Wine of the week: Sean Thackrey 2008 Andromeda Pinot Noir

Upon our sensational tour of Sean Thackrey’s winery we were won over by the 2008 Adromeda Devil’s Gulch Vineyard Marin County Pinot Noir and that is why we chose it as our wine of the week.

2008 AndromedaWe loved our visit and of course the wines but we were thrilled to see the ‘barn’ and getting to know the ‘mascots’ aka the two taxidermied African Grey parrots adorning one of the walls of the winery,  perhaps an acquisition from his earlier art collecting days or a gift from a girlfriend .

Excellent artwork by Wendy Macnaughton

Excellent artwork by Wendy Macnaughton

To capture a glimpse of Sean Thackrey and his artistry in the mortal world of winemaking check out Wendy Macnaughton’s artwork 

This was a wine that the winemaker pulled back and then re-released when it was drinking beautifully. Thankfully and graciously we acquired a bottle of this fabulous gem of a Pinot Noir.  

From start to finish this wine had such a smooth texture, great color, and lush body. WIth earthy notes, pert acid,  a little tobacco and bergamot tea, it even paired well with sushi almost as unconventional as the winemaking practices of this coveted winemaker.

Hossfeld Vineyards ladies and Sean Thackrey

Hossfeld Vineyards ladies and Sean Thackrey

We are looking forward to our next bottle of wine crafted by Sean Thackrey .

Cheers!

Wine of the week: 1982 Acacia ‘Iund Vineyard’ Pinot Noir

This is a definite throw back wine that we chose as wine of the week. We were graciously poured this fabulous relic of Carneros history at the Acacia Vineyard. Accompanied by the grower himself , Mr. Iund,  it was fabulous to receive celeb-status treatment at the winery.

One of the oldest Acacia Pinot's that we have ever tasted. A 1982 Iund Vineyard designate. Suprisingly delightful

One of the oldest Acacia Pinot’s that we have ever tasted. A 1982 Iund vineyard designate. Suprisingly delightful

Well over 30 years old this wine didn’t taste like a mud-caked old leather vineyard boot sans steel toe. Upon opening the aromatics were on a more cooked cabbage note but after about 20 minutes its fruit did come through. It had great Earl Grey tea components and had held up well despite its age. We were thankful it wasn’t vinegar. The tasting room staff , the other tasters and Mr. Iund himself were tickled pink or rosé should I say at this opportunity to try such an old vintage and a vineyard designate with the actual grapegrower present.  Everyone enjoyed the good old grape growing stories of this early relationship between Acacia and the Iund vineyard.

tasting menu at Acacia Winery

We loved comparing the old label to the newer style labels that Acacia has adopted throughout the years. We hope to see more Napa Carneros Pinot Noirs and wines on their tasting menu in the future.

Cheers!

Winery of the week: Robert Mondavi Winery

Truthfully, we hardly visit any of the big name wineries in Napa especially with their affiliation with the corporate world. However, we were extremely and pleasantly surprised during our visit at the Robert Mondavi Winery. We thoroughly enjoyed  our behind the scenes tour with the new red wines winemaker, Nova Cadamatre

Archiving our moment here at Mondavi.
Archiving our moment here at Mondavi.

Robert Mondavi Winery is an integral part to the history of the Napa Valley that is why we picked it as our winery of the week for this week.

Red barrel storage at Mondavi
Never ending red barrel storage rooms at Robert Mondavi. Sensational!

One thing among the many that caught our attention and changed our tune of this Napa iconic winery was that the wines were phenomenal. A lot of care and attention is given to each wine no matter which category it falls under. Also, they do a lot to maintain their distinct presence and of course their lock down on some of the best Cabernet Sauvignon grapes in the Napa valley, namely the iconic To Kalon vineyards. This winery does seem timeless perhaps that is attributed to the finesse that encompasses the whole operation.  Although they try out new events, I am glad the corporation hasn’t ran this beauty into the ground and has maintained its integrity on the To Kalon series wines.

Veraison at the Mondavi Winery
Veraison at the Mondavi Winery

Offering multiple wine tasting options in a variety of locations, each tastefully decorated. Along the tour through the winery, artwork from the Mondavi’s personal collection adorns the walls . There are lovely tributes to Robert and Margrit Mondavi throughout the property. When we were visiting we happened to catch a few glimpses of veraison. Which always puts us in a great mood knowing that harvest is on the horizon.

The infamous To Kalon room, with lots of Oak Punch Ins.
The infamous To Kalon room, with lots of Oak Punch Ins.

Leaving their pleasantly surprised , we feel comfortable recommending that everyone visits Mondavi and checks this winery off their proverbial wine country tasting list.

Join us today for a fabulous bike tour exploring the Carneros region where Mondavi sources some of their best Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Stay off of the busy Highway and enjoy the country roads of Carneros.

2013 Pre-Harvest Update

The 2013 vintage is shaping up to be a delectable and opulent vintage. Differing slightly from last year’s abundance, we have a more balanced crop load and an official early veraison date. We are all purple and on the way to ripening by August 9th, way earlier than last year and we won’t even go to the historical veraison date for the dreaded 2011 vintage, definitely gave us a couple of wrinkles and maybe a few grey hairs.

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Absolutely gorgeous is how we can describe the beautifully placed and highly sought after two clusters per shoot on the Cabernet Sauvignon canes and the lovely cascading clusters of Merlot peeking out among the leaves to absorb the sunshine. We started irrigating earlier than previous years due to the dry winter to ensure we would have sufficient canopy to last until the last pick , which this year looks like it will be the Petit Verdot in the Coliseum block.

Though this week we have been seeing cooler than usual temperatures, it isn’t affecting us negatively at all because we are hillside select and the heat radiates off of the rocks heating up the canopy and the grapes beautifully without causing sunburn, yay!

All growers place bets on the first pick, we have $10 in the pot for a mid September for Merlot. Cabernet Sauvignon seems to be maturing for an October pick like usual.

Here is to a great vintage, cheers!

Winery of the week: Palmaz Vineyards

Interested in exploring one of the newest appellations in Napa? This would be the Coombsville appellation consisting of some of the best hidden gems and delicious red wines all sourced from this cool climate in the Eastern hills of the southern Napa Valley.

Palmaz VineyardsIf looking for a heritage site home to one of the founding tradesmen and winemakers of the Napa Valley during the early 1800s , the old Hagen estate now currently known as Palmaz Vineyards  is a place to visit on your next tasting adventure in Coombsville.The winery and vineyards are subliminal and the food pairing that goes along with the tasting is stellar.

Founded by Dr. Palmaz, he purchased the land in the late 1990’s and developed it into a beautiful estate where efficiency is key for all of these small batch lots. From the vineyards to the bottling, great care is taken to not damage not even a single berry and to not over manipulate the wine  so that it retains its true expression from the vineyard. Meticulous farming and gravity flow are two key components that take these wines to the next level.

Upon our visit, our tour guide Doug, whom is also a resident of the cellar crew , gave us an in depth tour covering the many subterranean stories of Palmaz. He demonstrated their sustainable operations, showing us the carousel of tanks that move around by an almost glammed up crow’s nest where the controller sits during the crush.

Palmaz Vineyards

Hand selected and hand sorted, sorting roughly 8 tons per day is the name of the game for this wine making team and for this lucrative brand. Sharing an Argentine heritage, these bold wines pair well with the big BBQ that adorns the Tuscan patio on one of the few stories that aren’t subterranean in this winery.

Our favorite wine out of the tasting was the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, great tannins and will get better and better with age.

Delightful food pairing with the tasting.

Delightful food pairing with the tasting.

We love this hidden gem, nestled up against Mt. George and allowing us to glimpse one of the oldest original estates in Eastern Napa Valley.

Cheers to our next adventure!

Spanish Wine Travels a la Priorat

If you are an adventure seeker or a connoisseur of fine wines sourced from extreme hillside vineyards then you better get a rental car on your next trip through the wine country in Spain and head to Priorat.

Priorat Spain

Made up of entirely of Licorella or slate stone these vineyards consist of tiny pieces of broken rock where the vines grow on extreme slopes . Predominately all head trained and older than 70 years old these gnarly vines create intense and complex wines.

Licorella

We thoroughly enjoyed the hospitality in Porrera and Priorat. These hillside vineyards put our pretty extreme vineyard in its place as extreme but not as extreme as Priorat. This region has seen a resurgence in the last decade at one time it was abandoned and the vines were left fallow.

Priorat

Our first stop was at Bodega Clos Dominic a multi-generational winery with vineyards located down a canyon in Porrera. As part of the tour we hopped into a big SUV and drove to the vineyard which really gave us perspective about this region and why it is so distinct. Clos Dominic, SpainWe loved all the wineries on our visit to Priorat and Prorrera. Another notable favorite was Bodega Mas Sinen.

P1010926

Mas Sinen

This gentlemen had visited Napa in the early 80s and is an advocate for organic farming and winemaking. He had a variety of training styles in his vineyard and some of the best sweeping views of this craggy area.

native poppy of Spain

Native poppy of Spain. Compared to our golden California poppy.

The owner took us on a lengthy tour of his vineyard catering to our interests and viticultural backgrounds. It was lovely. We explored the soil texture touching and discovering what this Licorella is all about.

P1010968Along the way we  drank from his natural spring from a Porrón

Drinking from the spring from a porron

He was very passionate about not only the viticulture but the winemaking as well.

P1010982All in all we thoroughly enjoyed discovering this beautiful are full of beautiful wines and extreme vineyards. We are definitely looking forward to explore more of the Priorat region.

Cheers!

Spanish Wine Travels a La Rioja

After a little bud swell began to appear in the vineyards of Napa Valley , us lady farmers hopped on a plane and quickly took our annual vacation to Spain for some fabulous wine, cheese, pinchos and to see our fabulous cohort Hayley Hossfeld. Exploring both Rioja Alta and Rioja Baja, our other posts will include our visit to Priorat and Sant Sadurní d’Anoia the infamous cava region.

Tempraniillo

Our cata at Bodega ONTAÑON a multi-generational, family-owned bodega.

We loved all the wines and the vineyards. The viticulture although similar did have its regional twists and the age of the vines ranged from young vines to 90 year old vines. The wines and grapes  that are approved to be made and grown in La Rioja consist of Tempranillo, Granacha, Graciano, and Macabeo . The Tempranillo is an early ripening grape variety , its name was derived from the word temprano which in Spanish means early.

We enjoyed learning about how La Rioja has been branded and the rules and regulations regarding its D.O.C. Denominación de Origen Calificada. Specifically , how the Spanish label their wine and how the age in barrel affects its name. In the La Rioja region , wines are called vino joven , crianza, reserva, and gran reserva based on the time that the wine was on oak or aged in oak barrels as well as how long it has been aged in the bottle. Vino joven implies that a wine that has had no oak in its aging process. Crianza is up to one year in an oak barrel, reserva is at least 1 year in a barrel and 2 years aged in the bottle. Gran reserva is over 1 year in an oak barrel and at least 5 years in the bottle.

Storing the wine bottles without labels on the bottle

This aging process and the specificity for aging time in the barrel adds to the time from when the wine is bottled to when it is sold. Wine is often stored without a label during the bottle aging period of that wine’s life.

We enjoyed learning about the wines and tasting relatively old wines compared to those wines we find in Napa tasting rooms. The oldest wine we tasted in La Rioja was a 1991 Reserva  from Bodega Urbina which consisted primarily of Tempranillo. Although the wine was 22 years old it still retained acid and the color wasn’t totally brick or rusty.

Bacchus painting

Bacchus painting

During our travels in La Rioja, we visited a variety  of wineries mainly located in Rioja Alta. Our first visit was to Bodega Ontonon whose mythical influence was not only apparent from the beautiful art work but also reflected in the wines. They really demonstrated their interest in maintaining the origins of wine and winemaking through the ages as well as incorporating a new generational approach through their use of social media.

The most notable was Bodega Urbina where we met el nariz del oro or as we would refer to it as the ‘golden nose’ which is one of the highest ranking sommelier certifications in Spain. He is in the Urbina family and their winemaker.

El Nariz Del OroAt Bodega Urbina we tasted through their entire lineup of 12 wines. Starting with a clarete or a  light rosé and finishing with the 1991 gran reserva , tasting through wine made from rehydrated wine grape raisins and a fabulous crianza made out of garnacha or granache.

Bodega Urbina

Our next stop was the infamous Bodega Marqués de Riscal, known for the beautiful gold netting enveloping their bottles of wine. This was their initial defense for counterfeit wine and now although the risk is low it is now purely aesthetic. It was an interesting stop and a huge facility but a little too corporate for us artisanal boutique Napa ladies.

Bodega Marque de Riscal

Ladies posing for the paparazzi outside of the Getty designed hotel that graces the grounds of Marqués de Riscal.

In between the second and third winery we visited the medieval city of Laguardia perched high on a hill where we could observe the beautiful old vines on the hillsides and in the valleys as well as the colorful mountains surrounding the La Rioja region.

A birds eye view of Rioja Alta

One thing that is notable about the Spanish wine industry is their attitude towards young vines vs. old vines. To the Spanish young vines are any vines younger than 20 years old and those usually go into just vino joven or crianza production. The grapes that are selected for the vino reserva and gran reserva are vines usually around 70-90 years old. I think in Napa we should continue the tradition and really cherish old vines and the complexities that they impart on the wines that are created from them.

Saludos from Spain and Cheers to the 2013 vintage!

Brazilian Food : Regional Cuisine from Rio to Bahía

We have enjoyed lots of cuisine throughout our tour of Brazil. From the southern most point of Brazil to Salvador. Although the food was delish in Rio de Janeiro we  have enjoyed a lot of different flavors in the state of Bahía . Touring beach towns and drinking as many Coco Gelados and Caiparhinas all the way to Salvador.

From Sucos (fresh fruit juices) to the infamous Açai berry, there is an amazing variety  of foods that we have never heard of nor have ever  crossed  over our palettes. Some of the foods and beverages that we definitely are writing home about include:

Açaí- this new celebrity in the power food realm, an Amazonian berry, that is so intensely dark purple that it stains your teeth much like a fine Bordeaux. Delicious and full of energy, it is usually blended and served with bananas, granola, and honey. Supposedly the hunters of the Amazon will chew the berries of Açaí with Farrofa and this will keep them full all day and give them lasting energy.

Acaí , potent, powerful, and delicous!

Moquecas- Sizzling on a ceramic plate, this fish or shrimp stew is made with Dende Oil (a red oil made from a particular palm tree), coconut milk, Pirao ( a mix of fish sauce and Farrofa), and sometimes accompanied with black-eyed peas or beans and rice.  An amazing Bahían dish.

Moqueca

Feijoada- A hearty dish, do not try to Samba after this meal. A beef , sausage, bean stew served with Couvé ( shredded greens cooked with garlic), oranges, and Farrofa (ground Yuca root). Absolutely fantastic and fiilling. Showcases some of the main staples in Brazil. One of the best Feijoada’s in Rio is located at the Casa Rosa, Centro Cultural, on Sunday nights. A great place to eat traditional cuisine and listen to live Samba music. This fantastic building was at one time  an infamous brothel.

Feijoada

Sucos-  a variety of fruit juices, one of the more interesting varieties include: Cajú , Cacao, Graviola , fruits that definitely are not grown in California and for that matter in Napa. Make sure to ask for sem azucar or it will be very sweet. Usually they blend the pulp with water, the fruit flavors are still strong however, and the drink is very hydrating.

Cacao pod

Acarajé –  a food particular to the state of Bahía,  a deep fried bun made of flour from ground  Black-eye Peas, that is fried in the infamous Dende oil and stuffed with shrimp, spicy chile peppers, Okra , and another ingredient that is difficult to translate. A very Creole-esque snack. Lovely and beautiful  women make them from scratch infront of your eyes.

Gorgeous woman serving infamous Aracajé

Lastly, one of our favorite beverages asides from the Fruit Caiparhinias, are the Coco Gelados, the chilled young coconuts that they machete a hole in and put a straw in and let you enjoy it at the beach or through a stroll in town. Refreshing and rehydrating. However, be careful too much young coconut can have a laxative effect.

Tough life- beach and chilled coconuts abound.

We are now off to Argentina, going to live like the Gauchos along the  Pampas through our exploration of Buenos Aires and Mendoza. Can´t be from the Napa Valley and not go wine tasting in Argentina.

Cheers!

New Year`s a la Arequipeña

Cheers to the bounty of 2012!! Feliz año nuevo!

Wearing our yellow Peruvian hats for New Year`s eve

Celebrating New Year´s in a foreign country is always exciting. New foods, friends, and cultural nuances flood the scene and captivate all the spectators. This year we spent New Year´s eve in Arequipa , Peru, the second largest city in Peru .

Traditions created around New Year´s are always fascinating. In the U.S. we are sparse on traditions compared to other countries. Of course, kissing someone at midnight, perhaps the colors blue and silver are the thematic colors, and sharing your New Year´s resolution. These are very tame compared to the Peruvian customs.

There are three traditions that we experienced and adopted during our stay in Arequipa. The first is the importance of wearing the right color underwear when ringing in the New Year. Yellow for prosperity, green for wealth, and red for love. All the street markets were flooded with different styles and the respective colored panties.

Lots of underwear for sale in the street markets of Arequipa

The second tradition involves Incan folklore , lots of incense. Not the typical Nag Champa that everyone associates with incense. But traditional cauldrons where herbs, cedar, and other plants are burned to rid oneself and the area of bad spirits . Starting off the new year spiritually safe and sound.

Traditional incense, Incan style

Candles are the third ritual, lots of different colors representing certain qualities that you would want in the New Year. Once burned at 12 , each color will perform it{s respective character. Yellow for prosperity, blue for health, red for love, purple for self-confidence, etc. Two of us ladies in our group burned blue and yellow ones, where as the single ladies burned beautiful red candles with gold accents.

Assortment of homemade candles, need luck in the year to come? burn a candle

Much like our tradition involving plenty of champagne to ring in the New Year, in Peru , Demi-Sec champagne made Ica, Peru, very sweet almost to sweet for these American Chicas. There were also tables full of Muscato, Vino de Higo (fig wine), and other red Peruvian varietals made in a sweet manner.

If planning to travel in the New Year one must circle their neighborhood carrying two suitcases in order to give good luck for your trip and put the energy out there that you have good luck when traveling in the New Year.

Happy 2012 to everyone and may it be prosperous to all!!

Up in the Andes Estilo Peruano: our adventure thus far

Although the wine has been sparse in Peru so far on our journey, we have been delighting in the local ´bebidas´ from Pisco Sours, Inca Cola, Cusquena a local beer, and Coca tea. We are even debating visiting the wine region of Ica lots of sparkling wine is made in this Southern province of Peru.

More popular than Coca Cola, Inca Cola

Lima was a very eclectic coast town, we stayed in the Barrancos area. This was great for us because it is the Bohemian area of Lima and we found it quite suitable.We did enjoy Miraflores as well as El Centro. Colorful buildings, gorgeous colonial mansions, and of course coastal fog filled our days of sightseeing. A bike tour from Bike Tours of Lima rescued us from our jet lag , our guide Franco was fantastic.  The food was delicious as well , from traditional Peruvian cuisine to Comida Chifa ( a fusion of Chinese food and Peruvian food).

Barrio Barrancos

My favorite food during our visit to Lima was the Aji de Gallina, a chicken dish made with the infamous Aji chile, very difficult to find in the U.S. , they like it spicy down here. Other traditional dishes that we shared were Arroz con Pollo and an Amazonion dish Tacu Tacu con Asado.

Ají de Gallina

After delighting in all that Lima had to offer we are resting up in Cusco anticipating our 4 day trek to Machu Picchu. Drinking lots of Coca tea, sipping on Quinoa soup , and eating the vast variety of Peruvian potatoes.

Tomorrow we are going to nosh around town at the infamous Mercado de San Pedro. Other traditional dishes on our must-eat list include: Alpaca steaks or burger, anticuchos de carne or alpaca (beef hearts or Alpaca hearts on a skewer) , and Cuy.

Chicas bebiendo Pisco

Ciao y Cheers de Peru!