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The Wine Key is now accepting new clients who are seeking social media and/or marketing consultation!

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Spain's Favorite White Wine:






Charles Shaw - The Controversy 




The People's White - Spain's Favorite White Wine

Can you believe we are nearing the end of August?! Summer is my favorite time of year so the fact that Labor Day is fast approaching makes me defiant of the evitable change. Albeit, Fall is my second favorite season, especially as harvest is underway and another year of wine is being produced but this post isn't about examining my deep feelings towards the seasons. 

As there are still a few remaining weeks to soak up the sunshine and a long weekend yet to be indulged, I wanted to recommend two white wines to pair perfectly with the rest of summer.

Verdejo Rueda, SpainComing from Rueda, Spain a Denomination of Origin founded in 1980 with winemaking roots dating back to the 11th century, the white wines produced here have become "the people's white." Made from the Verdejo grape, the wines are crisp, light, refreshing and full of tropical and citrus fruit flavors. They pair exceptionally well with seafood, salad, light pasta dishes and appetizers. 

There are currently only 40 producers of Rueda wines who export to the US. One of the two verdejos I recently tried from Rueda was Bodegas Copaboca's Gorgorito Verdejo 2013. Retailing for around $7, you can't bet this price and quality. Made from 100% verdejo, the bright acidity frames the citrus fruits - lemon and lime along with the signature herbs characteristics perfectly. There is also a slight minerality to this wine which I love, much like Albranio. Copaboca is known for being certified in Natural Reserve for their sustainable and environmentally friendly agro-environment practices, so this is a feel-good wine all around. 

VerdejoThe second wine I recently tried from the same area is also made of 100% verdejo from Bodega Hijos de Albero Guitierrez originally built my Dominican monks in 1657, this light, straw colored Verdejo smells and tastes much like lemonade, it was rather outstanding! What was unique about his wine was the slight residual sugar. This can be rather refreshing on a hot day pool side or accompanying Thai spice shrimp, as the wine will calm the hot spiciness. 

Overall, if you are a fan of Albarnio or Pinot Gris, you should take a sip of Verdejo and see if its to your liking as well. The clean, refreshing tastes along with its bright acidity, slight herbs and balanced minerality is sure to remind you of summer all year long. 




My Two Cents on the Recent Two Buck Chuck Controversy 

I wanted to take a few moments to weigh in on a recent article that re-surfaced on Huffington Post this week from Chris Knox. Please note, the article has since been removed. In this article, Knox challenges the notorious Charles Shaw or Two Buck Chuck brand, as having “animal blood” and other additives in the wine. Here is an excerpt of his post: 

"These large tractors with huge claws go down the rows of vineyards grabbing the grapes and depositing them in its huge receptacle. And it not only grabs ripe grapes, but unripe and down right rotten ones as well and throws them all together. Add to that leaves, stems and any rodents, birds, or insects that may have made those vines their home—they all get thrown into the bin as well. And guess what? You think there's going to be any sorting when that truck arrives at the winery (or should I say processing facility)? Nope. Everything, and I do mean everything (including all those unripe grapes, rotten grapes, leaves, stems, birds, rodents, and insects) gets tossed into the crusher and transferred to large tanks to ferment. 

Charles ShawCourtesy of cellartracker.comFor a little background, the Charles Shaw label is owned by Bronco Wine Company based out of Ceres, California, in the Central Valley. Bronco is the 4th largest wine producer in CA started by Fred Franzia who is well-known for the boxed wine by the same name and is interestingly enough is the nephew of Ernest Gallo. The Bronco Wine Company makes an estimated 20 millions gallons of wine a year and originally introduced Charles Shaw at Trader Joes exclusively. 

Now as someone who has worked a harvest, I know that there are bugs that come in on the grapes and the feeling of earwigs crawling up my arms from the sorting table still haunts me. But just like you might find a slug in your organic lettuce from the farmers market, it's natural. But that’s not to say they end up in your final wine. Ever notice how rodents and birds flee the minute you come close? In the event that they did get by rounds of humans, they would block machines, pumps and costs thousands in repairs and replacement parts. Not to mention, grape juice is often given time to settle prior to fermentation which allows anything heavy to float to the bottom of the tank. Then there's the racking process of moving wine from one vessel to another. Again, even yeast cells fall to the bottom of the tank and will not be pumped to the next vessel. So bottom line? You’re not drinking red wine with a splash of animal blood.   

But this does bring up the quality factor. When you buy shoes at Target instead of from a designer, you often know what you’re getting, something functional that won’t last forever. We buy Hershey's bars from behind Willy Wonka colored glasses and trust we know what goes into that product. But when it comes to making wine to even get started, you have to have grapes and not just any grapes but the noble Vitis Vinifera grapes which require specific conditions to even grow. 

As for the other additives mentioned in the quote above, sugar is the biggest culprit which some brands both big and small add despite it being illegal. Just because its labelled “wine” doesn’t means it was created equal. That’s why paying attention to each winery’s story and listening to their harvest and production techniques is important to decide what you identify with best. That’s why a lot of the world’s finest wines are expensive. Because expert vintners and winemakers have been alongside each grapes from inception through to bottle nurturing them till the consumer purchases and enjoys. I personally have blinded tasting Charles Shaw Cabernet and guess what? I didn’t pick it last! The stories behind wines and the occasion you plan to enjoy a bottle is important to factor in when selecting the right wine.

At first my reaction was that Chris’ strong words reeked only of ignorance but I applaud Chris for challenging the model however, as he has recently commented this week, he would have taken time to fact check and to use different wording had he known the HuffPo was going to post his blog. The Bronco Wine Company also knows their brands and the markets they serve. They have done a tremendous job of creating a household wine label as well known as Kleenex that costs less than a gallon of gas. So yes, price point does matter to a degree but you don’t have to spent $100 to get a handcrafted wine. Franzia has even been quoted as saying: "I don't make wine to put in a closet. We sell wine to drink.” At the end of the day, if you have wine in your glass, a smile on your face and are able to cheers to the day’s successes with the ones you love, none of this really matters.

How do you feel about the comments made towards Charles Shaw? Please share in the comments below.




Winery Spotlight - Patz and Hall

Being able to focus and execute one thing really well takes skill, dedication and commitment. Often wine portfolios can grow so large that I often wonder how much quality becomes sacrificed between multiple labels. This is exactly why I have a lot of respect for wineries who know their land, know what grows well there, and executes it beautifully. Enter Patz & Hall winery out of Sonoma. They make Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The End. While they do make more than 2 labels highlighting vineyard designation, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are the only two varieties produced. 

Patz & Hall was founded by four seasoned wine professionals, some of which may have attended the University of Oregon!! Go Ducks ;). Having recently opened their new, beautiful tasting hall off Eighth Street in Sonoma featuring artists from around the world the setting is perfect for showcasing their beautiful wines. James Hall and Donald Patz (hence Patz & Hall), used to work together at Flora Springs Winery and Vineyards where their friendship and love for wine blossomed. My recent visit had me belly up to their awesome tasting bar complete with comfortable bar stools which made me feel like I was hanging out in their home kitchen. A flight of four wines, 2 Pinot and 2 Chardonnay were poured and wow did each one truly shine. 

The 2012 Cherry Ridge Vineyard Chardonnay from the Russian River really stood out for me as being the perfect summer Chardonnay. Easy to drink and doesn't require food, yet if you were to have a salad or seafood it would also make a great pairing. The acid was bright but complimented by flavors of camel, apricots and tropical fruits. Retails for $50.

I was also treated to a special tasting of their Winters Hill Ranch 2006 Chardonnay which is no longer available for purchase but displays the ageability of their chardonnay, if you have the patience to wait. 

As I am obsessed with Pinot, the standout for me was the 2012 Moses-Hall Carneros Pinot Noir. I'm not sure what it is about Carernos fruit but I've always had a love affair with it...shhh....don't tell my boyfriend! ;) The Moses-Hall Pinot is very well balanced with flavors of cherry, raspberry, cranberry, and plum. It drinks very smoothly but is layered with complexity and finishes with a touch of chocolate and medium tannins. I was also impressed with the shelf life of this Pinot. Three days after I opened the bottle, it was still opening up and drinking beautifully! Retails for $70.

Lastly, if you are looking for a great dessert wine they have an amazing late harvest white wine that tastes like apple pie. Get a taste or a bottle if you can! 

For your next wine tasting trip, I highly recommend you swing by their tasting room. For the best experiences, appointments are highly recommended. 



Wine and Social Media Pairs Exceptionally Well

Originally published on

The Wine Key Social MediaCapturing a snapshot is easier than ever thanks to smartphones. Aside from the rising universal selfie trend, sharing, learning and connecting with others who share an interested in similar topics by posting these images across social media platforms is also easier than ever before.

Artist, baristas, writers, bartenders, celebrities, athletic teams, small businesses, large businesses, you name it, everyone has the same level playing field and forum to communicate, provide feedback and even sell their products or services through interactions online. But when it comes to wine, does social media have an impact?

Turns out, wine and social media might just be the perfect pairing. According to a recent estimate, 1.5 million conversations happen a day on social media. That is powerful. Not only does wine bring us together over the dinner table but with vehicles like the Crushed Wine App sharing these experiences throughout various social media platforms has become more prevalent. The amount of users posting wine labels and connecting with others over a common passion regardless of knowledge level, has inspired a large and active online community.

Additionally, taking photos and posting to various profiles gives the ability to keep track and log favorite wines, essentially creating a digital wine journal. This then serves not only as a reference for the individual user but also to the friends, family and followers. Having this hand-held resource becomes powerful when shopping for wine or trying to navigate wine stores, restaurants or even planning a wine country trip. The experience of enjoying a bottle of wine in real life can now be amplified and shared with millions.

It has been said many times before, that behind each bottle of wine, there is a story to be told. From vineyard, to winery, to bottle, and to the consumer, social media allows for these stories to be encapsulated all in one place. So much so, that more and more wineries are also joining the conversation. Wine consumers are not only talking about what their drinking but providing direct feedback to wineries in regards to their experiences. Just like with any relationship, the key to success for many, is being consistent, engaging and to offer great content or conversations. Friends don’t appreciate an inconsistent, boring and distant friend. They want a real connection that enriches their lives. From industry thought leaders to winemakers to a consumer picking up their first bottle of wine, this community helps to support one another.  

Wine has always brought people together, social media makes that easier by providing an accessible arena for non-intimidating conversations surrounding wine. Social media is another way to gather friends no matter how close or far they may physically be, an exceptional pairing indeed. So grab that wine bottle and take a selfie together and start telling a story.




Exclusive Interview with Winemaker Beau Carufel

Beau Carufel WinemakerBeau CarufelA few years ago I joined this thing called Twitter, you may have heard of it. I wasn't really sure what to talk about so I started talking about what I These conversation have lead to numerous friendships both on and offline. One great friendship formed with Winemaker Beau Carufel. We took a few minutes to catch up on the phone last week and I asked Beau a few questions about his transition from wine buyer and blogger to winemaker. The Wine Key is thrilled to be the first to interview Beau since the inception of Random Wine Co. 

Charlotte: Tell me about a memorable wine moment.

Beau: I don't know if there was just one moment but my father worked in the wine industry in San Diego and sold Ravenswood. I remember taking a trip to Sonoma with my Dad to visit Joel Peterson. We had dinner at his house in Sonoma and I remember drinking great wines and listening to them talk about wine which is where I started to absorb a wealth of information. There were also winemakers visiting us at our home in San Diego. Wine was just a part of our dinner conversations. 

Charlotte: How did you get into wine? When did you know the wine industry would lead to a career path?

Beau: Through my Dad who was a distributor. He sold Californian and Italian wines. He was also the first to sell Gruner Veltliner. Growing up, I would have sips with dinner, wine has just always been a part of life. After attending flight school, September 11th happened and I decided it wasn't for me. I got a job at wine store then everything really blossomed. I moved to Oregon in October 2011 with no job lined up.

Charlotte: What wine certifications do you hold? 

Beau: I am a Certified Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers but I don't plan to take it any further as I don't work in the hospitality side as much any more. 

Charlotte: How did you get into winemaking?

Beau: The Kramers [of Kramer Vineyards] hired me as a harvest intern. I had always been intrigued by winemaker but it all seemed too technical and chemistry was never my thing. I always enjoyed drinking and talking about wine more. Once I got my hands dirty and made wine, I saw production in a whole new light.

Charlotte: When did the idea for Random Wine Co come about?

Beau: The Kramers asked me a decided question: "Why don’t you make some wine?” The name comes from both making different varieties of wine and my lack of originality. I'm not an artistic person. Random seemed fitting. 

Charlotte: What varieties do you produce? 

Random Wine Co Tempranillo2012 TempranilloBeau: In 2012 the inaugural vintage, all fruit came from Horse Heaven Hills AVA in Washington. In 2013, I got some fruit from eastern Oregon and now the Willamette Valley too. I produce a Tempranillo, Petit Verdot and Gamay Noir Rosé. What's unique is that I make my wine in the heart of the Willamette Valley but I don't produce a Pinot Noir or a Pinot Gris which are popular here. However, I have learned to make wine from Pinot Noir producers so I have a gentle touch when it comes to winemaking.

Charlotte: How many cases do you produce?

Beau: In 2012 I made about 125 cases. In 2013 it became 250 cases and 2014 looks like it will be between 300 and 400 cases.

Charlotte: Where do you source your grapes from?

Beau: Mostly at random as long as the quality of fruit is there. Like I said, the 2012 vintage all came from Horse Heaven Hills AVA in Washington with additional fruit coming from eastern Oregon and the Willamette Valley.

Charlotte: Where do you make your wines?

Beau: At Kramer Vineyard. I have about 10 barrels at their winery.

Charlotte: Do you have a winemaking philosophy?

Beau: I have a rather romantic notion when it comes to winemaking. A wine should taste like the site, grape, people or Terrior as the French say. I try to express the grapes the best that I can. I believe in getting out of the way and help the best fruit it turn into great wine.  

Random Wine Co Petit Verdot2012 Pt. VerdotCharlotte: Do you have a favorite wine of the wines you produce?

Beau: I'm really liking the Rosé, but Pt. Verdot and cab franc currently in production are amazing. I did some whole cluster and the wines have lower alcohol and great savory flavors.

Charlotte: Do you use and new barrels or oak on your wines?

Beau: No new oak. I have to make wines I am comfortable with. I don’t like oak with grapes I produce. Wine should taste like fruit. 

Charlotte: In 10 years from now, where do you see yourself?

Beau: Being a full time winemaker. I would love to make enough wine to support my family and pay all the bills. If it doesn’t happen though its ok but I hope it does.

As someone who recently tasting Beau's Tempranillo and Pt Verdot, I am super impressed! I truly love these wines and you can tell Beau really lets the fruit speak for itself. The wines are complex but balanced and great with food or just by themselves.

To contact Beau and to purchase his fantastic wines visit Random Wine Co's website or connect with Beau on Twitter and Facebook.  





Being Re-Introduced to Robert Mondavi Wines

Robert Mondavi TastingOk, I'm calling myself out - I've been a wine snob. I know I know, it goes against all of The Wine Key's principles and don't get me wrong, I've always respected Robert Mondavi for his pioneering principles which helped to put Napa Valley and fellow winemakers on an international stage. But throughout the most recent decade, you will have not seen me drinking a bottle bearing his name. (Unless of course it had a vintage from the 1970's on the label).

That was until last week when I was invited to an intimate tasting with winemaker Nova Cadamatre at The Workshop in San Francisco. This small and intimate event was fantastic and you know what, so were the wines. It was a true pleasure to taste through the 2010 vintage and pre-view the 2013. 

Upon arrival, there was a tasting of three Fumé Blancs, one of which was the 2012 Reserve Fumé Blanc ($50) which was very balanced in it's subtle flavors and rich textures. I highly recommend this wine for the remaining weeks of Summer and pairs great with any seafood or appetizers. 

Once seated for our red tasting, Nova Cadamatre, one of the three winemakers at Robert Mondavi, walked us through tasting the: 

  • 2010 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($28)
  • 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve from the To Kalon vineyard ($135)
  • 2010 Oakville District Cabernet Sauvignon as from the To Kalon vineyard ($45)

I was impressed with all of the wines in that they didn't hit my over the head with their power but yet were rather complex in all of their flavor profiles and structure. There was some discussion of the alcohol content as the Cabs are close to 15% which is on the higher side, however, I think that is part of what makes a Napa Valley Cabernet distinctive. I believe that as long as the wine can remain in balance with it's fruit flavors, non-fruit flavors and structure without the alcohol smacking you in the face, then not only has a great wine been produced but proves that a "higher" alcohol wine can executed well with the rest of them. 

Winemaker Nova CadamatreWith Winemaker Nova CadamatreLastly, Nova poured a few samples of their 2013 vintage which are coming along nicely. It was definitely much younger and still tight in structure but the overall quality again shined through. It is clear with Nova's background and company culture left behind from the great Robert Mondavi, that high quality winemaking remains a top objective and just because they make more cases than the average winery, have tour buses rolling up on the daily with visitors from around the world, doesn't mean that quality has been compromised. 

I am grateful for this opportunity to have been re-introduced to Robert Mondavi wines which served as a lesson not only to myself, but served as a reminder that snobbery serves no purpose when it comes to wine and that the founding principles of both Robert Mondavi and The Wine Key remain true. 

Have you tried Robert Mondavi wines lately? If so, I would love to hear your opinions. Please share below in the comments or on Facebook, Twitter of Google +



Happy Bastille Day! 

Happy Bastille Day


The Wine Key is Expanding - Announcing New Client Services 

I am thrilled to announce today that The Wine Key is officially growing and accepting new clients for Social Media and Marketing Consulting Services! Here is the official press release:


The Wine Key Now Accepting Clients for Social Media and Marketing Consulting Services

San Francisco, CA. - July 9th, 2014 - The Wine Key today announced new client services focusing on social media strategy implementation and digital marketing efforts. While The Wine Key will still remain focused on consumer wine education, owner Charlotte Chipperfield is looking to expand in order to assist small businesses primarily in the wine and hospitality industries, to utilize and execute digital marketing efforts such as social media and email marketing to engage and connect with current and potential customers.

Social Media and Marketing Consulting“Every business has a unique story and when it comes to communicating each story online, it is vital to define clear goals, remain cohesive with branding, be consistent with engagement and create valuable content to achieve success,” says Chipperfield. The Wine Key offers customized social media and digital marketing consulting packages to help businesses reach this success.

Consulting services range from evaluation of current efforts to full service email marketing and social media execution and management. The Wine Key specializes in: 

  • Email Marketing: ESP set-up, design, templates, segmentation, and reporting

  • Social Media: Content calendar creation, manage strategies, design, engagement and reporting

  • Content Creation: Creating dynamic content and blog posts that are valuable and engaging

With the holiday season only a few months away, Chipperfield feels July is the perfect time to start planning and gearing up for holiday promotions, campaigns and offers and is currently accepting new clients. Attached is a PDF of additional information on services. Feel free to share this information with your readers or clients who may be interested in these services.

To learn more or to hire The Wine Key, please contact Charlotte Chipperfield at or by phone: 415.448.7290.

About The Wine Key

The Wine Key is a consumer wine education & small business social media and marketing consulting business based in San Francisco, California. The Wine Key was founded in 2011 by Charlotte Chipperfield who has over 10 years' experience in the wine industry and hospitality and eight years of experience in brand development, marketing, social media, and entrepreneurship. Charlotte is also an accomplished sommelier, wine educator, wine writer, wine judge, digital marketing and social media expert as well as having authored the ebook; The Quick Sippy - An Intro to Wine.





5 Tips for Selecting Wedding Wines

Wedding season is in full swing and if your big day is coming up hot, I've put together 5 tips for calculating and selecting the perfect wines to pair with the big day!

Private Wine Events

Here are 5 tips for choosing wines for your special day:

  1. How to calculate the amount of alcohol. Determining if beer and hard alcohol will also be served. This will largely effect how much wine you will need to purchase. Estimate about a bottle per person knowing that some will drink less and some will drink beer or hard alcohol.
  2. Keep the menu in mind. If you are working with a caterer try to finalize the dishes before picking wine. Then choose wines that are easy to drink. Since wine is often used for the cocktail hour, and the dinner entrees which can range from fish, meat or veggie, you don't want to overwhelm the foods with super heavy, rich wines. Pinot Noir or a medium bodied blend can be a great option for this.
  3. Choose one option for each wine. It doesn't matter how many different types of wine you plan to pour, i.e: white, red, rose and sparkling. Choose one of each so guests can easy ask for what they want.
  4. Where to buy the wine. Start by attending tastings at local wine shops to get a feel for the employees tastes, knowledge and inventory. Once you have an idea of what you need and what you like, they can then help to recommend producers based on budget and will set-up a time for you to taste. You can also reach out to specific wineries who may offer case discounts. 
  5. Toast. When it comes to toasting the happy bride and groom, not everyone can afford the finest champagne. Sparkling wines such as Cava or Crements are delicious alternatives.

And don't worry if you have extra wine, it's better to have more than less. Plus, you can always use the extra wine as party favors or as a way to get those last few guests at the end of the night to leave the party ;) 

If you are planning a wedding and don't know where to start with getting delicious wines at your celebration, feel free to email and we can set up a time to chat:  




Wine Book Review - Where I Want to Be

If you are looking for just the right summer read, I've got one for you! I recently read Where I Want to Be by author Cortney Roudbush. Not only is it an honor to call Cortney a friend but this easy reading novel has me begging for the next installment. This is the first novel in her wine country series.

Where I want to BeWhere I Want to Be follows Olivia on her wine country adventure of exploring Napa Valley while experiencing all the comical ups and downs of dating all the while finding her true passion. Its a little Sex and the City meets Napa Valley which is also an experience I can relate to when I first moved to California as a young women to pursue a career in the wine industry. 

Cortney's ability to develop the characters of Olivia, Charlotte, (no, its not me but great name choice!), Kay and Grace, who support Olivia through her experiences and transition is fantastic. This is a great tale of being a young women seeking what is most important while looking for Mr. Right.

This is a great summer read because it is the perfect pool side read but bring the sunscreen as Cortney's writing will have you turning pages till the end to see what happens next. 

I also enjoyed this book because Cortney features actual wineries and wines in Napa so it also doubles as a tasting guide for your next trip to Napa. 

Where I Want to Be is available on Amazon for Kindle and in local Bay Area book stores such as the Corte Madera Book Passage.

Book two is currently in final edits and will be released soon. So grab a lounge chair, a glass and get ready to giggle with Olivia and her friends.

Happy Reading and Santé!



Introducing Grapes Defined 


Happy Verdejo Day

National Verdejo Day


Celebrate National Verdejo Day 

National Verdejo day is June 12th! You can be sure I will be filling my glass to the brim. I'm excited this grape is being celebrated with a dedicated day ;) 

Courtesy of the Wines of RuedaVerdejo is native to North Africa but has mad its home in Rueda, Spain. Verdejo produces a white wine that is crisp, minerally, full of citrus melon and slight herbaceous flavors. 

Verdejo pairs great with seafood, salads, pork, spices and of course cheese. 

The Rueda region of Spain is located in the center of Castilla y León around the city of Valladolid, north of Madrid. In addition to Verdejo, this region also produces Sauvignon Blanc, Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon and Garnacha. 

Ready to explore a Spanish wine this Thursday? Grab a bottle, pour yourself a glass and let me know what you think! 



June is Barbera Month

The Amador County wine region has declared June to be Barbera Month. And if you live in San Francisco, this is a great excuse to get away from the foggy "June gloom." Nestled in the Sierra Foothills on the eastern side of California, this sunny wine region is known for lush Zinfandels and exotic Barberas. June 14th is the large Barbera Festival and Tasting which is currently sold out but a wait list is available. However, there are a number of events happening all month long. There are over 40 wineries to check out in the area as well. 

Courtesy of Amador Wines Barbera is the perfect red wine for summer as it is often referred to as “the white wine drinker’s red.” It tends to be lighter in style like a Pinot Noir, if not lighter, and has great fruit flavors and subtle structure. Barbera is native to the Piedmont region of Italy and brought to the United States by Italian immigrants who settled in the Sierra Foothills during the Gold Rush. It wasn't until the 1970's that winemakers got serious about the region with most wineries now producing a Barbera. The great thing about Barbera is that is can be produced in lighter styles as well as produced in heavier style wines. The Sierra Foothill wineries produce all styles but the lighter bodied ones are sought after for the hot summers. 

Barbera has flavors of cherry, strawberry, dried herbs, baking spices, and sometimes violet. It pairs great with summer BBQ, meats, salads and veggies. It really is the perfect pairing for summer feasts! 

To plan a trip to the Sierra Foothills, check out the Amador County wine region's maps and list of wineries here. If you make the trip, I would love to hear all about it! 




4 Rosés to Kick Off Summer

Memorial Day weekend is upon us and why not kick off the unofficial start to summer with lots and lots of rosé?!

I've recently tried 4 rosés I plan to stock up on to drink all summer long, I recommend you do the same:

2013 Ealy Mountain Rosé

Early MountainComing to us from Madison, Virginia, Early Mountain Vineyards sits at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains in a picturesque setting easily mistaken for Napa. I may have a small bias towards this area as it is called Charlottesville.... ;). Their rosé is made of 100% merlot with great acid and fresh fruit flavors of strawberry, raspberry, melon and slight minerality and herbaceousness. This light and bright rosé is perfect for pool-side sipping or with a dinner of salad Nicoise, salads or cheese with curried salami. $18.

2013 MacRosite Pinot Noir Rosé

Again, I may have a little soft spot for this wine as this was the first winery I ever worked for but man I love their wines! This rosé is no exception. Coming from MacRosite winery's newest vineyard in the Russian River Valley of Sonoma these pinot noir grapes produce a more full-bodied style rosé this wine can stand up to bigger meals such as chicken dishes and BBQ. Full of watermelon, strawberry and raspberry flavors this rich rose is the perfect alternative to red wine. $20.

2013 Red Car Rosé 

I have written about this winery before as they are one of my all time favorites. All of Red Car's wines are truly outstanding and what's not to love about this label?! Made again from 100% pinot noir grapes, this rosé is light and crisp with flavors of pink grapefruit, cherry, strawberries and melon. This is one rosé I recommend drinking on its own. So light and full of flavor, no food is required. $25.

2013 Apaltagua Rosé

And now for a little trip down south, this rosé is from Chile and made from the grape Carmenere. The Apaltagua rosé is has a distinct rose petal flavor along with raspberry, tart cherry, citrus and is light on its feet. The camenere grape is known for having a spiciness which also comes through on this wine. I recommend this with BBQ and also perfect for summer picnics. $15.

Have a happy and safe Memorial Day! Cheers to summer. 



Winery Spotlight - Arrow & Branch

When a winery is built with a story of love and passion, I pay attention. Such is the case with Napa Valley winery Arrow & Branch. Last week, I had the great privilege of representing this winery on the Sip and Sail Wine Cruise put on by The Right Blend. It was a spectacular evening of wine tasting framed by the magnificent skyline of the San Francisco Bay basking in a pink sunset. 

Arrow and Branch OwnersOwners Steve and SeanneOwners Steve and Seanne Contursi fell in love with the wines of Bordeaux on a trip in 1985. They then sought out their Coombsville vineyard property in 2007 in order to produce Bordeaux style wines in the Napa Valley. With winemaker Jennifer Williams at the helm, Arrow & Branch has set a standard for red blends. 

The name "Arrow & Branch" has unique begins coming from Steve Contursi's passion for collecting coins which started at a young age. As an adult, Steve has made his name as a professional collector having started Rare Coin Wholesalers and RCW Financial, even making the international news when he sold a 1794 Flowing Hair Silver Dollar for a world record of $7.85 Million dollars. On the reverse of most US coins is an eagle holding an arrow and an olive branch which inspired the winery's name and is an homage to Steve's first passion. 

The Red BlendOn the Bay cruise last week, I had the pleasure of pouring their 2010 Red Wine and the 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon. Both wines are exceptional and with a little areation drink smoothly now but can also be aged for a number of years. The Cabernet is bold and has rich tannins along with lots of classic cassis and red fruits. The Red Blend is mainly composed of Cabernet Franc and Merlot for a smooth rendition of a Bordeaux Blend. A favorite for both myself and everyone who tried it. At $125 a bottle, I would expect nothing less. The Cabernet comes in at lower price point and the crisp dry Sauvignon Blanc even lower. 

I recommend grabbing a few bottles of these wines which are perfect for letting Mom know you care or for your upcoming Mother's Day Celebration




Winery Spotlight - Fort Ross Vineyards

Every once in a while I come across a winery with a magical story and Fort Ross Vineyard is no exception. I had the great pleasure of tasting through their complete line-up of Chardonnays, Pinot Noirs and Pinotage. 

Situated only one mile from the Pacific Ocean high above the fog line, to say the property is picturesque is an understatement. Perched within the Fort Ross - Seaview AVA, this is as far west as it gets. Named after the historic Fort Ross which was once Russian occupied and is now the only foreign funded state park in the United States. Fort Ross Vineyard owners, Lester and Linda, have brought a whole new definition of romance with the elegance of place which comes through in their wines. Originally from South Africa the couple longed for country life and to build upon their love for wine and food. 

Having found the perfect location along the Pacific Ocean, they decided to plant a test vineyard with 16 different varieties, three different trellis systems, assorted clones and different rootstocks. After four years, they concluded that the area was ideal for growing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and in 1994 began installing the first seven vineyard blocks. Shortly, thereafter, the native South Africans paid tribute to their home country by planting Pinotage, a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault. 

Deciding what to plant and where was not the only challenge. With steep slopes and the property ranging in elevation from 1200 to 1700 feet, and more rainfall than the Amazon Jungle reaching upwards of 125 inches of rain a year, the challenge of mapping out the vineyard was no easy feat. With the help of a consultant and thousands of plastic knifes, (yes, plastic picnic knives), used to mark the rows of the future vineyard, Lester and Linda accomplished what many thought to be unthinkable. Due to the steeps slopes, the vineyards are all hand-harvested before being taken to winemaker Jeff Pisoni's winemaking facility in Santa Rosa. 

The purity of the wines along with their balance and exemplary expression of each grape variety shows a true dedication to producing the best wine from the best vineyards and location. Lester and Linda are dedicated to letting each vintage speak for itself and don't try to make the exact same wine as they did before. 

So what about the juice they produce? Well, to say their wines are bloody fantastic is not an understatement. If you like crisp chardonnay that tastes of lemon curd, citrus, and a fresh summer morning, that you have got to buy Fort Ross' wines. The reserve spends a little more time in oak but most of it is neutral so if you like heavier Chardonnay than the reserve is for you. 

The Pinot Noirs are also outstanding and as a self-proclaimed Pinot Noir nut, there is a pinot for everyone here. The cooler years produced much more elegant and refined Pinots and the warmer years produced big and bold style Pinots and the Pinotage has gripy tannins, spice and great fruit sure to satisfy any red wine lover. 

I highly recommend that you make the trip out to the newly opened tasting room. What better way to spend the day than sipping amazing wines while looking at extraordinary views of the Pacific Ocean?! For more information and tasting room hours, please visit their website. 



Easter Wine Recommendations 

Easter is this weekend and I'll be honest that for me, Easter, is less about religion and more about Cadbury eggs and mimosas. Truth. Is. Out. 

Regardless of how you choose to celebrate here a few wine recommendations for your upcoming feast of savory and/or sweets: 

  • If you plan to prepare and enjoy a lamb dish, I recommend pairing it with a Tempranillo or Malbec. Both wines have great acid to cut through the meaty texture and have enough spice and boldness to accommodate the bold flavors of both the meat and planned accoutrements. 
  • If you plan to prepare a glazed ham, I recommend pairing it with a Riesling, Grenache, Pinot Noir or Merlot. The stone fruit and touch of sweetness in the Riesling will accent all the flavors of the glaze and the sharp acidity will cut through rich meat. With the red wines, the sweet glaze will also be complimented with fruit flavors of cheery, plum and red berries often found in all three red wines. The acid will again, help to cut through the succulent meat and
  • Sparkling wine and/or mimosas go with everything....duh.
  • If you plan on gorging on candy and candy only, I recommend a Port or Madeira to accompany. It's all about the sweetness baby! 

Wishing you a very happy and delicious Easter. 


If you have a favorite Easter or springtime wine, I would love to hear about it in the comments below. 


10 Tips for Planning a Wine Tasting Trip

Originally published on Tablehopper.

The romance and allure of the wine industry is often what draws wine drinkers to plan weekend trips to Wine Country and sip the days away in tasting rooms. I’ve spent a significant amount of my working professional life in winery tasting rooms, which has allowed me to geek out on soil types, rootstocks, average rainfall, and clones, and has also led to many laughs (nothing compares with experiencing Pat Sajak’s cheesy jokes firsthand). I also love watching a guest experience his first aha moment, when he connects the dots between the vineyard and what’s in the glass by tasting specific characteristics of a grape for the first time.

Tips for Wine TastingThese moments are all among the highs, but unfortunately it isn’t always as elegant and dreamy as you might imagine. These exhilarating experiences are often interspersed with desolate moments that have made me unsure about the human race.

Having experienced a guest spit gum into my hand so they can better taste the wine is, unfortunately, not the most repulsive experience I’ve had. Tracking down guests who have disappeared to the tank room to “ferment” their love, if you will, was rather distasteful but so was serving as a backsplash for a guest insistent on knowing if the spit buckets were from Ikea by flipping the mélange of wine and saliva upside down. True stories. And then there is always that guy who likes to tell me the history of the wine industry because he saw the movie Sideways.

The allure of the wine industry may seem to stretch a little further than my liking but then that’s just it—the real story being told is how wine brings people together from all walks of life. So as much as these stories may have you questioning why anyone would ever work at a winery, the passion lies with connecting people with a product that has the ability to be the center of celebrations and many stories to come. That is a powerful romance you don’t fight, but embrace.

So unless you want to become a gum-chewing, cracker-spewing, flipping-the-dump-bucket drunk, I’d like to share my 10 tips for making your day of wine tasting the best it can be for all involved.

  1. No gum, perfume, or cologne. Wine goes great with food but doesn’t make a great pairing for gum, perfume, and/or cologne, which can easily dominate the flavors and aromas in wine and affect the tasters around you.

  2. Use dump buckets. It really doesn’t matter if they are from Ikea or not, I recommend making use of these. Life is too short to drink bad wine—spit out the wine if you don’t like it or if you’re feel a little tipsy. Using dump buckets can slow the pace down while you still get all the flavor.

  3. Learn: ask questions of your tasting room associate. If you don’t understand something, ask for further explanations. If the associate is anything like me, she will be more than happy to impart all her wine knowledge.

  4. Come prepared with water and snacks. The majority of wineries do not provide food or allow for picnics on their property, so bring food to fend off the munchies.

  5. Plan for a lunch stop along your wine route. See no. 4.

  6. Make appointments ahead of time. This is a great way to get a private tasting and personalized attention from trained wine professionals.

  7. Pick one geographic location and stay there. Don’t try to cover multiple regions or appellations in one day. Select a few wineries that are close to one another.

  8. Hire a car or plan for a driver. Drinking and driving will get you sent straight to the slammer, a hefty fine, and the loss of your driver’s license. Just don’t do it. Be smart, plan ahead.

  9. Know and accept that you can’t do it all. Plan to visit three or four wineries in a day. You can expect to taste, on average, about five wines at each winery. If you’re not making use of the dump buckets, the amount of wine you will drink can add up fast.

  10. Have beer on hand at home. Nothing is more refreshing at the end of a long day of wine tasting than an ice-cold beer.

With these tips in mind, wine tasting is more than just an excuse to day drink. It’s a lot like trying on shoes: you get to try on something new, and decide if you love or hate it. I just ask that you don’t leave basic etiquette at the door. But please, by all means, feel free to snap a selfie in the vineyards on the way out.



The Calling - Get Your Pinot and Chard On

Ok, here's a moment of honesty: When I first saw this brand, I thought it was sleek, especially with the heavier bottles, but the name is completely cheesy. "The Calling," sounds like a sci-fi mystery or Star Wars movie welcoming me to the dark side. I am most likely a princess in the court of the dark side, however, this is not my genre of entertainment, which made me roll my eyes at the label....almost.   

The CallingOne of the things I LOVE about wine is that it brings people together. The story behind "The Calling," is no exception. Once I read more, I came to understand the impactful meaning behind the name. Peter Deutsch and Jim Nantz had the random fate of meeting at a restaurant through mutual friends. Nantz, is an Emmy winning sportscaster while Deutsch is a wine industry marketing and operations guru. Both had been greatly influenced by their fathers and had followed their independent passions in both sports and wine. The two hit it off immediately shared similar values their fathers had installed and decided to partner on a wine venture for follow their true calling

I had high expectations for the Pinot and Chardonnay because a) I'm obsessed with Pinot and b) It has Dutton Ranch on both labels. The fruit coming from this vineyard in the Russian River Valley in Sonoma is rather outstanding. So if they messed that up, this would be a much angrier blog post. However, they rocked it. A bold, rich pinot with loads of cherry, mushroom flavors and slight baking spice. This is a great pinot to drink on its own or with food such as Salmon or heavier fish dishes.

The chardonnay follows suit in being rich, layered with flavors and mouth-feel without being buttery and oaky with a strong fruit focus and slight minerality. Also a great wine for pairing with salads, cream based dishes and lighter stews.

This wine embodies everyone's wish to follow their heart and make a living from what we love. So when you open a bottle, take a sip and appreciate all that you have accomplished and all that you hope to accomplish. 

Furthermore, if you had a wine to name, what would it be and why? Post your answers below in the comments. 

To learn more about The Calling and to purchase these wines, visit their website.