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Spring Forward

Spring Forward into a season filled with fun, informative Food & Wine Experiences! Discover the most collected pure-varietal wines of Italy that compete with the Grand Crus of Burgundy and cult favorites of California. Enjoy an exploration of wine and food dynamics as you’re guided through a fabulous multi-course lunch complemented with exceptional wines. Acquire some wine know-how by joining M's tasting group on Spain. Encounter some unique artisan cheeses and the wines they complement. There is something for everyone from Bubbles to Killer B’s to Burgundy! Click on link for all of the info.

Sparkling Holiday Guide Part 2 of 3

The Imitators

To restate from Part 1, Champagne is a protected region by law and only wines from that area of France are permitted to use the name. The term “Champagne Method” is also protected. In France, outside of Champagne, the word Crémant is used to refer to sparkling wine made in the traditional method. Crémant d’Alsace, Crémant de Bourgogne, and Crémant de Loire are all made in this way. In Spain, the sparkling wine Cava, is made using the traditional method as is Italy’s Franciacorta and South Africa’s Méthode Cap Classique (MCC). Seeing Crémant, Cava, Franciacorta or MCC on a label guarantees the wine was fermented in the bottle in the traditional time-honoured method. In the New World there are no such regulations, even though most of the best sparkling wines from Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the U.S. use the technique. Look on the label for “traditional method” or “fermented in this bottle” to reveal the true nature of the bubbly. 
 

Recommendations 

“Made up of 90% Chardonnay and 10% Pinot Blanc, with zero dosage, this pretty sparkling has very classy and feminine aromatics and is very nicely textured along the palate, with classic Chardonnay character that's lightened up on the finish by the small addition of Pinot Blanc and a vibrant mineral quality. A fantastic substitute for you Champagne lovers on a budget. (Eric Story, K&L Alsace Buyer)”
 
“The 2013 L'Hereu Brut blends the three traditional grapes, Macabeo, Xarello and Parellada and ages no less than 18 months in contact with the lees (with a maximum of 30 and an average of 24). The powerful and expressive nose is really fresh, mixing fennel, aniseed, bread dough, in a very balanced, elegant and subtle way. The palate is extremely fresh (the signature of the vintage) and balanced with amazing weight of fruit, the lees/yeasts do not overpower the fruit and the finish is very long. This is one of the best sparkling wines in its category and price range, especially in this vintage.” 91 pts Wine Advocate - Luis Gutierrez . For more information on Cava.  
 
“Cuvée Prestige, the essence of Franciacorta, Ca' del Bosco style. A jewel created in 2007 from thirty year's experience. Only the finest Chardonnay (75%), Pinot Nero (15%) and Pinot Bianco (10%) grapes from 134 vineyards, vinified separately and skillfully blended with reserves of the finest vintages (at least 20%) go into the magical rite of Cuvée creation. It will take 28 months of refinement on yeasts before this wine is ready to express all its richness and identity. A classic, well-balanced Franciacorta, pleasantly fresh and crisp. Perfect for any occasion.” For more information on Franciacorta.
 
“A delicious Cap Classique created with 100% Chardonnay. Rich creamy aromas with hints of fresh lime fruit on the nose. An exciting fine mousse with an explosion of tangerines on the palate. Great brioche and yeast complexity broadens the palate leading to a long elegant finish.”  For more information on Méthode Cap Classique.  
 
“This non-vintage wine sparkles to the tune of a well balanced blend; predominantly 3-5 year old Shiraz, aged in old French oak barrels showing wonderful smooth integrated fruit and a rich weighty texture across the palate.  This is blended with a touch of younger vintage Shiraz bringing ripe juicy fruit characters to the finished product.  Fruit for the Sparkling Shiraz is sourced predominantly from premium grape growing regions in South Australia; namely McLaren Vale and Langhorne Creek. A rich, luscious Sparkling Shiraz that is well balanced and destined to compliment any celebration! Or, try pairing with a meal; such as a spicy curry, or roasted pork belly with maple syrup glaze, or a simple bbq for brunch! It is delicious with chocolate too!” 
 
“L'Ermitage, Roederer Estate's special Tête de Cuvée, is a sparkling wine made only in exceptional years from pre-selected, estate-grown grapes. Carrying on the tradition of Champagne Louis Roederer in France, Roederer Estate produces its sparkling wines in the traditional French methode and adds special oak-aged reserve wines to each blend. Fine tiny bubbles and a long lasting mousse are the usual footprints of the L'Ermitage cuvée. This cuvée is showing great notes of apricot tart and hazelnut. The mouthfeel is smooth, velvety, creamy with a well enveloped citrus acidity and long finish.” 
 
Next post "Your Sparkling Holiday Guide Part 3 of 3: The Others"
 

Sparkling Holiday Guide 1 of 3

Champagne - The Traditional Method

The holiday season is upon us and if there is a time of year when bubbles are a must it’s now. Sparklers add fun to the festivities. The pop of the cork, the effervescent mousse, the cheery clinking of glasses, all in some way elevate the mood making any get-together a merry occasion. 
 
In the next three posts you’ll be introduced to the world of sparkling wines and you'll discover not everything that sparkles is Champagne. 
 
So what is a sparkling wine? A sparkler is a wine with significant levels of carbon dioxide in it making it bubbly. A classic example of a sparkling wine is Champagne, but many other examples are produced in other countries and regions, such as Cava in Spain, Asti and Prosecco in Italy, Cap Classique in South Africa and German Sekt. The US is a significant producer of sparkling wine: California is famous for its rosé sparklers. Sparkling wine is usually white or rosé but there are a number of red bubblies out there that can make a festive option as a signature party drink.
 
There are so many options, styles and price points. How do they vary and how does one chose? Prepare to be enlightened!
 
Champagne is the most recognized bubbly, but while all Champagnes are sparkling wines, not all sparkling wines are Champagnes. Only wines that come from the Champagne region of France, made according to the Traditional Method or Méthode Champenoise are legally entitled to call themselves “Champagne.”
 
The making of Champagne is an intricate, hands-on process that the Champenoise have carefully developed and perfected over centuries to create the distinctive bubbly we enjoy today.
 

An Intro to the Champagne Method  

Things to consider
There are two alcoholic fermentations in the “traditional” method of making sparkling wine
The second fermentation takes place in the same bottle in which it will eventually be sold 
Grapes are typically harvested earlier than they would be for regular table wine production, ensuring high acids, low sugar and pigment
Low grape sugars equate directly into low alcohol in the base wine
Base wine cannot achieve elevated alcohol levels, or else the second fermentation will not happen
• Thus sparkling wine production is more successful in cool-climate areas 
 
Pressing
During the harvest, the grapes (Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay) are picked by hand and carefully transported to the press houses
Grapes are not crushed but whole cluster pressed (basket or bladder press) to inhibit contact between the juice and the skins of the red grapes, so as to avoid coloring the wine
 
First fermentation
The first fermentation begins in the same way as any wine, converting the natural sugar in the grapes into alcohol while the resultant carbon dioxide is allowed to escape
Most often done in stainless steel tanks but some continue to use oak
 
Blending
After the first fermentation is complete, the resulting still wine is blended by the chef de caves or cellar master with various other base wines 
The blend, aka cuvée is assembled, using wines from various vineyards, and in the case of non-vintage Champagne, various years 
This produces a blend or cuvée that will match the house style 
 
Second fermentation
The blended wine is placed in the bottle in which it will eventually be sold along with a plastic cap, yeast and small amount of sugar, called the liqueur de tirage (added in order to induce the mousse) 
Closed with  a temporary “crown cap” sealing the bottle for its second fermentation and consequent ageing process
During the secondary fermentation the carbon dioxide is trapped in the bottle, keeping it dissolved in the wine  creating between 4.9 – 6.00 atm and approx. 1.5 % additional alcohol
The second fermentation occurs over the course of at least three months in the Champagne bottle and is often referred to as the prise de mousse, or “capturing the sparkle”
Carbon dioxide and fermentation lees (dead yeast cells) form inside the bottle
 
Aging on lees (sur lie)
Ageing takes place sur lie (on its dead yeast cells)
All Champagne wines must spend at least 15 months in the bottle before release, of which 12 months ageing on lees is required for non-vintage cuvées
Regulations require that vintage Champagnes are aged in cellars for three years or more, but most top producers exceed this minimum requirement, holding bottles on the lees for six to eight plus years
While ageing, yeast cells break down, creating a toasty, nutty, brioche bouquet
Carbon Dioxide is absorbed more thoroughly creating a smaller bead or bubble
 
Riddling
After aging (a minimum from one and a half to three years), they undergo a process known as riddling (remuage in French), in which they are rotated a small amount each day and gradually moved to a neck-down orientation (sur pointe), so that the sediment (lees) collects in their necks and can be removed from the bottle without losing the carbonation
This process can be done manually by a remueur or by machine
When done manually the bottles are placed in riddling racks (pupitre) with  their necks tilted downward and rotated in stages
The remueur lifts the bottle, gives it a light shake and a turn then thumps it  back down into the rack 
Over time this forces the dead yeast cells into the neck of the bottle
This manual process takes four to six weeks
Today, houses have the option of using automatic machines known as gyropalettes and this can reduce the time to one week
 
Disgorging
"Disgorging" (dégorgement), was a skilled manual process, where cork and lees were removed without losing large quantities of the liquid, and a dosage (a varying amount of additional sugar) was added
Modern disgorgement is automated by dipping the neck of the bottle into an icy brine solution and freezing the sediment
The bottle is turned upright, crown cap removed and the internal pressure shoots out this plug of ice containing the lees, along with the plastic cap
A bit of wine is always lost but it is then replaced through a process known as the dosage
 
Dosage or liqueur d’expedition
• Some wine is lost during disgorging so it is replaced with the same or similar cuvee that may or may not have been mixed with cane/beet sugar – this is known as the dosage
The amount of sugar added at this point determines the final product
A cork is then inserted with a capsule and wire cage securing it in place
Champagne labeled “Brut,” tends to be crisp and refreshing and pairs well with a wide variety of foods (assorted cheeses, charcuterie, mixed nuts, sushi, anything deep-fried) especially the salty hors d'oeuvres often served at parties
Bubblies labeled “Extra Dry” or “Dry” contain some residual sugar, and taste slightly sweet and are best served with desserts
 
Bottle Aging
For three to nine months the dosage marries with the sparkling wine in the cellar, prior to release
Even experts disagree about the effects of aging on Champagne after disgorgement
Some prefer the freshness and vitality of young, recently disgorged Champagne, and others prefer the baked apple and caramel flavors that develop from a year or more of bottle aging
 
Vintage vs. Non-vintage
The majority of the Champagne produced is “non-vintage” ( a blend of wines from several years)
This means that no declared year will be displayed on the bottle label
However, the majority of the wine is from the current year but a percentage is made of "reserve wine" from previous years
This serves to smooth out some of the vintage variations caused by the marginal growing climate 
Most Champagne houses strive for a consistent "house style" from year to year, and this is arguably one of the hardest tasks of the house winemaker
Vintage Champagnes are the product of a single high-quality year, and bottles from prestigious makers can be rare and expensive
• If you prefer fresh, fruity flavors look for non vintage; seek out older vintages if you like subtle, more complex styles with toasty and yeasty flavors
 
Rosé Champagne
Champagne is typically light/clear in color even if it is produced with red grapes
The juice is extracted from the grapes using a gentle process that minimizes the amount of time the juice spends in contact with the skins, which is what gives red wine its color
Rosé wines of Champagne are produced by leaving the clear juice of black grapes to macerate on its skins for a brief time or, more commonly, by adding a small amount of red wine to the sparkling wine cuvée
Rosé Champagne is one of the few wines that allows the addition of a small amount of red wine during blending 
• This procedure ensures  a consistent Rosé color from year-to-year
 

Recommendations

 
Five assorted Champagnes under $40
“Made from a blend of the finest Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes, Brut Majeur is the epitome of a non-vintage brut from a great, historic House.  Light gold, with abundant and fine bubbles. The nose is open and expressive with delicate, unveiling notes of citrus, flowers and white fruits. The palate is balanced, combining freshness and vinosity. Precise, fruity and characterised by a long finish.”
 
“Cuvée Léonie Brut is crafted from noble grapes, with 50% Pinot Noir, 25% Pinot Meunier and 25% Chardonnay. Reserve wines account for a significant proportion of the blend (25%). It is pale gold in appearance with a bouquet of orchard and tropical fruits, dried flowers and spicy fruit loaf.”
 
“From our Grand Cru vineyards Cuvée Réserve is a classic Chardonnay Champagne (Blanc de Blancs) with tiny, delicate bubbles that you'll appreciate at any time of day.” 
 
“This rosé has a lovely salmon-pink colour and delicious candied fruit and rose petal aromas. There is volume, fullness and strength on the palate, with good substance. A delicious wine!”
 
“The sweet touch that hits the spot… Champagne lovers the world over are today discovering or rediscovering the pleasure and subtlety of Laurent-Perrier Demi-Sec, quite simply because they have learned how to appreciate it. Fresh, rich and intense, it is the ideal partner for sweet & savoury combinations and in particular magnifies desserts and cakes.”
 
Five assorted styles $40+
“This unique cuvée, entirely vinified in oak, is respectfully composed of the three champenois grape varieties. A radiant yellow crystalline appearance with golden glints brought to life by a luminous bead of persistent fine bubbles. There is an olfactory impact due to the richness of harmonious expressions (dry fruits, fresh citrus and white fruits) coupled with finely buttered seductive notes. The caressing and refreshing texture enhances the creamy sensation, dominated by a beautiful bracing vivacity. A burst of flavours (notes of grilled brioche, toffee) thanks to the distinguished power and maturity which is a mark of the great wines of Champagne.”
 
“The most "classical" of the Deutz cuvées is far from mundane. The three different champagne grapes are blended in equal and unchanging proportions, ensuring it shows perfect harmony. Its golden color scintillates in the glass, with a fine stream of bubbles rising gracefully to the surface. The first impressions on the nose are mellow and reminiscent of acacia flowers, confectionery, Reinette apples and brioche. The wine then gains in volume and its silky texture reveals a successful balance between the freshness of Chardonnay, the fruitiness and structure of Pinot Noir and a touch of vinosity from the Pinot Meunier.” 
 
“The blend is 62% Pinot noir and 38% Chardonnay. To produce its Rosé Champagnes, Louis Roederer uses the saignée method (skin contact). The 2009 has a salmon pink colour with golden tints, producing a persistent stream of delicate bubbles. It has an intense fruitiness with a blend of red fruits (Morello cherry), blood oranges, and vineyard peach, with acidity, and slightly candied notes. After a few minutes, nuances of pastries emerge. The attack is round and fruity, marked by grapefruit and citrus zest. Its full body and density are sustained by the almost limestone freshness: the freshness and texture blend to give the wine its persistence.”
 
“When Alain Thiénot discovered this stunning 100% Grand Cru Chardonnay vineyard, located in Avize on a hillside in the Côte des Blancs, his thoughts turned to his children, Stanislas and Garance, and he dedicated this plot to them both. Since that day, the Thiénot family has devoted special attention to tending the vines in Avize, and every year meticulous care is invested in maturing the few thousands of bottles lovingly produced. The unique ageing of this single varietal vintage cuvée retains the specific character of the terroir, the year and natural Chardonnay aromas. La Vigne aux Gamins is a highly original Champagne, full of flavour.”
 
“This is the result of Madame Bollinger’s great vision: an expert wine with aromas enhanced by its exceptionally long maturation, it will last forever; James Bond’s favourite champagne. 60% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay 23 crus: 71% Grands crus, 29% Premiers crus. Only the very best among vintage champagnes become Bollinger R.D.: 2002 is definitely one of the most promising vintages of the last decade. A very long maturation, more than three times longer than required by the appellation, for an infinite array of flavours: a true wine alchemy. Dosage very low: "Extra Brut"", 3 to 4 grams per liter.”
 
R.D. stands for "recently disgorged"
NV stands for non vintage
For more information on Champagne see Bureau du Champagne, USA
 
Next post "Your Sparkling Holiday Guide Part 2 of 3: The Imitators"

 

Sonoma & Napa Escapes

Join M Wine Education on a small-group tour of wine country! M has planned the ultimate insider getaways to Sonoma and Napa.

Sonoma: Arrive Thursday, June 25, depart Sunday, June 28
Napa: Arrive Thursday, July 2, depart Sunday, July 5

Thursday 'Welcome Dinner’ to get acquainted with your fellow wine enthusiasts.

Friday and Saturday you will enjoy a fun and informative day of touring, tasting and dining. You’ll visit three to four wineries each day that are rich in charm and history. M is very fond of the smaller, family "boutique" wineries, but there are no strict rules. Guests can expect to tour a winery, take in some exceptional views, stroll through the vines, learn about wine making, and discover the stories, history and people behind the wine.

Lunch could be a multicourse wine and food pairing event where you will enjoy stunning vineyard views and a fine dining presentation at a shared table. Dinner may be a casual, laid-back meal of small-plates, “some wildly inventive and others comfortingly familiar”, paired with local wines.

Sunday you are on your own.

This intimate grape escape, limited to six adventurous oenophiles, will be touring wine country by SUV. Morning pick-up will be 9:00 a.m. with a return time of 5:00 p.m. If your accommodation is within the wine region you'd like to tour, M will likely be able to pick you up and drop you off. Otherwise, we will meet you at a pre-arranged public place with ample parking. The same applies to dinner service to-and-from accommodation. These excursions are ideal for individual travelers, couples or small group of friendly people.

Costs
$75pp for Thursday welcome dinner
$295pp/day for wine tour, lunch and dinner

Some helpful info and links for your wine country getaway.
http://napavintners.com/, http://www.visitnapavalley.com/, http://www.sonomawine.com/, http://www.sonomacounty.com/, http://www.winecountrythisweek.com/, http://www.discovercaliforniawines.com/

Fly direct from San Diego to Santa Rosa in Sonoma, CA via Alaska Airlines. For more info and flight schedule see Sonoma County Airport and be sure to check out “The Wine Flies Free Program”.

Accommodation Options
Honor Mansion, Healdsburg, Sonoma
Vintners Inn, Santa Rosa, Sonoma
Wine Country Inn, St. Helen, Napa Valley
Andaz, Napa, Napa Valley

 
If you don’t feel like staying in a hotel and would prefer to rent your own apartment, cottage or villa, check out http://www.vrbo.com/  or https://www.airbnb.com/.
 
Contact M for more info and to reserve your escape to Wine Country!
 
*As of Sunday, March 22nd there are 4 seats available for Sonoma trip and 4 seats for Napa trip.

Cellar Tour

Fun times with ‘M’ Wine this week!  Michele took her Study/Tasting group on a field trip to Escondido to see the renowned private wine cellar of John and Shirley Gerardy. If you are a subscriber to Wine Spectator you can view the article that was written about their cellar in the Nov 30, 2010 issue “Collectors at Home, Wine Cellars Across America, Modest To Grand”.

The night started off with John giving us a tour of his underground, custom built 4,000 bottle capacity cellar.  He then educated the group on proper wine storage, cellar management and wine buying.  The focus of the night’s tasting was Napa Cab.  We started off with a vertical of the 2002, 2005, 2007 Heitz Cellar "Trailside Vineyard" Rutherford, Napa Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon.  This was a good exercise showing the consistency of the producer and the impact of a vintage on wine.  The 2005 was the top pick by all in attendance. We then finished off the night with an assorted trio: Sherwin Family Vineyards  2006, Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley, Estate Cabernet Sauvignon; Sebastiani 2004, Cherryblock, Sonoma Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon for some regional contrast; Paul Hobbs 2005 Napa Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon.  This last lineup was a good way to gain a better understanding of why the same grape variety, grown in different regions, will have similar characteristics yet achieve its own unique “personality” in the finished wine.  An exceptional tasting experience!  See facebook for photos and see Napa Valley Vintners for more info on the region and its wines -Cheers!

Tuscany, Italy 2014

Our group descended on Tuscany this past May/June to not only enjoy the simple yet wonderful cuisine and wine but to explore its landscape, medieval villages and prominent cities.  The more we came to know the region, the more extraordinary Tuscany appeared.  We had planned on having a somewhat “relaxing” vacation but it ended up being more of an “active” holiday. 

In the following three posts I’ll provide you with information on where we stayed, some wine related highlights, dining choices and informative travel links, in the event that any of you are considering a trip to the region and might find something useful or be inspired.  There is a lot to see and do in Tuscany; the difficulty is really where to start.  Here are two websites I found to be particularly helpful www.discovertuscany.com and www.italyguides.it/us/italy/tuscany/tuscany-italy.htm.

We flew in to Pisa International airport and made our way to our accommodation - about a 30 minute drive northwest of Pisa.  For five nights we stayed at the wonderful guest house, Locanda al Colle, a recently restored ancient farmhouse situated on a small hill overlooking Camaiore.  Without question, we all would stay here again.  The website does a great job of conveying its charm and amenities but the reality is so much better.  The service we received from Riccardo and his team - from booking to departure - was exemplary.   Evenings with chef Gianluca are not to be missed!

We stayed at Locanda al Colle for its proximity to the beach towns of  Viareggio, Lido di Camaiore and Forte dei Marmi  (10 min. drive) and Pietrasanta (10 min. drive), Pisa (30 min drive), Lucca (30 min drive) and the Cinque Terre (45-60 min drive depending if you go to La Spezia or Portovenere to catch the ferry to the “five lands”).  PortovenereWe ended up driving the windy road to Portovenere and we were glad we did as it gave us more time to enjoy this incredibly picturesque village situated on the west coast of Italy.  For info on the region and how to get there see www.portovenere.a-turist.com and www.cinqueterre.eu.com/en

A few dining highlights other than our experience at Locanda al Colle.

Pietrasanta

Locanda del Gusto - see link to review on Trip Advisor

Ristorante Filippo - see link to review on Trip Advisor

Capezzano Pianore

La Dogana (walking distance from Locanda) - see link to review on Trip Advisor or website

Lucca

Ristorante Giglio - see link to review on Trip Advisor or website 

Best Wine Shop

While in Lucca for the day we decided to stop by Enoteca Vanni.  We had read that below the unassuming storefront is an ancient cellar with a vast selection of wines.  We were not disappointed.  This subterranean maze of passageways and rooms was filled with all sorts of unexpected finds.  Definitely worth the stop!

 

Stay tuned for Tuscany, Italy Part 2 of 3: our stay in the heart of the Chianti Classico!

 

Sonoma Wine Trip Itinerary

Thinking of planning a trip to Wine Country? ‘M’ just returned from a 3 night excursion to Sonoma, CA.  This “escape” covered an assortment of wineries from north to south and an array of grape varieties and wine styles from Chardonnay to Zinfandel. When planning this trip Michele wanted diversity. She came up with an itinerary that included tours and tastings focused on food and wine pairing, sparkling wine production, vineyard practices (e.g.biodynamics), no-frills tastings and more formal seated affairs.

Here is the November 2013 M Wine Gals Sonoma Wine Trip Itinerary. Maybe this will give you a few ideas for your next visit to the region. (See map link for winery locations.) See facebook to view photo album

Thursday

Caught a 9:30 a.m. flight from San Diego direct to Santa Rosa in Sonoma, CA. Arrived in to sonoma county airport at approx 11:20, picked up our rental car and headed to Sebastopol for our 12:00 Lynmar Estate Wine Tasting Picnic Lunch http://www.lynmarwinery.com/. From there we drove north for our 2:00 J Vineyards J Legacy Sparkling Wine Tasting http://www.jwine.com/. Then it was off to Big John’s market http://www.bigjohnsmarket.com/ to get some supplies before checking in to our VRBO http://www.vrbo.com/383928 in Geyserville. Dinner was spent at our VRBO.

Friday

We were picked up at 9:00 a.m. by http://www.sonomasterlinglimo.com/ and driven in a Cadillac Escalade SUV to our 10:00 Iron Horse Tour & Bubbly Tasting http://ironhorsevineyards.com/ in Green Valley. From Iron Horse we made our way to Sebastopol for our 11:30 K&L Bistro Lunch http://klbistro.com/. Lunch was followed by two more tastings: 1:00 Merry Edwards Tasting http://www.merryedwards.com/, 3:00 Copain Wines Farm to Table Tasting paired with Cheese http://www.copainwines.com/. After a full day of touring and tastings we arrived back at our VRBO at 5:00 and elected to spend another night in enjoying our days wine purchases and food prepared by our own culinary geniuses.

Saturday

We enjoyed a leisurely morning at our VRBO before proceeding to our 11:00a.m. Jordan Winery Tour & Library Tasting http://www.jordanwinery.com/ in Alexander Valley. From Jordan we drove to Dry Creek for our 1:00 Quivira Biodynamic Vineyard Tour and Tasting http://www.quivirawine.com/. After spending a relaxing 2 hours at Quivira we stopped at the Dry Creek General store http://drycreekgeneralstore1881.com/ to get a quick bite to eat (sandwiches, potato chips…) before going in to Healdsburg. The remainder of the afternoon was spent checking out the various retail shops and tasting rooms before finally making our way to dinner at http://campo-fina.com/.

Sunday

Checked out of our VRBO at 10:00 a.m. and set off to St. Francis Winery in Santa Rosa for our 11:00 a.m. multicourse Wine & Food Pairing Lunch http://www.stfranciswinery.com/culinary/wine-food-pairing/.  We followed this outstanding experience at St. Francis with a 2:00 tasting appointment at Siduri http://siduri.com/ in Santa Rosa. After this comprehensive tasting we hit the road to the airport for our 4:40 return flight to San Diego.  * Alaska Airlines allows 1 case of wine per person to be checked free of charge.

An unforgettable experience!

In September 2014 ‘M’ will be taking a study group to Napa to take the CSW exam http://www.societyofwineeducators.org/education-certification/csw . They will then spend 3 nights exploring all that Napa has to offer. The CSW study group will be starting in Jan 2014. Details TBA.

Wine Tour 2011

Burgundy, Rhone, Loire, Provence...?

As some of you may know, I like to plan an annual wine excursion to keep up with what's going on in the world's various wine regions. In 2009 it was France and Spain; in 2010 it was two weeks in Sonoma; and for 2011 'M's annual wine tour will be taking us back to France.

Yes, 'M' will be enjoying a brief sojourn in Burgundy. This will be my third experience and I will be working extra hard with my acclaimed Burgundy guide in two ways: first, to get a premium experience, and second, to work with my contacts and friends to keep the cost down and the fun up!

This may end up being 'M's third time through The Rhone and second to Provence. Provence was such a magical experience that I'm not sure if a return trip can top the memory. Traveling with family and friends made the 2009 trip one I'll never forget. It didn't hurt that we toured with our own personal chef (my brother Sean) and two other industry professionals, so the wine and food were always guaranteed to please. Even better, we struck gold with the vacation rental we booked on-line - a perfect fit for 6 adults who wanted some R&R time after an intense week of wine tasting and travel throughout Burgundy.

I appreciate the vast majority of wine but I do have a particular affinity for Chenin and Sauvignon Blanc. I believe it's time I spent some time in the Loire Valley tasting and touring through Vouvray, Savennières, Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé, so we may end up making a slight diversion.

As you can see, the plans have only just begun..

Regarding destinations for 'M's up and coming wine tours, I am leaning towards Napa, Portugal and Spain for 2012. If you are interested in any of these, or if there is any other wine region(s) in the world that you would like me to put on the list, please let me know.

Note that 'M' likes to include free time on all wine trips to explore on your own. We will discover the culture of the land, the people, and of course, enjoying the best of wine, food and all the wonderful things we can while guests in another's country.

Cheers,
Michele

Michele (center), Rudi (far-right, owner) and friends

Cellar Tasting Château de Montfaucon, S. Rhone, France 2009

Contact M Wine Education and Consulting Today