Historic St. Helena Winery Charles Krug is Now Ropened For In-Person Tastings

On June 9th, Napa’s oldest winery, Charles Krug reopened its St. Helena estate adhering to local guidelines, after being closed since March 16th in compliance with California’s statewide Shelter-in-Place order. The reopening comes with a variety of new protocols that go above and beyond county and state recommendations to ensure health and safety for everyone.

Charles Krug Winery, Napa Valley
The New Cabana at Charles Krug for Safe Wine Tasting.

A Pleasant Physically-Distanced Wine Experience

5 new WiFi-enabled cabanas within the winery’s Picnic Grounds will be unveiled with the reopening. Although the cabanas were already under construction before the Pandemic, they are particularly timely to facilitate efficient physically-distanced wine experiences. The winery’s diverse culinary offerings will still be available on a modified schedule: artisan pizzas from Charles Krug’s wood-fired Mugnaini oven will be available Friday through Sunday, while local culinary partner, Tre Posti, will offer both cheese and charcuterie plates, as well as grab-and-go items.

Additional Winery Safety Measures

On top of meeting Napa County’s official safety guidelines including face masks worn by employees, extra hygiene protocol and more, Charles Krug’s tasting room consulted with Winery Safety Officer AJ Perez to implement stricter standards:

  • Comprehensive “Deep Clean” disinfecting, misting of general and targeted touchpoints in all areas of the winery before Grand Opening
  • Appointment-only booking to limit occupancy within winery
  • Outdoor-only tasting, with wine delivered in pre-poured glasses. Wine service will be guided by a masked Wine Ambassador from a safe distance
  • All tables, furnishings, and flat surfaces will be sanitized after each guest visit
  • A concierge will manage customer flow and monitor physical distancing while guests are waiting to be seated, entering or leaving the property 
  • Touch-free transactions, with goods being placed directly in the guest’s car or carried out by customers as they prefer
  • Water will be served in single-serve recyclable containers
  • Restrooms are cleaned every 30-60 minutes

About Charles Krug:
In 1943, Italian immigrants Cesare and Rosa Mondavi purchased the historic Charles Krug property, the oldest winery in the Napa Valley and longest-running tasting room in California. The brand was built on a foundation of family values, hard work and a European winemaking tradition; it remains a family-owned winery today, producing estate-driven, top of the line Napa Valley wines. The wineries are under the direction of Peter Mondavi Jr. and Marc Mondavi, who steward the family business passed to them by their father, legendary Napa Valley wine icon Peter Mondavi Sr.  The family is now proudly welcoming members of the fourth generation to the business, continuing a legacy started over 70 years ago and setting a foundation for generations to come.

Wine Tetris Blocks – How I Fell In Love with Wine

(Contributed by J. Onodera) My interest in wine is like a game of tetris, as the “blocks” slowly fell in place over time. It all started during spring break of my junior high school year, when I toured different colleges in the Northwest, one of them being Sonoma State University. As our tour group walked to the Wine Spectator Learning Center on campus, our guide mentioned that the university was the only one in California offering wine degrees in business topics, rather than the traditional Viticulture and Enology degrees. The idea of becoming a player in wine business sparked a sense of motivation in me, and that was how I laid the first row of blocks in the game of Wine Tetris.

“Wine Tetris”

Second Tetris Row – Learning about Wine through People

Laying the foundation of the second tetris row of wine had to do with interactions with other people.Having lived in different parts of California, I have many groups of friends from various demographics, which is also reflected in their drinking habits, ranging from drinking cheap beers to sipping pricier wines. Often at social gatherings with friends, we would open a bottle of wine and pair it with different foods, and then discuss the unique taste combinations that emerged. Through such experiences, I learned how to communicate and connect with different communities, and grow my wine knowledge.

Third Tetris Row – An Unforgettable European Trip

After my sophomore year at Sonoma State University, I decided to splurge on a 3-week cultural and food tour through Madrid, Barcelona, Milan, Venice, Florence and Rome. I’ll never forget that first day in Madrid, where I was introduced to Sangria – a glass jar filled with ice, red wine, green apples, oranges, and blackberries. Enjoying the ice-cold sangria with a spicy dish of paella was an incredible experience.  As I continued my tour across Europe, the wine and food encounters continued to blow my mind, and I fell more enchanted with the world of wine.

An Evolving Experience

Now as I pursue my degree in Wine Business, I’m really enjoying the chance to explore, develop my palette, and appreciation the diversity of wine. The tetris blocks are coming together faster now, and all of these experiences have made me more confident in my decision to study wine.

Vin Piscine – The New Exciting Trend of Swimming Pool Wine

I first encountered “Vin Piscine” last year in South Africa on a very hot January day in Johannesberg. Being the Southern Hemisphere, the seasons of South Africa are opposite of North America, and I had spent the hot and humid day on a tour of the city. By the evening, I was ready for a cool glass of chenin blanc wine, but was surprised when the small outdoor café where I went for dinner brought me a bucket of ice, tongs, and my wine in a large balloon glass. Looking around the café, I saw other people with similar glasses and they were all putting ice cubes in their wine, creating a beautiful spectacle of light dancing around the crystal ice cubes and shimmering golden and rosé wines.

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Rosé Piscine and Blanc Piscine

What is “Vin Piscine?”

“Vin Piscine” means “wine swimming pool” in French, and refers to a glass of wine – usually white or rosé colored – served in a large glass with lots of ice.  The ice, which is swimming around in the pool of wine, slowly melts creating an icy refreshing drink referred to by the French as “Vin Piscine.” Apparently, it is all the rage in Paris this summer, as well as last summer, according to a report in Meininger’s. Another popular drink is the “frosé,” which is wine mixed with crushed ice, similar to a crushed ice margarita or daiquiri, but made with wine.

Special Types of Wine Used to Make Vin Piscine

In France, they have actually created a new category of wine designed to add ice.  It is usually stronger tasting so when the ice melts, the wine still retains good flavor.  Examples are illustrated in this advertisement for Blanc Piscine and Rosé Piscine by VinoValle.

Vin Piscine from Vinovalle

Try Making Vin Piscine Yourself at Home

Since it is currently difficult to find this special type of wine in the US market, I decided to try making my own “Vin Piscine.” I pulled out two large balloon wine glasses and filled them half-way with ice cubes.  Then I poured a French Provence rosé in one and a California white blend in the other. The rosé, which was dry, quickly became diluted and didn’t taste as good after some of the ice had melted.  The white wine, however, which was fruitier and more concentrated with a hint of sweetness, actually improved with the ice, and I ended up relaxing by the pool and enjoying my glass of “Vin Piscine.”

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Swimming Pool Wine by the Pool – Vin Piscine

My Favorite Wine Tasting Experience at Caymus Vineyards, Napa Valley

(Contributed by K. Mead) My absolute favorite wine tasting was at Caymus Vineyards, one of the oldest Napa wineries, started by the pioneering Wagner family winemakers. Located just north of Napa in Rutherford, Caymus is situated amongst vineyards that produce some of the highest quality grapes Napa Valley has to offer. Each year they craft highly-regarded wines, such as their signature Caymus Cabernet.

Outdoor Tasting at Caymus Vineyards. Credit: Meyer Sound for Caymus Vineyards

Cozy Wine Tasting on a Cold Fall Day

I had the pleasure of stopping by Caymus for a tasting in late fall of 2019. Grey and overcast, it wasn’t the most pleasant of conditions for the occasion. Luckily, Caymus thoughtfully offered guests a fleece blanket, along with a complimentary Caymus wine glass. If visitors prefer staying indoors, Caymus welcomed them to a comfortable lounge area which emulates the personal Wagner family living room.

Friendly and Knowledgeable Tasting Associates

With top notch service, the Caymus tasting staff are not just inviting and friendly, but passionate and knowledgeable about the entire Wagner Family wine portfolio. Adding a personal touch to every tasting, they tailored each conversation according to the guest and the mood, gladly answering all questions, regardless of level of wine knowledge.

Delightful Wine Tasting Selection

The wine tasting menu consisted of a variety of wines from not only Caymus, but other wines in the family portfolio, such as Emmolo, Mer Soleil, and Conundrum. I was delighted that the final wine of our tasting was the celebrated Caymus Vineyards 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon. Words fail me each time I have the pleasure of tasting this wine. It tastes like a warm summer evening, when you can smell the crush in the air. Its full and comforting flavors were the perfect ending to a rather cold and dreary weather day.

Hike, Picnic and Taste Wine at La Crema Winery’s New Outdoor Tasting Experience

As wineries slowly start re-opening in California, many are getting creative in the types of experiences they offer, because currently most tastings must be outdoors and include food. With this in mind, La Crema Winery took advantage of their beautiful Saralee’s Vineyard property to offer walking tours and picnics in the relaxing gardens surrounded by rolling vineyards.

Guests must make a reservation online in advance. When they arrive, they are provided with a map of suggested walking trails to explore the vineyards and take in the beautiful vistas of the Russian River Valley. Upon conclusion of the walking tour, they receive a pre-packed cheese and charcuterie picnic box with an estate wine to continue the La Crema outdoor experience at home or on the Estate, including at Richard’s Grove, the beautiful, expansive great lawn adjacent to the vineyards.

La Crema has prioritized safety by conducting training with its tasting room and culinary staff. All employees must wear facial coverings, conduct pre-shift health screenings, and thoroughly sanitize surfaces prior to and following all visits. Hand sanitizer stations are also available for guests. La Crema is following all the hygiene and health requirements consistent with CDC guidelines.

Reservations are available daily at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., and can be booked online  HERE. The experience, which includes the walking tour, lunch, and a bottle of wine is $100 per couple.

Photos courtesy of La Crema.com

 

 

Wine Tasting in Paris and Falling in Love with Champagne

(Contributed by K. Lewis) – My favorite tasting experience I have ever had was during the Summer of 2017 in Paris, France. I went on this trip with my mom and aunt, and after exploring the city throughout the weekend, we ended our trip with a wonderful Champagne tasting on a small boat sailing down the Seine River. The tasting consisted of three different Champagnes. I knew I really liked wine at the time, but this was one of the first times I remember gaining an understanding of the fact that different types of sparkling wine actually taste very distinctive with their own unique set of flavors.

Three Lovely Ladies

Champagne Tasting in Paris with Family

The service that we received was fun, friendly, informative, and interactive. Our server provided an extensive background on what champagne really is, where it comes from, and how it is made. He told us what to expect before we took our first sip of each glass, and left plenty of time in-between each tasting for us to ask questions and discuss the wine while we continued our sailing tour of the city. Of the three champagnes, two were dry and one was very sweet. I learned that the dry ones were called Brut and Brut Reserve and the sweet one was called a Demi-Sec. They were all delicious, but I was very excited to try the sweet one because it was unique to me, and tasted like a dessert! 

Champagne we tasted

The Three Champagnes in Our Tasting

As we continued to sail down the Seine while tasting exquisite bubbly Champagne, I realized this was one of the best days of my life. The experience was so unique because it took place on a small boat, and we were treated to the sights of Paris. We sailed past the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, the d’Orsay Museum, and many other beautiful must-sees of Paris. The day was cloudy but warm, and it felt like the perfect setting to fall in love with Champagne. I can’t wait to go back one day and explore more of the beautiful wine that Europe has to offer! 

The Boat

Sailing Down the Seine on a Warm Cloudy Day

Pink Prosecco is Coming in 2021!

Great news!  If you enjoy Prosecco, a new “pink version” called Prosecco DOC Rosé will make a sparkling debut in 2021. This past week the Prosecco DOC’s trade Consortium announced the hallmark decision by the Italian National Wine Committee to finally approve introduction of Prosecco DOC Rosé after years of discussion.

A Glass of Sparkling Pink Prosecco

Rules for Producing Prosecco DOC Rosé

While sparkling rosé wines are nothing new, Prosecco DOC wines, like Champagne, is a protected designation in which wines must follow strict regulations (such as percentage of grape varieties used and fermentation methods) to be labelled as such. The process of recognizing Prosecco DOC Rosé requires a decree which is now waiting to be published in the Official Gazette of the Italian Republic. 

Production Requirements

Producers must follow rules to legally label their wine “Prosecco DOC Rosé”. Like Prosecco DOC, the primary grape used is Glera, with 10-15% Pinot Nero to achieve the color, which must be “pink, more or less intense, shining, and with a persistent foam”. Following the Martinotti / Charmant method, second fermentation must have a minimum of 60 days. Residual sugar levels are very low, from driest level “Brut Nature” (0-3 g/L) to second driest “Extra Dry” (0-6 g/L). Labels must state “Millesimato”, meaning “vintage”, using at least 85% grapes from that year. Finally, sales are allowed from the 1st of January after the harvest.

The Consortium estimates about 30 million bottles of Prosecco DOC Rosé will be produced annually. Therefore, you have something to look forward to purchasing in your favorite grocery store or wine shop early next year.

Great For Sharing on a Hot Summer Day

How Does Casarena Winery Produce Such Distinctly Different Argentinian Wines?

Nestled on the sandy soils of Luján de Cuyo in Mendoza, Argentina, Casarena Bodegas y Viñedos is recognized for its single vineyard wines, with an estate that encompasses four vineyards each with its own distinctive micro-terroirs to create seven varietal wines for its flagship line, Casarena Single Vineyard wines.

Casarena’s sandy vineyards below the Andes. Credit: Casarena Winery & Vineyards

Winemaking expertise

Combining rich tradition with expertise in wine growing and winemaking, including collaborations with Michel Roland and his team, single blocks of high-quality and low yield are identified. 30% of the grapes are fermented in new French oak barrels, and the remaining in stainless-steel tanks, after which the fermented blend is aged for 12 months in French oak barrels, resulting in an expression of unique, premier Argentinian terroirs which garnered many awards.

Casarena’s flagship single-vineyard wines from four distinct microclimates.

A Curated Portfolio

All wines of their single vineyard portfolio have consistently received over 90 points from acclaimed critics. The seven wines are: Malbec in three different expressions, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay.  

Famous Tuscan Winery Releases New Vintage with Focus on Sustainability

In April, world-renowned Ornellaia Winery in Tuscany, Italy, released its Grand Vin, Ornellaia Bolgheri DOC Superiore 2017. The name “Solare”, “radiant” in English, was chosen to define this vintage – unusual frost, heat and drought extremes, which nonetheless resulted in an elegant wine of bold personality.

Ornellaia (@Ornellaia) | Twitter
Ornellaia Solare 2017. Credit: Ornellaia

How Does Ornellaia Solare Taste?

Estate Director Axel Heinz remarked about the surprisingly harmonious wine crafted by winemakers’ gentle handling of slightly younger grapes. Solare has characteristic notes of liquorice and blackberries with velvety tannins, yet rich acidity and roundness with “Mediterranean sumptuousness”.

From an Unpredictable, Extreme Climate

A stark contrast to outstanding vintages of 2015 and 2016, 2017 was a record unpredictable season showing climate change effects, which Ornellaia is proactively responding to for years. A mild winter, above-average temperature fluctuations with little rain during critical vine development stages forced buds to break earlier, and an earlier harvest.

Use of Sustainable Practices

Despite needing to adapt and forgoing traditional methods, Ornellaia achieved excellence  with sustainable practices, such as precision viticulture and terrain preservation. In addition, they use low-impact defences to maintain a self-regulated ecosystem that ultimately creates uniquely distinctive wines.

Sustainability as 2017’s Vendemmia d’Artista Theme

Artist Tomás Saraceno. Credits: Studio Tomás Saraceno 2019

Every year, Ornellaia invites celebrated artists to design limited edition labels through its Vendemmia d’Artista project. Choosing Sustainability as the annual theme for 2017 Solare, Artist Tomás Saraceno designed unique thermochromic heat-sensitive labels, a reflection of humanity’s impact on its environment. The ten Imperial and the lone Salmanazar will be auctioned on Sotheby’s in September. Profits from the event will be donated to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation’s “Mind’s Eye” program.

About Ornellaia –http://www.ornellaia.com

The name Ornellaia is synonymous of fine winemaking and an authentic expression of the beauty of Tuscany. The estate is situated along the Tuscan coastline, a short distance from the medieval town of Bolgheri and the iconic cypress-lined approach. Ornellaia Bolgheri DOC Superiore and Ornellaia Bianco are the estate’s top wines, ensued by the second vin Le Serre Nuove dell’Ornellaia, Le Volte dell’Ornellaia and the white Poggio alle Gazze dell’Ornellaia. In little over thirty years (the first vintage of Ornellaia was in 1985), the team’s dedication accompanied by optimal soil and microclimate have resulted in critical acclaim and public success within Italy and internationally. 

About Vendemmia d’Artista

Vendemmia d’Artista celebrates the exclusive character of each vintage of Ornellaia. Since the initial release of Ornellaia 2006, Ornellaia has commissioned an internationally-famous contemporary artist to create a work of art for the estate and a series of limited-edition labels, inspired by the character identified by the Winemaker and Estate Director, Axel Heinz, to describe the particular characteristics of the new vintage. 111 large formats, of which 100 3-liter Double Magnums, 10 six-liter Imperials and a nine-liter Salmanazar, are sold or auctioned off by Sotheby’s Wine for charity.

Wine is My Love Potion: Adventures as a Harvest Intern

(Contributed by Alexandro Gomez) Wine is my love potion. Never before would I have thought wine could be this interesting. It all started in the summer of 2019 when I met the Robledo family, owners of Robledo Family Vineyards in Sonoma, California. They established the first tasting room in the United States that is owned by a former Mexican migrant vineyard worker and his family. After much discussion of my interest in wine, they offered me a harvest internship. Although I was very excited about this opportunity, I was also scared and nervous as I knew nothing about harvest or wine in general.

Robledo Family Winery
Harvesting grapes at Robledo Winery. (Credit: Robledo Family Winery)

First Day on the Job

As I was pulling up to the vineyard at around 5am, I noticed how fast the harvest workers already were at picking grapes. Luckily, my father taught me about hard work and how to quickly adapt to tough situations. I began picking as fast as possible, knowing these workers were also relying on me to do the job well. After about 6 hours and 24 blade cuts later, I sat under the shade for some water and thought to myself – I want more!

A Promotion to the Cellar

Seeing my instant enthusiasm, the Robledo brothers offered me work in the cellars where I would soon realize the art of winemaking. Again, it was an extremely fast-paced working environment, but I went with the flow, despite being very green. My curiosity and motivation helped push me to learn more. I was assigned to clean tanks, disinfect barrels, mop floors, clean hoses, and many other tasks. Working in the cellars was a major eye opener, because I learned winemaking techniques and the language of wine.  The experience was just what I needed to immerse myself into the wine production world.

My internship at Robledo Family Winery ended after four months, and I decided to focus on my final exams and also gain more experience on the business side of the wine industry. It has been a great learning journey so far and I’m looking forward to more!