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.

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

 

 

 

Swimming Pools and a Wine Wonderland – A Delightful Tasting with Francis Ford Coppola Winery

(Contributed by Itze Monserrat Peña-Andrade) This week’s SSU WineSense Club meeting was quite thrilling in that we welcomed Francis Ford Coppola Winery for the very first time. The meeting and educational tasting was led by Kevin Patterson and Kaila Medina, both Hospitality Professionals working in tasting room operations. They provided information about the history, products, and special amenities at the winery.

Swimming Pool at Francis Ford Coppola Winery

The Unique Attributes of Francis Ford Coppola Winery in Sonoma County

Nestled on what was formerly Chateau Souverain Winery in Geyserville, California, Francis Ford Coppola Winery is a winery that is not to be missed.  When the winery was being renovated, Francis had a vision that it:

“Should be like a resort, basically a wine wonderland, a park of pleasure where people of all ages can enjoy the best things in life – food, wine, music, dancing, games, swimming and performances of all types. A place to celebrate the love of life!”

Today his vision is a reality, and the Coppola Winery is truly a Wine Wonderland!  Influenced by Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, the winery offers many delights for the visitors of all ages. With swimming pools, bocce courts, restaurants, event rooms, multiple tasting bars, and a Hollywood movie museum, the winery over delivers with fun activities to while away an afternoon and evening.

Some of the unique features include several of Coppola’s Oscar statues, along with memorabilia from his movies, such as Vito Corleone’s desk from The Godfather and a restored 1948 Tucker Sedan as was used in Tucker: The Man and His Dream. 

Restaurant at Francis Ford Coppola Winery

Kevin Leads Wine Tasting at SSU

Kevin and Kaila led the members of WineSense club through a tasting that featured a diverse selection of five Coppola wines:

  • 2014 Directors Cut Russian River Valley Chardonnay
  • 2014 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
  • 2013 Directors Cut Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel
  • 2014 Directors Cut Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 2012 Directors Cut Cinema Blend

They explained the special characteristics of each wine we tasted, and provided background information on the labels and unique packaging. These five delicious wines were but a glimpse of the many wines that Francis Ford Coppola Winery offers, and we were invited to visit the tasting room in the future.

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Favorites Wines of the Evening

At the conclusion of the meeting, the Millennial participants were asked to vote for their two favorite wines of the evening. The winners were:

2012 Directors Cut Cinema ($39) – A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel, this wine exudes blackberries, violets, spice and vanilla.

2013 Directors Cut Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel ($27).  Red zinfandel with notes of mixed berries, cherries and licorice, plus a hint of nutmeg.

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SSU WineSense Executive Board at Francis Ford Coppola Eduational Tasting

 

Duckhorn Winery Explains Waterfowl Theme to SSU Millennials

(Contributed by Itze Monserrat Peña-Andrade) The story of Duckhorn Winery and how it has expanded on its waterfowl theme over the years was the topic of our most recent SSU WineSense Club meeting. Led by winemaker, Michael Accurso, he captivated the audience with both words and a tasting of four delectable wines.

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Michael Accurso with SSU Winesense Board Members 

A Little Bit of Duckhorn History

Duckhorn Vineyards was founded by Dan and Margaret Duckhorn in 1976. Throughout the forty years it has been in operation, Duckhorn Vineyards has established itself as one of North America’s premier producers of Napa Valley wines. From its modest inaugural vintage of 800 cases of Cabernet Sauvignon and 800 cases of Merlot in 1978, to its addition of Sauvignon Blanc in 1982, Duckhorn Vineyards has crafted a tradition of quality and excellence that continues to this day.

Duckhorn Winery in Napa Valley

As time passed on, Duckhorn added more brands to its winery, making sure to keep to the waterfowl theme. This was not only because Dan and Margaret had a last name of “Duckhorn,” but because they have always enjoyed birds, especially waterfowl. Therefore, the first brand they added was Paradox in 1994, followed by Golden Eye, Migration, and Decoy and Canvas Back in the ensuring years. Today several of these brands have their own winery with tasting rooms open to the public.

Michael Leads Wine Tasting at SSU

Michael led the members of WineSense club through a tasting that featured four of the brands offered by Duckhorn.  These included:

  • 2013 Migration Chardonnay from the Russian River Valley
  • 2012 Goldeneye Pinot Noir from the Anderson Valley
  • 2012 Duckhorn Vineyards Merlot from the Napa Valley
  • 2012 Paradoxx Red Blend from the Napa Valley

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The Favorite Wine of the Evening

At the conclusion of the meeting, the Millennial students in attendance were asked to vote for their favorite wine of the evening. Each participant could vote once and the favorite of the evening was the 2012 Goldeneye Pinot Noir.

It was an enriching night, the educational tasting that Michael provided kept everyone entertained and laughing. We can’t thank him enough for joining us in leading us all through this fantastic experience!

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Favorite Wine of the Evening — Golden Eye 2012 Pinot Noir

 

Kicking Off with Kenwood Winery – First Fall 2015 Tasting of SSU Wine Sense Club

SSU Winesense Kenwood Winery Tasting

SSU Winesense Kenwood Winery Tasting

Contributed by Sophia Fish – Cheers to a great first Wine Sense Club meeting for Fall 2015! We were very excited to welcome Maxwell Burns and our very own VP of Operations Matt Lopez from Kenwood Vineyards to come speak with us about their fabulous winery.

Kenwood Vineyards – Historic & Sustainable Cellar

Kenwood Vineyards was established in 1970 formerly the Pagani Brothers Winery, a historic cellar dating back to 1906. Kenwood Vineyards is devoted to producing premium wines truly representative of Sonoma County’s world class vineyards.

Kenwood Vineyards is committed to making the finest wines and treating the earth with the utmost respect. They are doing this by following sustainable growing practices . They stand by this philosophy and make every effort to reduce waste, recycle and lower their energy consumption.

Tasting of 4 Magnificent Kenwood Wines

2014 Sonoma County Sauvignon Blanc: The first is a Sauvignon Blanc with fruit sourced from vineyards located in five different appellations in Sonoma County. Aromas of white nectarine, honeydew melon and lemongrass combine with citrus and tropical flavors that give a crisp and refreshing finish.

Kennwood wines2012 Sonoma County Reserve Merlot: Next we had a 2012 Reserve Merlot from Sonoma County. The production of this reserve wine was limited to less than six percent of Kenwood Vineyards’ Merlot production. This wine is full of enticing fruit aromas of fig, plum and black cherry join with spicy notes of nutmeg.

2012 Jack London Vineyard Zinfandel: We felt incredibly lucky to taste the 2012 Zinfandel from Kenwood’s Jack London Vineyard. It was interesting to learn that over 30 years, Kenwood Vineyards has exclusively crafted wine from the single vineyards of Jack London’s historic ranch. The flavors from these vineyards emanate fruity aromas of raspberry and fig mixed with subtle notes of vanilla and pepper.

2010 Artist Series Cabernet Sauvignon: Last but certainly not least, we were inspired by Kenwood’s 2010 Artist Series Cabernet Sauvignon. The art featured on every bottle incorporates fine wine to make each new Artist Series release an event and every vintage a prime collectible. The Artist Series originally highlighted works by contemporary artists, then 1987 vintage broke with tradition by featuring a painting from Joan Miro.  In the years since, the Artist Series has presented works from other important artists including Pablo Picasso, Henry Miller, Alexander Calder and Vincent van Gogh. This wine is full of fragrant fruit aromas of cassis and black cherry joined with spicy notes of cinnamon.

Favorite Wines of the Evening:

At the conclusion of the tasting, and before prices were revealed, we voted on our favorite wines of the evening.  The winners were:

2010 Artist Series Cabernet Sauvignon

2012 Jack London Vineyard Zinfandel

 

 

The Innovative Wines of Delicato Family Vineyards

Liz Rice of Delicato

Liz Rice of Delicato

The Wine Sense Club had the honor of welcoming back Elizabeth Rice, an SSU alum and one of the founding members of the club, from Delicato Family Vineyards. She has worked at Delicato as their Director of International Marketing and Operations for the last 13 years. She has had the opportunity to travel all over the world representing the various brands under the Delicato portfolio.

Delicato Family Vineyards – 3rd Generation Family Growers in California

Delicato Family Vineyards is a 3rd generation family owned business with over 90 years of grape growing in California. They have a total of 3 wineries and 10 winemakers to create their amazing variety of wines. They are currently in over 70 international markets and have over 4,200 acres of grapes in Napa, Monterey and Lodi. They also proudly display their awards for Winery of the Year in 2011 and 2014.

The Innovative Wines of Delicato

Elizabeth brought 6 different wines from different branches of the Delicato brand, including a few that are only available internationally.

2012 LOFT Sauvignon Blanc: The first is a Sauvignon Blanc premium boxed wine called LOFT. Many people are often turned off by boxed wine, but Delicato is attempting to change this stigma. This wine is a premium wine retailing for about $30 and is for the savvy consumer, as it will stay good for up to three months after opening and even has the appellation on the box itself.

2014 Clay Station Viognier: Next we had a 2014 Viognier from the Clay Station Vineyard in Lodi. This vineyard is made up of 1,300 acres, situated on the slopes 200 feet above the valley.

10169247_10153216514063540_7002120323978289103_n2013 Gnarly Head Petite Syrah: We had a 2013 Gnarly Head Petite Syrah, which is currently only available for purchase in Europe. It’s a wine filled with hints of blackberry, chocolate and coffee beans.

2012 Brazin Old Vine Zinfandel: The Brazin Zinfandel is big and bold, offering flavors of black fruit and mocha and hints of vanilla. It is grown in Lodi and has won many awards such as a Silver Medal in the 2015 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.

2010 Black Stallion Estate Winery Barrel Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon: This Cabernet Sauvignon is a limited production wine (24 barrels total) to celebrate the Year of the Horse grown in Napa Valley.

2012 Earl Stevens Mango­scato: Finally, we tried the Earl Stevens Mango­scato wine, created by platinum selling recording artist, E­40. This wine has a very sweet aroma, 18% alcohol and is not for the faint of heart.

Favorite Wines of the Evening

The favorites of the night were the Clay Station Viognier and the 2010 Black Stallion Reserve Cabernet.

Thank you to Elizabeth for her impressive presentation and sharing many exclusive, innovative and rare Delicato wines!

This post was Contributed by Erica Schreckenghaust.

Learning How to Build Wine Barrels with Yann, Master Cooper with Barrel Builders

20516_10200355661250693_9123931652686203822_n(Contributed by  Erica Schreckenghaust) In the second installment of our field trip series, we had the honor of going to Barrel Builders, a barrel cooperage, in St. Helena.

About Barrel Builders

Barrel Builders was created in 1972, by a handful of French coopers who were sent over to assist Robert Mondavi’s people in the assembly, finish and care of the barrels. At the time Mondavi was one of the few people to begin using French oak barrels and soon after, their popularity spiraled.

Barrel Builders were the pioneers within the industry as they were the only cooperage represented in the US for years to come. Phil Burton started in the shop and has worked his way up in the company to become the sole owner in 2001.  Today, Barrel Builders is still one of the most popular cooperages in the area making quality barrels, tanks, casks and more.

Our Tour of Barrel Builder’s Workshop

11046768_10200355664330770_4861109673719685346_nOn a sunny Friday afternoon a group of Wine Sense members were given a tour of the shop and facility.  The shop manager Yann taught the students the complicated process of assembling a barrel, the process to prepare the barrels to be filled with wine and the common tools used. Yann is a Master Cooper from France and attended Ecole de Tonnellerie de Cognac, a cooper training college where his final exam required him to build a barrel from scratch in 10 hours. To say that he knows his stuff is an understatement.

The student’s feedback on the trip was excellent and we loved the opportunity to see the behind the scenes of the wonderful containers that hold and develop our favorite beverages.

We owe a huge thank you to Barrel Builders for allowing us to come visit!

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Chateau Montelena Sauvignon Blanc Voted Favorite in SSU Tasting of Classic White Grapes

Chateau Montelena in Napa Valley

Chateau Montelena in Napa valley

What is a classic white wine grape? It is a variety that has proved it can produce consistently high quality over a long period of time in more than one region of the world. Therefore, though there are more than 120 commercially produced wine grapes, only 5 are considered to be classic white wine grapes:

  1. Chardonnay – famous in Burgundy, Sonoma and many other regions of the world
  2. Sauvignon Blanc – famous in the Loire, Bordeaux, New Zealand and many other region
  3. Riesling – famous in Germany, Austria and Australia
  4. Chenin Blanc – famous in the Loire and South Africa
  5. Semillon – famous in Bordeaux and Australia

wineIn a blind tasting of these five famous varietals in Bus 305W, the 42 Millennial wine  business majors identified Chateau Montelena’s 2013 Sauvignon Blanc as their favorite – even over a  delicious Semillon based Sauternes from France.

Students described Chateau Montelena’s wine as having a nose of grapefruit with appealing notes of kiwi, grass and lemon on the palate and a refreshing acidity. Made in a white Bordeaux style with moderate oak aging, the wine sells for $35 at the winery.

 

Matanzas Creek and VJB Cellars Kick Off Spring 2015 Tasting at SSU Winesense Club

Lavendar Field at Mantanzas Creek Winery

Lavender Field at Mantanzas Creek Winery

(Contributed by Erica Schreckenghaust) The Wine Sense Club members kicked off the spring semester with two special tastings with Judy and Bradford from Matanzas Creek Winery and Micah, Mike and Ryan from VJB Vineyards & Cellars.

About Matanzas Creek Winery

Matanzas Creek was founded in 1977, and was the first winery located in the Bennett Valley AVA.  Bennett Valley is a very unique area as it is surrounded three beautiful mountains, Sonoma, Bennett and Taylor, creating a perfect pocket for fog and cool air that rolls in from the Pacific Ocean. The estate is filled with native grasses, whimsical olive trees and beautiful lavender fields.

Judy and Bradford led us through a tasting of four of their most popular wines accompanied with a sensory kit containing various spices, rose petals and more to help aid students taste descriptors during the sensory evaluation of the wines. They stressed the idea that there is never a wrong answer in what you taste in a wine since everyone’s palate is very different, allowing people to pick up certain flavors more than others. They poured their 2012 Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, 2011 Merlot and the 2013 Pinot Noir.

About VJB Vineyards & Cellars

Mike and Ryan from VJB Cellars

Micah, Mike and Ryan from VJB Cellars

VJB Vineyards & Cellars is located in Sonoma where the Belmonte Family opened their doors for the first time in 2003. The name is a tribute to the youngest son, Victor Joseph Belmonte, who died unexpectedly. They pride themselves on offering some of the most popular and most obscure Italian varietals. Their wines can be paired with a cheese and meat platter from their deli or homemade pizza in their outdoor pizza oven. It’s the perfect place to enjoy a nice sunny day.

We tasted three of their very popular wines: the 2013 Primitivo, 2013 Negro Amaro and the 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon as a special treat, thanks to Mike.

Favorite Wines of the Evening

IMG_5751IMG_5757At the end of the evening, everyone voted on their two favorite wines. The winners were:

  • Mantanzas Creek 2013 Pinot Noir – a blend of Clone 777 from Bennett Valley and the Calera Clone from Haarstad. Complex cherry and spice with a hint of rose petals.
  • VJB 2013 Primitivo – the Italian cousin of Zinfandel from Sonoma Valley. Bright red fruit with aromas of strawberries and berry bramble.

Holiday Wines with Freemark Abbey

SSU Winesense Board for Holiday Wine Tasting with Freemark Abbey

SSU Winesense Board for Holiday Wine Tasting with Freemark Abbey

Contributed by Erica Schreckenghaust – For our final meeting of the semester we had the pleasure of welcoming Kate Hansen from Freemark Abbey.  She was kind enough to share 6 fabulous wines to help us celebrate the holiday season and forget final exam stress for a couple of hours.

Unique History of Freemark Abbey

Freemark Abbey has a history of standing out from the rest, as it was the first winery built by a woman in the United States in 1886, by Josephine Tychson. The unique name was a combination of the three owners names: Charles Freeman, Marquand Foster and Abbey Ahern. In 1976 Freemark Abbey was the first American winery to have two wines, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, entered into Stephen Spurrier’s Judgment of Paris blind tasting which brought worldwide attention to Napa Valley. They are also known for being the first winery in Napa to use stainless steel tanks.

Favorite Wines of the Evening

boscheA group of thirty-five students tried six different wines including, 2013 Riesling, 2013 Chardonnay, 2012 Cabernet Franc, 2012 Merlot, 1998 Cabernet Bosché and 2010 Cabernet Bosché . All of the wines were a hit but the two stood out from the rest as decided by students were the:

  • 2012 Cabernet Franc from Napa Valley
  • 1998 Cabernet Bosché, a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon from the Bosché Estate in Rutherford

Freemark is full of historically fantastic wines and was the perfect way to kick off the holiday celebrations. On behalf of the WineSense Executive Board, we wish you a holiday season filled with great food, friends and family, and some spectacular wines! Cheers!