At Hyatt Regency Incline: Kristi Sets up an Astounding Wine on the Water Benefit

The Boys and Girls Club of North Lake Tahoe benefits from funds raised at the Wine on the Water event at the end of August, organized by master sommelier Kristi Snyder of Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe. (photo left) The 24 wineries poured wines to go with small-plate tastings from 12 great Tahoe restaurants. It was an event not to miss.

Frankly, I have not seen such a stellar list of wineries pouring great wines gathered in one place at Tahoe before. The roster included Benessere, Bennett Lane, BR Cohn, Cakebread, Carol Shelton, Chateau St. Michelle, Dierberg, Domaine Carneros, Duckhorn, Educated Guess, Elyse, Emmolo, Forman Vineyards, Four Graces, Frank Family, Gregory Graham, Keenan, Laird, Mer Soliel, Mi Sueno, Miner Family, Opolo, Robert Hall, Rodney Strong, Schramsberg, Simi, Stags Leap, Talbott, Terra Valentine, Twisted Oak, Twomey, Silver Oak. Truly star-studded!

Wines from small production wineries is what I decided to taste. There’s a special place in my heart for the little guy because often their spirit and persistence and innovation leads to new chapters in the wine history books.

Benessere Vineyards, St. Helena, is family owned and specializes in Italian Varietals. With vineyards located along the Napa River, the growing conditions are ideal for Sangiovese, a fairly fickle and delicate varietal. The Benessere 2007 Napa Valley Sangiovese is made entirely from estate grapes grown on their 42 acres, and the dedication to hand-crafting the Benessere wines shows through. It is an elegant and beautiful wine, with structured tannins that do not overwhelm the ripe fruit flavors of cherries and red currant. 14.4% alcohol, $32/bottle. Only 1200 cases made.

At the tasting station for Emmolo Wine Company, there’s a photo of their new concrete fermenter, fondly called “The Egg.” There’s lots of experimentation in the wine business with fermentation types and techniques, and this is one of the newest types of fermenters, developed in Burgundy, France. Cheryl Emmolo, owner, is pleased with the results. Her winemaker son Charlie Wagner produced a bright and clean 2009 Sauvignon Blanc from grapes in their historic Emmolo River Ranch property, Rutherford/Napa. The citrus, starfruit, honeydew and tropical fruit hints are true to the varietal. The finish had a touch of minerality that was classic to this terroir. 12.8% alcohol, $16/bottle.

Mi SueƱo Winery, Napa, poured their 2007 Mi Sueno El Llano Red Wine Napa Valley. This blend, 35% Syrah and 65% Cabernet, is named in honor of winemaker/owner Rolando Herrera's hometown of El Llano, Michoacan, Mexico. Begun as a little experiment of 700 cases in 2002, the El Llano has become their most popular wine. A deep, dark, purple-black color leads you to expect the rich aroma of red and black fruits. Great fruit flavor with a touch of roasted espresso and perhaps some sweet cocoa. Ripe-polished tannins and a hint of warm toasty oak. Truly yummy. 14.5% alcohol, $40/bottle.

Educated Guess 2008 Chardonnay is made from grapes grown in Napa’s Oak Knoll and Mount Veeder districts. This is a delicious crisp Chardonnay, not over-oaked. Wonderful tastes of pear, melon, green apple, and a nice bright acidity with creamy vanilla notes. It is both tasty and affordable – and this is a goal of the Roots Run Deep Winery, which produces Educated Guess Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir. 14.6 % alcohol, $17/bottle.

For more information about the Boys and Girls Club of North Lake Tahoe, visit their website at It was founded in 1998 in response to a lack of affordable, year-round youth development services on the North Shore.

© 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 September 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...

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