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Jul 06

Guest Post: Visiting the Suisun Valley Wine Country

While Kevin & I are in Alaska, we've asked some friends and
colleagues to post on their wine loves, wine experiences and more. For
this post we welcome Jen Rizzo
. Jen is a freelance motion graphics designer, part-time writer and Cincinnati
transplant based out of San Francisco. She is a self-professed beer
nerd living in the heart of wine country and spends her free time
getting to know the area around her from the saddle of a thirty year
old bicycle – she's also a good friend and I miss her.
Thanks Jen!
___

I moved to San Francisco from Cincinnati on Labor Day of 2008 and have made it a point to stay in the area for all the major holidays so I can learn how the city responds to them. I got to see the city empty out for Thanksgiving and Christmas, making it easier than ever to get a dinner reservation or sit at my favorite bar and not have to elbow people out of the way to get a drink. Of course, it didn't occur to me until two days before Memorial Day weekend that I lived in a major tourist destination. It was time to get out of the city.

This poses quite the challenge for me, you see, because I live in the Bay Area without a car. We're surrounded by all of this incredible terrain, and I see it all from behind the handlebars of a bicycle. This is great for being in the city, and it's very easy to ride over the Golden Gate Bridge to get into Sausalito and toward the mountains, but anything beyond about fifty miles is certainly a breaking point for me. So, I consulted the power of the internet, specifically twitter, to decide my destination for me.

I'm not hugely connected in social media, and my twittering is sporadic at best, but I do have a number of wine connections as well as cyclists and San Francisco residents. My needs were simple: I had never been to wine country in the nine months I lived here, I needed to be able to do it without a car, and I wanted somewhere that was going to give me a good day of bike riding. Oh, and I didn't want to spend hundreds of dollars to do it.

Napa was out. The tastings were too high and the hotels were either booked on the night I wanted to be there or astronomically expensive. Plus, my point was to avoid all the Memorial Day nonsense, and a tourist destination was not the place to do that. Our very own favorite wine blogger Michelle suggested Sonoma, but the bus from the city is really the only way to get there with bicycles, and it was going to take upwards of three hours one way.

Then a friend suggested a winery in Suisun Valley, a place I had never heard of. The hotels would be cheaper, he said, and the winery was only an eight mile ride from the Amtrak station. Upon digging around, I learned that there were in fact four wineries in Suisun Valley, and to visit all of them would be a perfect 25 mile loop from the train station, ending up at a hotel that was less than half the cost of a stay in Napa. Oh, and I could take two trains there in an hour and a half, and it would cost me less than $20 to get there, and bicycles were allowed the whole way. Sold!

We loaded up two messenger bags, two bicycles, and headed out for our trip. Two trains and an hour and a half later, we arrived at the Suisun/Fairfield Amtrak station.
 

For a brief moment, it was easy to forget we were in Northern California. It was cold and foggy when we got on our first train in the city, but by the time we arrived in Fairfield it was sunny and about twenty degrees warmer. The longest part of our journey was the first: an eight mile ride to Wooden Valley Winery.

Wooden Valley is a great place to start your journey. Their wines weren't my favorite (though quite enjoyable), and the experience was much less personal than some of the others we would enjoy that day, but their tasting room and visitor's center is huge. The walls list the story of the Suisun Valley: the brothers that founded the first winery post-prohibition, the families that moved in and made it what it is today. We were invited to taste five of their wines for free – something you'll be much harder pressed to find in the more well-known wine regions of Northern California. I had a full bag on my shoulders and no ability to carry more, so I wasn't able to walk away with any bottles to take home. Lucky for me, it turns out you can order direct from their website, and at a price point of $10-16, they make great value wines. I particularly enjoyed the 2006 Cabernet and their 2007 Riesling.

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Posted by Michelle at 8:30 am in Guest Writers, Travel, Wineries | Permalink | Comments (4)
Jul 03

Guest Post: Kentucky’s Jean Farris Winery

While Kevin & I are in Alaska, we've asked some friends and
colleagues to post on their wine loves, wine experiences and more. For
this post we welcome Shannan Boyer, a local parenting blogger and one of the driving forces behind Cincinnati Women Bloggers – also one of my close friends! Thanks Shannan!

__

Every summer our family packs up the car and heads down to
Somerset, KY for a little boating on Lake Cumberland.  The drive down is about 2.5 hours long, giving us plenty of
time to play car games and check out the scenery.  On our drive one of the things I’ve often noticed and have
always been curious about were the road signs posted along I-75 for local
vineyards.

Well this past weekend we headed down for our first trip of
the summer and this time, rather than driving straight through to Somerset, we
decided to be a little adventurous. We decided to pull off outside of Lexington
and visit Jean Farris, a cute vineyard located
off the very scenic Richmond Road.

Not having heard of Jean Farris, we had no idea what to
expect as we drove down Richmond Road. When we finally arrived, we couldn’t
believe how beautiful it was.  The
drive up to the main building was lined with rows and rows of grapes.  It was like nothing we’d ever seen
before.

While normally my husband and I would have sampled a few of
the wines before buying,  the
bistro was not open at the time we arrived, so we went with our guts and purchased
a bottle of their Riesling ($16).

From the label:

Cold fermented to
preserve the bright tropical fruits and citrus notes. This lightly sweet
Germanic white has a delicate balance, and soft floral notes.

Keep in mind I am no Michelle Lentz (ed. note: I think Shannan is doing just fine!), but I have to say that
this was one amazing Riesling. I found it to have a sweet taste and could
definitely identify the citrus notes.  The wine was smooth and I really
enjoyed the fact that it didn’t have a dry aftertaste.  If
you like dry wines, this would not be the wine for you.
This wine was
extremely easy to drink, and in fact, my husband and I finished the entire
bottle in less than an hour – a feat for me – as usually I am a
VERY slow wine drinker.

We are heading back down to Lake Cumberland soon and
I will definitely be picking up a few bottles of their Riesling to have at
home. Overall if I was using Michelle’s rating system, I would
give Jean Farris’ Riesling a giant smiley face.

A local parenting
blogger, Shannan Boyer resides in northern Kentucky with her husband and two
young boys. When she’s not blogging about her family’s many adventures on her
blog Mommy
Bits
, she and her family are likely to be found out exploring and
enjoying all that greater Cincinnati has to offer.

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Posted by Michelle at 8:30 am in Guest Writers, Local Wineries, Tastings, Travel, Wineries | Permalink | Comments (6)
Jul 02

Guest Post: An Italian Wine Primer, Part 1

While Kevin & I are in Alaska, we've asked some friends and
colleagues to post on their wine loves, wine experiences and more. For
this post we welcome Kevin Keith, who does an excellent job of introducing himself. Thanks Kevin!

__

Hi y’all!  My
name is Kevin Keith, and I am currently the wine buyer for Liquor Direct Wine
& Spirits
, with two locations in Northern Kentucky, as well as local wine
blogger for Under The Grape
Tree
.  Michelle asked me to
help keep her blog going with a little post, so I tried to come up with
something that would fit with her readers, as well as not repeat anything she
or Kevin (her husband) has touched on in the past.

What I came up with is a little something that I am very
passionate about, and have had many questions on in my stores over the years,
and that is Italian wine.  I tell
people who ask about Italian wine, that this subject is the hardest to teach
people on due to the overwhelming amount of information there is about the
subject.  You see, while other
countries in the world dedicated specific areas of their lands to viticulture
(growing grapes), in Italy, there are vineyards everywhere, in each of the 20
regions (provinces actually), with each region as diverse as the others.


Vineyards Near Barola, Image Credit

Italy has long been in the top three in wine production,
becoming #1 in 2005 with a total of over 8.5 million metric tons that year
(over 2 million metric tons more than France!).  Italy can be divided up into 4 main sections:

1.     1. Northwestern
Italy

2.     2. Northeastern
Italy

3.     3. Central
Italy

4.     4. Southern
Italy

The Northwestern portion of Italy consists of 6 regions
spanning from the greater portion of the arc of the Alps and Apennines, which
slope toward the Po River:  Valle
d’Aosta, Piedmont, Liguria, Lombardy, Emilia-Romagna and Tuscany.  Topography, soil, climate and grape
varieties vary from one region to the next, and much of this area is considered
very prosperous, with the cities of Florence, Milan, Turin and Genoa all
inhabiting this area.  A total of
27% of Italy’s wines are produced here.

The Northeastern portion of Italy is also called the Tre Venezie, or “Three Venices”.  The three regions are Veneto –
the largest producer of DOC wines, Trentino-Alto Adige – which has the
highest percentage of DOC wines comparatively to total output, and
Friuli-Venezia Giulia.  Together,
these 3 regions producer a total of 17% of Italy’s wines.

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Posted by Michelle at 8:30 am in Guest Writers, History, Knowledge | Permalink | Comments ()
Jul 01

Guest Post: A “Meritage” for Zinfandel lovers: Coro Mendocino

While Kevin & I are in Alaska, we've asked some friends and colleagues to post on their wine loves, wine experiences and more. For this post we welcome David Lazarus, another local wine blogger and soon-to-be wine shop owner. Thanks David!
__

The mission of the Consortium Mendocino is to increase the awareness and value of Mendocino wine and winegrape products through the production of “Coro Mendocino”, a controlled, ultra premium blended wine that reflects the quality and commitment of the Mendocino County wine industry.

Coro Mendocino in it’s simplest is a Zinfandel blend made exclusively from fruit from Mendocino and their first vintage was 2001. However there is much more to it than that. This is a dynamic style of wine which is awarded Coro status by a jury of Mendocino growers/ producers. The current vintage (06) features wines from ten wineries, while last years had eleven.


Photo from Michelle's Parducci Wine Brunch

I have tried four of the wines that have been in the Cincinnati market for the last several years and they are very good, while each unique. The Coro Consortium allows for up to nine other varietal (commonly found in Mendocino) to be blended into the finished product. The percentage of any one varietal, however cannot exceed that of Zinfandel, which must fall between 40% and 70%. These restriction are just the begining of the protocol, which is quiet specific and can be found on the web site for Coro Mendocino.

All of these wines are priced the same (the 2005’s were $37 each) and feature labels that show the winery name and information, as well as the specifics on the blend. The blends vary greatly from winery to winery and even from year to year in some cases. This is a wonderful showcase of Mendocino fruit and I consider it to have better quality control, as all wines that eventually feature the Coro badge have been peer review twice in the barrel and twice after bottling. A wine maker cannot just pay for the privilege of using the title as is the case with meritage wines.

It is rare in this part of the country to see more than a couple of these wines in stores because of twisted distribution laws. I have been able to find complete sets of Coros from SIP Mendocino in California at www.sipmendocino.com  or 707-744-4375. I am a fan of anything different when it comes to wine and that puts Coros right up my alley. They are fun for the adventurous, but will surely please even the novice wine drinker with their varied complexity.

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Posted by Michelle at 8:30 am in Guest Writers, Knowledge | Permalink | Comments ()
Jun 30

Guest Post: Giacomo Fascio’s Rosso Cervo Cocktail

While Kevin & I are in Alaska, we've asked some friends and
colleagues to post on their wine loves, wine experiences and more. For
this post we welcome Jay Erisman, our favorite instructor from The Party Source EQ Center and quite the wine and spirits expert. He tries to put a positive spin on our dislike of the new Jim Beam Red Stag.
Thanks Jay!
__

Bourbon drinkers have offered mixed reviews of the latest from Jim Beam: Red Stag Black Cherry Infused Bourbon. I tend to lean to the thumb-down end of that spectrum. (Although Red Stag is rather subtler than I expected, and not quite the Robitussin swill some have described. And it is clearly aimed at the Beam-and-Coke crowd, who may like it just fine.) But the appearance of the drink led me to wonder: how good could cherry and Bourbon be?

For help, I asked my first-call cherry masters, the Luxardo family of Torreglia, Italy. The Luxardos are responsible for the great maraschino cherry liqueur–a requisite ingredient in any bar–as well as a host of other cherry products, including whole amarena cherries and a syrup made of real maraschino cherry juice (that's "mara-skeeno," and marks the true and original cherry of that name, not the little artificial radioactive-red fruits endemic to American liquor cabinets). A cocktail of good, strong Beam Bourbon, layered with amarena syrup and the extra bitter Punt y Mes vermouth leads to a cherryish but quite complex cocktail, with a nice thickness that could even work as an after-dinner sip. Serving it on the rocks with a splash of soda cuts the richness if you like.

Giacomo Fascio's Rosso Cervo Cocktail

45 ml (1.5 oz) Jim Beam Baker's Bourbon
15 ml (.5 oz) Luxardo Amarena syrup
15 ml (.5 oz) Punt y Mes

Combine in a shaker with ice and stir for 20 seconds. Serve in a cocktail glass. Garnish with three Luxardo Amarena cherries, and pour a floater of Sazerac Rye on top.

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Posted by Michelle at 8:30 am in Cocktails, Guest Writers, Recipes | Permalink | Comments ()

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