Monthly Archives: March 2011

Family Wine Makers Tasting Events in Del Mar & Pasadena

This week the PHWM staff attended 2 tastings hosted by the Family Winemakers of California organization.  Each event featured 150 different California wineries and was a great opportunity for us all to taste some of our favorite wineries and find a few new ones.

Last Sunday part of the PHWM crew headed down to Del Mar for the first tasting event.  Sal, Ev, Evan and Brittany closed down the wine shop Saturday night and woke up bright and painfully early (due to daylight savings time change) to carpool down to Fullerton to catch the train down to Del Mar. Nick was supposed to ride along as well but he missed the train and blames the time change :).

Bleary eyed and ravenous, when the train arrived in Del Mar we fueled up on some burgers, preparing for the marathon tasting we were about to experience. Arriving at Del Mar Fair Grounds we found a long line for trade tasters out the door – this was going to be a busy day! The event allowed two hours of trade-only tasting so we knew we would have to taste through the wineries we knew were going to be popular before the doors opened to the public.

And hustle we did! We divided and conquered: Brittany tailed Sal to learn from his palate as he zipped around the venue checking out new releases and new vintages and negotiating the best prices possible while Ev and Evan set out on a mission to find some new hidden wines. Nick joined the crew when he arrived in town and it was a great experience for the “new guy” to meet the faces behind some of our most popular labels.  Along with the good wines, it’s always a pleasure to catch up with our friends from wineries like Frank Family, Saxon Brown, Edward Sellers, Tablas Creek and Sojourn.  We also tasted some fabulous finds from Pride Mountain, Merry Edwards, Melville, Littorai, Farella-Park, Guarachi, Hitching Post, Hall, Larkmead, Landmark, L’Aventure, Lucia, and Siduri. Just to name a few. There were so many wineries to choose from – tasting as much as we did was an accomplishment in and of itself!

Once the public arrived the buzz in the room settled on to a steady roar but we did our best to fight the mayhem and keep trucking on to taste as many quality wines as possible. Sal feeling that the staff was well trained he let them roam the room to taste and enjoy the rest of the tasting event.

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Exhausted and ready for some bubbles we headed over to Market in Del Mar for an exception dinner.  Their blue cheese soufflé starter was decadent and their specials were sublime.  This was perfectly paired with the NV Pierre Morlet Champagne.  To round out the experience, Sal picked out a bottle of ’07 Arietta Quartet for the table – a perfect complement to our entrées.  Relaxed and savoring the experience, we barely noticed time passing until we realized our train departed in only 20 minutes! So we booked it to the train (It wouldn’t be a PHWM event if we weren’t rushing, right?) and were treated with a glass of wine once we departed (yay for business class!) and kept the festivities rolling right along.  And that was just the Del Mar tasting.

Tuesday, a slightly different crew consisting of Sal, Ev, Nick, and Alice headed over to the Pasadena Auditorium for the second tasting event of the week. Even though this event was only open to wine industry folks it was another packed house.

While the staff members who attended the Del Mar event were still recovering from Sunday’s tasting, they bravely continued the trek for more amazing wines to add to the PHWM’s collection. We revisited some of our favorites from Del Mar, and even found a brand new winery that we absolutely loved, Zotovich Cellars. Their Pinot Noir and Syrah, from former Assistant Winemaker of Sea Smoke, were a great new find.

All in all it was a tremendous experience – a ton of work but an invaluable experience for the staff to taste at an industry event, meet the producers behind some of the wines in our store, and all the work that goes into getting the best prices for quality wines for our customers.


Posted by on March 16, 2011 in Uncategorized


World of Pinot Noir Tasting Event

This past weekend we attended the World of Pinot Noir event at The Cliffs Resort in Pismo Beach.  This event brought Pinot Noir producers from around the globe together with Pinot Noir enthusiasts.  There were several tasting seminars, luncheons and dinners during this Pinot Noir weekend.  Saturday afternoon the Grand Tasting featured 90+ winery participants all with fantastic Pinot Noirs from all over the world.  Three large tents and a ballroom full of Pinot Noir – we were in heaven!

With only three hours to taste we immediately went to our favorites: Kosta Browne, MacPhail Family Wines, Failla, Freeman, Roar, Lucia and Seasmoke (as always, just to name a few). All, of course, did not disappoint.  After we sampled Pinots from wineries which we knew were going to be popular and would run out of wine, we divided and conquered.  Sal headed to wineries seeking to try the latest and upcoming vintages from wines we currently sell or know we will sell.  Ev focused on finding new wineries which we could bring into the store.  A highlight this year was the International tent with Pinots from Germany, New Zealand, and Australia.  It was nice to see Pinots that are great from all over the world.

The event was quite a success.  There are some great wines out there and to be honest it was quite overwhelming!  This is our 4th year attending this tasting and it never disappoints.

As always, we reminded winemakers and winery owners about our little wine shop in Claremont.  Spending time traveling and meeting with winery principles is key to us maintaining a great wine selection and always being on the cutting edge of what’s happening in the wine world.  These events are the perfect opportunity for us to ask the powers that be for those highly allocated or small production wines.  So stay tuned, there are a lot of great Pinots that will slowly start to come in to the wine shop.

If you are a Pinot fan you might want to attend next year’s event the first weekend of March 2012.  Tickets sell out early so make sure to sign up early!

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Sal and EV Taste Their Way Through Napa and Sonoma

This past weekend we headed up north to wine country to try new wines and visit old friends.  We had a many wineries on the agenda to visit and were excited to taste the new vintages of some great wines as well as some new releases.

Friday, bright and early, we attended a trade tasting featuring wines from over 60 fantastic Napa wineries in the caves at Chateau Boswell. This limited invite-only tasting event was a treat for us to try new releases of outstanding and highly sought after boutique wineries. Winery highlights include Altamura, Arietta, Buccella, Cavus, Fairchild, Grable, Hudson Vineyard, Melka, Ovid and Orin Swift, to list a couple. There were too many great wines to mention them all, but needless to say, the cream of the crop was at this event.  We were able to chat with Dave Phinney of Orin Swift and Luc Morlet of Morlet wines and remind them of our little wine shop in Claremont that is doing great things.

We ran into our friend Ed Skupien of Frank Family Vineyards who invited us to a couple more industry tasting events later in the day.  So, we headed over to Peju Vineyards where another fantastic event was occurring.  We tasted wines from Alpha Omega, Frank Family, Hall, Round Pond and a little beer from Napa Smith Brewery.  Last but not least, at our last tasting event of the day at Hall Vineyards was another success with wines from Joseph Phelps (Insignia), Silver Oak, and of coarse more Hall. And again just to name a few. When all was said and done it was quite a day.

For dinner we were lucky enough to eat at John Ash & Co. in Santa Rosa where our good friend Les Goodman is the Chef de Cuisine.  His creativity and attention to every detail was quite a treat after such a long day of wine tasting.

Saturday morning we decided we needed a break from Napa Valley’s rich red wines and headed through the hills of Sonoma wine country. Our friend Les suggested we head over to Willow Wood Market Cafe in the small town of Graton for breakfast; boy was he right! Good fresh comfort food was exactly what we needed before another full day of tasting.  If you ever find yourself in Graton, stop and eat at Willow Wood café.  I highly suggest the piping hot polenta.

With full stomachs we headed to Sonoma ready to taste.  Our first stop in Sebastopol was Red Car Wines whose new tasting room is set to have its grand opening in the upcoming weeks. While they are well known for their Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays, we were excited to taste their new releases. Driving through Forestville, Sebastopol, and Windsor, we enjoyed the scenery all the way through the Russian River. Along a quick little corner we stumbled upon Packinghouse Rd in Forestville.  We had to take a picture.  We visited several more tasting rooms, Lynmar Estate, and Arista, before heading back over the hill to Napa to Ehlers, Honig, Elizabeth Spencer, and a few others (again too many to mention).  Yes, we are Olympic tasters!

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For dinner we went to downtown Napa and enjoyed BBQ at The Bounty Hunter. Nothing like a big plate of pulled pork, applewood smoked brisket and ribs (with a little local brew from Napa Smith) to relax after a long day of wine tasting.  This BBQ alone is worth the drive to Napa.

Bright and early Sunday we headed to downtown Yountville for the most amazing pastries from Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery. We can’t go to Wine County without some of his macaroons. If you plan on visiting, don’t be scared off by the line.  It moves fast and is well worth the wait.

Our good friend Maria decided to join us for tasting in Napa and with this being her first visit to the Valley we had to take her to Opus One. A view of the Napa Valley from their tower was beautiful in the crisp morning and a good opportunity to see the lay of the land.  Next stop was Rubicon Estate.  We were quite impressed with their Cask and Rubicon Estate wines. We had to stop by Alpha Omega to see if we could sneak away and more of their ‘07 Chardonnay and ‘07 Era which were quite popular when we had our Alpha Omega event last year.  Unfortunately they are all out, but it doesn’t hurt to ask!

Burgers and chili at Gott’s Roadside in St. Helena for lunch was great afternoon treat. No wine here, just a nice cold shake. We had always passed up this place because of the long line and crowds, but we decided we had to give a go, and yes it to is worth the wait.  The Western Bacon Blue Ring burger was crunchy and fresh with perfect smokiness. If you are a fan of chili with a little spicy kick, this is the place for you.

With the end of the day upon us we made quick stops by Plumpjack Winery and Silver Oak.  Plumpjack is always a fun winery, great wines and NO arrogance here.  We were able to try wines from both the Plupjack wine as well as there Cade line. Silver Oak was tasting their 2006 Alexander and Napa Cabernet releases.

We squeezed in a lot of wine in 3 days, but we enjoyed every minute of it. Visiting Napa and Sonoma wine country is important for us to continue to learn about the region, wineries and vintages.  Every visit we come back excited about the upcoming winery releases and hopefully to the new wineries we have found. Great food, great people and oh ya, REALLY great wines. We hope that over the next few months some of these great gems will begin to trickle in.