Archive for the ‘Winery’ Category

Wine of the Week – Jordan 2009 Russian River Valley Chardonnay

It seems I am forever playing catchup on giving wineries the recognition they deserve on Simple Hedonisms. Certainly I do a lot more mentions in the social media realm of Twitter and Facebook, to my active following, but they are long overdue for a review.

About Jordan Winery: Showcasing Sonoma At It's Finest

Jordan is an extraordinary winery in many ways, and a rare breed in many as well.

Focus: Jordan only makes two wines, something incredibly rare for a winery of any size. An elegant Chardonnay, and a 'less masculine' Cabernet Sauvignon.

Tradition: Founded in 1972 by Tom Jordan, now run by son John Jordan, the winery has a well earned reputation for its elegance,

Photo courtesy of Jordan Website

world class wines,

and customer service. Its also one of the rapidly disappearing 'medium size wineries. Not a boutique winery making 5000 cases, and not a giant making 1 Million cases a year, but the difficult ~90,000 case range that has a unique set of challenges competing on either side.

Wineries in this size category continue to sell and merge, or in some cases over the years, dramatically downsize and spin off.  Jordan continues to adapt, innovate, and do well.

Innovation: Jordan is a winery to watch for their innovative marketing, writing, and award winning video blog. John Jordan has done a noteworthy job hiring and enabling Lisa Mattson, Executive Director of Communications.

Lisa blazes a trail for the rest of the industry to follow. (Why wineries don't recognize marketing staff on their 'people page'  still eludes me.)

Do read and follow:

Hospitality: I have witnessed the Jordan experience both as a consumer and wine industry/trade, and its always warm, impeccable, and high class, but lacking 'other valley' pretention – aka Sonoma at its finest. I am fortunate enough to receive media invitations several times a year to Jordan events, and even in a world where these eventually can become a bit tedious, am grateful for the invitation, and look forward to the experience. Jordan's kitchen, and Todd Knoll Executive Chef are amazing – you are in for a treat if ever here for a meal.

See: Jordan Winery Glampire Ball; Cool Halloween (And other Holiday) Cocktails

In Defense of Chardonnay

It's a bit ironic that as a person noted for his love of Rhone and off the beaten path varietals, that I have championed chardonnay. Why? I actually respect and like almost all wine varieties, and think we have sometimes lost our way, or forgotten how diverse wine can, or should be.  Few varietals express such a wide range of diversity as chardonnay – you need only be open mind, look around a bit, and taste more  – its worth the adventure.

There are Other Options

Yet, I had to drag people, including industry professionals, to my chardonnay tasting  this summer (at which Jordan poured.) At the tasting, by design, I featured non traditional California chardonnay – that classic bigger oak & buttery chardonnay made popular by Kendall Jackson, Rombeur and others. Without a doubt , this style appeals to the masses and dominates chardonnay sales. However, it represents only one possible style of many that chardonnay is capable of, and not only produced in Burgundy and Chablis, France, but by many small vintners here in California.

For more on Chardonnay, and how people CAN change their opinions see:

Seeing California Chardonnay in a New Light: #Chardonnay Day Greenhouse Tasting, Attendees Top Picks. 

Wine Review: Jordan 2009 Russian River Valley Chardonnay 

To The Eye: Clear pale to medium yellow.

On the Nose: Green apple, Meyer lemon, honeysuckle, pineapple

In The Mouth: – A delight. Great acidity, clean crisp mouthfeel with good weight mid palate. This chardonnay delivers as a stand alone, or paired with white meats and fish, salads, and cheeses.

Recommendation: Highly Recommend. Not your standard California 'cougar juice' (a term used to refer to Rombauer like oaky, buttery chardonnay) and also not as bright as an unoaked chardonnay – thus a more versatile wine overall. Buy and consume, (especially during Holiday season, pairs great with turkey.) Or cellar a few bottles as well, a well made chardonnay, with good acidity will age well.

92 Points, Outstanding.

Where to Buy: Jordan has distribution throught the country in wine shops and restaurants. You may also buy it online at . $29 retail. Media Sample.

Vinification Notes:    Chardonnay is a extremely diverse wine grape with huge variation in results based on winemaking tools. Learn to identify what's been done and what you like, to better appreciate this varietal.

Cold fermentation occurred in French oak barrels (with one quarter in stainless steel). After three months of sur-lie aging and batonnage, the wine underwent only 36% malolactic fermentation  to retain its bright acidity. With a portion resting in stainless steel, the remaining 72% of the wine was aged in 100% French oak (56% new) for 5.5 months

Wine Geek Info:

  • APPELLATION: Russian River Valley
  • BLEND: 100% Chardonnay
  • PH: 3.35
  • ALCOHOL LEVEL: 13.8%
  • BOTTLING DATES: July 19 – August 5, 2010
  • RELEASE DATE: May 1, 2011

2009 Jordan Chardonnay Video Tasting Notes

Great video! Look for the notes on  “holding back on the oak” “more minerality” – which contribute to the success of the wine, in my opinion.

Related Articles

Jordan Winery Glampire Ball; Cool Halloween (And other Holiday) Cocktails

Seeing California Chardonnay in a New Light: #Chardonnay Day Greenhouse Tasting, Attendees Top Picks. Up Next – Aug 18 Pinot Day

 Chardonnay regains respect – now to maintain it (SF Chronicle – Jon Bonne')

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Wine of the Week – Foppiano Vineyards 2010 Estate Rosé

If you listened in to last weeks KRSO Drive at 5 Wine Wednesday Show, which I guest host, this week we interviewed Foppiano Vineyards, and I teased they were also my planned wine of the week…..Tada – a few days later than planned, here it is.

115 Harvests Under Their Belt

Courtesy of Foppiano Website

Foppiano is one of those comeback stories I love to see. The story of Foppiano Vineyards is a family epic full of tradition, perseverance and contributions to the history of Sonoma County and the wine industry.  Founded in 1896 by Giovanni Foppiano, Foppiano Vineyards is one of Sonoma County’s oldest continually-operated, family-owned wineries.

California and Sonoma has a fair number of seasoned wineries, and sadly some don’t innovate along with times, and sometimes fade into the twilight. It has been exciting to watch Foppiano these last 18 months innovate and inject new blood and outside talent (new winemaker Natalie West and Marketing/Media Guru Taylor Eason, to name two) as well as retain and leverage their deep Russian River Valley heritage. (A note to Foppiano – put these people on your website – its a positive – their story is now your story.)

Foppiano is on the move, their wines are one to taste and to watch. Their Pinot Noir was a RRV judges favorite in the elimination round of my Pinot Smackdown tasting, and is a great value. Their new Lot 96 Petite Sirah jug program is brilliant, and an amazing value, and this Rosé is a find….well while its left.

Wine Review: Foppiano Vineyards 2010 Estate Rosé

This rosé is a unique combination of Petite Sirah and Pinot Noir, the two flagship red varieties of Foppiano. I was curious how the combination would turn out, and very pleased with the results.

To The Eye: A dark rose’, almost light red. Not surprising given the Petite Sirah component. Clear and vibrant.

On The Nose:  Expressive nose of cherry, spice, strawberry.

In the Mouth: The combination of Pinot Noir and Petite Sirah is suprising and brilliant. The Pinot Noir provides nice fruit, acidity, and a subtle touch, the Petite Sirah some color, structure, and complexity. Its a winning combination with a mouthful of red fruit, cherry, and citrus. Pleasant in the front palate, nice weight in the mid palate, and good acidity makes for a mouth watering finish.

Recommendation: Get over your thing about Rosé – real wine drinkers seek Rosé far and wide; and its enjoyable all year long, not just for summer. Except this one may not be, as only 20 cases  (of the 180 made) are left in the tasting room. Buy some, now. Highly Recommended – 91 points.

Where to Buy: Online or in the Tasting Room. A buy at $15. Media Sample.

Video Tasting Notes: Check out Taylor Eason and Natalie West in this Informative Video on the Rosé


Visit Foppiano and ‘The Eastside Bunch’

Foppiano is one of 12 wineries in a fun group called the “Eastside Bunch”  October 29th is the “Eastside Bunch Bounty of Harvest.”

Cruise through all the Eastside Bunch wineries on and off Old Redwood Highway south of Healdsburg to celebrate this year’s grape harvest in the beautiful Russian River Valley. Taste wines from all 12 member wineries and nosh appetizers to raise funds for the Redwood Empire Food Bank. PLUS, a new addition

to the Eastside Bunch event line-up: Check off every winery in your Eastside Bunch Passport and gain a chance to win a mixed case of wine from all the participating wineries. $20 in advance,  $25 at the door, $10 for designated driver tickets – Check in at any Eastside Bunch Member winery.

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Wine of the Week – Quivira Vineyards 2009 Grenache, Dry Creek Valley

I am overdue to write about Quivira. In the same vein as my review of Tablas Creek a few months ago, I am negligent in not reviewing Quivira. Certainly they are a winery I always recommend to Rhone lovers, as well as visitors to Dry Creek Valley.  (I should note they also make Zinfandel and Sauvignon Blanc.) There is lots to like  about this winery and their wines.

I joined Quivira’s wine club on my first visit some years ago, and they have always taken excellent care of me, first as a consumer, and then as I migrated into wine writing and geeking. They are also a staunch advocate of the Rhone Rangers and GM, Director of Marketing Nancy Bailey has been very supportive in our new North Coast Rhone Rangers chapter about to emerge.

My once large stable of personal wine clubs has dwindled, thanks in part to the expense of the new farm, (grenache) vineyard, and the new wine label, and departure from my non wine job. Add to the fact my cellar is out of control with >1000 bottles, and the fact that as an , recognized member of Media after two years, samples and industry discounts are normal. (And always greatly appreciated, writing is a labor of love.) Quivira has remained in my ‘Queue’ , both due to their quality of wines & dedication to Rhone varieties, as well as the personal attention they give their members.  (Thanks Stephanie!)

Quivira also has an excellent wine club, with a feature I love. The first 30 days of a new release to wine club, Queue members benefit from the “30 for 30” re-order opportunity:

Taste your wine club shipment, re-order within 30 days, and get 30% off – that’s on par with Industry pricing.  They also have excellent future pricing every year for Wine Road Barrel tasting, which I take advantage of to buy a case of Mourvedre.

The hospitality and marketing team seems to be better than ever, and winemaker Hugh Chappelle, who came over from Pinot producer Lynmar, seems to have found an excellent home, of mutual respect and appreciation,  allowing him to express the creativity that exists in all talented artisans, winemakers included. Hugh is a great addition to the Quivira family.

In addition to having a strong Rhone program,  Quivira is a committed member of the certified  Biodynamic community, with  gorgeous gardens,  chickens, cows and more. The property and tasting room is worth a visit, and their Farm to Table dinners are not to be missed. After spending several days earlier this year at the Paul Dolan biodynamic writers camp, I have a new appreciation for the commitment to the process and our planet.

 Quivira Vineyards 2009 Grenache, Dry Creek Valley

Its appropriate that I picked a Grenache this week, albeit it more by chance, as I actually reviewed the wine last week. Recently, I wrote that Sept 23rd is Grenache Day. Quivira is one of the wineries attending my tasting, and will be pouring the 2009 Grenache.


To The Eye: Clear lively medium red

On The Nose:  Cranberry, red berries,  grenache red hard candy

(love that!), spice

In the Mouth: Classic Grenache profile  in the mouth; expressive but balanced red fruit, good structure but not as tannic (yay!) as several previous vintages, thanks to a more forgiving season. Supple tannins, nice acidity. Would pair well with many foods, ranging from Grilled fare and burgers, to leaner cuts of meat and lamb. A wine with both body and elegance.

Learn to train your palate you don’t need to have your taste buds crushed by excessive oak and tannins to be ‘good.’ This vintage is an excellent training ground for the wine lover looking to broaden past Cabernet, and perhaps not yet in love with Pinot Noir. (You will be one day though. )

Recommendation.  Buy and drink now, or cellar for a few years. 92 points.  Retail $26 online. Media Sample – although I purchased several bottles via my Queue Club shipments.

Wine Geek Info:

  • APPELLATION Dry Creek Valley (Wine Creek Ranch Vineyard)
  • VARIETAL MIX 92% Grenache, 6% Mourvedre, 2% Syrah
  • FERMENTATION Open top fermentors, native yeast
  • AGING A mixture of small French and eastern European oak as well as traditional 600-gallon foudre casks, 10% new
  • ALCOHOL 14.8%
  • PRODUCTION 961 cases

Related Articles:

Part 4 of the “12 Days of Wine Christmas” Wine Clubs – A Review of Different Types and Benefits

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Windsor Vineyards Re-Opens Tasting Room in Healdsburg with a Soiree This Weekend!

Guest post by Ed Thralls of WineTonite and Windsor Vineyards.

Healdsburg is a quaint little town in the northern part of Sonoma County that has really grown in prestige and popularity as a wine country vacation destination.  Located right at the crossroads of Russian River Valley, Dry Creek Valley and Alexander Valley it is a great home base for your next trip.  It seems to make sense that if Windsor Vineyards wanted to share their quality wines sourced from vineyards these same great AVAs (American Viticultural Areas) as well as the extreme Sonoma Coast that they have produced in Sonoma since 1959 then a return this great town was imminent.


Celebrate the Grand re-Opening this weekend, September 16-18th (Link to EVENT details), with a weekend of wine, food, music and wine country festivities.  There will be special offers and unique flights all weekend starting on Friday night as well as live music and nibbles Saturday & Sunday from 2-5pm each day.  The delicious bites will be provided by Tim Vallery and Peloton Catering and the music will be provided by two local Healdsburg favorites:

  • Saturday, 9/17 2-5PM: Chris Herrod
  • Sunday, 9/18 2-5PM: Brandon Hassur

The Tasting Room

At the heart of Healdsburg is “The Plaz

a,” which is in the shape of a square lined with with trees, grass, benches and a pergola for concerts and surrounded by shops old and new as well as tasting rooms, bars and some of the best local restaurants in wine country.  Imagine waking up and taking the dog for a walk in the early morning fog, while you stop for a cup of coffee at the Flying Goat Coffee shop.  Perhaps, for breakfast, you might be craving the pastry delights from the Downtown Bakery & Creamery including their popular donut muffins or sticky buns.  It just so happens that the bakery is the next door neighbor at 308 Center St. and the location provides a pristine view of the Plaza.

The unobstructed Plaza vista is framed by sliding glass windows that remain open throughout Summer providing an atmosphere that is relaxing and scenic and pairs best  with a glass of wine.  This is a great place to hang before, during and after the summer's Music on the Plaza every Tuesdays.  This is country living, folks.  Leave your big city dreams at home and become assimilated.  The tasting bar has plenty of room for everyone to enjoy and if you are looking for some privacy, you can reserve the VIP room in the rear for private

tastings too.
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Bring your friends and family.  Afterall, that is how wine is best enjoyed.  Cheers!

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Great surprises from Lake County Wineries found at "Wines with Altitude" event

I recently attended Wines with Altitude, where the vintners of Lake County California brought their wines to town — literally, to a stunning San Francisco venue on Treasure Island.  Casually dressed wine-makers and staff members poured and chatted with the attendees between baguettes and hummus.  A folksy event put together by the Lake County Winery Association, the four-hour pow-wow came with a classy glass sporting the Wines with Altitude slogan, a fresh personal-size baguette, and booklet with info and space for wine-tasting notes.  I attended as press.

The event was held at The Winery SF on Treasure Island. WARNING: This is a place of jaw-dropping city views. It was easy access and there were a couple of food trucks outside with picnic tables.

Inside there was a large main floor of wine pouring. An upstairs room featured winning wines from the 2011 Lake County Wine awards. In all, over 100 different wines were pouring from 20 or so wineries. There were olives and olive oil, pizzettas and gazpacho and some nice lounging areas in the

old building.

I’ve been known to favor Lake County Sauvignon Blancs. The Altitude theme suggested Reds.  I arrived with my notebook and spit-cup, eager to commence tasting, and not really knowing what to expect.  It turned out to be a day of surprises, some professional – like tasting a Lake County Aglianico, and some personal – like running into Napa Valley winemaker Nils Venge, the first person who exposed me to garagiste winemaking. The story: About twenty years or so ago, a group of friends and I loyally appeared every season to help Nils bottle his fledgling Saddleback Cellars wines in a small concrete block building on Money Road in Rutherford, CA. The little block building is still the nucleus of Saddleback and Nils now also owns Cougar’s Leap in Lake County.

I made an effort to taste every Sauvignon Blanc (SB), and there were quite a few. The Lake County SB’s were each so different, I couldn’t identify a Lake County “style” or varietal “character.” The only label I recognized was Guenoc, a widely distributed and solid SB. This was a good sign I was discovering a number of labels for the first time. I learned that Guenoc is a Valley – and it’s own AVA — and that the premium SB is their Langtry Sauvignon Blanc (250 cases produced vs thousands of Guenoc). I liked the Langtry.  My other favorite Sauvignon Blanc’s were 2 from Six Sigma Michael’s Vineyard – the 2010 stainless with bright fresh melon on the nose and classic grapefruit on the palette – and a single vineyard, very lightly oaked version that maintains a crisp, cleansing acidity while adding dimension from the oak.  This wine recently won best-in-class in the 2011 Lake County Wine Awards Competition, directed by Ray Johnson.


Winemaker Nils Venge

Cougar’s Leap offered a unique Sauvignon Blanc rendition – the 2010 Black Rock White which is 70% Semillion, 30% SB and, according to vintner Nils Venge, includes a boost from a one-time barrel of Albarino. Cougar’s Leap was pouring 2 other wines and they were memorable: The 2008 Black Rock Zinfandel with lots of fruit coming through structure and tannins, and which Venge claims with a crooked grin is “17% alcohol.” Reviewers have dubbed it “Ballistic!” Definitely a wine with “Altitude.” I finished with a 2007 Petite Sirah at Cougar’s Leap.

Nils introduced me to Gregory Graham, and I spent quite a bit of time at Greg’s table. Former wine-maker at Rombauer, Graham has been at it for 30 years.  At one point he was making 4 different Zinfandels for them.  For his own label, he makes only small lots using bins for fermentation. He says this has freed him from the constraints of tank-based wine-making, giving him a lot of flexibility.  He was pouring several wines. I tasted the 2009 Gregory Graham Red Hills Bartolucci Vineyard Viognier, one of the nicest Viognier’s I’ve had … and it’s a $16, 13.5% alcohol wine.  Graham’s 2007 Grenache was my personal favorite of the day, delivering a mouth-filling intensity and lingering romance of fruit and texture on the palette.  The 2008 Cinder Cone was my red blend favorite of the day – 48% Syrah, 24% Cabernet, and 14% each Malbec and Grenache. Big, balanced, and Red. Graham’s wines are well-priced, running from $15-16 for Dry Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc, to a high of $38 for a Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir he wasn’t pouring, and a number of wines in the $18-24 range. Gregory Graham wines represent star-quality wine-making at excellent value pricing.

Rosa d’Oro Aglianico.  This is a red varietal grape of Southern Italian regions – Basilicata and Campania – pronounced alianico.  I’ve had the Corte Normana from Campania (imported by Salvia Bianca), and heard of one or two Aglianico’s being vinted in California. So I was pleased and surprised to find Pietro Buttitta pouring his family’s estate-grown 2008 Aglianico. It’s a lovely wine expressing the full Aglianico character, if in a smoother, less rustic style than it’s Italian brethren. Well-priced at $18.  I tasted the 2008 Barbera, which won a Silver medal in the Chronicle Wine Competition – also a fine wine at the $18 price point.

I decided the only way to cope with the bounty of Rosa d’Oro, is to visit the their Tasting Room in Kelseyville and do some serious sampling of the Primativo, Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, Dolcetto and maybe a Rosato. And in another year or two, they will be bringing out a NegroAmaro! (You read it here first.) Pietro is also a prolific blogger – check him out here.

SF from Treasure Island

It’s clear I have a lot to learn about Lake county as a wine region and I’m planning to make a trip. You can find various Lake County Wine events online; next up is the Lake County Wine Auction on Sept 17. The event that interests me most is the People’s Choice Wine Awards and blind tasting on November 5.

I love blind tastings … as long as I can see the view!

One last surprise: Many of Lake County Wineries have active Facebook pages, but there is definitely room for growth in the Twitter realm. The Winery SF’s most recent tweet was in July, nearly 2 months ago. One would expect better care and feeding, especially when you have a high-profile name, location, and over 2000 Twitter followers.


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Celebrate Sept 1st #Cabernet Day: complimentary Vertical tasting with Topel Winery & Simple Hedonisms in Downtown Healdsburg 1-7 p.m.

Thursday, Sept, 1 is International Cabernet day. People and wineries all over the world will be sharing and celebrating this noble grape, the number one sold red varietal in

the US. (Expanded hours – now from 1 to 7 p.m.!)

Special 3 Year Vertical Tasting

Join Simple Hedonisms and Topel Winery owners Mark & Donnis Topel for a special free vertical tasting of their Estate 2005 (library wine), 2006, & 2007 Cabernet from 1 to 7 p.m..

The tasting will take place in separate room adjacent to their tasting room, where you will enjoy a food pairing, and be able to taste this great vertical while chatting with the owners and winemakers, and other Cabernet aficionados.

These delightful cabernets are from the Topel’s estate in Hopland, and showcase why Mendocino County continues to grow in stature as a wine region. If you love Cabernet, you owe it to yourself to experience the quality and valley of  mountain fruit.

After your tasting, feel free to head to the regular tasting and try other wines. Topel was one of the highest overall medaled wineries in the recent Mendocino Wine Competition, come see why!

Register to attend here:

Special Cabernet Day Offer

As a special celebration, and thank you for attending, Topel is offering the 2005 Estate Reserve Cabernet, this day only, at a special purchase price.

The 2005 Cabernet, normally $36, will be offered at 40% discount,  $21. (William says its like stealing!)  Or 50% discount on a case purchase.

Participants also receive 20% discount on the 2006 & 2007 Estate Cabernet.

Topel is also dog friendly, bring along your friend, we’ll have treats!

Come be our guests, experience great wine and great hospitality – cheers!

Mark & Donnis Topel – Topel Winery


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Wine of the Week – Dry Creek Vineyards 2010 Fumé Blanc

A fair share of my Wine of the Week selections are chosen from microwineries, harder to find producers, geek or Rhone varieties, or wines over $20. That’s often what I drink, but certainly not all. It most especially does not represent, as I often remind my wine geek, fellow wine writers, and wine maker friends, what the mass population of North American wine drinkers consume.

I will often write about these as I remain dedicated to helping the typical wine lover and consumer, expand their horizons.  Wine knowledge is a journey of ever broadening discovery, no matter what your experience level, and I would pass on some of my ‘wasted’ years and eye opening experiences, and save readers only drinking big red overoaked wines for your first ten years, which sadly over the last 20 years the consumer has been lead to think is ‘good’.

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However, even in the world of  mass market consumption, there ARE good wines you can find widely available, under $20, and just grab off the shelf.

The Dry Creek Vineyard Fumé Blanc is one of those. A price any budget can afford, a wine most wine consumers can enjoy (get over that ‘I don’t drink white wines’ stance  – its killing your growth,)  yet enough there for the experience wine consumer to enjoy, even if as a uber wine geek you’d ‘prefer’ a $30 ‘white’ 6 month skin contact Trousseau Gris.

About Dry Creek Vineyards

Dry Creek Vineyards is becoming one of those rare breed and size winery. Still family owned and operated since founded 39 years ago, as the winery that put Sauvignon Blanc on the map in north Sonoma County, they exist in a difficult space. At 100k+ cases they aren’t the sometimes more fashionable boutique winery, yet they are a fraction of the size of the BIG boys who make millions of cases a year. Only a handful of wineries exist in this size, and less and less each year. A visit to their tasting room and meeting the team, feels the same as the 20k case winery down the road.  Perhaps more another time, but do take a few minutes to read about one of Dry Creek Valley’s pioneers, that brings a piece of the Loire Valley, by clicking here and their love affair with sauvignon blanc here.

I visited with Bill Smart,  Director of Communications, several months ago and tasted through a series of wines. I should point out, Dry Creek Vineyards makes a number of small lot wines, including other sauvignon blancs, but by design for this tasting we wanted to focus on what consumers could find widely available. Do drop by the tasting room to try these – I will be.

 About Fumé Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc is sometimes referred to as  Fume’ Blanc. Purportedly this started  when Robert Mondavi  in 1968, changed their Sauvignon Blanc from an off dry  to dry version. To not confuse their customers, they came up with the Robert Mondaviname “Fumé Blanc”, from Pouilly-Fumé, a  popular dry-style Loire Valley wines made from Sauvignon Blanc. Rather than trade marking the name, Mondavi offered to allow anyone to use the Fumé Blanc name to market dry-style Sauvignon Blanc.

Fumé is French for “smoke,” but has nothing to do with smoky flavor in the wine. It refers to morning fog in the Loire Valley. Any’ smokey’ smells or flavors are from aging in newer oak barrels, not from any aroma or flavor character that is in Sauvignon Blac. Although some wineries choose oak barrel fermentation and/or oak aging, the use of Fumé Blanc on a label does not mean the wine was barrel-fermented or ever contact any oak, although it’s a common misperception that it does. (Another spin is that sauvignon blanc didn’t sell, so Robert changed the name.)


Wine Review

Dry Creek Vineyards Fume Blanc (Sauvignon Blanc), Sonoma County

Welcome to the 39th vintage of this flagship wine of Dry Creek Vineyards. This sauvignon blanc is entirely stainless fermented, with no oak contact.

To The Eye: Clear pale yellow

On the Nose: Fragant nose of white peach, honeysuckle, grapefruit

In The Mouth:  Citrus. Lime & grapefruit as well as some herbaceous  characters found in the popular New Zealand sauvignon blancs, but with some minerality as well as great acidity that give it a bit more nuance. The finish is dry and mouth watering. Would pair well with shellfish, salads, or make a great aperitif.

Recommendation: An excellent value at $12. This wine has justly received many awards over the years, including recent Best Buy from Wine Enthusiast and in 2008 was the prestigious Sonoma County Harvest Fair (which I am pleased to be added as a judge this year) Sweepstakes winner.

89 Points – Excellent, Recommended Buy.  Buy locally or online, or check your local store. Media Sample (but I will be restocking for summer and Thanksgiving.)

Side Note: I should add their <$10 Chenin Blanc, is also a great value at $8-10, and  varietal I wish we saw more of in Sonoma. I have the 2009 also in my glass, current release is 2010, or it could have also ended up as a Wine of the Week.

Wine Geek Info:

  • Grapes 100% Sauvignon Blanc
  • Appellation: Sonoma County
  • Harvest: October 4, 2010
  • Fermentation: Stainless steel fermented at an average of 52˚F for about 30 days
  • Barrel Aging:


  • Alcohol: 13.5%
  • Total Acidity: 0.64g/200mL
  • pH: 3.36
  • Residual Sugar: Dry
  • Aging Potential: 3 – 5 years
  • Case Production: ~30,000 cases

Get Inspired at the Simple Hedonisms & Inspiration Vineyards Sonoma Wine Meetup & Open House (New! Food Truck Dinner option!)

Simple Hedonisms invites you to join us Monday August 29th from 5-7 p.m. (and beyond, see below!) for our August meetup at Santa Rosa Wine Trail member Inspiration Vineyards. (Same area as our June meetup at Vinoteca.)
Event features:
*  boutique winery pouring small lot wines
* Industry discount on all wines for the night
* Networking with industry wine makers, hospitality, consumers.

No charge for industry and only $10 for consumers, no drink tickets etc. Entry includes all food & wine for the event, and door prizes.

  • WINE Industry: Winery Staff, Production, Trade, Media, Retail) NO CHARGE (Please bring a biz card or proof)
  • Consumers/Friends/Family –  $10 ($9 in advance) BUT includes all Food & Wine. In spirit of good karma & small business please don’t abuse. Consumer friends etc should pay.

Attendees will also receive a Santa Rosa Wine Trail card with its first stamp.


Pre-Register for Raffle prizes

Pre-register in advance to help us plan for food & staffing costs. It also gets (consumers) a second chance to win a raffle. Raffle drawn at 630 pm, must be present to win.
Bring a business card to enter to win drawings for the night. Register at:

You can get additional chances to win by:

(1) being a consumer and pre-registering or

(2) being a winery and donating a prize to raffle.


New – STAY AFTER; Food Truck Party!

The event ends at 7, but the party continues. All wines by the glass only $5 and food truck vendor Street-Eatz will be selling food. They were a big hit at my recent Pinot event.

If you think you might stay, answer the question during registration so we can plan on tables & chairs.


Wines Poured:

Inspiration Vineyards is a small winery, specialing in wines made in a  classic French style; think Sancerre not New Zealand Sauv Blanc, Burgundy not buttered popcorn chardonnay. Approachable Cab, not oak planks.

  • 2009 Russian River Chardonnay – $24
  • 2009 Dry Creek Sauvignon Blanc – $22
  • 2008 Alexander Valley Zinfandel  – $23
  • 2006  Dry Creek Cabernet Sauvignon –  $30

All Inspiration Vineyards current releases are available for sale this night only for a special 30% discount.

Put the Social in Social Networking! Every month people who have been virtual friends become real life ones!

Register at:

Please use Twitter hashtag #SoCoWine


Your hosts:
William Allen – Simple Hedonisms

Jon & Barbara Phillips – Inspiration Vineyards

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Don't Miss this Saturday's Open House at Donelan Family Wines in Santa Rosa

Wine Aficionados , especially Rhone lovers,  have an opportunity for a special treat this Saturday. Donelan Family Wines, a  boutique winery which  is normally open by appointment only, is opening its doors, bottles and barrels as a treat, as well as showing off its newly renovated tasting room and winery. There is also a (limited space) seminar, by one of my favorite winemakers, Tyler Thomas.

A Unique and Talented Winemaker

Thanks to an introduction via Vinecrowd, I have had the opportunity to spend some time with Tyler and interview him, as well as welcome him as the newest member of the Rhone Rangers. (One of my roles as a new board member.) Donelan and Tyler captured my attention at my #chardonnay day event. Their inuagural chardonnay release, Nancie, was one of the top 3 wines picked by attendees, and my personal favorite of the day.

Later I went to the winery to spend more time with Tyler to taste through his wines, talk about his winemaking practices, and just talk shop.

I already knew as a “shepherd of the yeast” Tyler was talented and creative. Tasting through the rest of the portfolio simply reinforced that. What

also struck me about Tyler was his strong grasp of the industry, trends, and marketing.

I spend a lot of time with wineries, especially small ones, and generally you find two different skill sets, and individuals, driving success. The artisan, 'left brain' winemaker, focused on making the very best wine he or she can, but  not always in touch with the aspects of marketing and branding.  Often a second person “right brain”  person on the team focuses and executes on sales & marketing, a different but equally critical set of skills. The best vintage of your career means nothing if no one is aware of it to purchase.

Tyler is a talented winemaker, innovate, and technically very deep. He is also passionate about the business aspects and as we sat and discussed marketing techniques, events, industry trends, and eager to learn more and try new things.  I was truly impressed, and excited when Donelan Wines decided to join the Rhone Rangers national organization, and will be a part of our new North Coast Chapter, an effort I am spearheading. Donelan and Tyler's wines and energy, enthusiasm, are a welcome addition.custom essay writing service


RSVP for Limited Seminar: Cuvees: Building Northern Rhone Blends

From 1-2 pm Tyler is giving a seminar  about the process of making Northern Rhone inspired wines. Donelan’s goal  is to produce the best wines possible using only the best-of-the-best juice from our unique, cool climate Sonoma County terroirs.  The careful process of  blending barrels is key in producing outstanding signature cuvees and single vineyard wines. Tyler will discuss how Donelan makes complete wines of certain styles and illustrate his points with tastings.  Learn & taste the process that results in a ‘complete’ wine: complex aromas, perceived depth and weight on the palate, a long pleasing finish, and tremendous balance. In essence what makes a Donelan wine a Donelan wine. Seating is limited, an RSVP IS required. Call 203 658 1248.

You can also see a video about the seminar  on Donelan’s new blog:  just click here.

2-4 PM – Open House, Barrel Samples and Other Rare Treats

From 2-4 pm the public is invited to taste Donelan’s latest vintage with an assortment of charcuterie and cheeses. In addition to the 2009 vintage they will be pouring barrel samples of three wines: the incredible new 2010 Donelan “Two Brothers” Pinot Noir, the  2010 Donelan “Nancie” Chardonnay  and the 2009 Richard’s Family Vineyard Syrah. These three wines are produced in extremely limited quantities. This will be an extraordinary chance to taste these amazing wines.

Donelan is normally open by appointment only, so don’t miss this chance to spend an afternoon learning, tasting and meeting this talented team.

By the way, they are in a business park in Santa Rosa that houses 3 other open wineries, Inspiration Vineyards, Carol Shelton, and the new Vinoteca tasting room. Visit these 3 members of the Santa Rosa Wine Trail and make a day of it without having to drive! (Remember a to put a cooler in your car for your wine purchases!)

See you there, followed by Russian River Valley  Hog in The Fog after! Cheers!

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Kramer Vineyards 2009 Pinot Gris Kimberley's Reserve Yamhill-Carlton

I was due to be in Portland for a pre-IPNC gathering, but thanks to a flight SNAFU had an extra evening at home, and thought 'since I can't be in Oregon tonight, let's pull out a bottle of something from Oregon to sample instead.'

Oregon makes some of my favorite Pinot Gris, and I have two different releases of Kramer Vineyards 2009 Pinot Gris to taste through, lucky me. Toni

ght's is the 2009 Kimberley's Reserve, from Yamhill-Carlton.

Tasting Notes: Kramer Vineyards 2009 Pinot Gris Kimberley's Reserve Yamhill-Carlton

To the Eye: Color of medium yellow straw.

To The Nose: Aromas lime peel and citrus, with hints of wet stone, and ripe stone fruits.

In The Mouth: Aged in neutral oak and 9 months on the lees, gives this Pinot Gris nice weight and mouth feel. A delight

of lemon custard, fresh pineapple, medium bodied and round in the mid palate, smooth and lingering finish from acidity.

Recommendation: A Pinot Gris with complexity. A delight to pair with shellfish. Only 145 cases made. Media sample – price not yet listed on website. Highly recommend.

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