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The hot summer months are upon us, and July and August are taking no prisoners this year. It’s easy to get sucked inside where the air conditioner is cranked to arctic temperatures and an ice-cold beverage is only a short walk to the refrigerator, but we think it’s time to get out and get yourself a big lung-full of good ol’ fresh air. Summer is a time for adventure and exploration, and we challenge you to get out of your perfectly chilled office and into the great outdoors! We’ve come up with some wine country spots that we think will leave you feeling relaxed and recharged this summer…and a little buzzed of course!

KWG-ElDoradoEl Dorado County | Sierra Foothills, CA
If you’re an adventure seeker, history buff, foodie, or wine lover, El Dorado County should be on the top of your list for your next summer vacation! In 1848, gold was discovered in the American River near Coloma, and today with a name like “Gold County,” this rich history remains in the rustic mining towns and historic sites that dot the landscape. Aside from a vibrant history, here are endless opportunities for outdoor adventure, over 70 wineries to taste, and a number of culinary treasures to explore, “Gold Country” is a must-see destination this summer!

Sullivan Wine | Napa Valley, CA
It all started as a wedding gift of grape vine cuttings to founder Jim Sullivan and his wife Joanna, and quickly turned into the fuel that fed his passion for producing superior quality wines. Sullivan Vineyards in Rutherford, CA is a gorgeous estate that provides guests with a casual and welcoming atmosphere and beautiful vineyard views. Visitors to the winery are welcome to enjoy their tastings in the outside courtyard while admiring a collection of contemporary artwork and classic cars on display.

KWG-BouchaineBouchaine Vineyards | Napa Valley, CA
This summer, take a guided vineyards walk or grab your bike and cruise along the rolling hills of Bouchaine Vineyards, dedicated to planting the very best of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The beauty of Bouchaine goes far beyond the stunning landscape, but also in their use of sustainable practices that are used to give back to the land they are blessed with. Make sure to stop by their tasting room to taste their award winning wines, and join their wine club to taste on a private terrace overlooking the vineyards.

Keenan Winery | Napa Valley, CA
If you are looking for an outdoorsy tasting experience in the Napa Valley, look no further than Keenan Winery in the mountains of St. Helena. The 180-acre property boasts the stunning green and dusty brown landscape of the Mayacamas Mountain Range, and will make you feel like you’ve taken a summer getaway deep into the woods while still remaining in the world-famous Napa Valley wine country. Keenan is a well-known name in the Napa region, with 62 wines in the last 12 vintages earning ratings between 90 and 97 points by wine critics. For outdoor relaxation and incredible wines, visit Keenan Winery this summer!

KWG-OakFarm (2)Oak Farm Vineyards | Lodi, CA
Residing on a beautiful and historic 70 acre estate, Oak Farm Vineyards offers their visitors an elevated tasting experience and the opportunity to truly get a feel for Lodi wine country. Their tasting room includes floor to ceiling windows with breathtaking vineyard views, indoor and outdoor fireplaces, and a cozy outdoor terrace where you can taste their portfolio of handcrafted, small-lot and single vineyard varietals. You won’t want to miss out on an opportunity to visit Lodi wine country this summer!

Calcareous Vineyard | Paso Robles, CA
Outdoor adventure is a given when you visit a winery like Calcareous Vineyard in Paso Robles, a winery dedicated to their land and the importance of “place.” Father and daughter Lloyd Messer and Dana Brown had a dream of expressing their passion for wine and this love for the craft remains evident in their delicious estate wines produced from their 3 vineyards. Guests are invited to enjoy a flight of their award winning wines at Lloyd’s Lookout, their hilltop tasting room, for a delectable tasting and breathtaking 180-degree views of Paso wine country.

KWG-WesterlyWesterly Wines | Santa Barbara County, CA
The Santa Barbara County wine region is extremely diverse, and this complexity is reflected in the impressive portfolio of Westerly Wines. The Westerly name is a well known one in the Santa Ynez Valley, and their limited-production wines never fall short of the high standard that they have set for themselves. They do not have a public tasting room, but they do offer private tastings on a limited basis for a truly exclusive one-on-one tasting experience. Summer in Santa Barbara is beautiful, and only gets better with a glass of Westerly wine in hand!

Moshin Vineyards | Sonoma County, CA
Whoever said all those hours of sitting in math class would never pay off in the real world obviously never heard the story of Moshin Vineyards. Rick Moshin, a former San Jose University math instructor, put his math skills to the test and designed a four-tier gravity flow winery for small-lot wine production, and this year Moshin Vineyards is celebrating this dream having become reality, with the 10 year anniversary of their tasting room and the family’s 25th anniversary of wine growing! If you are looking for a reason to celebrate this summer, head on over to Sonoma and raise a glass with Moshin Vineyards!

KWG-CathedralRidgeCathedral Ridge Winery | Columbia River Gorge, OR
Those looking for a unique outdoor experience this summer should make a trip to the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon. This region is home to Cathedral Ridge Winery, and provides a distinctive microclimate that allows for almost every variety of grape to ripen to perfection, building an extensive portfolio of wines that have received outstanding reviews over the years. The winery in Hood River offers visitors a scenic and serene tasting experience filled with stunning views and delicious wines, or if you are planning a trip to the famous Willamette Valley, be sure to stop by their other tasting room in Dundee!

Ironstone Vineyards | Sierra Foothills, CA
While visiting El Dorado County be sure to stop by the beautiful Ironstone Vineyards in the charming gold rush town of Murphys, CA. This family owned and operated winery is the perfect opportunity for visitors to learn about the history of the Sierra Foothills wine region, while tasting their delicious portfolio of wines. Their massive oak tasting bar was even once a saloon bar in New York! The rest of their property will not disappoint, with 14 acres of stunning gardens waiting to be explored, guests are welcomed to stroll along the grounds and find the perfect place for a picnic from their gourmet deli.

The following article was provided by our contributing partner – Touring and Tasting Magazine.

Cheers – Ken

Dry Rose has become the latest craze in wine! We have been on this bandwagon for the last three summers. It is finally taking off. That said, we have found several terrific dry Rose’s to try this summer as we get into the hot summer months of July and August. One trend we have noticed is that many of the top scoring Roses are being made from Cabernet Franc or Pinot Noir. We hope this trend continues as it has led to some very tasty wines. So as you pack up the picnic basket for the beach or a picnic, pick up one or two of these tasty Rose’s. We hope you enjoy this exciting category as much as we did!

Three-Rivers-2014-Cabernet-Franc-RoseWe open with our top scoring Rose which was awarded 92 points. This winner hails from the Walla Walla region of Washington State and is made from 100% Cabernet Franc. The Three Rivers Winery 2014 “Cabernet Franc Rose” for $14 is an absolute steal. I found it to be well balanced and savory and displays tasty mineral infused strawberry flavors with hints of watermelon and faint clementine. This terrific Rose is food friendly and would pair well with many foods. They only made 114 cases, so start your search soon…. Like now!

We have two wines that hit the 91 point mark. The first is the 2014 Tablas Creek “Dianthus” Rose for $27. This is the second year in a row this wine was a top scorer. This year’s blend is made from 46% Mourvedre, 41% Grenache and 13% Counoise. You will find it to be medium bodied, a little acidic and smooth as silk. I really liked its mild mineral infused red cherry flavors with hints of strawberry and faint watermelon. It finishes dry and its flavors linger for quite a while. This keeper will pair perfectly with grilled mahi mahi. Next up is the 2014 Ehlers Estate “Sylviane” Rose from St. Helena. This very good offering is made from 100% Cabernet Franc. On the palate, it balanced, mouthwatering and elegant. I loved its very tasty and gentle mild mineral infused watermelon flavors with notes of strawberry. This food friendly Rose would be perfect with Emeril’s grilled salmon with a pineapple, mango and strawberry salsa. This offering costs $28 per bottle and only 333 cases were made so call now if you want to try it.

Prieure-de-Montezargues-2014-RoseWe have several 90 pointers to introduce you to. We will start with this classic kitchen sink blend from Tavel that is very good. The 2014 Prieure de Montezargues for $18 is made from Red and White Grenache, Cinsault, Clairette and small percentages of Syrah, Mourvedre, Carignan, and Bourboulenc. It is medium bodied, pleasantly acidic, mouthwatering and nicely coats your mouth. I really liked its mineral infused tangerine flavors with notes of peach. I also detected hints of watermelon, white pepper, spice drop, and strawberry mixed in as well. It was pretty complex for a Rose. It would be a very nice beach offering served chilled. I also think it would be great with grilled Bavarian Weisswurst! Yum!

Next up is the 2014 Ponzi “Pinot Noir Rose” from the Willamette Valley in Oregon for $20. This tasty Rose is medium bodied, slightly acidic and lively on the palate. I really enjoyed its mineral infused mild tangerine flavors with a hint of peach and touch of pink grapefruit. This winner would pair well with shrimp scampi. Another 90 point winner is a second label from Tablas Creek. Their 2014 “Patelin de Tablas” Rose for $20 is a traditional blend of 80% Grenache, 17% Mourvedre and 3% Counoise. This offering is medium bodied, pleasantly acidic and round in the mouth. Its flavor profile is a tasty tangerine and watermelon blend with notes of gentle minerality. I also detected a hint of lemon in the end. This is a very refreshing dry rose. It will be a crowd pleaser at your summer cookouts. With 1,800 cases made it should be easy to find. Pair it with salmon burgers off the grill.

Merriam-2014-Rose-of-Pinot-NoirOur next 90 pointer is the 2014 Merriam “Rose of Pinot Noir” from the Russian River Valley. It is also $20 per bottle. This wine is balanced and very easy to quaff. It displays pleasant watermelon and light red cherry flavors with nicely integrated mild minerality throughout. I also picked up a touch of strawberry towards the end.  This Rose is very food friendly and would pair nicely with shrimp scampi. There were only 143 cases made so call the winery soon to try some.

If you seek out organic options, consider this 2014 “Rose of Pinot Noir” by Sokol Blosser. At $20 it is fairly priced and should be accessible with 2,000 cases made. We found it to be light bodied, slightly acidic and lively. It displays mineral infused tangerine flavors with notes of red plum and strawberry. It finishes dry and its flavors and acidity linger for quite a while after the wine is gone. It was very popular with our mini tasting group. They thought it would be a nice offering to consider slightly chilled at the beach with sharp cheddar cheese.

Another 90 point Oregon winner is the 2014 Chehalem “Rose of Pinot Noir” from the Willamette Valley. This one costs a smidge more at $22 per bottle. This wine is medium bodied, balanced, round and a bit juicy. I really liked its tasty mild mineral infused red cherry flavors hints of strawberry. It finishes dry and is one of the more food friendly and versatile Rose options that you will come across. I would pair it with vegetable lasagna.

Blackbird-2014-Arriviste-RoseOur last two 90 pointers are a bit more money, but worth it if you can spend a little more. The first is the 2014 Blackbird “Arriviste” Rose from the Napa Valley for $25. It is made from 38% Cabernet Franc, 34% Cabernet Sauvignon and 28% Merlot. It was well received by our mini-tasting group and did not last long. It is medium bodied, round and mouthwatering. We really enjoyed its mineral infused Maraschino cherry flavors with a faint hint of mild orange. Our group thought this Rose would complement lots of foods. I personally thought it would pair best with a grilled Mahi Mahi sandwich. Our last 90 pointer is the 2014 Gary Farrell “Rose of Pinot Noir” for $28. This Russian River Valley beauty opens with a pleasant red cherry and orange bouquet. On the palate, it is light to medium bodied, a little acidic and mouthwatering. I was enamored with its tasty tangy gentle tangerine flavors with notes of mild minerality and gentle red raspberry. The finish is dry and very refreshing. This Rose was perfect on the boat with Dubliner cheese and various sliced Italian meats.

The Best of the Rest Rose’s
Donelan 2014 “Sonoma County” (CA) $20 (89)
A nice follow-up to last year’s winner. This Rose displays pleasant mild mineral influenced gentle strawberry and red cherry flavors with hints of watermelon. Pair with quiche tart appetizers.

Amavi 2014 Rose “Walla Walla” (WA) $24 (89)
This 100% Cabernet Franc Rose from Washington State is slightly acidic and easy to enjoy. The flavor profile is a blend of mild red cherry and gentle watermelon with notes of strawberry and faint hints of minerality. It is food friendly and would pair well with many foods.

Cypher-2014-Pistil-RoseCypher 2014 Rose “Pistil” (Paso Robles, CA) $24 (89)
This salmon colored wine is medium bodied, acidic and crisp. It displays tasty mild red cherry and strawberry flavors with hints of tangerine. Pair with grilled red snapper and mango with cilantro-lime vinaigrette.

Cakebread 2014 Rose “Vin de Porche” (Anderson Valley, CA) $25 (89)
This Rose is also medium bodied, acidic and crisp. I enjoyed its tasty mild mineral infused red cherry flavors with hints faint plum. It would be very nice at the beach on a hot summer day. I would also have it at dinner with baked stuffed shrimp.

Sidebar 2014 Rose “Russian River Valley” (CA) $25 (89)
This dark pink colored Rose is made from 100% Syrah. Its flavor profile is a blend of strawberry and watermelon with nicely integrated notes of minerality with a hint of red cherry. I would enjoy this Rose with grilled weisswurst at a picnic on a hot summer day.

Susana-Balbo-2014-Crios-Rose-of-MalbecSusana Balbo 2014 “Crios Rose of Malbec” (Mendoza, Arg.) $12 (88)
This good value dry Rose made from Malbec is medium bodied, slightly acidic and displays a hint of sweetness. I liked its mild mineral infused strawberry and Maraschino cherry flavors with a hint of red raspberry. It would be a nice beach option slightly chilled and cheddar cheese.

Wittmann 2013 Rose “Trocken” (Rheinhessen, Germany) $13 (88)
This light pink colored wine from Germany is a nice wine. It is medium bodied, a little acidic and mouthwatering with mineral infused strawberry flavors and a hint of tangerine and a touch lime. It is a perfect summer wine to serve chilled with grilled lime and garlic shrimp.

Red Newt 2014 “Kelby James Russell Dry Rose” Cabernet Franc (Finger Lakes, NY) $16 (88)
This Rose from the Finger Lakes is medium bodied, slightly acidic and rather dry. It displays minernal infused tangerine and strawberry flavors. It finishes quite dry and its flavors linger for a little while. This nice summer wine would pair well with Ipswich fried clam strips.

Yorkville Cellars 2013 Rose “Vin D’Une Nuit” (Yorkville Highlands, CA ) $22 (88)
Our last recommendation is another organic offering. This one from Yorkville Cellars is medium bodied, slightly acidic and refreshing. I found it to display mild mineral infused strawberry flavors with hints of red cherry. Like the others, this Rose would be a good beach wine served slightly chilled.

I hope you find some these gems and enjoy them. Please also check back to our complete list of recommended Rose’s as we are always adding to the list.  If you find a gem that you like.  Please provide a comment and share.  Cheers!  Ken

 

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Take the gloom out of June and start planning your summer getaway! The Fourth is right around the corner, and we can’t think of a better way to celebrate America’s birthday than by raising a glass of patriotic pinot to cheers good ole’ Lady Liberty & Uncle Sam! You may immediately think cool cocktails & ice cold beer when you imagine yourself poolside this summer, but we have some wine country recommendations that will make you second guess the longneck & reach for a nice big glass of vino instead. Kick back, relax and follow our lead on where to taste, stay & spend time in wine country for an unforgettable summer getaway—wine style!

Where to taste:
LangeTwins Family Winery | Lodi, CA
At LangeTwins, winemaking is a family affair, and it is a passion passed down through generations since the 1870s. Their state of the art winery has a modern feel that makes guests instantly aware of their quest for perfection and devotion to sustainability. The Press Room provides a welcoming space for visitors to come together and taste their impressive portfolio of wines, and those wishing for a more in depth tour can participate in a wine & cheese pairing experience behind the glass cellar doors.

Castello di Amorosa | Napa Valley, CA
Dreaming of an Italian summer getaway? It might be closer and more accessible than you’d think! Castello di Amorosa provides the perfect slice of medieval Italy, right in the heart of the Napa Valley. The 121,000 square foot fortress is four stories high and has 107 rooms, with additional levels underground. Guests can taste New World wines within the atmosphere of an Old World castle, complete with a drawbridge, moat, dungeon and torture chamber, secret passageways, courtyards, church, 12,000 square-foot barrel room and more! It’s a “must-see destination” for sure, and paired with their delicious wines, your Italian getaway dreams will come to life!

Monticello-KWGMonticello Vineyards | Napa Valley, CA
Monticello Vineyards pays a tribute to Thomas Jefferson, who once said, “Good wine is a necessity of life for me.” The property boasts a downsized version of the elaborate plantation home that Mr. Jefferson once resided in, where winery guests can enjoy private tastings and dinners. Jay Corley and his three sons have carried out Mr. Jefferson’s love for wine and viticulture through their hands-on, family-oriented approach to winemaking. This dedication and love for the craft is evident as visitors taste award-winning wines in the comfort of the cozy tasting room. We can’t think of a better way to celebrate the 4th than to raise a glass to one of our founding fathers at Monticello this summer!

C.R. Sandidge Wines | Cascade Valley, WA
Ray Sandidge is one of the top Winemakers in the Pacific Northwest, a humble fact that is backed up by a quarter century of International and National award winning wines. The Sandidge Family believes faith is a prerequisite for success, and their faith in their winery endeavor has led them down a path of success with delicious wines that are cherished around the world. Guests are invited to see what all the buzz is about by joining the Sandidge family at their tasting room in the Village of Manson on the north shore of Lake Chelan for a friendly and knowledgeable tasting experience this summer.

Maryhill-KWGMaryhill Winery | Columbia River Gorge Area, WA
Owners Craig and Vicki Leuthold once had a dream of opening a winery in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, and have made this dream come alive over the years by constructing a stunning portfolio of over 50 exceptional and affordable wines at one of Washington’s largest and most visited wineries. Each year their 3,000 square-foot tasting room greets more than 70,000 visitors from around the world, and their welcoming outdoor terrace provides free live music throughout the summer. With delicious wines and an unbelievable location, Maryhill Winery is the perfect package deal for your summer vacation!

Westerly Wines | Santa Barbara County, CA
Winemaker Adam Henkel was originally fascinated by the viticultural diversity of Santa Barbara County. He has made it his mission to express the unique characteristics of the region through exceptional winemaking practices that result in the high quality wines that Westerly is known for. The Westerly name resonates in the Santa Ynez Valley, and each of their impressive varietals exemplifies Santa Barbara County in a bottle. This summer, transport yourself to beautiful Santa Barbara by uncorking a bottle of Westerly Wines.

Where to stay:
Inn at the Tides | Sonoma Coast, CA
Summer is a time to wind down and kiss your worries goodbye with some much-needed relaxation. Alongside the Sonoma coastline is the enclave of 86 guest lodges that make up the Inn at the Tides, your picture perfect sanctuary for summer rejuvenation. Their two restaurants, swimming pool, spa, and central location with easy access to all that Sonoma wine country has to offer make it an ideal place for every kind of traveler to stay this summer!

What to do:
NVWT-KWGClimb Aboard the Napa Valley Wine Train
Calling all train lovers, foodies, wine-os, history buffs, and adventure seekers, the Napa Valley Wine Train offers a unique way to tour the beautiful Napa Valley that is unlike any other wine country experience. Climb aboard one of their distinctive train cars, each with its own special charm, and soak in the rolling stunning vineyard landscape as you taste exceptional Napa Valley wines paired with incredible culinary bites made with the finest local ingredients. It’s a bucket list experience you won’t want to miss this summer!

 

Tri-Valley-KWGVisit Tri-Valley, CA
Just east of the San Francisco Bay Area lies the five cities that make up Tri-Valley: Danville, Dublin, Livermore, Pleasanton, and San Ramon. Each has a unique quality, yet all five are bustling with opportunities for recreation and entertainment while still maintaining the small town charm that is rare to find so close to San Francisco. From incredible cuisine made with bountiful local produce paired with exceptional Livermore wines, to championship golf courses, and beautiful hiking and horseback riding trails, there is truly something for everyone’s perfect summer getaway!

The following article was provided by our contributing partner – Touring and Tasting Magazine.

Cheers – Ken

 

The weather is heating up, school is ending, and the beach is calling your name, which can only mean one thing…it’s officially summer! We can’t think of a more appropriate way to welcome the new season than with a classic summer road trip, so dust off that portable BBQ, swap your shoes for a pair of flip flops, and don’t forget the summer playlist! To add a twist to your travels this year, we’ve compiled a list of our favorite wineries along the West Coast – you won’t want to miss these world-class tasting rooms.

Buttonwood Farm Winery & Vineyard – Solvang, CA
Nestled in Santa Barbara County’s Santa Ynez Valley, Buttonwood Farm Winery & Vineyard offers more than just wine to its visitors. With 39 acres of sustainably managed vineyards, it’s no surprise that Buttonwood also maintains a bountiful farm harvesting olives, pomegranates, peonies, herbs, summer vegetables, and peaches. Kick off your summer road trip at their tasting room this summer for a variety of exquisite wines, including their flagship Sauvignon Blanc, and delectable foods to pair them with!

VinaRobles_KWGVina Robles Winery  – Paso Robles, CA
For wines that combine traditional California grapes with a balance reminiscent of European varietals, look no further than Paso Robles’ Vina Robles Winery, just an hour and a half north of Solvang. There’s no better way to embrace your new adventure than with wines that boldly combine Old World roots with New World endeavors! And since you’re road tripping, why not spice up your trip with a summer concert in their incredible outdoor amphitheater? Don’t miss out on a chance to see some of your favorite artists, like Little Big Town, Third Eye Blind, Rob Thomas, the Plain White T’s and more! Nothing says “road trip” like good music and good wine, and both are waiting for you at Vina Robles!

J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines – Paso Robles, CA
One of the first vineyards on California’s Central Coast, J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines presents over four decades of winemaking knowledge and devotion to its visitors. Visitors to their Paso Robles tasting room will enjoy the intimate atmosphere of a family-owned vineyard while tasting rich and diverse wines grown on over 3,000 acres of vineyards. Offering four tiers of award-winning wines, J. Lohr is a place you won’t want to leave Paso Robles without seeing!

Wente-KWGWente Family Estates – Livermore, CA
With over 131 years of experience in the wine industry, Wente Vineyards in Livermore, CA is a true veteran in the winemaking world, and continues to be respected as a leader in the world of wine. The Wente family maintains a standard for quality and integrity in every aspect of their business. They continue to bring fresh ideas to the table, constantly evolving and innovating with the changing industry. Recently, they have opened the Winemakers Studio, which is a traditional-style tasting bar with a variety of Wente wines on tap.  Be sure to take a break from your travels and visit the studio for a growler of your favorite varietal!

Tamber Bey Vineyards  – Calistoga, CA
Our next stop is Napa, because what would a wine-tasting road trip be without Napa? The passion for horses is obvious to guests when they arrive at Tamber Bey Vineyards, but the passion for winemaking becomes even more apparent once visitors taste a flight of their delicious portfolio of wines. Varietals include fruity Sauvignon Blanc, crisp Chardonnay, heady Pinot Noir, and smoky blends of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.

Cliff Creek Cellars – Gold Hill, OR & Newberg, OR
Goodbye, California, hello Pacific Northwest! Located just northeast of Gold Hill, Cliff Creek Cellars evolved out of a family farming legacy that began in the late 1800s. Today, the vineyards consist of 20 acres of Syrah, 20 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon, and several more acres of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Sangiovese. Any of Cliff Creek’s red varietals would be perfect for a relaxing summer evening post-drive, but you can also enjoy their featured White White Wine of the summer. Don’t forget to check out their tasting room in Newberg on your way north!

Adelsheim-KWGAdelsheim Vineyards – Newberg, OR
One of Oregon’s founding wineries, Adelsheim Vineyards set the stage for the development of Oregon’s wine industry. Located on the Chehalem Mountains, the winery resides in the new iconic viticulture area of North Willamette Valley. Offering its visitors a cross between traditional elegance and new-age innovation, Adelsheim Vineyards is the ideal place to end your Oregon travels and transition into Washington wines.

Hamilton Cellars – Benton City, WA
Wine country continues in Washington! Hamilton Cellars in Benton City is a relatively young winery, but the Hamiltons’ determination, passion, and finesse would tell you otherwise. Their impressive portfolio of wines contains varietals that have received a number of awards, such as the Gold Medal from the Seattle Wine Awards as well as placement in the Great Northwest Wine Competition! Their new facility in Benton City is also the only Net Zero solar winery in Washington – what better way to celebrate a sunny road trip than by visiting this environmentally conscious, sun-loving winery?

JBookwalter-KWGJ. Bookwalter Winery  – Richland, WA & Woodinville, WA
With locations in Richland and Woodinville, J. Bookwalter Winery offers its visitors the best of both worlds. For a unique tasting experience, head over to Richland – just a 20-minute drive from Benton City! – and enjoy a gourmet meal at the winery’s restaurant, Fiction. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, head to their Woodinville location near Seattle for a tasting while soaking up the spectacular views on their sunny patio during summer months. Either location would be perfect for a wine-infused afternoon.

Tsillan Cellars – Lake Chelan, WA
Tsillan Cellars sits in an oasis on the southern shore of Lake Chelan, Washington. Visitors are able to enjoy breathtaking views of the lake and the surrounding mountains from this beautiful Tuscan-style winery while tasting their impressive profile of wines. Their wines have collectively been awarded more than 200 Gold Medal, Double Gold Medal, Best of Class and Best of Show awards in major regional, national and international wine competitions. Lake Chelan is a bit of a drive from either Richland or Woodinville, but we think it will be the perfect place to relax after a long trip!

The following article was provided by our contributing partner – Touring and Tasting Magazine.

Cheers – Ken

April is about embracing Mother Nature and exploring the new beginnings that surround us during the first full month of spring. This month, we’ll cover the entire Pacific Coast and even venture on over to the Eastern U.S. for a look at Kentucky’s exciting and evolving wine industry. World-class wines, stunning sights, and a variety of adventures await us. So whether you find yourself sprinkled with April showers or surrounded by bright blooming flowers, we hope it will be with a glass of wine in hand and a breathtaking view in sight.

LODI-KWGExplore the Varietals of Lodi
Leading California’s production of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Zinfandel grapes, Lodi is a region that has set the bar high. Home to California’s first third-party-certified “green” sustainable winegrowing program, over 20,000 acres of Lodi’s vineyards produce wines with nothing but the best interest in you, your community, and your earth. We can’t think of a better place to embrace nature than in a place friendly to wine lovers and earth lovers alike!

Meet the New Releases in Lake Chelan
Surrounded by the majestic Cascade mountain range and home to over twenty vineyards and wineries, Lake Chelan is the perfect destination for sipping and… well, everything! With an array of golf courses, endless mountain paths for hiking, trails for all levels of bikers, and of course, 50.5 miles of glistening lake for water sports, springtime in Lake Chelan is certainly the place for the adventurous soul. For the less daring, the quaint town offers lakeside shopping and dining. But don’t wear yourself out too hard – in April, Lake Chelan wineries release their newest wines. You won’t want to miss these!

KENTUCKY-KWGEnjoy a Glass… in the Bluegrass!
Kentucky has long been dubbed “Bourbon Country” as a result of its successful bourbon-producing industry, but that doesn’t mean the Bluegrass State falls short when it comes to vineyards: wine lovers can now experience more than 70 wineries in the state that was home to the FIRST commercial vineyard in the country! The beautifully unique Kentucky countryside makes this destination one of Mother Nature’s finest – and with tastings, lodging, and year-round events, what more could one ask for?

Sip by the Ships at Port Ludlow
When you approach Puget Sound territory, there is often a chance of rain – so why not make that fireside glass of wine a certainty? Hidden gem Resort at Port Ludlow is just a peaceful 90-minute drive or 15-minute seaplane ride from the bustling city of Seattle and is the epitome of Pacific Northwest beauty. Located in what was once a logging and shipbuilding village, the resort is the perfect link between mountain and sea. This waterfront getaway is the ideal place to cozy up on during those April weekends when the air is still crisp from winter and the traveler in you is warming up for spring!

Cherish the Seaside in San Luis Obispo
San Luis Obispo’s Boutique Hotel Collection is comprised of four award-winning properties, each honoring nature in their own way:

Travelers looking for a serene getaway will enjoy a stay at SeaVenture Beach Hotel, the only full service beachfront resort in Pismo Beach complete with its very own restaurant providing panoramic ocean views.

THECLIFFS-KWGWine lovers are also fond of The Cliffs Resort, which gazes down on the Pacific Ocean from atop seaside cliffs and takes a prime location in the heart of wine country amidst over 200 world-class wineries.

Wellness enthusiasts looking for spring rejuvenation seek solace at Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort & Spa, where opportunities for spa going, yoga practicing, meditating, and garden strolling are found.

Charming Apple Farm’s Wine Country Inn offers a home away from home for travelers looking for a getaway that is cozy and quiet, yet close to the historic mission, farmers markets, and festivities that the beachside town is abundant with year round.

Go Organic at Applewood Inn & Restaurant
Applewood Inn & Restaurant is a renowned bed and breakfast nestled in the heart of Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley among redwood trees. Just as its name implies, the inn reveres nature – onsite organic gardens supply produce (think homegrown spring fruits, veggies, and herbs!) for its restaurant, while the entire property thrives on solar energy. This nature-powered inn is perfect for the earth-friendly traveler looking for a spring escape.

LEDSON-KWGAdmire Architecture at Ledson Winery
Distinctly unique gothic architecture sets Ledson Winery, “The Castle,” apart. Surrounded by acres of vineyards and oak trees, the 16,000 square-foot French Normandy winery is aesthetically pleasing both inside and out, and offers over 70 wines to choose from. You won’t find anything like Ledson Winery, a must-see on your next trip to the Sonoma Valley!

Unwind in Willamette Valley’s Le Puy A Wine Valley Inn
While petite, the eight-room Le Puy A Wine Valley Inn is full of personality and style. Each spacious, luxurious room has its own individual nature theme reminiscent of the inn’s Oregon location, complete with breathtaking Chehalem Ridge views. The quaint inn, which lies in the center of Willamette Valley Wine Country, supplies its guests with both proximity and privacy for sipping and slowing down.

PROSSER-KWGTour Prosser, the Heart of Washington Wine Country
When exploring Washington wine country, Prosser is one of the first places to start; replete with outstanding vineyards, the ever-fertile Yakima Valley – a wine connoisseur’s heaven- was the first AVA established in the Pacific Northwest. And during April, spring barrel tasting occurs! Aside from world-class wines, Prosser also supplies its visitors with endless mountain views, miles of farmland producing local fruits and vegetables, and activities such as kayaking, bass fishing, and canoeing in the Yakima River.

Educate Yourself at the Walter Clore Center
At the Walter Clore Wine and Culinary Center in Prosser, Washington, wine is both palate-pleasing and education-promoting! Named after Dr. Walter J. Clore – the Father of Washington Wine – the center is a place to learn about, taste, and purchase some of the finest wines of the state. Of course, learning doesn’t have to be boring – during each month of 2015 the center is holding a blind tasting for wine lovers! If you’ve vowed to gain a deep appreciation for wine beyond the surface, you’ll want to add the Walter Clore Center to your list!

The following article was provided by our contributing partner – Touring and Tasting Magazine.

Cheers – Ken

The weather is warming up, flowers are blooming, Easter candy is filling the shelves in every store, and suddenly we have to move our clocks forward and lose a precious hour of sleep. It can only mean one thing…spring is coming! As much as you may want to crawl back into hibernation and beg for another 6 weeks of winter, it’s time to face the sunshine and break out of your daily routine! Treat yourself this spring with the much-needed vacation you’ve been dreaming about all winter. What could be better than breathing in the crisp spring air as you soak up the stunning vineyard landscapes & sip on a cool fruity glass of vino? We can’t think of anything more pleasurable. So spring out of your winter rut, and into wine country!

Allison Inn & Spa
Amidst seven acres of Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir vineyards in the beautiful Willamette Valley is Allison Inn & Spa, a sophisticated and spacious resort that provides the perfect place to relax in wine country. Rustic yet luxurious, the Allison offers guests a number of modern amenities, including a private terrace or balcony, a warm and inviting fireplace, a spa-like bathroom, and stunning hillside views. You won’t want to leave your cozy room, but be sure to take advantage of their amazing spa and signature restaurant!

Trione_KWGTrione Vineyards
Looking for a reason to go on vacation this spring? Trione Vineyards will give you plenty of reasons to celebrate! This year they are celebrating their 10th anniversary as winemakers, 40th anniversary as farmers and managers of Sonoma vineyards, and 80th (!!!!) anniversary of their tasting room in the Old Stone Winery building! Visit the stunning and historic vineyards of Trione in Sonoma and raise a glass to another year of delicious wine…it’s time to celebrate!

Vigilance Vineyards
Vigilance Vineyards is located at the Southern end of Clear Lake, and is home to the Shannon Family of Wines tasting room. The Shannon family is dedicated to their land, and of their 1,850 acres. Only 35% of their land has been converted to vineyards, the remainder is dedicated to preserving the natural wildlife that shares their home with them. They feel blessed with their beautiful land and wines, and are eager to share it with guests, inviting them to relax on their deck or hike throughout their vineyards. You will feel like a member of the Shannon family on your next visit to Lake County wine country, so plan your visit to Vigilance this spring!

Silverado_KWGSilverado Vineyards
Silverado Vineyards is unlike any other Napa Valley winery, resting at the top of a flat-topped knoll in the Stags’ Leap District. The Mediterranean-style tasting room is a beautiful place to relax and taste their award-winning wines, including the new vintage of SOLO Cabernet Sauvignon released each year to honor the legendary Heritage-Clone Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards. Join in on one of their quintessential tasting experiences such as an in-depth Library Tour to learn the Silverado story, a stroll through the vineyards with a wine educator on the Vineyard tour, or a personally guided Silverado Experience tour. Whatever you decide it will be a memorable visit to the Napa Valley!

Wine & Roses
Now that you are dreaming up a spring getaway to Lodi, it’s time to pick the perfect place to stay! Wine & Roses is the ideal romantic destination that will be the cherry on top to your wine country experience. They have a knack for pampering their guests, offering luxurious amenities while still making them feel right at home. Relax and soak up the stunning garden views from the comfort of your room, or venture out into downtown Lodi. Either way, Wine & Roses is the perfect spot to lay your head during your next adventure into Lodi wine country!

Miraflores Winery
Nothing says vacation like an exotic getaway to the Mediterranean, but if a quick rendezvous to Greece isn’t exactly in the cards this spring, Miraflores Winery in Pleasant Valley is the next best thing! The Mediterranean style tasting room—and a few glasses of their award-winning wine—will transport you right to the Mediterranean islands. Their tasting room is filled with a number of unique artifacts dating back to the 16th century, including their fireplace from the Island of Cyprus! Visit today for some much needed R&R this spring…Mediterranean style!

V. Sattui_KWGV. Sattui Winery & Italian Market
Don’t stop daydreaming about an Italian getaway just yet…V. Sattui has the intense feel of a small Italian village! Along with their stunning winery building and tasting room, they also have an amazing Italian marketplace where you can find more than 200 artisanal cheeses, house-cured meats, local baked breads, and more! So grab some lunch, a bottle of their exceptional vino, and begin your search for the perfect lunch spot amongst their two acres of picnic grounds. What says springtime like an Italian style picnic in the vineyards?!

Perry Creek Winery
Unique climate, soil, and topography are the recipe for success that makes El Dorado County an ideal winemaking location. With an average elevation of 2,401 ft. within the stunning Sierra Foothills lies Perry Creek Winery, known for their distinctive wines with rich concentrated flavors. With award-winning wines and picturesque views, Perry Creek has just what you need to break out of that winter slump and kick start springtime!

Lucas & Lewellen Vineyards
If Italy is more your style, get into the Italian spirit at Lucas & Lewellen Vineyards! Visit their beautiful Tuscan style Toccata tasting room in downtown Solvang for the ultimate spring getaway. Close your eyes as you indulge in their Italian style varietals and you will instantly transport yourself under the warm Tuscan sun! Buon viaggio!

OakFarm_KWGOak Farm Vineyards
Just south of the Mokelumne River in northwest Lodi resides the historic 70-acre estate that is home to Oak Farm Vineyards. Guests are welcomed to relax and enjoy a picnic on the 10 acres dedicated solely for their enjoyment. Here you will find yourself in awe of the beauty of the century old oaks, a private lake, and spectacular views. Visit their casual yet sophisticated tasting room and taste their small-lot and single-vineyard varietals that express their truly unique terrior while cozying up to the fireplace or relaxing on their outdoor terrace. Springtime in Lodi is waiting for you at Oak Farm Vineyards!

The following article was provided by our contributing partner – Touring and Tasting Magazine.

Cheers – Ken

Toskana 2006Tuscany could be called a triple threat – breathtaking scenery, delicious cuisine, and amazing wines. It’s not hard to see why it’s considered one of the most iconic vacation destinations in the world, especially for wine lovers. But it can be a difficult place to plan a wine vacation.

Most travelers to Tuscany follow the same general itinerary of taking photos in front of the leaning tower of Pisa, walking around the beautiful piazzas of Florence, trying as many flavors of tasty gelato as they can stomach, and drinking luscious Italian wine at a cafe tucked away on a small back street.

But for a true wine fan, why stop at sampling wines and cuisine in the major tourist areas?

To plan a wine vacation, you need to go beyond where the wine is served and get to where the wine is produced. But this isn’t so easy in Italy.

Taste Vacations Italy GrapesTouring on Your Own
We all know Italians have a reputation for being crazy drivers. And driving on the highways or in big cities can be harrowing. However, often the best way to get into wine country is to bite the bullet, rent a car, and brave driving with the locals. (One good car rental option is Auto Europe.) If you do, you’ll get to experience Tuscany’s spectacular rolling hills, its stunning strade bianche (white-colored dirt roads) stretching as far as the eye can see, and its large tracts of agricultural land spotted with majestic cypress trees.

You’ll also be able to taste Tuscany’s famous Chiantis and Brunello di Montalcinos, as well as its lesser known wines, at the wineries themselves – venues most travelers don’t get to see.

But even once you have a car, visiting Tuscany is not like visiting Napa Valley where you can drive up to almost any winery, walk into a tasting room, and start sampling wines. Many Tuscan wineries are not open to the public or have limited hours of operation. And often wineries are spread out and not in one convenient valley.

Hiring a Local Guide
To get around this, you might consider hiring a wine guide for the day to maximize your time and experience. Tour guides in Italy are licensed by the national government, which generally means they are extremely knowledgeable and professional.

In searching for a local guide, one good option is to ask for a referral from your planned lodging provider or simply to search online for “wine tours” in the region where you plan to travel. You can also check the Complete List of Wine Tour Operators, which you can sort by country.

Taste Vacations Tuscany HillsJoining an Organized Wine Tour
Alternatively, if you really want to participate in a wine vacation, consider an organized wine tour. Group tours have the reputation of being restricting in terms of itinerary, dining choices, and activities. However, tour operators are experienced professionals who know the local area and can generally plan an itinerary that visits the best of the best. In Italy, especially, this planning saves you the hassle of trying to do this on your own.

A good organized tour should also get you into places and in contact with people you would never be able to visit or meet on your own. Anyone can drop into a winery with a tasting room open to the public. Not anyone can visit a winery closed to the public, only open on Tuesdays from 3-6 PM, or requiring an advance reservation with an Italian-speaking office worker.

One of the most under-appreciated aspects of group tours is the incredible camaraderie that develops among the group: travelers and guides included. Guides are often local experts who will translate, explain, enlighten, and charm their way into your heart and help create what will not just be a wonderful trip but a lifelong memory. And your fellow tour companions are usually fun, outgoing, interesting people. Who else signs up for a wine tour?

However you choose to plan a wine vacation in Tuscany, you won’t be disappointed. It is a trifecta of amazing food, wine, and scenery.

Beth Peluse works for Taste Vacations, a luxury travel company that specializes in wine, food, beer, and spirits tours around the globe. Taste Vacations’ Tuscany food and wine tour includes wine tastings, visits to local food producers and sellers, overnights on winery grounds and even truffle hunting in the forests.

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Just because Valentine’s Day is over, doesn’t mean the romance has to stop! Keep the sparks flying by showing some love for your one true soul mate who will never let you down …wine! Touring & Tasting has picked out some romantic getaways in wine country that are sure to impress that special someone! Red or white it doesn’t matter, pour a glass and cheers to true love!

Show some love for Zinfandel at Rosenblum Cellars
Rosenblum Cellars is all about the Zinfandel, in fact they love it so much they produce 20 different types of it! Their love for producing high quality Zin is clearly mutual, many of their wines are some of the highest rated and most awarded Zins in California. Rosenblum has two urban tasting rooms that provide the perfect relaxing atmosphere to enjoy their wines. Visit them on your next trip to Jack London Square in Oakland or their tasting room in Healdsburg!

LivermoreValleyKWGRemember your roots in Livermore Valley
Calling all history buffs, the Livermore Valley wine region has a rich history just waiting to be discovered over a glass of their high quality wine. In 1840, Robert Livermore planted the first commercial winery, and for centuries the Livermore Valley has been making significant contributions to the American Wine Industry. Visit the San Francisco Tri-Valley and take some time to appreciate the roots of the Livermore Valley wine region, and yours too!

Put family first at Van Ruiten Family Winery
Family is everything at Van Ruiten Family Winery, and it all started with a true American Dream success story. John Van Ruiten arrived in the United States after World War II, and made his winemaking dream a reality in the early 1950’s when he purchased his first vineyard. Today, the Van Ruitens farm over 800 acres of grapes, and three generations of the family work together to bring us the high quality wines we know and love today! Show appreciation for their family’s hard work by enjoying a glass of wine while you take some time to remember your own family!

BennettLaneKWGSurprise a loved one with a Balloon Package at Bennett Lane Winery
What says romance more than a hot air balloon ride over the Napa Valley wine country? Bennett Lane has the first winery-branded balloon in Napa Valley! With their partnership with Calistoga Balloons, you can choose from a wide array of packages, from private tour with a reserve tasting flight and limousine service, to a standard tasting and picnic lunch at the winery! Whatever you decide, a balloon tour with Bennett Lane is sure to bring the love to your life this month!

Learn the love story behind Sullivan Wine
It all started with a wedding present given to Jim & Johanna Sullivan in the 1950s. Jim began making wine at home and quickly his skills in winemaking, along with his passion for the craft, began to grow. The Sullivans landed in Rutherford, along a beautiful river in the Napa Valley. Today, their love story remains and they are one of the long-standing family owned and operated wineries in Napa. Visit their beautiful property to taste their exceptional wines, and start a chapter in your own love story!

GrgichHillEstateKWGSpoil yourself and drink like the Queen at Grgich Hills Estate
You deserve to be treated like royalty every now and then, so why not pop the same cork that Presidents Reagan and Clinton, Queen Elizabeth II and French President François Mitterrand choose for their special occasions? Grgich Hills wines are world renowned, and represent the upmost prestige and good taste from the Napa Valley. Any one of their 6 Estate Wines will transport you straight to Paris, and is sure to bring the romance to your evening!

Make The Westin Verasa your home base in Napa
Are you looking for the perfect home base during your next Napa getaway? The Westin Verasa offers a luxurious oasis in an ideal location to make your wine tasting vacation perfect. The contemporary lobby, modern amenities, and cozy atmosphere will make you feel right at home, and the location is the perfect launching pad to all Napa has to offer. This world-class hotel is in the heart of Downtown Napa, offering walking distance to more than 15 wine tasting rooms, as well as a number of well-known restaurants and shopping options!

RiverbenchKWGToast with some bubbles from Riverbench Vineyard & Winery
Riverbench is at the front the pack when it comes to Santa Barbara Sparkling Wine, and their Jumper Blanc de Blancs was introduced as the first Certified Sustainable Sparkling Wine in Santa Barbara in 2008. Today they have a variety of delicious Sparkling offerings, which can be tasted as a yummy sparkling flight at their tasting room in the Funk Zone of downtown Santa Barbara. Where there’s romance, there’s bubbles, and in Santa Barbara the bubbles are at Riverbench!

Go to great heights for love Mount Aukum Winery
Love is waiting for you 2,615 feet up in El Dorado County at Mount Aukum Winery! The climb up the mountain is more than worth it, not only for the clear air and magnificent views of the Sierra Nevadas and El Dorado County, but also for their wines! Winemaker Michel Prod’hon says their terrior is responsible for their delicious Zinfandels and Rhone varietals, or simply put “Elevation Matters.” Go to great heights for love on your next visit to the Sierra Foothills, a glass of Mount Aukum wine is worth the distance!

BodegaBayLodgeKWGCozy up on the coast at Bodega Bay Lodge
A waterfront bluff, ocean view, private balcony, cozy room, and a wood-burning fireplace…the perfect recipe for a romantic getaway to the Sonoma Coast, and it’s all waiting for you at Bodega Bay Lodge! They offer exceptional and personalized service that will make you feel right at home, while still being completely removed from your busy life with the relaxing atmosphere. Relax on the property, or go out and explore all that Bodega Bay, Tomales Bay and Point Reyes have to offer. Either way, it is sure to be the romantic weekend you’ve been longing for!

The following article was provided by our contributing partner – Touring and Tasting Magazine.

Cheers – Ken

Are you tired of the same ‘ole New Years Resolutions year after year? At the start of the New Year gym parking lots fill up, fridges are full of fruits and veggies, and Pinterest boards light up with “get fit” inspiration. However, come February the gym rats get their front row spots back, your Pinterest board goes back to DIY crafting ideas you’ll never get to, and you find yourself binge eating potato chips while watching the last 10 seasons of Friends (Thanks Netflix). This year, make a resolution you’ll WANT to keep… with wine! Vow to drink more quality wine this year, and practice some self-improvement in the process!

RideauVineyardKWGTransport yourself to New Orleans at Rideau Vineyard
Iris Rideau grew up in New Orleans and spent her childhood in a Creole household that has had an important impact on the wines she produces today. Her first language was French, and today she has dedicated her vineyard entirely to Rhone varieties. She hosts winemaker dinners in which she invites guests to taste her hometown with classic Creole dishes that pair beautifully with her exceptional wines. Rideau Vineyard is a beautiful country setting within the stunning Santa Ynez Valley!

Dress to Impress at Cinque Stelle
Winemaking is a family affair at Cinque Stelle, in fact the name, which means “Five Stars” in Italian, represents the five family members and their shared passion for producing high quality wines. They are known for their small-lot wines, with a focus on the Albarino, Tempranillo, Pinot Grigio, and Syrah grapes. These wines can be tasted while shopping around in their women’s clothing boutique for a truly European experience!

NapaValleyToursKWGTravel in style with Napa Valley Tours
Planning a wine country getaway can be stressful and seem overwhelming; where to start, where to stay, where to eat? Let Napa Valley Tours & Transportation do the planning for you! They offer more than just an impressive fleet of vehicles; instead they provide their guests with a customized wine tasting experience. They realize that each guest has a different set of needs and interests, so they make an effort to talk with you beforehand to truly get a feel for what you’re looking for. Then they use their impressive connections with the finest hotels, restaurants and wineries in the Napa Valley to plan the perfect wine country getaway for you!

Choose quality over quantity at Venteux Vineyard
Venteux Vineyard is the ultimate success story of two families coming together to produce rich, flavorful wines on an intimate scale. Although the number of wines produced may be small, the limited production allows for the quality that Venteux wines are known for. Stop by for the day to taste their delicious single-lot wines, or spend a weekend amongst the vines and take advantage of one of their unique lodging options. Whatever you decide, be sure to visit Venteux on your next visit to Paso Robles!

JamiesonRanchKWGGive yourself more “me time” at Jamieson Ranch
At the Southern gateway to the Napa Valley resides Jamieson Ranch Vineyards, a 300-acre landscape of jaw-dropping vista views and gently rolling hills. Guests are in awe of the winery’s beauty and friendly ambiance. It resembles a mountain lodge with its high ceilings, large fireplace, and cozy atmosphere. Their impressive portfolio of award winning wines will be the perfect compliment to the relaxing environment, and is the perfect place to cozy up this winter!

Appreciate Napa’s history in Calistoga, CA
Calistoga is a charming little town located in the Northern Napa Valley. It is known for its famous hot springs, world-class wines and small town charm, but it is also rich in a history so untouched that it was named a “Distinctive Destination” by the National Trust of Historic Preservation. A visit to Calistoga is full of stunning Victorian architecture, delicious wines, and a sense of place that is unique to the quaint town. It is a must see during your next visit to the Napa Valley!

Dream big at Bello Family Vineyards
Michael Bello had two dreams, to own an award-winning racehorse and to make award-winning wine. To say that he achieved his goals would be an understatement. His horse won 13 stake races, which helped fund the highest quality grapes and practices that produce the Bello Family Wines we know and love today. These distinctive wines can be tasted in their tasting room in St. Helena, or guests can plan in advance to visit the Bello Family Estate for a one-of-a-kind Napa Valley experience.

CacheCreekKWGSpend more time outdoors at Cache Creek Vineyards
Cache Creek Vineyards takes great care in preserving the land and creatures that inhabit it. They have planted varies grasses and built ponds to develop a strong kinship with the herd of Tule elk that populated the land when they planted their first grapes. Today, the elk can still be spotted roaming the property, and their dedication to nature has remained stronger than ever. Guests are welcomed to taste at the bar, outside on the patio, or by spending a full day exploring the property. Regardless it is sure to be a unique wine country experience amidst the great outdoors.

Taste the distinctness of the Livermore Valley at Nottingham Cellars
Nottingham Cellars received its claim to fame from its limited production, single vineyard Cabernet and Bordeaux blends, but it has quickly grown to encompass the complexity of the Livermore Valley wine country. They demonstrate this diversity through three distinct brand names: Nottingham Cellars by the NC Collection, Vasco Urbano Wine Company, and 1846 by Nottingham Cellars Wines. This passionate family-owned and -operated winery has shown exceptional dedication to producing high quality wines and will surely play a large role in the future of Livermore Valley.

SerranoHotelKWGAdopt the urban lifestyle for a weekend at The Serrano Hotel
Located in the heart of the Theater District and just blocks from Union Square, The Serrano Hotel is the perfect vantage point for exploring all that San Francisco has to offer. The hotel includes 236 guest rooms and suites with the luxurious modern amenities that you would expect of a San Francisco hotel.  It is the ideal space for business guests, and provides an ideal meeting place for conferences and meetings. The Serrano also features the popular Jasper’s Corner Tap & Kitchen, an American style pub with a lengthy list of beers and a creative menu to go along with it! Relax on the property or go explore the city—either way, the Serrano Hotel is the perfect place to stay on your next visit to the Bay Area!

Schramsberg-2010-Blanc-de-Noirs As we approach New Year’s Eve on Wednesday evening, we always post our favorite sparklers and Champagnes just before the big night so readers can pick up some bubbles just in time for their celebrations. We certainly hope you can try a few of these and ring in the New Year on a positive note!

This year’s winner comes from a favorite winery of the Tasting Panel. The 2010 Schramsberg “Blanc de Noir” for $40 received 92 points from the Panel. It is made from 85% Pinot Noir and 15% Chardonnay. With 9,875 cases you should easily be able to find it. It opens with a musty faint peach bouquet with hints of yeast and lychee. The panel found it to be medium bodied, slightly acidic and mouthwatering. They really loved its mineral infused green apple flavors with notes of ginger ale. They also detected hints of strawberry and cherry as well. The finish is dry and its acidity and flavors linger and stick around for a very long time. The panel suggested pairing this terrific bubbly with shrimp scampi.

Next up we have seven 91 pointers to share with you. Staying with the same producer, the 2011 Schramsberg “Blanc de Blanc” for $38 is only slightly behind our top finisher. This offering is 100% Chardonnay and even easier to find as 24,898 cases of this wine were made. This popular beauty opens with very tiny bubbles and a yeasty bread dough like bouquet with hints of toast and apple. On the palate, this wine is light bodied, slightly acidic and crisp. We described its flavor profile as a mineral infused apple and pear blend with hints of stone fruit, toast and salty caramel. The finish was dry and its flavors faded away nicely. The panel suggested pairing the very nice sparkler with baked scrod with Ritz crackers or oysters.

Perrier-Jouet-NV-Grand-Brut-Champagne-BlogThe non-vintage Perrier Jouet “Grand Brut” for $45 is consistently one of my personal favorites. It displays a stream of fine bubbles and a gentle strawberry and pear bouquet. On the palate, this wine is medium bodied, balanced and very easy to drink. I love its mild mineral infused green apple flavors with hints of light lemon and bread dough. It finishes dry and its tasty flavors drift away nicely. This Champagne would be a perfect New Year’s Eve offering and I plan to serve it!

Gosset-NV-Excellence-Brut-Champagne-Dec-14Our next two 91 point Champagne’s are non-vintage offerings from Gosset. We will start with the “Excellence Brut” for $47. This sparkler is consistently very good. Nicolay found it to offer up golden delicious apple aromas that jump out of the glass along with notes of brioche and hints of caramelized peaches and honey. It is a medium bodied Champagne that displays passion fruit, papaya, and mangoes. There is a lot of acidity that keeps the “Excellence” in check and balanced. The finish is all golden delicious apples, and it lingers for quite some time. It can be enjoyed young or drunk in 5+ years. Nicolay recommended pairing it with lobster dipped in butter. The second Gosset is the Grande Reserve Brut” for $68. It opens with a nose of tropical fruits, lemon zest, toast, hints of butter and caramel. It drinks like a well-aged sparkling Chablis. It delivers lemon zest flavors along with lilac honey, brioche, starfruit and pineapples. It finishes long and persistent. Drink now.

Our last two 91 pointers are from Besserat de Bellefon. We will start with the non-vintage “Cuvee des Moines Brut Rose” for $65. The nose reminded Nicolay of a strawberry cobbler. In the mouth, it is tart strawberries and lemon mousse, intermingled with chalk and limestone. The acidity knocks you off your feet, but it leaves your palate refreshed and craving more. The finish doesn’t just linger, it endures. Persisting for quite some time. This is one of Besserat best efforts yet. Nicolay says you can enjoy on its own or with steak tartare. Our last 91 pointer is the 2002 Besserat de Bellefon “Cuvee des Moines Brut Millesime” Champagne for $70. This blend of 54% Chardonnay, 31% Pinot Meunier and 15% Pinot Noir was enjoyed by all that tried it. It is a traditional-styled Champagne that opens with a toasted nuts and candied fruit like bouquet with hints of brett. On the palate, the panel found it to be medium bodied and displaying ample acidity. They described its flavors as toasty caramelized pear with hints of tangerine. It finishes dry and its flavors linger for quite a while. The panel suggested serving this classic Champagne with Thai food.

Mumm-Napa-NV-Brut-Prestige-Oct-14We will kick off our 90 pointers with a sparkler that is really finding its stride this season. It really impressed the panel and was also the favorite pouring at a very large corporate Christmas party that I recently attended. Everyone was drinking this crowd pleaser over the still wine offerings. So what is this wine? It is the non-vintage Mumm Napa “Brut Prestige.” For $22 and with 173,000 cases made, this should be a serious consideration for your holiday parties. It is faint yellow colored with very small bubbles. It opens with a woodsy faint gala apple bouquet with a hint of peach. The panel really enjoyed its lemon verbena flavors with hints of minerality, stone fruit and grapefruit. They felt this sparkler would be a perfect wedding option, as a second glass is a must! They would pair it with quiche Lorraine tart appetizers.

Another good value offering that was awarded 90 points was the non-vintage J Vineyard “Cuvee 20″ for $28. This blend of 54% Chardonnay, 44% Pinot Noir, and 2% Pinot Meunier is very good and will certainly be a crowd pleaser at your holiday parties. It didn’t last long at one of ours. It opens with a bread dough bouquet with hints of lemon meringue. We found it to be light bodied, acidic, crisp and pleasant. It displays tasty mineral infused pear flavors with hints of lemon and apple. The finish is dry and its flavors linger for quite some time. We found this sparkler to be very versatile and it would pair well with many foods. That said spring rolls would be our top pairing.

Schramsberg returns to the recommended list with its non-vintage “Mirabelle Brut Rose” for $28. This blend of 53% Chardonnay and 47% Pinot Noir was one of Nicolay’s top good value selections for the year. It opens with aromas of candied blood oranges, with hints of red currant, raspberries, and pomegranate. He noted that the palate closely resembled the nose with the blood orange, pomegranate, and raspberry notes coming through with strength alongside ruby red grapefruit, and a caramelized brown sugar finish. The acidity was well balanced leaving your palate refreshed and wanting more. He suggested pairing it with a honey-ginger salmon.

J-Vineyards-NV-Brut-Rose-Oct-14Our next two 90 pointers are a pair from J Vineyards. The first is the non-vintage “Brut Rose” for $38. This blend of 66% Pinot Noir, 33% Chardonnay and 1% Pinot Meunier was very popular with the panel and will be a crowd pleaser at your upcoming holiday parties. It opens with a yeasty and faint strawberry like bouquet hints of rose and almond. It is light bodied, slightly acidic and savory with strawberry and bread dough flavors. The panel also detected notes of nicely integrated minerality and hints of tangerine and grapefruit. It finishes dry and its flavors and acidity linger for a very long time. The panel suggested pairing this very nice sparkler with fresh Norwegian sliced salmon. Our next J Vineyards sparkler is the non-vintage “Cuvee XB” for $40. This “Extra Brut” sparkler displays lots of very fine small bubbles. It opens with a faint pear bouquet with a hint of lemon and toasted bread. We found it to be medium bodied, semi-sweet and savory. The flavor profile is a mineral infused lemon and apple blend with notes of stone fruit. It finishes dry and its flavors fade away nicely.

Piper-Heidsieck-Champagne-Brut-BlogOur next 90 pointer is the non-vintage Piper Heidsieck “Brut” Champagne for $40. This Champagne is light bodied, slightly acidic and mouthwatering. The flavor profile is a tasty mineral infused lime with hints of white pepper, grapefruit, and green apple. The finish is dry and its flavors and acidity linger for quite some time. The panel suggested pairing this very good Champagne with bacon wrapped scallops or honey baked brie.

Nicolas Feuillatte Non-Vintage “Brut Reserve” Champagne (France) $40 (90)
The nose is a bouquet of flowers that sits atop a fruit basket; bananas, apples, pears, oranges, lilacs, and toast. On the palate, the bubbles take over at first and then quickly give way to peaches, nectarines, and hints of jackfruit. The toast and yeast notes of this wine linger for quite some time.

Gloria Ferrer 2008 “Brut Rose” (Carneros, CA) $42 (90)
The effects of aging a wine can be clearly seen in this splendid Rose. It has notes of fresh rose petals, dried blood orange rinds, and papaya on the nose. It displays raspberries, strawberries, red currant, and cherries. This has been one of the better rose offerings from Gloria Ferrer. Well done! Pairs well with a fruit salad or salmon.

Besserat de Bellefon Non-Vintage “Cuvee des Moines Blanc de Blanc” Champagne (France) $55 (90)
This traditional-styled Champagne with small bubbles was well received by the panel. It is light bodied and slightly acidic. The panel enjoyed its tart green apple flavors with notes of bread dough, lime, minerals and hints of clementine. The panel suggested serving it with sushi.

Mumm Napa 2006 “DVX” (Napa, CA) $60 (90)
This sparkler is medium bodied, displays crisp acidity and is mouthwatering. The flavor profile is Squirt soda with nicely integrated minerality and notes of ginger. It finishes dry and its flavors go on for quite a while. We would pair it with Emeril’s crab cakes or a seafood casserole.

Our 89 pointers are where you will find some additional very good offerings.

We start with a unique sparkler from Germany. The non-vintage Fitz “Sekt Extra Trocken” Riesling for $17 is quite unique. Nicolay said if he had not known this was a Riesling he would be dumbfounded. It drinks like a trocken spatlese, with bubbles, which is what most Champagne producers wished they could achieve regularly. The palate is as inviting with flavors of peaches, sun dried apricots, almonds and prominent minerality. Pair with honey-glazed ham.

Gloria-Ferrer-NV-Blanc-de-BlancsOur next two 89 pointers come from Gloria Ferrer. Their non-vintage “Blanc de Blancs” for $22 is a high quality offering at a very good price. It displays flavors of bread dough, nectarines, hints of lemon custard, and clementines. Its medium bubbles break up what could be a heavy wine, making it extremely refreshing and enjoyable. Pair with bay oysters or shrimp scampi. The second Gloria Ferrer offering is the non-vintage “Blanc de Noirs” for $22. This sparkler is predominantly made from Pinot Noir. On the nose, this reminded Nicolay of a breakfast he once had; toast with strawberry jam, with a side of sliced figs. It drinks a bit lighter than that with hints of raspberries, strawberries, rose petals and pink grapefruit. The finish on the Blanc de Noirs is a bit richer than that of the Blanc de Blancs, but it is every bit as enjoyable.

Schramsberg Non-Vintage “Mirabelle Brut” (California) $26 (89)
The Mirabelle’s bouquet is reminiscent of Schramsberg’s higher end wines. Labeled as Brut, this drinks just under Extra Dry. It showcases lots of body typical of a sparkler from California. It exhibits ginger, ripe nectarines, strawberries and rhubarb flavors. Pair with a fruit tart.

Weltevrede 2009 “Philip Jonker The Ring Blanc de Blancs Brut” (S. Africa) $28 (89)
This sparkler’s bubbles are immense and take some time to give way, but once they do “The Ring” drinks beautifully. Medium to full bodied with flavors of toast, minerality, caramelized apples, ripe peaches, papaya and apricots. Finish is shorter than desired, but still enjoyable.

Our first two 88 pointers are very good deals and should be seriously considered if on a budget. The non-vintage Villa Rosa “Moscato d’Asti” for $11 is made from 100% Moscato. It opens with a very fragrant and inviting tangerine and pear bouquet. It is light bodied, slightly effervescent, fruit forward and pleasantly sweet. It displays tasty pear flavors with notes of ripe orange throughout. I also detected Mas-Fi-NV-Brut-Cavahints of apricot. Serve slightly chilled as an opener at your holiday parties with mini-spring rolls. The Mas Fi non-vintage “Brut Cava” for $11 opens with a bouquet of flowers; from lilac to roses, and everything in between. It displays pronounced Granny Smith apple flavors with hints white peaches and cashew. The bubbles are larger and rounder than the Brut Nature. That should be expected as this is supposed to be a crowd pleaser.

La Marca Non-Vintage “Prosecco” (Veneto, Italy) $17 (88)
This sparkler displays a few streaming bubbles and opens with lemon and strawberry bouquet. It is a medium bodied and slightly acidic. Its flavor profile is a mineral infused pilsner beer with notes of almond and pear. I would pair this Prosecco with bacon wrapped scallops.

Yorkville Cellars 2013 “Malbec Rennie Vineyard Brut Rose” (California) $36 (88)
Cherries, raspberries, strawberries, and pomegranate makeup the nose of the unique offering. The palate is more floral than it is fruity and is lighter than what I had expected. A very unique experience. Try this organic sparkler for something different.

Santa Julia Non-Vintage “Brut Rose” (Mendoza, Argentina) $13 (87)
The nose is a very fragrant strawberry infused mist. There are hints of cherry and strawberries, but the main flavor here is cranberry. The flavor and tartness is reminiscent of cranberry juice. The Santa Julia Brut Rose is well made and easy drinking. Meant to be drunk young.

Barefoot Non-Vintage “Bubbly Prosecco” (Italy) $12 (86)
The Barefoot Prosecco is the most impressive of all the wines from the Barefoot Bubbly lineup. The palate is very inviting displaying notes of ripe starfruit, Meyer lemons, and white grapefruit. The mid-palate is refreshing with plenty of acidity. The finish lingers for a little bit.

We hope you enjoy these Sparklers and Champagnes as much as we did.  Be sure to share your favorites with the group. Post a comment and tell us about your favorite! Happy New Year! Cheers – Ken

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