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5 Creative Ways To Use Summer Tomatoes

5 Creative Ways To Use Summer Tomatoes

While tomatoes are delicious on their own or simply with a little olive oil and salt, there are so many creative ways you can enjoy them. We gathered up some ideas you may have never thought of before:

  1. Bake them. Bet you never thought of wrapping your tomatoes up in a pastrycrustand popping it in the oven. Try baking your summer tomatoes into a delicious tart complete with cheese and fresh herbs. Check out this Heirloom Tomato Tart recipe to get you started!
  2. Juice them. Fresh tomato juice is surprisingly delicious and can be used to make an amazing homemade tomato juice. If the idea of straight tomato juice is too much for you it also tastes great combined with other flavors. Try one cup watermelon juice, half a cup tomato juice and the juice of one lime, it makes for a refreshing combination.
  3. Stuff them. Almost anything tastes good when it’s stuffed into a tomato! Pick out some ingredients you love, stuff them into a hollowed out tomato and bake!
  4. Jar them. Tomatoes can be jarred in many different ways and enjoyed all year round. Try transforming your tomatoes into a sweet jam to put on your next cheeseboard.
  5. Grill them. Grilling makes everything taste better, even a tomato! Cut some thick slices, coat them in olive oil and grill them as a side dish for your next meal! 

If you’re a tomato lover like us then you won’t want to miss out on 18th Annual Kendall-Jackson Heirloom Tomato Festival happening this September 27th. Enjoy the perfect fall day with garden tours, exceptional wine and food pairings, dynamic wine and garden seminars, the popular Chef’s Challenge, and music provided by The Carlos Herrera Band — not to mention more than 175 different varieties of heirloom tomatoes!

The post 5 Creative Ways To Use Summer Tomatoes appeared first on Kendall-Jackson Blog.

Categories: North America

Look what people are saying about Cuvaison Chardonnays!

Cuvaison Estate Wines - Napa Valley, CA - Tue, 08/19/2014 - 18:27

2012 Cuvaison Estate Chardonnay

Connoisseurs' Guide to California Wine
July 2014
91 Points | 
"Lemon and apple fruitiness and energy is here made part
and parcel of aromas that also deliver a clear overlay of crème brûlée richness. With acidity balancing its evident viscosity and bring a strong citrusy tinge into the proceedings, this wine adds further fuel to the argument that freshness and depth are not mutually exclusive in California Chardonnay. With a long and quite tasty finish and room to grow for another year or more before reaching its peak, this bottling offers both palatal and priceworthy rewards. 

Bottle Club Bottle
20% Off Retail 
Case Club Case
20% Off 25.00 20.00 300.00 240.00        

2012 Kite Tail Chardonnay

Wine Enthusiast Buying Guide
October 2014 
91 Points

"From an organically-farmed hillside vineyard planted to the Old Wente clone,
this white is expressive in oak and intense aromas and flavors of delicate pear, peach and lime. Made in a fuller, creamy style, it’s balanced in acidity with a crispness to the finish." 

The Tasting Panel
August 2014, Anthony Dias Blue
90 Points

"Lush and juicy with spice, toasty oak,vanilla and ripe pear fruit; rich and dense."

Bottle Club Bottle
20% Off Retail
Case Club Case 
20% Off 42.00 33.60 504.00 403.20        
Categories: North America

The Popularity Growth of Rosé Wine

Whitehall Lane Winery - St. Helena, CA - Tue, 08/19/2014 - 17:27

(Photo by: @shevaung Instagram user)

The popularity of wine has seen a major shift in the past few decades. With new technology and evolving methods, specific wines aren’t limited to one growing region anymore, making certain varietals more accessible and affordable. The old image of a wine snob is falling by the wayside as the mainstream is able to afford several brands from different regions. Until recently, wines from traditional winemaking regions around the world had varying qualities between vintage and varietal, making it difficult for mainstream consumers to participate in the greater wine business and conversation. However, the emergence of more affordable and accessible wines with consistent quality found closer to home have challenged wineries worldwide to set a reliable standard of production.

Rosé has experienced an exceptional boost in popularity in the past two decades. Since it is not made from a specific grape in any specific region, it can be produced wherever red grapes are able to grow. Rosé wines are also considered a bargain since they are relatively inexpensive to produce, using a mixture of red grapes. There is, however, a huge misconception that rosé is made by simply mixing red and white wine together. Instead, after red grapes are crushed, they are left to macerate with their red skins anywhere from a few hours to a few days. The color of wine is simply an indicator of steeping skins. The longer the skin is left in, the darker the wine will be. After maceration, the juice is separated from the “must” (skins, seeds, and other items) and is left to ferment in tanks to become rosé.

The millennial generation is also making its mark on the demand for rosé. They are among the first to support rosé sales around the world. By 2016, U.S. millennials will be between ages 19 and 34, the majority being old enough to legally drink, and will also make up almost half of the U.S. drinking population. With the emerging popularity of prepackaged mixtures of sweet spirits and soft drinks, teenagers prefer appealing color, sweetness, and something that’s easy to appreciate- some of the defining characteristics of rosé wine.

Rosés are extremely flexible. Since they fall between the two extremes of light, sweet whites and dark, tannic reds, the happy medium pairs well with virtually any foods, as long as diners give it time to chill before drinking. Most rosés also mix well for those who prefer wine as part of a cocktail’s flavor profile. Its generally low price gives buyers more freedom to tamper with and can become a great spritzer or cocktail.

Whitehall Lane has pounced on this trend and recently released its Cub Red to wine club members, potentially considering another rosé down the road.  Like all things Whitehall Lane, its rosé is incredibly well-balanced and a nod to the classic rosés that demand a bit of a higher price, but can please the most discerning rosé drinkers. Leaning to the drier side rather than sweet, old school rosé afficianados can swoon over this well-made new school blend.

Categories: North America

Are direct-to-consumer sales really failing to lift the wine industry?

Tablas Creek Vineyard - Paso Robles CA - Tue, 08/19/2014 - 07:07

Last month I was surprised to read a headline on the industry portal Wine Industry Network titled Direct to Consumer Sales Fails to Lift the Wine Industry.  As a winery whose business model works only because of direct sales, I was curious to learn more about what the author Brian Rosen, consultant and former proprietor of Sam's Wine & Spirits, meant by the headline.  I posted my thoughts on Twitter:

Direct sales tweets 1

After which, he and I shot a few tweets back and forth, elaborating our positions:

Direct sales tweets 2

Brian's article was particularly interesting to me because it plays against the dominant narrative right now, that direct sales are on an inexorable rise, and that wineries should do everything that they can to make sure they're well positioned in this channel. What's more, that dominant narrative certainly jibes with our own experience here at Tablas Creek.  When we started, we believed that we would sell all our production through the wholesale channel.  Between the reputation of Beaucastel and the marketing muscle of Vineyard Brands, we thought that we could focus on grapegrowing and winemaking and the rest would take care of itself.

Five years of experience taught us that our initial expectations were unrealistic, and we made the decision in 2002 to take a much more active role in our marketing and sales.  We opened our tasting room, started our wine club, began participating in a wider array of events, worked harder and more closely with our distributor partners, and started participating more consistently in the promotional efforts of the regional and varietal organizations to which we belonged.  Little by little, we clawed our way out of what was a dangerous period when we were bleeding cash each year and became profitable.

In the steepest period of this climb, where we went from selling just under 4000 cases of wine in 2001 (all in wholesale) to nearly 20,000 cases of wine in 2007 (split between wholesale and direct) we saw significant growth in all our channels.  Our wholesale sales increased more than 250% over that period, to some 11,000 cases.  Our direct sales grew from nothing to some 9,000 cases.  But each year, as we looked at our financial reports, it became clear that our growing wholesale sales, far from driving our profitability, were only about a 50/50 bet to cover the cost of selling our wine in this channel.  As a company, all the profit that hit our bottom line came from the direct sales.

The greater profitability of direct sales should be intuitive, but it's likely even more important to wineries than you think.  Most wineries aim to achieve the same price out in the wholesale market and in their direct sales.  For product destined for the wholesale market, wineries back out the expected wholesaler and retailer markups, leading to a wholesale sell price half of full retail price.  Given that the cost of producing a wine is likely half or more of the wholesale sell price, the profit of selling a case direct isn't double that of selling it in the wholesale market; it is several times greater.  It is this disparity that means that a winery can offer good discounts to its wine club members and still come out far ahead. 

Further increasing the relative attractiveness of direct sales is that most wineries find, as we have, that the mix they sell direct skews toward their higher-end wines, while the mix that sells in wholesale skews toward wines that are less expensive, both because the wholesale market is naturally more price-competitive and because of the practical limit on wholesale price for wines that restaurants can pour by the glass.  When we did the math we realized that 75% of our revenue was coming from the 45% of our wine we sold direct, while just 25% of our revenue came from the 55% of the wine sold through the wholesale channel.  In simpler terms, we sold our average direct case for three and a half times what we sold our average wholesale case for.

OK, that was a lot of background.  But it gives you what you need to understand why I took objection when I read in Brian's piece, "I can tell you with 100% certainty that the DTC movement is not what you think it is and will not provide the added revenue that wineries around the globe are seeking."

The crucial question, and one that Brian himself addresses later in the article, is which wineries will benefit from direct-to-consumer sales, and which won't.  A winery's direct sales is limited naturally by its cachet, its tasting room traffic, and its perception of scarcity.  Even with high traffic, high cachet, and the perception of scarcity, there are only a handful of wineries selling more than 25,000 cases direct.  And most wineries' direct customers are far fewer than that; even established wineries I speak to around Paso Robles typically count a few thousand wine club members.  So,  imagine the challenge that faces a winery making a million cases a year, trying to have direct sales matter on the bottom line.  Even if they are able to build up to 25,000 direct cases per year (likely difficult given the challenge of creating the perception of scarcity) and able to sell those direct cases for 3.5 times what they sold their wholesale cases for, the direct sales channel would account for just 8.2% of the company's revenue.

Yet direct-to-consumer wine sales have grown to a $1.58 billion dollar industry: nearly the size of the total of wine sales to restaurants (some $1.8 billion last year).  It's still dwarfed by the $7.34 billion in retail wine sales, but it's growing.  So, is DTC important to wineries, or not?  It depends on your size.  Most wineries are small; by the Wine institute's estimate, 90% of wineries produce fewer than 50,000 cases, with three-quarters producing fewer than 5,000 cases.  Every one of those wineries should be looking to consumer-direct sales to make their business viable.  But most of the wine produced in America is produced by large wineries; estimates are that the three largest wine conglomerates produce half the wine sold in America each year.  And the twenty largest firms account for 90% of the market. For them, as the math showed above, direct sales are not going to make a significant difference in profitability.

If you're the average bottle of American wine, produced by one of the big companies in lots of tens or hundreds of thousands of cases, you're not likely looking at a future that involves transport via UPS or FedEx.  But if you're an average winery, producing a few thousand cases of wine a year, you should be focusing on selling a high percentage of however many bottles you produce directly.

Three final notes.  First, why, if they'll never notice it on their bottom lines, do the big wine companies still have tasting rooms and wine clubs?  I think (and based on the effort put into their direct sales by many of these large wineries, they agree) that it's valuable marketing: each direct relationship that a winery maintains is going to have a positive ripple effect as that customer communicates his or her enthusiasm to friends, and will support the work of distribution in a way similar to -- yet more profitable than -- advertising.

Second, you may be wondering why a relatively small winery like us bothers with wholesale sales at all.  Like a large winery with its direct sales, we think of it as powerful marketing, for which we get some revenue to offset the costs.  Having wine in great restaurants and wine shops means that customers don't have to come to us to discover us, and we have literally thousands of wine-savvy professionals around the country telling our story.  If we can get all this at something close to break-even, it's a big asset.

And third, if 90%+ of wineries rely on consumer-direct sales for their livelihood, why did Brian say that it won't provide the revenue wineries are seeking?  I think that there are two reasons.  First, Brian comes from a retail perspective.  The regulatory environment still makes it much more difficult for retailers to ship around the country than it does wineries.  And retailers are all competing to sell wines their competitors can buy at more or less the same price they can.  This level playing field, the regulatory patchwork, and the high cost of expedited shipping on a perishable, heavy item like a bottle of wine all combine to shield smaller local retailers from competition.  Will this equilibrium last forever?  Probably not. Given that Amazon is on their third foray into trying to sell wine, the e-commerce giants must see some potential here.  And here is an important area that I agree with Brian: whether you're a retailer or a supplier, Amazon and its ilk are likely to be neither savior nor apocalypse in the near term.

But all that's beside the point to a small or medium-size winery.  If that's who you are, you likely already know that direct-to-consumer sales isn't just your future.  It's your present, too.

Categories: North America

What’s new in Healdsburg food & wine

Jordan Winery - Healdsburg, California - Tue, 08/19/2014 - 05:09
Healdsburg was named one of the best small towns in America earlier this year, but business owners aren’t willing to rest on their laurels. An exciting crop of new restaurants, tasting rooms and cultural activities have debuted recently in Sonoma wine country’s hottest township. Here’s what’s new in Healdsburg food and wine: Dry Creek Kitchen [...]
Categories: North America

10 Must-See National Parks

10 Must-See National Parks

National Parks are often underrated as a vacation destination but with so many scattered across the country they make a great escape from a hectic life into the serene surroundings of nature. While you really can’t go wrong with visiting any of the USA’s National Parks, see what ones topped our list (in no particular order).

  1. Glacier National Park – Nestled in the Rocky Mountains in scenic Montana, this untamed natural beauty is home to over 700 miles of hiking trails. Not only is this park full of natural wonders but engineering marvels and history are abound as well. Discover remnants of Native American life or explore the Going-to-the-Sun Road — a 50-mile spectacle that winds through the park and offers breathtaking views. With all that this park has to offer its no wonder it made our list.
  2. Acadia National Park – This park contains pristine forests, mountain heights and a rocky coast. With all three of these natural sites packaged into one park, Acadia National Park hits the top of our list. This park is full of historic carriage roads and breathtaking views; it is home to Cadillac Mountain, which is the tallest mountain on the Eastern Shore.
  3. Channel Islands – California is home to a vast variety of landscapes, one of which are the isolated and unique Channel Islands. Five of these eight islands make up the Channel Islands National Park. The isolation of these islands has resulted in a multitude of unique animals and plants. This distinctive national park is definitely worth the short boat ride.
  4. Olympic National Park – Settled in Washington’s lush landscape, this park showcases ocean tide pools, lush meadows, and soaring mountain heights. It’s also home to the largest remains of ancient forests in the country.
  5. Cuyahoga Valley National Park – No, this park isn’t just here because we like to say its name. This is the youngest national park in the US but what it lacks in years it makes up for in beauty. Its home is along the Cuyahoga River in Ohio, a refuge for plants and wildlife alike. The most interesting site at this park is the old auto junkyard that is now home to the local beaver population.
  6. Sequoia National Park – This park, in the southern Sierra Nevada, is home to giant sequoia forests which contain some of the largest trees in the world. Of these is the General Sherman tree, which is the largest known single stem tree on earth by volume. You’ll be in awe walking through this forest of giants.
  7. Zion National Park – Take a hike along a scenic river trail between towering sandstone walls of cream, pink and red. As if this hike couldn’t get any better, the glistening river flowing at your feet encourages intermittent swimming breaks. Don’t worry; there are still plenty of chances for stunning views and amazing vistas all over the park. Also being home to over 250 bird species this Utah park is a haven for natural wonders.
  8. Great Smoky Mountains National Park – Nestled between the borders of North Carolina and Tennessee, this park boasts a stunning array of wildlife with 1500 plant species, 60 mammal species and 200 bird species. This is America’s most visited national park, and for good reason.
  9. Everglades National Park – Get close to a variety of endangered species, like manatees and crocodiles, in this protected habitat. You may even catch sight of a bottle-nosed dolphin or Florida panther during your visit. Enhance the experience by picking up a kayak and paddle through mangrove forests and breathtaking coastlines.
  10. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park – Get up close and personal with a live volcano at this unique national park.  During your visit you can get rare insight into how the Hawaiian Islands were formed and, if conditions permit, you may even be able to walk through a naturally formed lava tube.

The post 10 Must-See National Parks appeared first on Kendall-Jackson Blog.

Categories: North America

Desperately Seeking...

Castello di Amorosa - Napa Valley - Mon, 08/18/2014 - 17:42

Desperately Seeking….


This is the time of year when writing a food and wine blog becomes a challenging task to complete rather than an opportunity for relaxed easy banter I usually tackle with enthusiasm. The weather is still quite warm but the nights now bring the crispness of autumn. Excitement for the fresh lighter fare of summer has given way to the anticipation of comforting fall favorites. Maybe it’s the angle of the late summer sun or the knowing that harvest is rapidly approaching. Labor Day is days away, summer is rounding third.

Suddenly-- a change of season.

My creativity is obviously on a late summer vacation and my vapid thoughts are in need of inspiration.

So, I went to the grocery store and wandered the aisles….searching. How to bridge this canyon of bland? This growing crevasse of food and wine apathy. The space between. The blah. The doldrums.

Then, I saw it. A warm halo of light illuminating its golden perfection; a roasted chicken.

(Maybe the ‘warm halo of illuminating light’ was actually a warming oven?)

Few foods can adapt to the season…or to wine… quite like a roast chicken; a winged chameleon of flavor. Season with sea salt, black pepper and a touch of lemon juice. Refrigerate this bird for a few quick meals on the fly and serve with summer veggies and a cool crisp Pinot grigio. Added win--leftovers make yummy soft tacos!

Let’s beef this chicken up. Root vegetables are a perfect hearty addition. Rub a touch garlic and rosemary to the skin of this bird. Cover with foil and pop in the oven for 10-15 minutes and serve with roasted potatoes. Pinot Noir and roast chicken is a time honored classic and nothng short of inspiring! 










Categories: North America

In Celebration Of The Humble Pig

De Bortoli Wines - Australia - Sun, 08/17/2014 - 10:10


For the last few years we have celebrated a family tradition by holding a salami making day in June. In true celebration of the provenance of our food, we had hands-on salami making followed by a delicious luncheon feast, featuring the humble pig. This was all done in an old dairy at the top of our Yarra Valley vineyard complete with a rustic pop-up ‘restaurant’ in a marquee set up for the occasion. A good chance to get together with family, friends, staff and enjoy a good day just for the hell of it.

This year, we have decided to reverse the party and invite you to join us for a rustic dining experience in our ‘pop-up’ shed at our Locale restaurant. For one week from the 21st August, enjoy platters of Salami, prosciutto and some other delicious porky dishes such as gnocchi with pork ragu and roasted suckling pig along with our normal a la carte menu. And to keep in the theme, we’ll be serving carafes of wine straight from the barrel, specially selected by our winemakers. (We are open every day for lunch and Saturday night for dinner).

Friday night 22nd August will be a special celebration that is completely about the pig; communal tables with generous salumi platters, delicious suckling pig with winter vegetables, beautifully matured cheese, all washed down with carafes of wine. Cost: $85 per person for three courses and wine.

To make a booking for lunch on any of the days we are open from August 21st to the 25th or for our special Friday night dinner (22nd August) phone (03) 5965 2271 or email yarra(at)



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Categories: Oceania

When Does Joining a Wine Club Make Sense?

When Does Joining a Wine Club Make Sense?

I have a cousin who’s been a member of a wine club for some time now. She loves the winery’s wines, enjoys her visits to the tasting room, and likes going to the events the winery holds. So for her and her husband, joining their wine club makes sense.

I personally have never joined a wine club; never felt the need to, although that could change some day. But I’ve known a lot of people who have joined wine clubs, and most of them love it. They feel a very special, almost personal bond with the winery and the winemaker (who, in most cases, they’ve met, during a visit), and that feeling of a one-on-one relationship increases their wine-drinking pleasure (and gives them a story to tell when they’re pouring the wine for friends).

The main reason for joining a wine club, naturally, is because you love the wines. Why gamble on buying something you’ve never had (even if it got a high score from some critic), when you can drink something you know you like? There’s another advantage to going the club route: You don’t have to go out and look for the wines; they’re delivered to your door. Plus, the price the winery charges for club members is usually discounted. For example, members of Kendall-Jackson’s two wine clubs (either “Signature” or “Estates”) get 20% off all wine purchases (25% off if they buy a case). That’s not to mention discounted prices on K-J wine events (such as the Heirloom Tomato Festival) and other goodies.

The downside of joining a wine club, of course, is that you’re locked into drinking the wines of that particular winery. If you’re the adventurous type who enjoys experimenting with different wines and exploring the world’s varied wine-producing regions, then you may feel a bit restricted. That’s a perfectly legitimate reason not to join a club. (But, of course, the two choices—drinking wines you know as well as wines you don’t–are not mutually exclusive.)

As a home cook of ambitious, if rather limited, talents, I can see another reason to join a wine club: If you’re seeking the perfect wine-and-food pairing, then having access to the same wine over time means you can really perfect that pairing. For instance, I like drinking Sauvignon Blanc with Asian-inspired noodle dishes, and I’m constantly tinkering with the ingredients to make the pairing more memorable. If, on the other hand, you’re always drinking something different—today a Cretan white, tomorrow a Vinho Verde, the next day a Côte de Nuits-Villages—finding the ideal food pairing can be tricky (not that that makes trying any less fun!).

So, in the end, as in most things, it’s up to you. You can always join a wine club and, if it doesn’t work out, let your membership lapse. Like they say, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

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.

The post When Does Joining a Wine Club Make Sense? appeared first on Kendall-Jackson Blog.

Categories: North America

Vente Interdite

Domaine Jones - Languedoc, France - Sat, 08/16/2014 - 11:03
At the end of a long lunch in the shade of the fig tree, just when I was thinking I can't drink another drop, this bottle of Eau de Vie de Languedoc appeared on the table.  Not one to refuse a drink, I did hesitate a little when I read VENTE INTERDITE on the label.

The floating sediment in the bottle didn't reassure me much either but it would have been rude not to.

This bottle of Eau de Vie is about 50 years old and was produced at the distillery in the village of Tuchan.  The distillery has since been turned into a nightclub (!) but this 40° alcohol made from grape skins is definitely still boogying on down.

The cooperative took the grape skins to the distillery and in return the members had an allocation of this eye wateringly strong alcohol.
Categories: Europe


Domaine Jones - Languedoc, France - Sat, 08/16/2014 - 10:26
I took a quick snap of this multi coloured bunch of grapes in my vineyard in Maury just before we went away on holiday.  Grapes don't all mature at the same time just like us really!  

Categories: Europe

Living France article

Domaine Jones - Languedoc, France - Sat, 08/16/2014 - 10:17
 "It's been a bit more Jean de Florette than I might have wanted at times"!

Thanks to Susy Atkins for this lovely article in September's Living France!
Categories: Europe

Harvest 2014 begins: How our earliest-ever start also has longer-than-average hangtime

Tablas Creek Vineyard - Paso Robles CA - Fri, 08/15/2014 - 20:05

This Wednesday, August 13th, we welcomed sixteen tons of Syrah into our cellar, marking the beginning of the 2014 harvest.  These bins were from Estrella Farms, in the warm heartland of the Paso Robles AVA, and will form the juicy core of our Patelin de Tablas.  The fruit looked terrific, and the numbers were textbook: 23.5° Brix and 3.39pH.


The next day, we got four more tons of Estrella syrah and our first white: a little over seven tons of Grenache Blanc from Coyote Moon Vineyard, on a vineyard that we had grafted over to Grenache Blanc specifically for the Patelin Blanc up near the town of San Miguel.  This fruit looked great too, with intense flavors, modest sugar levels and great acidity: 21° Brix and 3.38 pH.

Grenache Blanc in bins

The two locations have in common that they are from areas of the AVA that are on the warmer side.  We think we're still a week away from harvesting anything off of our estate vineyard.  For our planning in the cellar, it's great that we're seeing this slug of fruit before anything else.  The roughly 30 tons of fruit is about 20% of what we're expecting for our Patelin, and to have it already safely put away before we're also dealing with the much more complicated harvest off our estate is a gift.  It also allows us to break in our wooden upright tanks and start building the population of native yeasts in our cellar.

This mid-August beginning feels early, but it's not unprecedented.  Yes, August 13th is the earliest that we've ever had fruit in the cellar, but it's only one day earlier than 1997, when the lot of estate Syrah that we harvested on August 14th was the first fruit we crushed in our newly-built winery.  Given that the fruit we've welcomed so far this year comes from warmer parts of Paso, I'm not sure even that we'll break our modern record for our earliest picking off our estate, August 23rd in 2004.

More than the calendar date when we start harvesting, what we look at as important is the length of the ripening cycle, and of course the balance and intensity of the fruit.  Because we saw such an early budbreak this year (two and a half weeks earlier than average) an estate harvest that begins ten days earlier than average, as this one appears poised to, actually gives us hang time about a week longer than normal.  And the fruit conditions that we're seeing so far bear this out: the fruit is intensely colored and perfumed, with beautiful deep flavors and acids exactly where we'd like to see them.

So, it's early yet.  But we couldn't ask for a better beginning.

Categories: North America

10th Annual Why I Love Oregon Pinot Noir Contest Winner

We have just concluded our 2014 annual “Why I Love Oregon Pinot Noir” contest. We asked Pinot Noir lovers from around the country to tell us “Why I Love Oregon Pinot Noir.” The most creative entry was chosen to win an all-expense-paid trip to Oregon Wine Country and Willamette Valley Vineyards.

After sifting through hundreds of photos, videos, poems and stories, a small committee within the winery chose the winning entry. The winner, David Meyer of Portland, Oregon submitted a new spin on the 1937 song by Rodgers & Hart entitled, “Where or When.”

"In July, my father Alan Meyer heard about the contest and came up with these new lyrics.  He very enthusiastically asked me to sing and submit it, so I listened to Frank Sinatra's version non-stop for two days!” said David. “Like the song says, I may not remember where or when I first fell in love with Oregon Pinot Noir, but that hasn't put a damper on our relationship.”

WVV Head Winemaker and one of this year’s judges, Don Crank said, “What we find really creative is the fact that we asked why you love Oregon Pinot Noir and this guy is telling us he loves it, but just can’t remember where or when.” Don further states, “Sometimes that’s just how it goes.” 

Entries for next years contest will be accepted May 1st through July 31st at

Categories: North America

Boxed Wine: Worst Nightmare or Way of the Future?

Ponte Winery - Temecula, CA - Fri, 08/15/2014 - 09:00

You are about to enter another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind.  A journey into a wondrous land of imagination.  Next stop, the Twilight Zone! – opening monologue of The Twilight Zone television show

I imagine two things:

  1. Most late Millennials have never heard the above monologue, and therefore immediately lost interest in this blog.
  2. Everyone else – the Baby Boomers, Generation X, early Gen. Y’s, perhaps the Silents – have this little quote running through their brain whenever they walk into a store and see…boxed wine.

 Go ahead…  it won’t hurt you.

Boxed wine has been around for as long as I can remember.  And, for just as long, it’s been the butt of many jokes and the disdain of countless aficionados.  Why the stigma?  Supposedly, the stuff is nasty – the epitome of “cheap wine”…at least that’s what all the wine snobs say.  Then again, these are the same folks who swore that putting screw caps on wine was borderline blasphemous.  Well, screw caps have come a long way, baby, and are topping some very upscale wines nowadays.  Even Ponte is experimenting with them on a handful of their white wines. Despite the general attitude that boxed wine is wretched, it’s still around; someone is buying it up and the market is growing.  Perhaps these folks have had it right the whole time, despite the laughs and finger-pointing.  The New York Times, Forbes and Real Simple magazine, to name a few, have sung their praises about boxed wine.  Clearly, it’s selling and it’s not going anywhere.

Boxed wines: the wine of the future?

The major upside of boxed wine?  Virtually no air exposure.  And that’s huge for wine.  Boxed wine is actually wine-in-a-bag-in-a-box.  Inside the box lies a bag full of wine.  The bag eliminates space for air to occupy, so the problem of oxidation practically disappears.  Boxed wine has the ability to stay fresh for weeks after it’s been opened.  No open bottle of wine – including those topped with vacuum sealers – can compete with that.  Another plus?  A large number of these boxes come in 5-liter sizes!  That’s more than six standard bottles of wine.

My only experience with boxed wine goes back to my time as a college junior, studying abroad in Italy.  One afternoon I went to the university’s cafeteria for lunch and, as I made my way down the line, I spotted one of the beverage options: wine.  It made sense; I was in Italy, after all.  However, the wine offered came in a box.  To the swift eye, it looked like a child’s juice box, but printed in bold letters were the words, “Vino bianco,” white wine. Talk about a head-scratcher. Boxed wine in Italy?  Of course, I grabbed one (how excited I was that, as a 19-year old, I could drink alcohol legally!).  It wasn’t baaaad.  But it wasn’t great, either.  Needless to say, I didn’t come back to America as a boxed wine convert.  As someone older and now wiser (I hope!), who’s done some research, I think I’m ready to pick up a box of wine and give it a try.

In my opinion, boxes of wine will never replace bottles of wine.  There is a certain romance a bottle of wine carries with it, a romance no box will ever be able to touch.  I mean, can you imagine hosting a romantic dinner for your dear one: candles are lit, china is spotless, wine glasses are on the table…and a box of wine is kerplunk! sitting next to the roast beef!  No no, I’ll always have a beautiful bottle of Ponte Cabernet Sauvignon or Vermentino around to do that job.

Ponte wine:   beautifying the dinner table since 2003

But, who knows where the next boxes of wine are going to show up.  Perhaps Temecula Valley…that “no air exposure” thing is pretty cool.

–Erica Martinez

–What’s your take on boxed wines? 

Categories: North America

The Local’s Guide to Napa Valley

Whitehall Lane Winery - St. Helena, CA - Thu, 08/14/2014 - 23:44

The Napa Valley and the rest of Wine Country has become a top national tourist destination. The sprawling vineyards over rolling hills in close proximity to the California coastline are unparalleled. It’s no wonder the popularity in both wine and wine tasting has grown dramatically. From Arkansas and Oregon to the nearby Central Valley, there seems to be more growth in the wine agri-tourism industry than any other. Still Napa Valley and St. Helena particularly, reign king as the most recognizable wine destination.

As the industry grows, so does the vast menu of options trip planners see when they consider a trip to the region. Savvy travelers often seek out helpful locals and frequent guests for the must-see attractions with the help of a local’s perspective. Whitehall Lane’s Leonardini family has called the region home for decades. Frequent visits from family and friends have given them the opportunity to explore time and again. Some of their Wine Country recommendations may be surprising, but everyone loves to play tourist in their own town once in a while.


Getting around:

Bikes are a frequent favor of those in need of a more ground-level, active wine tasting experience. Although locals say cycling from vineyard to vineyard is great, planning makes all the difference.

Insider tips for the cyclist:

  1. Pick one area, like St. Helena, for example. Start at the south end, Whitehall Lane Winery is actually a great starting point for a St. Helena bike tour, situated at the south end.
  2. Plan the route ahead of time.
  3. Be realistic, only plan on two to four stops at the most
  4. Drink plenty of water
  5. Take breaks, pick a spot for a late lunch ahead of time
  6. Plan for heat, pack sunscreen
  7. Plan to finish your ride after lunch to rest, giving yourself plenty of time to freshen up for dinner

If biking doesn’t work for your party, get a chauffeur or driving service. Wine tasting is your time to indulge. Indulge responsibly, and the experience is even more enjoyable. Hiring professionals who know their way around can double as tour guides and add to the overall relaxation of a getaway. Beau Wine Tours is reasonably priced and a great way to be driven around the valley with friends.


Proper Noshing

Wine Country is not only known for its incredible wine blends. Cheese shops, bakeries and regional fresh produce are in abundance. Foodies delight in the pioneering spirit that Napa Valley chefs have become known for and for the gourmet fare available, even at the most unassuming highway stores.

Some wineries offer picnic spaces, with reservations. Whitehall Lane offers a picnic area in its beautiful garden for its wine club members. Pick up a lunch at Sunshine Grocers in St. Helena or Bouchon Bistro in Yountville, along with some GoVino glasses for picnicking. Select a bottle or two during your tasting experience, and then picnic at a winery or many of the parks around the valley.

If you prefer a restaurant, Goose and Gander has a wonderful garden area for outdoor dining. For indoor dining, Market Restaurant is a local favorite. If you are tired of wine and want a cocktail at the end of the day, Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch has a nice outdoor space in the summer months and a lively bar.


Building a Tasting Itinerary

Visitors can be overwhelmed by the options when confronted with prioritizing wineries to taste in one trip. Some use price or proximity as a guide. Locals recommend selecting a variety of wineries when you plan your day trip, and prioritizing according to reputation, hour and expertise.

  1. To start the adventure, select a place known for its sparkling wine, like Domaine Chandon, to start the day.
  2. Build some time for one large, well-known winery where you can have a nice tour like Mondavi, to learn about the history of the valley. One long tour per day is plenty.
  3. Stop at a winery representative of the best the valley has to offer. You’ll want to enjoy this one. Whitehall Lane, a family-owned winery is known for its Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley’s most famous varietal, and other varietals that are only offered at the winery.
  4. Finally, visit a small winery that has a small case production that you may not see in your hometown, like Salvestrin Winery.

Some critical advice from long-time tasters: Don’t be too ambitious when planning your days. Three wineries a day, maybe four, are plenty. Be sure to schedule lunch in between. Drink plenty of water along the way. If you overcommit, you will retire before the sun goes down and miss the world-class restaurant at which you likely have a much-anticipated reservation.

If you’re with a group of more than four, make appointments wherever you go. Many places may not accommodate walk-ins for larger parties, and it’s best to err on the safe side. If you’ve made reservations, be sure to be punctual. Unlike other tourist destinations, wineries function on strict schedules around tastings, tours, and harvesting. If you’re late, your experience will be cut short or cancelled. Chauffeurs can be a tremendous help when it comes to time management, especially for big groups.


Beyond the Vineyards

Wine tasting takes center stage as the tourist activity but one can only drink so much in one weekend. For a unique perspective of the valley, a few companies offer hot air balloon rides at sunrise. The view is breathtaking and should find its way onto the bucket list of wine country lovers.

Visitors are often taken aback by the breathtaking landscape surrounding the vineyards and tasting rooms. There are many beautiful hiking trails throughout the valley. Add some exercise in to your visit and hike in the mid-morning before you start wine tasting. Stay hydrated so you don’t negatively affect your wine tasting that afternoon.

A great resource for hiking trails is this page on the Chamber of Commerce website.

Golfers might think they have a hidden gem in Napa, since tourism usually centers on other activities but world-class golf and tennis abounds nearby. A full listing can be found here.

Finally, an afternoon of drinking excellent wine and tasting unworldly cheese begs for an afternoon lying in the grass or kicking back in the air conditioning. Endless listings prove live music in the evenings is in high demand. Indoor shows can be found at the City Winery and Uptown Theater in Napa.

No matter how someone wants to experience wine country, be sure to ask questions and make conversation along the way. Locals say, whatever you do, don’t be afraid to ask. It’s fun to learn about the history of the valley and the history of each winery. Find out how each winery started, ask for recommendations, and dive into the present as each winery has a special time and place in the wine arena.

Also, let the wine experts you meet know what you like to drink at home, then allow them to help direct you to the varietal or library wine they think would suit your tastes.

Don’t be afraid to ask!!

Categories: North America

9 Music Festival Essentials

9 Music Festival Essentials

Music festivals are always an amazing time but forgetting some key essentials has the potential to put a damper on any festival experience. We gathered a list of Festival must-haves to help you prepare for anything that comes your way.

  1. Extra Car Keys: Don’t be the person that’s stranded at the end of the festival because you lost your keys. Bring a spare set just in case and be sure to put them somewhere safe, this is especially important if you’re camping out.
  2. Back Up ID: IDs are easy to lose, don’t risk not being able to grab that drink with your friends before Lorde’s set. Bring an extra form of identification to keep in a safe place just in case you need it.
  3. Portable Phone Charger: Between snapping pictures and sending texts, your phone is likely to die quickly at a music festival. Don’t get stranded alone with a dead phone, no friends and no way to take pictures of your favorite artists; bring a portable charger or battery with you.
  4. Anti-bacterial Wipes: You’ll be thankful to have these on hand before digging into your festival grub and you’ll be even more thankful when the port-o-potty runs out of soap and paper towels.
  5. Water Bottle: Its important to stay hydrated during any music festival. Avoid constantly paying for water bottles by bringing your own reusable one. Try to get one that is compact and lightweight so it’s not a hassle to carry around, such as a foldable bottle.
  6. Band-Aids: Walking around all day can often result in painful blisters; don’t let them stop you by bringing a few Band-Aids along. You don’t want to miss dancing your heart out to Calvin Harris because of a few pesky blisters.
  7. Sunscreen: The majority of music festivals are outdoors, which often results in painful sunburns for those who don’t come prepared. Avoid this uncomfortable ailment by applying plenty of sunscreen throughout the day.
  8. Sunglasses: The sun can be just as harmful to your eyes as your skin. Protect them with sunglasses but make sure it’s not a pair that you love too much as this accessory is easy to lose!
  9. Hand Warmers: Many music festivals have drastic temperature changes from scorching days to chilly nights so it’s hard to be prepared for all the elements. Help fight off nighttime chill by packing disposable hand warmers, they’re compact enough to carry around all day without extra hassle. This way you can rock out in warm comfort when Outkast comes on stage.

The post 9 Music Festival Essentials appeared first on Kendall-Jackson Blog.

Categories: North America

Sweet Spot: Moscato

Faustini Wines - Napa, CA - Wed, 08/13/2014 - 17:14

Wine is just like fashion, there are times when a trend seems to come out of nowhere and take the country by storm. One day you’ve never heard of a particular type or variety of wine; the next, it’s all the rage everywhere. People are talking about it, it’s served at parties, dinners, you name it! Today the current darling of the wine world: Moscato. In the past few years this fruity, light-bodied, perfumed wine made from none other than the Muscat grape has gained a huge crowd. A favorite among the younger generation known as the Millennials, and people who enjoy a sweeter style wine, in 2012 alone the sales of Moscato in the U.S. grew by nearly 70% and is still growing today.

Muscat is an ancient grape variety that has been planted in almost every wine region all over the world. It is primarily used to produce sweet wines, especially dessert wines. It has been mutated many times and forms a family of five main related varieties. The most common is “Muscat Blanc a Petit Grains” (white muscat with small berries) which is the main grape variety used in the production of the popular Italian sparkling wine Asti made in the Piedmonte region. It is also used in the production of many of the French fortified wines such as famous “Beaumes de Venise” from the Rhone Valley.  Muscat of Alexandria is another Muscat variety found in Spain where it is used to make many of the fortified Spanish sweet Moscatels. Elsewhere it is used to make off-dry to sweet white wines, often labeled as Moscato in Australia, California and South Africa. In Alsace, Croatia & Serbia “Muscat Ottonel” is used to produce usually dry and highly perfumed wines.

Who knew there were so many different wines coming from the Muscat grape? Lets just stick to our homeland for now….

 In the middle of the 20th century, the wines made from California’s Muscat grapes were primarily sweet: thick, syrupy and even a little bit Port-like. When sweet wines went out of style and other varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay became popular, many Muscat vineyards were pulled out to make room for new plantings. But some farmers, primarily in the Central California growing region, continued to grow small amounts of the variety. With a warm-to-hot climate and relatively deep, fertile soils, these inland growing regions are known for high quality Muscat, a vigorous variety known for its relatively high yields. In fact, Muscat vines can set so much fruit particularly when they’re young, that the grapes can actually weigh the vines down to the point of breaking so they always have to be closely watched. Winemakers, who valued the grape for its intense, floral aromatics, used (and still use) Muscat as a “blender,” adding small amounts to both white and red wines to give them more pronounced flavor and character.

All Muscats share a characteristic powerful floral aroma profile with sweet notes. Dessert Muscats primarily from southern France, Rutherglen Australia or southern Spain have carmelized sugar or toffee aromas. While the light sparkling Asti of Northeastern Italy has a subtle sweet everessence. California Muscats are often considered off dry in terms of sweetness. They have a little bit of sweetness to them, but will never be too overpowering.

Faustini Facts:

2012 Play Date Moscato

The fruit from this wine comes directly from the Coombsville AVA where the winery is located. The wine has also been stainless steel aged for 12 months.

Color: Pale gold

Aroma: Golden apple, honeysuckle, gooseberry

Sweetness: off-dry

Flavor: honeydew melon, white blossom, jasmine


Sometimes everyone needs a little pick me up and Moscato does just that. Each winery is doing something a little different with the grape, giving consumers a range of styles to choose from. On a hot summer day, a cool, refreshing class of sparkling Moscato is as good as it gets.

Till next time oenophiles, cheers!


By, Shannon Hurley

Wine Ambassador




Categories: North America


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