Best California Wine Event of the Summer: The Barbera Festival

Ever since the Wine Institute put me on their wine writers list, I get invitations to all kinds of events from all over the state.  My favorite is the Barbera Festival, held each June in Amador County.  I'm looking forward with anticipation to this year's festival.  If it's not already sold out... you should go!  Tickets are sold at for $50 general admission and BRAVO FOR THIS! $30 for Designated Drivers.

This year, the fifth one, the festival moves to the historic Terra D'oro Winery/Montevina Vineyards in Plymouth.   Saturday June 13 is the date.

The organizers call Terra d’Oro Winery/Montevina Vineyard  "the original home of barbera in Amador County."   It is located at 20680 Shenandoah School Road, Plymouth.
All proceeds from The Barbera Festival benefit the Amador Community Foundation.

“Terra d’Oro is one of the fabled vineyards in Amador County’s distinctive barbera tradition,” said co-organizer Brian Mueller of the new venue.  “With its beautiful meadow spotted with ancient oaks tucked among Terra d’Oro’s hillside vineyards, everyone will have a little more elbow room. We look forward to continuing a barbera tasting tradition like no other in California.”

Miller, who coordinates the participating wineries for the Festival and is the proprietor of Amador 360 in Plymouth, reports that, “as in previous years, we will host nearly 80 wineries from all over California, including the Sierra Foothills, Paso Robles,Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino, Lake County, the Santa Cruz Mountains, Ventura County, Lodi and the Bay Area.”

"All of us here at Terra d’Oro are VERY excited to host the 2015 Barbera Festival!” said Jeff Meyers, Terra d’Oro Vice President and General Manager. “We are long-time supporters and producers of this very important Italian variety and feel privileged to be the host of this prestigious event and can’t wait to get started on it!"

Barbera-friendly cuisine for the Festival is provided by top area restaurants and caterers, including the prestigious Zagat-rated Restaurant Taste, local favorite Incahoot’s BBQ, premier Andrae's Bakery, the "fiery" tastes of Wood, Fire & Smoke, and more.

Barbera originated in the Piedmont region of northern Italy. In California, over 7,000 acres of barbera are planted. Louis Martini, produced the first varietal barbera in Napa in 1954. Today, nearly 200 California wineries produce barbera wines.

Sacramento’s internationally distinguished wine expert, Darrell Corti, explains, “The history of barbera in Amador County begins at Monteviña in 1971. This variety was one of the first ‘new’ varieties to the County commercially planted by Cary Gott at his new winery called Monteviña. The first vintage in modern times, if not the first ever, was in 1974. There is no reason why Amador County growers, several generations from now, could not look with pleasure on their ‘old vine’ barbera vineyards much as they now do with their old vine zinfandel vineyards.”

Barbera is known for its generous acid structure and low tannin levels producing a smooth wine that pairs well with food.  Barbera styles range from bright flavors of tart cherry, raspberry, and spice, to riper styles evoking flavors black cherry, blueberry, blackberry, and vanilla.

Tickets include admittance, wine tasting and commemorative wine glass. Food, provided by top restaurants and caterers, is sold separately.  Beer and white wines are also available for purchase. Free parking is provided.

Easter Traditions Call for Celebratory Libations

What do flying bells, exploding carts and circus acts all have in common? Easter.
Around the world, Easter traditions vary from religious to a bit unusual but they all end in celebratory libations.  Here's a quick look at international Easter customs and their shared wines.

France: "Joyeuses Pâques:” Flying Bells and Chocolate Fish

Like many families, patrons of Maison Louis Jadot observe the tradition of the “Ringing of the Bells.” As the story goes, church bells stop ringing on Good Friday to “fly” off to the Vatican in remembrance of the crucifixion and return to rejoice by ringing on Easter morning. The bells arrive with decorated eggs and chocolate fish, known as Poisson d’Avril, for the children. The adults celebrate with a glass of wine, most likely from the Burgundy region. Our Easter wine suggestions comes from the house of Louis Jadot, a well-known Burgundy producer and America’s #1 French selling wines:

Louis Jadot: Puligny-Montrachet 2012v (SRP $76.99) – A distinctive, yet delicate wine with notes of fresh fruit and vanilla that carry on to the palate and culminate in a lingering finish. This wine is pairs well with lighter meals and cheeses.

Louis Jadot: Pommard2011v ($64.99) - A masculine full- bodied Côte de Beaune red with a fruity depth of character and earthy aromas and flavors. This wine shows well with lamb, complex beef dishes, pungent cheeses.

Italy: Exploding Carts in Florence-“Scoppio del Carro”
“Scoppio del Carro,”or the explosion of the cart, is a 350 year-old Florentine tradition. Legend has it that a young member of the noble Pazzi family raised the Christian flag in Jerusalem during the First Crusade of 1099. For his bravery, Pazzi was gifted with three flints from the Holy Sepulchre. During Easter, Florentines celebrate by lighting a cart on fire to distribute around the city for families to relight their hearths on Easter morning to symbolize new life. Our Tuscan Easter Wine Suggestions are

Tenute Del Cabreo: La Pietra Chardonnay di Toscana(SRP $36.99)- This Chardonnay has rich, intense aromas and flavors that are velvety, complex and balanced, with notes of spices, vanilla and butter. It pairs well with white meats, fish and aged cheeses.
Tenuta Sette Ponti: Crognolo Toscana (SRP $-34.99)- ItThe wine has a fruity, spicy bouquet and ripe cherry and berries on the palate.  It is a lovely companion to full-flavored meats, game and roasts
New Zealand: The Circus Comes to Town

In New Zealand, Easter occurs during autumn. Kiwi families celebrate by attending the Auckland Easter Show, which features thrill-seeking rides, circus shows, art exhibitions and a wine show. The Craggy Range Winery serves as a benchmark ambassador for the high quality of New Zealand’s wines. The wines produced are bright, juicy and perfect for any celebratory occasion. Our Kiwi Easter wine suggestion includes
Craggy Range: Te Muna Road Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc (SRP $21.99)- This wine shows richly expressive aromas and flavors of fresh lime, lemongrass, ripe nectarine, and citrus. Overall, the wine is powerful, crisp, clean and dry. It pairs well with aperitifs, seafood and poultry. 
Craggy Range: Te Muna Road Vineyard Pinot Noir (SRP $45.99)- This dense yet elegant wine offers black fruit, floral and spice aromas and flavors. The palate is silkily structured with layered fine tannins, culminating in a finish that gradually unwinds, revealing bright red berry and violets. This wine is delicious with poultry, lamb and mushrooms.

Many thanks to Jennica Ossi of Kobrand for compiling this information and providing photos!

Rosé Rising: “Joie de Vivre, Bottled”

Jennifer Hong, representative of Rosée d’Aurore distributor,
visits with Billy Jim Crawford, founder, soon-to-launch Club Botanic,
(an online fresh bouquet service, delivered weekly)
at the Vins de Provence tasting in San Francisco in early March.
Guest Author: Nicole Zaro Stahl

Forget all those old notions about rosé wine—that it’s sugary-sweet, that it’s produced as an afterthought by mixing excess red and white grapes. Au contraire! This frequently misunderstood category stands on equal footing right alongside its red and white counterparts. In fact, today rosé accounts for some 30% of total wine consumption in France, where it was first crafted more than 2,000 years ago.

Americans are catching onto the trend. U.S. retail sales of imported rosé wines have grown by double digits in each of the past 10 years. A substantial number of the imported labels hails from Provence, the romantic landscape of alternating hills, gorges, and lush river valleys that runs 150 miles inland along the sun-kissed French Mediterranean coast.

The largest rosé-producing region in the world, Provence presents a mosaic of terroirs hospitable to the grape varieties most commonly cultivated to give the authentic blush wine its refreshingly crisp, dry taste: Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah, Mourvėdre, Tibouren, Cabernet Sauvignon. The grape skins are removed before fermentation to attain the characteristic pale pink color and fruity aroma.

In large part, rosé’s surging popularity can be attributed to its versatility. From ski slopes to sailboats, rosé is in demand year-round as an apéritif, accompanying the main meal, or with dessert. The price point is attractive, too: many Provence wineries export AOP (Appellation d’Origine Protégée) vintages that sell for $20 a bottle or less at retail.

Here are three 2014 rosés well worth decanting.

Château d’Esclans was established by Sacha Lichine, son of Alexis Lichine, the legendary wine expert and author of the Encyclopedia of Wines and Spirits. While the domaine’s chalky-clay slopes produce some of the world’s most exclusive rosés, “Whispering Angel” Côtes de Provence Rosé 2014, at $20 per bottle, offers a pleasantly affordable entrée into the highly esteemed brand. Described as a “chameleon,” the 13%-ABV Whispering Angel will compliment any meal, from seafood or steak to barbecue or pan-Asian cuisine.

In addition to its unique terroir of schist and clay soil, Domaine de la Fouquette is known for “green” growing and harvesting practices. The estate’s pale and fruity Rosée d’Aurore Côtes de Provence 2014 boasts intense, complex flavors of citrus. This is the rosé to serve at cocktail hour with nibbles of olive tapenade or for mains like bouillabaisse, the classic Provençal fish stew. The 12.5%-ABV Rosée d’Aurore sells for less than $20 per bottle.

The four Brun brothers, the third generation at the helm of Château de Brigue, blended the latest technology (including the use of screw caps) with the agronomic savoir-faire of their engineer father to produce Brigue Provence Côtes de Provence 2014. This entry-level rosé (12.5% ABV), which retails at $13.50 per bottle, offers notes of lemon, pear, grapefruit, and mineral. The fruity, fresh and balanced wine pairs well with fish, seafood, poultry, stews, fresh vegetables, and other Mediterranean classics.

So the next time you’re debating between red and white, think pink instead, and chose a rosé. A votre santé!
About our Guest Author: 
Nicole Zaro Stahl is a professional business writer based in San Francisco who covers food, beverage, technology, distribution, and logistics topics.

Chaddsford Hard Cider Sports Contemporary ACI Screw Cap

for a high resolution version
of this image, please contact

Chaddsford Hard Cider Sports
Contemporary ACI Screw Cap 
on Fast-Growth Traditional Colonial Beverage

Newly launched craft cider keeps its freshness with ACI’s “fizz” screw cap liner

Chadds Ford, PA--
Today’s packaging technology merges smoothly with Jim Osborn’s historical approach to crafting hard cider. Osborn, the winemaker at Chaddsford Winery, the largest and best known in Pennsylvania, evokes a centuries-old tradition with his contemporary rendition of the beverage favored by North American colonists and now embraced in a dynamic revival. The new “fizz” screw cap liner from ACI Cork USA marries well with Chaddsford Hard Cider, thanks to its unique ability to retain fresh crisp flavors while offering ease of consumer opening and reclosability.

Chaddsford’s own history is one of award-winning wine production. A stone’s throw from the famous Revolutionary war site, the Battle of Brandywine, the Winery has steadily established a tradition of locally-sourced, quality wines since its founding in 1982. Osborn was inspired to apply his talent and creativity to hard cider early last summer. He started with 1,000 gallons of fresh-pressed apple cider, which he then cold-fermented and left unfiltered, capturing the pure, simple nature of the fruit. The result is a European-style cider much like that consumed by his forefathers—and a big hit among visitors to both the Winery tasting room and the Chaddsford retail shop in Peddler’s Village, in nearby Bucks County.

Osborn was also drawn to hard cider for pragmatic reasons. Using just Pennsylvania-grown apples, the cidery that provides a key ingredient in Chaddsford’s Spiced Apple wine presses the proprietary blend on demand, with overnight delivery for maximum freshness. The availability of a year-round supply aligns perfectly with Osborn’s plan to produce hard cider on demand as well. “The beauty of it is that I am not locked into a specific season, and I can utilize all the equipment we already have in house,” he comments.

He did have to find an appropriate closure for the 750-ml amber-colored glass bottles selected to represent the product’s brand. While the hard cider is not carbonated, a small residue of CO2 remains in the bottle, requiring a higher level of gas retention than the 60 x 30 ACI screw caps regularly used on Chaddsford wines. The solution is the ACI “fizz” screw cap with an aluminum exterior and a polymer insert with a Saranex liner, the same closure purchased by ACI customers who make sparkling cider and wine. The liner provides a total oxygen barrier to preserve the organoleptic qualities and flavor of the product at the time of bottling. Osborn points out, “I can still use the same capping equipment we use for our wine, but this screw cap offers a tighter seal that gives me a little extra insurance and allows me to sleep well at night.”

Since its debut last fall, Chaddsford has sold 500 cases of Hard Cider from its two retail outlets; plans call for an output of 2,000 cases in 2015. There is interest in launching the product into the Winery’s Mid-Atlantic distribution network, “but we haven’t cemented that decision yet,” Osborn says. As he eyes the multiple attractions of his new product—its lively taste, 6% alcohol by volume, and naturally gluten-free composition–he sees a bright and fizzy future ahead.

The Chaddsford Winery and tasting room are located at 632 Baltimore Pike, Chadds Ford, PA 19317, (610) 388-6221. For more information on products from Chaddsford Winery and Hard Cider, go to

# # March 2015 # #

ACI Cork USA, celebrating its 11th anniversary in the United States, is located at 2870 Cordelia Road, Suite 150, Fairfield CA 94534. Telephone: (707) 426-3566.

Valentine's Wines: Steve Bjerklie Writes from New Hampshire

wine-st-valentine-day (2)Your lover wants chocolate, you want wine. Can this relationship be saved in time for Valentine’s Day?
You won’t have to look far to find expert, well-meaning advice saying, yes, sure, no problem. Red wine — especially a dense zinfandel or petite sirah, even a good pinot noir — is a great match for chocolate, or so goes the conventional wisdom. I’m here to tell you, however, that’s baloney. I think red wine goes with chocolate like flip-flops go on a hockey rink: the combination usually proves embarrassing.
So instead of following the crowd, try pairing Valentine chocolate with a good port. New Hampshire state liquor stores usually have a variety of good ports on hand, and the full state wine list (from which you can order online) offers dozens of ports, including some high-end vintage bottles.
True port is a sweet dark wine fortified with aguardente (a grape spirit, though not brandy) that comes from Portugal, specifically the Duoro Valley. If “sweet” and “fortified” don’t seem to you like attractive descriptions for a wine, consider that production of port dates back at least to the 17th century, and across the centuries port makers have learned a very great deal about how to make delicious wine.
Several kinds of port cater to different tastes. Tawny port is aged in wooden barrels, often for decades, and tends to be on the sweet side. It’s usually served as a dessert wine. Ruby port is the most common port and is typically the cheapest; it is not aged in wood but in stainless steel tanks. Vintage port is the good stuff, made only in years that are declared “vintage” by the Instituto dos Vinhos do Douro e Porto, the official body governing port production in Portugal, based on the quality of that year’s grapes. Vintage ports are typically aged for two years in wooden barrels, then further aged in the bottle for much longer, sometimes as long as 40 years, before they’re released for sale. Indeed, vintage port more than 100 years old can still taste wonderful.
What makes port a good match for chocolate is the hint of sweetness in the wine that’s supported, in the best ports, by subtle, tantalizing fresh fruit flavors. A dark chocolate, not too sweet, captures and complements the port’s sugar. Great port is as complex as a great Bordeaux or New World cabernet sauvignon, but in a completely different way. Just as you wouldn’t pair a cab with ice cream, you wouldn’t match a port with a steak. With port you want a food that complements and enhances the wine’s quiet sweetness and subtle fruitiness without bringing along a clashing acidity or oily fat. Strawberries dipped in chocolate come to mind. So does a really good chocolate truffle with raspberry filling.
A flavor combination I happen to love is orange with chocolate, and so another wine match for chocolate that’s a favorite of mine is dark chocolate accompanied by a glass of Essensia, a sweet dessert wine from Quady Winery in California that’s made with the orange muscat grape. You will find Essensia on the occasional restaurant wine list — it’s available at the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, VT — and in a few well-stocked Vermont wine shops. It’s not on the New Hampshire state wine list, unfortunately.
- See more at:

COWBOYS, MAPLEWOOD AND SYRAH - Steve Bjerklie writes from New Hamphire


Back in the fall of 2013, a windstorm took down a stately old sugar maple on some acreage we own in Dorchester, NH. I didn’t have a chainsaw just then, so I let the fallen tree rest and dry out for more than a year before cutting it up for firewood. The past few weekends I’ve been at the task, sawing rounds off the trunk and the larger branches, and it’s a beast of a job. The tree, maybe 150 years old, is four feet in diameter at its thickest, and the wood, now nicely dried out, is hard as stone. (It burns great, though.)
While I work the old tree on a chilly gray afternoon, I like to think about the delicious stew my wife Cindy makes on cold days, a hearty concoction she calls “cowboy bean.” It’s amazing how thoughts of good, hot food can make sawing rounds of heavy trunk-wood in an icy, biting wind much easier, especially when those thoughts include a wine that is one of my favorites. For there’s nothing better with cowboy bean stew than a great big syrah.
Syrah is the basis for the elegant, complex red wines of the northern Rhône region in France. It can also be made into a fruitier, much simpler wine, as cheap shiraz (as syrah is called there) from Australia demonstrates. In the United States, syrah (not to be confused with petite sirah, which is a different grape altogether) tends to be denser than light Australian shiraz but is usually not as multi-dimensional as the best Rhônes.
There are exceptions, though. My favorite American syrahs come from Washington state, particularly the Walla Walla Valley. There, the hot, dry summers and cold, sometimes bitter, winters and the rocky, volcanic soils stress syrah vines just enough to concentrate an abundance of flavors into the grapes. Indeed, the region has attracted several French-born vignerons in addition to a new generation of young winemakers. The highest-end Walla Walla syrahs — those from Cayuse, Spring Valley, Sleight of Hand, Trust Cellars, Long Shadows and SYZYGY, among others — are all but impossible to find in the eastern U.S. outside of a tiny handful of exclusive restaurants, though it’s very much worth trying to get on mailing lists for these wines. However, excellent Washington syrah is widely available under the Columbia Crest label, and the New Hampshire State Liquor store wine list includes terrific Walla Walla syrah from K Vintners and Charles Smith.
This isn’t to say other regions don’t produce fine syrah. Randall Grahm, the original “Rhone Ranger,” began growing Rhone varietals, including syrah, in California north of Santa Cruz back in the 1980s. His winery, Bonny Doon, makes a very good syrah called “Pousseur” that’s on the NH State Liquor list. In addition to Santa Cruz and Bonny Doon syrahs, I’ve tasted good syrahs from the Sierra Foothills and the Paso Robles area in California and the northern Willamette Valley in Oregon.
Not to forget, of course, syrah’s ancestral home, the Rhône Valley in southeastern France, which produces some of the finest wines in the world. Syrah has been grown there for wine for 2,500 years, and across the millennia the French vignerons have learned a thing or two about how to make great wine from this wonderful grape. If you see the word “Cornas” in large type on the label of a French wine, snap it up. That sub-region of the northern Rhône produces, arguably, the best syrah anywhere. With Cornas in your glass, you are in for a truly special wine experience. This beautiful wine would certainly pair well with Cindy’s cowboy bean stew. Even a Frenchman might say “Mon Dieu!” to the match while a maplewood fire warmed the room.
(Steve Bjerklie is a writer who works from the Half Pint Farm in New Hampshire.  This column first appeared in online magazine, in January 2015)

Industry Veteran Raul Marques Joins ACI CORK USA

Sales Executive brings more than
30 years of experience to
Raul Marques is the latest addition to the sales team at ACI CORK USA. Mr. Marques, a native of Portugal’s cork-growing region, has logged more than three decades in the cork business, occupying a progression of sales and management positions and working with winery customers around the globe.

Headquartered in Fairfield, California, ACI CORK USA provides cork and non-cork closures to producers of wine, distilled spirits, vinegars and oils in the US, Canada, and Mexico.

“Raul’s comprehensive knowledge of the industry is a great asset to our company,” comments Armando Andrade, General Manager of ACI CORK USA. “In addition, he shares our commitment to maintaining a premier position in customer service to the wine industry as our market share continues to grow.”

Since beginning his career on the production floor of a cork manufacturer near his home town, Mr. Marques has had a first-hand view of advances in all facets of the business, from forest management to the adoption of sophisticated processing technologies to the location of finishing plants near winemakers to foster frequent and convenient communication.


“Corks nowadays are much more reliable, thanks in large part to the continuous process improvement and rigid quality control practices such as those in place at ACI CORK USA,” he notes. “Today’s wineries enjoy a wide variety of closure options to protect their products and support brand identification initiatives. As a supplier it’s a definite advantage to offer a gamut of cork types, capsules and screw caps, along with the flexibility to meet their unique delivery requirements.


“I’m very pleased to serve our customers throughout California in this new capacity,” Mr. Marques concludes.
ACI CORK USA, celebrating its 10th anniversary in the United States, is located at 2870 Cordelia Road, Suite 150, Fairfield CA 94534. Telephone: (707) 426-3566.
ACI CORK USA provides cork and non-cork closures to producers of wine, distilled spirits, vinegars and oils in the North American market. Corks are sourced from Portuguese companies that use world class technology to produce all-natural cork wine stoppers; other cork-based products sold by ACI CORK USA are the new innovative Nanocork™, several types of "technical" corks produced via agglomeration processes, closures for sparkling wines, and Bartop™ closures. Screwcaps and capsules, included in the ACI CORK USA product line, provide one-stop shopping for any wine closure need. After custom finishing each product to exacting customer specifications in the modern 30,000 sq ft Fairfield CA plant, ACI CORK USA provides closures to more than 600 winemakers in the USA, Canada and Mexico.