Sunday, March 28, 2010

Diary of a Mad Winemaker in Southern California

I’m posting this, head spinning and jet-lagged in Athens with my family on spring break, just back from the Napa Valley Vintners Taste Southern California blitz. We poured wine for folks in the wine trade, consumers and journalists. We paired our wines with delicious food at wine dinners. We shared our passion, knowledge and enthusiasm at seminars. It was an opportunity to share a little bit of ourselves.

My trip started Sunday afternoon with a consumer tasting at Wally’s, a long-time Napa Valley supporter. I arrived a bit late and slightly frazzled after wading through snarled traffic dodging the Los Angeles Marathon. We were slammed with knowledgeable, engaged consumers eager to taste the amazing diversity that is Napa Valley wines. Up the street for a an early dinner of marvelous sushi at Sushi Masu, 1911 Westwood Blvd., whipped up by the chef/owner himself.

The trade tasting on Monday was held at the Napa Valley Grille in Westwood and I had the great fortune to be pouring outside on a perfect spring day; the sun came in and out of the clouds and there was a refreshing breeze. I connected with many old friends in the trade and made several new ones. It was also a chance to meet several of the reps for my new broker, Monterey Bay Wine Company. After the tasting I attended a press reception at the W Hotel where a few wineries had a chance to show their wines and chat with several journalists. Among them was a correspondent for Le Monde in Paris who is researching an article on women winemakers. She was surprised to learn that there are so many women involved in the wine business in Napa. Next a mad dash to Julie Brosterman’s house for dinner with an engaging group of women in the wine and food business, including retailers, sommeliers, journalists and bloggers. A testament to social media, I met Julie (Women and Wine, and Wine Valet, a wine shop) on twitter (!).

I had most of Tuesday free of Vintner events so I worked all day with reps from Monterey Bay Wine Company, calling on accounts that had not been able to make it to the trade tasting. Then down to El Segundo that evening to pour with several vintner friends at an event at Flemings for their Magnum Club.

Wednesday started with the long drive down the 405 to Orange County for another trade tasting, this time at the Fairmont in Newport Beach. The tasting was well attended and a great chance to see old friends and meet new potential accounts. Before the tasting I was on a seminar panel with Shari Staglin, Janet Viader and Gary Lipp of Coho. We presented an abridged version of Napa Valley Rocks, a very informative PowerPoint presentation covering climate, the geology of our soils and history, followed by a tasting of each winery's current wine paired with a library selection. It’s always edifying to do a vertical tasting as it gives us so much to talk about including style, terroir and the evolution of wine in the bottle. The trade tasting was followed by another tasting for the Fairmont Presidents Club. Luckily the Fairmont is virtually across the street from the airport as I had an evening flight home. Sad to miss the San Diego leg of the Vintner tour but excited to rendezvous with my family for a long-anticipated spring-break visit to Crete over orthodox Easter.

Phew! Just writing this makes me tired. Looking back, the most remarkable and rewarding thing about the trip was the genuine cooperation and camaraderie among vintners. We get so much more done together.

Cathy Corison

Corison Winery

Friday, March 19, 2010

Auction Napa Valley 2010 - Tickets go on sale March 31st!

Although it's only March, Auction Napa Valley (June 4-5) is right around the corner! Mark your calendar for March 31st, when tickets will go on sale at 8am at In the meantime, check out this great video that captures the weekend's excitement!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A wine list for SoCal Napa wine lovers

We're headed to Southern California next week and on our quest down South, we've come across many Napa Valley wine lovers. Neale Aslett, Director of Wine at Nick and Stef's restaurant in Los Angeles, definitely fits the bill. The wine list at Nick and Stef's features some amazing Napa wines, from a 1998 Heitz Cellars "Martha's Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon to a 2006 Araujo "Eisele Vineyard" Sauvignon Blanc. Read on to learn more about Nick's passion for vino - and visit Nick & Stef's for a glass of your favorite Napa Valley wine!

1. How did you first get interested in wine?

I Lived in Australia in '86 & was amazed at the quality of their Chard and Shiraz.

2. What do you love most about your job?

Walking the vineyard with winemakers and experiencing their passion.

3. What is your favorite food and Napa Valley wine combination?

It is usually something quite mundane-sitting on the patio of a winery, and eating a salad or sandwich with a selection of wines. One of my best experiences was a visit with Florencia Palmaz, her mother Amalia made empanadas and we sat for hours watching the sun set.

4. You just won an overnight trip to Napa Valley - all expenses paid. What does your itinerary look like?

My trips are always "all expenses paid!" Ha. Seriously though, it would involve watching the sun rise in Peju's Persephone Vineyard, lunch with Sterling's Alison Crary looking south into the Valley and a Fellini-like afternoon picnic with my Napa friends on the front lawn of St. Supery.

5. What do you think is the most under-rated or under-appreciated wine in Napa Valley?

That is a tricky one, maybe Juslyn Winery's "Perry's Blend" or Kapscandy 2004 Cab-Merlot blend.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

SoCal or Bust!

The Napa Valley Vintners are headed to Southern California! We'll be taking "SoCal" by storm starting this Sunday, March 21st (click here for the full "Taste Napa Valley - Southern California" itinerary). Consumer events, trade tastings, wine specials in restaurants - LA, the OC and San Diego are about to be immersed in all things Napa Valley!

In celebration of our friends down South, over the next two weeks our blog will feature SoCal lovers of Napa Valley wine. Today, we start our "5 Questions" series with Maurice DiMarino, the Wine Director/Manager of Island Prime Restaurant in San Diego - visit Maurice at Island Prime and enjoy a glass of Napa Valley wine!

1. How did you first get interested in wine?

When I was about 11 or 12 years old, I remember my mom drinking Stag’s Leap Chardonnay. So much later, when I was working in San Francisco as a waiter; I wanted to try the Chardonnay. I decided to take a girlfriend there and kind of show off what I knew about Stag’s Leap. Boy was I was baffled when I arrived at Stags’ Leap Winery. The bottle looked nothing like my mom’s. I was told by the tasting attendant that I was at the wrong winery; man, did I get mud on my face. I realized at that point, that I obviously needed to learn more about wine. To this day I still keep Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Chardonnay on my wine list in tribute to my mom.

2. What do you love most about your job?

I love the fact that wine is brought to me to be evaluated and in turn I share my new finds with our staff and guests. Wine is about sharing and coming together. When people come to celebrate special occasions and have an experience in dining, I get to take part in creating new memories and being part of their experience.

3. What is your favorite food and Napa Valley wine combination?

My favorite dish is simple. A center cut rib-eye with morel mushrooms cooked in cream and truffles, finished with a red wine demiglaze; paired with a Howell Mountain Cabernet, something with acidity and structure.

4. You just won an overnight trip to Napa Valley - all expenses paid. What does your itinerary look like?

Relax, take it easy, and take advantage of not having the kids around! It‘d be simple, no itinerary! May be a trip up Diamond Mountain getting lost and seeing what I’d stumble across. Of course, restaurant hopping; which would have to include foie gras trochon at Bouchon, pigs feet at Bistro Jeanty, and the rest it really doesn’t matter.

5. What do you think is the most under-rated or under-appreciated wine in Napa Valley?

I don’t know if there is a particular winery, but I think that the wines from “Wild Horse Valley” are wines to be on the look out for.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Here Comes the Sun...

After a hail storm yesterday and quite a chilly night, I'm looking forward to spending a few days in Southern California in a couple weeks for the NVV's "Taste Napa Valley" tour. With several events planned for both wine trade and consumers, we're really hitting all the marks and painting the town red!

Good-bye Howell Mountain!

Hello LA traffic!

I spent my morning making travel plans - reserving plane tickets and renting a car to scoot around LA, Orange County and San Diego. (Anyone need to carpool?) I sent out a dozen or so personal invites for the trade tasting to the restaurants and wine shops which best support VIADER & DARE by Viader wines. I've counted every bottle needed and the NVV is collecting it all tomorrow. Have I forgotten anything? Hotel, maybe?

You can come taste wines with me too! I'll be participating in a few consumer tastings, including a wine dinner at Spago's Beverly Hills on Monday March 22nd, and "Nightlife Napa Valley" in Orange County on Wednesday March 24th.

Here's a photo from a tasting event last year:

Janet Viader & Alison Burger

Besides tastings, I will also be "teaching" at a couple wine education seminars. In the LA area, I was invited by Master Sommelier Elizabeth Schweitzer of "Wine, Wisdom and Wit" to speak to her class of wine enthusiasts on "Napa Night" on Tuesday, March 23rd. I'll be pairing up with another vintner, Barry Wiss of Trinchero Family Estates, to discuss Napa Valley's geography and various appellations, and also the important people and historic developments in our local wine industry. I have to credit the NVV for putting the great presentation together. They even gave it a nice whimsical name: "Napa Valley Rocks." I'm also bringing wines to taste from our single-vineyard DARE by Viader wines: Tempranillo from Chiles Valley and Cabernet Sauvignon from St. Helena.

Cin cin!
Janet Viader, sales & marketing at VIADER