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.

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.

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.

Estate

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.

SSU Wine Sense Club Welcomes Korbel – The Oldest California Champagne Cellar Dating from 1882

IMG_5379(Contributed by Itze Monserrat Pena) The SSU WineSense Club kicked off the Spring 2016 semester with a delicious tasting of sparkling wine and port to celebrate the romantic month of February. Obviously Korbel Champagne Cellars was a “natural” choice to invite to campus for an educational and fun tasting.

A Little Bit of Korbel History

Korbel & Bros. Inc. has an interesting tale that dates back to 1862 where believe it or not, the three Korbel brothers: Francis, Anton and Joseph founded Korbel to make cigar boxes in San Francisco, California. It was an immediate success, which led them to become involved in the export of hardwood and timber. That attracted the brothers to the Russian River Valley of Sonoma County. Over time, they began to plant vineyards on the Russian River property.

By 1882, the brothers were producing up to 30,000 gallons of wine. Due to their success, they decided to devote all their attention to their vineyards. In 1884, they invited Frank Hasek, a champagne master, to assist with production. Hasek brought forth the Methode Champenoise approach to make sparkling wine, and spent the next decade blending the results of different grape harvests to produce the distinctive Korbel style.

Why California Champagne on Label?

Today Korbel is the fourth largest Champagne producer in the United States, and reserves the right to use the term “California Champagne” on its labels. This is because in 2005, the EU and US agreed that the US would no longer use European wine region names, such as Champagne, Sherry, Chablis, etc. on its labels, unless it was a producer that had been doing it for a long time. Korbel fell under these grandfathered rules.  For more info, read.

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A Tasting of Four Korbel Wines

Justin Shushek, a part-time hospitality rep at Korbel and full-time SSU Wine Biz major, led the tasting. The more than 40 people who showed up for SSU’s Wine Sense Club meeting enjoyed a selection of 4 delicious Korbel wines:

  1. 2012 Korbel Natural from the Russian River Valley,
  2. Korbel Brut Rose Romance, a limited edition
  3. Korbel Sec
  4. Korbel Port

Justin walked the students through the characteristics of each wine we tasted and explained that the level of sweetness in a sparkling wine is determined by the dosage, which is added after the wine finishes second fermentation in the bottle.

Favorites Wines of the Evening

FullSizeRenderAt the conclusion of our first meeting, the club members were asked to vote for their favorite wines of the evening.  Each participant could vote once with many going back and forth over their two favorites but in the end, the winner of the evening with not too many votes behind was:

  • SelectorBottles_Natural2012 Korbel Natural from the Russian River Valley in Sonoma

It was a wonderful night and a great way to kick of the start of our Spring 2016 WineSense club with old members and new. The educational tasting is one that students will not forget any time soon and we can’t thank Justin enough for leading us all through the first meeting!

 

A Glimpse into the Life of Bordeaux Buff Dewey Markham

Dewey Markham

Dewey Markham

Contributed by Itze Pena-Andrade – This past Thursday, the WineSense club was very fortunate in that Dewey Markham Jr., an author and wine scholar, lead the club through a wine tasting of fine Bordeaux wines. It was an enriching and educational experience!

Dewey Markham’s Wine Journey

Dewey was born and raised in New York City where he attended and graduated from New York University, with a Bachelor’s degree in English and a Master’s degree in Cinema. During his late twenties, Dewey’s professional direction turned to cuisine. After having worked as a cook for some time, he enrolled in the Culinary Institute of America.

From 1986 to 1989 Dewey lived in Paris, where he was a director of the French cooking school L’Ecole de Cuisine La Varenne and while there, he introduced a wine studies program to the curriculum. This led to his next journey in his life, from cuisine to wine and the passion he has for it.

Upon his return to the US, he worked in two of New York’s leading wine shops and in addition to this; he worked as an Associate Director of the Swiss Wine Information Council. During this time, he was invited back to the Culinary Institute to teach a series of wine courses where he wrote his book Wine Basics.

Now and since 1993, Dewey has lived and worked in Bordeaux. He hosts private wine tours and serves as an ambassador for many amazing Bordeaux wines held all over the world.

Tasting of Five Bordeaux Wines

IMG_0933Dewey presented five different red blends for the attendees to taste:

  • 2012 Château Lilian Ladouys
  • 2012 Château Haut-Bages Liberal
  • 2012 Château Bellevue De Tayac
  • 2012 Château Bernadotte
  • 2012 Château De Panigon

Favorite Wines of the Evening

Of the wines presented, the favorites of the night were:

2012 Château Bellevue de Tayac is a blend consisting of 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 70% Merlot and 10% Petite Verdot, from the Margaux appellation.

2012 Château Haut-Bages Liberal is a blend consisting of  70 % Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Merlot, from the Pauillac appellation.

We cannot thank Dewey enough for his educational presentation, the selection of wines, and lastly for this once in a lifetime tasting experience!

SSU WineSense Club with Dewey Markham

SSU WineSense Club with Dewey Markham

A Tasting With Boutique Wineries Three Sticks and Hamel Family Vineyards


Contributed by Sophia Fish
– The SSU Wine Sense Club was honored to host two unique boutique wineries this week – Three Sticks and Hamel Family Vineyards, both located in Sonoma Valley.

20151105_191655Even better was the fact that both wineries have hired SSU wine business students. Katie Boyer now works at Three Sticks Winery and our Wine Sense President, Rachel Minor, works as an intern at Hamel Family Wines.

Overview of Three Sticks Winery

Three Sticks is a winery that succeeds with Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon. Bill Price purchased Durell Vineyard in 1998, and went on to found Three Sticks Winery in 2002. The winery began producing Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon from it’s 111 acres.

Source of the Name: The name Three Sticks came from “Billy Three Sticks,” a nickname given to Price by surfing friends who teased him about his formal name, William S. Price III.

Winemaking: Three Sticks winemaker is Don Van Staaveren, a former winemaker for Chateau St. Jean in Kenwood. Its winemaking team has recently grown this year with the addition of Bob Cabral as the label’s director of winemaking. Cabral is a gifted winemaker who previously spent 16 years as winemaker at Williams Selyem.

Three Sticks wines are made in very small quantities and are available by allocation only – but don’t fret. If you would like to taste these exclusive wines you are welcome to visit Three Sticks tasting room called the Adobe. The winery recently restored the historic Vallejo-Casteñada Adobe in downtown Sonoma, used for private tastings daily by appointment.

We tasted four wines from Three Sticks:

  • 2013 Durell Vineyard Sonoma Valley Chardonnay: Aromas of ginger, citrus, roasted almonds, sandalwood, with a creamy complex finish.
  • 2013 Durell Vineyard Sonoma Valley ORGIN Chardonnay: Notes of lemon blossom, fresh fig, citrus and summer peach.
  • 2013: Durell Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir: Essence of blackberries, mushrooms, soft leather, dark cherries and earth.
  • 2013 Gaps Crown Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir: Aromas of raspberry, cranberry and black cherry, with a wonderful balance of spice and fruit.

Hamel Family Wines – A Family Affair

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Hamel Family at Winery

Hamel Family Wines was founded in 2006, when George Hamel Jr. and his wife, Pamela, looked to Wine Country as a place to escape the summers in San Francisco. It all started when the Hamels purchased a home on the Tres Palmas Vineyard in Kenwood. After that it quickly became a family affair, with John Hamel II as the winemaker and George Hamel III as the managing director.

The Lowdown on the Logo:You may be wondering about the unique label chosen for the brand. There are many reasons why this logo was chosen, but the most significant is the family’s three generations of University of Wisconsin graduates; George, George Jr. and John Hamel II. The schools mascot is a badger. Go Badgers!

The Winemaking: One thing that is special about Hamel Family Wines is that everything is grown on its estate, meaning it has full control over the quality of wine produced. The winery’s land is certified organic, and it expects to its biodynamic certificate in two to four years. It originally produced 290 cases, and increased to 4,500 this year. These wines are sold exclusively at its Sonoma Valley tasting room, as well as some upscale restaurants such as The French Laundry and The Girl & The Fig.

We tasted three wines from Hamel Family:

  • 2014 Sonoma Valley Estate Rose: Aromas of white peach, red berries, orange zest, and ginger.
  • 2012 Sonoma Valley Isthmus: Notes of tobacco, dark fruit, earth and cassis.
  • 2013 Sonoma Valley Estate Old Vine Zinfandel: Aromas of strawberries, apricots, dark berries and cocoa

Favorite Wines of the Evening

IMG_0612 (1)IMG_0613After voting for the two top favorite wines, the winners were:

  • 2013 Gaps Crown Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
  • 2013 Armor Plate Estate Zinfandel

Raving about Rare Cat Wines at SSU WineSense Meeting

coins(1)Contributed by Sophia Fish – The name of Rare Cat Winery was inspired by an ancient Carthaginian coin dating back to 320 BC, with a beautiful picture of a majestic lion on one side and the Goddess Tanit on the other side. Since the goal of the winery was to make “exquisite wines, something truly beautiful and a little hard to come by: in short something of a ‘rare cat’” this was a perfect symbol and name.

Rare Cat Wines – The love of wine began in Bordeaux

Sharon Harris is the owner and director of winemaking, and her passion for wine started over 30 years ago. She spent her junior year abroad in France where Sharon studied at the Universite de Bordeaux. Years later, armed with a remarkable Bordeaux experience, she returned to the states to Napa Valley and founded Rare Cat Wines.

“Creating wine is so much more than cultivating and bottling great fruit. It really is a passion. It’s a passion that drives us to create something rare and exquisite, something elusive, but something that once discovered remains with you forever,”  says Sharon Harris.

Tasting of Two Rare Cat Wines

Rare CatWe were honored to taste these two wines from Rare Cat Winery:

  •  2010 Russian River Valley R.Cat Chardonnay: Ginger root, spicy pear, pineapple, lemon curd backed by hint of minerality with a creamy yet lively texture. 
  • 2011 Napa Valley R.Cat Cabernet Sauvignon: Soft yet powerful tannins with characteristics of blackberries, mint, leather and wet stone.

Most everyone agreed that their favorite was the Rare Cat Cabernet Sauvignon.

Passing Around Passaggio Wines at SSU WineSense Meeting

Passaggio_TRContributed by Sophia Fish – Four generations ago Cindy Cosco’s family ventured from Italy to America. In 2004 Cindy, who spent 15 years developing a career in law enforcement, left to pursue her passion and create a new generation of wines. She then started Passaggio Wines, which in Italian translates to ‘passage’ or ‘pass from’.

Cindy has three labels, one of which is her goodwill bottling, a small label is called Unmarked Wines. The name comes from her career in law enforcement, aspiring to be a detective and drive an unmarked car. She put these aspirations aside to pursue her winemaking, but donates 5% of sales as a tribute to the selfless men and women in law enforcement.

Passiaggio Wines has been very successful venture and even opened up a tasting room on the Sonoma Square last year. “I believe something magical happens when you bring wonderful friends, awesome food and great wines together,” says Cindy Cosco

Tasting of Four Passaggio Wines

Passagio winesWe tasted the following four Passaggio Wines:

  • 2014 Lake County Sauvignon Blanc: Notes of citrus, guava, pineapple, tropical fruit, floral notes, balanced acidity with a lasting finish.
  • 2014 California Unoaked Chardonnay: Yellow apple, Bartlett pear, floral notes with hints of vanilla, citrus, Meyer lemon, soft apple, crisp mineral flavors with a smooth finish.
  • 2014 California Mourvedre Rose: Strawberry, floral, raspberry, cherry with a bright refreshing finish.
  • 2013  Sonoma County Unmarked Pinot Noir: Raspberry, red cherry, spice, plum clove, with minerality, balanced tannins and acidity.

The Favorites?

2014 California Unoaked Chardonnay

2014 Sonoma County Unmarked Pinot Noir

Wine club

Sparkling Wine, Port & Chocolate Truffle Tasting with Mumm and Sonoma Portworks

SSU Wine Sense Club Tasting

SSU Wine Sense Club Tasting

(Contributed by Erica Schreckenghaust) – Bring on the sparkle, chocolate, and the heady taste of port please! This was the siren’s call of a recent SSU Wine Sense Club meeting, where students were introduced to Olivia Najjar from Mumm Napa and Bill Reading from Sonoma Portworks!

About Mumm Napa

Most people recognize that Mumm Champagne was started in France, but Mumm has also been in Napa Valley for many years. The founding president and wine maker, Guy Devaux, worked with an architect in 1986 to create the Domaine Mumm facility in Rutherford. Three years later the first vintage of DVX, in honor of Guy, was produced.

mummIn 1990 the winery underwent a name change from Domaine Mum to Mumm Napa, and officially opened up to the public. In 2002, Ludovic Dervin was named head winemaker and has worked on many custom projects, such as a collaboration with Carlos Santana to create a series of customized sparkling wines to benefit the Milagro Foundation. Mumm was recognized in 2012 as the first sparkling winery to receive 94 pointes from the Wine Spectator for their 2004 DVX.

Olivia poured four of their most popular sparkling wines; the 2010 Blanc de Blancs, 2007 DVX and a non-vintage Brut Rosé and Demi Sec. 

About Sonoma Portworks

Next we welcomed Bill Readings, the owner and portmaker at Sonoma Portworks, the first place in Sonoma County to make port. He explained that his love of port began accidentally when chocolate essence was dropped into an after dinner wine. Suddenly, Bill was obsessed with creating the perfect chocolate port, which later became the first in the country.

petaluma-roomSonoma Portworks is also responsible for revolutionizing traditional port packaging, through the use of sleek contemporary bottles and labels. The first tasting room was opened in 2002 in Kenwood, but today do the only taste room in Petaluma.

Bill brought three different ports for us to try; Petite Verdot port, Petite Sirah port, and Deco port. 

Favorites Wines of the Evening

Mumm_WineBottles_NoVintage_BdeBlancs-LG_f1f8decoAt the end of the tasting, the students voted on their favorite sparkling and port wines.  The winners were:

  • Mumm Napa Blanc de Blancs 2010 ($42) made up of mostly Chardonnay and some Pinot Gris. Light and fruity, Blanc de Blancs means “white of whites”.
  • Sonoma PortWorks Deco Port ($20, 500ml) – composed of Zinfandel grapes blended with Grenache, Alicante Bouschet and natural chocolate essence.

We cannot thank Olivia and Bill enough for taking time to show us their amazing wines!

SSU Winesense Board Confirms Spring 2015 Tasting Schedule

SSU Winesense Board at Annual Planning Dinner

SSU Winesense Board at Annual Planning Dinner

The wine tasting schedule for SSU’s Winesense Club has just been confirmed for Spring 2015 and the line-up of wineries is mouthwatering.

Jan. 29 – The Magical Wines of Matanzas Creek

Feb. 12 – Valentine’s Day Tasting with Sonoma Port Works & Mumm Napa

March 12 – Big Reds with Styker

April 9 – Innovative Wines with Delicato

April 23 – Pinot Envy with Gary Farrell

Meetings start at 7pm and are held in the Bennett Valley Room in the new Student Union Building. The Membership fee is $30 for the semester and includes all 5 tastings.

Field Trips Also Planned

A new addition to the Winesense Club agenda this semester is a series of field trips on Fridays.  The current schedule is:

Feb. 27 – St. Helena Barrel Cooperage

March 27 – NovaVine Nursery

April 17 – Heidrun Meadery

May 8 – Korbel Champagne Cellars

For more information, please contact SSU Winesense Club President,  Christina Vizcaino at vizcaino@seawolf.sonoma.edu