Wine Walks at Northstar at Tahoe: Great Fun for Wine Enthusiasts

Northstar at Tahoe has many events, wine bars and restaurants that make an excursion for a wine enthusiast worthwhile at any time. This is true of their Wine Walk events, and the final one is Saturday August 28th. These Wine Walks are fun events, with no pressure to rush. A beautiful day, a glass of wine, and perhaps some friends to join you… a perfect summer Saturday!

The July event featured Clos Bu Bois Reserve wines and some stops on the 11-point Wine Walk also poured a number of other interesting wines.

First stop was Butterbox, where the 2007 Clos Du Bois Calcaire (Chardonnay) was poured. It has the fresh, crisp fruit flavors that make cool climate Chardonnay from Russian River yummy, with aromas of citrus, apple and pear, and a touch of nutmeg. Creamy and rich in the mouth, the ripe apple and pear fruit tones come through, and then a nice surprise of lemon and lime. 14.5% alcohol. $30 on the winery website, $19-22 from internet suppliers.

Earthly Delights poured a Maso Canali Pinot Grigio. This wine originated on the 17-acre, family-owned Maso Canali Vineyard in Trentino, Italy. The Canali family has lived on the estate for 500 years, and has been planting Pinot Grigio grapes there since 1893. On the nose, an aroma of peach and bit of honey. Flavors are tropical with some floral notes, and there is apricot, lemon and pineapple. Good balance, a great finish. A wonderful summer wine! !3% alcohol. $14-20 from internet suppliers.

Olivier Napa Valley paired its creamy mushroom fondue with a very drinkable 2009 Domaine des Lauriers Languedoc Picpoul-de-Pinet. A nice light Mediterranean wine, notes that “this wine is produced in the Coteaux du Languedoc region of southeast France. The terroir is a mixture of limestone, sand and clay. Pinet is a small Languedoc village overlooking the oyster and mussel farms of the Bassin de Thau. ” This wine delivers delivering bright flavors of pear, pineapple, lemon and hints of orange. 13% alcohol. Retail price around $14 a bottle.

Baxter’s Bistro and Lounge poured a Sangria (top photo) made with Grenache, 2008 Evodia, Altovinum, paired with cucumber slices topped with trout rouet. The recipe from Baxter’s manager Emily Schoonover: Grenache, orange juice, fresh seasonal fruit; let the fruit marinate overnight; fill glass with ice and 3/4 full with Sangria, top with Club Soda.

The 2005 Clos du Bois Dry Creek Reserve Zinfandel, a blend of 90% Zinfandel and 10% Petite Syrah, was served at Mine. True to its Dry Creek Valley (Sonoma County, California) terroir, this Zinfandel is ripe and intensely flavored but balanced and not overblown. Color is a deep ruby red, with aroma of blueberry, plum, and hints of vanilla and spice tones of black pepper. Taste follows aroma, with blueberry, plum and raspberry too. 15% alcohol. Should retail between $18-20 a bottle.

The Chocolate Bar featured a Ferrari-Carano 2006 Siena, a blend of 68% Sangiovese, 32% Malbec from Sonoma County vineyards in Alexander, Dry Creek and Russian River Valleys to create a beautifully balanced and medium-bodied wine. It is a ripe blend with aroma of many fruits: cranberry, strawberry, cherry. Juice jammy flavors of strawberry and raspberry, a nice finish that features caramel and spice. Good acidity with round, gentle tannins and a lingering finish. 13.3% alcohol. $22-$27 a bottle where you can find it… sold out at many internet stores.

The Wine Walks are generally summer events, held from 2:30 to 5: 30, tickets are $20 and include tastings at over 10 locations in the Village, a commemorative wine glass, and some light snacks at a few locations. To find the calendar of wine walk events and reserve tickets, go to call 1.800.GO.NORTH.

© 2010 Barbara Keck

For more information on dining and the wide range of activities around Lake Tahoe, see the online version of The Tahoe Weekly. This article appeared in my column "It's Grape" in late August 2010.

Watch for my forthcoming book: " Wineries of the Sierra and Its Foothills". Publication date early Summer 2011, The Wine Appreciation Guild Publishing Division

>>Send an email to Barbara (at) if you want to be put on the notification list when it is published...

ZoZo's Ristorante, Reno -- Wine Dinners that Get People Out of the Rut

Looking for a place to take your friends, where the food is good, the wine is well paired with the food, and it’s festive and reasonably priced? Take your group to one of the “A Taste Of…” events at ZoZo’s Ristorante in Reno. Located in the middle of the Moana West Shopping Center at 3446 Lakeside Drive, Reno, the avowed purpose of these twice monthly wine-pairing dinners is to “get people out of the rut”. They do a fine job of that, and for only $35 per person including tax and tip. “The whole reason we do this is so people can try new things,” explained owners Sid and Julie Ashton. “Our customers come in and often order the same wine over and over again; this gets them to try new wines and it won’t break the bank.”

The first pairing was a 2009 Ponzi Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley. This 40-year-old winery, located in Beaverton, Oregon, is internationally acclaimed for producing some of the world's finest Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay and White Riesling. Winemaker Luisa Ponzi, a second generation family member, uses a classic Burgundian style in her wines. Luisa defines this Pinot Gris as "A floral nose with lime zest and green apple, the mouth is ripe melon, clove and citrus finishing with a perfect play between sweetness and acidity. " 13.6% alcohol. Nicely paired with ZoZo’s homemade white bean minestrone soup.

I personally love Rombauer Chardonnay. Call it my California palette or whatever you want, but its big buttery oaky fruitiness always pleases me. The 2008 Rombauer Chardonnay that was served with the next plate, a rock shrimp and artichoke fritta with red pepper aoli, had the classic tones: intense pear, pineapple and tropical fruits, balanced with creamy, toasted vanilla. Refined acidity and hints of apple linger on the finish. 14.4% alcohol.

I’ve been touring the El Dorado and Amador wine country recently, as part of my research for the book that’s going to be published in Spring 2011: Mountain Wineries of the Sierra and Its Foothills. So I was thrilled to see an Amador wine appear on my table. The 2007 Noceto Sangiovese has been called one of California’s best Sangioveses. Winemaker Jim Gullet notes that this wine is a "Chianti-inspired normale” Sangiovese that displays hints of chocolate with a fruit forward cranberry-cherry character. Highly versatile with food, and it compares favorably to its Tuscan forebears.” 14.0% alcohol. Paired with Lobster Cognac ravioli.

The 2006 Earthquake Cabernet Sauvignon, Lodi, is blended with Petite Sirah and Cabernet Franc. The Earthquake label is part of the Michael-David family of wines. It opens with attractive blend of mild blackberry, coffee, cinnamon, and clove-like bouquet. On the palate, this wine is full bodied, very nicely balanced, smooth, and elegant. The flavor profile is a tasty mild black currant with notes of coffee, bacon, and milk chocolate. The finish is dry with mild fine tannins. 15.% alcohol. Paired with slow roasted pork.

It’s a fun experience: vines and tiny, twinkling lights weave throughout trellises, hanging from from the ceiling. Grape clusters and Chianti bottles cling to the lattice, and the foot and wine selections are always good.

ZoZo’s Ristorante, 3446 Lakeside Drive, Reno, NV 89509-4854 . (775) 829-9449 Open for Dinner seven nights a week and lunch Monday through Friday. On many Wednesday evenings, live jazz. Want to join a wine dinner? The menu and wine pairings for future wine dinners are on their website, You must make a reservation for the wine dinner, and can do that by phoning or by sending an email to
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© 2010 Barbara Keck

For more information on dining and the wide range of activities around Lake Tahoe, see the online version of
The Tahoe Weekly. This article appeared in my column "It's Grape" in August 2010.

Watch for my forthcoming book: "Wineries of the Sierra and Its Foothills". Publication date early Summer 2011, Wine Appreciation Guild Publishing.

>>Send an email to Barbara (at) if you want to be put on the notification list when it is published...

Wild Goose - Wonderful Wine, Spectacular Food

For a truly special evening with truly wonderful wine choices, run, don’t walk to the Wild Goose in Tahoe Vista! For many years a private dining amenity for owners of property in the Tahoe Mountain Club enclaves, it’s now open to the public. What an incredible treat!

Of course you’ll be awed the minute you walk in, as the restaurant design by a famous San Francisco architect is fashioned after the lake cruisers of the 1920’s with the elements of light, water and wood all focusing your attention toward Lake Tahoe. The view from the bar as well as the indoor dining space is exquisite. If you are fortunate enough to make a reservation far enough in advance to be seated outside, prepare for the feeling of Heaven touching the lake and the delight of wines that tease and please the palate, accompanied by the best food I have had in a long, long time.

Pat Hedderman is the wine expert, recently recruited away from some high-toned Tahoe venues by Brad Kohler, General Manager. Both are experienced professionals, and it shows in everything that is presented to you. Hedderman is a confident wine buyer, and he says that development of the Wild Goose wine list was both reasoned and spontaneous. “I tasted it, I liked it, I thought it had a spot on the list, and I bought it,” he said. He is also dedicated to affordability in his wine selections.

We started with some great selections from the wines-by-the-glass list, and Chef de Cuisine Jason DeGuilio matched items from the menu with those wines.

To begin, a lovely Rose from Lucia Vineyards. “Lucy”, a 2009 product of pinot noir grapes grown in Gary’s Vineyard by the famous viticulturist Gary Pisoni, is a perfect smooth summer wine. The very pretty color reminiscent of a near-ripe strawberry may have inspired its pairing with the strawberry summer salad. 14.1% alcohol, $9 the glass.

What a nice surprise to find a Portuguese Vinho Verde in my glass next. This Famega 2008 is an aromatic white wine, with crisp apple flavors, and slightly frizzantei (sparkling). Perfectly paired with the pistachio-tempura softshell crab on a timbale of avocado in a cucumber soup. This everyday table wine from Portugal is very drinkable, with only 9.5% alcohol. $18 the bottle.

An Adelsheim Pinot Noir 2008 from the Willamette Valley was great with a pan-seared halibut crusted in shitake mushrooms. This wine earned 90 points from the Wine Spectator, who termed it “Smooth and velvety, light on its feet, glowing with red cherry and raspberry flavors, with a hint of mint in the background. Lingers easily on the refreshing finish.” That about wraps it up. 13.3% alcohol. $35 for the half bottle.

My absolute most surprising wine-food pairing was the Shabu-shabu of thin slices of striploin of beef, presented with a lobster-infused butter to be cooked for “only 7 seconds” at the table, according to Brad Kohler. Then a touch of Fleur de Sal, and pop it in your mouth with a 2008 ZD Chardonnay. Chardonnay with beef? This is spectacular, trust me. We all know and love ZD Chardonnary, and at 13.5% alcohol and $14 the glass, you must try this combination, it is surf-‘n-turf in a pot! Fantastic.

I hate to sound so enthusiastic, but then there was the Perrin 2007 Cotes-du-Rhone that appeared with the best lamb chop I’ve been served anywhere at Lake Tahoe. This wine is 50% syrah, 50% Grenache, with a peppery first taste that moderated as it opened up. 13% alcohol, $9 the glass.

I could wax eloquent about the desserts, but you’d hate me. So suffice it to say that the Chateau Rieussec 2001 Sauterne was as heavenly as the rest of the wines. I agree with another taster who experienced quince, exotic fruits, mango, pinepple, honey and hints of citrus in this Sémillon-Sauvignon Blanc Blend. $14 the glass. Go to the Wine Doctor’s blog to learn more about this famous estate and its wines:

And to end this incredible wine and food pairing experience a Quinta do Tedo 1995 Vintage Porto. From grapes grown on South side of the Douro, this was Tedo’s first port vintage. $7 the glass.

Wild Goose is located at 7320 North Lake Blvd, Tahoe Vista. Reservations strongly encouraged. 530-546-3640

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© 2010 Barbara Keck

For more information on dining and the wide range of activities around Lake Tahoe, see the online version of The Tahoe Weekly. This article appeared in my column "It's Grape" in August 2010.

Watch for my forthcoming book: "Wineries of the Sierra and Its Foothills". Publication date early Summer 2011, Wine Appreciation Guild Publishing.

>>Send an email to Barbara (at)
if you want to be put on the notification list
when it is published...

Why Tasting Rooms should Charge Fees

I was visiting a small winery in the Sierra Foothills. I've come to appreciate the passion these winemakers put into their wines, and the sometimes-shoestring nature of their operations. As I pulled into the parking lot, a tour bus was pulling out.

"That was almost a waste of time," John the winemaker said. " Six passengers, one bottle of wine, one pair of earrings."

I did a quick calculation. Maybe a $30 sale. For which he'd poured 24 tastes, and received no revenue. And not even a fare-the-well for use of the picnic grounds and the multiple toilet flushes in the loo at 3400 feet when water is so doggone scarce up there.

What's wrong with this picture?

Another winery owner I'd interviewed last week was Evelyn Reyes-Umaña of Bodega del Sur Winery in Murphys. She'd boldly imposed a $3 tasting fee and has been happy with the results. "That cut down on the 21-year-old-birthday-party nightmare, and that's been great," Evelyn said.

Over the past few months, I've conducted in-depth interviews with more than 20 Mountain Wineries in the Sierra and Its Foothills, for the book I'm writing. About one-fourth charge some small fee for tasting. Three-fourths don't. They all should. I plan to speak up on this topic to the remaining wineries on my interview schedule.

Here's one reason why: when I left the discouraged winemaker and went to downtown Placerville, I stopped at Starbucks and ordered a latte. $3.45 and I didn't give a second's consideration before I forked that over.

What's wrong with THAT picture? Absolutely nothing. Looks like a sound business model to me.

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© 2010 Barbara Keck

Watch for my forthcoming book: "Mountain Wineries of the Sierra and Its Foothills". Publication date Spring 2011, Wine Appreciation Guild Publishing.

>>Send an email to Barbara (at) if you want to be put on the notification list
when it is published

Treasured Wines from Ferrari-Carano at Crystal Bay Steakhouse

You know from past columns about the outstanding wine list at Crystal Bay Casino’s Steakhouse restaurant in Crystal Bay, NV. When you combine sommelier Patty Ruhl’s talents with her extensive wine industry contacts and the result is a WineMaker Dinner, clearly the event will be incredible.

The Steakhouse holds WineMaker Dinners throughout the year, so be sure to check their website for upcoming events. The Ferrari-Carano WineMaker dinner hosted earlier this summer was special, as the Carano family are Nevada natives who live in Reno, and have ownership in both the El Dorado and the Silver Legacy Casinos there. So this melding of high-end casino restaurant and the Ferrari-Carano high end wines was perfect.

Ferrari-Carano's 19 estate vineyards in four appellations total over 1400 acres, and the 1.1 millilon vines under cultivation are used to produce over 24 different wines. This review focuses on the 5 wines presented at the WineMaker Dinner. Prices quoted are winery prices.

The 2009 Fume Blanc was served to accompany a nice selection of passed appetizers. This wine is made of 100% Sauvignon Blanc grapes, and aged in a combination of old oak and stainless steel. There are melon and fig notes that predominate and reach through the crisp freshness of the wine. I liked the subtle oak character from the barrel ageing and felt that it added good complexity to the wine. 13.9% alcohol. $15 the bottle. And oh by the way, Rhonda Carano has a recipe on the Ferrari-Carano website for Spicy Lime Ginger Grilled Shrimp that would pair fantastically with this wine…

The 2008 Chardonnay, Sonoma County, was paired with pine nut crusted halibut filet with braised leek, fennel and white truffle oil. Made from 60 individually vinified lots, it’s a classic California chardonnay, which is to say, yummy. It has apple, pear, honey, butter cream and honeysuckle floral notes, and a great balance of fruit and caramel flavors. Did I taste marshmallow too? The toasted oak finish was nice. 13.9% alcohol. $23 the bottle.

2007 Merlot, Sonoma County, is a velvety wine with a nose of fresh cherries, pomegranate and rhubarb pie. You will pick up flavors of strawberry, brown sugar and crème brulee too. There is 3% Cabernet Sauvignon blended to assure a rounded flavor. It has a nice balance of fruit, tannin, and oak. 13.9% alcohol. $24 the bottle. The 2007 Merlot was paired by Crystal Bay Steakhouse Chef Geno Dugan with Merlot-marinated skinless Peking Duck breast, served with pommes frites and blueberry cassis sauce.

Tresor is a term you won’t hear commonly, but the Ferrari-Carano 2006 Tresor is indeed a treasure and that is the source of this fine wine’s name. It is a blend of the five classic Bordeaux varietals – Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Cabernet Franc – from the best selections of Ferrari-Carano’s vineyards in Alexander and Dry Creek Valleys. The winemaker’s notes: “Delicious aromas of Bing cherries, blueberry preserves and an herbal, black tea leaf nuance combine with an elegant mid-palate of fresh-picked berry and roasted mocha notes. With a full bodied and richly-textured tannin profile, this wine’s upfront silkiness and roundness make for a delicious selection now and will drink well for 7-10 years.” 14.8% alcohol, $58 the bottle. Paired with Roast loin of lamb en croute, with fungi duxelle rapini.

Dessert was a dark chocolate cappuccino cake. The 2008 Eldorado Noir (Russian River Valley) had an aroma of rose petal, and berries. It is not too sweet, and despite its intensely aromatic nature, it is fresh and clean tasting. A limited release wine, blended from 100% Muscat grapes, $28 the half bottle. Only 11% alcohol!

The Crystal Bay Steakhouse is located at 14 State Highway 28, just at California/Nevada border. Reservations are suggested. 775 833 6333. For more information on the wines, go to
© 2010 Barbara Keck
For more information on dining and the wide range of activities around Lake Tahoe, see the online version of The Tahoe Weekly. This article appeared in my column "It's Grape" in August 2010.

Watch for my forthcoming book: "Wineries of the Sierra and Its Foothills". Publication date early Summer 2011, Wine Appreciation Guild Publishing.
>>Send an email to Barbara (at)
if you want to be put on the notification list
when it is published...

Drinking Well, Doing Good: Tahoe League for Charity Annual Event

The day was warm, the appetizers delicious, and the wines spectacular – hard to beat the Tahoe League for Charity 2010 event held at the home of Linda Davis on Dollar Point. With a string quartet to begin and jazz later in the afternoon, 150 members and guest attended this charitable organization’s annual fundraiser.

Tahoe League for Charity turned to Kali Kopley, owner of the wine bar Uncorked at 1750 Village East Road in The Village at Squaw Valley to help them select some wonderful summer wines for the occasion. The result was interesting and reasonably priced wines. You might consider stocking up on some of these wines for your own summer lawn parties.

It’s almost impossible to beat a nice Riesling for a summer wine, and the KUNG FU GIRL RIESLING, COLUMBIA VALLEY, Washington, is aromatic, smooth, vibrant & tasty. Think tangerine, apricot, wet stone, key lime, clove & nectarine. 12.5% alcohol. This Riesling is only $13/bottle.

PRAXIS DRY SRYAH ROSE, ALEXANDER VALLEY, California. A wonderful summer rose’! It’s a beautiful burnt salmon color with a floral, strawberry nose. Flavors of watermelon & guava are accented by a little spice & vanilla. The wine is dry & has bright acidity with a medium body. 14.2% alcohol. $12/bottle.

MANIFESTO SAUVIGNON BLANC, NORTH COAST, California. Gardenias & a rush of grapefruit. Lemon zest fill the nose, pineapple & mouthwatering sweet citrus comprise a lingering finish. The fruit comes from three vineyards in Suisun Valley, just east of Napa Valley. The winery donates a portion of bottling line proceeds to charity for worker housing, Latino education and to clean drinking water in the Napa Valley. 14.1% alcohol. $14/bottle.
Looking for some nice red wines for your dinner parties? Tahoe League for Charity members loved these, and it’s likely that you will too.

SEAN MINOR PINOT NOIR, CARNEROS, California. This pinot noir is medium-bodied with blueberry, cherry, plum & light toast flavors. On first taste, the wine displays these blue fruit tones that are balanced with the lingering spicy/earthy notes. The vanilla & toast nuances integrate well with the silky round tannins, which evolve into a lengthy finish. Sean Minor is A LONG TIME supporter of Autism and Autism research. The 14.5% alcohol is typical for a pinot noir. $18/bottle.

FLYING WINEMAKER ZINFANDEL, LODI, California. Cameron Hughes, a negotiant with a record of presenting fine, fine wines, said this so eloquently: “Lodi is to Zinfandel what Napa is to Cabernet. Lodi zins are big, powerful wines with great depth & complexity.” I agree. Fruit from old vines, some 100 years old, leads to a beautiful, intense dark berry flavor on the palate. This wine has good depth and complexity. 14.5% alcohol. $12/bottle.

Tempranillo should be on your “I must try this varietal” list. The TRUCHARD TEMPRANILLO from NAPA VALLEY is a good starter choice, not the best I’ve ever had, but good. Rich aromas of cassis, wild blueberry, & plum, with hints of black tea, tobacco, & cedar. On the palate- earth& anise with an under-layer of mocha. 13.9% alcohol, $16/bottle.

Last but not least, a Sierra Foothill wine, the EASTON CABERNET BLEND. Composed of predominately Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, this is a great everyday wine, for picnics, boating, lunch, apre-ski. Anytime you want a delicious glass of wine. 13.5 % alcohol, $14/bottle.

The primary focus of Tahoe League for Charity to benefit the communities of North Lake Tahoe, Incline and Truckee areas by providing scholarships to local students and grants to local nonprofit organizations. They meet monthly in Tahoe City. For more info, go to

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© 2010 Barbara Keck

For more information on dining and the wide range of activities around Lake Tahoe, see the online version of The Tahoe Weekly. This article appeared in my column "It's Grape" in July 2010.

Watch for my forthcoming book: "Wineries of the Sierra and Its Foothills". Publication date early Summer 2011, Wine Appreciation Guild Publishing.
>> Send an email to Barbara (at)
if you want to be put on the notification list
when it is published...

Annual Soroptimist Wine Tasting at Tahoe-Donner: Calendar this for Next Year!

Yes, I was the one with the hand in the air bidding on 29 bottles of wonderful wines and a small refrigerator to put them in. That was just part of the fun at the annual Soroptomist International fundraiser, held at the Coyote Moon clubhouse in Truckee in early June. Attendees came from near and far to contribute to a worthy cause, all the while sipping interesting Sierra wines, paired with small plates from nearby restaurants.

(Photo: Phil and Jill Maddux of Lone Buffalo Vineyards, Auburn CA)

For this 36th annual event, wineries participating were Bantam Cellars, Brutacao Cellers, Busby Cellars, Karly Wines, Long Buffalo Vineyards, Nevada City Winery, Renaissance Vineyard & Winery, Secret Ravine, Sierra Vista Winery, Steele Wines and Truckee River Winery. Many of these wineries sell from their tasting rooms, and you’ll also find many at nearby restaurants and wine shops.

Bantam Cellars, an Amador County winery located in the Shenandoah Valley near Plymouth, CA, specializes in both Mediterranean varieties as well as Zinfandels. I enjoyed their 2008 Vermentino which is a nice wine for both casual sipping and also will pair well with lighter foods. It has an aroma with some minerality, but offers almond, pear and peach notes too. 12.5% alcohol. $14.00 a bottle at the tasting room, located at 10851 Shenandoah Road in Plymouth.

Since I was enjoying the wines, I tasted Bantam’s 2007 Garth Cobb Select Primitivo, named for the winemaker. I agree with Jonna Cobb’s assessment that this is a “special bottle of wine, worthy of birthday and anniversary celebrations.” Yes, it has gooseberries, cherries and a nice soft middle to the mouth feel. 15.0% alcohol. $24.00 a bottle. By the way, their “Big Sister Winery” is Karly Winery.

Lone Buffalo Vineyards, located in Placer County, presented their 2008 Where the Buffalo Roam, a Rhone-style blend produced this year from Syrah, Mourvedre, Grenache & Cinsault grapes The fruit for this wine is 1/3 estate, and the remainder is sourced from other Foothill grape growers. This is a very food-friendly wine. Winemaker’s notes are spot-on: “Concentrated but lively fruit, silky tannins, depth with a hint of spice, elegant and easy to drink!” 15.2% alcohol. $21 a bottle. The good news is that in the last 4 years, Lone Buffalo has grown from 100 case production to more than 1000 cases. You can visit them at 2682 Burgard Lane, Auburn. Many local Lake Tahoe restaurants carry their fine wines.

Busby Cellars is a family owned vineyard and winery specializing in small lots of estate-grown varietals. It is the northern-most winery in the Fair Play viticultural region. Their 2008 Eldorado Chardonnay was slightly sweet, and very fresh tasting; I violated my own rule and had three tastes as it paired with many foods. 13.7% alcohol. $15 a bottle.

Renaissance Winery’s 2004 Mediterranean Red is a blend of 54% Grenache,26% Mourvedre, 20% Syrah. This classic Rhone blend tastes like a Chateauneuf, but of course grapes are sourced from North Yuba County. Winemaker’s notes: “Aromatically, very intense, complex brambly fruit with blackberry and raspberry notes. Bright, vibrant, and vigorous on the palate with a very long spicy, refreshing finish”. Enjoy it now or cellar it for several years. The winery and tasting room are located in Oregon House, (Yuba County) CA. 13.9% alcohol, $30 a bottle.

Soroptimist International began in 1921 in Oakland with 80 professional women. Today it is the world’s largest service organization for professional and executive businesswomen, with programs in the areas of economic and social development, education, environment, health, human rights & status of women, and international goodwill and understanding. Want to get involved? Call Truckee-Donner club president Lorna Leyton at 530 587 0826.

© 2010 Barbara Keck

For more information on dining and the wide range of activities around Lake Tahoe, see the online version of The Tahoe Weekly. This article appeared in my column "It's Grape" in June 2010.

Watch for my forthcoming book: "Wineries of the Sierra and Its Foothills". Publication date early Summer 2011, Wine Appreciation Guild Publishing.

Wine Programs Ahoy at Tahoe Yacht Club!

It’s such a welcoming place, filled with Tahoe nautical memorabilia, photos of beautiful boats, sailors, and so very conducive to enjoying a nice glass of wine. This is the Tahoe Yacht Club located in Tahoe City, and Commodore Andy Wagner encourages prospective members to tour and, by the way, he’d love to talk about wine. Andy is the mover behind the Club’s wonderful series of wine tastings and programs.

A recent event featured Rod Santos, owner of Wine Thieves, two retail stores in the East Bay. Their motto is “we find wine steals so you don’t have to”. Rod’s presentation, “A Coup for Consumers: Higher-end Wines at Bargain Prices,” verified that wine lovers can find good wines without breaking the budget.

It’s both good news and bad news that Wine Thieves has an extensive list of great finds. Good news for wine drinkers, and bad news for winemakers who ended up not being able to move recent vintages due to the recession.

Notes on The Wine Institute of California website outlined the situation: “During the recessionary 2009 economy, California vintners shipped 467.7 million gallons of California wine to the U.S. wine market, up a modest 0.2% compared to the 2008. The estimated retail value of these sales was $17.9 billion, down 3% from 2008 as consumers traded down to lower-priced wines. Wineries that were reliant on restaurant sales found that on-premise sales were off 6-9% as consumers dined more at home and business travel was curbed. Some wineries diverted inventory to off-premise retail accounts and many placed new emphasis on direct-to-consumer sales…”

Summary: there’s been a lot of pain in the winery, but a lot of pleasure in wine lovers’ wallets.

Tahoe Yacht Club members and guests tasted interesting examples of Wine Thieves finds.

The 2009 Robert Hall “Rose de Robles” is a blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mouvedre (Paso Robles). Perhaps you think of Rose as a blush wine that can be almost sticky-sweet; this rose, far from that, is dry, juicy and sophisticated. Aromas of fresh raspberries, hint of tangerine. 13% alcohol. $8 per bottle, list $14.

2009 Pinot Gris “Acrobat” from one of Oregon’s largest wineries, King Estate, is dry with nice citrus and apple tones. “Crisp entry with nice balance between acidity and residual sugar, round and full mid-palate, clean refreshing finish,” noted the winemaker. 12.5% alcohol $11 per bottle.

The Montepulciano “San Lorenzo”, 2003 from Umani Ronchi (Rosso Conero DOC, Italy) is a single vineyard, full bodied red wine made from 100% Montepulciano grapes grown in Mount Conero overlooking the Adriatic Sea, and aged 14 months in oak to provide a distinctive, subtle aroma and flavor. Finely structured, it pairs with roasts, game, aged cheese. At $10 the bottle, stock up, because it will age well in your cellar. Originally sold at $18 the bottle. 13.5% alcohol.

A great everyday wine is the 2007 “Rock Star” California red from Rock Wall winery. There’s a fascinating story behind this winery, which was started in 2008 by a daughter of the well-known Rosenblum wine family, and is housed in an old airplane hanger in Alameda, CA. This red blend is 45% Napa Syrah, 34% Tempranillo, 21% Cinsault. Aged in oak, flavors of dark berry fruit, violets and anise, with a hint of peppery spice, and 14.5% alcohol. $10 at, $14 list.

The 2002 Melanson Cabernet Sauvignon “Matthew’s Block”, is from an 8 acre parcel on Pritchard Hill, Napa Valley. Only 73 cases were produced, and Wine Thieves has most of what’s left at $20 the bottle (originally $55 … pre-recession…). Harvested in 2002, aged in French Oak, and bottled in 2005, a classic California cab, nicely tannic. 14.2% alcohol.

Interested in a tour or membership in the Tahoe Yacht Club? Contact general manager Marianna Dye at (530) 581-4700 or stop by at 700 North Lake Blvd. 2nd Floor in Tahoe City.

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© 2010 Barbara Keck

For more information on dining and the wide range of activities around Lake Tahoe, see the online version of
The Tahoe Weekly. This article appeared in my column "It's Grape" in August 2010.

Watch for my forthcoming book: "Wineries of the Sierra and Its Foothills". Publication date early Summer 2011, Wine Appreciation Guild Publishing.