Something new is always happening in the Napa Valley. With wonderful wines, top-notch cuisine, and picturesque scenery, fulfill your greatest wine dreams in this vibrant wonderland. We have found the top-rated destinations in this popular, must-visit valley. Relax with ease knowing these picks will go above and beyond to satisfy your palate and give you the best experience. Here are eight destinations to help you ring in the spring months:
Huge Bear Wines
You can’t bear to visit the Napa Valley without stopping at Huge Bear Wines! Housed in the Calistoga National Bank building in downtown Calistoga, the Huge Bear tasting room offers the most exceptional handcrafted wines with grapes sourced from some of California’s finest vineyards. The winery’s long-standing reputation is upheld by the passionate people that make every customers’ experience positive and enjoyable.
Thomas Jefferson said, “Good wine is a necessity of life for me,” and Jay Corley, founder of Monticello Vineyards, wholeheartedly agrees. Producing 15,000 cases of premium wine each year, wine enthusiasts concur that Jefferson’s statement rings true from the estate-grown Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay produced at Monticello since 1980. If exceptional wine isn’t a compelling enough reason to visit Monticello Vineyards, the winery’s 360-degree view of the Napa Valley makes for an overall exceptional experience.
Napa Valley Tours & Transportation
Ride along with Napa Valley Tours & Transportation for a customized itinerary and wine tasting experience tailored distinctly for each client’s interests and needs. Enjoy a relaxed, yet sophisticated experience as you’re driven in a stylish car by a Napa Valley Ambassador who shares a vast amount of information about this legendary wine country and the best wineries to visit. You’ll make the best use of your time with Napa Valley Tours & Transportation as your guide.
Robert Mondavi Winery
As the quintessential destination of the Napa Valley, Robert Mondavi Winery embraces the wine, food, and art lifestyle with 50 years of winemaking. The art of fine winemaking is celebrated daily at the winery. In addition, the grounds hold an exquisite cultural center, with visual arts exhibits, concerts, book signings, and culinary pairings. Robert Mondavi continues to set the bar for excellence with wines that win international acclaim.
Beaulieu Vineyard (BV)
“Beau lieu,” or a beautiful place retains its name and legacy with a respect for classic values and the art of craftsmanship. BV is one of the only wineries in the Napa Valley that does not require an appointment to taste a selection of vintage wines. The impressive library showcases Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet, first made in 1936. Each year, BV releases yet another splendid elegant and complex vintage of this storied wine.
Grgich Hills Estate
Recognized as a leader in natural winegrowing and sustainability, Grgich Hills Estate continues to receive international awards and acclaim around the world. Celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, the winey will release an exclusive 40th Anniversary Chardonnay that illustrates the advancements the winery has made in vineyard and winemaking techniques over the past four decades. Be sure to put Grgich Hills Estate on your “must-visit” list.
V. Sattui Winery, Artisan Foods & Italian Marketplace
All you need to celebrate the spring weather is a picnic with wine and friends and V. Sattui Winery, Artisan Foods & Italian Marketplace has it all. It’s easy to pass an afternoon on these iconic grounds. The Marketplace features 200 artisanal cheeses and a portfolio of over 60 wines! Sip, learn, and savor with mind-blowing wine and culinary pairings created daily in the kitchen.
Cheers – Ken
Spring into the great weather and use those extra hours of sunlight to plan a trip to the serene Livermore Valley! We are helping you make the most of the warmer days by finding you the best local venues and events the Livermore Valley has to offer during the month of March.
Spend the weekend by yourself or with some friends enjoying Livermore’s award winning wineries and beautiful Northern California terrain to defrost from the winter with a glass of wine and an exceptional mini vacation! These seven gems offer the best quality that the Livermore Valley has to offer:
Cuda Ridge Wines
Located in the heart of the Livermore Valley wine region, Cuda Ridge Wines proudly produces Bordeaux-style wines that combine both the California culture with a taste of Southern France. The small family-owned winery takes the time to carry on the tradition with wines of intense complexity and world-class, award-winning flavors. You’ll feel like part of the family in the hospitable tasting room surrounded by vineyards and olive trees.
“Fenestra” is Latin for “window,” and Fenestra Winery is the window to the Livermore Valley. Housed in a historic Ruby Hill property, Fenestra is the region’s first boutique winery and a popular destination for wine lovers who enjoy the relaxed, country ambiance while they taste the award-winning wines and picnic along the creek. The winery celebrates many years of fine wine made with primarily handpicked Livermore Valley grapes.
Garre Vineyard & Winery
Surrounded by beautiful scenery, Garre Vineyard & Winery boasts not only a portfolio of Sparkling, Italian, and other wines, but also award-winning cuisine and elegant wedding venues. The grounds capture the culture of old Italy with a bocce court and a café offering lunch daily and dinner on the weekends. Feel part of the intimacy with friends and family for a wine tasting that never disappoints. Share in Garre Vineyard’s toast of “a glass from the past, a toast to the future”.
Las Positas Vineyards
Situated on 30 acres of property, Las Positas Vineyards is a unique venue that shares in a passion for wine and rich heritage of the Livermore Valley. One taste is all that’s needed of the novice and oenophile wines to see the character and integrity in every glass. For some excitement, evening in the Vineyards Concert Series runs May through October to satisfy both the ears and palate.
Livermore Valley Wine Trolley
Livermore Wine Trolley is the newest way to explore and experience wineries located in the Livermore Valley! Climb aboard and enjoy a tour of this premier wine region, home to more than 50 wineries. A ride on the high quality all-inclusive trolley provides a one-of-a-kind experience as you pass lush rolling hills, picturesque canyons, vast vineyards, scenic golf courses, active downtown, and intimate wineries who pride themselves in hospitality.
The mission to craft world-class wines from famed vineyards in the Livermore Valley and Arroyo Seco and offer them to the world is the driving force at Nottingham Cellars. Led by one of the valley’s youngest winemakers, the winery promotes quality and the integrity of the region. Nottingham Cellars boasts three different brands, each designed to honor the potential and history of the Livermore Valley. The wine tasting room is an ideal place to enjoy a tasting flight at the bar, or enjoy a glass of wine on the patio or among the barrels in the cellar.
Steven Kent Winery
The Steven Kent Winery is dedicated to crafting exceptional Bordeaux wines. Winemaker Steven Kent Mirassou takes pride in the past and future to continually set the bar high and exceed expectations while still holding on to tradition. The Barrel Room offers daily wine tastings Cabernet Sauvignon and other Bordeaux varietals, and the Reserve Room offers samplings of the most limited collectors’ wines. The Steven Kent Winery belongs on the “don’t miss” list for lovers of stellar Cabernet.
After you’ve visited these gems, top off the month of March at the Barrels, Bottles, & Brews on March 25 and 26. The event brings Livermore Valley’s wineries, craft breweries, and artisan distilleries together to take part in a fun-filled weekend celebrating quality and quantity. Amateurs and aficionados alike will discover the quality, attention and care dedicated to crafting all of these great beverages. Purchase your tickets to gain a new appreciation for the beverage scene and be a part of a rewarding experience.
The following article was provided by our contributing partner – Touring and Tasting Magazine.
Cheers – Ken
February is a month of love and romance and there’s no better way to observe it than by taking a romantic trip to wine country. Sonoma Valley is a mecca for the senses and a pastoral slice of paradise just 45 miles north of San Francisco. Offering a historic legacy and a leadership role in sustainable tourism, Sonoma Valley is an ideal place to say “I love you”.
We suggest you start with choosing the right accommodation to fit your style and budget and Sonoma Valley features no shortage of choices. From high-end RV Parks to 5-star luxury resorts Sonoma Valley offers the full spectrum. Here is our short list of Sonoma Valley accommodations:
If fresh air and scenery are your top priority, we recommend Petaluma KOA. Rated one of the Top RV campgrounds in California, this beautiful 70-acre property offers 312 RV sites and the best in family and big rig RV camping, just minutes away from Sonoma wineries. Guided tours of Sonoma wineries depart daily from KOA from May to October. On-property amenities include: a rec room, rock wall, pool and spa, and live weekend entertainment
Sonoma Valley Inn. For an ideal proximity to the historic Sonoma Plaza, Sonoma Valley Inn is just steps away. Besides a coveted location, this family-owned property is absolutely lovely. It’s designed around a serene garden courtyard and features a heated saltwater pool, steam room, and covered hot tub. The rooms are appointed with romantic touches including wood burning fireplaces and private balconies or patios.
Sonoma Carneros Barn House
If you’re looking for something that feels just like home, check out the Sonoma Carneros Barn House. This ideal Sonoma vacation rental features a modern, two-story barn design and offers two spacious master suites, a fully stocked chef’s kitchen, outdoor area for alfresco dining, and much more!
Flamingo Resort & Spa
This iconic hotel is as romantic as the day it opened. It’s a glamourous historic landmark ideally situated between Sonoma Valley wineries and downtown Santa Rosa. The resort offers 170 newly remodeled rooms and suites, two pools, an 8,000-square-foot health club, and a full service spa. Plus, there’s great entertainment including live music, dancing, and a Sunday Champagne Brunch
MacArthur Place Hotel & Spa. There’s a wonderful hideaway just blocks from Sonoma Plaza called MacArthur Place Hotel & Spa. The property is tucked into seven beautifully landscaped acres in a landscaped setting of hedges and serene gardens. Once a magnificent 19th century estate, it is now an award winning enchanting oasis.
Once you’ve decided where to stay, you can turn your attention to the dozens of Sonoma Valley wineries waiting to host you. Here are our top suggestions:
Schug Carneros Estate
This family owned and operated winery is just southwest of town. Known for their elegant European-style Pinot Noir, the winery also produces superb Bordeaux varietals. Guests can choose to sample wines in the tasting room or take a self-guided vineyard tour.
Highway 12 Vineyards & Winery
Located on the corner of Sonoma Plaza in the historic Mission Hardware building, Highway 12 Vineyards & Winery offers guests a complimentary tasting and a wealth of knowledge and casual congeniality.
Larson Family Winery Located in Carneros, the winery was once home to the largest rodeo in Northern California. The winery blends the family’s passion for winemaking with a fun loving country lifestyle. There’s intriguing memorabilia and a captivating mural the barn-turned-tasting room. All family members (including canines) are welcome.
In addition to considering the wineries on Sonoma Valley’s extensive list, visit heartofsonomavalley.com. Here you will find information on 28 amazing wineries offering world class wines, barrel tastings, food and wine pairings, winemaker tastings, and more all within minutes of the Sonoma Plaza. It’s also a fantastic resource for event information and wine trail passes.
If you are having trouble coming up with your own itinerary, hiring a knowledgeable, personal guide is a great option. Jill Leone created Leone Wine Tours to show visitors a variety of Sonoma Valley’s wineries and other attractions while they sit back and relax in a luxury vehicle. She can personalize a custom tour just for you. Beyond wineries, what are some of Sonoma Valley’s great attractions?
Quarryhill Botanical Garden
This woodland garden is cradled in the foothills of the Mayacamas Mountains and features more than 20,000 plants of wild origin in a natural setting. Follow the winding gravel paths set amongst exotic shaded trees and tranquil ponds and enjoy the flora along the way.
The Olive Press A great addition to your wine tasting itinerary is olive oil tasting. Visit Sonoma County’s first and the nation’s most award winning olive mill, the Olive Press. Located at Jacuzzi Family Vineyards, the Olive Press offers an array of enticing samples.
This wine country marketplace set among stunning gardens is ideal for world-class shopping, wine and spirit tastings, artisanal foods, local art, and more. The marketplace also offers seasonal classes, unique event venues and is home to Sunset Magazine’s Test Gardens and Outdoor Test Kitchen.
As you see, there is plenty to do and fall in love with in the Sonoma Valley. We hope you’ll plan to stay for several days to take it all in. Start planning your romantic getaway today!
The following article was provided by our contributing partner – Touring and Tasting Magazine.
Cheers – Ken
As 2016 comes to a close, it’s time to reflect on the year and the memories created. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t more memories to be made! Before you close the book on 2016, let this list be your inspiration to create one last wine country memory—one to last a lifetime! Or just an excuse to drink some good wine and maybe pick up some last minute gifts along the way!
Anaba Wines – Sonoma Valley, CA
Known for their 5-star tasting experiences, Anaba hosts a wide range of enlightening wine education experiences at their charming tasting room throughout the year. These seminars highlight the winery’s passion for being earth-friendly. Anaba is very proud of the fact that they were the first winery in Northern California to utilize wind power. Not only does the harnessed wind power create energy for the tasting room, offices and irrigation pumps but for car charging stations too! As you enjoy their delicious wines, you feel good knowing that Anaba takes great care in preserving the ground and earth where they came from.
Beringer Vineyards – Napa Valley, CA
The beauty of Beringer Vineyards is evident in the wines and fully realized when visiting its historic grounds in the Napa Valley. As the first winery in the valley to offer public tours, they have mastered the art of hospitality. Beringer offers a one-stop experience where one can be fully immersed in every aspect of the Napa Valley wine country experience. From Private Reserve tastings to their Legacy Cave Tour, a customized experience is available with an advance appointment.
Huge Bear Wines – Napa Valley, CA
Located in the converted, historic Calistoga National Bank, Huge Bear Wines takes pride in preserving the history and folklore of the building that hosts them. Even their labels tell the story of the rogue bear whose fight for independence inspired the California state mascot—hence the name “Huge Bear Wines.” This sense of historical pride trickles down through everything Huge Bear Wines does. From the great care shown in their winemaking to their appointment-only Vault Tasting, every guest leaves with a new appreciation for the history and passion involved in the winemaking process. Visit Huge Bear this December to help celebrate their new releases!
Sterling Vineyards – Napa Valley, CA
Perched 300 feet above the town of Calistoga, Sterling Vineyards offers panoramic views of the Napa Valley. Access to the winery’s entrance is achieved by a stunning gondola ride through the treetops. If that’s not exhilarating enough, the winery’s Greek inspired architecture and beautiful bell towers are sure to impress! The striking scenery is only to be matched by Sterling’s award-winning wine portfolio including its critically acclaimed 2012 Reserve Chardonnay and Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. During the winter months, Sterling Vineyards offers the Winter Silver Experience. For just $39 per person, guests will enjoy two current releases in the lower portion of the winery then with special access to the upper portion, enjoy two limited releases while viewing the Sterling Art Collection including original pieces from Picasso, Chagall, Renior, Frasconi and rare Ansel Adams.
Silverado Resort and Spa – Napa Valley, CA
A stay at the Silverado Resort and Spa will rejuvenate all of your senses. Indulge in a luxurious spa treatment including seasonal specials like the Pumpkin Souffle Body Wrap then take a dip in one of the 10 swimming pools. Afterwards, dine at the Grill or Mansion Lounge where the sommelier will assist you in choosing the most palate pleasing wine to complement your meal. If you are looking for something more energizing, play a round at one of their two PGA championship golf courses or a set at one of the 13 tennis courts! And if your senses are not fully piqued among the 1,200 resort acres, go off property to one of the many wineries close by—a concierge will be happy to help create the perfect itinerary. December is an ideal time to book your trip as the Resort is currently offering an array of packages.
V. Sattui Winery & Italian Marketplace – Napa Valley, CA
V. Sattui is all about pleasing the palate! Food is king at the winery’s Italian Marketplace where tempting picnic fare is made fresh daily. It is strongly advised to pick your picnic first and then move to the lawn where you can pair your spread with some of V. Sattui’s excellent wines. Once you’ve had your fill, stroll through the winery’s charming grounds—reminiscent of an Italian village. If you prefer a more customized experience, make an appointment for a tasting in the Gold Room for a sit-down, food paired tasting in the elegant cellar cave.
Situated south of Sacramento and West of the Sierra Nevada Lodi, California is a delightful region of over 100,000 acres of vineyards built upon ancient vines that are as old as 130 years. Steeped in a multigenerational family-farming culture, Lodi has become a beacon for exceptional wineries, restaurants and is a true California gem! The region offers a diverse portfolio of wines including: Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon and other exciting varietals such as Albarino, Tempranillo, Graciano and Vermentino, plus many others. Since the climate is mild, December is the perfect month to visit and try some of the region’s award winning wines and perhaps even partake in an event or two! During the month of December Lodi will host a variety of holiday themed events from the traditional Nutcracker ballet to the town’s annual Holiday Golf Cart Parade.
Lodi Vintners – Lodi, CA
Although Lodi Vintners charming tasting room is one of the region’s newest, it is located on the site of the region’s oldest operating winery which dates back to 1900. Designed as a custom crush facility and immersed in fascinating winemaking techniques, including giant concrete fermentation tanks, visitors to Lodi Vintners are assured not only something new to sample but something new to experience. The winery offers a variety of wine events and educational seminars held throughout the year including their annual grape stomp!
Mettler Family Vineyards – Lodi, CA
Through eight generations in the grape growing industry, Mettler Family Vineyards has cultivated an unrivaled kinship with the earth. As stewards of the soil, the Mettlers have chosen to run their farm as both sustainable and certified organic. This earth friendly attitude is evident in every aspect of the vineyard including their “must-see” tasting room which is nestled in the center of their 25 acres of vineyards. Arriving guests at Mettler enter a secluded world of lushly landscaped grounds and the friendliest of staff. Mettler is known for hosting several events throughout the year including regular painting parties paired with their best wines.
Peltier Winery – Lodi, CA
Known as an innovative, cutting-edge crush facility, guests of Peltier Winery will find no shortage of impressive wines or reasons to return. Now is an exciting time to visit the winery at their temporary pop-up tasting room where one can share in the excitement of building a new winemaking facility. While there, try one of their hy-brid wines born from the revolutionary winemaking process that combines highly advanced technology with environmentally sustainable winegrowing principles. Be sure to make an appointment in advance to get the full experience!
The following article was provided by our contributing partner – Touring and Tasting Magazine.
Cheers – Ken
The Holiday Season is a great time to relax and explore new wineries across the US. After a fantastic and exciting harvest season, the holiday festivities are ready to begin! There are endless events and locations to explore. This list is the perfect guide to wine country events, tastings and places to stay to get the most out of your holiday season!
Elizabeth Chambers CellarElizabeth Chambers Cellar – Willamette Valley, OR
Elizabeth Chamber Cellars is an excellent winery to visit this holiday season. Their tasting room is located in their newly renovated historic power plant building. Originally built in 1926, the brick building maintains the industrial feel of its previous incarnation, yet has been updated for its new role to give guests a warm welcome. Acquaint yourself with their 92-point signature blend, a collection of renowned single vineyard Pinot Noirs, and classic Willamette Valley Pinot Gris during one of their tastings. Visit today or request a private event for an unforgettable experience anytime of the year!
Le Puy A Wine Valley Inn – Willamette Valley, OR
With spectacular views of Chehalem Ridge and peeks at the Coastal Range, Mt Hood and Mt Jefferson, the views from Le Puy will take your breath away! Host to eight unique guest rooms inspired by nature such as fire, mountain and air, every aspect of this inn has been well thought out and designed to give their guests the most memorable experience possible. Stay the night and receive a complementary breakfast made from the best ingredients or come visit for one of their tasting or hiking packages. Whichever experience you desire, a visit to Le Puy will accommodate you with an exceptional experience.
Beau Wine Tours – Napa and Sonoma, CA
Whether you are touring Napa Valley or Sonoma County, Beau Wine Tours is sure to guarantee a fantastic experience. Treat yourself to a luxurious tour this holiday season and let one of Beau Wine Tour’s knowledgeable chauffeurs escort you through wine country and introduce you to some award winning wineries. Take advantage of their Harvest Special – a six or eight-hour wine tour for up to twelve people in one of their luxurious Sprinter Limousines!
Ledson Winery & Vineyards and Ledson Hotel – Sonoma, CA
Emerging like a gothic blast from the past out of acres of rolling vineyards and pastoral calm, the 16,000 square foot French Normandy winery is known as “The Castle” around the world. Visit “the Castle,” and receive a tour showcasing the sweeping staircases, marble fireplaces, cathedral-style windows, coffered ceilings and several tasting bars as you sip from their specialized wines hand-crafted in small lots reflecting Sonoma Valley’s uniquely diverse terroir. The month of November is the perfect time to visit this wine country standout as that’s when they host their annual Holiday Open House. Savor the tradition and holiday cheer as you sip award winning wine and shop at their Gourmet Market place of fine wine, sauces, mustards and olive oils. After you’ve had your fill, stay the night at the Ledson Hotel located just a short drive awayf in the Historic Sonoma Plaza. With an antique grandeur and modern amenities combined with personalized service, the Ledson Hotel provides the perfect compliment to the Ledson experience!
Etude Wines – Napa, CA
Visit Etude Wines for their Holiday Open House on December 10th to toast the joys of the season. Etude specializes in a selection of white and two classic red varietals—Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon. In fact, they offer an incredible “Study of Pinot Noir” experience offering six Pinot Noirs from six distinct growing areas including Etude’s Estate Vineyards in Carneros, Sonoma Coast, Willamette Valley and Santa Barbara County all made by Etude winemaker, Jon Priest. Reservations required. What a lovely way to toast the holiday season!
Jamieson Ranch Vineyards – Napa, CA
When you need a break from the holiday frenzy, slip away to Jamieson Ranch Vineyards. Easily accessible at the gateway to Napa Valley, you can recharge your spirit with one of their many food and wine pairing experiences. Let their renowned Estate Chef, Scott Ekstrom and their expert winemaker, Juan Jose Verdina show of their talents and delight your palate! The natural beauty of the ranch and the sweeping vistas will make you want to linger for the day and return again and again—long after the holiday season!
Acquiesce Winery & Vineyards – Lodi, CA
If you are a white or rose enthusiast, Acquiesce Winery and Vineyards is the perfect location to visit. Made from the best Rhone varietals, and vines sourced from the famed Chateau de Beaucastel of Chateauneuf du Pape, France, the wines show a timeless elegance fused with great fruit expression. With awards such as a Gold Medal in Sunset Magazine’s International Wine Competition, their methods have proven successful. Located in the Lodi Appellation of California, Acquiesce’s 18 acres of wine grapes make for the most amazing view as you sip their award winning wines. Visit their 100 year-old converted barn tasting room to get the full experience!
Macchia – Lodi, CA
Macchia’s “Military” Fall Release Party on November 19th and 20th is the event to be at this holiday season. Listen to live music provided by Big Booty Bob and the Backside Kickers as you receive an exclusive barrel tasting of their 2016 handcrafted wines. With picnics, games and vendors spread throughout their beautiful location in Lodi, California, the fun never ends! Try their “Adventurous” Zinfandel, “Righteous” Barbera, and “Dangerous” Port from the finest grapes possible from one of California’s most prestigious wine growing regions.
Las Positas Vineyards – Livermore, CA
Located in Livermore, California, Las Positas Vineyards is a family winery that produces small lots of estate grown wines with unique character and exceptional quality. Create the perfect event to include on your next trip to the wine country with one of their pairings complete with: cheese, chocolate truffles and cheesecake cupcakes! Experience Gold Medal wines such as their 2015 Estate Rose or their 2015 Verdelho in a beautiful setting. All of this and more is waiting for you at Las Positas Vineyards.
J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines – Paso Robles, CA
With an extensive collection of wines and gift packages, two visits to one of J. Lohr’s estates can never be the same. Founded in 1972, J. Lohr has a rich history with years of experience. Visit their location in Paso Robles, California, and you and will see how exceptional of a wine brand they truly are. With events from October to December ranging from Vineyard Wine Dinners, Vintage Library Tastings, Holiday Feasts, and wine and food pairings, there is an event for everyone this holiday season. With countless awards for exceptional wine, the experience is guaranteed to excite.
The following article was provided by our contributing partner – Touring and Tasting Magazine.
Cheers – Ken
Other than Ken, who is on the Tasting Panel, and what are the panelists’ backgrounds? This is a question that has come up a few times recently, so I thought I would introduce and write about the panelists in this long-overdue post. As a little background, the Tasting Panel is made up of 19+ members. The members below are the regulars who attend most tastings. Other members might just attend a few tastings. For example the “Bubbleheads” come out for champagne. Some others only attend sweet Riesling and dessert wine night.
The panel meets 12 times per year. We cover 12-15 wines in each tasting and I (Ken) consolidate our notes and scores. Wine Reviews signed – KWGTP were reviewed by the Tasting Panel. Wine reviews signed by a name (i.e. Ken) were reviewed by an individual. A few members are assigned “homework” and review wines on their own throughout the month. These members are at the top of the list.
My name is Nicolay, but most people call me Nic. I have been working with Ken for more than 5 years, even though I have known him longer. In the KWG Tasting Panel I am the official “Chief Bubblehead.” You will find me at the champagne and sparkling wine events: I don’t believe I have missed one yet. On my off-time from the Panel, I moonlight as the Wine Director for Colonial Spirits of Acton. On average, I taste 50+ bottles of wine a week in the months January-October. Most of those wines are for retailing at our establishment, some tastings are for fun, i.e. the KWG Panel. The Panel allows me to take a break from constantly interrogating what I taste. On the Panel, I can enjoy what I taste and in a few words convey that enjoyment to those visiting the KWG site or reading the e-newsletter. Working in the KWG Tasting Panel also gives me access to the customer’s opinion of wine. When I’m not enjoying or sampling wine, you can find me sipping on a neat whisk(e)y or good beer.
I have been on the KWG Tasting Panel since its inception. One of my greatest enjoyments on the Panel is finding those “diamond-in-the-rough” wines that we score 90+ that remain in the $15- $30 price range! Continuing to search for that elusive 100-point bottle is a tough job, but someone has to do it! I enjoy both red and white wines and especially appreciate California Cabernet Sauvignons, Zinfandels, Finger Lakes Rieslings, Cabernet Francs, and Argentinian Malbecs. For my day job, I am a Web Store Implementation Specialist. Besides participating on the KWG Tasting Panel, my time is spent with my family, running, reading and volunteering.
Karen and Stuart Bodager
We have been on the Tasting Panel for about seven years. When not covering wines for KWG, Stuart works in IT and Karen works in banking. For fun, we enjoy trying wines on our own to better prepare for our evenings with the Tasting Panel! It is a lot of fun deciding which wines will pair best with certain foods and which wines will be most enjoyable for company. We love to entertain so that we can share wine and food (which Stuart loves to cook!) with friends.
What we like most about being on the Panel is having the opportunity to taste wines we might never have thought to try. We can expand our wine knowledge and develop our palates. Ken spoils us and we love it! We have learned so much from him and from the other members on the Panel. We always look forward to an educational, entertaining and delicious evening whenever the Panel meets.
I have been on the Tasting Panel since my son and Ken’s daughter were in the second grade together. So 5 years now! I love the opportunity to taste a far wider variety and number of wines than I would be able to try on my own. I learn so much! Plus, there’s High-end Reds night! By day, I am an IT Consultant working in the Financial Services industry. I also coach youth soccer teams in my spare time.
I have been on the KWG Tasting Panel since its inception ten years ago, but only as a white wine tasting panel member, as I have always preferred white wines. However, in the past two years or so I have started to develop a taste for red wines. I think this is partly due to the cold Boston winters. For me, when it is cold outside, sipping a delicious red wine served at cellar temperature is much more appealing than drinking a chilly white wine.
When I am not tasting wine, you can find me working on the KWG newsletter or signing for wine samples. I also enjoy photography, walking, and spending time with my five children. What I like best about being a Tasting Panel member is getting to try a variety of wines and comparing notes with other Tasting Panel members. I am always amazed how different Panel members can nail certain smells and tastes in the wine. I also find it so interesting to see how different people’s palates are. While I might love a wine, the person sitting next to me might not like it at all, and vice versa. People’s tastes in wine can be so varied.
I have been on the Panel for approximately three years. When I’m not attending a tasting, I am managing a wine, beer, and spirits department in the Broadway Marketplace in Cambridge, MA, and serving as the Beverage Director of BG Events and Catering in Brighton, MA. I have been in the wine, beer, and spirit industry for the last 36 years. My experience includes 31 years of retail store management/buying and 5 years of outside wine sales in both the San Francisco and Boston regions.
I enjoy participating in the KWG tastings for several reasons: The blind format is the best way to evaluate the wines honestly and it allows me to keep my palate sharp. Even though I taste thousands of wines through the course of my regular business days, I am able to discover wines at these tastings that I would have not been exposed to otherwise. But the biggest reward is the ability to taste wines among consumers and gain insight into how they perceive and judge wine. Ken uses a great system of focusing the participant’s evaluations and encouraging participation in the wine experience.
I have been on the KWG Tasting Panel for approximately nine years on the Panel. The thing I enjoy most about the Tasting Panel is the passion members share for describing wines in ways that others with different wine experience levels can relate to and appreciate. I’m a financial economist and wine tourist. I recently visited seven wineries in Tuscany and Piedmont and sampled nearly 80 wines from more than 35 producers.
I have been on the Tasting Panel since it’s inception. I’ve learned a lot about my own preferences and the characteristics I enjoy. I appreciate the broad exposure to many wines and enjoy the “miscellaneous” tasting nights that broaden my horizons. While it’s a treat to sample exceptional wines, I really enjoy recognizing a good value. When I am not covering wines for KWG, I’m a Sales Consulting Manager for a software company.
I am one of the newer members on the Tasting Panel. I have attended for a little over a year now. When I am not tasting for the Panel, I have my real work that pays the bills and pays for the wine! I work for Dow Chemical Company in the Electronic Materials Division. However, my true passion is coaching, both ice hockey and girls lacrosse. I enjoy great wine: a “Big” Red is my usual preference. (Ken knows my weakness for South African reds!)
A little known fact is that my wine journey began with a family trip to Napa back in the late 80’s. A sip of Beringer “Lemmon-Chabot” Private Reserve Sauvignon lead to a purchase that lead to a lifetime of loving great wine. I’m hooked!
What I enjoy about my experience on the Panel:
• I thoroughly enjoy the diversity in the wine experience, getting exposure to different vineyards, winemakers, varietals and the different styles. I have expanded my palate range.
• I enjoy sharing the experience with the other Panelists. Hearing their live feedback and the variety of opinions is enriching.
I have been around the KWG Tasting Panel since the Beginning! I like tasting wines that I would not normally try. Listening to other Panel members talk about their reviews and seeing how different everyone is in describing smells and tastes are also quite enjoyable for me. I am a Senior IT Network and Security Manager at Kronos.
Other Occasional members of the Tasting Panel
Brandi and Roy Taylor
Kimberlee Coleman – Assistant Bubblehead – (See picture above with Don)
Nancy Sherburne and Karl Brace
There is nothing worse – in wine terms – than being offered a glass of incredible red wine only to swirl, sniff, sip, and realize it’s warm. It happens all the time in restaurants when wine is kept out on the bar, or poured into glassware that just came out of a dishwasher. The wine gets warm and instantly becomes underwhelming. You just overpaid for a glass of warm alcoholic grape juice that better resembles thin cough syrup rather than the wine you saw on the menu.
On the flip side, some overcompensate and keep their white wines way too cold. They think on a hot day, your white wine should be near freezing to offer relief from the heat. That’s just wrong. Extreme cold destroys the subtle nature and flavors of a delicate white wine. Why not just have ice water?
Don’t let these things happen to your wine, and definitely don’t let them happen to the wine you pour for your guests. Different wines are meant to be served at different temperatures to allow for development and proper expression of character. After all, there’s a reason why some wine coolers come in dual-zone options.
Proper serving temperatures for different wines
Light, dry, and crisp white wines, like rosé, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, or sparkling wines should be served at 40 to 50 degrees to preserve their freshness and fruitiness. This temperature is also good for sweeter and dessert white wines like Muscadet, Rieslings, or Sauternes to preserve balance and mute sweetness.
Full-bodied white wines, like Chardonnay, and light, fruity reds, like Beaujolais, Gamay, and Old-World Pinot Noir should be served at 50 to 60 degrees to allow for proper exploration of aromas and refreshing complexity of tastes.
Full-bodied red wines, like your favorite Cabernet or Syrah, and dessert reds and Ports should be served at 60 to 65 degrees, still cooler than any room temperature, but warmer than cellar temps. The slightly warmer temperatures allow bitterness from tannins to fade a bit and the wine’s more subtle elements to become more pronounced.
How to do it right
Your best case scenario is to take your more precious bottles out of your 55 degrees cellar or wine fridge and put them in your specialty cooler in the kitchen that holds at 65 degrees to gently bring your reds up to your desired serving temperature. Can’t do that? Well, then simply pull the red out of the cellar and let it rest on the counter for about 30 minutes.
Need a quick cool down for your white wines? Immerse the bottle in an ice water bath. Adding water allows more of the bottle to come into contact with the cold than just ice alone, speeding the chill. Put your bottle in the bath, give a few spins, and let it sit for 10 minutes. Believe it or not, that will chill them faster and more uniformly than putting it in the freezer for 15 minutes. If it’s too cold, like the red, you can take a white wine out of the fridge and let it sit for 10 minutes to warm just slightly before serving. Remember, also, that wine will warm in the glass and in the hands of your guests.
If you’ve kept the perfect wine for the perfect situation, don’t blow it at the last minute by serving it too warm or too cold. Serving the proper wine at the proper temperature is just as important as storing it at proper temperature, and is key to getting the most out of the experience.
The following article was provided by our contributing partner – KingsBottle.com.
Cheers – Ken
Wine country is bustling this time of year! Harvest season is in full swing and while that means a lot of work for the winemakers—it translates into a lot of fun for wine enthusiasts! From exclusive tastings and winemaker dinners to harvest festivals and so much more, harvest season truly is the ultimate time to visit wine country. Read on to learn more about some of northern California’s best places to visit to gain the full harvest season experience!
With a history dating back to the Spanish missionaries in the 1760’s, Livermore Valley has a colorful history! Today the valley’s history is steeped in wine and, in fact, it was awarded America’s first international gold medal for wine in 1889. Just 45 minutes over the Golden Gate Bridge and easily accessible by car, train or BART. Livermore Valley beckons visitors and local northern California residents alike. Besides its 40 plus wineries throughout its picturesque canyons and peaks, the valley has an array of charming towns and an assortment of outdoor activities. There truly is something for everyone in the Livermore Valley so… check it out!
Wente Vineyards—Livermore, CA
Wente Vineyards remains the nation’s oldest continuously family-owned and-operated winery. And when one visits Wente, they feel like they too become part of the family! Beyond the traditional tasting room, the Wente family heartily embraces each guest with gracious hospitality through a world-class restaurant, outdoor concert venue, 18-hole championship golf course and the Winemakers Studio. It is literally a campus dedicated to sharing the art of winemaking! During the month of October, they host their annual Winemaker’s Dinner—a can’t miss four course meal paired with award winning wines.
Cedar Mountain Winery & Port Works—Livermore, CA
This boutique winery specializes in handcrafted small lot table wines and ports produced from Livermore Valley grapes. The location’s rolling hills and vistas beckon visitors to linger on its grounds and enjoy a fantastic port paired with their favorite cheese. The owners believe that quality wines are born in the vineyard and invite wine lovers to visit and taste what they mean.
Harney Lane Winery—Lodi, CA
To experience the Lodi legacy firsthand, join Harney Lane Winery on an intimate one-hour grape to glass tour where guests can wander the grounds and discover the love behind every bottle of Harney Lane Wine. For more than one hundred years, the Mettler family farmed the 100-acre parcel that is Harney Lane. But it wasn’t until 2006 that they decided to venture into winemaking. Since then, their hard work and dedication has paid off as just in those seven short years, the winery has developed a portfolio of unique, memorable estate varietals. This October, the winery welcomes you to join them for their 2nd Annual Harvest Cookout where you can join in the celebration of their bountiful harvest!
LangeTwins Family Winery & Vineyards—Lodi, CA
Located north of the city of Lodi amidst the family vineyards, the winery offers visitors the opportunity to have a true grape-to-glass experience in its new tasting room, the Press Room. Tucked beneath an elevated crush pad, the Press Room’s awe-inspiring entrance features a stunning concrete and stainless water feature. Once inside, guests are welcome to wander through the cellar and taste from a large portfolio of estate, reserve and single barrel wines. It is recommended to make an appointment for an in-depth tour of the industrial facility where the winery makes the most environmentally friendly wine possible. And during the month of October, LangeTwins is host to the annual Sacramento Cyclocross event—a day of wine and bike racing!
Materra |Cunat Family Vineyards—Napa, CA
The new winery architecture at Materra | Cunat Family Vineyards is a sight to be seen! The floor of the library room is made of clear glass where guests can look down onto the soil of the vineyard. Even the restrooms are so unique that guests have asked to have their tastings there! And it’s not just the architecture that sets Materra | Cunat apart, it’s the wines themselves. Through their heartfelt blending and growing process, the winery has produced some exceptional vintages including the 2011 Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon which received 90 points from Wine & Spirits. Three different tasting options are offered and appointments must be made in advance so that each tour can truly be a one-of-a-kind experience!
Stags’ Leap Winery—Napa, CA
A reservation is required for a Historical Tour & Tasting at the estate of Stags’ Leap Winery but it is well worth it. The estate is a magical place and the wines are divine. The tour showcases the natural beauty and history of the buildings and gardens that populate the sprawling estate’s grounds. Beyond the breathtaking views, the focal point of the estate is the old stone Manor House—originally built in 1892. There are a variety of tours to choose from including the Ne Cede Malis Vineyard Tour and Tasting where guests learn about viticulture and fermentation processes and their impact on the resulting wine. At the end of this tour, participants have a private Petite Sirah-focused tasting.
Castello di Amorosa—Calistoga, CA .
Inspired by his Italian heritage and in need of a place to showcase his exceptional wines, Dario Sattui created Castello di Amorosa—a 136,000 square-foot fortress built stone by stone to look like an authentic medieval castle. The castle even features authentic elements such as a drawbridge, moat, a church and secret passageways. This unique fortress sets the stage for the winery’s classically structured and intensely flavored handcrafted wine. The winery offers a myriad of ways for guests to enjoy their visit including tours of the castle and private tastings. It truly seems like there is always something happening at Castello di Amorosa and October is no exception as that’s when they host their annual Pagan Ball—a Halloween lovers dream or maybe nightmare…?
Chateau St. Jean—Kenwood, CA
Reminiscent of those found in the South of France, the gardens at Chateau St. Jean are considered some of Sonoma County’s most beautiful. Sit at a bench or table scattered throughout the property’s meticulously manicured lawns and enjoy a picnic and a glass of one of their exceptional quality wines. Guests are encouraged to make an appointment for one of the Distinctive Experiences at Chateau St. Jean including the foodie friendly Charcuterie at the Chateau. This tasting pours four single vineyard and reserve wines paired with local bites. On October 16, Chateau St. Jean is host to a complementary Wine Club Pick Up Party where guest can enjoy wine, food and live music.
Fountaingrove Inn and the Steakhouse at Equus—Santa Rosa, CA
On the grounds of a late 1870’s commune that produced 90 percent of the region’s wine stands an old Round Barn circa 1899. The barn is now a gateway to the Fountaingrove Inn and Steakhouse at Equus. Close to famed Dry Creek, Alexander and Russian River Valley appellations, this wine country retreat is the ideal location for leisure and business guests alike.
The Steakhouse at Equus is a not to be missed dinning experience with a world class wine list and the restaurant’s new menu which features old favorites and showcases premium meats. With 124 guestrooms and suites, unique architecture, and a dedication to their guests, Fountaingrove Inn is truly the perfect home-away-from-home for anyone traveling to Sonoma Wine Country!
The following article was provided by our contributing partner – Touring and Tasting Magazine.
Cheers – Ken
On July 30th, I had the opportunity to visit three wineries on Long Island before attending a family 50th birthday bash that evening. Getting back to the Long Island Wine Country was a treat and I wish I had a whole weekend instead of just three hours to cover some wines. In all, there are fifty-six wineries to choose from. I was able to choose three and cover many of their wines in the time I spent at each winery. I landed in Port Jefferson, NY via a ferry from Bridgeport, CT. The family and I first enjoyed a nice brunch at “Toast” in Port Jefferson before we made our way out to Long Island Wine Country. It is about an hour drive out to the first wineries on the North Fork if you have good traffic. We did! One piece of advice before planning your trip is to select your wineries in advance. I did this and it really helped. I chose three wineries that were close to each other. This meant I had more time for covering wines and less driving time. I also went with wineries that I was familiar with. This made it easier for me to set up appointments and keep on schedule. Long Island wineries sometimes host private parties and weddings. One of the wineries on my initial list was closed on the 30th for a private party. I had to pivot and adjust. I’m glad I did my homework earlier in the week versus just showing up to find out they were closed.
The big question: Where did I end up visiting? My first stop was at the Roanoke Vineyards Wine Bar in Mattituck. I tasted thru six wines and recommended two of them. My favorite was their 2015 “Infinite Possibility.” I scored this $20 white blend 90 points. It is a blend of 50% Sauvignon Blanc, 40% Pinot Blanc and 10% Chardonnay. I found it to be slightly acidic and mouthwatering with tasty mineral-infused lime flavors along with notes of Anjou pear and a touch of lychee. This is a terrific summer wine and would pair nicely with grilled swordfish. My second favorite from Roanoke was their 2014 “Red Blend” for $20. This blend was made with 58% Merlot, 31% Cabernet Franc, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and 1% Petit Verdot. It was a slightly acidic and juicy with blackberry flavors along with notes of old oak and hints of black olive and black pepper. It is a perfect mushroom burger wine.
We next moved onto Macari Vineyards where I was set up with a tasting with Gibson Campbell. Gibson was extremely knowledgeable with regards to the winery and all the wines he was presenting. We started with two white wines that I was impressed with. The first was the 2015 “Katherine’s Field” Sauvignon Blanc. I awarded this wine 90 points. It is light-bodied and fresh with tasty mild mineral-infused lime flavors along with notes of Anjou pear and some hints faint pineapple. It finishes off-dry and its very refreshing. I would pair it with grilled sea scallops. Next up was a kitchen sink blend of white grapes. The 2014 “Dos Aguas” is made from 49% Viognier, 18% Tocai Friulano, 17% Chardonnay, 16% Riesling, 12% Pinot Gris, 10% Sauvignon Blanc and 2% Gewurztraminer. Wow! All in all, this wine was quite interesting. It was light-bodied and very easy to enjoy. We detected some tasty mild peach and green apple flavors with hints of minerality and tangerine. This wine would pair nicely with sushi.
I finished with my favorite wine of the trip! The 2012 “Block E” Dessert Wine is Excellent! I rated this wine 94 points and for $32 per 375 ml bottle, it is a steal. The secret is out! Hurry, only 243 cases of this gem were made. This wonderful wine is made from 45% Chardonnay, 26% Riesling, 18% Viognier, 9% Pinot Gris and 2% Sauvignon Blanc. It is full-bodied, balanced, and concentrated. I loved its delicious ripe pear flavors with notes of apricot and honey. I also detected a hint of candied ginger. I could drink a whole bottle easily. Another option is to pour it over your favorite vanilla bean ice cream. It’s fantastic!
Our last stop, was at Lieb Cellars. In addition to the Lieb brand, I also tried wines from their Bridge Lane portfolio. I started with a wine that I covered before and recommended. The Bridge Lane 2014 “White Blend” for $16. This wine is a very good value and a very good every day wine. It is made from 35% Chardonnay, 26% Pinot Blanc, 20% Riesling, 15% Sauvignon Blanc and 4% White Pinot Noir. I have consistently rated this wine 88 points. It is light-bodied, slightly acidic, and fresh. I really enjoyed its green apple flavors with notes of lemon verbena, lime, and gentle minerality. It finishes dry and lingers nicely. I would serve it with linguini and clams. Staying with the whites, I also enjoyed the Lieb Cellars 2014 “Reserve” Pinot Blanc for $20. This offering was light-bodied, balanced, and easy going. I found its flavor profile to be a mineral-infused green apple with hints of light lemon-lime. This wine was dry and refreshing and a perfect match for the manchego cheese we were also enjoying on this warm summer day.
In closing, it was great to get back to Long Island. I wish I could have tried more wines and visited more wineries. My overall impression is that Long Island is still better at producing more high quality white wines vs. red wines. It is a region on the rise and the wines keep getting better. I look forward to covering more wines from this region in the future. If you get the chance, you should visit for sure! The Long Island Wine Council has a very good website covering the region. Take some time and visit the region the next time you are in the New York City area. Cheers! – Ken
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