Recent Favorites from Napa Valley’s Howell Mountain

Taste of Howell Mountain AuctionEarlier this month we had the pleasure of indulging in wines made from grapes grown in the Howell Mountain AVA at the 20th annual Taste of Howell Mountain Wine Tasting and Auction.  We had a great time enjoying the wine, food and festivities on June 20 and looking around it seemed like we weren’t the only ones. Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignons have a well-deserved reputation but we frequently find admirable wines made from other varietals as well from this region. 

Robert Craig Winery

Rosé and Cabernet Sauvignon from Robert Craig Winery

TOHM is one of our favorite events in Napa County, and we encourage you to consider attending yourself next year (June 18, 2016).  This year’s activities started with over 40 wineries in a walk-around wine tasting sharing their latest releases (and a few library wines) as a silent auction tempted us with a variety of opportunities.  Later on, a festive live auction provided us more chances to taste wines and help support the Howell Mountain Education Foundation (a non-profit organization receiving part of the day’s proceeds). 

If you are looking for wines that best represent the Howell Mountain AVA right now, we’ve listed below the ones we enjoyed the most at the 2015 Taste of Howell Mountain. So, please look for them in your local restaurants, wine stores, and/or from the wineries themselves (and you can follow the links to see which wineries have public tasting rooms and their operating hours):
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Wine Country Big Q: Ribs, Tri Tip, Wings and More in Sonoma County

Wine Country Big Q Logo biggerIf you love BBQ you should plan on heading to Sonoma County in two weeks for the Wine Country Big Q on Saturday, July 11.   Come savor outstanding pork ribs, beef brisket, chicken wings, bean-based side dishes and more paired with premium wine, beer or cider. Then, you can wrap that all up with bacon-enhanced desserts at Big Q, a Kansas City Barbecue Society (KCBS) nationally sanctioned competition with over 50 of the best Pit Masters and other food purveyors happily offering up samples.

BBQ Chicken WingsThere’s a Public Tasting between 1:00 and 5:00 pm that day at Sonoma Mountain Village (1300 Valley House Drive, Rohnert Park) where you can enjoy samples and then cast your votes to help determine the People’s Choice Awards. Use your ballots to vote for your favorite KCBS barbecue meat, Winery Challenge tri tip, Bold Bean dish, Bakin’ for Bacon dessert, BBQ sauce, and Tailgaters’ chicken wing/drumette of the afternoon. Whether your personal tastes run towards sweet, savory, or spicy BBQ, you’re sure to find your style here.

Entertainment at the 2015 Wine Country Big Q will be provided by Soul to Soul, a tribute band honoring one of the most influential electric guitarists in the history of blues, Stevie Ray Vaughn (and Double Trouble). So come enjoy summer and outdoor BBQ and if you have kids, bring ‘em along.  Youth tickets (ages 12 and under) are also available at reduced prices.

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Welcome in Summer at the Russian River Valley Passport Weekend

Russian River Valley Passport LogoCome explore the rugged beauty of the Russian River Valley and its acclaimed wineries at the 2015 Russian River Valley Passport Weekend on June 27 and June 28. For two days, between 11 am and 4 pm, you and your friends can enjoy world-class wines (including limited releases and barrel samples) as you receive unmatched hospitality at over 30 wineries, including many that aren’t usually open to the public.

Balletto Pinot Noirs

Balletto Vineyards Pinot Noirs

Some of the wineries participating in this year’s Passport Weekend who make lovely Pinot Noirs (and other wonderful wines) include Balletto Vineyards, Benovia Winery, Cartograph Wines, Davis Family Vineyards, DeLoach Vineyards, Dutton-Goldfield, Inman Family Wines, and Mueller Winery.

If you are so inclined, you can also celebrate with VIPs on Saturday night at a limited-access VIP Winemaker and Grower Barbecue at Gail Ann’s Vineyard in the heart of Russian River Valley. Mingle, dine, and listen to stories from vintners who’ve been making wine in the Russian River for decades such as Helen Bacigalupi, Mel Sanchietti and Kent Ritchie. The evening’s food offerings will be prepared by SucherNova Farm, Corks Restaurant, Twist Eatery and Kozlowski Farms and paired with wines from ten of the area’s stellar wineries.
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Jurassic Wine World: The 2015 Santa Barbara Wine Festival

Watching the Crowd at the Santa Barbara Wine FestivalThere are tons of reasons to visit Santa Barbara but if you are looking for just one more, it’s almost time for the Santa Barbara Wine Festival™ featuring wines from over 50 premier Central Coast wineries complimented with sweet and savory delights from over 30 local food purveyors. This fun outdoor event offers a chance to savor and appreciate some of the best wines and food samples the area has to offer in a relaxed environment along the banks of Mission Creek. The weather will probably be in the low to mid 70s so you should call your friends right now and start planning for an afternoon of delicious wine and hopefully a dinosaur or two (yes, you read that right).  

On Saturday, June 27, the 2015 Santa Barbara Wine Festival™ takes place between 2:00 and 5:00 pm at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History. We have found many impressive wines at prior Festivals: white wine favorites included Albariño, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Grenache Blanc, Torrontes and Malvasia Bianca; outstanding red wines included Grenache, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Touriga Nacional, Lagrein, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. Admission to the event is just $95 per person or $70 each for Museum Members if you purchase your tickets in advance which you can do here. If tickets are still available, they will be sold on the day of the event starting at 10 am but that is unlikely to happen so it is safer (and smarter) to just order them now.

Kunin Wines

Kunin Wines

At the Santa Barbara Wine Festival™ you will enjoy pours from excellent wineries such as Alma Rosa Winery and VineyardsAu Bon ClimatBrander VineyardBrewer-Clifton, Daniel Gehrs WinesDierberg Vineyard, Fess Parker Winery & VineyardFiddlehead CellarsFlying Goat Cellars, Ken Brown WinesKenneth Volk VineyardsKoehler WineryKunin WinesMargerum Wine CompanyMelville Vineyards and Winery, Mosby Winery & Vineyard, PalminaQupé, Tablas Creek Vineyard and Vogelzang Vineyard.

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One Varietal From One Appellation: Recommendations from the Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival

Anderson Valley

Anderson Valley

Some Pinot Noir fans (like us) took advantage of a glorious opportunity a few weeks ago to enjoy some of the best wines made from this varietal at the Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival. The Festival weekend offered activities ranging from Winemaker Dinners to Winery Open Houses to a Grand Tasting in the middle of the Valley. Over 50 wineries at the Grand Tasting poured wines made from grapes grown in this beautiful appellation as food purveyors offered small bites ranging from Salads to Pizzas to BBQ Leg of Lamb.

Handley Cellars

Handley Cellars

Keep reading and we’ll tell you which wines and food bites we enjoyed the most at the Festival, and then we’ll preview some wine festivals coming to the area this Summer. We encourage you to plan your own wine country travel and exploration around this part of Mendocino County, and/or seek out the wines and wineries below at wine stores and/or restaurants.

At the 2015 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival, our favorite wines from Anderson Valley wineries were:
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TOHM Turns Twenty: The 2015 Taste of Howell Mountain

Taste of Howell MountainIt’s time to celebrate two decades of fun at Taste of Howell Mountain, coming to Charles Krug Winery on Saturday, June 20th from 12:00 to 5:00 pm. Come join the party at 2800 Main Street (Highway 29) in St. Helena and indulge in fabulous wines from the Howell Mountain appellation along with gourmet food pairings, live entertainment, and both Silent and Live Auctions.

Pina Napa Valley

Pina Napa Valley

This year marks the 20th Annual Taste of Howell Mountain Wine Tasting and Auction so come indulge (or re-indulge) in the wines made from grapes grown “Above the Fog.” From 12:00 to 3:00 you have the chance to enjoy a Walk-Around Wine Tasting, Food Pairings, Prizes, a Silent Auction and Live Music from The Hummingbirdz.  Then, from 3:00 to 5:00 you can enter the Carriage House and enjoy even more wine, dessert, and a festive Live Auction.

Howell Mountain is well known for its incredible Cabernet Sauvignon but we have also tasted outstanding Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Zinfandel, Petit Verdot and Petite Sirah at this event in prior years (as well as a few noteworthy Rosés).  Tickets for the event are $125 per person, or $1000 for a Table for Ten, and proceeds from the event will help benefit the Howell Mountain Education Foundation.  But, please move quickly because this event will sell out.

Aloft Wines

Aloft Wines

There will be at least 35 premium wineries showcasing their wines that day including AloftArkenstone Vineyards, Black Sears Estate WinesBremer Family WineryCimarossaClif Family Winery, Cresta VeliaDuckhorn Vineyards, Dunn VineyardsLamborn Family VineyardsNotre VinO’Shaughnessy Estate WineryPiña Napa ValleyPrim Family Vineyard, Retro Cellars, Robert Craig Winery, and Round Two Wines. To see the complete list of participating wineries and/or to purchase tickets, please go here.

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Loving Napa Valley’s Stags Leap District: Our Favorite Experiences at Vineyard to Vintner

Napa Valley's Stags Leap District

Napa Valley’s Stags Leap District

Last month, we had the immense pleasure of attending the Stags Leap District Vineyard to Vintner event, a weekend of intimate opportunities to taste this appellation’s world-class Cabernets (and other premium wines) while mingling with the winery owners and winemakers in their historic wineries (and private homes). During our “V2V” travels we were even able to visit some wineries not usually open to the public.

Known worldwide for its Cabernet Sauvignon, the Stags Leap District produces wines critically acclaimed for their  lush fruit and soft tannins with complex layers of flavor.  The district is bounded on the east by the towering Stags Leap Palisades, to the west by gently rolling hills and the Napa River, to the north by the Yountville Cross Road, and to the south by low-lying flatlands. Today, approximately 90% of the 1,200 acres (of the appellation’s entire 2700 acres) are currently planted with Cabernet Sauvignon or other Bordeaux varietals.

Stags' Leap Winery

2011 “The Leap” from Stags’ Leap Winery, one of our favorite wines from the weekend

The 2015 Vineyard to Vintners offered Winemaker Dinners, Winery Open Houses, and then a Closing Brunch which provided a comprehensive peek at upcoming Cabernet Sauvignon releases.  With only about 500 attendees, the activities felt intimate, attentive and exclusive.  Keep reading and we’ll tell you about our favorite wines, foods, and views as we learned (and experienced) more of this appellation than we had ever before.
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