweet cherries when paired with the right dish. Focus on the characteristics that you want to champion and make sure that the wine will shine instead of fighting against the food.

Till next time oneophiles...Cheers!



Categories: North America

The secret codes of the barrel room

Château Palmer - France - Mon, 12/15/2014 - 14:21

In the dim and cool chai... the barrels rest quietly in a monastic atmosphere.  The soul of the wine slumbers here.  Lined up in the shadows and the cool constant temperature of 16°C, these barrels will hold the newborn vintage for quite some time, anywhere from 18 to 21 months. 

As you approach, you'll see inscriptions written in chalk, on the rounded surface of the barrel or on its seal. These secret codes, which are barely visible, allow our experts to closely follow the evolution of each lot. 

Here are a few clues to decipher these secret codes.

First the most obvious:  "PA" stands for Palmer, whereas "AE" are the initials of the name of our other wine - Alter Ego.

More complicated codes then follow:

"E" for Entonnage or Funneling, it is the moment where our wines are funneled into the barrels to begin aging.

"S" reveals Soutirage or Racking. Through this 'ritualistic ceremony', the wine is revitalized, discarding any undesirable deposits; it is the wine's natural clarification process.

"C" for Collage or Fining which always follows Racking.  It is not an artistically creative technique*, it is the introduction of a fining agent to clarify and stabilize the wine.  This large "C" can be found about fifty days a year, with "SC" - Sortie de Colle or End of fining- following quickly thereafter.

3.jpgThese different "letter" codes are written on the interior of a cross and completed with the exact procedure date - day, month, and year. Numerous other codes are used in the chai, allowing our team to follow the advancement of various experiments, for example. A circled number or an inconspicuous sign, it is something that only our experts can read.  But of course, some codes should be kept secret... 

Categories: Europe

Assessing the Impacts of Last Week's Rain

Tablas Creek Vineyard - Paso Robles CA - Sun, 12/14/2014 - 23:10

We're in a peaceful interlude between two significant storms.  The sun may be thin and wintery, but it's (mostly) out.  The rain that fell on Thursday and Friday is soaking in.  Another storm is on its way, but won't arrive until mid-day Monday.  We got 2.67" of rain in the storm -- a bit less than had been forecast, and quite a bit less than areas around the San Francisco Bay, which got drenched.  Still, this brings our total for the winter to 7.5 inches, above average for this early in the rainy season.

I took advantage of this break to get out into the vineyard and take some photos, and was struck by just how much greener it was even than early in the week.  A few photos will give you a sense:


As you can see, the cover crop is off to a flying start:


In terms of greenery, we're ahead of where we were in March of this past winter.  The sequence -- an inch on Halloween, to get things germinated, followed by 3 weeks of sun to encourage growth, followed by a week of gentle rain totaling over 3 inches -- was perfect preparation for our first heavy rains of the year, and meant that we saw virtually no erosion, and almost total absorption of the nearly 3 inches of overnight rain this week.  Even on Friday, there were only a few spots in the vineyard with puddles visible:


You can see in the above photo the deep ripping that we've done on hillsides in preparation for this winter. These cuts run horizontally across the hills and encourage water to be absorbed rather than to flow off downhill.

As the skies cleared Friday, we got some spectacular cloud shapes and colors:

Sunset 1  Sunset 2

Pink and blue sky behind oaks

Looking forward, on Monday we're forecast to receive a storm, similar to last week's if a bit weaker, that should provide another couple of inches, with a bit more Tuesday as the associated low pressure system moves inland.  Then a brief break before a smaller system comes through on Friday, after which it looks like we'll have dry weather through Christmas.  This December rain we've received is the best present we could have asked for.

Categories: North America

Exploring Wine Country

Whitehall Lane Winery - St. Helena, CA - Fri, 12/12/2014 - 23:12

The season of indulgence is upon us, a tireless celebratory moment after another beginning in October and ending abruptly upon initiation of New Year’s resolutions. Some seasonal excess is more enjoyable between brisk outings and a little adventure. Northern California boasts still beautiful weather in November, a perfect escape to get your heart rate up while still spending time with your loved ones.

Wine country has some of the most scenic trails and outdoor activities in Northern California, and the holidays are the perfect time to grab a friend or family member and take advantage of nature’s seasonal beauty. Whether you’re looking for wine tours or biking and hiking trails, wine country is an exquisite experience for all taste buds.

With something for everyone, visitors come to wine country from far and wide to explore and experience its beauty. It has nationally become a top tourist destination.

To get the most out of a vacation, it helps to plan ahead. Knowing where you want to go, and choosing the right activities for you is beneficial to ensuring your experience is robust.

Some of the most frequented and popular activities to enjoy are listed below:


Conn Valley Lake Hennessey

This bike ride starting in St. Helena is perfect for the beginner or a gentle ride through the gorgeous region.



Cold Springs Loop

This bike ride is a bit more extensive than Conn Valley, but is still doable for the intermediate rider. Enjoy an afternoon biking 24 miles on this ride through wine country, generally staying off of the main highway.



Napa Valley Woodlands

This 3.1 mile hike is perfect for a morning or afternoon, usually taking around 1 to 3 hours. Just near St. Helena, this hike connects two state parks, Bothe-Napa Valley State Park and Grist Mill, and offers a great sense of the history of Napa Valley as it takes you through an historic cemetery and watershed.



Beau Wine Tours

Take a wine tour through different vineyards, enjoy a dinner and be escorted around wine country with Beau Wine Tours. This is another activity less on the outdoors side, allowing you to see the inside of different wineries in the area.


Categories: North America

Farming the Soil with Food Waste

Farming the Soil with Food Waste

Originally posted on Lexicon of Sustainability.

Oftentimes, visitors to my gardens are surprised to discover that our compost pile doesn’t smell bad. This is because many of us have grown up thinking of our food scraps as garbage: something that rots and stinks and attracts flies. It’s time for each of us to stop thinking of our vegetable scraps — apple cores, onion peels, carrot shavings — as “waste” and start thinking of them as a valuable resource; an essential element in the cycle of sustainable, organic food production.

“Waste” when it comes to food, is a misnomer. Waste is defined as material that is not wanted or the unusable remains of byproducts of something. But most of our food “waste” can be recycled into the system of soil building, plant growth and plant consumption. Through recycling, waste becomes compost.

Compost is organic matter that has been decomposed and is used as a soil amendment to increase soil structure, fertility, and moisture retention. The compost food web is composed of a diversified array of microscopic and macroscopic decomposers. Some of the microbes act as translators in a symbiotic relationship with the root hairs. They break down organic nutrients into an inorganic form for the plant to uptake in exchange for carbohydrates and sugars.

I consider myself a farmer of soil as much as, if not more so, a farmer of produce. Without healthy, living soil, I couldn’t grow the vibrant, flavorful and nutrient-rich produce we enjoy so much. And without compost, I couldn’t create healthy, living soil. And without food “waste” soil would just be dirt.


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Categories: North America

What’s the Best Wine to Pair with the Holidays?

What's the Best Wine to Pair with the Holidays?

I can hardly believe it’s almost the Holiday Season! It seems to come earlier and earlier every year.

If you’re like my family, you’ll be drinking a bunch of different wines as we head into New Year’s Eve. It’s awfully hard to formally pair specific wines with the array of foods on the holiday table; there’s so much of everything that no one wine can cover all the bases.

But if I had to choose one wine to have with everything, from the first afternoon cocktail through the duck and roast beef and ham, to the mashed potatoes, roasted root vegetables and jello salad, to the most decadent dessert, it would be my number one favorite white wine ever, Chardonnay.

Some people say that Chardonnay is too rich to be versatile with a bunch of different foods. Oh sure, they’ll concede it’s the perfect partner for crab, especially if it’s in-season Dungeness crab like we have here in the Bay Area, and super-especially if you serve it up with plenty of sourdough bread and butter. But there is a certain crowd out there that believes you need something drier, crisper and leaner to be a really good food match.

Far be it from me to deny the allures of Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio/Gris or any of the other dry, crisp white wines. I’ll drink a good one anytime! But for me, Chardonnay really does have all the attributes of the most versatile white wine in the world.

(Well, one caveat: Sparkling wine is even more versatile than Chardonnay. But then, many of the greatest sparkling wines are made with Chardonnay.)

It’s all a matter of taste, of course, but for me, Chardonnay’s richness is exactly what it has going for it. Few white wines in the world are richer. Check it out for yourself: While Kendall-Jackson produces several different Chardonnays (Vintner’s Reserve, Jackson Estate, K-J AVANT, Grand Reserve etc.), all share common flavors of intensely ripe mango, green apple, key lime pie and pear, with of course the fabulous creaminess that comes from lees stirring and the buttered toast and vanilla bean of oak barrel aging. Those characteristics may seem to suggest pairing with slightly sweeter fare (and crab, as well as other shellfish, especially lobster, can taste sweet due to its amino acids, fats and ocean salinity). But a great Chardonnay only gives the impression of sweetness; it’s actually a dry wine, which is Chardonnay’s magic: it tastes rich but finishes dry. That’s just what I want in a table white wine.

You might want to drink one of K-J’s fuller-bodied, oakier Chardonnays with your fancier, richer foods: Christmas ham, shellfish, a grand soufflé, shrimp, pork loin. With simpler but no less tasty fare, like roasted chicken, pasto pesto, baked butternut squash or buttery white rice, you might turn to something like K-J AVANT or Vintner’s Reserve. And there’s practically no dessert I can think of that doesn’t go with Chardonnay, unless it involves chocolate, although even with chocolate, there’s an exception: Try Chardonnay with a white chocolate truffle. Now that’s really getting into the holiday spirit!

Steve Heimoff is one of America’s most respected and well-known wine writers. The former West Coast Editor for Wine Enthusiast Magazine and a contributor to Wine Spectator, he has also authored two books on the subject of California wine, including “New Classic Winemakers of California: Conversations with Steve Heimoff,” published in the fall of 2007.


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Categories: North America

Previewing a potentially massive series of Pacific storms

Tablas Creek Vineyard - Paso Robles CA - Thu, 12/11/2014 - 20:30

Each winter, we wait to hear the words "the storm door is open".  What this means is that the jet stream, which brings weather systems across the pacific toward North America, has dropped far enough south that the moisture it contains streams over California instead of over the Pacific Northwest.  If we're really lucky, we start hearing terms like "Pineapple Express", which means that the more southerly flow of the jet stream has drawn a plume of tropical moisture up from the warm waters around Hawaii, supercharging the air currents as they pass over the California coast.

If you take a look at the most recent water vapor map from NOAA (or, even better, view the animations on the always fascinating NOAA Web site), you'll see that the storm door is open, and the Pineapple Express is barreling into California as we speak:


The rainfall we're expecting just over the next two days should have a measurable impact on our annual totals on on our local drought.  Also from the National Weather Service (in this case, their Twitter feed), the 48-hour rainfall predictions:

Rainfall forecast dec 2014

It's encouraging that this rain is going to stretch across all of California, unlike a couple of recent storms that have mostly hit in the north.

And, even better, this is just one of a series of storms that are lined up across the Pacific, which the southerly jet stream is poised to aim at us in sequence.  After this storm (3-4 inches predicted) we're forecast for another inch or two on Monday, another decent storm Wednesday, and a third next weekend.  If all goes as planned, we'll have accumulated somewhere around 15 inches of rain by the end of the month, which would give us a huge head-start toward the wet winter we've all been hoping for.

Last winter, which was one of the driest on record in California, saw an exceptionally resilient ridge of high pressure over the south Pacific.  This ridge diverted the jet stream and all its associated moisture further north, soaking the Pacific Northwest and leaving California in its shadow.  It wasn't until March that this broke down, at which point there just wasn't enough time for the state to make up the rainfall deficit.  We feel fortunate that we did get seven inches of late-season rain; it made the difference between the 2014 vintage being very dry and it being potentially catastrophic.  But that doesn't make us any less happy to hear about this particular open storm door.  Bring it on.

Meanwhile, if you're interested in keeping up with what's going on here, I highly recommend you follow John Lindsey, the meteorologist for our local utility PG&E.  His Twitter feed is my go-to source for local forecasts, maps and updates.

Categories: North America


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