Wine that Connects Cultures, from Asia to America and Beyond

Making a great wine is an orchestration of art and science, passion and hard work. ShunYi Cellars caught my attention recently, which started with the Founder’s personal story of wine discovery that inspired his mission to craft quality wines showcasing premium Californian terroir to bridge cultures and share values.

ShunYi’s inaugural wines in their vineyards.

Meaning of Shun Yi

Emperor Shun, highly regarded for his wisdom and integrity, is said to come from the city of Jinan in Shandong Provence, where Founder George Zhang was born. Residents of Jinan are known as “Shun Yi” – descendants of Shun. Interestingly, Shandong is also home to multiple UNESCO sites, the birthplace of Confucius, and a hub for Buddhist and Taoist scholars.

Founder George Zhang

Masterminds behind ShunYi

George developed a passion for wine especially while managing Credit Risk for a major bank in Napa, where he gained deep knowledge of wine business operations and a strong network. He partnered with esteemed winemaker Byron Kosuge, a Davis native with 30 years of winemaking experience, known for his premium Pinot Noir finesse, to start ShunYi in summer 2019. As of today, ShunYi is already working on their second harvest featuring St. Helena, while preparing to release their inaugural 2019 vintage in early 2021, a very small production of Santa Lucia Mountains Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

Winemaker Byron Kosuge

Wine with a Heart

Each bottle tells a personal story which may also resonate with many. The wines are ingeniously named, the Pinot Noir, “Chong Feng” 重逢 , to reunite, and the Chardonnay, “Xiang Si” 相思, a deep sentiment of thinking about loved ones. George’s father was a scholar in California during George’s childhood in China, before his family moved over. George still remembers reuniting with his father at the train station when he returned from his studies. Having lived in California for over half his life now, George still feels deep sentiment for loved ones around the world. The beauty of wine is sharing it as a gift of love and are even when apart, as we have experienced especially since the pandemic.

Artist painted calligraphy against Chinese abstract painting, and the ShunYi logo.

Tradition meets Modern

The unique artistry of the bottles struck me: I have never seen a wine label with Chinese calligraphy against an elegant Chinese painting background – a touch of tradition meets modern, east meets west. The ShunYi logo is embossed at the metal capsule of every bottle.

Santa Lucia Pinot Noir that go into ShunYi bottles

What’s next? California wine + Chinese food pairing

Although ShunYi is not officially on the market, they are actively sharing their winemaking journey on social media, and I have joined their mailing list. ShunYi also plans to partner with select fine Chinese restaurants. How does Chinese food pair with wine? More than sweet and sour pork, Chinese cuisine encompasses a diversity of regional cuisines. George recently enjoyed a rich Peking Duck with luscious Pinot Noir, for instance. Pinot Noir, especially from cooler climates with less tannins and bright acidity, pairs well with fattier pork and duck, or even fried foods. A crisp, less oaky Chardonnay pairs well with stir fries like fried rice, noodles, moo shu pork, or even dim sum. Try it for yourself!   

Peking duck pairs well with Pinot Noir.

Celebrate Champagne Day This Friday with These Ideas!

This Friday (Oct 23) marks the 11th annual global Champagne Day. Besides sharing a bottle with family and friends, learning about the art of Champagne (see resources below), you can also try some delicious Champagne food pairings while playing a special Champagne playlist. Although it comes in a great variety, Champagne in general is surprisingly versatile to pair with different types of cuisines and tastes.

Credit: Comite Champagne

Know Your Dryness/Sweetness

First, pay attention to the sweetness/dry scale of your Champagne. If you are serving more than one bottle, start with the driest, working up to the sweetest.
The designations for Champagne from driest to sweetest are:

  • brut nature (driest)
  • extra brut
  • brut
  • extra dry/extra sec
  • dry/sec
  • demi-sec
  • doux/sweet (sweetest)
These champagnes all have different sweetness levels. Credit: Comite Champagne.

Dry Champagne pairings

A dry champagne with rounded acidity could pair well with shellfish seafood, such as oysters, shrimps and lobsters, but also rich soft cheeses like brie or camembert, or even devilled eggs. For mains, try buttery dishes like a cream-based pasta, such as alfredo, or earthy dishes like a mushroom risotto, or even a vegetable galette. To finish, a classic shortbread butter cookie pairs splendidly with a dry Champagne. If you like something tart, lemon meringue, crepes or cheesecake could work too.

Creamy, earthy dishes like this mushroom pasta pairs well with dry Champagne.

Rosé Champagne

With a bit more body, Rosé Champagnes could take more meatier and savory dishes, such as smoked salmon, cold cuts like prosciutto, fattier fish like tuna steak, and dishes with a hint of spice, or even duck. For sweet endings, try chocolate with raspberries, or, of course, chocolate-dipped berries of your choice.

Try Rosé with smoked salmon and rich cream cheese.

Sweet Champagne

Champagne pairs well with many fruits that complement their undertones, especially berries, lemon and peach. For desserts, try some subtly sweet flavors with slightly buttery or creamy textures, such as lemon snap cookies, vanilla ice cream with blueberries, or simply a handful of toasted hazelnuts or almonds.

A simple tart-based fruit like lemon curd complements the acidity of Champagne.

Surprise!

Guess what, you don’t need to break the bank for fancy oysters and Canapés to enjoy Champagne. Here are some everyday foods that Champagne complements just as well with:

  • Anything fried, such as chips and potato fries, as the crisp acidity of Champagne cuts through the fattiness. The heavier the food, the more acidic the Champagne should be.
  • Mac n’ Cheese: Use milder cheese so to not overwhelm the Champagne.
  • Chili con carne: a Champagne can balance its spiciness and sweetness.
  • Buttered popcorn with sweet Champagne
  • Egg rolls with chili sauce
  • A classic burger with pickles
Many simple foods pair just as well with Champagne.

Learn about Champagne!

If you want to learn more about Champagne, check out these resources: Champagne: From Cellar to Table Aroma Development of Champagne WinesTasting Sheet.

And of course, don’t forget to share with family and friends and post photos on social media for #ChampagneDay!   

Exquisite Wine and Dine Open-Air at the Breathtaking Ram’s Gate Winery

Known for their small lot premium wines, innovative culinary experiences and beautiful farmhouse-meets-modern design, Ram’s Gate is a modern winery nestled between Sonoma and Napa at the heart of Carneros Valley. This fall, Ram’s Gate will open new Veranda and Arbor venues for private outdoor tasting experiences. The very first Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs by Director of Winemaking Joe Nielsen, who joined Ram’s Gate team in 2018, will also be released. These wines will be featured throughout the tastings and available for purchase at the winery. 

Ram’s Gate Winery

Veranda By the Fire

The new Veranda Experience offers guests a privately hosted tour by an in-house wine expert, tasting of five wines with locally sourced cheese and charcuterie, and a complimentary Ram’s Gate blanket per guest to sit by the outdoor fire. This experience is available Thursdays, Fridays, Sundays and Mondays, at $165 per person.

Open-air tasting areas at Ram’s Gate.

Innovative Culinary Experience at The Vineyard Table

If you want a special Chef prepared experience with friends, the Arbor Experience is a six-course wine-pairing of seasonal, locally grown produce prepared by Executive Chef Stacey Combs, paired with selections by Nielsen at the Vineyard Table under the Arbor, with a tour of the winery and vineyards before the six-course pairing. This two-hour experience for up to 10 is available beginning October 16 at $275 per person.

Wine and dine at Ram’s Gate.

Open-air Tasting and Pairing

Notably, the Ram’s Gate tasting room is designed by renowned architect Howard Backen, as a modern take on the weathered farmsteads of old Carneros, blending the indoor and outdoor spaces. You can experience the Open-Air Tasting with a 5 wine flight at $50 per person, and an additional three-course Wine & Food Pairing Experience for a total of $105 per person.

Wine flight at Ram’s Gate.

Planning Your Visit

The Ram’s Gate tasting room is open Thursday-Monday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Reservations are required and can be made at https://www.exploretock.com/ramsgatewinery/.

How You Can Help Our Community Recover

Our wine community is fighting multiple challenges yet again, affected by the Glass Fire shortly after LNU fires were contained in an already difficult year. However, there are some ways you could make a difference while connecting with the community.
How? Here is a short list of resources for you to check out.

Offer a helping hand: Volunteer!

You can volunteer both in-person or even from home by preparing and delivering food, helping at animal rescue shelters, promote social media, translate, etc. For area-specific volunteer opportunities, visit:

Napa area: Napa Disaster Relief Volunteering

Sonoma area:Sonoma Disaster Relief Volunteering

Many ways you can help without leaving your home.

Volunteer from Home: help translate, promote social media, or even bake for foster kids all from your home!

**Remember to keep checking for more, as these lists are continually updated.

Wildfire-specific volunteering: Visit California Volunteers’ special wildfire page

The American Red Cross needs volunteers and accepts donations for wildfire relief not just in California but other states.

Help prepare and deliver fresh, healthy food in Sonoma for those living in poverty, alone without support or chronic disease patients through The Ceres Project  

Ceres Project volunteers preparing fresh healthy meals in Sonoma

Donate

You could donate to different relief funds set up for specific causes.

California Wildfire Relief

Providing emergency supplies including medicine, food, water for firefighters, low income families and animals affected by current fires.

The Napa Valley Community Disaster Relief Fund
Offering gifts in forms of temporary shelter, meals, counselling services, other assistance, and even gift cards to evacuees and emergency relief services to those affected by the fire.

Wine Country Fire Relief Fundraiser

A Gofundme campaign to cover a variety of items, including food, supplies, shelter, COVID testing at shelters to ensure safety for evacuees, and gift cards so families or individuals can tailor to their specific needs.  

Special causes

Check out the Latino Community Foundation, an umbrella organization that works with Latino-founded / Latino-led organizations, with over 500 members and 22 Giving Circles. They recently set up a special NorCal relief fund for Latino-led organizations supporting families displaced by the current wildfires across all the state of California.

Help plant a tree with just a dollar at One Tree Planted, or even become an Ambassador to help global reforestation.

And of course, drink Napa and Sonoma wines!

Keep going…

These are just some ideas to get started. While this is sadly very unlikely the last time our community needs your help, every single effort can make a difference. Let’s join hands and help where we can.

A Silver Lining for Chianti Classico

Needless to say, 2020 has been challenging for most of us. Fortunately, some vintners in Italy are trying to make the most of the situation despite an overall decline in wine sales. Chianti Classico Consortium, one of the oldest Italian wine consortiums with 515 Chianti producer members, remarks how vineyards have “never looked so good” as a result of winemakers having extraordinary time to dedicate greater care on the 2020 vintage.

Beautiful vineyard slopes of Chianti.

New opportunities for Chianti wineries

To provide extra support for Chianti producers and boost local economy, the organization launched several initiatives, such as financing schemes and a wine tasting program collaborating with top restaurants around Tuscany. This situation also forced some wineries to rethink their online presence. For Ricasoli winery, which boasts an 800-year old Castello di Brolio family castle, started an online campaign on social media that includes sharing a Chianti “recipe” from 1872 by Ricasoli ancestors, a video showing Sophia Loren in their vineyards, and using drones to take footages. 

The Castello di Brolio owned by Ricasoli family in Siena. Credit: Ricasoli
One of the Chianti wine and dine participating restaurants

A Silver Lining?

Since Italy’s coronavirus measures started easing in July, visitors are slowly starting to increase. While sales has clearly not recovered to pre-pandemic levels, the Consortium believes that 2020 may just turn out to be an exceptional vintage as a result of the extra resources dedicated to it.

Safely distanced outdoor dining at one of the participating Chianti restaurants.

About the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico:

The Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico exists to protect, oversee, and valorize the Chianti Classico denomination. Since the Consortium’s founding in 1924, the organization has changed its name and the design of its logo, the Black Rooster, which since 2005 has been the trademark of the whole denomination. As one of the premier institutional organizations in the European Union in the grape-growing and winemaking sector, the Consortium represents 96 percent of the DOCG production. The entire production chain is supervised by a public tracking system, which enables consumers all over the world to check the bottle they’ve purchased via the Consortium’s website. The Consortium also conducts research and development in the agronomic and enological fields, in collaboration with prestigious educational and research institutes. For more information, please visit https://www.chianticlassico.com/

Breathless Winery Wins “Rising Wine Star Winery of the Year” Award

In less than 10 years since it opened, Breathless Wines has already won multiple awards, including the San Francisco Wine Competition, American Fine Wine Competition, Wine Enthusiast, among others. This time, it is awarded by LuxeSF, a luxury marketing organization, as their “Rising Wine Star Winery of The Year”, after a tough competition with 74 other nominations across 5 award categories, selected by a 14-person panel of respected industry veterans.

Have you tried Breathless Wines yet? They are currently offering a special duo Blanc De Noir and Brut Rose pack at $60 including shipping this week until September 18. Better yet, you could visit their winery in downtown Healdsburg and try a flight of 4 wines for just $16 in their outdoor patio, or join their Friday Bubbly Happy Hour, or try a Breakfast at Breathless Breton Crepe paired with their sparkling on September 27. For more options, check this page out!

Breathless Brut in their flutes.
Lady on a Flying Cork, a poster from 1920s, used as Breathless Wines Logo.

A Legacy Sparkling with Personality

Hailing from a pioneer winemaking family in Napa, Paula Kornell is a Napa native who has seen the region’s rise from idyllic countryside to a world-renowned premium wine destination. Paula has acquired decades of experience throughout the wine industry, having held management positions at Mondavi, Phelps and other wineries. She has been a member of the Board of Napa Valley Vintners and served a term as its President, and has also chaired the famous Napa Wine Auction several times.

Paula Kornell serving her wines at home.

Meeting Paula Kornell and Tasting Her Very First Vintage

Now, Paula is carrying on her family legacy, having launched her own line of methode champenoise (traditional Champagne method) wines last October with Vintage Wine Estates. I had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet Paula and experience her great hospitality over a cordial wine lunch at her eclectic St. Helena abode and learn about the many colorful stories behind her brand.

Paula opening her bottle of Blanc de Noir

Kornell Family Legacy

The Kornell family history is interwoven with the Wine Country, starting with Paula’s father, Napa wine pioneer Hanns Kornell. Originally from Germany, Kornell studied winemaking at Geisenheim Enological Institute in the 1930s and applied that training working for French and Italian wineries. After a narrow escape from Dachau Concentration Camp, he arrived in America with $2 in his pocket. Hanns worked in wineries until he was able to purchase the historic Larkmead Estate, one of California’s oldest wineries, which was established by Lillian Hitchcock Coit in 1884.

The historic Larkmead Winery. Credit: Napa Wine Project

Paula’s Wine Beginnings

After college, Paula’s adventurous spirit led her to a brief period working in vineyards around Europe and studying winemaking at Geisenheim, as did her father. Later, she did a stint selling Burgundy wines for the famous New York wine merchant Sherry-Lehmann. Although she enjoyed filling orders for celebrities on Madison Ave, her father eventually persuaded her to fly back to California on a one-way, first class ticket to work for Kornell Cellars.

The iconic Sherry Lehmann on Madison Ave.

The Difference Between Sparkling Wine and Champagne

While sharing her Brut, an elegant blend of Central Californian Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, Paula noted how American consumers were unaccustomed to the “sparkling wine” definition initially. “Champagne” was perceived as better, but consumers increasingly understand why the change in nomenclature was made. International laws restrict the Champagne label to wines made only in this French appellation, even though many premium sparkling wines are made elsewhere using the same method. Her family has long used this traditional Champagne winemaking method in making their California wines.

Kornell Brut in a bucket.

Paula’s Blanc De Noir

Paula also opened a bottle of her inaugural 2017 Blanc De Noir, made with 98% Pinot Noir from the classic Mitsuko’s Vineyard in the Los Carneros area, ideally situated to catch breezes from San Pablo Bay. Remarkable was how it tasted like a more aged Champagne: complex, with toasty notes and a crisp hint of zesty citrus. It was an absolutely delightful pairing with her homemade galette made with fresh vegetables from her yard.

Our wine pairing lunch.

How the Wine Started

Paula’s own wine brand came into being when she was approached by long-time family friend and CEO of Vintage Wine Estates, Pat Roney, who wanted to boost their premium boutique wine portfolio with great sparkling wines. The winemaker behind Paula’s wine is Robin Ankhurst, who has worked harvests from Burgundy and Languedoc to Marlborough and Barossa and now directs winemaking for several esteemed Napa wineries. I noticed the beautifully etched Riedel glasses with her logo, which she explained was the Men of Canaan – the same logo used in years past by Hanns Kornell Champagne, denoting Israelites carrying grapes to the “Promised Land,” which for her family was California.

Paula, her Blanc de Noir and me.

Staying Positive and Resilient

It’s not only Paula’s great wines and the history that stand out, but also her resilient and jovial spirit. To be sure, lockdowns caused by the current pandemic will pose challenges for wineries needing to sell excess inventory, but she sees pockets of opportunity for those who build relationships and continue to get involved. Despite the current pandemic, Paula has managed to progress with building partnerships through Zoom calls.

Outlawed – Watch Outlaw Country Musician Elizabeth Cook Perform Live at Home With a Glass of Paso Robles Wine

This summer is time for delicious wine and safely distanced live music! The exciting Robert Hall At Home Sessions we announced earlier continues with an incredible line-up of talented independent musicians for you and your community to watch from home, and enjoy authentic Paso Robles wine for the occasion. Next Wednesday September 2, the fourth virtual concert will feature contemporary Outlaw singer songwriter Elizabeth Cook, known for her appearances on David Letterman, “hip hard-country delivery, comedic gifts and magnetic personality”.

Elizabeth Cook. Credit: Robert Hall Winery

Watch From Home

You can watch the performance live, and get an exclusive behind-the-curtains recording from the artist after the show. Simply go to Robert Hall Winery’s Facebook page, @roberthallwinery. Previous shows and exclusive behind the scenes artist interviews can still be viewed at RobertHallWinery.com/At-Home-Sessions

Elizabeth Cook’s music video, “Bones”. Credit: Robert Hall Winery

Paso Robles Wine + Special Discount

In addition, Robert Hall is releasing some 2019 vintage wines for the first time, which you can buy directly online. You can now get 20% off using the at home sessions code and free shipping if you live in valid states, including California.

Robert Hall’s latest Cavern Select Vermentino 2019.

About Robert Hall Winery 

Founded in 1999 by the late entrepreneur Robert Hall, Robert Hall Winery showcases the best Paso Robles has to offer. The winery has three estate vineyards in the Geneseo and Estrella Districts, totaling 136 planted acres of fruit. In addition to growing Estate Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, and Syrah, the winery also sources grapes across the Paso Robles AVA. This provides Head Winemaker Don Brady with a broad range of soils and micro-climates that, together, create optimal fruit for the beautiful wines that capture the essence of Paso Robles.  

Not Just Another Wine Auction: Portland Trailblazer Star turned Winemaker CJ McCollum and Wine for Social Good

With its natural terroir ideal for growing Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley is also Oregon’s largest wine growing region with over 70 varietals. Willamette Valley Winery Association is their wine industry association, which organizes an annual Pinot Noir auction that just ended on August 13. This year, 74 wine lots from the 2018 vintage made exclusively for the auction were sold, with proceeds this year not only supporting the Association’s education and marketing initiatives, but an additional $100,000 dedicated to the James Beard Foundation’s Open For Good Campaign – Food & Beverage Investment Fund for Black and Indigenous Americans.

From the “Normal” Willamette Auction…
…to the Online Willamette Valley auction this year

Many Firsts

This was a special year for the Willamette Pinot Auction: going online for the first time, with the opening featuring its first-ever Ambassador, Portland Trailblazer NBA star and now Willamette Valley’s newest winemaker CJ McCollum, who launched his own wine McCollum Heritage 91 with Adelsheim Vineyards in June this year.

CJ McCollum and his new wine, McCollum 91 Heritage.

Supporting Black & Indigenous American Food & Beverage Businesses

The $100,000 donation, or about 20% of total profit, will go to the James Beard Foundation Food & Beverage Investment Fund for Black and Indigenous Americans. This fund supports food and beverage businesses owned by Black and Indigenous Americans, with the goal to rebuild an independent, more equitable restaurant industry following re-openings post-pandemic.   

Credit: James Beard Foundation

About Willamette Valley Wineries Association
The Willamette Valley Wineries Association (WVWA) is a non-profit industry association dedicated to achieving recognition for Oregon’s acclaimed Willamette Valley as a premier Pinot noir-producing region. Currently, the WVWA has nearly 250 members representing wineries and tasting rooms throughout the Willamette Valley region from Portland to Eugene. 

Celebrate Jewish New Year with Innovative Kosher Wines from Around the World!

What better way to start the Jewish New Year than sharing great wines with loved ones? Traditionally, wine or grape juice is an important part of Kiddush, which means “sanctification” in Hebrew, a ceremony where a blessing is recited over wine or grape juice.

Wine and Pomegranate, a fruit symbolic of good deeds and wishes.

Royal Wine Corp is bringing a fresh selection of kosher wines from California, Israel, France and South Africa just in time for Rosh Hashanah, which falls on September 18th this year.

Organic Kosher Wine with Noble History

If you are sensitive to sulfites and want some quality organic kosher wine, you could try Herzog Variation Be-leaf Cabernet Sauvignon, a full-bodied organic Cabernet Sauvignon from Paso Robles with no added sulfites. Herzog Winery was one of the first in America to make kosher wines, with over 9 generations of winemaking. Founded by Rabbi Menachem Herzog, Herzog wines were so sought after by Austrian Emperor Franz Josef that he dubbed then-owner Phillip Herzog a Baron.

Herzog’s Paso Robles vineyard. Credit: Herzog Winery

Surprise Yourself With Wild Yeast Wines!

Have you tried wines fermented with “wild” yeast that originate from the vineyards? Winemaker and Master of Wine candidate Ido Lewinsohn, known for experimenting with wild yeast and whole cluster pressing, has made Segal Wild Fermentation Chardonnay and Segal Wild Fermentation Cabernet Sauvignon from Gailelee, Israel resulting in some unique wines representative of their authentic terroir.  

Galilee in Israel. Credit: Isaac Harari

French Winemaking in the Judean Hills

High fashion designer turned Winemaker David Suissa has made high-end kosher wines in Bordeaux before starting his winery Ephod in Israel. You can now try kosher red wines from vineyards in Judean Hills, Galil Elyone and Ramat Hagolan: EbiatarKeter, and Regesh, made with classic Bordeaux grapes Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Petit Verdot.

Ephod wines.

Kosher Champagne Back By Popular Demand

Established in 1808, Drappier in Champagne, France is known for their quality organic vineyards. After being out of stock for almost 15 months, three of their kosher champagnes are now back on the shelves, just in time for the upcoming Jewish New Year celebrations.

Drappier Carte D’or Brut, kosher champagne

Chill with Canned South African Rose!

For a fun twist, you can try J. Folk from South Africa, a fruity but dry and refreshing rosé that comes in packs of four 250ml cans.

J Folk canned rose.

About Royal Wine/Kedem

Founded in 1848, Royal Wine Corp. has been owned and operated in the United States by the Herzog family, whose winemaking roots go back eight generations to its origin in Czechoslovakia.

Today, Royal Wine’s portfolio of domestic and international wines range from traditional wine producing regions of France, Italy and Spain, as well as Israel, New Zealand and Argentina. 

Additionally, Royal Wine Corp.’s spirit and liqueur portfolio offers some of the most sought-after scotches, bourbons, tequilas and vodkas as well as hard to find specialty items such as flavored brandies and liqueurs.

The company owns and operates the Kedem Winery in upstate New York, as well as Herzog Wine Cellars in Oxnard, California, a state-of-the-art-facility featuring guided wine tours, a fully staffed modern tasting room, gift shop and catering facilities. Additionally, the winery houses the award-winning restaurant Tierra Sur, serving the finest, Mediterranean-inspired, contemporary Californian Cuisine.

Follow Royal Wine Corp on social media: @RoyalWineCorp; https://www.facebook.com/RoyalWineCorp/