San Pasqual’s Hungry Hawk Vineyards Soars High!

IMG_8792Hungry Hawk Vineyards, is one of the newest, and most promising, boutique wineries to join forces with the San Diego Vintners Association in the San Pasqual Valley AVA.

Nested in the rural outskirts of Escondido, Hungry Hawk Vineyards officially opened its doors in the summer of 2014 after several years of vineyard installation, tasting room construction and endless county and state ordinance permits.

IMG_8795Through the hard work of Ed and Jeanine Embly, Hungry Hawk Vineyards has morphed into a top-notch production facility and upscale tasting room.

Hungry Hawk Vineyards has already earned Silver Medals at the 2014 Florida State Fair and the 2014 San Diego County Fair.

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Hungry Hawk Vineyards, a former avocado estate, has been planted to 17 grape varietals.  White varietals include Albarino, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier and Pinot Gris.  Bordeaux varietals include Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec.  Grenache, Mouvedre, Petit Sirah, Sangiovese, Tempranillo and the little known Syrah Noir round out the list.  Continue reading

Chateau St. Jean Vineyard & Winery Exudes Elegance & Old World Charm

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Magnificent gardens, ornate statuary, grand water features and an incredible backdrop of Sugarloaf Ridge greet guests at Chateau St. Jean Vineyard & Winery.  Just outside of Kenwood in Sonoma County, this heavenly estate is reminiscent of a turn of the century French manor, surrounded by 90+ acres of vineyards.

IMG_8338Chateau St. Jean was constructed in 1920 as a summer home for the Goff family, who were iron magnates from Michigan.  Today, the home has been listed in the National Trust for Historic Preservation and is open to the public.  Parlor-style tasting rooms on the upper level are available for private tastings and events.

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Winemaker Margo Van Staaveren has handcrafted over 30 vintages for Chateau St. Jean.   An early pioneer of single vineyard grape sourcing, it is Margo’s belief that “great wines are grown”. Continue reading

If Ridge Vineyards Lytton Springs’ Old Vines Could Talk…

IMG_0330Ridge Vineyards Lytton Springs in the Dry Creek Valley AVA in Northern Sonoma County boasts a treasure trove of history and many noteworthy red varietals.

IMG_8431The expansive views are breathtaking in every direction, looking out toward the Alexander Valley.  Cool, foggy mornings, hot afternoon sun and breezy evenings are ideal growing conditions for Zinfandel.

Ridge Vineyards Lytton Springs’ current flagship wine is the 2012 Lytton Springs, a spicy field blend of 113 year-old vines of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Carignane and Mataro.  Having survived Prohibition, climate change and years of neglect, these grapes are hand-selected from the five to seven center rows of the vineyard for the iconic field blend.

IMG_8434Historically, Ridge Vineyards Lytton Springs vineyard was once part of land owned by Captain William Litton, who developed the springs and built a hotel just east of the vineyard during the last half of the 19th century.   The resort was built for wealthy San Franciscans who would travel to the area by train to “take the waters.”  Continue reading

Iconic Merry Edwards Winery Embraces Pinot Noir Lovers

IMG_8521 Sooner, rather than later, Pinot Noir aficionados seek out Merry Edwards Winery near Sebastopol in the picturesque Russian River Valley AVA.  Considered a perfectionist and a wine muse by all who meet her, Merry Edwards is now in her 40th year of wine making.

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Merry and husband/partner Ken Coopersmith  manage five estate Pinot Noir vineyards: Coopersmith, Cresta d’Oro, Flax, Georganne and Meredith.  The Chardonnay and  Sauvignon Blanc grapes are sourced from other vineyards in the Russian RIver Valley.

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Private tastings are hosted by appointment in the state of the art facility’s elegant tasting rooms.  Guests are educated about the diurnal temperatures, climate micro zones and soils of the Russian River Valley and the diversity between the estate vineyards.   Continue reading

SDCVA Wine & Food Festival Rocked Bernardo Winery

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The mood was light and fun at the 20th Annual San Diego County Vintners Association’s Wine and Food Festival staged at Bernardo Winery in Rancho Bernardo last weekend.  Well-attended, the event showcased 25 local wineries, several exhibitors, a silent auction,  live music, gourmet small bites and food and wine demonstrations.

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Both urban and traditional wine makers and winery owners were on hand to greet guests and pour two hand-selected wines crafted with San Diego County grape varietals.

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The California wine industry traces its roots back to San Diego in 1779 with the first sustained vineyard planted by Franciscan missionaries at Mission San Diego de Alcala.

It was a fitting tribute to hold the SDCVA Wine & Food Festival at  the Bernardo Winery.

The landmark winery was established in 1889 by the Rizzo family and is the oldest family owned and operated winery in Southern California to this day.

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The San Diego County Vintners Association is composed of vintners, growers, trade and wine lover members who strive to promote awareness and appreciation of the locally grown grape varietals.

For more information, contact www.sandiegowineries.org

Russian River’s Bacigalupi Vineyards Has Deep Family Roots

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Having experienced an over-the-top luscious and peppery Pinot Noir several years ago, whose grapes were sourced from Bacigalupi Vineyards, I set out on a mission to find the mother lode.  Winding scenic country roads on the upper westside of the Russian River Valley led me to the homestead-like tasting room.

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Nicole Bacigalupi welcomed me into the cozy tasting room and filled my head with family stories that would make a fabulous Lifetime movie.  Bacigalupi Vineyards was founded by her grandparents, Charles and Helen Bacigalupi in 1956. Planted primarily in Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, the original rootstock was obtained from Russian River Pinot Pioneer, Karl Wente.

ChateauMontelena_weighbill1973Charles Bacigalupi’s earliest claim to fame was selling his Chardonnay grapes to Jim Barrett at Chateau Montelena, who produced the top award-winning 1973 Chardonnay at the historic Paris Tasting in 1976.  While the American win put Napa Valley on the map,  40% of those Chardonnay grapes were actually sourced from Bacigalupi Vineyards in Sonoma County.

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Wine Tasting Along The Chianti Wine Trail ~ Salute!

7c16JPGChianti Classico is an area steeped in rich history, dating back to the Etruscan times. Over the years, the Romans laid claim, followed by the ferocious medieval battles between Siena and Florence. Today, Chianti Classico is tranquil and undisturbed, yet vibrant, and is home to artisans and winemakers alike.

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In a region where vineyards are plentiful and cellars are centuries old, one needs a strategy before blazing the wine trail.   Unlike wine tasting in California, which is both casual and unpretentious for the most part, wine tasting in Chianti Classico is a bit more structured.

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The key to fun and eventful wine tasting is simple – take the time to plan your itinerary in advance. Care in planning ahead will save time in the long run and will enhance your wine tasting experience overall.

Keep in mind that the most memorable cellar tours encompass wine tasting along with food pairings.

A wine guide or sommelier will often guide the group tasting in the cellar and will offer sumptuous local food pairings such as bread and olive oil, prosciutto or salami and Pecorino Toscana cheese to compliment the featured wines.

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In Chianti, wine tastings are never rushed. The pours are more than generous and the conversation with the wine staff flows easily. Wine tasting fees are nominal and a purchase of a bottle of wine is certainly appreciated, but not expected.

To get the most out of your wine tasting experience, if possible, arm yourself before your wine trek with The Black Rooster Map, (Le Strade del Gallo Nero), the official wine road map. Continue reading