Tasting Room Spotlight: Outland Tasting Room in Napa

Outland Tasting Room wines

Outland Tasting Room

Spring brings many welcome things to Napa Valley: warmer weather, an abundance of wildflowers, and expanded hours at the Outland Tasting Room in downtown Napa (at 920 Franklin Street). This 3-wineries-in-1 tasting room features delicious wines from POE WinesForlorn Hope and Farella Vineyard. Starting this month, they are now open Thursday to Monday from 1 pm to 7 pm. The wines produced by those three wineries may cover an array of varietals, but the winemakers share a common belief that wines should be produced with minimal interference and allowed to show their unique varietal characteristics.

The founding winemakers of the Outland Tasting Room are Samantha Sheehan (POE Wines), Matthew Rorick (Forlorn Hope) and Tom Farella (Farella Vineyard). On any given day your white wine tasting choices could include Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Sémillon, Pinto Gris and Chardonnay. For red wine, you’re likely to find Pinot Noir, Grenache, Malbec, Merlot, and/or Cabernet Sauvignon. The tasting room itself has an open, contemporary design and was created to allow the Napa community, and visitors, to experience high quality wines while also fostering wine education.

Outland Tasting Room – The Stories of POE Wines, Forlorn Hope & Farella Vineyard

After being inspired by the wines of Burgundy and Champagne, Samantha Sheehan founded POE Wines in 2009. Here, she tries to create wines which are vineyard specific, age-worthy wines reflective of the terroir of California. POE Wines are vinified with minimal intervention without any additives and a judicious use of sulfur. Each wine is made in very limited quantities. FYI, the name “POE” was inspired by the ravens which inhabited Samantha’s backyard as she grew up (and Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” was actually filmed nearby).

POE Wines at Outland Tasting Room in Napa

POE Wines

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bASH 2019: For the 10th Time, Enjoying Wine with Food

Steamed Bao Buns, the type of dish to expect at bASH 2019

Steamed Bao Buns with Braised Beef Cheeks

If you enjoy awesome wine, food, and wine-and-food pairings then you should clear your calendar now for bASH 2019 on Saturday, March 30. More than just a wine tasting event, this annual showcase for Napa Valley’s Appellation St. Helena has over 30 premium wineries joining forces with local culinary talent to compete for your vote for best wine and food pairing of the evening. This is the 10th time this delightful event has happened, giving attendees the power to select the winners. That’s right: if you attend bASH 2019, you get to eat, drink AND judge.

Appellation St. Helena Wines

Appellation St. Helena Wines

We are huge fans of wines crafted from varietals grown in the St Helena appellation. Last year’s bASH allowed us to savor outstanding Cabernet Sauvignons from Anomaly Vineyards, Calafia Cellars, Ehlers Estate, MC4, Mending Wall, Pellet Estate, Raymond Vineyards, St. Helena Winery, Taplin Cellars and Trinchero Napa Valley. However, we also had the pleasure of enjoying other wines such as the Ballentine Vineyards Maple Station White Blend, Charles Krug Winery Sauvignon Blanc, Benessere Vineyards Aglianico and Prager Winery & Port Works Royal Escort Port.

Taplin Cellars Terra 9 Cabernet Sauvignon

Taplin Cellars Terra 9 Cabernet Sauvignon

We’re not sure which wines those folks will be pouring this year, but we’re glad all of those wineries will be returning for the 2019 bASH. Other participants so far include Chase Cellars, Crocker & Starr, HALL Wines, Revana Family Vineyard, Robert Biale Vineyards, Rombauer VineyardsSpottswoode Estate Vineyard & Winery, Stanton VineyardsTitus Vineyards, Tuck Beckstoffer Estate and Varozza Vineyards. Their wines will be served alongside delicious food offerings from participants such as Chef Jonathan Bodnar (Smoakville), Market Restaurant and Sunshine Foods.
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2019 Vineyard to Vintner – SLD’s 30th Anniversary

Taylor Family Vineyards, a 2019 Vineyard to Vintner participant

Taylor Family Vineyards

Cabernet Sauvignon lovers should grab their credit cards because tickets are now available for the 2019 Vineyard to Vintner (V2V) weekend. Napa Valley’s Stags Leap District (SLD) is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year!. So, they have reimagined their annual event to ensure attendees enjoy rare library selections, decadent meals, in-depth education opportunities and exclusive vintner access. This is a perfect opportunity to revisit the stellar Cabernet Sauvignons from producers such as Chimney Rock Winery, Clos Du Val, Shafer Vineyards, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars and Taylor Family Vineyards.

While the Stag Leap District region’s reputation for premium wines had been critically acclaimed for decades, it was back on January 27, 1989 that it was awarded formal ATF appellation status. Bordered by the Vaca Mountains on the East and the Napa River on the West, the District was the first in the United States to be approved based on the distinctiveness of its soils. Today, it remains the smallest producing Napa AVA by acreage.

Steltzner Vineyards

Steltzner Vineyards

The district’s fame may be based on Cabernet Sauvignon but we have found plenty of stellar wines here made from other varietals. Some of our favorites at prior Vineyard to Vintner (V2V) events have been the Taylor Family Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc, Regusci Winery Mary’s Cuvée Chardonnay, Malk Family Vineyards Rosé of Pinot Noir,  Clos Du Val Cabernet Franc, Stags’ Leap Winery Petite Sirah, Steltzner Vineyards Malbec, Ilsley Vineyards Seis Primas red wine blend and Silverado Vineyards Late Harvest Semillon.
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Winery Spotlight: Smith-Madrone Vineyards and Winery

Smith-Madrone Vineyards and Winery

Smith-Madrone Vineyards and Winery

Smith-Madrone Vineyards and Winery in Napa Valley is a hidden gem, offering outstanding wines and a nostalgic tasting experience in a beautiful natural setting. Founded by Stuart Smith, Smith-Madrone has been producing top quality wines since its first vintage in 1977. The winery sits on top of Spring Mountain in Northwest Napa Valley on steep slopes, with elevations between 1,300 and 2,000 feet, surrounded by a huge array of natural beauty and wildlife. Although Smith-Madrone Vineyards and Winery is on a 200-acre ranch, just a small portion of the estate is planted to grapes and the winery only produces about 4,000 cases per year.

Smith-Madrone Vineyards and Winery – The Story

Stuart Smith, with a partnership of family and friends, acquired the property which became Smith-Madrone Vineyards and Winery in 1971. Two years later, Stuart’s brother Charles Smith joined the winery and became its Winemaker. The name Smith-Madrone is a tribute to the Smith Brothers and the predominant tree on the ranch: The Madrone, an evergreen tree with red-brown trunk and branches that bear lily-of-the-valley-like flower clusters in the spring and orange-red berries in the fall. In 1972, Smith-Madrone planted its first vineyards with Chardonnay, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir (the Pinot Noir was eventually grafted to Chardonnay in 1989). However, the ranch was originally planted with vines in the 1800s by George Cook, the first owner of the property. Today, the vineyards consist of about 37 acres and Cabernet Franc and Merlot have been added to the plantings.

Grapes at Smith-Madrone Vineyards and WineryAll of Smith-Madrone’s wines are made entirely from the winery’s estate vineyards. Although drip irrigation was used to establish the vineyards, today the vineyards are dry-farmed. This forces the grapevines to send their roots deep into the soil to search for water and nutrients, resulting in small berries with a large skin-to-juice ratio. In addition, the cooler mountain climate, mostly deep-red Aiken Stoney Clay loam soils and the rugged property conditions (with some slopes angling up to 35%) also help to produce grapes which have intense flavor, structure and longevity. From these grapes, combined with winemaking practices blending traditional methods from France and Germany with new techniques developed in California, Stuart and Charles are able to produce mouthwatering small lot wines reflecting the uniqueness of their mountain terroir.
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The 2019 World of Pinot Noir: Santa Barbara Beckons

2019 World of Pinot NoirForget the cold and start planning for surf, sun and Spanish tiles at the 2019 World of Pinot Noir, on March 1st and 2nd at the Ritz-Carlton Bacara in Santa Barbara. Alma Rosa Winery, Balletto VineyardsFiddlehead Cellars, GoldeneyeMaison Louis Latour, Merry Edwards Winery and Wayfarer will lead the parade of over 250 wineries participating in expert-led Tasting Seminars, Luncheons, Dinners and Grand Tastings. You can purchase tickets for a single event, a day’s worth of events, or a whole weekend of activities as you find yourself surrounded by Pinot Noir producers and lovers from around the world.

The 2019 World of Pinot Noir (WOPN) offers not just one, but two separate Grand Tastings with over 100 different producers at each session. This is a comprehensive chance to “get current” on the latest wines made from Pinot Noir grapes grown in places such as Anderson Valley, Los Carneros, Russian River Valley, Santa Cruz Mountains, Santa Maria, Santa Rita Hills, Santa Ynez, Sonoma Coast, and the Willamette Valley. On the international front, the WOPN Grand Tastings will also include wineries from Chile (Ritual), France (Domaine Chanson), New Zealand (Brennan Wines), and Spain (Alta Pavina).

Pinot Noir Roses to expect at 2019 World of Pinot NoirOne of our favorite events from last year, the Rosé Lawn Party on the Bluff, returns again showcasing over 50 of the best Pinot Noir Rosés on the planet paired with a gourmet buffet lunch from Chef Alexander Bollinger of Angel Oak. Or, you can attend a special dinner this year celebrating the 30th anniversary of Fess Parker Winery with a five-course meal from Chef John Cox of The Bear and Star. One of the educational seminars at WOPN focuses on the Savoy Vineyard in Anderson Valley, complimented by wines from some of the premier wineries that source their fruit from this vineyard including FEL Wines, Peay Vineyards and Radio-Coteau.

World of Pinot Noir is a highly enjoyable occasion and if you keep reading we’ll describe highlights of this premier wine event or you can find the full details here.  Last year’s festivities hosted nearly 3,500 attendees, the largest turnout in its 18-year history, so you should probably go here soon to purchase your tickets as events will sell out.
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From Burgers to Surf & Turf: Napa Valley Restaurant Week

Grilled Pork Chop at ALBA, a Napa Valley Restaurant Week offering

Grilled Pork Chop at ALBA

You should know (if you hadn’t heard yet) that Napa Valley Restaurant Week is just one week away. Between January 20 and 27, over 50 Napa Valley restaurants are offering multi-course prix-fixe menus for lunch (at $20 or less per person) or dinner (at $36 or $46 per person). Lunch options include Sashimi, Fish Tacos, Mushroom and Fontina Bruschetta, Pastrami Sandwich or a Cheeseburger.  Dinner options include Ceviche Tostada, Seared Diver Scallops, Braised Short Ribs, “Surf & Turf”, or a Cheeseburger.  This is a great opportunity to explore the diversity of Napa Valley’s “Terroir to Table” Dining options, at a discount, from Napa to Calistoga.

Garlic Focaccia Bread at Bosko's

Garlic Focaccia Bread at Bosko’s

In fact, this may actually be the perfect week to immerse yourself in Calistoga’s dining scene.  You’ll find specials to try and navigate between All Seasons Bistro (lunch), Bosko’s Trattoria (lunch), Cafe Sarafornia (lunch), Calistoga Inn (lunch and dinner), Checkers (lunch and dinner), Evangeline (dinner), Hydro Grill (dinner), Lovina (lunch and dinner) and Sol Bar (dinner).  Menu choices include Spaghetti and Meatballs at Bosko’s, Warm Duck Confit and Kale Salad at Lovina and Crispy Petrale Sole Fish Tacos at Sol Bar. At Calistoga Inn, lunch options include Duck Mole Tacos, dinner options include Skuna Bay Roasted Salmon, and it’s a good time to ask for the latest scoop on their March 5 Fat Tuesday Celebration.

If you’re in downtown Napa at lunchtime during Napa Valley Restaurant Week, at Napa General Store you can add either a Cup of Soup or a special Dessert to your choice of lunch entrée all for $20. These entrées include Chinese Chicken Salad, Rueben Sandwich and a Smoked Salmon Flatbread. At Napa Noodles, you can choose from Items #1 – #16 on the menu, grab a Fountain Drink and then add any Salad or Starter for that price. Between numbers 1 and 16 you’ll find options such as Tokyo Ramen, Pho Ga, Tom Yum Soup, Adobo Pancit and a Kalbi Short Rib Plate. Or, at Ca’ Momi, you can start with a Mixed Green Salad, select either a Wood Oven or Fried Calzone, and then end your meal with Tiramisu for $20.

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New Year, New Wines: the 2019 Winter WINEland

2019 Winter Wineland PostcardIf your New Year Resolutions include more travel, more exploration, and discovering new wines, you can start down that path with Winter WINEland in just a few weeks. This wonderful Sonoma County wine event, from the Wine Road organization, invites you to visit wineries throughout the Alexander, Dry Creek, and Russian River Valleys on January 19 and 20. Between 11 am and 4 pm each day, you and your friends can explore new varietals, try limited production wines and perhaps meet the actual winemakers.

This is the 27th Winter WINEland and participants this year include Acorn Winery, Balletto Vineyards, Davis Family Vineyards, Geyser Peak Winery, Hawley Winery, Lancaster Estate, Longboard Vineyards, Martorana Family Winery, Ridge Lytton Springs, Sonoma-Cutrer Vineyards, Taft Street Winery, Trentadue Winery, West Wines, White Oak Vineyards and Winery and Zialena Winery.

Zialena Winery, a 2019 Winter WINEland participant

Zialena Winery

Advance ticket prices are just $45 per person for both days or $35 for Sunday January 20 only (plus tax and a small service charge). Designated Driver tickets are $5 for either one or both days. To purchase advance tickets and/or to see the complete list of participating wineries, please go here. If you miss the advance purchase window, prices during the weekend itself will increase, or the event may sell out, so purchasing those tickets soon would be a good idea.

The 2019 Winter WINEland offers over 100 premium Sonoma County wineries to choose from and each of the participating wineries will highlight a particular vintage, varietal, or vertical tasting during the event. The bad news is now you have to choose which ones to visit (but if you keep reading we’ll try to help with that).
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