Wine & Spirits Top 100 Tasting: Not Your Typical Tuesday in The City

2018 Wine & Spirits Top 100 TastingInstead of waiting for “Hump Day” you can celebrate “Thank God It’s Tuesday” next week when the 2018 Wine & Spirits Top 100 Tasting comes to San Francisco on Tuesday, October 9.  This annual event showcases Wine & Spirits’ favorite 100 wineries from the last year along with local chefs and artisanal purveyors serving small bites to complement the wines.  We have always enjoyed our experiences at this celebration of premium winemaking which has been held in San Francisco since its inception. It should be sunny next Tuesday, so if you want to spend the afternoon in The City, this would be a lovely way to end your day.

Oysters, to be served at 2018 Wine & Spirits Top 100This year, the 15th annual Top 100 Tasting takes place between 6:30 pm and 8:30 pm at City View at METREON (135 4th Street, San Francisco) and if you move quickly you can still buy tickets for yourself and/or friends (including a chance to enter the event an hour earlier).  Come start your evening by comparing Champagnes from wineries such as Bruno Paillard, J. Lassalle and Louis Roederer, pairing them with Oysters from Island Creek Oysters.  After you’ve sampled your selections of white wines and red wines, you can then wrap your evening with sips such as Madeira from Blandy’s or Port from Kopke.

The 2018 Wine & Spirits Top 100 Tasting reflects international excellence with wineries representing fourteen countries including Catena Zapata (Argentina), Yalumba (Australia), Stift Göttweig (Austria), Cave Spring Cellars (Canada), Concha y Toro (Chile), Bouchard Père & Fils (France), Fritz Haag (Germany), Estate Argyros (Greece), Marchesi Antinori (Italy), Felton Road (New Zealand), Soalheiro (Portugal), Kabaj (Slovenia) and R. López de Heredia (Spain).

Bergström Wines, 2018 Wine & Spirits Top 100 Participant

Bergström Wines

There will also be plenty of wineries from the US, including Bergström Wines (Newberg, OR), Col Solare Winery (Benton City, WA), Cristom Vineyards (Salem, OR), DeLille Cellars (Woodinville, WA), Evening Land Vineyards (Dundee, OR), Gramercy Cellars (Walla Walla, WA), Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard (Dundee, NY), King Estate Winery (Eugene, OR), Lingua Franca (Salem, OR) and Ovum Wines (Newberg, OR). And yes, there will be quite a number of California wineries participating in the event as well.
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2018 Wine & Food Affair: 20th Anniversary, No China Required

Food and wine pairing from Sonoma-Cutrer, 2018 Wine & Food Affair participant

Sourdough and Gruyere Panini with Heirloom Tomato Soup

Grab your phone and friends because it’s time to plan a Sonoma County trip for the 2018 Wine & Food Affair on November 3rd and 4th.  That weekend, around 90 wineries will be waiting for Foodies, Cooks, and Wine Lovers (or people who are all three) to come taste their wines, with each location preparing a special dish to sample along with the perfect wine. This is the 20th anniversary for the event, so you know it’s a good one.  This is a perfect opportunity to revisit the excellent wineries in the Alexander, Dry Creek and Russian River Valleys, but the event does sell out each year so please plan quickly.

SIMI Cabernet Franc and Meatballs Puttanesca

SIMI Cabernet Franc and Meatballs Puttanesca

Part of the fun of Wine & Food Affair is whenever you find a combination you like, you can buy the wine right there (possibly at a discount) and then go home and recreate the experience because the event’s website will have the recipe for each winery’s dish. Last year, our favorite food and white wine pairing was the Sonoma-Cutrer Vineyards “The Cutrer” Chardonnay matched with a Sourdough and Gruyere Panini with Heirloom Tomato Soup.  Our preferred red wine combination was the SIMI Winery “Block 4” Cabernet Franc with a Meatball Puttanesca. But, the Rodney Strong Vineyards Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon pairing with Angus Beef Brisket was a very close contender.

West Wines Tuscan Cuvee

West Wines Tuscan Cuvée

Our favorite wines poured during last year’s event included Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Dolcetto, Grenache, Sangiovese, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel. So, you’re bound to find quality wines no matter which varietal(s) you prefer. We were also instantly enamored with the mR Rhone White Blend (Marsanne, Roussanne) at Trattore Farms, the Boar’s Camp Cuvée (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre) from Sanglier Cellars,  the Tuscan Cuvée (Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese) from West Wines, and two Cabernet Sauvignon-based blends from G & C Lurton Vineyards: the Acaibo and the Amaino.
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Winery Spotlight: Robert Craig Winery

Robert Craig Winery Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon

We have been huge fans of Robert Craig Winery since its first vintage back in 1992. Founded by Bob Craig and his wife Lynn, the winery is nestled amongst a beautiful vineyard atop Howell Mountain in Northeast Napa Valley and it is actually the highest-elevation winery on Howell Mountain. Robert Craig Winery is primarily known for producing quite literally “elevated” Cabernets of distinction so if you love wines made from mountain-grown fruit, we feel no winery does it better than Robert Craig Winery.

Robert Craig Winery – The Story

View from Robert Craig Winery, a 2018 Taste of Howell Mountain participant

View from Robert Craig Winery on Howell Mountain

Bob Craig has long been a lover of wines made with mountain-grown fruit. In fact, Bob was a key player in the formation of the Mount Veeder and Spring Mountain Appellations and began farming on Mount Veeder in 1979. Today, although rooted in the winery’s Howell Mountain estate, Robert Craig Winery produces amazingly expressive wines from the Mount Veeder, Spring Mountain, Diamond Mountain, Napa Valley, Sonoma Coast and Howell Mountain Appellations. Almost all of the fruit is grown in vineyards with some serious elevation all the way up to 2,300 feet and all of the vineyards from which Robert Craig Winery sources its fruit produce very low yields per acre. In fact, approximately one half the yield of the average Napa Valley vineyard.

Over the years, Robert Craig Winery has transitioned from around 25% estate-grown fruit to now over 85% estate-grown for their annual production of approximately 9000 cases. While the wine portfolio has broadened, the focus of the winery has remained what Bob Craig set out to do: introduce people around the world to the unique intensity of mountain-grown Cabernet Sauvignons from the Napa Valley.
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2018 Taste of Mount Veeder: A Celebration of Mountain Fruit

Robert Craig Winery to be at 2018 Taste of Mount Veeder

Robert Craig’s Mount Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon

Mark your calendars and prep your tastebuds because the 2018 Taste of Mount Veeder walk-around wine tasting is just a few weeks away, between 1 and 4 pm on Saturday, August 4th. You shouldn’t miss out on this opportunity to taste and enjoy wines from 25 Mount Veeder wineries, including several that aren’t normally open to the public, all conveniently gathered together for you at The Hess Collection (4411 Redwood Road, Napa).

Now in its 19th year, the Taste of Mount Veeder will showcase the amazing wines from this appellation accompanied by small bites from the Hess Collection culinary team, live music from The Hummingbirdz and a Silent Auction.  General Admission is going to be $150 per person at the door but if you move quickly you may still be able to purchase Special Advance Tickets for $125 each. For more details, and to purchase tickets, please go here.

2018 Taste of Mount Veeder wine tastingOn the southwestern side of Napa Valley, Mount Veeder is an appellation where richly intense, age-worthy wines have been produced since the 1860’s. The white wines made from grapes grown here display luscious stone fruit, hints of citrus, and herbal aromas and flavors.  Mount Veeder red wines typically exhibit dark fruit flavors of blackberry or raspberry, sweet herbal notes and deep stony minerality with forest flora aromatics.  You may already be aware of how excellent the Chardonnays and Cabernet Sauvignons are from this region, but this Tasting can help you discover outstanding premium wines crafted from other varietals such as Pinot Gris, Monteuse and Malbec.
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Winery Spotlight: Ehlers Estate (in Napa Valley)


Ehlers Estate in St. Helena

Ehlers Estate Petit Verdot

Ehlers Estate is a winery located in the northern part of Napa Valley’s St. Helena appellation that crafts all of its premium wines from estate fruit: they don’t buy any grapes, and they don’t sell any grapes. There’s also a lovely foundation story here about how the original 42-acre property was established in 1885, then broken into smaller parcels over time and separated into different individual owners’ hands, until new owners were able to reconstruct the entire original property. This is also one of the few wineries in Napa Valley where you can find an outstanding Petit Verdot wine.

Ehlers Estate – The Story

The Stone Barn at Ehlers Estate

The Stone Barn at Ehlers Estate

Grapes have been grown in the Ehlers Estate vineyard since the mid-1800s. Originally founded by Bernard Ehlers in 1885, the original property began its journey with a 10-acre vineyard, followed by the establishment of an olive grove, and then the completion of the beautiful stone barn which now serves as the winery building. Ehlers Estate has had several successive owners since then and the original 42 acres were carved into smaller lots. In the 1980’s, French entrepreneurs and philanthropists Jean and Sylviane Leducq began purchasing separate lots, eventually building a contiguous wine estate which now encompasses the original 42 acres.

The winery estate is planted with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Sauvignon Blanc grapes and is farmed with strict organic farming practices certified by the California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF). The vineyard and cellar teams share a non-interventionist winemaking philosophy which has at its core the belief that terroir defines a wine.

100 % of the proceeds from the sale of Ehlers Estate wines are returned to the Leducq Foundation to support international cardiovascular and neurovascular research. The Leducq Foundation was founded by Jean and Silviane Leducq, recognized by the French Government in 1996, and Ms. Leducq was a French Legion of Honor recipient in 2009 in recognition of her generosity and leadership of the foundation.
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ZD Wines: The Big Five-Oh Deserves a Bash

ZD Wines 50th Anniversary Gold StandardThree generations of the deLeuze family own and operate ZD Wines in Napa Valley and when the grapes are harvested this fall, it will be ZD’s 50th harvest. So, they are planning to celebrate five decades of award-winning wine in style and you can benefit from their efforts as well. The family is currently making improvements to their hospitality center including a remodel of their Vineyard View Room and Deck. Soon, new sliding glass doors will provide unobstructed views of the valley floor and visitors will also have open views of the barrel room.

The deLeuzes are also planning an entire evening of festivities on September 8 at the Culinary Institute of America at Copia (500 1st Street, Napa). The ZD Wines 50th Anniversary Bash runs from 6 pm to 10 pm featuring guest chefs, food and wine pairings, and plenty of rare, limited and library wine selections from ZD Wines. The event will also feature the much-anticipated unveiling of a 50th Anniversary Cuvée Sparkling Wine, the first ever produced by ZD.

CIA at Copia

CIA at Copia

Tickets for the 50th anniversary celebration are $150 per person, but you should move quickly as this event will sell out. Attendees will also be able to enjoy live entertainment and participate in a fundraising silent auction benefiting the Boys and Girls Clubs of Napa Valley. You can buy your tickets here, but ZD First Taste Wine Club members should contact the winery at 800-487-7757 to get information on how to obtain a discount. On-site parking will be available that night at CIA at Copia, although the use of taxis, private car services, app-based transportation options, or your own personal Designated Driver are always encouraged.
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Blackjack! 21 Downtown Napa Happy Hour Options

"El Diablo" at Charlie Palmer Steak, a downtown Napa Happy Hour option

“El Diablo” at Charlie Palmer Steak

Are you looking for a good Downtown Napa Happy Hour but aren’t sure where to go?  Well, brace yourself, because downtown Napa has 21 Happy Hour destinations to choose from. All of these are on the western side of the Napa River, between Caymus Street and 5th Street. You may even want to gather some friends and start a Progressive Happy Hour one night. Your group can easily enjoy Pizza, Nachos, and/or Fried Calamari at reduced prices along with great drink discounts. Or, since this is Napa Valley you will also find Dolmas, Lobster Corn Dogs, Chicken Empanadas and Smoked Duck Sliders on those Happy Hour menus.

Guinness at Bounty Hunter, downtown Napa Happy Hour special

Guinness at Bounty Hunter

Looking for drink specials?  Depending on what you’re thirsty for, you’ll find downtown Napa Happy Hour prices starting at $3 for Beer, with discounts on everything from Napa Smith Pilsner (Napa Valley Bistro) to Guinness (Bounty Hunter) to Craft Beers brewed by the house (Napa Palisades Saloon). Prices for selected glasses of Wine start at $5 (Ca’ Momi Osteria), or you can swing by Velo Pizzeria on Tuesdays when all bottles are 40% off.

If you’re in a cocktail mood, Well Drinks start at $5 at Ristorante Alegria or you can explore the standards with a Martini from Torc ($7), a Margarita from Don Perico ($4.50) or a Moscow Mule at either Mercantile Social or Mercantile Terrace at the Andaz Hotel ($7 on Mondays). Other options include Pisco Sours at Napkins ($7), Harvest Punch at Basalt ($9), or an “El Diablo” with Tequila, Mezcal, Crème de Cassis, Ginger, Lime and Spicy Bitters at Charlie Palmer Steak ($7).

Carnitas Tacos at Gran/Eléctrica, a downtown Napa Happy Hour option

Carnitas Tacos at Gran/Eléctrica

To go with your drink, you may want to start with Buffalo Wings at Downtown Joe’s ($8), Carnitas Tacos at Gran/Eléctrica ($7) or Chili and Cheddar Fries at Norman Rose Tavern ($9). Then you can move on to other downtown Napa Happy Hour Appetizers such as Tempura Green Beans at Eiko’s ($5), Macaroni and Cheese at Grace’s Table ($5), Turkish Meatballs at Tarla Mediterranean Grill ($9), Mushroom Flatbread at Carpe Diem ($9) or Short Rib Sliders with Horseradish Cream at Celadon ($10).
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