Halloween and other Wines on the West Shore: Obexer's General Store features Unique and Affordable Wines

A recent entrant to the wine shop choices on the West Shore of Lake Tahoe is Obexer’s General Store in Homewood, where wine buyer Scott Willers is stocking a great selection of recognizable, unique and affordable wines. By next summer, the shop will be hosting of wine tasting events. Let the fun begin!

“We’ve created a selection of wines that make it easy to find a great bottle for gifting or dining. We’ve got wines for people who know a lot about wine, hard to find wines, and also recognizable brands that everyone loves,” said Scott. “One goal is to stock wines that diners have enjoyed at West Shore restaurants like Sunnyside, Swiss Lakewood and West Shore Cafe, so they can repeat that wine experience at home.”

For fun in October, Obexer’s has stocked wines that are perfect choices for Halloween parties. They are all fun, affordable and very drinkable.

Evil Cabernet Sauvignon, a label of R Wines company, is 100% cabernet sourced from vineyards in Langhorne Creek, Riverland, Barossa Valley. Over 25% of these grapes are aged in French oak for 12 months, resulting in a wine that is a dark red with bright crimson hues. Aroma is fresh yet rich, with hints of black olive, fresh blackberries and raspberries. Taste is nice and complex with fruit and oak both showing through, and some blackcurrant and spicy clove notes, and a fine tannin finish. One wine blogger noted that the fun of the label is “"Evil" spelled backwards is "Live" but "Evil" turned upside down, "It's just wrong". That's what the label says anyway….”14.7% alcohol. $9.99 thebottle.

If you are in the mood for merlot, try the Vampire Merlot, which actually hails from Paso Robles, not Romania. (Sorry to disappoint you). This merlot is blended with 8% Cabernet Sauvignon for some additional depth and structure, and 8% Zinfandel to add a bit of spiciness. The result is a nice plumy bouquet, a dark purple color (keep WineAway on hand for spills!) and a nice soft tannin with vanilla hint from aging in American oak. It is enjoyable now, but has enough structure to age for several years. 13.8 % alcohol. $12.99 the bottle.

Or try a bottle of Dracula Zinfandel, a big and expressive Zinfandel, also from Paso Robles. The wine has full and deep plum flavors, which are a tantalizing lead up to a taste of pepper and other spices. There’s a great refined texture, and on the palate, nice elegance with polished tannins to finish. 13% alcohol. $19.99 the bottle.

You can name your own poison with Poizon Zinfandel, which the winery terms “a wine to die for.” I might not go that far, but it is delicious. This is a Sonoma Dry Creek blend that features almost 80% zin. Aroma of plum, cherries and a hint of green herbs. Nice and velvety, maybe some reminiscence of mocha and buttery cake, and then a nice touch of toastiness from French oak. A mouth watering finish! 15% alcohol, $24.99 the bottle.

Want to slink away from the Halloween festivities to trick or treat? Then you’ll want some Incognito Viognier, a white Rhone wine that’s now grown in a Michael David vineyard on a Lodi Delta island located 25 feet below sea level! Unmask long enough to share this yummy wine with friends: its honeysuckle and jasmine aromas practically jump out of your glass. A great rich mouth-feel, flavors of pineapple, apricot and tropical fruit. 16% alcohol, $14.99 the bottle.

Obexer’s General Store is located at 5300 W Lake Blvd, Homewood, CA 96141. Phone (530) 525-6297 Open all year around.

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

Uncorked Tahoe City: Tastes by the Glass, and Great Bottles for Dinner

Uncorked Tahoe City in the Cobblestone Center is the newest venture of Kali Kopley and partners Debbie and Marc Metcalf. We know that Kali has one of the best palates around. Mark and Debbie bring experience and enthusiasm of wine afficianados to Uncorked.

You’ll enjoy yourself in this revitalized wine bar/wine shop. Originally opened as Corkscrews in 2009, the new d├ęcor is warm and welcoming, the noise level is under control, and the selections are great.

Since Zinfandel is a favorite of Mark and Debbie, they have stocked some wonderful Zins. “It is more difficult to make a Zinfandel than anything else,” explained Marc Metcalf. “Zinfandel as a variety is hard to grow. When a winemaker produces a Zin that is varietally correct, it is a spectacular wine.”

A favorite is 2008 Mauritson Rockpile Zin, a single vineyard “hallmark” varietal. A Grand Opening event recently featured Clay Mauritson, third-generation winemaker, who noted why this is such a special wine.

“Our Family’s Rockpile Ridge Vineyard is located at nearly 1,200 ft elevation in the Rockpile appellation, Sonoma County. We pick the blocks at different times, and ferment these separately to insure the integrity and uniqueness of the individual blocks. Working with nine amazingly distinct blocks is a winemaking dream come true, and is what makes our Rockpile Ridge Zinfandel so spectacular. 2008 was an interesting year to say the least. In fact, if we never have another year like it, it will be too soon. One of the worst frosts that we have seen in 40 years, gusting winds during bloom, an uncharacteristically hot September, and we ended up with about 50% of our normal production. Even so, the quality is as good as ever, but there is just not very much of it!” 15.5% alcohol, $36/bottle. (PHOTO: left to right, Clay Mauritson, Debbie and Marc Metcalf)

The wine bar will host a number of winemakers throughout the year, but their daily wine-by-the-glass menu encourages stopping in any day. It changes daily, but here’s what I tasted:

Two offerings by Fort Ross, which draws its fruit from a necklace of small mountain vineyards on the Sonoma coast. The 2006 Fort Ross Pinotage has classic plum on the palate, with a beautiful dark ruby hue and a concentration of bright, bold and luscious flavors. Grapes come from Fort Ross proprietary clones, MM1 and MM3, that were developed from bud wood imported from one of the most select Pinotage vineyards in South Africa. 14.1% alcohol, $12 the glass, $30 the bottle.

The 2007 Fort Ross Pinot Noir is a deep garnet in color, and this is prelude to a full body with aromas of dark fruit and black tea, and taste of black cherry, raspberry, earthy mushroom, and even some hints of sage. 91 points- Wine Spectator. 14.5% alcohol, $12 the glass, $29 the bottle.

The 2008 Voss Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley, has aroma of lemon peel and white flower, taste of grapefruit, honey and a hint of spice and mineral. 11.5% alcohol, $9 the glass, $21 the bottle.

The 2009 Frostwatch Kismet White Blend, Bennett Valley-Sonoma, is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, leaning this year heavily on Sauvignon Blanc. It has bright and refreshing flavors of passion fruit, nectarine, fig and lemon, and a rich texture. 90 points- Wine Spectator. 14.3% alcohol. $10 the glass, $21 the bottle.

Uncorked Tahoe City is located in the Cobblestone Mall at 475 North Lake Blvd., Suite 151, Tahoe City, CA. Open daily noon to 8 p.m. Telephone 530.581.1106

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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 October 2010.

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

Calaveras Wineries Host “Day of the Dead: Celebration of Family and Life”

Calaveras County has many ties to the Hispanic community, including the first Cinco de Mayo held in California . I read about this historical fact in the Columbia State Museum; it’s a featured item from a newspaper from Gold Rush days that is on display, unearthed during my research for a forthcoming book on Wineries of the Sierra and Its Foothills. I shared this tidbit with Evelyn Reyes Umana, owner of Bodega del Sur Winery, and she mentioned a unique event that wineries in Murphys are creating.

Keeping with the Hispanic tradition, but going beyond it, several wineries in and around Murphys are launching the first annual Day of the Dead winery walking tour. The intent of the tour is to celebrate Family and Life.

Participants are Bodega del Sur Winery, Frog’s Tooth Vineyards, Tanner Vineyards, and Beaux Chevaux Tasting Gallery. This a self-guided walking tour through downtown Murphys, CA, on the afternoons of Saturday October 30 and Sunday October 31.

“We are bringing a traditional festival celebrating our loved ones as we honor and remember them, and how they touched our lives,” says the owner of Bodega del Sur Winery. “Cultural traditions from all over the world have mixed and blended to create a larger tradition in which rites commemorating harvest and death will be celebrated in Murphys.” Evelyn and husband Victor were born in Central America.

Each of the tasting rooms will have something special and unique to share with the community. A self-guided tour map will take wine tourists on an unforgettable educational and cultural experience.

“As wine lovers go from one tasting room to another, they’ll enjoy beautifully decorated altars, photos and memorabilia, “ noted Evelyn. “We’ll share personal stories about those who have touched our lives, and hope our wine guests will join in doing that too.”

Each of the participating wineries has a theme:
* Bodega del Sur Winery – Honoring & Remembering Women
* Frog’s Tooth Vineyards – Honoring & Remembering Men
* Tanner Vineyards – Honoring & Remembering Children
* Beaux Chevaux Tasting Gallery – Food and Art

Beaux Chevaux is providing special Day of the Dead bread from Aria Bakery, and hot chocolate. They are also featuring an exhibit of Day of the Dead folk and contemporary art; the art goes on display beginning Oct 15.

The self-guided walking tour is free to the public. Maps will be available starting Oct. 15 at the host tasting rooms. Families are welcomed. No trick-or-treating or costumes.
For more information, please call (209) 728-9030.

Contact for more information:
Helen Sumser, Bodega del Sur Winery
457 S. Algiers Street, Murphys, CA 95247

Nanette Tanner, Tanner Vineyards, 728-8229
Gary Grant, Frog's Tooth Vineyards, 728-2700
Becky Lanier, Beaux Chevaux Tasting Gallery 728-1000