NEW BOOK RELEASE: A Perfect Score ~ The Art, Soul and Business of a 21st Century Winery

unknown-3A Perfect Score ~ The Art, Soul and Business of a 21st Century Winery is an interesting read for wine aficionados everywhere.  Written and narrated by Craig and Kathryn Hall of Napa Valley’s Hall Wines, the book takes readers on an arduous journey from the vine to the glass.

Kathryn was rooted in the family wine business in Mendocino County long before meeting Craig in 1991.  Circumstances drew Kathryn away from her beloved vineyards and into a political career in Dallas, Texas where she met Craig by happenstance.


While Kathryn had winemaking in her ancestral blood, Craig had the business acumen to financially launch their dream of making world-class Cabernet Sauvignon in the then-sleepy Napa Valley.

Together they forged ahead and purchased a neglected vineyard with a fixer-upper house and began custom crushing wine.  The rest, per se, was history.  And what a great history it was!

The Perfect Score narratives between Craig and Kathryn painted the colorful, yet often heart-wrenching tale of building a wine business from the vineyard to the bottle.  Intimate details of the toil in the fields, marketing snafus and disappointing crop failures resonated throughout the book, yet the will to succeed was tantamount. Emotions ran raw as the losses mounted  Yet, the Halls prevailed. Continue reading

Cass Winery Teams With San Diego’s Wine Pairs For 5-Course Winemaker Dinner

cass-wineryCombine the high-energy of Ted Plemmons of Paso Robles’ Cass Winery and the savory gourmet small plates by Chef Erin Sealy of San Diego’s Wine Pairs and you’re in for a delightful wine-filled, palate pleasing evening!

La Costa Wine Company in Carlsbad recently hosted its second “Pop Up” 5-Course Winemaker Dinner, and has already created a loyal fan base.   Pop up dinners are trending now and are akin to a fancy food flash mob, often held at unsuspecting venues such as wine bars, parks or even in parking lots.  Often these venues have no kitchens, so much of the food is prepared ahead of time and hand-carried  to the event.

FullSizeRender 4Ted greeted guests zealously and was very excited to showcase his five hand-selected Cass Winery wines that would surely compliment Chef Erin’s menu.

Ted has been an integral part of Cass Winery for over 15 years, and now manages the vineyards in Paso Robles for owner Steve Cass. He commented on the Old World style winemaking philosophy at Cass Winery, 

“Cass Wines taste exactly what the vineyard gave us! ”


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Revel In Woodenhead’s Terroir-Driven Pinot Noir & Zinfandel


Woodenhead‘s tasting room is somewhat tucked away on River Road in the Russian River Valley, yet once discovered, it will become a favorite haunt.  Commanding views atop the hill rival the extensive array of Pinot Noir and Zinfandel on the ever-changing tasting menu.


The funky, dimly lit tasting room resembles a mountain chalet, complete with big raw hewn beams, a massive stone fireplace and an inviting outdoor deck that boasts one of the best views in the valley.

nick320vWinemaker, Nikolai Stetz spins a very Burgundian twist on the handcrafted Pinot Noirs, showcasing the unique terroir from Mendocino, Russian River and Anderson Valley.

” Our wine is handcrafted from a hard labor of love in tune to the natural rhythm of the land, the water, the air, and the seasons.  Small and unique lots are our goal, ultra premium wine is the result.”


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Hooray to Korbel Champagne Cellars For The Red, White & Sparkling!


The birth of Korbel Champagne Cellars dates back to the early 1880’s when the three Czechoslovakian Korbel brothers from the province of Bohemia, started off making cigar boxes in San Francisco, which later transitioned into a sawmill and dairy farm in the storied Russian River Valley near Guerneville.


Trying their hand at winemaking and being somewhat successful, the Korbel’s produced 20,000 to 30,000 gallons of wine and experimenting with various grape varietals such as Pinot Noir.  By 1892, the Korbel brothers were officially in the burgeoning wine business.


 It was during this time that the Korbel’s sent for winemaker Frank Hasek in Prague to come to the United States to be their champagne master. Employing the time-honored French method of producing champagne, méthode champenoise,…


Prohibition took its toll on many wineries in the 1920’s with forced closures.  Korbel Champagne Cellars was able to survive due to the brothers’ other business ventures.  In 1954 the winery was purchased by family friend, Adolph Heck, who was credited for patenting an automatic riddling process which was vital to the business, enabling the champagne bottles to be turned at precise moments during the fermentation process.   Continue reading

Battaglini Winery Touts “Viti Vecchie, Vini Buono”

IMG_0239Italians have a wonderful saying, “Viti Vecchie, Vini Buono” which translates to “Old Vines, Great Wine.” This is certainly the case at Russian River Valley’s Battaglini Winery off Piner Road. Unassuming at best, it’s easy to pass the driveway on the windy country road mistaking the Battaglini Winery as another of the area’s old farmhouses with colorful red outbuildings and antique lawn art.


Being an Italian wine aficionado, I ventured down the gravel lane.  Giuseppe,, aka Joe, Battaglini, sauntered out to unlock the tasting shed for me on a rainy winter’s day following the 2016 Winter Wineland  weekend festivities.   Joe warmly welcomed me to Battaglini Winery and invited me to taste his award-winning wines.


Ribbons were proudly strung across the back wall and photographs of Italy adorned the walls.  Quite a bit of history in this tiny rustic tasting room!  Roots run deep, literally speaking, on this old homestead.

shapeimage_8 Giuseppe and his wife Lucia, immigrated from Italy to  California in 1956, seeking a similar Italian lifestyle amongst the vines.

The original owner and vintner,  Bartholomew Lagomarsino, also an Italian immigrant, planted Zinfandel and Petite Sirah in 1885 on this very site.

Today, the 1885 vines still flourish and produce incredible full-bodied Zinfandel and Petit Sirah, which have become the Battaglini Winery flagship wines.  In addition, the vineyards are planted to Chardonnay.


For a truly authentico experience, stop by for a game of bocce and a glass of Old Vine Zin!


Syrah is King at Rusack Vineyards


Ballard Canyon AVA is no longer a well-kept secret.  As a matter of fact, my recent travels took me along the winding backcountry roads to Rusack Vineyards.  The oak-studded rolling hills and dramatic backdrop was ideal for my quest for the perfect Ballard Canyon Syrah and a dose of much-needed serenity.


Unpretentious and inviting, Rusack Vineyards‘ tasting room was a welcome sight, as it is one of the few tasting rooms in the pristine Ballard Canyon.

geoff-alison-rusackIn the mid-1990’s, Geof and Alison Rusack  purchased the legendary 48 acre property, previously known as Ballard Canyon Winery.

Seventeen acres were planted primarily  with Syrah.  Alongside the Syrah are smaller blocks of Bordeaux varietals ~ Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Petite Sirah, Merlot and Petit Verdot.  Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel are planted on the couples’  Santa Catalina Island vineyard, El Rancho Escondido.

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Ballard Canyon’s Harrison-Clarke Winery’s Syrah Is Bedazzling!


Calling all California Syrah lovers…  Ballard Canyon AVA, near Santa Ynez, is an eclectic treasure trove of artisan Syrah and Rhone varietal producers.   Part of the larger Santa Ynez Valley AVA, this sleepy enclave is relatively unknown to the throngs of visitors as the mainstream tasting rooms are in downtown Los Olivos.

IMG_0461The scenery alone will take your breath away.  On recommendation from a San Diego winemaker, I contacted Harrison-Clarke Winery for a personal tour and tasting in February.  Co-owner Roger Harrison was kind enough to guide us on an in-depth walking tour of the vineyards.


Harrison-Clarke Winery is situated on 12 acres, planted to Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre and Viognier.  Neighboring vineyards include Beckman and Stolpman who also produce amazing Rhone varietals.   Interestingly, the week of our visit, many of the original Syrah vines had been grafted to a Spanish clone of Mourvedre for a wider spectrum of varietals.   Continue reading