Innovative Winery Launches Nature Hikes and Wine-Tasting Picnics with Social Distancing

American wineries have shown much innovation in reaching out to wine consumers via virtual tastings, tours, and other online methods due to the closing of tasting rooms with COVID19. However, one winery has found a very unusual means of connecting with consumers again by scheduling educational nature hikes in Sonoma County.

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Hiking at Jordan Winery, Sonoma County, California

This weekend, Jordan Winery is set to become the first winery to reopen in Napa and Sonoma, using the Sonoma County park/trail reopening health order (effective on May 13) as its path. These educational nature hike packages for two include a  guided hike across our 1,200-acre ranch, and a charcuterie picnic and wine to-go to enjoy at home. (No food and wine can be consumed on the property to keep in compliance with the governor’s current mandate.) Social distancing rules are respected, so that visitors have plenty of space as they hike past vineyards and magnificent oak trees.

Nature hike tickets are now on sale for $110 per person/$220 per couple.  All details (pricing, available dates, times, picnic menu):
https://www.jordanwinery.com/visit/tours-and-tastings/nature-hike

Jordan will be offering nature hikes on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday from May 23 to June 7. Each week, they will evaluate the county health order updates to decide if they need to open up more hikes.

A Heavenly Visit to Hanna Winery in Sonoma County

In October the Wine Sense Club put on an extravagant field trip out to Hanna winery in Alexander Valley. Driving up the long and beautifully landscaped driveway of Hanna Winery, the Wine Sense club was able to take in the picturesque views of the valley. The club’s wine tasting excursion took place under the large oak tree below the tasting room. Shelby Lozinto, the President of the Wine Sense club arranged a private tasting for the club and presented a selection of the Hanna wines to the club members.

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Hanna Winery in Alexander Valley, Sonoma County.  Photo Credit: Hanna

About Hanna Winery

Hanna Winery was first started in 1985 by Dr. Elias Hanna.  Christine Hanna, president and daughter of Dr. Elias Hanna, took over operations of the winery back in 1996.  When she took over the operations the company’s production was less than 10,000 cases per year; now the winery produces up to 55,000 cases annually and is growing steadily.  Out of the 55,000 case production, 35,000 cases are solely Sauvignon Blanc.

Tasting Hanna Wines

The first wine the club experienced was Hanna’s renowned 2015 vintage of Sauvignon Blanc.  This wine took best in class during the San Francisco Wine Competition and received a double Gold medal during the Sonoma County Harvest Fair. This wine is also produced in the Russian River Valley. Hanna Winery has secured long term grape contracts to supplement their growth pattern.

The second wine presented to the club was the 2014 Hanna Rosé, which was produced in more of a French fashion meaning it was light, crisp, and not very sweet; a dry taste of the wine was emphasized. The Hanna Rosé is almost a 50/50 blend of Pinot Noir and Malbec. The Malbec is produced in Alexander Valley, whereas the Pinot Noir comes from the Russian River Valley. A fun fact about this wine is to achieve the beautiful light pink color, the skins of the grapes are only in contact with the juices for at most 4 hours.

The third wine the club tasted was the 2014 Elias Chardonnay.  The Elias brand name is derived from Dr. Hanna’s first name, he is also a renowned heart surgeon.  During Dr. Hanna’s career, he was known for having the “Quickest hands in the West.” Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are some of his favorite varietals to grow and consume.  This Chardonnay is grown in the Russian River Valley near the Santa Rosa tasting room. It is also barrel fermented in French and Hungarian Oak which gives the wine its smooth texture.

After the Chardonnay the group went on to sample the Hanna Malbec, which had recently received, the Gold Medal in the San Francisco Chronicle. The Malbec came across as the perfect Fall wine as it resembles pumpkin pie spice, “jammy” cranberry sauce and an essence of sage; the perfect complement to any Thanksgiving meal. Overall the wine was very lively on the palate.

The last wine the group experienced was the Hanna Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. This bold wine was given 94 points by Robert Parker. It is grown in Alexander Valley where the valley has the perfect warm and sunny climate to produce Cabernet Sauvignon.

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Big John’s Market

Great Food from Big Johns Market

During the Wine tasting the Wine Sense Club enjoyed refreshing and delicious sandwiches and goodies from Big Johns Market in Healdsburg. At the end of the tasting Shelby escorted the group into the vineyards where everyone was able to sample a few grapes straight off the vine. In the area, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec were available to taste. The group was astonished with how sweet the grapes actually tasted and were amazed at the transformation they go through to transform into wine. To continue with the tour of the property, Brett Roland, a local wine tourist guide was kind enough to take the wine club on a horse and carriage ride down to the ponds. To end the tour of the property, Shelby took the group into the cellar room below the tasting room to show off the barrels and tanks.

Enjoying the wines, the education, the beautiful scenery and clear blue sky above, the group was enamored by the wonderful experience. Overall, Hanna Winery had been a great destination to take in the beauty that Alexander Valley has to offer and enjoy some premium wines of Sonoma County.

How I Fell in Love with Wine in Montenegro

(Contributed by Makenna White) My relationship with wine is different from most Americans growing up. I have Danish family members that we would visit every couple years and my cousins, a couple years older than me, would have their own glasses of wine at dinner. After our first visit there, my parents introduced us to alcohol the same way many Europeans introduced their children to alcohol. They made it accessible for my brother and I to try, making drinking alcohol not seem forbidden and therefore “desirable.” As a kid having a sip of mom’s wine and dad’s rum and coke, none of it tasted good until our second trip to Europe.

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Wine & Food from Montenegro. Photo Credit: Commons

I first fell in love with wine when I was fourteen, at a little family winery in Montenegro. It was late May, 2014, we had just visited our family in Denmark, we flew to Croatia and drove to Montenegro to spend a few days there. My parents set up for us to go to a local winery with a translator and after driving through neighborhoods, we arrived at this little winery. The winery has been there for generations and is currently run by three generations of the family. We sat around a table in their cellar with old swords on the walls, barrels full of wine, fresh prosciutto from the neighbor’s pig, cheese from another neighbor, and fried dough the grandmother had just made.

Before even starting with the wine, they gave my parents six shots of brandy. Since Montenegro did not have a drinking age, they asked me if I wanted to try a sip of wine. I, being fourteen and wanting to act grown up, said yes. I tried two different reds, I do not remember the type of grapes but they were named Dionis (Greek God of wine) and Korin (which is similar to my mom’s name, Corinne).

I was very happy about the experience. It was amazing how connected everything was, the fresh meat and cheese from the neighbors, seeing the grapevines we just had wine from as we drove away, and sitting with the people whose whole lives revolved around a drink. My parents bought a few bottles to bring home, but I do not think we have anymore now. The experience we had will stay with me forever and remind me how ancient and universal this industry is.

South African Wines Now Shipping Again After COVID Halt

During the middle of harvest season for South African vintners in March, business activity was ordered to stop by their Government to mitigate the spread of Covid-19. Alcohol production, national sales and tasting rooms were prohibited, followed by an export ban on April 16th, grinding the entire industry ­(except sanitizing alcohol) to a halt. 

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Wines of South Africa

Wines of South Africa, the organization representing all exporting South African wine producers, has been actively lobbying to lift restrictions. Their efforts were successful when Minister Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma announced permission of packaged and bulk wine export activities, including procurement, transport, manufacturing and related services to resume starting May 1st.   

Economic value 

According to Wines of South Africa, wine is their nation’s second largest agricultural export, amounting to $500 million in foreign revenue annually. The wine industry contributes $2.6 billion USD to national GDP and creates 290,000 jobs annually.

This several-week ban has lasting implications: apart from estimated $53 million lost revenue, Wines of South Africa estimates at least 3 months but likely longer for an average order to be fulfilled, as the entire supply chain gradually resumes with continuing restrictions, strict safety protocols, and new rules to be followed.     

Best Wine Tasting Experience at Serego Alighieri Winery in Italy

(Contributed by Gabriele Brusamarello) – My best tasting room experience was at the Serego Alighieri Estate, in the heart of the Valpolicella wine region in Italy. Located just a few miles away from the historic and magical city of Verona and beautiful Lake Garda, the winery estate was establish in 1353. It was a sunny and warm day in spring 2012, and I went to visit the winery with some basketball teammates since we were playing for the Verona basketball team. When we first arrived, we were surrounded by nature, astonished by the historic beauty and uniqueness of the location, and our friend Massimilla (daughter of the owners of the winery) warmly welcomed us and gave us a great tour of the whole Serego Alighieri estate and vineyards.

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Serego Alighieri Estate in Italy

When we first arrived, we were astonished by the historic beauty and uniqueness of the location, surrounded by nature. Our friend Massimilla (daughter of the owners of the winery) warmly welcomed us and gave us a great tour of the whole estate and vineyards.

Tasting the Amarone Wine

After the tour, Massimilla escorted us to the cellar, where grapes used to make Amarone were left to rest during the winter months for hundreds of years. We were welcomed by Massimilla’s family inside the cellar who made us feel like family the moment we walked in. A place with centuries of history immediately became an extremely friendly environment, which made the whole experience even more pleasant and memorable.

Inside the cellar we were offered many red wines that Serego Alighieri produced, including Valpolicella Classico Superiore, the Recioto Della Valpolicella, and delicious Amarone Della Valpolicella of different years. They were complemented by a variety of salame, prosciutto crudo, and porchetta, as well as different cheeses. Pairing wine and food helped wine to release its best flavors and aromas –it was absolutely perfect.

History and Family Linked to Dante

What made this so special is the history and family. In fact, Massimilla’s father told us that the estate was bought in 1353 by the son of the Supreme Poet Dante Alighieri. The fact that we were able to walk around made the whole experience surreal, magical, and breathtaking. I will always remember that special day and to be the experience that made me love wine even more than before.

Learn About Champagne from the Experts – Free!

What do you think of when you hear “Champagne”? While the name is sometimes used generically for sparkling wine especially in the United States, Champagne only comes from Champagne, France. The name is actually protected by French statutes since 1887, with over 120 national jurisdictions today restricting the use of the name to sparkling wines exclusively produced from grapes in the French region and using the traditional method (méthode champenoise, also is a protected designation).

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Sparkling Glasses of Champagne. Photo Credit: Comité Champagne

The Official Comité Champagne

Behind its exclusivity and luxurious connotations, Champagne – both the wine and region – is a living heritage with unique culture that is fascinating and one worth studying. Who better than the Champagne experts themselves to reveal the secrets of this exceptional wine? The Comité Champagne, the official trade organization representing the region’s 16,100 growers and 360 houses, is now offering a free Massive Open Online Course (“MOOC”). Guided by Master of Wine Jeremey Cukierman, this MOOC delivers a comprehensive coverage of the Champagne appellation and wines in a series of short but informative videos, which will turn you in less than five hours into a Champagne expert. The course is available anytime and from anywhere.

 Tricks of the Trade

From sommeliers, wine merchants, to everyday enthusiasts, anyone interested in Champagne will benefit from this course. In four modules, learners explore topics including the diversity and tasting of the Champagne wines, the winemaking process, and about the region’s unique terroir, history and economy. In addition, you have an option of upgrading to obtain a Statement of Completion from the Comité Champagne with the passing of a quiz, and extra access to further content for €49 (~$53 USD).

Check it out yourself here: https://www.champagne-mooc.com/

Grapes Still Stomped by Foot at Pax Wines in Sebastopol, CA

Contributed by Keira Fernandes – Have you ever felt the soft squishy feel of grapes underneath your bare feet?  Well, this is the way they still make some of the wine at Pax Winery in Sebastopol, California. That’s because owners Pax and Pam Mahle believe in making wine the old-fashioned way. Not only do they stomp their wine grapes by foot, but they refrain from using chemicals or any unnatural additions to their wines. Pax Winery also leaves the skins on the grape for as long as possible to allow for natural fermentation as well as getting maximum flavor.

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Pax Wine Tasting at Sonoma State University Winesense Club

The result is very delicious tasting wines that are fermented by natural yeast, and have achieved high scores from wine critics. They are best known for their red Syrah wine, achieving a perfect 100-point score from Vinous Antonio Galloni for their 2016 vintage.

Falling in Love with Syrah

Owners Pax and Pam fell in love with the Syrah grape after taking a trip through the California wine regions. They especially enjoy cool climate Syrahs, which have higher acidity and complex inky blackberry and anise notes. Therefore, Pax chose vineyards in the cooler climates of Sonoma County and Mendocino. While Syrah is what Pax is known for, they also produce other varietals including Gamey, Chenin Blanc and Carignane.

Visiting Pax Tasting Room in Sebastopol or Online

The Pax tasting room is located in downtown Sebastopol, and is open to walk-ins. They even offer wine on tap! Their welcoming and knowledgeable staff are sure to be able to answer any questions you may have, and you can take home some delicious bottles of Pax wine, or shop online at their wine store.

Bored? Here are 7 High-Quality Wine Education Videos to Watch for Free!

Are you looking for something that’s both educational and fun while you are “Sheltering in Place?” Well, let’s talk wine and television!  Here is a great new online wine show with Vince Anter, a certified sommelier, takes viewers on a journey around the world in the hit wine TV show, V is for Vino. Each episode of V is for Vino explores a wine region and its history. There are 7 free shows that can be accessed HERE.

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Vince Anter, Star of V is for Vino

Spreading Grape Knowledge

Vince is passionate about spreading the knowledge about where the grapes come from, the people who make the wine, the food people eat with it, and the friends people drink it with. He discusses the culture of wine and wine regions, the geography of the vineyards, the politics, agriculture and economy all involved in the experience of drinking wine. In V is for Vino, Vince emphasizes that, “Most importantly, wine is about you and what you want from it.” Whether that be knowing the history of every grape in Italy or just buying a bottle to share with friends on a Friday night, Vince wants to connect with winos everywhere and ensure people are enjoying their personal wine experience.

On Amazon Prime, and Purchase Wine to Match Shows

His show can be streamed on Amazon Prime or on his website V is for Vino. Vince even takes this experience one step further offering an online store where viewers can purchase the wines he talks about in the show and taste for themselves what the wine regions around the world have to offer. This show is perfect for beginner wine drinkers of all ages that want to get to know the magic of fermenting grapes, or for anyone that just needs a new interesting show to binge. It is entertaining, educational, and boozie. Grab a glass and join Vince Anter on his wine journey around the world.  Here is a link to Vince Anter’s introduction to the world of V is for Vino on YouTube: https://youtu.be/hmDkjuzHMLc

 

New Relief Fund to Pay Restaurants to Cook for Those in Need – Jordan Winery Donates $150,000

Sonoma Family Meal, a disaster-focused non-profit providing chef-made meals to those in need, announces the creation of the Restaurant Disaster Relief Fund—a new initiative to help restaurants remain open for disaster-relief cooking by providing healthy, chef-made meals to those in desperate need of food. John Jordan, the owner of Jordan Winery, and the John Jordan Foundation have made a $150,000 investment in the fund, and the non-profits are teaming up for a match drive to raise an additional $150,000.

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“With many businesses shuttered, demand for prepared meals is at an all-time high due to the Coronavirus pandemic,” said Heather Irwin, founder of Sonoma Family Meal. “If we reach our goal of $300,000 to fully fund this program, we will be able to pay at least 20 restaurants and caterers to produce up to 100,000 meals for thousands of seniors and families facing food scarcity over the next four months.” SFM hopes to put at least 100 restaurant workers back on the payroll, keep restaurants operational, support hard costs and create income to reopen in the future.

Gerard’s Paella in Santa Rosa, the Girl & the Fig in Sonoma, Chacho’s Catering in Windsor and Preferred Sonoma Catering in Petaluma are the first four restaurants operating as relief kitchens for the new disaster relief fund.“These meals mean that our staff will have hours and normalcy in their lives right now,” said Petaluma caterer Amber Balshaw of Preferred Sonoma Catering. Her company is producing more than 600 meals per week for Sonoma Family Meal’s clients. The initiative also helps support small family farms and local food producers by purchasing their products for use in restaurants.

To make a donation, visit https://sonomafamilymeal.networkforgood.com/projects/96348-jordan-foundation.

To apply as a restaurant, visit https://www.sonomafamilymeal.org/for-restaurants/.

The $150,000 investment from Jordan will allow SFM to keep the doors open at least 12 struggling restaurants and caterers throughout the county currently providing meals, purchase 42,000 to-go containers (compostable or reusable) and provide 65,000 meals. Irwin estimates that SFM needs $300,000 to add at least 20 restaurants and food purveyors, expand our relief network and continue to provide services until mid-June, the projected time frame of increased need during this crisis.

“The owners of successful businesses have a responsibility to help those less fortunate throughout the years,” said John Jordan, who started his foundation in 2012. “But during times of crisis, we have to lean in and find ways to do even more.”

The Jordan $150,000 donation is not contingent upon reaching the match drive goal and has already been received by Sonoma Family Meal. According to Irwin, the idea for the Restaurant Disaster Relief Fund was born from the work with chef Kyle Connaughton of SingleThread Farms in Healdsburg, the Michelin-starred restaurant that piloted the Sonoma Family Meal program in mid-March and has been cooking 200 meals a day since then, each meant to feed four people. SingleThread began raising money from investors, wineries, and restaurant guests to fund their production of donation meals for Sonoma Family Meal. SingleThread and two other Healdsburg restaurants—Mateo’s Cocina Latina and PizZando—are continuing to cook meals for Sonoma Family Meal and are raising money through their own network of donors to fund their operations. Guests who order takeout from SingleThread through Tock also have the option to donate meals to their Sonoma Family Meal program.

“It’s absolutely incredible how John and the John Jordan Foundation have stepped up to support Sonoma Family Meal and the community here,” Connaughton said. “Not only does it get more meals out to those in need locally, it supports our Sonoma County chefs and restaurants to produce these meals and use local products from our farms and artisans.”

About Sonoma Family Meal

Founded in 2017, Sonoma Family Meal is a disaster-focused, 501c3 non-profit that provides safe, chef-made meals to those who need it most. Working with established non-profits, meals will go to seniors in peril, families, women’s emergency shelters and to underserved communities who are struggling through tragic and unprecedented emergencies. Learn more at sonomafamilymeal.org.

About the John Jordan Foundation

Founded in 2012, the John Jordan Foundation was created to provide under-resourced children and families with the tools needed to succeed educationally and professionally, from cradle to career. Proceeds from Jordan Winery, owned by John Jordan, fund the foundation, which has invested in thousands of families through education, after-school enrichment, financial stability and health programs. To date, the foundation has supported more than 220 partner organizations by direct investment, coalition building and capacity building for non-profits. Learn more at johnjordanfoundation.org or www.jordanwinery.com.

Elephant Motif and Farm-Stay Wine Experience at Zo Winery

Contributed by Keira Fernandes – This month we had a great educational wine-tasting on the campus of Sonoma State University with Zo Winery. They are located in the Dry Creek AVA of Sonoma County, just three miles outside of the town of Healdsburg.  What is unique about Zo Winery is that they not only offer wine-tasting, but a farm-stay wine experience. They also have a very special focus on elephants, with every wine label graced by an elephant motif.

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The Elephant Connection

The 11-acre vineyard was purchased by David Eckert in 1999 and named after his son Enzo. Enzo’s name is unique in that the first half of his name, “En”, is Japanese for perfect balance and endless, while “zo” translates to elephant; thus, leading to the natural progression of the elephant motif on their wine bottles and their merchandise.

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The Farm-Stay at Zo Winery

Zo Winery boasts a farm stay experience that focuses on the environmental and agricultural impact of their vineyards. Guests can reserve a room in one of the three historical buildings on the premise and explore the grounds. They have wine tasting available on site, as well as a blind tasting experience and an aromatherapy tasting session.

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Zo Wines Giving Back to Elephants and the Planet

A great variety of nine different types of wine is offered at Zo Winery, including the very popular zinfandel – signature grape of Dry Creek AVA, along with cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, viognier, rose of zinfandel and many other favorites.

The team’s passion for their products are reflected in their passion for giving back, with Zo Wines donating 1% of its time to local charities, 1% of net sales to Save Elephants, and 1% of sales to Save the Planet. With the unique experiences they offer, everyone will find something to love about Zo Wines. You can visit their website to see what they have to offer or schedule a visit.

Photos courtesy of Zo Wines website