Keller Estate and Muscardini Cellars Join SSU in Ugly Holiday Sweater Wine Tasting

Contributed by Sophia Fish – SSU Wine Sense Club ended the semester with a bang, hosting Keller Estate and Muscardini Cellars for an Ugly Holiday Sweater Wine Club meeting! 

Ugly Holiday Sweater Wine Tasting at SSU

Ugly Holiday Sweater Wine Tasting at SSU



About Keller Estate – A 25-Year Love Affair

The development of Keller Estate has been a 25-year love affair of Arturo and Deborah Keller. The two first fell in love with the estate while driving through Sonoma County. They soon decided to make it the site for a world-class vineyard, as well as their home.

The La Cruz vineyard took root in 1989 when the first chardonnay vines were planted. The first vintage produced by these grapes were sold to Rombauer Vineyards, who quickly saw the amazing potential of the land. In 2000 Keller Estate officially began its own label, and the construction of the winery began.

The Terroir of Keller Estate – The Petaluma Gap!

The Keller Estate is technically located in the Sonoma Coast AVA, but the winery’s terroir is characterized by the Petaluma Gap. If you are a Sonoma County local, you may know a little about a petition recently submitted to establish the Petaluma Gap as a formally recognized AVA.

Keller Estate in the Petaluma Gap

Keller Estate in the Petaluma Gap

The Petaluma Gap is influenced by the San Pablo Bay to the south and the opening in the coastal hills to the northwest (the gap), which allows fog from the Pacific to flow through the Petaluma Valley. These two unique influences generate a lengthy, cool growing season for the vineyards, which is perfect for pinot noir and chardonnay to thrive.

Six Petaluma Gap Wines from Keller Estate 

We tasted six amazing wines from Keller Estate.

  1. 2014 Rose of Syrah: Salmon in color, with aromas of dried cherries, strawberries, citrus and green apple.
  2. 2011 La Cruz Chardonnay: A bright, crisp chardonnay with a touch of acidity and minerality.
  3. 2011 Oro De Plata Chardonnay: Flavors of honeydew and green apple, with a crisp yet creamy finish.
  4. 2012 La Cruz Pinot Noir: Aromas of ripe cherry, spice, orange peel and earth.
  5. 2011 El Coro Pinot Noir: Aromas of raspberry, plum and vanilla. Accented with notes of spice and pine.
  6. 2011 Rotie: A syrah and viognier blend. Flavors of dark berries, earth, spice with leather and tobacco notes.
Keller Estate Wines

Keller Estate Wines

The two favorites from Keller Estate:  2011 El Coro Pinot Noir and 2014 Rose of Syrah

About Muscardini – Italian Heritage

It all starts with Emilio Alchera, born in the village of Calliano in Northern Italy. Emilio came to Ellis Island in New York in 1909. He then settled in San Francisco and saved enough money to buy and run a small grocery store. There he sold bulk wine and when he had time, he made a red table wine for his family. This business eventually developed into the St. Helena Napa Valley Wine Company.

Muscardini Tasting Room

Muscardini Tasting Room

A New Generation of Winemaking

Now Emilio’s grandson, Michael Muscardini, has returned to the family’s winemaking roots. The first sangiovese vines were planted in May of 2000. While the vines grew Michael began studying winemaking. He did this by picking the brains local winemakers. He also took courses at UC Davis and Sonoma State. Now, many years and vintages later, Michael has produced award-winning wines which we are sure Emilio would be very proud of.

Five Delicious  Wines from Muscardini 

Muscardini presented us with five delightful wines:

  1. 2014 Rosato di Sangiovese Alpicella Vineyard: Bright floral notes with red berries and apple.
  2. 2012 Sangiovese Alpicella Vineyard: Dark aromas of blackberries, plum, strawberries, earth and spice.
  3. 2011 Tesoro: Enriching aromas of black cherries, plums, cherries, cacao and spice.
  4. 2013 Merlot Sangiacomo Vineyards: Aromas of dried cherries, licorice, plum and roasted walnuts.
  5. 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon B Wise Vineyards: Enticing flavors of ripe berries, sage, tobacco and leather.
Wines from Muscardini

Wines from Muscardini

The two favorites from Muscardini: 2013 Merlot Sangiacomo Vineyards & 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon B Wise Vineyards

Wine Poetry: How an Ancient Persian Legend Gave Birth to a Petaluma Gap Winery

“As a child growing up in Persia I heard the story of the discovery of wine,” says Pari Azari, “but it is also documented in my Persian cookbook.  In fact Omar Khayyám  referred to the story in some of his poetry.”  Kamal Azari, Pari’s husband and co-owner of Azari Winery, nods in appreciation as he listens to his wife.  “Yes, it is this story, plus the fact that I was born in Shiraz, the ancient city in Persia thought to be the birthplace of the syrah grape, that inspired us to start our winery.”

Pari then proceeded to tell the fascinating story of a Persian King who was sitting on the palace balcony one day with his son and fellow nobles.  Suddenly a Homa Bird (considered to be the bird of good fortune by Persians) landed not far away and was set upon by a large snake which coiled itself around the bird’s neck.  The king called upon his nobles to rescue the bird and the king’s son immediately jumped to his feet and shot an arrow into the snake without harming the bird.  The bird flew away, but one year later on the exact anniversary of the snake attack the bird returned and dropped three small seeds at the feet of the king and his son.

The king ordered that the seeds be planted in the palace garden and eventually they grew into vines that produced beautiful bunches of small red fruit.  As no one in the palace had ever seen this type of fruit, they were afraid to try it.  Therefore, the king ordered that the bunches be harvested and placed in large stone vessels.  Not long after strange bubbling noises came from the vessels along with an intoxicating aroma.  The king called for a murderer who was sentenced to death to be brought from prison to taste the liquid.  The murderer drank one glass, then asked for more.  Soon he began smiling and dancing and the king realized the Huma Bird had brought them a great gift.  Therefore, he held a feast of celebration and introduced wine to the world.

Today Pari and Kamal operate Azari Winery located in the Petaluma Gap region of Sonoma County.  “We fell in love with the landscape here,” explains Kamal.  “Furthermore, I wanted to make cool-climate syrah and this is one of the best appellations in California to do this.”  In addition to syrah, Azari Winery also produces pinot noir, a riesling, and a second label called Corkscrew.

With a doctorate in political science and a background in Iranian studies Kamal has always been interested in the ancient legends of Persian as well as poetry.  “In Iran, poetry is very important, and many of the great Persian poets wrote about wine.  In pre-Islamic time wine was a holy drink with mystical powers and most Persian prophets used wine as a way to connect with heaven.”

“The challenge,” chimes in Pari,” is that because wine in Persia was holy it was never paired with food.  Therefore, I have been trying to match Persian recipes with our wine.”  One such recipe that has been garnering many compliments from guests is Pari’s Duck with Pomegrante Sauce paired with Azari Pinot Noir.

“Her cooking is like poetry,” says Kamal.  “As you can see, poetry, legends, and wine are very important to us.”  Indeed, this must be the case because on every single bottle of Azari Wine the following statement is inscribed:  “Our approach to winemaking follows a few basic principles:  the land has character, nature is wise, and our job is to listen carefully, then write the poem.

For more information on Azari Winery, please see  To learn more about the Petaluma Gap, including other wineries and vineyards, see  Photo by Smari.