Wine Awards and Good Sommeliers at Wild Goose Restaurant on Lake TAhoe

The Wild Goose, an open-to-the-public venue of the Tahoe Mountain Club, has an award-winning wine list and unbelievably wonderful food. Lou Phillips, an experienced sommelier with a great palate, recently joined wine expert Patrick Hedderman’s team at the Wild Goose.

“I’ve rarely had the opportunity to work with a wine list that is as deep and mature as this one at the Wild Goose,” Lou said as he poured us a glass of Prosecco Nino Franco “Rustico” NV Valdobbiadene, which is a perfect anytime sparkler of an off-dry prosecco in a true Brut style and well priced at $9 a glass. “At the same time, we’re not afraid to serve our guests wines from up-and-coming regions like the Sierra Foothills.”

In August, The Wine Spectator magazine recognized Wild Goose with its Award of Excellence, bestowed on restaurants that offer interesting wine selections that are appropriate to its cuisine and appeal to all wine lovers. Over 340 wines to select from at the Wild Goose and 4800 bottles on site, the list is divided between a regular and a reserve wine list. We tasted from the regular list, and primarily those in the wine-by-the-glass section.

A true gem is the 2003 Reisling from Dr. PaulyBergweiler Kabinett, which hails from the region of Mosel that could be termed a Golden Triangle. It has a classic aroma with a minerality which some liken to a petrol aroma, and on the back palate a mild white flower taste and honeydew and peach tones. A Kabinett is a high quality German Riesling made from fully ripened grapes, nice and light, semi-sweet with crisp acidity. If you have been drinking German Rieslings for a while, you might recognize this as a Mosel-Saar-Ruwer. Due to a change in wine labeling laws in Germany, it’s now just referred to by the overall Mosel term. Regardless of this quibbling, this wine paired well with Wild Goose’s house-made pretzels served with a mornay sauce, their very good Mac and Cheese, and dayboat scallops. $11 a glass.

The 2010 “Lucy” Rose of Pinot Noir from Lucia Vineyards, Santa Lucia Highlands, California, is a wine that is hand-crafted by the Pisoni family which produces small lots of exceptional wines in this cool-climate growing region of California. This rose offers a fresh acidity on the palate, and its light taste matches the light rose color. Wild Goose pairs it with a butter lettuce and strawberry salad, perfect for a soft summer evening. $10 a glass.

The Perry Creek “Altitude 2401” is a Sierra Foothills Zinfandel from El Dorado County. It is a plummy fruit-forward zinfandel with ripe, earthy, jammy flavor. Winemaker Stefan Tscheppe produced this reserve wine in an old-world style. Named after Perry Creek’s Fair Play Farms Vineyard's that have an average elevation of 2401 feet, only 1000 cases were made. Tasting notes from the website echo my experience: “Exotic papaya and guava play with lively acidity and rich berry, spice and chocolate flavors. Exotic spices and cherries in the long and smooth finish. “ 14.9% alcohol. $35 the bottle at Wild Goose.

The 2009 Broadley Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, has aroma of raspberry and taste of black cherry with a lot of spice on the palate. It paired well with a scampi linguini containing capers and forest mushrooms, $14 the glass. And finally a Nigl Grüner Veltliner Eiswein 2003 Kremstal, an Austrian ice wine that is absolutely delicious. $15 the glass.

Wild Goose restaurant and bar is located at 7320 North Lake Blvd, Tahoe Vista, CA 96148. Open six evenings a week through mid-October, closed Tuesdays. Make reservations for dining via OpenTable or call (530) 546-3640.

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© 2011 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 "Wine Adventures" in August 2011.

Book in Process: "Mountain High Wine: The Sierra and Its Foothills".

Sierra Vintners Pull it All Together at Nevada City Tasting Event

As a big booster of wines from the Sierra and its Foothills. I was delighted to go to the recent Sierra Vintners event held in Nevada City. Almost twenty wineries from Nevada and Placer County participated. Tasting tables were set up in a number of retail shops, hotels and restaurants – all within a short walk of one another. Brilliant. I suggest you get on the mailing list for an alert for future events: go to

Marilyn Szabo pours Primitivo
 First stop was the tasting of Szabo wines. The 2008 Syrah is produced from estate grown grapes from their 40-acre vineyard at 2100 feet elevation that sits almost exactly halfway between Grass Valley and Nevada City, with views that include the Pacific Coastal Range and the Sutter and Sierra Buttes. The wine has taste and aroma of raspberry, vanilla and black tea. The tannins to my taste were relatively high, which is not unusual for Syrah. There’s a bit of smokiness or teriyaki on the back palate too. $23/bottle, 14.6 percent alcohol.

Frankly, I thought that the Szabo Primitivo was one of the best Foothill wines I’ve tasted in a long time. Primitivo and Zinfandel are closely related; in fact the two varieties have identical isozyme fingerprints. This 2008 Primitivo is redolent of plum, chili and allspice. $19/ bottle, 14.3 percent alcohol. Winery owners Marilyn and Sandor Szabo have done a great job; their first vintage was just in 2006.

There’s some thought that Primitivo is a Croatian grape relative, but there’s not enough room in this column to go into that. However, this leads me to talk a bit about the intriguing wines of Rob and Marilyn Chrisman, owners of Avanguardia, on Jones Bar Road in Nevada City. Avanguardia specializes in hand-crafted artisan blends. Over 20 Italian, Russian, and French grapes and University of California varietal crosses are estate grown, many of which rootstocks were imported especially for them. They poured their Cristallo, a white wine blend where the dominant grape is the Georgian Rkatsiteli, a grape of high quality that is widely planted in eastern Europe but wines made from Rkatsiteli are seldom exported. At Avanguardia, it’s combined ( at about 70-90%) with Pinot Blanc, Pinot Grigio and Melon de Bourgogne. Melon is the sole variety in the Loire wine known as Muscadet, sometimes referred to as the quintessential “oyster wine”. This is a delicious wine, dry, crisp, taut, and relatively full-bodied; and the fruit flavors are of apples and pears. $14/bottle. 12.5 percent alcohol.

If you want an interesting discussion about the history of wine along with some lovely wines to taste, then you will want to go visit Sierra Knolls Vineyards just south of Grass Valley near Lake of the Pines. and chat with John Chase, one of the owners. John is an interesting guy, also keen on alternative energy topics, and Sierra Knolls was one of the first 100% solar powered wineries in the Foothills. They are guided in their winemaking by Mike Foster from Nevada City Winery, and feature handcrafted small lot wines. Their 2006 Sangiovese is a terrific Italian varietal, with a nice spiciness. At $16 a bottle, 13.5 percent alcohol, you might want to stock up.

Bent Metal's Scott Brown
pours his great Viognier

David Winn of Coufos Cellars
pours Buffo Blanc, Rhone blend

Other notable wines
I tasted:

  • Naggiar Vineyards 2009 Mistero, a blend of 60% zinfandel, 30% sangiovese, 10% syrah, nicely fruit-forward. $22/bottle, 14.5 percent alcohol.

  • Coufos Cellars Buffo Blanc 2008, a white Rhone varietal blend of 40% Marsanne, 40% Roussanne and 20% Viognier. Tropical fruits, spice at the end. $17/bottle, 14.5 percent alcohol.

  • Bent Metal Winery’s 2009 Viognier, fruit forward with a great mouthfeel and smooth finish. $21/bottle, 15.2 percent alcohol.

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© 2011 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 "Wine Adventures" in August 2011.

Book in Process: "Mountain High Wine: The Sierra and Its Foothills".

Skinner Vineyards in Fair Play-El Dorado County is Worth a Visit

The Fair Play AVA is unbelievably beautiful right now, and an afternoon at Skinner Vineyards is a perfect way to experience these delights. The new Tasting Room at this new winery in the Fair Play AVA of El Dorado County features a state-of-the-art GreenTech winery, as well. The Skinner heritage in the wine business goes back to 1861 in El Dorado County.

Winemaker Chris Pittenger (left) and
Tasting Room Manager Ryan Skinner

The Skinner family has both a passion for winemaking in the Foothills and a dedication to continuing the Skinner winemaking tradition there. The new winery was designed with care to encompass many forward-thinking eco features. Winemaker Chris Pittenger often escorts visitors through the winery and vineyard manager Bryan Rahn has created a first-class vineyard, the Stoney Creek Vineyard, and you may have an opportunity to walk through there, too.

Skinner Vineyard’s winery is primarily solar powered; they installed a 55 kW PV system. They also situated the building so the sun side (south) maximizes the solar-power generating potential, and the solar panels line up to give the largest potential area for sun exposure.

In the winery, they strategically situated the barrel rooms on the north, more-shady side, of the building for better energy efficiency. Each of the four barrel rooms and the main cellar were built with temperature-controlled sensors, which allows for cooling to be supplied by the cool outside air.

All of the fermentation tanks are located within the winery, rather than being isolated outside. This simple design reduces energy costs significantly. The result is the use of much less electricity in order to keep the must and wines at a stable temperature in the tanks. The trellising systems optimize fruit temperatures, and the rows are run up and down the hills to minimize soil disturbance during development, preserving the topsoil and improving erosion control.

Skinner’s flagship wine is its Eighteen Sixty-One. This is a Rhône-style blend, a red wine made in the style of a Châteauneuf-du-Pap.

The vineyard’s warm days and cool nights, coupled with its well-draining granitic soils, provide the ideal growing conditions for Rhône varietals. Skinner Vineyards' current collection includes 10 Rhône grape varieties, in addition to several legacy grapes grown by James Skinner himself. The first releases included a 2007 Viognier and 2007 Syrah, both made with fruit sourced from the Skinner family’s Stoney Creek Vineyard, and also a 2008 Grenache and 2008 Grenache-based Rosé from El Dorado. Skinner Vineyards offers another Rhône-style blend – the Seven Generations white wine, a blend of Roussanne, Marsanne and Viognier.

Mike Skinner, co-owner with wife Carey Skinner, has inherited his ancestor’s passion for growing high-quality grapes and producing premium wines that reflect the unique spirit and heritage of the Sierra Foothills. The Skinner family set out to reestablish the family legacy by planting vines just a short drive from the original vineyard location. In keeping with the spirit of the original ranch and distillery, Mike and Carey designed the new winery in Fair Play by using a drawing dating back to 1885 and the old sepia photographs as their inspiration. The adjoining tasting room, situated at 2,700’, has a breathtaking 360-degree view of the majestic foothill landscape; perfect for enjoying a glass of wine while viewing the snow-peaked Sierra during winter or the rolling acres of green vines during spring and summer. For more information and tasting room hours, call (530) 620-2220 or visit

Disclosure:  I assisted Skinner Vineyards with marketing communications for their grand opening in May 2011.

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© 2011 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 "Wine Adventures" in August 2011.

Book in Process: "Mountain High Wine: The Sierra and Its Foothills".

Vins du Languedoc: Great Tastes, Fabulous Values

One of the best wine tasting events I’ve been to all year was the one featuring Languedoc AOC wines, where I tasted wines made from grapes that were unfamiliar to me and learned about the fascinating history of this wine region.

Below is a look at just a few of the 31 wines that were poured.  I was impressed with the aroma, taste and food-friendliness of all that I tasted.

Chateau du Donjon’s 2010 Rosé comes from a vineyard situated in Minervois, one of the oldest wine-producing areas in Languedoc.  Owned by the same family for 500 years, winemaker Jean Panis produced a ripe, soft and aromatic wine composed of 30% Syrah, 30% Cinsault, 40% Grenache.  A lovely pink-salmon color, the aroma is a fruit bowl of strawberries, red cherries and red plums.  The flavor is intense and echoes the fruit aroma, and the finish is dry and well balanced.  12.5 percent alcohol.  Average internet price ( is $14.

Domaine la Croix Chaptal
, Les Terrasses Rouge, 2007 is produced on an estate that formerly belonged to Gellone Abbey, founded in 804. Winemaker Charles Pacaud’s red wine combines Grenace and Carignan with a touch of Syrah. The taste is of dark fruits that follow the aroma of cherry and perhaps coffee. It is spicy and fresh, and representative of the Terrasses du Larzac area wines. This growing area is in the western part of the rural district of Saint Andre de Sangonis, about 20 miles northwest of Montpellier, a popular tourist destination due to old abbeys and natural caves. Alcohol is low: 13 percent “because we have an especial terroir which expresses the grapes and so we have flavor at lower alcohol,” according to Pacaud. Price around $20 a bottle. Distributed by or call (415) 331-4906 to find out where to buy it; it’s worth the hunt.

Piquepoul is a wine grape with which I wasn’t familiar before this tasting. About 3,000 acres of the light-skinned Piquepoul blanc are cultivated in France, and it is one of the oldest domestic grape varieties in Languedoc. Although the name means “lip stinger” because these grapes have high acidity, I enjoyed the Domaine Felines Jourdan, Blanc 2009, Grand Vins du Languedoc. Aroma of white flower, a bit frizzante and a clear crisp taste. Delightful. 13 percent alcohol. $11 the bottle. You can find it at several California wine shops via

Chateau des Karantes, Blanc, 2009, AOC Languedoc, is a blend of 54 percent Bourboulenc, 14 percent vermentino, 16 percent Roussane and 16 percent Grenache Blanc. The result is a wine with aroma and taste of honey, lemon, fruit tones of apricot, a long finish and a nice balance between the fruit and acidity. Again, a new grape experience for me: Bourboulenc. Korbrand’s Web site notes that “Bourboulenc is an extremely old grape variety which is thought to have originated in Greece where it was known as the Asprokondoura. A late-ripening variety, it tends toward leanness and neutrality, but when picked at optimum maturity it retains high natural acidity and shows fresh citrus qualities with floral notes.” 13 percent alcohol. $30 by the bottle. Imported by Eagle Eye Imports at or call (248) 396-3589.

For more information about the Languedoc region, visit

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© 2011 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 "Wine Adventures" in August 2011.

Book in Process: "Mountain High Wine: The Sierra and Its Foothills".

Languedoc, located in the South of France, is the world‘s largest wine growing region and one of the oldest wine growing regions in France. “Today’s Languedoc is France’s wine frontier,” notes the Conseil Interprofessionnel des Vins du Languedoc, which sponsored the tasting. “Pioneering producers are employing both time-honored traditions and new techniques to craft wines of remarkable style and character, as well as excellent value.”
A rose might be a rose might be a rose, but a Rosé wine… now those are different from one another! Here are some you might try.

Rodney, a recent dinner guest, brought a Rosé from Uncorked in Tahoe City: Juliette’s Dazzle, a 2010 Pinot Grigio Rosé from Colan & Weiss Cellars. Grapes came from Horse Heavens Hills and the Wahluke Slope, Columbia Valley, WA. I wasn’t wild about the wax overcap on this bottle (a real pain to remove!) but the wine was fantastic. Bottle notes:”A special block of Pinot Grigio at the Benches Vineyard was left to hang until it developed a bright tint, then slowly fermented.” A nice dry rose, 13.0 percent alcohol. $20 the bottle at Uncorked.

The recent Rosé Avengers and Producers tasting in San Francisco featured a number of Rosés you might want to experience.

A perfect beginners Rosé was the 2010 Isabel Mondavi Deep Rosé, a real cotton-candy of a wine made from Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. Alcohol is 13 percent. $15 the bottle.

A nice fizzy Rosé, perfect for an aperitif, is the Elyssia NV Pinot Noir Brut from Freixenet USA. Yep, the same folks who make that nice champagne! This is a blend of 85% Pinot Noir and 15% Trepat. This Spanish Cava is easy going, nicely balanced and medium in body, with a strawberry-raspberry-spice taste and a dry and refreshing finish. The Freiexenet website notes that Trepat is an indigenous grape to the region, with only 1,000 hectares of thie grape grown. “Trepat needs a specific soil and can be found close to the coastal regions of the Penedés due to the unique climates there. It is used only for rosado cavas.” 11.5 percent alcohol. $18 the bottle.

Left to Right, Urban Legend and
Six Sigma winemakers.

Six Sigma Ranch, Lower Lake, CA, produces 2010 Marianne’s Rosé, using only Syrah grapes from the vineyard planted in 2008 near the winery’s Diamond Mine Vineyard, Lake County. It has an amazing bright red color, and after a bit of time in French oak, the flavor reflects bright red fruits and spices, candied apples and raspberries. A nice crisp finish. Only one barrel was produced. This wine is limited to the winery’s wine club members… and that might be a good reason to join. 14.5 percent alcohol. $24 the bottle.

Urban Legend Cellars poured its 2010 Rosato di Barbera. Grapes for this wine were sourced in Clarksburg; the winery is in Oakland. “The flavor is all about strawberries. It’s not sweet but not too tart with a surprisingly silky feel. There’s a little bit of lemonade on the finish that keeps it incredibly refreshing,” notes the website. 13.8 percent alcohol. $18 the bottle.

Finally, Terre Rouge Vin Gris d’Amador: This is a dry rosé that’s excellent as an aperitif and with a variety of appetizers. You might try this easy recipe for Goat Cheese Spread with sun-dried tomatoes and capers, concocted by Jane O'Riordan, an owner at Domaine de la Terre Rouge, Amador County.

Jane O'Riordan of
Terre Rouge
 Sun-dried Tomato Goat Cheese Spread
Makes about 3 cups. Keeps 4-5 days in refrigerator.

3 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tbl. sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil
6-8 oz. fresh-style goat cheese, Montrachet or California log
12 oz. cream cheese
1 Tbl. Capers

In bowl of food processor fitted with a steel blade, puree the garlic and sun-dried tomatoes. Cut the cheeses into small hunks and add to bowl. Pulse/process until all the cheese is blended into a smooth spread with no white lumps. Add the capers and pulse briefly to mix. Scrape into a pretty serving bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Serve surrounded by crackers, toasted baguettes or sliced bread.

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© 2011 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 "Wine Adventures" in late July 2011.

Book in Process: "Mountain High Wine: The Sierra and Its Foothills".


Tahoe Yacht Club Winemaker Dinners Feature Unique Wines and Wineries

lef to right, Erik Miller of
Kokomo Wines, Andreas
Papaliolios of VinoClast
There’s a very wine savvy young man, Andreas Papaliolios, who is guiding the Tahoe Yacht Club into a wine program including winemakers dinners that are outstanding. Andreas has a wonderful palate and a taste for the unusual wine and an interest in independent-thinking winemakers. So it was with delight that I attended the Kokomo Wines dinner at the Yacht Club recently.

In part, the delight comes from hobnobbing with a fellow Hoosier, namely owner/winemaker Erik Miller, and in part from enjoying the fine job of paired foods due to the skill of guest chef Scott Yorkey of Tahoe City’s Jake’s-on-the-Lake.

Kokomo Wines is a Sonoma County winery that produces 5000 cases total of some very good wines. We started nibbling appetizers with a 2010 Grenache Rose, with fruit sources from Pauline’s Vineyard in Sonoma. This light and refreshing rose had both aroma and taste of strawberry and red grapefruit. Winemaker Miller attributed the dryness of this rose to the gravelly soils in the Dry Creek area, and also the fact that he decided to go with a cool fermentation process, essentially treating it like a white wine. 14.1 percent alcohol. Only 150 cases made, just released in May 2011. $20 the bottle.

The Kokomo 2009 Chardonnay, Peter's Vineyard, Russian River Valley, was served with a halibut cerviche stack with salmon carpaccio. This Chardonnay has tremendous balance and complexity. Winemaker Miller notes that this is one of the last fruits they harvest each year, as the vineyard is ten miles off the Pacific Coast and these grapes ripen late. “We’ve been told that this is a far west as you can ripen Chardonnay,” Miller said, “and so these grapes have a lot of hang time.” In the winemaking process, Miller decided to keep this wine in French oak for 16 months, resulting in a very creamy chardonnay with a nice citric bite and some interesting acidity on the side palate. 14.5 percent alcohol. $28 the bottle.

A pheasant roulade was the next course, served with a 2008 Pinot, Peter’s Vineyard, Sonoma Coast. This is a winemaker’s reserve wine, truly scrumptious and worth the price ($48 a bottle, only 485 cases produced) . Erik Miller’s grower-partner in the enterprise, Randy Peters, manages the vineyard that produced the grapes for this wine. The vineyard is a former Granvenstein Apple orchard that was replanted in the early 80's by Randy. The wine is redolent of intense black fruit, with mellow tannins on the top palate, a tinge of smokiness, vanilla and spice. 14.1 percent alcohol.

Kokomo’s 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon is also a winemaker’s reserve selection. Grapes were sourced from the Mountainview Ranch in Dry Creek Valley, and it is a jammy jammy jammy cab that paired perfectly with the braised bison short ribs over polenta. Taste and aroma or Blackberry, black cherry, the wine offers a nice tannin on the mid palate as it opens up. Fermented in stainless and then put in 100% French Oak barrels for 20 months. Only 145 cases were made. 14.5 percent alcohol, $45 the bottle.

Finishing the event, the 2008 Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanch from the Timber Creek Vineyard was the perfect dessert wine, sweet but light . Apricot, honey and a little honeysuckle flavor was ideal with the Stilton bleu cheese and Fiji apple serve over basil sorbet. 11.8 percent alcohol, $28 the bottle.

Kokomo Wines is located at 4791 Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg, CA (Sonoma County).

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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© 2011 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 "Wine Adventures" in July 2011.

Book in Process: "Mountain High Wine: The Sierra and Its Foothills".