Winexpression to Close

I must fly away to another flowerAfter almost 8 years, I have decided that my Wine Blogging journey has come to an end. Thanks to all the readers, PR staff, and fellow wine bloggers that supported me through this journey. I have a few posts to finish up and will explain a bit more, but basically this forum has run it’s course in my life and I am ready to move on. I have valued the feedback I have received and thank you all for your support. Stay tuned for a few more posts with the most valuable wine lessons I’ve learned, tips for wine bloggers, and some final reviews and notes from recent tastings I have attended.

Best,

Jathan.

Wente’s Day Of Discovery A Success

Day of Discovery Poster

Wente launched their first ‘Day of Discovery‘ on September 4, 2010 with great success! Their motto for the day was “Good wine, good music, good food, good times!” and that is exactly what they delivered. A variety of bands performed all day long from three separate stages. Food and drink were available for purchase and the tasting rooms were open to patrons.

Tickets were $29 in advance and $35 at the door, which may seem pricey if you are viewing this just as a winery event, especially taking into consideration that food and drink were not allowed to be brought in. However, if you view it from the standpoint of attending an all day concert, and especially to Wente’s regular Summer concert series, ticket prices were more than reasonable.

Over all, the event was very enjoyable. The food was prepared nicely and the purchase area seemed well organized. There were plenty of great choices including Burgers, Sandwiches, and Salads, snacks for the kids like popcorn, and a wide array of drinks including Wente’s assorted wines that are always palate pleasing. Tasting room fees were also reasonable ($5 versus places like Napa where you’re likely to pay upwards of $20) and the bands chosen to play were well rounded. Being that this was the wineries first event of it’s kind, with each successive year, I’m sure improvements will be made. For what it’s worth, these are my thoughts on how they can improve:

Wente takes great strides in all aspects of their operations to practice sustainable agriculture. Their website outlines an extensive and impressive list of areas in which they are “practicing what they preach”(http://www.wentevineyards.com/wine/sustainable_agriculture1/). A few tweaks, however, to their ‘Day of Discovery’ would enhance their sustainability, such as using biodegradable cups and utensils. Also, water was provided in the tasting rooms and eventually at the end of the food line, but my guess is that many were not aware of it. Why not encourage patrons to bring an empty, refillable water bottle, and provide refilling stations throughout the grounds, which would greatly reduce the amount of bottles that need to be recycled, as well as those that end up in the garbage?

A bit more information could have been provided on the musical acts themselves at the event. Genre, artist bio’s, and the other details would give those that didn’t have the time to visit all the artists websites the chance to plan who they wanted to see a little better, since many acts perform at the same time throughout the day.

This turned into a very nice afternoon of enjoyable wine, excellent live music from some rising talent, tasty food, and great association. I guess they got their slogan right.

Photo Credits: Charles Communications and Kimberly Charles

Disclosure: I attended this event on a press pass

Atlas Olive Oils – Tasting and Recipe

atlas_olive_oil_desert_miracle(Posted by T.A.P.)
I’m definitely not an expert on olive oil, the way it should taste, the different nuances, the proper color, etc.  But, much like wine, I do know what is pleasing to my palate.  So when Atlas Olive Oils asked if I would sample their olive oil I thought I’d give it a try.  I wouldn’t be able to offer an “expert” opinion, but I would be able to give it a review based on my taste.

Atlas Olive Oils estate (Website) is located in the dry areas of Morocco where they cultivate over one million olive trees.  The olives are harvested directly from the tree, never coming into contact with the soil, and the time period between harvesting and crushing never exceeds 20 minutes.  It’s the attention to details such as this that make for a very high quality product.  Just taking a look at their website one comes to see that olive oil is a passion for those at Atlas Olive Oils, not just a business.
They offer two olive oils.  Desert Miracle, aptly named because it seems a miracle to be able to produce olive oil out of a desert, and Les Terroirs De Marrakech which is their ultra-premium extra virgin olive oil and has a limited production of 25,000 liters. (Note: The oils recently won 3rd best olive oil in the world for 2009 at the MARIO SOLINAS olive oil competition. Website [internationaloliveoil.org])

The following are my tasting notes on these oils. Since I don’t consider myself an expert, you’ll notice that ratings were foregone.

Full Disclosure: The following oils were sent as press samples.
Desert Miracle
500ml
Recommended Retail: $11.29 USD
Notes: Hints of dried pineapple and banana on the nose, with a buttery and lovely palate that leads to a slightly peppery finish. Very nice and great as a salad dressing. See note below.

Les Terriors de Marrakech
250ml
Recommended Retail: $11.86 USD
Notes: A very green smelling and tasting olive oil, a bit like cut grass with a mellow palate that leads into a buttery aftertaste that shows no bitterness. Great drizzled on a variety of foods.

basic_saladSalad Recipe

Mixed Baby Greens
Baby Spinach
Strawberries – sliced
Red Onion – very thinly sliced
Crumbled Feta Cheese
Sweet & Spicy Walnuts
Basic Balsamic Vinaigrette (See Below)

Sweet & Spicy Walnuts

Walnuts
Brown sugar
Cayenne pepper
Cinnamon
Salt
Black Pepper
Non-stick spray

Spray pan with non-stick spray and place over medium heat.
Add desired amount of walnuts to pan.
Sprinkle brown sugar, (white sugar can also be used), a pinch of salt, fresh ground black pepper, dash of cayenne pepper and a sprinkle or two of cinnamon over the nuts.
Stir the nuts continually until all of the sugar has melted and each nut is coated.
Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
Once nuts are cooled, sprinkle over salad and enjoy!
Specific amounts are not given as the spices can be adjusted to taste.  This recipe is more of a method rather than exact measurements.

Basic Balsamic Vinaigrette

The Desert Miracle is a great oil to use in this vinaigrette as the green notes of the Les Terriors de Marrakech and other subtle flavors would probably be overwhelmed and masked by the flavor of the vinegar. We choose to use an Industriale type of affordable balsamic vinegar available from most grocery stores. The ratio of oil to vinegar keeps the subtle flavors in the oil from being overwhelmed, and the addition of a bit of sugar helps to cut through the acidity of the vinegar. Salt and pepper balance out the flavors.

Serves 6 well dressed salads:
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons Desert Miracle Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Pinch of cane sugar
Salt and pepper to taste

Measure the vinegar into a small bowl. Slowly drizzle in the Olive Oil, whisking briskly to emulsify the mix until there is no separation between the oil and vinegar. Add a pinch of sugar and season with salt and pepper. Whisk until fully combined then drizzle over salad until lightly coated.

For more info visit www.atlasoliveoils.com

Note: The oil will be available for purchase in the USA very soon.

Wine Tasting At A Grocery Store?

alamos_chardonnay_2007When you think of going wine tasting, your thoughts probably turn toward wineries, right?  After all, that is the typical setting for sampling wine.  But have you ever thought that your local grocery store could serve the same purpose?  No, it isn’t conventional, but it’s a great way to try new wines in a different setting.

A few weeks ago we popped into a grocery store that we don’t typically visit and there in the wine section was a tasting counter complete with brie, crackers, and an slightly intoxicated winery representative.  We sampled a line of wines from Bodega Catena Zapata’s Alamos label from Argentina and were pleasantly surprised.  We even bought a bottle of the Chardonnay.  Had they not been pouring wine that day, there is a good chance we wouldn’t have ever tasted wines from that winery, so it was a great experience for us.  We continued with our shopping which, surprisingly enough, became a less stressful experience even at checkout.

So the next time you’re in the grocery store, you may want to stroll by the wine section.  You might be surprised by what you find.

Wine: 2007 Alamos Chardonnay by Bodega Catena Zapata
Region: Mendoza, Argentina
Price: $10 USD
Notes: This lovely wine has a very nice aroma of pear and apple, with a hint of vanilla, lemon peel, and pineapple on the palate.  Although it spends 9 months in Oak, it doesn’t overwhelm the wine, which maintains it’s bright acidic character and has a pleasant finish.
Score: 88pts (B+)
Availability: (Wine.com, Gene’s Fine Foods)

Note:  All of the other wines we tasted from this label were in the same category as far as quality and value.

Posted by T.A.P.

Dining at the CIA’s Winespectator Greystone Restaurant

The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone, St.Helena, CA
The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone, St.Helena, CA

On a recent trip to Napa we ate at the Wine Spectator Greystone Restaurant at the Culinary Institute of America.  The restaurant features professional and student chefs in a setting that allows you to view the kitchen from your table.  Focus is placed on seasonal and local ingredients, which causes the menu to change from time to time.  An extensive wine list is offered that includes wines made exclusively for the restaurant.  Below is a description of the dishes we sampled, taken directly from the menu:

Housemade Pappardelle Pasta – Tuscan kale, wild mushrooms, cipollini onions, garlic cream and winter pesto

Peppercorn Basted Grilled Angus Hanger Steak – Roasted German butter ball potatoes, balsamic glazed onions, forest mushrooms, red wine jus
Citrus Olive Oil Cake – Citrus supremes and grapefruit sauce

Don’t let the descriptions of these dishes fool you.  While the ingredients may be simple, when put together they create a depth of flavor and complexity that will cause you to savor each and every bite.  I knew the food would be good, but I didn’t expect to be dreaming of the flavors days after we visited the restaurant!  But what else would one expect from an institute that trains some of the top chefs around the world?

Unfortunately, we didn’t have any wine with our meal.  What?? you ask.  Yes, it’s true, but we had our reasons and one of them is found in this article.  It was clear to us though, that while the food was extremely enjoyable on its own, wine certainly would have made a great accompaniment.

The next time you’re in the Napa Valley (or Hyde Park, NY – they have restaurants there) why not make a reservation?  You won’t be disappointed.

Posted by T.A.P.

Thoughts On Visiting Napa Valley California

Note: Winexpression is pleased to welcome a guest writer to the team! This person brings a fresh prospective on the world of wine, travel, food, photography, and the Wine Country lifestyle that interests so many. I am proud to post their well written content to this site, and if we can convince them to stay around, I’m sure we’ll receive many more entry’s in the future. This journalist and photographer will remain anonymous for now, but who knows, maybe they will want some credit for their work down the road. Please enjoy!

Update: We’ve decided on a name for The Anonymous Poster, and well, since we love acronyms, we’re going with T.A.P. :o)

Napa_mustard_and_vines

Living in the Bay Area, we are almost footsteps away from some of the most sought after wines in the world.  People from all parts of the earth come to experience what we, many times, take for granted.  What am I talking about?  The Napa Valley, of course!  It’s really quite interesting how little time we actually spend in this area.  But, in our defense, Napa can quickly become very expensive, as any of you know who have visited there before.  So we find it best to make our trips to the valley somewhat sporadic, but each time proves to be memorable.

This weekend we took an overnight trip which was just what we needed to recharge.  The weather wasn’t what most would consider ideal, it rained the entire time, but Napa is beautiful, rain or shine.

We booked a room at the Yountville Inn, a first time for us.  Our room was comfortable and very clean.  It featured open beam ceilings and a gas fireplace, which added to the warmth on a rainy weekend.  A buffet is offered each morning, serving Starbucks coffee, cereal, toasts, hard-boiled eggs, and a variety of baked goods from the Model Bakery, amongst other things.  A tasting card is also provided along with a map and a list of wineries that offer things such as complementary tastings or discounts on purchases.  This is a very nice touch for anyone visiting for the first time as it can help you to navigate through the myriads of wineries.  A word of caution, however, to those thinking of staying here, the walls are thin!  So much so that you can hear your neighbors everyday conversations as well as the toilets flushing.  Not exactly what you want to awaken to at midnight!  But, maybe if you’re a heavy sleeper it won’t matter much to you.

We visited some wineries that we’d been too before and some that were a first for us.  Our stops included Luna Vineyards, Domaine Chandon, Silverado Vineyards, Grgich Hills and Freemark Abbey.

Silverado has been a mainstay for us.  The tasting room is beautiful in that it has floor to ceiling glass doors that overlook the vineyards below.  There is a terrace with several bistro style tables outside, and when it isn’t raining, of course, they encourage you to take your tasting outside and enjoy the view.  But even if it is raining there are tables and chairs inside that allow you to relax and take in the view.  Since we are seasoned tasters at Silverado, we found ourselves sipping wine at one of the tables while leafing through cookbooks that are offered for purchase, instead of standing at the tasting counter.  The wine is sure to please and while you’re there, buy a Merlot filled chocolate ball (sold in a pack of 10 only)…a treat that will leave you wanting more!

Another winery that wasn’t new to us is Freemark Abbey.  It had been some time, though, since we’d visited, and we really like their wine so we decided to make it one of our stops.  The tasting room is warm and inviting with a large fireplace, a couch and chairs welcoming visitors.  The grounds are also well kept and beautiful.   Aside from the wines being outstanding, what really stood out to us was the high level of customer service offered.  Employees at some wineries can be very off-putting, even giving the consumer the feeling that they aren’t worthy enough to taste their wines.  But that was not the case at Freemark Abbey.  The staff was very friendly, informative and down to earth.  They even suggested that a tasting could be shared, but poured into separate glasses, for each to enjoy.   Granted, the tasting room wasn’t packed, which could lead to less individualized attention on some occasions, but when you have an employee who is genuinely interested in the consumer enjoying their wines, you feel it and it can make all the difference in the world.

Unfortunately, that was not the feeling we got at Grgich Hills.  It was our first stop on Monday, and while each employee had a couple they were pouring for, it was certainly not as busy as a winery can get.  The gentleman pouring for us had been attending to two women prior to our coming in.  While he offered pairing suggestions with each wine poured, there was sort of an air about him, if you will.  When questioned about their practice of organic and biodynamic farming, it was almost as if he spoke down to us.  Perhaps he was put off by the fact that we had a complementary tasting card, provided to us by our hotel.  Maybe he was just more interested in the woman he was pouring for rather than us.  Or maybe that is just his personality and we read him wrong.  Whatever the case, a tasting experience can really make or break a return to the winery.  And with over 300 wineries in the Napa valley alone, it’s not just your wine that should stand out above the others, it’s also your hospitality.  The competition is much too fierce to leave anything to chance.

All in all though, our trip was very enjoyable and you can be sure that it won’t be the last time we visit the Napa valley.  No matter how many times you visit you will always be drawn back to it’s beauty, the friendly wineries that you find, and of course the great wine that they pour.

Posted by T.A.P.