Wine that Connects Cultures, from Asia to America and Beyond

Making a great wine is an orchestration of art and science, passion and hard work. ShunYi Cellars caught my attention recently, which started with the Founder’s personal story of wine discovery that inspired his mission to craft quality wines showcasing premium Californian terroir to bridge cultures and share values.

ShunYi’s inaugural wines in their vineyards.

Meaning of Shun Yi

Emperor Shun, highly regarded for his wisdom and integrity, is said to come from the city of Jinan in Shandong Provence, where Founder George Zhang was born. Residents of Jinan are known as “Shun Yi” – descendants of Shun. Interestingly, Shandong is also home to multiple UNESCO sites, the birthplace of Confucius, and a hub for Buddhist and Taoist scholars.

Founder George Zhang

Masterminds behind ShunYi

George developed a passion for wine especially while managing Credit Risk for a major bank in Napa, where he gained deep knowledge of wine business operations and a strong network. He partnered with esteemed winemaker Byron Kosuge, a Davis native with 30 years of winemaking experience, known for his premium Pinot Noir finesse, to start ShunYi in summer 2019. As of today, ShunYi is already working on their second harvest featuring St. Helena, while preparing to release their inaugural 2019 vintage in early 2021, a very small production of Santa Lucia Mountains Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

Winemaker Byron Kosuge

Wine with a Heart

Each bottle tells a personal story which may also resonate with many. The wines are ingeniously named, the Pinot Noir, “Chong Feng” 重逢 , to reunite, and the Chardonnay, “Xiang Si” 相思, a deep sentiment of thinking about loved ones. George’s father was a scholar in California during George’s childhood in China, before his family moved over. George still remembers reuniting with his father at the train station when he returned from his studies. Having lived in California for over half his life now, George still feels deep sentiment for loved ones around the world. The beauty of wine is sharing it as a gift of love and are even when apart, as we have experienced especially since the pandemic.

Artist painted calligraphy against Chinese abstract painting, and the ShunYi logo.

Tradition meets Modern

The unique artistry of the bottles struck me: I have never seen a wine label with Chinese calligraphy against an elegant Chinese painting background – a touch of tradition meets modern, east meets west. The ShunYi logo is embossed at the metal capsule of every bottle.

Santa Lucia Pinot Noir that go into ShunYi bottles

What’s next? California wine + Chinese food pairing

Although ShunYi is not officially on the market, they are actively sharing their winemaking journey on social media, and I have joined their mailing list. ShunYi also plans to partner with select fine Chinese restaurants. How does Chinese food pair with wine? More than sweet and sour pork, Chinese cuisine encompasses a diversity of regional cuisines. George recently enjoyed a rich Peking Duck with luscious Pinot Noir, for instance. Pinot Noir, especially from cooler climates with less tannins and bright acidity, pairs well with fattier pork and duck, or even fried foods. A crisp, less oaky Chardonnay pairs well with stir fries like fried rice, noodles, moo shu pork, or even dim sum. Try it for yourself!   

Peking duck pairs well with Pinot Noir.

Celebrate Champagne Day This Friday with These Ideas!

This Friday (Oct 23) marks the 11th annual global Champagne Day. Besides sharing a bottle with family and friends, learning about the art of Champagne (see resources below), you can also try some delicious Champagne food pairings while playing a special Champagne playlist. Although it comes in a great variety, Champagne in general is surprisingly versatile to pair with different types of cuisines and tastes.

Credit: Comite Champagne

Know Your Dryness/Sweetness

First, pay attention to the sweetness/dry scale of your Champagne. If you are serving more than one bottle, start with the driest, working up to the sweetest.
The designations for Champagne from driest to sweetest are:

  • brut nature (driest)
  • extra brut
  • brut
  • extra dry/extra sec
  • dry/sec
  • demi-sec
  • doux/sweet (sweetest)
These champagnes all have different sweetness levels. Credit: Comite Champagne.

Dry Champagne pairings

A dry champagne with rounded acidity could pair well with shellfish seafood, such as oysters, shrimps and lobsters, but also rich soft cheeses like brie or camembert, or even devilled eggs. For mains, try buttery dishes like a cream-based pasta, such as alfredo, or earthy dishes like a mushroom risotto, or even a vegetable galette. To finish, a classic shortbread butter cookie pairs splendidly with a dry Champagne. If you like something tart, lemon meringue, crepes or cheesecake could work too.

Creamy, earthy dishes like this mushroom pasta pairs well with dry Champagne.

Rosé Champagne

With a bit more body, Rosé Champagnes could take more meatier and savory dishes, such as smoked salmon, cold cuts like prosciutto, fattier fish like tuna steak, and dishes with a hint of spice, or even duck. For sweet endings, try chocolate with raspberries, or, of course, chocolate-dipped berries of your choice.

Try Rosé with smoked salmon and rich cream cheese.

Sweet Champagne

Champagne pairs well with many fruits that complement their undertones, especially berries, lemon and peach. For desserts, try some subtly sweet flavors with slightly buttery or creamy textures, such as lemon snap cookies, vanilla ice cream with blueberries, or simply a handful of toasted hazelnuts or almonds.

A simple tart-based fruit like lemon curd complements the acidity of Champagne.

Surprise!

Guess what, you don’t need to break the bank for fancy oysters and Canapés to enjoy Champagne. Here are some everyday foods that Champagne complements just as well with:

  • Anything fried, such as chips and potato fries, as the crisp acidity of Champagne cuts through the fattiness. The heavier the food, the more acidic the Champagne should be.
  • Mac n’ Cheese: Use milder cheese so to not overwhelm the Champagne.
  • Chili con carne: a Champagne can balance its spiciness and sweetness.
  • Buttered popcorn with sweet Champagne
  • Egg rolls with chili sauce
  • A classic burger with pickles
Many simple foods pair just as well with Champagne.

Learn about Champagne!

If you want to learn more about Champagne, check out these resources: Champagne: From Cellar to Table Aroma Development of Champagne WinesTasting Sheet.

And of course, don’t forget to share with family and friends and post photos on social media for #ChampagneDay!   

Exquisite Wine and Dine Open-Air at the Breathtaking Ram’s Gate Winery

Known for their small lot premium wines, innovative culinary experiences and beautiful farmhouse-meets-modern design, Ram’s Gate is a modern winery nestled between Sonoma and Napa at the heart of Carneros Valley. This fall, Ram’s Gate will open new Veranda and Arbor venues for private outdoor tasting experiences. The very first Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs by Director of Winemaking Joe Nielsen, who joined Ram’s Gate team in 2018, will also be released. These wines will be featured throughout the tastings and available for purchase at the winery. 

Ram’s Gate Winery

Veranda By the Fire

The new Veranda Experience offers guests a privately hosted tour by an in-house wine expert, tasting of five wines with locally sourced cheese and charcuterie, and a complimentary Ram’s Gate blanket per guest to sit by the outdoor fire. This experience is available Thursdays, Fridays, Sundays and Mondays, at $165 per person.

Open-air tasting areas at Ram’s Gate.

Innovative Culinary Experience at The Vineyard Table

If you want a special Chef prepared experience with friends, the Arbor Experience is a six-course wine-pairing of seasonal, locally grown produce prepared by Executive Chef Stacey Combs, paired with selections by Nielsen at the Vineyard Table under the Arbor, with a tour of the winery and vineyards before the six-course pairing. This two-hour experience for up to 10 is available beginning October 16 at $275 per person.

Wine and dine at Ram’s Gate.

Open-air Tasting and Pairing

Notably, the Ram’s Gate tasting room is designed by renowned architect Howard Backen, as a modern take on the weathered farmsteads of old Carneros, blending the indoor and outdoor spaces. You can experience the Open-Air Tasting with a 5 wine flight at $50 per person, and an additional three-course Wine & Food Pairing Experience for a total of $105 per person.

Wine flight at Ram’s Gate.

Planning Your Visit

The Ram’s Gate tasting room is open Thursday-Monday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Reservations are required and can be made at https://www.exploretock.com/ramsgatewinery/.

A Silver Lining for Chianti Classico

Needless to say, 2020 has been challenging for most of us. Fortunately, some vintners in Italy are trying to make the most of the situation despite an overall decline in wine sales. Chianti Classico Consortium, one of the oldest Italian wine consortiums with 515 Chianti producer members, remarks how vineyards have “never looked so good” as a result of winemakers having extraordinary time to dedicate greater care on the 2020 vintage.

Beautiful vineyard slopes of Chianti.

New opportunities for Chianti wineries

To provide extra support for Chianti producers and boost local economy, the organization launched several initiatives, such as financing schemes and a wine tasting program collaborating with top restaurants around Tuscany. This situation also forced some wineries to rethink their online presence. For Ricasoli winery, which boasts an 800-year old Castello di Brolio family castle, started an online campaign on social media that includes sharing a Chianti “recipe” from 1872 by Ricasoli ancestors, a video showing Sophia Loren in their vineyards, and using drones to take footages. 

The Castello di Brolio owned by Ricasoli family in Siena. Credit: Ricasoli
One of the Chianti wine and dine participating restaurants

A Silver Lining?

Since Italy’s coronavirus measures started easing in July, visitors are slowly starting to increase. While sales has clearly not recovered to pre-pandemic levels, the Consortium believes that 2020 may just turn out to be an exceptional vintage as a result of the extra resources dedicated to it.

Safely distanced outdoor dining at one of the participating Chianti restaurants.

About the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico:

The Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico exists to protect, oversee, and valorize the Chianti Classico denomination. Since the Consortium’s founding in 1924, the organization has changed its name and the design of its logo, the Black Rooster, which since 2005 has been the trademark of the whole denomination. As one of the premier institutional organizations in the European Union in the grape-growing and winemaking sector, the Consortium represents 96 percent of the DOCG production. The entire production chain is supervised by a public tracking system, which enables consumers all over the world to check the bottle they’ve purchased via the Consortium’s website. The Consortium also conducts research and development in the agronomic and enological fields, in collaboration with prestigious educational and research institutes. For more information, please visit https://www.chianticlassico.com/

Breathless Winery Wins “Rising Wine Star Winery of the Year” Award

In less than 10 years since it opened, Breathless Wines has already won multiple awards, including the San Francisco Wine Competition, American Fine Wine Competition, Wine Enthusiast, among others. This time, it is awarded by LuxeSF, a luxury marketing organization, as their “Rising Wine Star Winery of The Year”, after a tough competition with 74 other nominations across 5 award categories, selected by a 14-person panel of respected industry veterans.

Have you tried Breathless Wines yet? They are currently offering a special duo Blanc De Noir and Brut Rose pack at $60 including shipping this week until September 18. Better yet, you could visit their winery in downtown Healdsburg and try a flight of 4 wines for just $16 in their outdoor patio, or join their Friday Bubbly Happy Hour, or try a Breakfast at Breathless Breton Crepe paired with their sparkling on September 27. For more options, check this page out!

Breathless Brut in their flutes.
Lady on a Flying Cork, a poster from 1920s, used as Breathless Wines Logo.

Frank Family Vineyards Welcomes You Back to Napa with “Sweet Caroline” Parody

Frank Family Vineyards reopened for in-person, by-appointment tastings on June 10th. The entire Frank Family team celebrated the winery reopening with a music video parody of Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline”, featuring Patrick Davis of Songwriters in Paradise on guitar and vocals. Frank Family’s Marketing Manager Marisa McCann wrote the lyrics, covering their new safety protocols in light of COVID-19 regulations, such as limited party sizes, outdoor seating, and requirement of personal face coverings.  

A Snapshot of the Welcome Back “Sweet Caroline” Parody. Credit: Frank Family Vineyards

Welcome Message From Owner Rich Frank

“While the world has changed, our passion for sharing wine and memories with our guests has not,” says Owner Rich Frank who plays the role of Welcome Crew, Dancer and Sign Holder in the video. “We are so grateful to welcome guests back to Frank Family. In addition to our patio seating, we’ve set up tables outside in our front courtyard so that guests may sit with proper distance between them, and also enjoy our beautiful surroundings.”  

Two Reservation-only Premium Tastings

Frank Family Vineyards is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., offering two tastings by reservation only: the “Estate Tasting” ($50) on the back patio, estate courtyard and on the front lawn, and the “Wines of Winston Hill Reserve Tasting” ($70) held only in the courtyard.

About Frank Family Vineyards
Frank Family Vineyards was founded in 1992 by former Disney Studios president Rich Frank. First constructed as the Historic Larkmead Winery in 1884, the stone building on property is the third oldest in Napa and appears on the national Register of Historical Places. Today, Frank Family owns over 380 acres of vineyards in the Napa Valley, and in 2015 received Napa Green certifications for both the land and winery. Frank Family’s reputation for having the friendliest hospitality in Napa Valley has fans flocking to the tasting room on Larkmead Lane, which was named “Best Napa Winery” by the Bay Area A-List for eight years in a row, making it one of the most popular tasting rooms in wine country. The Patriarch was recently ranked #5 in California Cabernet by Vivino and the 2016 Lewis Vineyard Chardonnay Reserve as one of the Top 30 White Wines of 2020 and awarded it the #2 best Chardonnay in Napa for 2020. Frank Family’s Napa Valley Chardonnay ($38), Pinot Noir ($38), Zinfandel ($38) and Cabernet Sauvignon ($58) are distributed nationally.

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.

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.

SSU WineSense Announces New Executive Board and Fall 2015 Tasting Schedule

2015/2016 Executive Board for SSU Wine Sense Club

2015/2016 Executive Board for SSU Wine Sense Club

The Sonoma State University (SSU) WineSense Club proudly announces the members of the 2015/2016 Executive Board. In addition, they have developed a very exciting line-up of wineries and organizations who will be visiting campus to conduct educational wine tastings throughout the semester.

2015/2016 Executive Board for SSU Wine Sense

  • President: Rachel Minor
  • Vice President: Taylor Hood
  • Treasurer: Justin Stushek
  • VP of Marketing: Jingmei Su
  • VP of Operations & Culinary Experiences: Matt Lopez
  • Director of Membership: Christian Gutierrez
  • Director of Campus Outreach: Sophia Fish
  • Director of Campus Marketing: Jamie Huerta
  • Director of Meetings: Brooke Bartolome
  • Director of Volunteers and Fundraising: Itze Pema-Andrade

SSU Wine Sense Mission

The mission of the SSU Wine Sense Club is to create a responsible, fun and educational environment for all levels of wine enthusiasts to further expand their knowledge and appreciation for the wonderful world of wine. We are dedicated to provide students the opportunity to experience and enjoy events that showcase the wine industry and help students connect with the industry and their leaders.

Fall 2015 Wine Sense Schedule 

Tastings are open to SSU students over the age of 21. Meetings will be held in the Bennett Valley Room of the Student Union beginning at 7pm. Membership fees for the semester are $30, payable at the door. Fees are pro-rated for students who join later in the semester. Each session includes an educational briefing and responsible wine tastings accompanied by appetizers. ID’s are checked at the door for each meeting.

  • Sept 17 – Kenwood Winery
  • Oct. 1 – Somm Select
  • Oct. 15 – Rare Cat Wine
  • Oct. 29 – La Crema & Murphy Goode
  • Nov. 5 – TBD
  • Nov. 19 – Dewey Wines
  • Dec. 3 – TBD

Wineries interested in providing an educational tasting are encouraged to contact SSU Wine Sense Board Members at WinesenseSSU@gmail.com