Belated “Holiday” Staff Dinner

Last Sunday the PHWM crew gathered at Sal and EV’s house for a highly anticipated staff dinner for a night of great food, amazing wines and some much needed bonding. Since we are in the hospitality business the holidays parties must wait til we have recovered from the year end- so yes, Holiday party in March.

The night started off with some hors d’oeuvres prepared by Alice consisting of her very own pesto, homemade mousse, proscuitto wrapped melon all designed to pair with Gran Familia Spanish Cava and Godme Pere & Fils Brut NV Reserve Champagne.  Alice and Chris bonded over their latest iPad purchases through video chatting with each other (yes, while they were sitting in the same room).  It was all very nerdy – adequate preparation for the wines we were about to geek out on in a few minutes.

We all gathered outside for a candlelit dinner prepared by EV – what a treat we were in for! Dinner began with beet carpaccio with chanterelles and chives paired with the ’06 Hollywood & Vine 2480 Chardonnay (creamy, rich, opulent mouthfeel).  Next scallops on a bed of spinach and arugula alongside ’06 Bruno Colin Chassagne- Montrachet (good balance between fruit and acid).  Napa vs. White Burgundy comparison was quite a treat.  Chris entertained the crowd with his tales of abalone fishing (he also once killed a lion just for looking at him the wrong way) and what it was like growing up in wine country in a town so small it is devoid of stop lights.

The next course consisted of bourbon braised pork belly with caramelized onions which paired perfectly with a ’05 Soter Mineral Springs Pinot Noir and ’08 Kosta Browne Russian River Pinot Noir.  Both were spectacular, and it was a deep debate on who was the winner of the Pinot Noir comparison.  We woke our palates up with a raspberry sorbet intermezzo and then dove into the final savory dish of braised short ribs on a bed of celery root and potato puree.

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Sal pulled out of his personal wine storage a ’97 Grigh Hills Cabernet (soft, light fruit, earthy, fair structure) and a ’00 Bordeaux (surprisingly youthful with solid structure) which was one of his first bordeaux purchases.  We also opened up the ’97 Adelaida Cabernet which was good, but was just a little past its prime.  So to make up for it we opened the ’07 Carter Cellars Hossfield Red Blend (Merlot, Cab, Petit Verdot and Malbec) which was rich and full bodied- just what we were looking for to end the evening.

The buttermilk panna cotta with raspberries and blueberries was a terrific way to finish off the meal at which point we migrated inside to continue hanging out and of course, drink more wine. EV opened up the ’06 Denner Vineyards Zinfandel (boysenberry, anise, luscious with a rich mid-palate) while we entertained ourselves of talks of young love and bright futures.  It was a great night, one to be savored just like the food and wine we had the pleasure of enjoying.


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.


Weekend Tasting: Stolpman Winery featuring owner Peter Stolpman

Come join us this weekend, Fri-Sun. Feb. 18th-20th for our tasting of Stolpman wines! We are pleased to welcome owner Peter Stolpman who will be here on Saturday from 7-10 p.m. to answer your questions and walk you through the tasting. The tasting features six wines for $17. Read below for tasting notes on featured wines.

What’s special about Stolpman Winery?

Organic Farming: No herbicides, fungicides, or pesticides are used in the vineyard.  The natural ecosystem is promoted through the establishment of natural habitats including Hawk Perches and Owl Boxes.  Bio-diversity is also aided by a 12 acre rotating crop of organic vegetables and 5 acres of Olive trees.

Most unique to Stolpman’s methodology is the constant experimentation with vineyard plantings and farming in the pursuit of world-class wine.

Stolpman Vineyards has the only “Cote Rotie” styled vineyard in all of California.  On the steepest hill in the property, there are 6000 vines planted so close together one can barely walk through, let alone fit tractors or machines.

So come out this weekend and taste some amazing, affordable wines!

L’Avion Roussanne $34.50

An unrivaled Rockstar in the white wine world. White flower, tropical fruit, pear, honeysuckle and a sensuously thick texture. Picked when golden-brown in late November. Fermented in 100% New French barrels and aged in New Oak for 15 months. 520 cases produced. Santa Ynez Valley, CA 90pt Robert Parker

’09 La Coppa Sangiovese $18.99

Fruit forward and fresh on the nose with an elegant medium bodied palate and Italian tannin structure.   Straight forward, full-bodied, slightly jammy black cherry fruit with some structure and finish.  Dry farmed since 2001, Stolpman Sangiovese offers New World intensity with Old World refinement. Aged 10 months in neutral oak.  Santa Ynez Valley, CA

’05 Estate Sangiovese $31.99

Bright red fruit and fresh acidity give the wine a lift and freshness on the palate.  A great example of what Sangiovese can do in California.  735 cases produced. Santa Ynez Valley, CA

‘08 Estate Grenache $32.50

Offers a bowlful of dark berry fruits, with snappy wild berry, blueberry and blackberry flavors, firming midpalate, with a touch of stemminess that gives the flavors traction on the finish.  Quickly becoming a favorite among Stolpman’s devout Rhone Fanatics, the harsh weather of 2008 delivers a dark, aggressive Grenache built to age. 494 cases produced.  Santa Ynez Valley, CA 91 Points Wine Spectator

‘08 Estate Syrah $29.99

An intensely perfumed, spicy bouquet displays red and dark berries, potpourri and Asian spices, with a hint of woodsmoke. Sappy, penetrating and sweet, with spicy red- and blackcurrant flavors and a velvety texture. Floral notes carry through a long, pure alluringly sweet finish. It’s spicy and ripe in red currant, licorice, smoked meat, violet and sandalwood flavors that are rich and complex.  Santa Ynez Valley, CA

’08 Syrah Originals $32.50

Originals Syrah comes from the first syrah vines planted in Ballard Canyon. Originals Syrah shows dense, deep, and lush. It’s extremely fruit forward and approachable compared to the usual Stolpman style of bright and tight Syrah.  950 cases produced.  Santa Ynez Valley, CA 92 Points Robert Parker

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Posted by on February 17, 2011 in Uncategorized


February Wines of the Month

2008 Villa Wolf Pinot Gris (Pfalz, Germany)

$11 a bottle

Pinot Gris has a very long tradition in the Pfalz region. In fact, it was here that the variety was first identified. Villa Wolf Pinot Gris is made in a full-bodied, dry style with refreshing, unoaked fruit and a crackling texture.

NV Rosenblum Vintner’s Cuvee Zinfandel XXXII (California)

$9.00 a bottle

The Cuvée XXXI features aromas of black cherry, blackberry and raspberry, as well as spice and vanilla overtones. Medium-bodied and replete with acidity, this food-friendly wine pairs well with pizza, pasta, barbecue meats and poultry, as well as Italian and Mediterranean style foods.

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Posted by on February 10, 2011 in Uncategorized


Join us for Valentine’s Day!

We will be open Monday, February 14, for Valentine’s Day so come by with your significant other for a romantic evening. For all you lonely hearts – there’s plenty of wine and company here for you too 🙂