Peaks & Paws: Wineries Pour for Humane Society Benefit at Squaw Valley

Bob the Dog at door of
Uncorked in Squaw Valley
I like wine, but I really LOVE dogs.  So when the opportunity came to combine the two by attending the great charity event Peaks & Paws at Squaw Valley, I couldn’t resist.   Proceeds benefited the Humane Society of Truckee-Tahoe, and I’m pretty sure I saw the soft touch of Kali Kaliope, owner of Uncorked wine shops, in encouraging the wineries that poured for the event.  Most of these wines are available at the various Uncorked wine shop locations in the Tahoe area, including Petra in Northstar.

Bob the Dog was pretty interested in making friends, so it was difficult to get to all the tasting stations. 
Dogwood Cellars
As befits the occasion, we started at Dogwood Cellars, tasting their 2007 Zinfandel, Mendocino.  The grapes for this wine were sourced from BRutacao Vineyards, and 700 cases only were produced.  Deep ripe berries rise up to greet the palate, and such exotic spices touch the wine too.  Taste of blackberry, boysenberry, dark cherry, sage and brown sugar make this a hearty and delightful wine.  15.4 per cent alcohol, $28/bottle. 

The star of the show, to my mind, was the Aglianico Campagnia 2010 Red Wine Terredora Di Paola.   This Italian red is an intense ruby red color, with flavor of black cherry, blackberry and plum, topped off with a nice spicy and toasty tone.  It is soft and elegant,  with a nice long mouthfeel of red fruit.  It has sufficient structure to age well, and is a very versatile food wine.   12.5 per cent alcohol,  $19/bottle.

Super Sonoman
Super Sonoman presented its 2007 Meritage red wine from Sonoma County.  This is a wine sourced from grapes grown at high altitudes on the west side of the Mayacamas range in Sonoma.   Good acidity characterizes this Meritage, which is a combination of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Malbec,  and it has a lot of structure.  It features an aroma of black raspberry, flowers and a hint of coffee or tobacco, with taste of black currant and licorice and a bit of smoke.   Sweet tannins and a velvety texture make it drinkable now, or it can age nicely.  14.5 per cent alcohol, $75/bottle.

Boeger'S Pinot Gris
Closer to home, the Boeger 2011 Pinot Gris red wine from their Pinot Grande vineyard in El Dorado County, Sierra Foothills,  has aromas of honey, peach and green apple. It is light and delicate on the palate with just a hint of spice.    14.1 per cent alcohol, $15/bottle.

The Humane Society of Truckee-Tahoe (  features adoptions every Saturday from noon to 2 p.m. in Truckee, or call to make an appointment at 530-587-5948.   Bob the Dog was a rescue; thank goodness for these organizations!   They deserve our support.

Grand Tasting is just that - at Tahoe's Northstar Resort, part of Lake Tahoe Autumn Food and Wine Festival

The Village at Northstar pulls out all the stops (corks?) for its annual Lake Tahoe Autumn Food and Wine Festival.   Just when you think you can’t possibly squeeze another wine event into the summer season, this one proves you wrong by featuring the best chefs from the region, and a wonderful group of wineries.

Moldanado Chardonnay with
Seared Diver Scakkio
I thought that the best wine-food pairing of the event was the Maldonado 2010 Chardonnay, with West Shore Caf├ę’s seared diver scallop and Dungeness crab dish.  Constellation Brands is such a huge enterprise that I am sometimes reluctant to beat their drum when there are so many good small wineries around, but this wine is a winner with a seafood dish.  Grapes are sourced at their Los Olivos Vineyard, Napa.  It is a rich Chardonnay, with refreshing taste of citrus and a light sense of honeysuckle, and nicely lingering flavors. 14.5 per cent alcohol.

Taltarni Sparkling Brut
The 2010 Taltarni Sparkling Brut Tache Rose’  from SouthEastern Australia was delightful.  The winemaker notes that “Tache is a French word meaning 'stained', referring to the pale salmon color of this enticing sparkling wine.”  This is a classic blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes,  all of which are estate grown in Tasmania.   Aroma of rose petal, peach, and apricot, lead to tastes of red berries and a bit of a nut flavor.  The small bubbles are an element in its refreshing character.    12.5 per cent alcohol.   The Northstar chefs in charge of their banquet service paired it with a blueberry and chevre wonton.

Handley Cellars
Handley Cellars, located in California’s Anderson Valley of Mendocino County poured a 2011 Gewurtztraminer that was exquisite.  This valley is one of the coolest-climate winegrowing regions of the state, and winemaker Milla Handley is known for her well balanced wines.  It has aromas of honeysuckle, papaya, and nutmeg and flavors of oranges, honey, and guava.  The finish is dry, and this Gew├╝rztraminer will complement many foods.   13.5 per cent alcohol.

Manzanita sommelier Gail Oversteg
and Stanger Vineyards General Manager
Stanger Vineyards, located on the west side of the Paso Robles AVA in California, is a true “garagiste” winery producing only 200-300 cases of the delicious Tempranillo that they poured.  This is a choice of Gail Oversteg, sommelier at Manzanita restaurant, The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe at Northstar.   This estate-grown Tempranillo has a pleasant tannic structure with intense flavors of ripe cherries and a hint  of rhubarb, both of which are characteristic of  Paso Robles wines.  A nice finish of toasty oak, caramel, and toffee.  14.9 per cent alcohol.

Wines for Burning Man and Other All Terrain Occasions

Tis I, in pink pajama bottoms...
My one and only trip to Burning Man was in a friend’s  RV with refrigerator, shower, and  aircon system.  But many of my fellow Burners opted for the real deal … tents or canopies with sleeping bags,3rd-wheel trailers, older model cars, station wagons, or just plain thumbing it.

We poured wine from real glass bottles:  nicely chilled white wines, reds kept at a reasonable indoor temperature.  Real-deal Burners opt more eco-friendly packaging, and a price point less than $10 for the bottle equivalent.

I visited Ben’s Fine Wine & Spirits’ location on Lakeside Drive in Reno to talk to Drew Craib, the Wine Manager/Buyer.  Ben’s has several locations, some of which are closer to the logical driving route.   Ben’s is on the prep list for Burning Man.

Drew actually tastes all the wine that makes its way onto his shelves.   Okay, he does draw the line at known plonk, and some box wines fit that description.

Box wines and pouched wines are eco-friendly.  They travel well.  You can pack a trailer with multitudinous boxes and know they won’t break on the way to the Burn.   Some of them are really quite tasty.   So if you head to Burning Man in August 2013, keep this list handy. There won’t be that many changes.  If you are going camping, this list applies too.  I am concentrating on reds since ice costs real money at Burning Man.  And it’s hard to find on the camping trail. 

Drew Craib of Ben's
TOP CHOICE:  The Climber, in a pouch of 1.5 liters (2 bottles equivalent).  Drew calls it  “the all terrain wine transport” system.  Made by Clif Family Winery, the same folks that brought you Clif bars, there are several varietals available.  $16.99 the pouch.  The Cabernet Sauvignon, 14.1 percent alcohol, is tasty.  The California Chardonnay, 13.9 percent alcohol, also tasty. 

SECOND CHOICE:  Black Box wines, in a 3 liter box that’s a 4 bottle equivalent.  $20.99 for the box.  The 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon is 12.5 percent alcohol.

THIRD CHOICE:  Corbett Canyon’s Pinot Noir, sold in a 3 liter box.  This is a mid-grade pinot, with 13 percent alcohol.  $10.99 for the box; that works out to GULP $2.25 per bottle.  You get what you pay for.

A tip of the hat to Fred Franzia, who popularized box wines.  “They fly out of here,”  said Drew.  The Franzia 5 liter box which sells for $15.99 is a 6 2/3 bottle equivalent, or $2.40 a bottle.  Best to choose one of their “Home Wine Favorites” choices. I suggest it for dire emergencies only.

AT SUGAR BOWL: Lake Mary Dinners sparkle with Good Wines

I’ve had the benefit of the wine selection philosophy of Chef Alan Davis of Sugar Bowl before, and on the patio overlooking  Lake Mary, Alan has put his creativity in the kitchen and his philosophy of wine and food to good use again.

Alan’s philosophy is simple: he designs food to match the wine.  He likes to find complementary wines, and Alan starts every dining year by tasting about 200 wines.  The wines he chose for Lake Mary dinners are both tasty and reasonably priced. 

The Sartori Villa Pinot Grigio 2011 from Venezia is a dry white wine that is classic for the region.  Its white-peach and citrus bouquet prepares your palate for pairing with many dishes, from asparagus tart to goat cheese crostini.  It has delicate tropical fruit flavors and a crisp, clean finish. Well-balanced and fresh, the alcohol percent is 12 per cent. It is a great wine with many starter dishes. $8/glass, $30/bottle.

Another subtle white on the list is the Veramonte Sauvignon Blanc 2010 from Chile’s Casablanca Valley.  This Sauvignon Blanc has juicy lemon and lime fruit aromas with hints of crisp green apple.  The wine is medium-bodied with tropical and citrus fruit flavors of white grapefruit and lime with a long crisp finish and some minerality.  13.5 percent alcohol.  $8/ glass.  $30/bottle.

Hob Nob Pinot Noir
with Grilled Pork Tenderloin
I enjoyed the Hob Nob Pinot Noir, a French red table wine, with the grilled pork tenderloin.  This Pinot Noir is slightly sweet but with some tannins too.  Taste of black cherries and spice, among other factors, lead me to say this it is less a serious Pinot Noir and more akin to a blend.  But it is a fun wine!  13 per cent alcohol.  $8/glass, $30/bottle.

Husch Cabernet Sauvignon
with stuffed cabbage
With pork or the stuffed cabbage dish, my choice would be the Husch Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, from Mendocino County’s Anderson Valley in California.  Made from sustainably farmed grapes from the La Ribera Vineyard, it has bold aroma of blackberry, blueberry, allspice, and cola. The very-berry and somewhat spicy taste is augmented by an earthiness that lasts through the long finish.  13.8 per cent alcohol.  $9/glass, $34/bottle.


A portion of the proceeds from the Lake Mary dinners at Sugar Bowl go to a variety of local charities.
Lake Mary, a beautiful setting
for dinners and special events
To reserve your place at these dinners next season, call (530) 426-9000.  The good wine selection and great cooking of Chef Alan will also be a feature of the Dining Room at Sugar Bowl throughout the ski season.