First Growth Bordeaux Dinner, September 2011

Last Sunday, we had the opportunity to partner with Chef Osley of Le Cordon Bleu to serve at a dinner thrown by two very dear customers who wanted to do a pairing of all first growth Bordeaux’s from the vintage 1990. Before the dinner, Sal and the host determined the order the wines were to enjoyed based off of their known flavor profiles and tasting notes. The group then tasted each of the wines in a side by side comparison before they were served with food in this order (multiple vintages of the Chateau Mouton were opened because the 1990 was not expected to be good):

  1. Margaux
  2. Haut-Brion
  3. 1990 Mouton
  4. 1986 Mouton
  5. Lafite Rothschild
  6. Latour

The group ranked the wines after tasting them straight out of the bottle and this was the winning order: Lafite, Latour, 1986 Mouton, Haut-Brion, Margaux, and finally the 1990 Mouton.

After some decanting to see how they would open up, the wines were tasted side by side once again and were ranked in the following order: Latour, Lafite, Haut-Brion (which made an amazing jump in quality), Margaux, ’86 Mouton , and lastly the ‘90 Mouton, which never really got better. Both the Latour and Lafite were soft and seductive, complex and well structured and were still able to maintain their youth given their age. The Haut-Brion was tight and aggressive straight out of the bottle but opened up nicely after the decanting. The Margaux was silky, an elegantly feminine wine that drank very well. The ’86 Mouton was originally very tight and after the decanting it opened up uncomfortably while the ’90 was flat from beginning to end.

As for the food, we think the pictures speak for themselves. Check them out along with their descriptions and pairings below, but be prepared to drool! All in all it was a great experience. The hosts were exceptional, the food and wines were simply unparalleled and we were lucky to be a part of it.

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Family Wine Makers – San Francisco

In late August we had the opportunity to attend the Family Wine Makers event in San Francisco. This two day, MASSIVE tasting event (seriously, check out our pics) featured wines from over 300 wineries from all over California. After a busy Saturday night at the shop, Sal, EV and Brittany flew to San Francisco early Sunday morning to meet up with a couple of EV’s college friends and our former employee, Nick, who recently made the move to San Francisco to make a go of it in the big city. Upon our arrival in The City, we got our grub on with some delicious omelettes at the Squat and Gobble in The Haight to prep our stomachs for some serious tasting to come.

The tasting was held at the Fort Mason Center on the water and as soon as we arrived, we hit the ground running. These events are a great opportunity for us to taste new vintages of our old favorites as well as find some new up and comers to bring into the shop. Even with two days, with a tasting this size, we had to divide and conquer. In addition to tasting, these events also give us the opportunity to order wines on the spot and talk to the sales reps, winery owners and wine makers about the wines. Two new wines we were very excited to order are the Carol Shelton “Wild Thing” Zinfandel, currently being featured on our by the glass menu, and a pinot noir from an up and coming winery, Cartograph. More than just the quality juice, it’s nice to meet the faces behind the product to know we’re doing business with good folks as well.

Another great opportunity to come out of the tasting was the chance to schedule a tasting event featuring Krupp Brothers wine. So, September 16th-18th, we will be pouring Krupp Brothers wines from the famed Stagecoach Vineyard with rep Brian Thompson joining us on the 17th to guide customers through the tasting and talk about the vineyard and the wines. Be sure to pay us a visit that weekend – opportunities like this don’t come around very often!

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Over the two days, we started off with whites and then moved to reds. We tasted hundreds of wines each – too many to mention them all but here are some of the PHWM customer favorites: Ahnfeldt Wines, Beau Vigne, Cavus, Clos Pepe Vineyards, Edward Sellers, Elizabeth Spencer, Farella-Park Vineyards, Frank Family Vineyards, Hartwell Vineyards, Kosta Brown, Melville, Mi Sueno, McManis, Orin Swift, Patz & Hall, Paul Hobbs, Saxon Brown, Tablas Creek, and Valdez.

After a long day of tasting, we made a quick stop over for a beer and some appetizers at Bin 38, a wine bar near the Marina. Hungry for some hearty food, we then hiked it over to Roam for some artisanal burgers and tasty milk shakes. Roam features 100% grass-fed beef, free-range turkey burgers and even bison in a communal style dining setting. Adequately nourished, we headed to a nearby bar for more beer and decompressing. We never caught the name of it, but it was dark and a dive, just how we like it when we want to “check out” at the end of a long day. Fully pooped, the old folks (yet responsible) Sal and EV headed home for the night and Nick and Brittany hit the town. It doesn’t matter where they went, you probably wouldn’t want to go there anyway.

Day two of the tasting was much of the same, except we revisited some wines we had previously tasted to confirm we were all in agreement and to negotiate pricing on wines we wanted to bring into the store. The second day was a bit mellower because the entire time was dedicated to trade-only, providing much more face time with the winery reps.

By the end of day two we were all exhausted and ready to throw in the towel. All in all, it was an eventful couple of days filled with great wines and good eats. We know it looks like play – but trust us when we say that it’s a lot of work (and a lot of fun too)!

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Posted by on September 9, 2011 in Uncategorized


Oregon Trip, July 2011—Part II Willamette Valley

In July we visited the great wine country of Willamette Valley, Oregon.  We’ve been longtime fans of the region and were quite excited for our bi-annual trip.   Over 4 days we visited 24 wineries and enjoyed too many wines to mention.  The goals of our wine country trips are to reconnect with old friends, seek out new wineries to establish relationships and finally tell them about our wine shop and invite them pay us a visit.  The more time we spend speaking to winery owners and winemakers the more opportunities we gain to learn what is new in the region/ industry and hopefully gain the opportunity to carry some highly allocated wines.

The Willamette Valley is about a 30 minute drive west of Portland and is a nice scenic drive.  It is Oregon’s leading wine region with two-thirds of the state’s wineries and vineyards and is home to more than 200 wineries. It has been recognized as one of the premier Pinot Noir producing areas in the world.  Overall, the maritime climate generally has a long, gentle growing season – warm summers with cool evenings; bursts of Indian summer into fall; mild winters followed by long springs.  The valley compares to the Burgundy and Alsace regions of France and perfect for growing Pinot Noir. There are six sub-appellations; Chehalem Mountains, Dundee Hills, Eola-Amity Hills, McMinnville, Ribbon Ridge & Yamhill Carlton.

A few of our favorite wineries were Bergström, Beaux Frères, Lemelson Vineyards, Archery Summit, Soter Vineyards, De Ponte Cellars, Argyle Winery and Colene Clemens Winery.  We could go on and on about all the great wineries we visited, but instead of detailing every winery and all the wines tasted we thought it would be fun to feature some of our favorites.  Many of the wineries are not distributed to our area and we had to coax some to let us have a few cases for the wine shop.  All the wineries listed below are open to the public, so please make sure to stop by and say howdy from us if you ever visit.

Lemelson Vineyards owns seven estate vineyard sites that are located in the Yamhill-Carlton, Dundee Hills and Chehalem Mountain AVA’s and are all Certified Organic.  Their goals are to produce the highest quality Pinot noirs and to create a winemaking environment that is both aesthetically beautiful and highly functional.   And boy, have their hit it on the mark.  This winery is not only beautiful, but their wines are overall quality driven which we figured out by taking a tour of their amazing facility.  We were already quite familiar with the winery with the ’08 Thea’s Pinot Noir currently be poured by the glass and their Riesling soon to follow but it was nice to visit and see what other wines they have to offer.

A winery we had heard about, but never had the opportunity to taste was Bergström Wines.  Their philosophy blends examples of old world style with new world techniques and attention to detail.  Their wines are rich with a fresh purity of fruit and a focused and unique aromatic profile.  Their wines were across the board fantastic and ageworthy.  Their wines are soon to be shipped and we cannot wait for our customers to see what Bergström Wines is all about.

Colene Clemens Winery located in the Chehalem Mountains is a small family owned vineyard and winery we were lucky to discover.  Their focus is on Estate grown Pinot Noir and they have only released 2 vintages, ’08 and ’09.  They have a brand new tasting room with beautiful panoramic views.  With just a few hundred cases produced of each vintage we were very excited to find this brand new gem.  Stay tuned for the ’09 Reserve Pinot Noir which will be arriving at the wine shop soon.

We could go on for many more paragraphs about the great wineries we visited, but we figured the images alone would tell the story.

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And if you know us, we are always on the hunt for great food.  The region definitely does not lack in this area.  With so many organic local farms and chefs Willamette Valley is blossoming into a mini food mecca.   Pulling over for a simple sandwich between wine tasting appointments lends itself to an opportunity for a gourmet quick lunch like you’ve never had.

A couple great standouts are Recipe in Newberg and Thistle in McMinnville.  Recipe is a neighborhood restaurant which showcases rustic yet refined seasonal dishes.  Only open a few months for lunch and dinner, their mission is to provide a comfortable, casual atmosphere reminiscent of the home dining room.  We enjoyed the gnocchi special of the day and a burger.  Hands down, this ground chuck burger with aioli, Tillamook white cheddar on a brioche bun was one of best burgers we’ve had.  The classic Victorian home provides a cozy atmosphere with 50 seats, so if you find yourself in Newberg make sure to stop in and enjoy.

Thistle in McMinnville recently received the “2011 Restaurant of the Year” from the Oregonion and has become a destination restaurant.  This rustic yet modern 26 seat restaurant offers an opportunity for folks to either sit in the dining room or the kitchen counter.  Some winery friends suggested we sit at the kitchen counter for the “Chef’s Whim” experience.  Owner/ Chef  Eric Bechard treats all 6 lucky diners who get a seat at the counter to a multi- coursed wine paired meal (wine optional).  This “Chef’s Whim” experience highlights the best of what is seasonally available and the courses keep coming until you say stop (we didn’t say stop of course until they were closing for the night).  Chef Eric’s fiancée Emily Howard manages the wine list and dining room and brings her own flair.  The menu is minimal with a few appetizers and salads, four entrees, one dessert, but you will not leave this dining experience hungry for flavor.

So, if you have visited the Central Coast and Napa Valley wine countries and want to try something new make an effort to travel to Willamette Valley. We promise you will not be disappointed and we would be happy to assist with suggestions of places to visit and places to eat.


Oregon Trip, July 2011—Part I Portland

On every visit to Portland we make sure to fit in the Saturday Farmers Market at Portland State University.  In fact, this our very first stop once we arrived in the city.  Several years ago we happened to walk upon this Farmer’s Market and fell in love.  This place is amazing if you enjoy beautiful fresh produce and artisan foods.  The Pacific Northwest region produces some of the most beautiful and eclectic produce varieties.  It was hard to resist the local goods so we picked up a few items for dinner and enjoyed the scenery.

As always when we visit different cities we make sure to check out local meat.  Yes, as some of you may know, we are suckers for cured meat.  Olympic Provisions is home to both a European-style restaurant and deli serving lunch and dinner, as well as Oregon’s first USDA certified meat-curing facility.  We enjoyed their Chorizo Navarre, Chorizo Rioja, Sopressatta, pork liver mousse and pork & pistachio terrine.  Typical of Pacific Northwest cuisine, the aromas and flavors were clean and full of earthy flavor.  The good news is they have 2 locations both on the West and East side of Portland.  If you are in the area, make sure to stop by enjoy a few small plates.  We also found their meats available in specialty food stores throughout the Portland area.

Who knew Portland was a mecca for craft distilled spirits?  Distillery Row is in the heart of Southeast Portland in a small industrial warehouse neighborhood where independent distilleries are producing over twenty unique liquors.  Vodka, gin, rum, whiskey, absinthe, aquavit, and flavored liqueurs are all being distilled in the heart of Portland.  We highly suggest you stop in have a tour at one of these distilleries.  These folks really have a great cult following and are definitely putting themselves on the map.

Luckily, our Portland friends (Boba, Pete and Bill) are very well versed in the distillation process and took us to Stone Barn Brandyworks.  Sebastian and Erika Degens, owners of the distillery gave us a personal tour and explained to us their process and allowed us to partake in their brandy and grappa.  Good stuff!  And get this – their daughter is a student at Pitzer College! Small world…

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The very best thing about our trips to Portland is visiting our friends Bill & Diane [last name left out to protect their identities :)].  These guys are fantastic hosts, the kindest of people, but the very best thing about them is that they can cook!  They do not mess around when it comes to food.  Meals at their house entail elaborate barbequing, roasting, sautéing and early mornings to brine, marinate and season. Our friend Pete is a resident guest cook at their Portland home and barbequed lamb, salmon, fresh vegetables from Farmer’s Market and several dishes from his Serbian homeland.  Friends and family come from all over town when these folks cook and hang out on the porch enjoying the food and company. Don’t worry, we provided the wine.  With the warm weather in Portland we partook in several dry white wines and Pinot Noir.

A couple restaurant highlights in Portland which you cannot miss when visiting:

Pok Pok was so good we had to dine there twice. This Thai restaurant is like no other.  Andy Ricker, Executive Chef just won the James Beard Foundation’s Best Chef Northwest Award and it is well deserved.  He spent a decade traveling back and forth to Southeast Asia researching cuisine.  All menu items are small and meant to be shared, so order several items and savor the flavors.  For us, the best thing on the menu was Ike’s Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings.  They are marinated in fish sauce and palm sugar and deep-fried and then tossed in more fish sauce that’s been caramelized and tastes almost candied.  Just be forewarned, with a lot of recent press for their prized food, there can be a long wait.  But don’t worry, it’s well worth it.

On the other side of town there is an amazingly creative Peruvian restaurant, Andina.  Contemporary refined Peruvian dishes honor the culture but at the same time reinvent flavors in a sophisticated way. Andina has received glowing reviews from many publications, too many to mention.  The menu features small plates so and passing the plate around the table is highly recommended.  We ordered a causa which is mashed potatoes, infused with key lime juice and pressed into a purple cake filled with Draper Valley chicken salad. It was beautiful.  We also enjoyed a tirandito, which is a Peruvian cousin to ceviche (difference between the two is ceviche includes onions, and tiranditos do not).   Both items were very inventive and left us disappointed we had arrived already full from another dining experience.  Next time we will definitely arrive with empty bellies.

Stay tuned for Part II of our Oregon visit where we visited over 20 wineries in Wine Country.


Sojourn Cellars ~ Highly rated Pinot Noirs & Cabernets

This weekend (June 24-25th) our tasting will be featuring Sojourn Cellars.  We have been planning this tasting for awhile now and cannot wait to open up this weekend’s wines.  Sal has been holding on to vintages for a couple years now so this is going to be fun.

Plato said “Life is but a sojourn. Enjoy the best of it.” Craig Haserot (wine taster) and Erich Bradley (winemaker) are two buddies who met on the tennis courts of Sonoma and decided to take Plato’s advice and formed Sojourn Cellars in 2000. They started in 2001 with the release of 100 cases of Sonoma Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and by 2004 they added Pinot Noir to their production lineup. Sojourn remains today a boutique artisan producer of Pinot noir and Cabernet Sauvignon wines sold on allocation to their mailing list members and a select group of restaurants, retailers, and distribution partners.

Their handcrafted wines have won considerable praise from the wine press. Known for their critically acclaimed wines, Sojourn has distinguished itself by offering excellent, high-end, products that are also a good value and by delivering their wines to customers through a buying experience that also displays the accessibility, authenticity, and care that have become trademarks of their winemaking process.

Craig Haserot is the man behind sales, management and promotion of the Sojourn Cellars label. He is an ex-computer software salesperson who decided to move to Sonoma County after the crash and pursue a new career. He began playing tennis at Maxwell Farms Regional Park where he struck up a friendship with Erich Bradley. Both had a passion for wine, especially Pinot Noir, and soon they were talking about launching a winery together.

Erich Bradley is a native Californian from the San Francisco Peninsula who became intrigued by wine when his family bought a 26-acre ranch in Sonoma County’s Valley of the Moon complete with an 8.5-acre vineyard and a 500 case winery. As part of the sale, the Bradleys were taught winemaking. Erich later studied winemaking at UC Davis and viticulture at Santa Rosa Junior College and was mentored by winemakers Richard Arrowood of Arrowood Vineyards & Winery and David Ramey of Ramey Wine Cellars. In 2003, Erich became the winemaker for Audelssa Estate, a winery at Mountain Terraces Vineyard in Sonoma Valley, where he still makes wine today. He produces a Mountain Terraces Cabernet Sauvignon for both Audelssa Estate Winery and Sojourn Cellars. In 2007, he became winemaker for Hop Kiln and HK Generations wines. Erich’s wines have garnered widespread acclaim among both the press and consumers.

Sojourn fruit is sourced from properties that have the capacity to produce wines of distinction, thanks in large part to unique and specific combinations of soil, climate, and exposure.  Farmed by growers who share Sojourn’s commitment to low crop yields and high quality, the fruit is sorted extensively in the field throughout the growing season as well as in the winery post-Harvest to ensure that only the most sound, perfectly ripe fruit makes its way into fermentation tanks.

Winemaking is very hands-off, using whole berry native fermentations in small open-tops, hand punch-downs, basket pressing, no pumps, unfined and unfiltered.  All Sojourn wines are fermented and barrel-aged in small lots and attended to when necessary by hand from the vineyard to the bottle to best manage tannins and mouthfeel and to preserve the maximum amount of personality and soul.  The wines are made at the Audelssa Estate Winery in Glen Ellen, California.

 So what are we going to be tasting this weekend?

  • ’09 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, 91pts Wine Spectator
  • ’08 Rogers Creek Pinot Noir, 90pts Robert Parker
  • ’08 Gap’s Crown Pinot Noir, 91pts Robert Parker
  • ’09 Sangiacomo Pinot Noir, 94pts Wine Spectator
  • ’08 Home Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon, 90pts Robert Parker
  • ’07 Spring Mt. Cabernet Sauvignon, 90 Points Connoisseurs’ Guide

$24 tasting (1.5oz pours of all 6 wines)


Morgan Winery Tasting Featuring Winemaker Gianni Abate

On June 8th we were fortunate to host winemaker Gianni Abate from Morgan Winery in the Santa Lucia Highlands in a trade and midweek tasting of some of their wines, including their world class single vineyard Pinot Noirs as well as five of the twelve pinot noir clones that are planted in their Double L Vineyard.

We began the trade tasting by sampling several Pinot Noir clonal varieties from their Double L Vineyard. Straight from the barrel, a side by side comparison of the clones that go into many of the Pinot Noirs we already enjoy was a fascinating analysis.

We also had the privilege of tasting Morgan’s ’10 Monterey Sauvignon Blanc, offering tropical sweet grass flavors; the ’09 Highland Chardonnay, a food friendly Chardonnay featuring light butterscotch and refreshing grapefruit flavors; and the ’09 “Twelve Clones” Pinot Noir, derived from various vineyards of the Santa Lucia Highlands appellation, including Morgan’s own organically farmed “Double L” estate, indicating it comes from the original twelve clones planted in the Double L Vineyard.

For the single vineyard selections, we sampled the ’08 Tondre Grapefield Pinot Noir, ’09 Double L Vineyard Pinot Noir, ’08 Rosella’s Vineyard Pinot Noir, and the ’09 Garys’ Vineyard Pinot Noir.

Gianni stuck around after the trade tasting to talk to customers about Morgan’s wines for those that wanted to taste through the Sauvignon Blanc, Highlands Chardonnay and single vineyard Pinot Noirs. All the wines were fantastic and unique in their own right. We’ve already received the ’09 Sauvignon Blanc, ’09 Highland Chardonnay, ’09 “Twelve Clones” Pinot Noir, ’09 Double L Pinot Noir, and the ’09 Gary’s Vineyard Pinot Noir in stock, so come by and pick up a bottle of wine from a family winery that’s committed to making quality wines from the esteemed Santa Lucia Highlands!

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May Madness!

My, what a busy month May was for us! It was packed full of events we’d like to share with you. Aside from the various trade tastings the staff went to (we’re always on the lookout for new wines!) we hosted and participated in a number of exciting events at the shop.

The first weekend in May the Packing House hosted the Phestival of the Arts which brought Claremontians into the Packing House for a variety of crafts and activities. We were excited to put our corks to good use for the youngsters to turn into art. We saw some great picture frames and flower pots spruced up and it was nice to hang out with the younger crowd, even if they are a few years away from enjoying our wine!

That same weekend, we were very honored to host the wedding reception for two of our dear friends and customers, Mary and Steve. We were so pleased that they could share such a momentous occasion with their friends and family at the store, and were happy to provide a stress-free and beautiful day for the couple. With the store brought to life by flowers from Fiori Wedding Co, we provided a number of great wines and cheese platters to keep the party going.

On May 21st the highly anticipated Amgen Tour of California finally hit the town. What an exciting day! Claremontians and Californians alike packed the streets for a glimpse of the riders as they passed through the village. We and our customers were lucky to have a front row seat of the action as the peloton passed by the store twice before starting their Mt. Baldy climb. Our patio was packed as festivities all over the city carried on throughout the day.

During graduation weekend, we were pleased to pour the lineup of Orin Swift wines for our weekend tasting. Featuring a slightly different set of wines each night, it was our most successful tasting of the year by far. We could barely keep up with the action! Orin Swift also recently released two new wines, the ’09 D66 which is a wonderful Grenache that combines new and old world styles and the ’10 Veladora Sauvignon Blanc. The Veladora is a floral Sauvignon Blanc with subtle acidity, and Orin Swift has committed all of the profits from the wine Puertas Abiertas, a philanthropic coalition that provides dental services, counseling and health screenings for those in need. We are happy to support such a great cause while tasting such great wines!

We still have plenty of the Orin Swift wines along side our normal selection, so stop by whenever you get the opportunity and we’ll see you again in June.

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