Archive for Vineyards


A Quick Jaunt to the Napa Valley–Part 3

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Napa--Marciano3Napa-Marciano4We were fortunate to meet up superstar winemaker, Andy Erickson, on our last day in the Napa Valley at a new wine project he is consulting for, owned by Maurice Marciano. 

The estate property is 100 acres, of which roughly 10 acres are currently planted (& meticulously farmed by David Abreu).  Napa--Marciano6Napa-marciano5Napa--Marciano1

The winery is state of the art & I would say….truly a dream come true for most winemakers.  These vessels can be programmed to do pump overs by themselves & as many times & when you want.  No more late nights?  Napa-Dalla Valle

We then head back east across the Valley & up.  This is the Maya parcel of Dalle Valle (left), another one of Andy’s projects.  Directly above & what used to be Showket has recently been purchased by Peter Michael.  We continued upwards as we head for Oakville Ranch, Napa--Summit Ranch& specifically the Summit Block (right picture), which is located roughly 1000 feet in elevation.  The soils is comprised of Aken soils, which in this case are rich in iron-clay & decomposing volcanic rock. Oakville1

The next ridge over, one can see Ovid (on Pritchard Hill), which is yet another project for Andy.  We were surprised to see that Pritchard Hill & Stagecoach seem to be on a contiguous ridge top.  Mayacamas1a

On our next visit (as there just was not enough time on this trip), I hope to visit Andy’s latest project–Mayacamas–a, iconic, historic vineyard & place, where Andy Erickson & his wife/viticulturist Annie Favia now oversee.  I know it seems like Andy has lots of projects, but in comparison to the other top echelon, he really doesn’t have that many.  But the ones he does have are truly special. 

andyThanks Andy & Annie.  What a great visit.!

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A Quick Jaunt to the Napa Valley–Part 2

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In the afternoon, we decided to stop by & see Neyers Vineyards located on Sage Canyon Road.  Because things were so hectic, as the looming harvest meant cleaning all of the equipment, bottling wine to make room for the new harvest & visiting vineyards, we did not ask to see any vineyards with winemaker Tadeo on this visit.  Just, way too much going on & we were appreciative for any time he & they could spend with us.  Napa Neyers1

We were graciously received by Barbara Neyers & her team.  She is an incredible person with a BIG heart & old soul.  There is very few people around like her, believe me!  She worked at Chez Panisse for 20+ years, along side Chef/owner Alice Waters.  She & Bruce’s strongly believe in comprehensive sustainability. to the point I never have to ask.  Neyers TadeoNeyers

We were then thankful to taste through a formidable line up of Neyers’ upcoming releases.  We walked away as impressed as ever.  As I have stated frequently in the past months, winemaker Tadeo Borchardt is totally in the groove & crafting a bevy of sensational wines…..which display character &  interesting-ness….AND are seamless, well textured & wonderfully balanced.  One should try the Neyers Syrah “Old Lakeville Road”, for example, just to see what we mean. 

Our next stop–Robert Biale.Napa-BialeNapa-Dave  We met with Dave Pramuk, someone we had met a LONG time ago at ZAP.  Dave was kind enough to walk some of the vineyards with us.  Napa--ChickenNapa Aldo

The vineyard on the left is “Black Chicken”. Interestingly, Black Chicken is a single vineyard….AND is also a proprietary name for one of their Zinfandels…(whose core is the Black Chicken vineyard).  The vineyard on the right is Aldo, which was planted in 1937. 

Napa BerryNapa-Bunch

The grapes, in each case were close to ripening.  They also had lots of character…& were not just tooty fruity like some of the other grapes we tasted in Paso Robles & other parcels of Napa Valley.

Robert Biale has a true passion for Zinfandel & their wines clearly show that.  FYI–they now use Burgundian barrels to age the Zins & handle the grapes more gently.  We were really impressed with what we saw & tasted.

Napa--Jones Family2The Napa Valley was truly bustling with energy as people scurried about to get ready for the looming harvests.  AND, winemakers were making their rounds to check out their grape sources.  Napa--Kenefick                      Kenefick Ranch

Napa--Screaming Eagle   Screaming Eagle

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A Quick Jaunt to the Napa Valley–Part 1

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We recently had an opportunity to visit and spend two days in the Napa Valley of California. We were fortunate that this year the harvest look to start early because of some severe heat spikes which happened in May & June. As is normally the case whenever we go to a winegrowing region we endeavor to walk vineyards with some of our favorite winemakers. In this case because of the early harvest, were also able to taste nearly ripe grapes as well.

Our first day we met with Napa Valley winemaking phenom Thomas Brown. Napa--Tournahu2Thomas, although very busy, was kind enough to meet us at my best friends’ family ranch just above St. Helena.. Even though I had been going to and staying at this ranch for 30+ years up until this visit I really had no idea of the true quality of the grapes grown on this 6 1/2 acre ranch. I was certainly in for an eye-opening discovery walking the vineyard with Thomas Brown. Napa--PanekNapa-ShibumiNapa-Panek3

The small dirt road lane has 4 vineyards (Schoenstein, Tournahu, Shibumi Knoll & Panek) on one side and one larger vineyard (Aida) on the opposite side. Schoenstein at one time was farmed by viticultural superstar David Abreu. Thomas Brown is a consulting winemaker for Shibumi Knoll & and I believe he also works with Panek.  Aida vineyard was made famous by Turley Wine Cellars. Needless to say I was absolutely blown away by the reputation of all of these vineyards. To think for 30 years I had no idea.

While walking the vineyards I was really surprised at how many stones there were in each of these vineyards.Napa--Tournahu  It seems like a little small pocket of interesting soil on the valley floor. 

Napa--Larkmead3Napa-Larkmead2We then went down the road a short while to visit Larkmead Estate, which is an iconic vineyard heralded back in 1961 by Napa Valley winemaking legend Andre Tchelistcheff, as being one of the four top vineyard sites in all of Napa Valley at that time.

We then did a walk through Michael Chiarello’s vineyard, which Thomas also consults for.  Napa--Thomas Brown2Napa--Thomas BrownSome of the Petite Sirah vines are over 100 years old.  The nearly ripe fruit oozed vinosity & lots of character, eventhough the vines looked exhausted.  This is really a vineyard which needs tender loving care.

Napa--Jones FamilyNapa-Jones family6Napa--Jones7Another vineyard & winery Thomas Brown consults for is Jones Family.  The 10 acre estate vineyard is located on between St Helena & Calistoga between 600 & 900 feet & is farmed by superstar vineyard-ist David Abreu.  This vineyard was originally planted by the Araujo’s who sold it off in 1992 when they purchased the Eislese vineyard. 

We also learned that Thomas Brown is currently building 2 new wineries–one for Pinot Noir (located on a corner off of the Silverado Trail) & part of a custom crush facility near Calistoga, where he will make some of his Cabernets.  This winemaking phenom certainly has alot going on, besides the high profile projects he consults for such as Schrader, Outpost, Maybach, Casa Piena (Carmen Policy’s winery) & GTS (the project of Hall of Fame baseball pitcher Tom Seaver)……AND his own label, Rivers Marie.

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Paso Robles 08-26 & 27-2013

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A quick 2 day visit to the Paso Robles appellation.  In addition to spending time with Linne Calodo & Saxum (which was documented on separate blog entries), here is a recap of our other visits.

Paso-Margarita1Margarita Vineyard is a roughly 900 acre vineyard located at about 1000 feet elevation, 14 miles from the ocean in southern Paso Robles.  It is a vineyard I have been trying to walk for many years, but did not find the right contact, until very recently, to do so.  I never realized this vineyard was so big.  I also wonder how this is still Paso Robles appellation, since it is located on the “other” side of Templeton.    Paso-margarita8paso-margarita9Paso-Margatita2

The vineyard has 6 main soil types.  The most compelling is rich in fossilized oyster shells…..BUT the shale & gravel also produce some very interesting flavors/character.

Paso-margarita7The owners also have their own wine label–Ancient Peaks, which features a very talented winemaker, Michael Sinor which is soon to be available here in Hawaii.  Paso-Luna Matta3Paso--Luna Matta2

Luna Matta is another interesting Paso Robles vineyard.  The parcel is 242 total acres, of which 36 are planted & organically farmed since 2001.

Paso--Luna Matta8Paso--Luna matta5There are alot of interesting grape varieties being grown here, including the bigger plantings (Syrah, Grenache & Mourvedre), as well as smaller parcels of Grenache Blanc, Moscato Giallo, Aglianico, Sangiovese, Nebbiolo & Carignane.  We will definitely be seeing more & more Luna Matta designated wines in the near future, especially with Stephy Terrizzi involved as a vineyard consultant.  Paso--Villa Creek1Paso--Villa Creek2

 Yet, another interesting vineyard which has been planted is the Villa Creek Estate.  Owner/winemaker Cris Cherry, in addition to owning one of the best restaurants in the town of Paso Robles, also produces some terrific wines under his Villa Creek label.  What started as a side project….supplying his contemporary styled eaterie with some very interesting, locally grown wine, has over the years blossomed into him building his own winery & now planting his own vineyards.  Yes, these wines are certainly worth searching out for.

Paso--Denner4Our next visit was with Anthony Yount, winemaker at Denner Vineyard.  We had toured the Denner Estate vineyard the day before with Matt Trevisan.  Anthony was then kind enough to take us out to walk the 10 1/2 acre Basetti Vineyard, which lies outside of the Paso Robles appellation, closer to the ocean.  Paso--Basetti Paso-Bsetti2paso-basetti3

To the naked eye, Basetti doesn’t look like much.  The most compelling influences of this vineyard, I was told, is the serpentine rock undersoils, the clay topsoil & the close proximity to the ocean (& its cool growing conditions).  The 2 wineries sourcing the fruit is Denner (which produced a single vineyard 50% whole cluster, 100% Syrah in 2010, yet to be rated) & Villa Creek (92 point rated, single vineyard Syrah).  I believe Denner also uses Basetti Grenache as well.Paso-basetti4Paso-basetti5 

Basetti vineyard may be the beginning of a whole, new grape growing region for the future, despite its extreme growing conditions, just as we have previously seen with the Sonoma Coast appellation further north.  I would also say, Anthony Yount is a young turk you should keep an eye out on, whether at Denner or Kinero, his very own label.

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Linne Calodo 08-26-13

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My wife Cheryle (& a friend) & I had the chance to walk some vineyards in Paso Robles recently.  It was a good time, as there was “taste”  to the grapes & it was therefore an incredibly learning  opportunity.

paso-linne5Our first stop was at Linne Calodo & superstar winemaker Matt Trevisan.  It had been years since I last visited Matt at the winery.  We were excited & anxious to visit eventhough we were not sure how much time Matt would actually have with us, given the looming harvest, the fact that both noted wine writers–Robert Parker & Josh Reynolds were in town around the same time.

paso-new planting 4Our first stop….we had to go check out the newly acquired/planted 47 acre vineyard.  Paso-new planting2

Lots of rock to deal with.  There is only 18 inches to 3 feet of top soil.

Matt planted all kinds of interesting plant material. He had learned alot from planting & operating his other estate vineyard which surrounds the winery itself.



  We then went to Heaton vineyard (roughly 1300 feet elevation), a dry farmed vineyard, which has TWO distinct different parcels–paso-heaton8 

Whalebone (pictured in the background).  I was amazed at how the big oak on the right side GREATLY affected such a wide area of vines…..which only a few were able to survive.  The Poppy parcel is pictured in the foreground & the grapes tasted firmer, with way more acid (which Matt uses for his Problem Child bottling).

Paso-heaton6I was truly amazed how the fruit  from the 2 parcels tasted SO different.

We also loved meeting the growers.  Just so “salt of the earth” & genuine. 


The Cushman vineyard was essentially right across the street….& one got a completely different vibe from this site.  Matt gets 1 1/2 acres of the 10 planted (in 1978)  It is also a cooler spot, & therefore results in higher acid fruit eventhough the fruit typically ripens 2 to 3 weeks later than Heaton.  For me the fruit doesn’t have the same vinosity & character as the Poppy parcel across the way. 


The Cherry vineyard was planted in 1977….only about 2 1/2 acres amid 400 acres of land.  The vines are head trained with south to southwest facing.  Paso--Cherry4I though the fruit from this vineyard tasted the best of day, at least for Zinfandel.  There was alot of character & vinosity.  It really is a special site.

Paso--denner20Denner Vineyard has truly blossomed to become one of the standout sites in all of Paso Robles.  Located directly across the James Berry vineyard, it too is truly something to behold.  Furthermore, each parcel offers something unique.

Paso-denner21one can readily tell, for instance, which is the Mourvedre plantings (as seen by the “airstrip” looking parcel in the middle.  Lots of vines here just don’t make it.  It is also one of the last grape varieties to ripen.paso-linne4 

Tasting through some of the various barrels of 2012’s convinced us, this is going to be one heck’uv vintage for Linne Calodo.  Save some room in your cellars, people.  AND work hard to get some!





 Yes…the winemaking has changed…or a better way of putting it….evolved.  The wines therefore are not as forward & have much more layering, intricacies & better balance.  The minerality is thankfully much more showcased.  In short, Matt Trevisan is totally in the “zone” right now.

This was a GREAT, major insightful visit!!!!!  Thank you Matt.

Categories : Vineyards, Wine, Wine Friends
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Some interesting vineyards in California

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The Old World (France, Italy, Germany, etc) have had centuries to find out which vineyards are the special ones.  California, on the other hand is really just getting started.

It is exciting to see, nonetheless, many of the sites now being planted in search of interesting terroir.

Monte Bello Vineyard

In the right forefront is parcel of Mount Eden’s planting.  Near the top of the mountain is Monte Bello, which is the home of some of the most compelling Cabernets ever produced out of California.

Stagecoach Vineyard

I distinctly remember being BLOWN away from my first view of this hilltop vineyard.  Years back I went to visit Adolf Krupp at his home located at the top of Soda Canyon Road in the Napa Valley.  I thought the 40 or so acre vineyard surrounding his house was Stagecoach & was surprised when he kindly noted, “no, this is the Krupp Vineyard“.  Adolf then took us to his kitchen where we looked out the window to see this view.  “That is Stagecoach Vineyard“.  This breathtaking, panoramic vineyard is just under 1,000 acres…..which they essentially blew up the top of the mountain to plant.  I marveled at all of the huge boulders & rocks they stacked here & there to make room for the vines.  It truly is something to behold.

Paderewski Vineyard

Down in Paso Robles on the westside, is this amazing silaceous clay (limestome-ish) series of rolling hills which was developed & planted under the watchful eye of superstar winemaker Justin Smith (of Saxum fame) for owner Bill Armstrong.  It is amazing how this soil, altitude & cool nights create such buoyancy in their BIG, thick, dramatic red wines.

Tempest Vineyard

This is yet another extreme vineyard planted past the western edge of the Santa Rita Hills appellation.  In addition to the silaceous clay soils & the gusting cold winds which just pound the site, this vineyard is very densely planted…..7000 vines per acre towards the top of the hill!!!!!

Hirsch Vineyard

is located way out on the true Sonoma Coast….BUT 3 miles from the cold Pacific Ocean.  I remember his ranch was roughly 1000 acres, but only a few hundred were actually  plantable.  Extreme!! 


Sanford & Benedict Vineyard

While this site doesn’t look as dramatic as some of the others, it is nonetheless one of the TOP California vineyards for Chardonnay & Pinot Noir.  It really is about the rocks that permeate the soil.

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Paul Fuerst of Franconia, Germany

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Without a doubt, winemaker extraordinaire Paul Fuerst is producing some of the finest DRY wines out of Germany.  His wines deftly showcase amazing purity, class, terroir, nuance with breathtaking elegance, precision, refinement & balance whether he is working with Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Muller Thurgau or Pinot Noir.

My wife Cheryle & I recently went to visit Paul at his home & winery on the western most edge of Franconia, Germany. 




It was an added bonus that they had started harvesting grapes.


with son & heir apparent, Sebastian. 



Their label–Rudolf Fuerst is centered in the town of Burgstadt….where they own roughly 20 hectares in the highly revered Centgrafenberg vineyard with its red sandstone soils, which showcase a very unique character in the resulting wines.





In addition, Fuerst has roughly 3 hectares of Pinot Noir in what he calls a “Grand Cru” parcel named “Hundsrueck”,

We were fortunate to taste the 2010 Hundsrueck “Grosse Gewachs”.  It was surprisingly deeper, richer with more viscosity & vinosity than any German Pinot Noir we had previously tasted.                     



Paul also took us out to see his other spectacular vineyard site (Schlossberg) in the town of Klingenberg where he owns but 1 1/2 hectares of Pinot Noir.  It was truly breathtaking.

This vineyard is one of the oldest Pinot Noir sites in all of Germany (over 100 years).  It is slightly warmer than Centgrafenberg & is therefore normally harvested 1 week earlier. Because it is so stony, it can also handle hotter years like 2011 better than most others.

Paul produces 2 Pinot Noirs from this very special site–

 1 labeled as Klingenberg (Village quality in his mind)



& the other–Klingenberg Schlossberg Grosse Gewachs (GG)….which is Grand Cru in his mind.

 In Centgrafenberg, Fuerst has, in addition to his Pinot Noir plantings, roughly 3 1/2 hectares of Riesling, 2 1/2 hectares of Pinot Blanc, 1 1/2 hectares of Silvaner & but 3/4 of a hectare of Muller Thurgau, (from which he makes a special wine for us, labeled as CF Muller Thurgau “Eurasia” .  As the nickname suggests, this wine is really idea for many of the Asian inspired foods we have here in the Islands). 

Regarding the Rudolf Fuerst portfolio of wines, the first level of quality wines they typically produce is labeled “Tradition”  for Pinot Noir……AND….. “Pur Mineral” for white wines.

Depending on what the vintage gives, then some of the truly standout cuvees are labeled as Burgstadter Centgrafenberg (which for Paul is “Village” quality in a Burgundian model). 

When conditions are right they will produce what they feel is equivalent to “Grand Cru” in quality & status.  The initials GG (which stands for Grosse Gewachs) can be seen on either the label or bottle, as well as the approved vineyard designate, which for Paul is either Centgrafenberg…..or Schlossberg.

Fuerst also has roughly 1 1/2 hectares of Fruhburgunder, which Paul says is a mutation (not a clone) of Pinot Noir, which he reverently notes was nearly extinct just a short time ago.  It is obvious this grape variety is dear to his heart…& he says for the region. 

Because it naturally has low yields & ripens much earlier, it creates a fuller, richer red which has more impact on the attack (blueberry, plummy, dark fruit) in comparison to his more ethereal, refined Pinot Noirs.

Without a doubt, this is a true STANDOUT winery, well worth searching out for their wines, especially if you love purity, precision, class, finesse, balance & food friendliness.



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photograph by Kalei Nuuhiwa, Makakolu Photography



The Pacific Ocean of California is VERY different from the same body of water we experience here in Hawaii.  Where our water is warm & inviting, it is real cold & gnarly there.  The winds that come of the ocean there are therefore quite chilling….& it follows the cut in the mountains by the various rivers such as this one to create very different climatic conditions, especially during the respective growing seasons.

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Josef Leitz’s vineyards in Rudesheim

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The Rudesheim hillside wraps around a sharp bend in Germany’s Rhein river…..truly breathtaking & picturesque.  I was amazed at the breadth of Leitz’s vineyard holdings & thankful how many of his wines are so amazingly well priced given the sites were they were born.

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Categories : Photos, Vineyards
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