Stella at Cedar House Sport Hotel features Good Food Wines

A touch of Europe in Truckee – that’s what Stella restaurant at The Cedar House Sport Hotel on Brockway Road brings to mind. What it brings to the palate in terms of good wines that pair well with food is exceptional.

Owners Patty and Jeff Baird have meticulously crafted a modern and architecturally interesting restaurant using recycled woods and “green” building concepts. The result is a spectacular wining and dining venue that both pleases and rests the eye and lets you concentrate on the wines and food.

To start, sommelier Roger Slabin presented a 2009 Crios De Susana Balbo Torrontes from Argentina. I found the citrusy-flowery aroma compelling, and was delighted with the wine on the palate: a similarity to Sauvignon Blanc but with more delicate fruit flavor and floral tones. This wine is critically acclaimed by The Wine Advocate: ”The 2009 Torrontes remains one of Argentina’s benchmarks for this variety. Sourced from 31-year-old vines in Cafayate (where the finest Torrontes grows), it displays a fragrant bouquet of spring flowers, honey, and tropical aromas. Medium-bodied and dry on the palate, it has ample fruit backed by vibrant acidity leading to a lengthy finish. Drink it over the next 2 years. " 11.5% alcohol. $28/bottle. Chef Jacob Burton presented a tomato bisque soup with fresh mozzarella crostini with this wine. Excellent choice!

The 2009 Husch Chenin Blanc, Mendocino, has an aroma of white lily, with a minerality in the front. It’s an off-dry wine with a balanced combination of bright fruit and zesty acidity, and a full luscious mouth-feel. 13.8% alcohol. $25/bottle. The pairing was headcheese on homemade bread. Very European, quite delicious!

Moving to the red wines, the 2006 Truckee River Pinot Noir, with fruit sourced from Garys’ Vineyard in Santa Lucia Highlands, is one of our favorite locally vinified wines. It’s a a very delicate Pinot with the complexity, depth, and soft tannins typical of the Pisoni clone for which Garys’ is known. 13.8% alcohol, $50/bottle. This was paired with rabbit and dumplings serve with wilted spinach and stuff loin. Incredible.

By the way, at Truckee River Winery, this Pinot is $45/bottle; at Stella Cedar House, only $50. It is commendable that the restaurant keeps its markups low so that diners can enjoy wines with their meals! “That’s intentional,” says Patty.

The 2007 Hatcher Zinfandel, Sierra Foothills, is sourced from fruit from three vineyards: one in Amador County and two vineyards in Calaveras County, where Hatcher is located. The winemaker says of this wine: “In addition to floral notes, this wine starts with caramel, chocolate raspberry, and cola in the nose. Tart raspberries, American wood tannins, smoke and tobacco leaf start the mouthfeel. In the mid palate wheat, cornhusk, cut hay lead into a dry finish that is tart. This tells me the wine has an opportunity to last a long time.” This Zin was paired with their unbelievably-good chicken and waffles dish. 15.0 % alcohol, $29/bottle

For pairing with any of the fabulous desserts, the Pacific Rim Vin De Glaciere, a reisling from Washington State’s Selenium Vineyard, Columbia Valley, was fantastic. This is for wine-lovers with a sweet tooth, made by the famed winemaker Randall Graham. Apricot, pear, orange blossom – candied delights in a wine! 10.5% alcohol. $7/glass

Stella Restaurant at Cedar House Sport Hotel is located at 10918 Brockway Road, Truckee. Reservations recommended as the restaurant is often busy with big parties. 530-582-5655. Click HERE to go to their website, and then click on “dining” to learn more. And consider their culinary bootcamp, where you get to build and bake your own cuisine under the guidance of master chef Jacob Burton.
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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 November 2010.

Book in Process: " Mountain Wineries of the Sierra and Its Foothills".

Talking Turkey: Tahoe House Gourmet Suggests Wines for Holiday Meals

“Let’s Talk Turkey”, notes the Thanksgiving flyer at Tahoe House Bakery and Gourmet. This shop’s wine offerings offer perfect pairings for the Thanksgiving foods, baked items and gourmet delights available. There on the right wall as you enter the shop at 625 W. Lake Blvd in Tahoe City is the perfect wine to pair with your Thanksgiving dinner and other wine occasions is there, at affordable prices.

Founded as a full service restaurant in 1977 by Peter & Helen Vogt, ten years ago the Vogt family transformed the popular restaurant into a gourmet deli and bakery. Today, Caroline Vogt Lee carries on the fine food and wine tradition by finding good wines that are very food friendly.

“It just goes together, wine and food,” Caroline said. “When people pop in to get items for dinner, it’s nice that they can get their wines as well. And since we have an on-site license, they can also open a bottle of wine with a nice luncheon chosen from the deli items. “

Caroline is joined in the enterprise by her sister Barbara Vogt Melrose, who manages the deli and J. B. Joynt, chief baker.

“To start any meal, I’d recommend a sparkling wine,” said Caroline. She chose J Vineyards Brut Rose, a Russian River Valley non-vintage wine produced from grapes in the pinot family. It is a nicely balanced sparkling wine, with aroma of jasmine, lilac and ripe cherries, and some vanilla and cream with a toastiness in the taste. 12.5% alcohol. $26.99/bottle.

If you want to enhance your Thanksgiving dinner with the Pesto and Spinach Stuffed Mushrooms appetizer or the Sausage Stuffing with Thyme and Sage from the deli, then take home the Pine Ridge 2008 white blend. This Oakville winery got great kudos for this wine, and it was declared one of the San Francisco Chronicle's Top 100 Wines of 2009. The 81% Chenin Blanc, 19% Viognier blend has aroma of white flower, citrus taste, minerality and a nice finish. 12% alcohol. $14.99/bottle.

On to the main course, and right there at Tahoe House to explain his wines the day I visited, was Stefan Tscheppe, winemaker of Perry Creek Winery, Fair Play, CA. I adore Sierra Foothills wines, and the Perry Creek Barbera 2007 Sierra Foothills was magnificent. Stefan brings 6 generations of Austrian winemaking to bear in his alchemy at Perry Creek, and although the winery is home of the famous Zinman (ie, known for its Zinfandel), the Barbera is excellent. It’s a blend of two old vine vineyards, and is made close to the old northern Italian traditions. Only 550 cases were made of this wine. I liked the intense strawberry/blackberry aroma and taste, with a hint of cinnamon and chocolate that makes it dance on your palate. Pairs magnificently with turkey! 14.4% alcohol. $16.99/bottle.

Want to try a Pinot Noir with the turkey? Caroline recommends the Bouchaine Pinot Noir 2006, Carneros. A spicy aroma of blackberry and plum, and a taste that highlights the bright flavor or classic fruit from the Carneros area of Napa: pomegranate, plum, and cherry fruit flavors. A nicely tannic balance, and a silky finish. 14.1% alcohol, $23.99/bottle.

To finish your meal, the desserts from Tahoe House are compelling. I’d choose a caramel walnut torte, and pair it with a Dow’s 10 year Tawny Porto. A perfect match! 20% alcohol, $33/bottle.

Tahoe House is located at 625 W. Lake Blvd, Tahoe City CA 96145. Open Sunday - Thursday 6 am to 4 pm, and Friday and Saturday 6 am to 6 pm. Phone 530-583-1377. Closed Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.

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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 November 2010.

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

Calaveras Wineries support art in Mission neighborhood of San Francisco

Last Saturday, several Calaveras wineries supported the art scene in the Mission neighborhood of San Francisco by donating/pouring wine at a special event there, the ARTasting 2010.

I enjoyed tasting the Marsanne by Bodega del Sur, and the Deux Rose from Tanner Vineyards.

FOTO: Evelyn Reyes-Umana and son Victor Manuel. From the Bodega del Sur website: "Our 2008 Marsanne exhibits a rich tropical fruit nose with a honey-orange blossom flavor profile. Light hints of oak are layered with pear and apple spice. The wine was barrel fermented in French Oak barrels. This is a wine that is very enjoyable in it’s youth but will continue to develop dramatically for many years to come. The grapes for our Marsanne came from the Dalton Vineyard in Calaveras County, one of the few vineyards in California to grow this temperamental grape. "

FOTO: Dick and Nanette Tanner. The Duex Rose is a light rose of Syrah made in the French style. Extremely drinkable! I loved it. There's nothing on the Tanner Vineyards website about this wine as it is a new offering. Named after Dick's grandmother, Rose. Absolutely worth a trip to Murphy's to taste this delightful wine!

Event organizers noted: " This event is extra special because it also marks ARTdeezine's 5th year in business in the sunny Mission District of San Francisco! To celebrate, the event will focus on the art, food and style of the diverse, colorful neighborhood, the Mission! Local art will be showcased at the event. Sponsored in part by Slow Food San Francisco, ARTdeezine LLC hosts this annual event exploring the culture and style of San Francisco neighborhoods through art and food. In celebration and support of local art, food and wine, we invite local artists of all mediums to participate and promote their art. Then we donate the proceeds from the event to a local charity or individual in our community that we believe is doing positive things locally or is in need of help. "

The tasting was crowded, and a special treat was the opportunity to sample small bites and purchase street food offered by local vendors. And then, there right in front of us: a special guest appearance from the infamous "Tamale Lady", a Mission legend in her own time! We finished the evening with chocolate and other tasty treats also offered by local vendors. What wine pairs well with a low-fat moon pie? All wines!

Hats off to Calaveras wineries for their public spirit. And we know who's behind this one: Evelyn Reyes-Umana, fiercely proud of her Hispanic heritage and a real mover and shaker in the Calaveras winery scene.

Skinner Vineyards Estate Wine Program Announced

Skinner Vineyards Estate Wine Program Announced;
New 12,000 Square Foot Winery in Fair Play To Open

Skinner Vineyards announced its Estate Wine program for Syrah, Viognier, Grenache and Petite Syrah grown at the Stoney Creek Vineyard, part of Skinner’s 67 acre property in the Fair Play AVA of El Dorado County, Sierra Foothills. The new 12,000 square foot solar-powered greentech winery will soon be complete. Now, the temporary Certificate of Occupancy just granted for the crushpad and fermentation area of the winery allows Skinner Vineyards to produce wines on site beginning with this 2010 harvest season.

“We are thrilled to bring our harvest to our own winery this year,” said Mike Skinner, Owner/President. “The late ripening conditions this year actually helped us, as we were fighting against the clock to get the crucial parts of the new winery built and inspected. As it happens, the timing worked out perfectly for us.”

Skinner Vineyards' winemaker Chris Pittenger (left) and manager Ryan Skinner(right) in Skinner's new Fair Play, CA, greentech winery during the 2010 crush.

Mike and Carey Skinner bought the 67 acres of this Stoney Creek Vineyard in 2007. The Syrah and Viognier vines had already been there for ten years, and Grenache, Grenache Blanc and Petit Syrah were planted shortly after the purchase. These vines, planted between 2600 and 2740 feet elevation, produce grapes with intense flavor. The Skinner’s decided to name the vineyard Stoney Creek after the creek that runs at the bottom of property on Fair Play Road.

Skinner Vineyards also encompasses a 25-acre property in Rescue, CA, the White Oak Flat Vineyard near Green Valley Road. Grapes from this El Dorado land will also be vinified at the Stoney Creek Winery.

“In our Estate wine program, you can taste our rosés and whites in 2011,” said Chris Pittenger, winemaker. “Our Estate reds will be aged in oak before they are released in 2012 and 2013. We expect some fantastic releases from the 2010 fruit.” Approximately 1500 cases of Estate wines will dominate the 2000 total case production of Skinner Vineyards.

Skinner has been a name in the history of winemaking in El Dorado County since 1861 when James Skinner planted his vineyard off Green Valley Road near the town of Rescue in the Sierra Foothills and began to produce native wines and brandy. With a strategic location on the Pony Express Trail, he built a stone wine cellar capable of storing 15,000 gallons of wine. Prohibition intervened, the winery closed, but the new generation of Skinners restarted the venture in 2006.

After the winery is completed in the next few weeks, attention will turn to finishing the new Skinner tasting room in Fair Play which will open in January 2011 and features a panoramic view of the Sierra and the Sierra Foothills. At elevation 2700 feet, visitors to the tasting room can experience Skinner wines while enjoying a view of Pyramid Peak in the distance.

Skinner wines are available online at and to wine club members. The wines are featured at fine dining restaurants including Plumpjack’s in Squaw Valley; and L Wine Lounge and Restaurant, Ella’s, and the Firehouse restaurants, Sacramento; and Bocconato Trattoria in Fair Play. You can also taste the wines at Rhone Ranger events.

More About Skinner Vineyards:
Skinner Vineyards was founded in 2006 by Mike and Carey Skinner. Two vineyards in California’s Sierra Foothills– White Oak Flat in Rescue and Stoney Creek in Fair Play – and a new winery and tasting room at 2700 elevation in the Fair Play AVA comprise the venture. Keeping in the tradition of the El Dorado County winery that was opened by James Skinner in 1861, the winery is committed to producing exceptional wines that reflect the unique spirit of the Sierra Foothills, using the same Rhône varietals that were grown by the Skinner family 150 years ago. The great-great-great-grandfather of current owner Mike Skinner, James Skinner, was one of the forefathers of the California wine industry; his vineyard and winery, started in 1861, was one of the first and largest in California. The old J. Skinner Winery closed during during Prohibition, but Mike and wife Carey opened it again a hundred years later and added the Stoney Creek property to the venture shortly thereafter. The new 12,000 square foot winery is solar-powered and built with many greentech and environmental features.

Disclosure: As part of my portfolio of writing and marketing communications skills, I also do press release writing for a few wineries and a few suppliers to the wine industry for pay. This blogpost originated as a press release for this client.

Day of Dead winery tour in Calaveras County was Successful

This note from the newsletter sent out by Bodega Del Sur:

"The Day of the Dead celebration was a hugh success. Thank you for all your enthusiatic support. We had over 100 visitors view the altars honoring and remembering women, men, and children who have contributed and enriched our lives. We will be making this an annual event. Celebrate with us in 2011.

Bodega del Sur hosted the women's altar filled with pictures of the women who have touched our lives and their favorite things."

What a nice tradition to begin!