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Posts Tagged ‘local wine events’

Jake’s Corner: Three Days in Wine Country

February 12th, 2013 No comments

Our very own Jake Austad, master of custom cellar designs, is an expert at touring wine country, and wants to share his tips and tricks. Jake has insider advice on the best vineyards to visit, the best places to eat, and tourist traps to avoid. So pull up a chair, pour yourself a glass of your favorite vino, and hear how an expert does wine country. Check back, because Jake will be blogging regularly in our new “Jake’s Corner” posts.

Day 1:

I would start the morning up north in Calistoga at Chateau Montelena, known almost more for its historical value than for its wines. The winemakers at Chateau Montelena are part of the group that started the Napa Valley wine boom. Tthe first thing I’d do would be to make a noon reservation at Duckhorn (reservations are required). Reserve the estate tasting and tour for a great experience. To learn something a little extra, do the food and wine pairing.

If you managed to resist the food at Duckhorn, I would travel into St. Helena for a late lunch at Brassica (Now called Cindy Pawlcyn’s Wood Grill and Wine Bar). It’s a Mediterranean place that has received rave reviews, and is a personal favorite of mine to boot.  At this point in time, you probably only have time for one more tasting. I would finish at Hall in St. Helena. Since Hall has no appointment needed and stays open until 5:30 PM, you won’t be tied to a tight schedule.  One of Hall’s new releases, a cab, was in the top 10 wines of 2011.

Since I’m a huge Iron Chef geek, I would eat dinner that night at Morimoto. It’s also in the revitalized river walk area in Napa, so if you’re looking to take a stroll before or after your meal, it’s a great place to do so.

Insider tip:  Don’t fall victim to the lure of the Napa Valley Wine Train. This tourist trap has three main pitfalls: 1. Trains are really not that romantic. 2. Unless they have improved the menu dramatically since 2000, the food is awful. 3. The wine list is not that impressive, and what is impressive is so marked up that you can’t bring yourself to drink it.

Day 2:

I would head up the Silverado Trail, especially if it’s a Saturday. The less inexperienced wine tasters will be driving up the 29, so this is a nice way to avoid them. Start the day with a 10AM appointment at Quintessa. It’s a property and vineyard tour, along with the wine caves and a tasting of three or four vintages. Like Duckhorn, it’s appointment-only, so you have to make a reservation in advance. I know the wine are fabulous. It’s also one of the few places in Napa that does estate-grown only. Quintessa is a Bordeaux-style blend that makes only one blended wine every year, so the vintage tasting will be unique.

After that, start heading back to Napa again, and hit Mumm just to clean the palate with some bubbly. It should be time to grab lunch, so I would cut over on Rutherford Road and hit Rutherford Grill for lunch. I love Rutherford Grill, and never miss an opportunity to go. There is a decision to make at this point. Option 1: One more tour at Chappellet, a unique experience that puts you up in the hills, and has some pretty good wine to boot. After a 90-minute tour and tasting, you should have enough time to hit Miner. If you are “toured out,” do Option 2: hit Miner on the way back towards Napa on the Silverado Trial. Most likely, you’ll make a quick visit, since you don’t want to miss your 2:30 tour reservation at Staggs Leap. Again, I’m a sucker for history, and Staggs Leap is another historic winery that started it all and has been around for over 100 years.

After Staggs, your last stop will be Darioush.  This winery doesn’t close until 5PM, and if you have anything left on the palate, they do some great cabs that are always cracking the top 100 wines of the year in the Wine Spectator. Take a nap after before hitting the French Laundry for dinner.  If super-rich French food is to much to stomach, try Coles Chop House or the Napa Valley Grill.

Day 3:

At this point, I’d pack the bags and drive over the mountain to Healdsburg and the Dry Creek Valley. Make a reservation at Charlie Palmer’s place, Hotel Healdsburg. Start at Zichichi and then drive south down West Dry Creek Road (eventually turning into Westside Rd). It’s a small, twisty, windy road but a offers a unique change from the large-cellar, big tour, big tasting rooms in Napa with little cottages and family-owned wineries. I’d go all the way down to Porter Creek Winery a few miles down. You taste their wines in a little cottage, and often, the winemaker is the guy pouring the wines. Porter Creek is also a fully organic place, tends to bottle a lot of grapes that are normally blended (like cab franc).

From there, start making the venture back towards Healdsburg.  Another great stops on the way is Williams Seleym (always a top 100 producer). It’s not a bad idea at this time to go park back at the hotel and walk around the square in Healdsburg. There is Stephen & Walker, which has a fabulous port, and several other places to check out. And if you need to switch to beer, there is a brewing company in the square. This way, you can take a day without reservations or a schedule, and just do whatever you want,  from a simple sandwich lunch to a pastry at the downtown bakery, to Charlie Palmer’s Dry Creek Kitchen for dinner.

STACKED Wines: a New Packaging Concept

January 26th, 2012 1 comment

STACKED Wines

We’re the first to admit we love an interesting innovation in the wine world. Wine is full of tradition and history, and that’s great! We love old-world styled wine cabinets and stone-trimmed cellars, but there’s also a place for fun, modern things like sideways wine racks and this interesting new concept for packaging.

Currently a California phenomenon, this curious, creative method of wine packaging will be making its way to the other states in due time.  Created by former UC Irvine students Doug Allan, Jodi Wynn, and Matt Zimmer, STACKED Wines have made a splash in Newport Beach!  What are they?  Four single servings of wine stacked on top of one another, reaching regular bottle height.  The “four-stacks” contain as much wine as a regular bottle.  Basically, each container is a stemless “glass” containing pre-poured wine.  The containers pop apart easily, making it fun and simple to enjoy wine in numerous on-the-go scenarios.  No longer do you need to fuss with corkscrews, fragile bottles, or be forced to drink from cheap, plastic cups when hiking, biking, having a picnic at the park, or traveling.  STACKED Wines are convenient for other outdoor functions like barbecues, concerts, and boating, too.  Currently, STACKED Wines offer a Merlot and Chardonnay, but more wines will be added as the company expands.  Their first major retail launch is planned for this March, so keep your eyes peeled residents of Orange County!  (To the rest of the country: this packaging innovation will soon make its way to you, too.)

What do you think? Intriguing idea, or gimmicky nonsense? Have you tried the wine?

Haunted Happenings at Charles Krug Winery

January 19th, 2012 No comments
The ghost of Charles Krug might be here, at Charles Krug/Peter Mondavi Family Winery

Napa Valley's first winery, established in 1861

If you’re inclined to believe in ghosts, St. Helena’s Charles Krug/Peter Mondavi Family Winery has been a “hot spot” for paranormal activity for years.  In fact, the winery’s founder, Charles Krug, claimed to have seen ghosts himself!  (To put this in perspective, the winery was founded in 1861.)  Current “sightings” have occurred most frequently in the winery’s Redwood Cellars built in 1872.  The ever-growing body of sightings was enough to prompt Vice President of Marketing, Paul Englert, to conduct a paranormal investigation of the winery.  Englert, who is “open to the possibility that [ghosts] exist,” says the winery’s ghost stories, true or not, are quite interesting either way.  He even knows two employees who have reported seeing spooks on the premises.

Ghost photo from a real séance in 1872

Photo of a séance conducted in 1872

Intrigued, Englert invited the San Francisco Ghost Society, and Leanne Thomas, a medium, to examine the facility.  Following an in-depth investigation by the San Francisco Ghost Society (which utilized an array of the latest paranormal detection technology), the Society turned up empty handed.  However, the team expressed great interest in revisiting the winery after more work in Redwood Cellars is completed this spring; they claim major renovations can sometimes arouse the interest of resident entities.   Leanne Thomas, on the other hand, claims to have seen the apparition of a woman wearing a blue dress.  (Numerous sightings have been reported of a woman in white strolling through the upper floors of Redwood Cellar.)  She also saw the spirits of a young boy and girl.

For curious tasters, Englert plans to host a “Wine and Spirits” (pun intended) dinner at the winery, which will also feature a seance!  In the meantime, “There are several people who have seen activity and things here. We’ll try to corroborate those stories.”  Given the winery’s lengthy history, there are artifacts around that go back over 100 years.  “It’s really interesting,” said Englert, “You kind of don’t know what you’re going to find when you open a closet.”  For the sake of the winery’s employees, hopefully not a ghost who says, “Boo!”

Vintage Cellars Sponsors San Diego BBB Mixer

November 15th, 2011 No comments

Founded in 1921, the San Diego Better Business Bureau (BBB) has been at the forefront of advancing marketplace trust.  By providing carefully-researched information to the public, the BBB helps consumers make informed purchase decisions, and informs them of businesses they can trust.  Searching for businesses that meet the high demands of BBB accreditation is easy, and you can browse through over 125,000 local businesses, charities, and organizations online.  Recently, the San Diego BBB hosted a November mixer which Vintage Cellars was proud to sponsor (Vintage Cellars has been a BBB accredited business since 2007).  Held at Dave & Buster’s, the event featured some of the finest area businesses.  Vintage Cellars was well represented, and below is a photo of our table at the event.  You can tell we were all having a great time!

Vintage Cellars at the San Diego BBB Mixer

Vintage Cellars' table at the San Diego BBB Mixer in November, 2011. From Left: Chris, Jake, and founder Gene Walder.

Jake Austad to Attend 3rd Annual Trump Wine & Beer Festival

August 27th, 2011 No comments
Trump Wine and Beer Festival Poster

The 3rd Annual Trump Wine & Beer Festival

What’s Donald Trump’s favorite wine?  We’ll soon be able to ask Jake Austad!  Remember Jake?  (He’s the guy who toured California’s wine country earlier this year, giving Vintage Cellars fun updates about his travels and tastings!)  Well, the same Jake Austad is now going to be representing Vintage Cellars at the 3rd Annual Trump Wine & Beer Festival this Sunday from 12:00 to 5:00 P.M.  Held at the Trump National Golf Club in Los Angeles, CA, the list of represented wineries, breweries, and additional exhibitors is quite impressive!  In addition to live entertainment and food concessions, general admission also includes unlimited wine and beer sampling.  Mmmmm…  Plus, a portion of the proceeds will benefit two worthy organizations: the Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy, and the Peninsula Committee Children’s Hospital.  If you’re nearby, check it out!  We can’t guarantee you’ll meet Donald Trump, but we’re pretty confident you’ll be able to strike up a conversation with Jake Austad.

New San Diego Wine Law Swirls up Controversy

October 7th, 2010 No comments


Video courtesy CBS 8 News

In a move that has stirred up some controversy, a new law has passed that will allow boutique wineries producing 12,000 gallons or less to operate tasting rooms. They’ll also be able to sell directly to buyers and hold events such as weddings. Winemakers and wine lovers in San Diego see this as a good thing: it will help boost the local economy by supporting small businesses. And rolling hills covered with grape vines aren’t too bad to look at, either.

Some people aren’t welcoming the new rules with open arms (and empty glasses), though. A group of property owners, mostly in the Ramona area, has filed a lawsuit demanding that the ordinance be annulled and re-examined. They claim that proper environmental studies haven’t been done, citing a specific worry about the amount of water that will be needed to water the crops.

Supporters of the law like Supervisor Dianne Jacob see the objections as unnecessarily standing in the way of a good thing.

“Vintners worked very hard with the county to develop an ordinance that worked for all parties,” Jacob said. “In the end, we found a way to spur the economy by taking measures to enhance an agricultural use, in agricultural zoned areas, while doing our best to preserve the community character of these rural areas.”

She added, “This is an unfortunate attempt to create an obstacle that would hurt many others and sputter an emerging industry seeking to further promote the county as a successful wine-producing region.”

Please share your thoughts on this new law in the comments!

Wine Events in Your Area

July 18th, 2010 No comments

I’m constantly on the lookout for wine events happening in San Diego, the home of Vintage Cellars.  But it’s not always easy to find out everything that’s going on, and I’m always disappointed when I find out I missed out on a great event.  So I was very happy when I recently ran across localwineevents.com, a website that does just what its name promises–provides an extensive list of wine events going on all over the country, with handy links to more information.  They include everything from wine tastings to classes, and from wine dinners to special events.

If you’re in San Diego, click here to see a list of wine events going on right now.  If you’re anywhere else, click the website link above and stop missing out!

A Wine Bar Party

December 20th, 2009 No comments

We at the Vintage Cellars blog have been bringing you lots of holiday party ideas lately.  If you missed them, make sure you check out our guide to hosting a wine and cheese party and a blind wine tasting party.  But what if the last thing you want is your house full of mess-making guests?  Especially if you have family staying with you this season, it might be time to take the party outside–out of the house, that is.

A wine bar is a great place for a casual get-together.  At a wine bar, you don’t have to worry about catering to the taste of each guest–let everyone chose their own wines.  A wine bar also takes care of snacks (some ever offer dinner) and of course, it will do the dishes for you.  A wine bar is a great place to learn about wine and enjoy some quality time with the ones you love…all while keeping your house guest- and stress-free.

If you’re a local San Diegan, you might want to check out signonsandiego’s list of choice San Diego wine bars, located here.

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Local Wine Events

August 28th, 2009 No comments

Have you just moved to a new city?  Have you just started to cut your palate on some good wine?  Did you just purchase a 110 bottle wine cabinet and you want to experiment on some new wines?  Get on the internet and start searching for local or regional wine events.  Here in San Diego, there is an incredible event, the San Diego Bay Wine and Food Festival.  Each November this wonderful wine event is held on the San Diego Bay and 2008 was my first year in attendance.  Let me sum this up: I already have my tickets for 2009.  The atmosphere was amazing, the food incredible and the wine poured faster then you can taste.  Hundreds of wineries and restaurants lined the park just begging for you to enjoy. 

 During my time around the wine business, I’ve also spent my fair time at local wine stores.  Many middle to high end wine shops will have weekly tasting for customers or club members.  These tasting are generally less then $20 and give you a chance to taste different blends, wine regions or varietals.  This is a great opportunity to create a relationship with a wine merchant and increase your wine tasting range. 

 Don’t miss out on local wine events in your area. Google words like wine festival (city name), local wine events (city name) or wine tasting (city name).  Enjoy the events and the entertainment to follow…