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.

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

How I Fell in Love with Wine – A Great Role Model and Exceptional Customer Service at Gloria Ferrer Winery

(Contributed by Brenna Machek) – I fell in love with wine through two memorable experiences. The first time was with my parents, and the second time was when I landed my first big job in the wine industry.

My Dad – The Role Model

I remember every summer coming to Northern California for a vacation with my family. In exchange for some fun boating time with my brother, my parents would make us stop by a couple wineries so they could have their “fun adult time”. I would watch how my dad carefully eyed the wine in the glass, stuck his nose deep in the rim of it and closed his eyes to fully inhale the esters that came from the wine he was about to taste. He would then sip a little, swish it around and make the pitter patter sound with his mouth to embrace the tannins all surrounding his taste buds. I would pretend to copy my dad with a glass of sparkling apple cider and he would just laugh and say, “Soon enough little one”.

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Brenna Waiting Outside a Tasting Room Door

My First Job in the Wine Industry

Well, “Soon enough” came earlier in the year when I FINALLY turned 21! A couple months after that big celebration I attained an internship over the summer as a Wine Marketing Manager with Brown-Forman. During the internship, I was required to do two wine independent study days where I went on a private tour and tasting of two top competitors for our company.

Visiting Gloria Ferrer Winery in Sonoma Valley

The winery I chose was Gloria Ferrer. I was with a group of people for the main tour of the winery but then brought into a private room for my own tasting and pairing with the manager of the Tasting room. Gloria Ferrer is located in Sonoma County, California and is gorgeous to visit during the spring and summer time, which is when I visited. It has a beautiful view of the vineyards and of the Sonoma region. The tasting room is occupied by a bar area where customers can stand and taste, or indoor and outdoor seating, where waiters attend to you and can bring food or desserts to pair with your sparkling wines.

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Gloria Ferrer Winery.  Photo Courtesy of Gloria Ferrer

The Best Customer Service Ever – and Some Amazing Wines!

When I attended Gloria Ferrer, it was the best customer service I have experienced. The tasting room manager personally went over the sparkling wines and food pairing with me in a private room and patiently answered all my interview questions. I was given a complimentary tasting and even sent home with my favorite bottle for an extremely discounted price.

Gloria Ferrer is known for their sparkling wines, but they also carry still wines in their line of products. I was able to taste their Demi-Sec, Royal Cuvee and Blanc De Noirs alongside some food pairings such as a spicy salami, lemon sprinkled crackers, and sweet almonds with a cheese plate. I was lucky enough to taste a variety of their still wines such as the Estate Pinot Blanc, the Pinot Noir Rose, and the Jose S. Ferrer Selection Chardonnay. For being so popular in the sparkling wine category, they acquire some beautifully crafted still wines. My favorite overall was the Estate Pinot Blanc.

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Sparkling Wine at Gloria Ferrer Winery in Sonoma County, CA

Why a First Tasting Room Experience Can Be So Memorable

I have visited a wide range of wineries in the Napa and Sonoma regions of California, and have to select Gloria Ferrer as my favorite and most memorable experience, because it doesn’t compare to anything I’ve encountered before. The hospitality of the employees, the breath taking views, the wines, and the history made it the complete package. Gloria Ferrer made my experience one that was unforgettable and made that summer a top ten favorite moments in my year. I highly recommend it to friends and family and visitors in the area and can’t wait to go back soon.

 

How I Fell in Love with Wine: Autumn Leaves and Finding Grape Buyers

Contributed by Victoria Herrera – In 1950 my great grandfather bought 75 acres of farmland outside of the town of Healdsburg in Sonoma, California in the Dry Creek Valley AVA. It was then passed down to my grandfather, who was an immigrant from Italy. Naturally he planted several acres of Zinfandel grapes that he would sell to make a little bit of cash, and also make wine for the family.

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Vineyard Leaves in Autumn

Growing up, I always enjoyed visiting my grandfather at his Healdsburg property. I enjoyed watching him take care of his chickens, vegetable garden, walnut trees, and grapes. He took great pride in everything he grew. One of the best parts for me was to climb to the top of the hill in the autumn time and look down across the vineyards. There was a full 180-degree view of the Dry Creek Valley, and the vine leaves were always beautiful shades of yellow, gold, brown, red, and green.

Recently my grandfather passed away, so my mother and her two sisters had to take over the work of the gardens and vineyards. However, we no longer had any one to sell the grapes to because the connections my grandfather had remained with him. We were left with beautiful grapes, but no idea what to do with them or to whom to sell them.

This is how I fell in love with the wine business. My mother and I reached out to people, and eventually we found someone to buy and harvest our grapes. Experiencing the whole process created a spark within me, and I knew I wanted to be involved in the wine industry. That is why I am studying wine business at Sonoma State University.

Though I am not old enough to drink wine yet, I will be in another year. Then I look forward to falling in love with wine in another way – through exploring taste and texture, pairing with food, and sharing with friends and family.

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Old Vine Zinfandel in Autumn

 

Russian River Vineyards – A Winery with an 1890 Historic Farmhouse Restaurant and Organic Food Garden

(Contributed by Jennifer Schiff) Is it a restaurant, a farm, a tasting lounge, an historic site, or a winery? Well actually Russian River Vineyards encompasses all five of these functions. Established in the 1960s in the heart of the 10,000 acre Russian River AVA, Russian River Vineyards has grown to be one of the premier organic and sustainably farmed grape-growing properties in California.

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1890 Historic Farmhouse at Russian River Vineyards

This past week  a group of Sonoma State University Millennials was fortunate enough to attend an educational session and tasting at the SSU Wine Sense Club Meeting, with Russian River Vineyards winemaker, Giovanni Balistreri. Giovanni is also one of four owners of the estate. The team carries with them a myriad of backgrounds/experience in real estate, winemaking, fine dining, environmental health, and more — that has helped aid in their success in producing world class wines at this state-of-the-art winery.

The Restaurant in an 1890 Farmhouse with Organic Food Garden

Today, if you visit the winery, you not only find beautiful wines in their tasting room, but just less than a hundred feet away over 45 different types of vegetables are grown with each of them being served at their restaurant daily. The restaurant is housed in a beautiful historic farmhouse dating from the 1890’s.

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Patio of Restaurant at Russian River Vineyards

Beyond the standard tasting experiences you will find at a winery or restaurant, those who visit Russian River Vineyards also have the opportunity to tour the estate, learn all about its sustainable practices and biodiversity, as well as enjoy fine wines alongside fresh produce from the estate’s farm.

Winemaking at Russian River Vineyards

Giovanni explained that they use grapes from their own 6 acre vineyard as well as those produced from surrounding vineyards, and as far away as Mendocino County. Their approach very much embodies the concept of ‘quality over quantity.’ They specialize in pinot noir and Gewürztraminer, but also make a range of other varietals. Almost all wines featured were aged in 35% New, 100% French Oak, with a range of 12 to 20 months for the aging process. Click here to see a great video of Giovanni.

 

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Members of SSU Winesense Board with Giovanni Balistreri

Tasting of Five Wines from Russian River Vineyards

Giovanni led us through a tasting of five different wines, all small lots, of which none  exceeded a case production of 700.

Varietal Vintage Vineyard/

Appellation

Notes Case Count

(Approx.)

Pinot Noir 2014 Sonoma Coast, Petaluma CA Acidic, Silky, Soft 650
Pinot Noir 2014 Appian Way, Sebastopol CA Tart, Bright Fruit, Sleek Style 490
Cabernet Sauv. 2014 R. River Valley, Sweetwater Springs Vineyard Herbal & Dry Integrated Tannins, Dark 200
Charbono 2014 Guido Venturi Vineyard, Ukiah Long Fermen.

Tannins, Grip

200
Gewurztraminer 2016 Kunde, Kenwood Balanced Acidity and Sweetness 420

Favorite Wines of the Evening

When the vote was conducted at the end of the tasting to determine the two favorite wines, the winners were the 2013 Russian River Vineyards Appian Way Pinot Noir ($65) and the 2014 Russian River Vineyards Charbono ($48).

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Wines from Russian River Vineyards

 

 

Learning About Champagne Riddling at Field Trip to Domaine Carneros

Old wooden riddling racks were set-up around the second floor room of Domaine Carneros, overlooking the winery below.  CEO, Eileen Crane, handed everyone a glowing flute of Domaine Carneros Ultra Brut to enjoy as she explained how the riddling process works.

“The traditional method was to turn each bottle in the riddling rack by a set amount each day until all of the yeast from the second fermentation in bottle fell to the top lip of the bottle.  In this way, it could be frozen and then easily ejected.”

There were oohhs and aahhs from the thirty SSU wine business students attending the field trip, both over the delicious sparkling wine in their glass as well as the large riddling racks set up before them.

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Eileen Crane Explaining How Riddling Racks are Used

Eileen continued, “Today, however, we use gyropallets to gently rotate the wine.” She pointed  to the large picture windows with their clear view into the vast winery with its array of gyropallets – huge robotic machines that looked like large metal baskets filled with sparkling wine bottles.

About Domaine Carneros

 Established in 1987, the estate includes with their 225 acres of pinot noir and 125 acres of chardonnay in the Carneros AVA.  It is owned by the House of Tattinger in Champagne, and the beautiful chateau is modeled after the Tattinger chateau in France.

The winery is known for its environmentally friendly practices, and has one of the largest arrays of solar panels installed in a winery in the USA.  They also have multiple certifications, including the California Sustainable Wine Growing Certification and Fish Friendly Farming.

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Members of Our Class in Front of the Beautiful Domaine Carneros Chateau

 

A Taste of Sparkling Magic

In addition to the delectable 2012 Ultra Brut tasted during the winery tour, two additional wines were served in a private salon, along with generous bowls of mixed nuts. A fruity 2013 Brut Rose with bright strawberry and cherry notes, as well as the 2013 Domaine Carneros Estate Pinot Noir with notes of spice, dried cheery and subtle oak.

By the end of the tour, Domaine Carneros had made many new fans, and it was a great introduction to one of Napa Valley’s famous sparkling houses.

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Our SSU Wine Business Class at Domaine Carneros

 

 

 

SSU Millennials Wowed by the Flash and Fun of Buena Vista Wines

FullSizeRender (2)Contributed by Itze Monserrat Peña-Andrade) A huge crowded gathered at the recent SSU WineSense tasting, lured by the “flash” of the flamboyant Buena Vista Winery, and the “fun” of tasting its newly released wines. The meeting was led by Hospitality and Tasting Room Associate, Amber Lesniewski, who wowed the audience with stories about the winery’s amazing history, as well as the products they offer.

Buena Vista Winery – The Oldest Premium Winery in California

The history of Buena Vista Winery is quite interesting to say the least. Self-proclaimed “Count of Buena Vista,” Agoston Haraszthy, a vivacious immigrant from Hungary and lover of grapes, founded Buena Vista Winery in Sonoma County in 1857. This makes Buena Vista the oldest premium commercial winery in California.

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Renovated Wine Caves at Buena Vista

The Count first settled in Wisconsin, where he planted both hops for beer-making. This made him one of the founding fathers of the American beer industry, as well as wine. But the harsh winters in Wisconsin weren’t ideal for planting grapes, so he decided to move to San Diego, California. Here he became the first sheriff, and then marshal, of San Diego. Eventually he made his way north to San Francisco in 1852, and then to Sonoma in 1856, where he acquired 800 acres and set the foundation for the successful Buena Vista Winery.

Buena Vista Today – Renovated by Jean-Charles Boisset

Fast forward to the present, where the winery sits on its original property and is currently owned by Boisset Family Estates, led by Jean-Charles Boisset, who purchased the winery and the historic property in May 2011. Since that time, Jean-Charles had made many improvements, including renovating the old caves, adding a museum, updating the tasting room, and creating the famous “White Room,” filled with priceless antiques and chandeliers.

The original hand-dug caves are still on site and after reconstruction; they have been re-opened to visitors for tours. The visitor center, located inside the old wine press house, provides access to the original champagne cellar as well as many other amenities. Boisset continues to make the winery the best it can be, and the efforts he has brought forth have surely been noticed.

A Tasting of Three Famous Buena Vista Wines

FullSizeRenderrAmber led the members of WineSense club through a tasting that featured three Buena Vista wines. The included a 2014 Buena Vista Chardonnay, a 2012 Buena Vista Pinot Noir, both from Carneros, and a 2013 Sheriff. The latter was a powerful wine brimming with personality and a bold combination of Cabernet, Merlot, Petite Sirah, Syrah, and Grenache. Amber walked the students through the characteristics of each wine tasted, and then encouraged them to visit the winery to taste many of their other special varietals.

Favorite Wine of the Evening – A Bow to the 2013 Sheriff

At the conclusion of the meeting, club members were asked to vote for their favorite wine of the evening. Each participant could vote once and with a unanimous vote, the 2013 Buena Vista Sheriff was clearly not only the favorite, but the winner of the evening. It was an enriching night and a wondeful educational tasting that students will not forget any time soon.

 

Why Millennials Don’t Read Emails

Last night we had our annual SSU Wine Club Board planning meeting at my house.  This is usually a relaxed event where we identify the wineries we want to invite to campus next semester, and enjoy a BBQ dinner with many fun wines.  This year’s planning dinner was equally enjoyable, but I was struck by our conversation about how we will promote our educational tasting seminars.

“We will market the seminars via word of mouth and Facebook, of course,” said our new VP of Marketing.  “Most college students never read emails.”

As a college professor, I already knew this, but I was concerned because so many businesses still require email communication.  “Well, I will read email if it is part of my job or a grade depends on it,” another board member responded “but Facebook or texting are much more reliable.”

I leaned back in my chair, took another sip of wine, and scratched my head — feeling trapped in an electronic communication time warp.  It seems that with each new technology introduction communicating between the generations becomes more complex.

“But what about the Constant Contact email campaign you just mentioned you were using to reach people for your job on campus?” I asked our new VP of Marketing.

“Oh, that is to reach out to alumni and community,” she answered.  “We use Constant Contact to send emails to them, but it just doesn’t work with students.  Instead, I have to communicate with them via Facebook using event postings and special group messages.  I just wish Facebook would allow us to send messages to many individuals, but they are not there yet.”

I sighed and took another sip of wine thinking back to the charity golf tournament I spend the last 6 months organizing.  It was the first year we actually used online registration via Constant Contact for our 19th annual golf tournament, but we could only get half of the players to use it.  The others insisted on completing paper registration forms we sent via regular mail.

“Why is it an issue?” another Millennial Board member interrupted my reverie.  “Email is passé.  We don’t need to bother with it when communicating with people in their twenties.”

But I can’t help thinking about all of the marketing and promotion campaigns that are now forced to use multiple platforms to reach different generations.  We live in a time when one age group still requires paper communication; a second relies on email; and a third will only respond to text and Facebook.  How and when do we span this technology gulf of ages?