Final Thoughts

This will be my final post, so it’s a doozy. Scroll all the way down the page to see each portion.

Touring Bronco Wine Co.

I got the chance to see where Charles Shaw is bottled and shipped from in Napa. Here are the highlights:

Fred Franzia is a simple man. He drives from his home in the Central Valley to Napa in an old truck with a ton of miles. He calls his workers a “hell of an asset”. He has delivered more than 500 million CASES of two buck chuck through one distribution channel, Trader Joe’s.
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Farmstead Cheeses and Wines

I love the personal attention you get when you walk into a small wine shop. You end up talking to very knowledgeable, friendly, and passionate people. That’s something you don’t really get when you shop at larger chain stores. I missed that for the last year or so, as I’ve been sent a lot of press samples and purchased my wine mainly from Trader Joe’s or Costco, which do provide good values, but do lack what I just described.
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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.



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”( 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

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: (, 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)


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.

Top Ten Reminders For Your Next Wine Tasting Trip

View of Napa ValleyNo, it isn’t rocket science, as my wife conveniently pointed out to me one morning as I rambled off the reminders below. However, these are good points to keep in mind before you spend a day in wine country.

  1. Wear dark clothing – Splatters happen and this will keep you from looking like a lush.
  2. Wear comfortable shoes – Hard for the ladies, I know, but you just might get the urge to stroll through a vineyard or get stuck on a long tour. Besides, a lot of trails up to tasting rooms aren’t paved, so wear something that can get a little dirty.
  3. Be aware of how you smell – Your tasting can be ruined if you or someone around you is wearing to much perfume, deodorant, or sun screen, or has body odor. I recommend a light application of deodorant on your freshly cleansed body, no perfume or cologne, and applying sunscreen 1/2 – 1 hour before your first stop.
  4. Thoroughly clean your mouth – Includes flossing, brushing, and rinsing. Red wine sticks to plaque, so get it all off. (Remember those pink sugar pills at the dentist when you were a kid?)
  5. Stay hydrated – Very important, especially when it gets hot. Bring a little more than you think you’ll need.
  6. Bring a few snacks – This is good for keeping your blood alcohol level down and hypoglycemics at bay. This is in addition to making sure you stop for lunch.
  7. Designate a driver – This person can use points #5 and #8. Most tasting room staff will have some stories of people stumbling out of the building to get behind the wheel. Sometimes wineries will offer an alternative beverage for the D.D., so feel free to ask.
  8. Practice spitting – The shower is a great place to practice, and believe me, their is a technique to it. Go for accuracy and a clean finish. Any respectable winery won’t turn their nose up at you if you do this, and most have spit buckets set out, so go for it. (Extra points for distance.)
  9. Plan your trip – But don’t cram in too much. Leave some time to explore or meander. I like to maybe have 1 or 2 set appointments, with enough time in between to stumble upon another winery that allows walk-ins. Three to Five winery stops is usually plenty for the day.
  10. Have fun but go easy – This is just grape juice. Don’t let pretentious snobs ruin your day and don’t over do it. No one likes the drunk obnoxious fool, so don’t be that person.

Try the Wine from Nampa

Idaho MapNo, that isn’t a typo, Nampa is located in the beautiful state of Idaho, and yes, they make wine. Nampa isn’t the only city in which wine is produced in the state, in fact, at the time of this writing, 34 wineries are listed on the website as either already producing wine, or coming soon.

The area’s Wine Growers experiment with quite a number of different varietals and styles. Idaho is one of the few states that produce Ice wine, thanks to the reliable frost that comes through late in the harvest season. Reisling also seems to grow well, lending itself perfectly to a nice dessert-ready late harvest wine. Of the three wineries I visited, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Chardonnay, Gewurtzminer, Viognier, and Bordeaux style blends were all produced. I found myself partial to the whites more than the reds, which included the dessert wines.

Our first stop was The Winery at Eagle Knoll (Website), a 5,000 case production facility with tranquil grounds for weddings and events. The Winemaker, Vernon Kindred, has a palate that leans toward dry wines, which translates into a very nice Chardonnay that doesn’t see oak or malolactic fermentation, and a dry Riesling that is well balanced and food friendly. The staff was friendly, prices reasonable, and white wines surprisingly pleasant. An enjoyable pairing was with a white dessert wine and a nibble of dark chocolate .The Winery has recently changed hands and the new owners are aiming at improving quality, changing the label, and investing in the business. Watch out for this one over the next few years.

Next we found ourselves sipping and depositing a lot of wine in the spit buckets of St. Chapelle Winery in Caldwell, ID, Southwest of Boise (Website). Although the Sparkling Brut was a good value, pretty much all of the other wines tasted off, sweet, flabby, or austere. The grounds are nice however, and it seems to be a popular choice for weddings and other events. A good comparison winery in California is Sutter Home. Huge production, low prices, low quality, with one or two varietals that are just O.K.

Our last stop was the Koenig Winery & Distillery (Website). Although the wines here are good, the prices are a bit steep, and I would much rather buy a good red from Washington at less than half the price. The Viognier was nice, but still, a bit pricey. The real gem of this stop is the vodka distilled from potatoes in double copper pot still’s made by renowned German coppersmith Adrian & Co. Unfortunately, the state doesn’t allow tasting of hard alcohol or shipping to any other state, so you have to pony up and grab a bottle when you visit. If you’re a vodka fan, this effort is sure to impress, and can be enjoyed in typical martini fashion or sipped out of a petite wine glass. Our tour guide, Gina, also recommends the brandies, available in Apple, Apricot, Cherry, Grappa, Peach, Pear, Plum, and Raspberry.

The next time you’re passing through town, move to the area, or are just going to Boise to watch the Bronco’s, schedule some time to see Nampa, you might be surprised at what you find.

EU Finally Grants Name Recognition to Napa Valley

It started about 2 years ago, when wine makers from the U.S. and Europe signed a declaration to protect the place names associated with their wines. In January of this year, the European Union, responsible for overseeing the wine industry in Europe, recognized the significance of Napa Valley Terrior by granting it name protection,  the first region in the U.S with this status.

“This represents a significant win in the continuing fight to protect the Napa name around the world,” said vintners association board president Peter McCrea.

This is a step in the right direction for the much younger wine industry in the United States who has lept ahead in some areas but  lagged behind in issues like this. Is Sonoma next?

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