Showing posts with label Sierra and its Foothills-Wine Biz News. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sierra and its Foothills-Wine Biz News. Show all posts

The Wineries of Nevada County (California) Provide Exciting Tasting Opportunities

Spring has sprung, and tasting rooms are opening their doors a bit longer now.  There are many opportunities to taste the fine wines of the Sierra foothills, and some of the most interesting opportunities are less than an hour away.  The wineries of Nevada County beckon, and we were primed for more tastes by attending the Flavor of Nevada County event last fall.  Here are some of the yummy discoveries.


Avanguardia Rosata
I’ve always enjoyed the wines produced by Avanguardia, as winemaker Rob Chrisman so deftly blends over twenty Italian, Russian, and French varietals along with cross-varietals created by the  University of California, all grown in his estate vineyards..  


The Avanguardia 2012 Rosata “Cara Mia” is a Rose vinified in the style of Provence.   Rob makes his Rosata from Sangiovese and other red varieties,  vinified as if they were white wines. The small amount of residual sugar in this Rosata leaves a dry impression on the palate. 12.7 per cent alcohol, $16/bottle.  Visit Avanguardia at their tasting room at 13028 Jones Bar Road,  Nevada City, CA.  Call 530 274 8200 for hours.


Sierra Knolls Primitivo
Sierra Knolls Winery presents a 2011 Primitivo that is definitely worth tasting.   It has a bold rich flavor, and opens with bright notes of cherry and blackberry.  I like the taste of toasted almond and dark chocolate on the close. This Primitivo is  13.4 percent alcohol.  $24/bottle.   The Sierra Knolls Vineyard & Winery Tasting Room is open by appointment only on Saturdays and Sundays from 12-5pm. at 19635 Kingswood Court,  Grass Valley, or at their new and conveniently located tasting room "Bear River Wine Tasting" at 10024 Linnet Lane, Auburn.  Call 530 269-2327 for updates on hours
Mrs Lucchesi pours at
Flavor Nevada County event
Lucchesi Winery produces its wines from its lovely southwest-facing estate vineyards in Grass Valley.   The beautiful views of the Sierra Nevada mountains enhance the taste of the wines when you enjoy the hospitality of their tasting room at the winery at 19698 View Forever Lane, which is open from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday, or weekends by appointments.  Or go to the downtown tasting room at 128 Mill Street, Grass Valley.  


Luchessi produces
white wines too...
I enjoy all the Lucchesi wines.  You might want to try the Lucchesi Masque  is a blended red wine made from Sierra Foothill grapes. It has fruity aromas of cherry creme brulee, mocha, and a hint of tobacco with a soft, fruity medium body and a jammy, nut accented finish.  14.8 percent alcohol, $12/bottle.


Smith Vineyards Christina's Blush
(on the left)
Smith Vineyards produced a 2012  merlot dessert wine “Christina’s Blush” that was delicious.  It is light and fruity with aromas of rhubarb and strawberry with bright flavors of cherry leading to a fresh, clean finish.  13.5 percent alcohol, $16/bottle.  Try it at their tasting room at 142 Mill Street, Grass Valley.  530 273 7032.

 This review was published in my May 2014 Wine Time column for The Tahoe Weekly

Tasting the Gold of El Dorado Wineries at South Lake Tahoe Community

Madrona Winery sets the tone
with its Lake Tahoe-named blend
One of my favorite Tahoe-area summer wine events is the“Taste of Gold,” which benefits the Lake Tahoe Community College Foundation. Why the name? Well, it’s all about wines from El Dorado, that California county over there on the South side of Lake Tahoe. The term El Dorado, meaning “the golden one” was coined by Spanish explorers in the mid 1500’s as they sought a city of gold believed to lie in the heart of the Amazon jungle. To find your “gold” in terms of good wine from the Sierra Foothills, simply attend the event, held each year on campus. Top wineries from El Dorado County offer many wines to taste.

Jen Tomei pours Boeger Wines
Boeger Winery, Placerville, 2012 Pinot Gris. It has aromas of honey, peach and green apple. On the palate, I like the hint of spice and the fact that it is light and delicate makes it a great summer wine. Grapes are sourced from Boeger’s own Pinot Grande vineyard. $15 the bottle. 13.5 percent alcohol.
Tina & Charlie Bruess
pour for Crystal Basin

Crystal Basin Cellars, Camino, 2010 Petite Sirah. A warm black cherry aroma leads to two distinct layers of flavor featuring, on the one hand, blueberries and on the other, soft tannins. $27 the bottle. 15.8 percent alcohol.

Connie Varvais & friend
pour for Hollys Hill
Holly’s Hill Vineyards, Placerville, 2007 Patriarche. This is a delicious blend of Rhone wines: 63 percent Mourvedre, 19 percent Syrah, 13 percent Grenache Noir, 5 percent Counoise. Aroma and taste of strawberries, dark berries and plum with complex spices. This wine has a nice earthiness, good acidity and smooth tannins. I love this blend. $30 the bottle. 14.4 percent alcohol.

Perry Creek Winery, Fair Play, 2011 Zinman Rose. Aroma of strawberry and hints of flowers, and a taste that come in layers of all the fruits of summer. This is a light, dry and delightful Rose that is easy to drink. $12 the bottle.14.2 percent alcohol.

Carolyn Silan pours
for Colibri Ridge
Colibri Ridge Winery, Fair Play, 2007 Barbera Fair Play. Wow, a whopper of a wine at 16.1 percent alcohol but tannin-lovers will find this delicious with berry aroma that leads to a mouthful of lush tasting blackberry, cherry, raspberry and blueberries. $21.50 the bottle.

Nello Olivo pours for
Sarah Deliniere
Nello Olivo Winery, Placerville, 2009 Merlot. Try this wine if you’ve become jaded about Merlot. It’s quite a bold Merlot, made in the Bordeaux style. $39.50 the bottle. 13.7 percent alcohol.

Other El Dorado wineries pouring were Lava Cap and Madrona, both located near Placerville.

Lake Tahoe Community College is located in South Lake Tahoe; more at Everyone enjoyed the tastings and the cuisine of Lake Tahoe on the beautiful Ledbetter Terrace and Demonstration Gardens.

If you missed this event, I suggest a visit to the tasting rooms of these wineries. There are dozens of great visits you can make in a day from Lake Tahoe. Check the El Dorado Wine Association map at
This review appeared in my Wine Time column, published August 8, in The Tahoe Weekly.

Early Harvest Predicted in El Dorado County, CA...Hard Work Pays Off

"I am going to be relatively worthless for the near future...veraison in the vineyard and the last push of summer," wrote Elizabeth Standeven last week of the situation in her vineyards, Shaker Ridge Vineyards. Elizabeth is one of my treasured contacts in the Sierra Foothill grapegrowing community. Elizabeth is as honest, hardworking and progressive a grapegrower as you will find anywhere, and her dedication to farming in the Sierra Foothill terroir is heartwarming.
The tempranillo will be the first red
to ripen at Shaker Ridge Vineyard

Earlier this year, she did a long interview that I wanted to post, but time just flew. You know how that goes. But here it is, a bit belated, but if you ever wanted to gain more appreciation for what goes into great grapes and therefore great wine, read on....


Elizabeth Standeven and her husband Andrew grow Barbera, Primitivo and five Portuguese winegrape varietals on seven acres of vineyard in a prime location at 1500 feet elevation in El Dorado County. They are like many small farmers: time-challenged.

“Right now,” Elizabeth said early in June, “we are literally in the weeds. We just mowed between the rows a few weeks ago because the rain is usually done at this time of the year. But with these constant little bits of rain we’ve had, the weeds are growing again. I’d like to talk more, but I gotta get out and mow again.”

It was difficult for Elizabeth to find 15 minutes to update me on the state of her vineyard, which actually reflects the status of many vineyards nearby in El Dorado County, California. Elizabeth, however, does take her position as President of the El Dorado Wine Grape Growers Association seriously, and any bits of awareness she can garner for El Dorado grapes has moved closer to the top of her multi-layered priority list.

The vineyard in early spring
“With this unusual spring weather pattern, our do-list seems almost endless,” she said. “So many of the tasks must be done in a tight window of time. For example, we need to thin the shoots for our Barbera; there are ‘way too many shoots. And we have to do this when the shoots are between one foot and two foot of growth. That’s right now.”

Other tasks on her list?

“Well, we just had bloom, so we must sample for nutrients and see what to add; we have to adjust things before you get too far into fruit set. We’ve got this ideal weather now, between 75-80 degrees, and this is ideal not only for bud burst but it is also perfect for mildew. So if we have vine growth, we have to start spraying to control the mildew, and whether you use sulfur or oil, this spraying must be done every 7 to 10 days.”

Then there is the need for labor. Elizabeth and Andrew try to do as much work as possible themselves on their 7 acres. At that size of vineyard, she notes, you can’t make any money unless you do some of the work yourself. “Unless you have a winery as well as a vineyard, it doesn’t pay to hire lots of labor. The truth is that who performs the tasks is very dependent on the size of the vineyard,” she said.

This year, as in past years, with the tight window of time to thin Barbera shoots, Elizabeth turned to her labor contractor to supply help. Her vineyard, Shaker Ridge, needed 100 to 120 hours of work to be done in 2 to 3 days time. But this year, labor was tight. Her contractor turned her down and she was scrambling to find help. “I don’t know what is more stressful, trying to do the work yourself, or trying to find help,” she said with exasperation. Finally their contractor sent some laborers to help finish the job, but Elizabeth and Andrew had already put in 60 hours between them on a beautiful spring weekend. Their daughter busied herself with schoolwork.

“This is one of the perils of being a small farmer. Scale is helpful in that respect.”

Providing high quality grapes to wineries in El Dorado County and elsewhere has been the role of small winegrape growers, and that isn’t changing very fast. New farmers come into the Sierra Foothills every year to grow winegrapes, largely because they want to get out of the corporate rat race and to be close to the land. Over half of the 70 members of the El Dorado Wine Grape Growers Association farm fewer than 10 acres.

“We have a lot of small vineyards here largely because of the mountain topography,” Elizabeth said. “There are some vineyards of more than 100 acres, but we don’t have any thousand-acre vineyards. In the middle-range vineyards, between 10 and 100 acres, some vineyard owners have extended families or grown kids who help them do the work.”
In the more remote areas of El Dorado County where so many small vineyards are located, labor will continue to be a concern. “In the Apple Hill area, where there are a dozen vineyards within a mile of each other, or in the Fair Play AVA, it’s possible to pool labor efficiently with the labor contractors. But so many of our members are all by themselves, farming a few acres in challenging terrain,” Elizabeth noted.

It is worth the effort. The grapes that these small farmers grow have intense flavor, gorgeous color, and are used to produce the delicious wines that are garnering Sierra Foothill wines more and more awards and recognition. The buzz in the wine business is palpable.

As to Shaker Ridge Vineyard, located up mountain in the little town of El Dorado, population about 4500, Elizabeth and Andrew are now in their 11thleaf. They bought vacant land, prepped it, and planted their vines in 2002. Now in their mid-forties, the former molecular anthropologist and her husband the toxicologist have no regrets. Will their elementary school daughter see farming as a career too?

“She is starting to see the light,” said Elizabeth

Greg Baiocchi Speaks Out on his GST: it’s Pretty, Seductive, Complex

Greg Baiocchi
is Mr GST
“Like many in the wine business, I am tired of what one wine writer refers to as “that old CabChardPinot thingy”.   And so when we established Baiocchi Wines and Vineyards, we had a definite winemaking philosophy and vineyard plan,” notes Greg Baiocchi.  

“In many ways, I am a “millennial” winemaker:  I like to experiment.  Baiocchi is a new winery so we can afford to be different, as there are no expectations imposed from the wine critics yet.   I want to be authentic.  I want to deliver an experience that emanates from the vineyard and finds its way to the glass. I like to co –ferment the fruit, and that’s a point of origin of our blend, GST.  One wine lover has called me “Mr GST” because I believe in originality in my blends, and GST is a blend that is pretty, seductive, and complex.
Our winemaking philosophy, briefly, is that we co-ferment, use indigenous yeast, balance our use of new French oak, and believe in unfined and unfiltered wines.   We want to bring the fruit to the glass with as much transparency as possible. The vineyard philosophy was to plant Mourvedre, Grenache, Syrah & Tempranillo because of the excellence of our terroir for these varieties.

From a strategic winemaking viewpoint, these varietals all work well together in any growing season. This vineyard mix allows me to make handcrafted wines no matter what Mother Nature throws our way each year.

Our site in the FairPlay AVA of El Dorado County, CA.,  is perfectly suited for these varietals. I manage the vineyard to the terroir, which allows me to produce wine of defined character.  To me, creating a sense of place in our wines was critical to the winery business plan.

To enhance the sense of place, all our wines are fermented on indigenous yeast, with little or minimal intervention. This winemaking technique allows the purity and freshness of the fruit to come forward, thus further imparting a sense of place in our Baiocchi wines.

Gminor, our signature blend of Grenache-Syrah-Tempranillo, was our second experiment with co –fermenting.

Why GST?

I studied these varietals and where they originated and how they are blended throughout Spain and France.  I believed this blend would be a complex hybrid of origin, our El Dorado terroir, and fresh taste.

And so I handcrafted a wine that was pretty, seductive yet complex.

G minor:
a GST blend
Our GST is accessible at an early age, and can be opened anytime to share but still delivers structure that stands up proudly to food pairings.  We see it marching ahead on wine lists at a value price ($24.00) to consumers of all ages, but perhaps it will be particularly attractive to Millennials.

Grenache (44% of 2011 G minor) is so versatile and brings so much to the table. This is the pretty part of the GST blend, with great aromatics, nicely floral, and a strawberry essence -- it consumes the senses and is what captures you when first meeting the wine.

Syrah (32% of 2011 G minor) provides the weight, the curves, the seduction of the GST blend . Syrah holds the wine on the mid palate, melding blue fruit with all the red fruit of Grenache.  It plays an important role in the blend, because holding the wine on the mid palate long enough allows the acidity to catch up and then… the Tempranillo!

Tempranillo’s earthy tannins bring the structure, complexity and length to the finish in the GST blend.   Tempranillo constitutes 24% of 2011 G minor.

The compatibility of these three varietals is what makes Gminor great for food. Overall it is a medium-weight wine, earthy and ripe.

Where does GST go next?   Well, Christian Miller tasted this and put it on Spago (Beverly Hills) wine list.   We are confident at Baiocchi that GST, at a $24 retail price point, will find a welcome in the marketplace.”   

Greg and Sharon Baiocchi
in their brand-new tasting room
on Main Street, Sutter Creek CA
Read more about this GST wine, and Baiocchi Wines and Vineyards, at

June's Grand Opening for Baiocchi Wines Tasting Room brings “Mr. GST” into the Limelight

Vineyard owner and winemaker Greg Baiocchi is a little shy about claiming the title “Mr. GST”, but it’s apt.  Like a growing number of winemakers, Greg is an advocate of experimentation with creative blends that bring out the sense of place in a wine.  Greg’s co-fermented “G minor” will be one of the sought=after Baiocchi wines during the Grand Opening of their Tasting Room at 82 Main Street in Sutter Creek, CA, on June 1.

Named after Rachmaninoff’s Opus 23 # 5 in G minor, this wine’s GST blend (Grenache Syrah Tempranillo) exemplifies the power and finesse that is Greg’s passion in both winemaking and music.  A professional bass player for many years, Greg tends to gravitate toward complexity in music and wine.   The GST blend, G minor, is the result of Greg Baiocchi’s desire to have his vineyard’s varietals “play well together”.

G Minor (GST)
“G minor is the result of co-fermenting Grenache, Syrah and Tempranillo, three varietals that have been blended together occasionally, mostly two at a time but rarely three at a time.  To my knowledge, they have never been co-fermented,”  Greg says. 

“In this GST wine, the Grenache is the finesse of our G minor, allowing for a softer experience when the wine first hits the palate.  Strawberry and dried cherries with soft lushness, then blue fruits enter as the wine hits the mid-palate.  The wine then finishes with firm earthy tannins, quite a bit of structure and some of the power that comes from huge hands… a wine just like Rachmaninoff would have created if he were a winemaker,”  Greg said.

During the June 1 opening celebration of their new tasting room, winery owners Greg and Sharon Baiocchi are pouring their high quality, small lot wines made from their estate-grown Sierra Foothill grapes.  Featured wines include Baiocchi 2010 Orellana (60% Tempranillo, 40% Grenache), Baiocchi 2010 Grenache Sharon’s Vineyard, gb 2011 G minor (Greg’s unique “GST” blend of 44% Grenache, 32% Syrah and 24% Tempranillo), gb 2012 Neophyte Rose (100% Grenache), and gb 2012 del papa (a co-fermented blend of 70% Viognier and 30% Roussanne).  The Baiocchi family also grows Syrah and Mourvedre in their 12 acre vineyard and will soon be releasing more wines containing those Rhone varietals.

The new Baiocchi tasting room at 82 Main Street, Sutter Creek, CA, joins a growing group of elite wineries that comprise Sutter Creek’s  “Wine on Main” wine tourism initiative to bring wine lovers to this historic Amador County destination for a day or two of tasting enjoyment.  Baiocchi Wines have won many kudos since their first vintage in 2009, including accolades from Jeb Dunnuck (now at Wine Advocate) and The Purely Domestic Wine Report.  Go to for more information.

More about Baiocchi Wines
Greg and Sharon Baiocchi’s passion for making great wine was born from a passion for enjoying it – namely, with friends and family.  As a second career, Greg pursued an education in viticulture and winemaking through the U.C. Davis Extension Winemaking Program and is the Operations Manager of the enterprise.  Sharon handles Marketing and Customer Relations.  The mission of Baiocchi wine is to produce premium, small lot wines, and to stay focused on the land, the fruit, the wine, and the life. Baiocchi’s handcrafted wines feature Southern Rhone and Rioja style wines made in the Sierra Foothills with Baiocchi estate grown grapes. Greg is known in the California wine industry as “Mister GST” for his pioneering blends of Grenache, Syrah and Tempranillo.

Baiocchi Wines joins 7 elite Brands in Sutter Creek with its new Tasting Room

Baiocchi Wines Opens New Tasting Room in Sutter Creek

Greg Baiocchi, hammer in hand and ladder underfoot,
puts the finishing touch on the
Baiocchi Tasting Room sign,
at 82 Main Street, Sutter Creek, CA.n
Directions for wine fun beginning on June 1: Set your GPS for N38 23.58204 W120 48.14621 or just get on picturesque Route 49 in Amador County, CA. Head for Gold-Rush-historic Sutter Creek, and stop at the tasting room of Baiocchi Wines at 82 Main Street, Sutter Creek, CA.

During the June 1 Grand Opening Celebration of their new tasting room, winery owners Greg and Sharon Baiocchi will pour their high quality, small lot wines made from their estate-grown Sierra Foothill grapes. Featured wines include Baiocchi 2010 Orellana (60% Tempranillo, 40% Grenache), Baiocchi 2010 Grenache Sharon's Vineyard, gb 2011 G minor (Greg's unique "GST" blend of 44% Grenache, 32% Syrah and 24% Tempranillo), gb 2012 Neophyte Rose (100% Grenache), and gb 2012 del papa (a co-fermented blend of 70% Viognier and 30% Roussanne). The Baiocchi family also grows Syrah and Mourvedre in their 12 acre vineyard and will soon be releasing more wines containing those Rhone varietals. All Baiocchi wines are available for tasting and purchase in the Tasting Room.

The new Baiocchi tasting room joins a growing group of elite wineries that comprise the "Wine on Main" wine tourism initiative to bring wine lovers to this historic Amador County destination for a day or two of tasting enjoyment. Charming hotels and restaurants nearby provide an experience that will provide visitors with a sense of California history and tastes of wine with a true sense-of-place.
Sutter Creek holds an important place in both Gold Rush and California wine history. John Sutter discovered gold in 1848 at nearby Coloma and located his mining camp on Sutter Creek. Sutter said that his work was going well "until three or four traveling grog-shops surrounded was taken to these places for drinking, gambling etc and then the following day they were sick and unable to work." Times have changed in Sutter Creek, which incorporated in 1913 and is now an exciting tourist and wine tasting destination, featuring eight quality wine brands and appealing tasting rooms. Sutter Creek is located in Amador County, CA, "The Heart of the Mother Lode". The word "Amador" means "one who loves"... in this case, Baiocchi's fine wines.

Baiocchi Wines have won many kudos since their first vintage in 2009, including accolades from Jeb Dunnuck (now at Wine Advocate) and The Purely Domestic Wine Report. Go to for more information.

About Baiocchi Wines
Greg and Sharon Baiocchi's passion for making great wine was born from a passion for enjoying it - namely, with friends and family. As a second career, Greg pursued an education in viticulture and winemaking through the U.C. Davis Extension Winemaking Program and is the Operations Manager of the enterprise. Sharon handles Marketing and Customer Relations. The mission of Baiocchi wine is to produce premium, small lot wines, and to stay focused on the land, the fruit, the wine, and the life. Baiocchi's handcrafted wines feature Southern Rhone and Rioja style wines made in the Sierra Foothills with Baiocchi estate grown grapes. Greg is known in the California wine industry as "Mister GST" for his pioneering blends of Grenache, Syrah and Tempranillo.

For more information:
Greg Baiocchi (aka Mister GST)
Baiocchi Wines
2145 Hidden Ranch Rd.
Fair Play, CA 95684

Baiocchi Wines is a proud member of the El Dorado WineGrape Growers Association

El Dorado/Sierra Foothills Wineries Allow Consumers to "Sample the Sierra" at Lake Tahoe Event

As you read this, Sierra Foothills vineyards will be almost done with harvest, and winemakers are looking at the sugar content of their juice, deciding whether to add this yeast or that, ferment cold or otherwise, and filter or not. So many decisions go into producing an excellent wine, but if the wines poured at the 3rdannual Sample the Sierra event held in South Lake Tahoe in September are indicative, the wines will continue to be good.

Sample the Sierra is a cooperative effort of El Dorado County organizations, growers, producers and businesses to increase awareness of the region’s bounty, heritage, culture and activities. A great addition this year was the Rotary Club of South Lake Tahoe booth that enabled tasters to join the wine clubs of the various wineries.

Colibri Ridge winemaker,
John Alexander
I started my tasting at Colibri Ridge, a winery located in the Fair Play area of El Dorado County. Winemaker John Alexander poured his 2005 Mouvedre, with grapes sourced from the Helen Robin vineyard in Fair Play. It’s a big fruity and spicy Mourvedre, and was rated as the best Mourvedre from the Sierra Foothills at the 2006 California State Fair. 15.2 per cent alcohol. $22.00/bottle. John was not pouring his white ports, one from Viognier, one from Chardonnary, but if you go to the winery, I suggest you buy those dessert wines too: perfect for the upcoming holidays!

Rowena Pegg from the Beach Grill,
South Lake Tahoe, pours
Toogood Estate wines
Another Fair Play winery, Toogood Estate, poured a teaser of a red blend named Foreplay. Malbec, Petit Verdot, Syrah and Cabernet Franc all combine to make a nicely tannic and provocative wine. Winery owner Paul Toogood calls this his signature wine. 13.9 per cent alcohol, $30/bottle. Lakeside Beach Grill in South Lake Tahoe serves this and other local wines.

Ravel Haynes poured for Shadow Ranch;
Sam Domingo, winemaker for
Wilderotter stopped by
Shadow Ranch Vineyard, located on Fair Play Road in Somerset, El Dorado County, poured its new red blend, Sheriff, which comprises 65 per cent Zinfandel and 35 per cent Syrah. This is a non-vintage blend, and great with the spicy food from Latin Soul restaurant. 14.5 per cent alcohol, $15/bottle.

Bill Gunn, assistant winemaker at Jodar Vineyards & Winery, Placerville, poured his 2010 Chardonnay. It has a nice Citrus on the nose with notes of grapefruit and lemon on the palate. 14.4 per cent alcohol, $18/bottle.
Diane Stading , co-owner of
Auriga Wine Cellars, pours their
2009 Red Giant blend

Auriga Wine Cellars of Placerville poured its 2009 Red Giant, a blend of 50% Zinfandel, 25% Merlot and 25% Syrah. It has fruit tones of black cherry, plum and spice with a hint of vanilla on the finish. 14 per cent alcohol, $16/bottle.

Sierra Vintners Pops the Cork in Nevada City Event

An interesting aspect of attending a multi-winery event in the Sierra Foothills nearby is that you get a sense of not only the currently-poured vintages, but also what the future is likely to present. Talking to the wineries at the Nevada City Uncorked event recently, it looks like 2012 will be a good vintage. Grapes are now well past veraison (when grapes turn from green to red) and the heat days are good. Frost was not a problem this year, although water is. Water is a problem in all agricultural products this year, but many Nevada and Placer County wineries have access to irrigation water. It’s not cheap, but it’s available. Cost of wines may be rising, but they should be good.

Jacques Mercier of Solune

From a sampling of wares from several wineries, my rave review goes to Solune Winegrowers of Grass Valley, whose Titan XIII, a Zinfandel/Syrah blend is simply scrumptious. Winemaker Jacques Mercier teased wonderful flavors out of these grapes, resulting in a wine with refreshing berry taste of the Zinfandel and an earthiness from the Syrah. It is smooth, with a full rich mouthfeel and a lingering finish. A perfect wine for anything from the grill! 14.3 per cent alcohol. $18 at the winery. While you are there, taste the 2009 Verdelho, vinified from a zesty Portuguese grape that is summer-perfect.

Lynn Wilson, Pilot Peak


Pilot Peak Winery’s Paramour, a medium-bodied Rhone blend, is another yummy red. This combination of Syrah, Grenache, Mourvédre and Petite Sirah is nicely intense and a bit spicy, and coats your mouth with light, toasty blackberry and dark cherry flavors. At 14.5 per cent alcohol, it is $24 at the Penn Valley winery. Winemaker/co-owner Lynn Wilson also poured a 2010 Viognier that was medium-bodied with the essence of pears, citrus and ripe melons and just perfect on a hot summer day in a Nevada City picnic-like setting. 14.3 per cent alcohol, $22 at the winery.

Bob Hilsman of Double Oak


Double Oak Vineyards & Winery, Nevada City, grows grapes on acreage near Nevada City that owners Bob and Ginny Hilsman started clearing in 1980. Bob started as a family winemaker producing just a few barrels for friends-and-family consumption, went on to take courses at UC Davis, and in 2001 built a state of the art winery. His best seller, the 2011 Chardonnay, is terrific. Golden in color, smooth and well-balanced, it has a wonderful mouthfeel. Flavors are pear, burnt toast, light citrus. 14.5 per cent alcohol. A real deal at $12 the bottle.

Indian Springs Tasting Room,
located in Nevada City

Clavey Tasting Room,
located in Nevada City

This event, presented by the Nevada City Chamber of Commerce and the Sierra Vintners group, also showcased the following wineries: Avanguardia, Bent Metal, Clavey, Coufos, Indian Springs, Lucchesi, Montoliva, Nevada City Winery, Sierra Knolls, Smith, and Szabo Winery. Head over anytime to Nevada and Placer counties for some good artisanal wines

Taste of Gold from El Dorado Wineries

I’d heard in the past about the wonderful Gourmet Food and Wine Tasting fundraiser for Lake Tahoe Community College, but I can now say with assurance:  put the Taste of Gold event on your calendar for next year.  Held on campus in South Lake Tahoe, this event featured 10 El Dorado/Sierra Foothill wineries and 8 wonderful restaurants who prepared tastes that paired well with the wines.  

Laurie Dishman of
Mount Aukum Winery
Mount Aukum winery served its 2007 Apogee.  This is an El Dorado Rhone varietals blend of 40% syrah, 30% petite syrah, 20% cabernet franc, and 10% merlot.  Blends are becoming more popular in all categories and regions of wine, and winemaker Michel Prodhon has recently been “Club Apogee” giving blending seminars for the trade and for consumers.  This wine is the outcome of such a seminar and is a robust red with plum flavor predominating.  Truly yummy.  14.8 per cent alcohol,  $30/bottle.

Jim Brown of
Sierra Oaks Esates
SIerra Oaks makes its 2006 Petite Sirah in a Burgundian style. This Petite has a unique and interesting floral nose.  I enjoyed the licorice flavor, which is a nice complement to this rich fruity Petite.  It has a nice roundness in the mid palate, giving the impression of sweetness.  The finish is smooth.  13.6 per cent alcohol, $21/bottle.

Connie Varvais and her husband,
Holly's Hill Vineyards
Holly’s Hill Vineyards served a refreshing 2011 Viognier, perfect for a summer evening.  Despite the difficulty in pronouncing this varietal (vee-ohn-yay), it is a delightful Rhone grape that in this instance brought to mind a fruit-cocktail flavor.  “Imagine a bowl of peaches, pears and grapes all tossed with a lilac and lavender dressing,”  said tasting room manager Connie Varvais.  This wine is crisp, not sugary, and nicely mouth-filling.   13.6 per cent alcohol, $20/bottle.

Nello Olivo of
Nello Olivo Winery
Nello Olivo Winery poured a 2007 Toscanello, one of many Italian wines in which they specialize.  This red blend is 60% sangiovese, 20% cabernet, and 20% merlot.   Marco Cappelli is the well-known winemaker.  A full bodied wine with aromas of dark cherry, blueberry, cigar box & eucalyptus, it has a long and friendly finish that features a variety of acidity levels and a good tannic structure.   If you can resist drinking it right away, it will age well for 6 to 10 years.  14.5 per cent alcohol, $50/bottle.

Other El Dorado wineries pouring were Colibri Ridge Winery, Crystal Basin Cellars, Grace Patriot Wines, Lava Cap, Madroña Vineyards, and Perry Creek Winery.  It’s a great and easy day trip from Tahoe to taste the wonderful wines of El Dorado county.
Lava Cap
Crystal Basin

All proceeds from this event benefit Lake Tahoe Community College Foundation, which supports scholarships and College programs.  Find out more at www.ltcc-edu/foundation and get on the notification list for next year’s event!