Far Niente Welcomes Tenuta Vitanza Estate

What is the recipe for magic? One beautiful, benchmark Napa Valley winery, one iconic producer of Brunello di Montalcino from Tuscany, Italy, and one gorgeous late summer afternoon.  Like many of the restaurant owners, country club managers, wine directors and sommeliers in the crowd, I had never been to Far Niente. It’s no surprise, really. Despite the estate’s well-earned recognition, it was closed to the public for twenty-five years, and is now open by appointment and only for small parties.

Read more

Randy Caparoso: The Heart of Block122

Randy_CaparosoBlock122 would like to give a special thanks to Randy Caparoso, who has selflessly devoted months of his time to our efforts. Randy has done everything from waking up before the sun, to herding slightly inebriated Block122 founders out of wineries so that they don’t steal the vineyard dog. He has been a constant source of knowledge, resources and friendship throughout the building of Block122. The wine industry can be a difficult to navigate–or really know where to begin–but with Randy’s introductions we have experienced open arms around the California wine community whether it be in Santa Barbara, Arroyo Seco or Mendocino. No matter where we have traveled Randy’s reputation and generosity has opened a thousand doors for us, and continues to do so. It is people like him, with a constant dedication to educating and raising the level of conversation about wine, that make our industry here in California so unique.

Read more

Bien Nacido Bottles

All in the Family: 2009 Bien Nacido Syrah

November is a month that goes by quickly—for me, at least. Arriving on the heels of an action-packed Halloween followed by the official end of daylight savings time, days become shorter and the nights grow colder—all as the ‘daily grind’ continues to consume the precious hours, minutes and seconds from our lives. And so often we focus all our energy on Thanksgiving, making it easy to let the first half of November pass us by.

Read more

Zepaltas Bottles

Zepaltas Wines. (Skateboard optional.)

What kind of wine does a skateboarder make? Wines that have grip and structure and age well. Wines with elegance. In short, fine wine, dude.

Ryan Zepaltas moved from Wisconsin to Sebastopol, California after college to skate. Instead, he landed a job at La Crema as a harvest cellar hand. “I cleaned everything, did pumpovers, punchdowns, ran Chardonnay presses, all the harvest basics. Moved up to forklift jockey during the offseason. Good times. Great place to learn the basics, and that is where I fell in love with the process,” says Zepaltas.

Read more

Sauvignon Blanc Grapes

A Sommelier’s Take on Sauvignon Blanc

At its best, Sauvignon Blanc is crisp, clean and refreshing. I especially love how versatile good Sauvignon Blanc can be. It is easy to cook with, one of the best white wines for serving with food, and is perfect by itself on a hot day. Above all, good Sauvignon Blanc can be easy on the pocket book.

As a sommelier I spend much of the day talking and thinking about the characteristics of wine and discussing how it pairs with certain foods. But I recently had a chance to teach a wine education class and was given the opportunity to discuss some of the deeper and more nuanced factors that go into winemaking. One of the issues that came up involved the relationship between value, weather, and winemaking. Because I enjoy Sauvignon Blanc, I used it as an illustrative example of how good wines can also travel with good value.

Read more

Bien Nacido Terroir

Terroir: Celebrating a Sense of Place

One of the (many) spectacular things about wine is how it evokes a place. If you want consistency from Spain to South Dakota, you can get a McDonald’s hamburger. But there isn’t a factory in Des Moines cranking out wine like Twinkies. Thank heaven.

No, wine bears the scents and the flavors of the soil in which the grapes are grown, the sunlight and rain, the barrels or tanks in which the juice rests, and the hand of the winemaker. Opening a bottle is like stepping into the vineyards and the winery.

Read more


Biodynamic Benziger Puts Charming in Farming

I’ll admit that I don’t know much about caring for sheep. But I’d learn, if the Benzigers would let me stay.

In fact, I’d do just about any chore for the privilege of spending my days amid the rolling hills of the Benziger Family Winery. The quiet site down a winding road in Sonoma Valley inspires words such as bucolic, pastoral, and heavenly. The drizzling gray clouds drifting over the peak of Sonoma Mountain even parted to reveal a rainbow during my visit. Here, dogs run free and the cows have names. Forget the notion of California wine snobs: Benziger is a down-to-earth place … and the earth here is very unique.

Read more