Saturday, April 23, 2011

150 Years Later... in the path of James & Jessie Skinner

I've been following the progress of Mike and Carey Skinner and their sons as they re-establish the Skinner legacy in the wine business in the Sierra Foothills, specifically in El Dorado county.  From son Kevin doing the initial research on the Skinner winery in what is now Cameron Park, to mom Carey putting her real estate skills to work to find a great vineyard location in Fair Play and now working on marketing and branding, to dad Mike deploying his business skills and opening his checkbook to create yet another enterprise, to son Brendan doing research on tasting room and accounting software, to son Ryan giving his all as the on-site manager ... the green-tech winery and heritage-imbued tasting room emerged.  Chris Pittenger, winemaker, spec'd out the winery, and it is a beauty.  His wines crafted for Skinner are already receiving good acclaim, and the Estate Wines to come will be great too.  You can read more at their website.

 Chris Pittenger, left, and Ryan Skinner
The Grand Opening is not until May 22 up at 2700 feet at the Stoney Creek Vineyard at 8054 Fair Play Road in Fair Play, but the tasting room is open now to the public, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday-Saturday-Sunday.

Mike Dunne, columnist for the SacBee, and blogger at "A Year in Wine", just did a great blogpost following his visit to the ridgetop.  Read it here.

It is worth a visit to Fair Play!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Premier Lake Tahoe Restaurant features Foothill Zins

Wild Goose Restaurant, part of the Tahoe Mountain Club exclusive properties at Lake Tahoe, is fortunate to have Pat Hedderman as its wine buyer. Pat has a palate honed by long experience. In 2003, Hedderman joined Wild Goose as one of its original staff members, bringing over three decades of fine dining and wine experience to his position. His desire is for Wild Goose to be THE wine destination among all Lake Tahoe restaurants, maintaining a reputation for having the most varied, value-oriented, and fun wine list. Hedderman believes in giving guests a great wine at a fair price. And he does that!

This summer, diners at Wild Goose (and those of us who like to taste wines at their wonderful bar) will be able to enjoy a variety of Zinfandel from several Sierra Foothill wineries: Cedarville, Di Airie, and Perry Creek.

Pat selected Cedarville's 2006 Zinfandel "which received a 91 point rating from Wine Spectator," notes Jonathan Lachs, owner/winemaker. This Zinfandel is a blend of 88% Zinfandel, 6% Petite Sirah, 3% Syrah, 3% Grenache, and only 754 cases were produced using grapes from Cedarville's Estate Vineyard, on a south facing slope near top of vineyard at over 2,500 feet elevation. "The harvest from our 2006 Zinfandel vines was quite small, yielding grapes with deep, concentrated flavor. Unlike the 2005 vintage, there was no need to perform a strict selection of our Zinfandel lots to assemble this wine. All the separate vineyard blocks were delicious! We enhanced the complexity of the wine by blending in a touch of Petite Sirah and Syrah, and for the first time, a little bit of Grenache. Aromas of dark fruits, blackberries, wood smoke, and root spices lead into flavors of chocolate, ripe raspberry, subtle mineral notes, and mint, with remarkable structure, and a very long, lingering finish. Serious stuff," notes the winemaker.

From DiAirie winery, Pat chose the 2006 Zinfandel, Southern Exposure.  Chaim di Airie, in his winemaker's notes for this wine, states: "The “Southern Exposure” designation for our wines denotes that we feel the wine has very special qualities.  We feel the 2006 Zinfandel sourced from the very best Shenandoah Valley vineyards, including the Grandpere and Gunther, is worthy of this designation.  The Gunther vineyard is approximately 41 years old while the original Grandpere vineyard contains vines over 139 years old.  Their roots quietly dug deep down into granitic soils once again, as they have for over a century, to produce exceptionally complex fruit."  The wine is 79.5% Zinfandel, 11% Petite Syrah, and small percentages of Cabernet Franc, Primitivo, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah -- all from the Shenandoah Valley.  Harsh tannins have been minimized, to result in a wine that is "deep violet in color, with an elegant nose that begins with blackberry, plum, and dark cherries.  Under this dark fruit are opulent layers of vanilla, cedar, anise, spice, and dried flowers.  Layers of cracked black pepper, cloves, and briar accompany the rounded tannins.  The wine finishes with velvety smoothness and sweet cherries."

From Perry Creek Winery, the Wild Goose features the Zinman Zinfandel.  Perry Creek's Stefan Tscheppe notes that this wine is 98% Zinfandel with a bit of Petite Sirah and Mourvedre.  It's a vineyard blend from some of Perry Creek's best vineyards, and they proclaim it "the signature Zinfandel of the Foothills".   Wine Enthusiast magazine deemed this wine worthy of an 88 point rating.  The tasting sheet description: boysenberry, cherries, strawberry, black pepper and a wonderfully rich spicy and fruity finish.

Wild Goose is located at 7320 North Lake Blvd, Tahoe Vista, CA 96148. I'd give it Five Stars! Call (530) 546-3640 for reservations.

To read more about this restaurant, click here to read a wine review column from The Tahoe Weekly.

Forthcoming book: Mountain High Wines: The Sierra and its Foothills

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Hispanic Heritage celebrated in Murphys (Calaveras County)

The marketing-oriented wineries of Calaveras County are at it again! Spearheaded by Evelyn Reyes-Umana of Bodega del Sur winery in Murphys, more and more events are celebrating the Latin American heritage of California's wine industry.

Did you know that the first Cinco de Mayo was celebrated in wine country? There's an historical document in the museum in Columbia, CA, not far from Murphys, that proves this fact.

Look for more and more celebrations that appeal to the Hispanic consumer and celebrate Latin American Arts and Culture! The next interesting event is on Saturday, May 21, 2011, from noon to 5 p.m. The event organizers have told us this:

Art, books, cigars, spices and olive oils, music, food and wine representing Argentina, Chile, Cuba, El Salvador, Mexico, Nicaragua will be featured throughout downtown Murphys.

The following businesses have joined forces to bring together the diverse cultures of Latin America in the first Latin American Arts and Cultural Festival in Murphys. A self-guided tour map will be available at each location leading visitors through the attractions of the day.

Bodega del Sur Winery is hosting Connections, a group exhibition of Latin American artists and artists reception at 466 Main Street (former location of Main Street Art Gallery and Beaux Chevaux Tasting Room), and serving a special selection of tasty Salvadorian morsels and wines in their tasting room at 457 S. Algiers. For more information call (209) 728-9030 or visit

Frog’s Tooth Vineyard
is offering Latin American music from their courtyard where there’s plenty of room to salsa, rumba, bosa nova to your hearts content and wine tasting in their tasting room located at 380 Main Street or follow the sounds of music. For more information call (209) 728-2700 or visit

Tanner Vineyards
is featuring hand rolled cigars by Marvin Ruiz, born in Esteli, Nicaragua represented by Art of Cigars from Fair Oaks, CA. From their lovely tasting room, a cigar and one of their hearty reds, “What more can a person ask for?” All here at 202 Main Street. For more information call (209) 728-8229 or visit For more informaton about Art of Cigars visit

Marisolio is serving olive oils from around the world. For this special occasion, they will feature the Arbosana Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Chile and Chilean appetizers, along with Chiptole Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Enjoy their beautifully decorated tasting room at 488 Main Street. For more information call (209) 728-8853 or visit

The Peppermint Stick is celebrating the occasion with a special “Chipotle BBQ Burger” and raspberry or lemon marguarita ice cream (the perfect palette cleanser) located in Murphys Old Ice House, 454 Main Street or call (209) 728-3570.

The Spice Tin is filling your senses with spices from Cuba, Chile, Mexico, Peru, and El Salvador. Bring home the fabulous flavors of Latin American cuisine. Their aromatic shop is located at 457 N. Algiers. For more information call (209) 728-8225 or visit


Bodega del Sur Winery proudly presents a book talk and signing, “Santa Maria” Historical Novel of California,” by Fausto Avendano on Saturday, May 21 at 3:00, 466 Main Street (former location of Main Street Art Gallery and Beaux Chevaux Tasting Room). Open to the public. Books will be available for sale before and after the author’s presentation. For more information call (209) 728-9030 or visit

My observation: it's a great combination of events! I'm sure there will be photos to share afterwards, but... why not go and see for yourself? The grassy knolls and hospitality of wine country in Calaveras are not to be missed!

(photos courtesy Bodega del Sur)

Monday, April 11, 2011

Renwood (Amador) Scores with Costco Old Vine Program

What's a winemaker to do, when excess inventory of a good wine is available? Renwood winemaker Mike Crippen tells how the winery got involved in Costco's Old Vine Program. Everybody is happy.

The Sacramento Bee's wine writer Mike Dunne did an excellent column on this story. Click here to read the whole story.

Monday, April 4, 2011

They are Serious About Nevada Wine

This just in from the intrepid Dr. Grant Cramer: "Nevada Wine tasting class this Tuesday April 5 at 5 pm at the UNR Valley Road Greenhouse Complex. The first half hour we will continue a series of lectures on vineyard plant, management and pruning. We will also continue our training on aroma analysis of wine. At 5:30 PM we will be tasting an assortment of red wines, including UNR wines, locally grown and fermented Frontenac (hybrid) and a few commercial wines for comparison.

Last week's UNR Drought-Stressed White tasting was very good!"

Want to attend? Get on the list by dropping him a note at cramer (at)

For more information on the program, see my previous post,