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#WineWednesday 6 Gifts To Make Your Wine Drinker Happy

24 Nov

Its that time of the year again. And I’m writing this post, well honestly, for my husband as a hint (no lingerie or robotic sweepers this year, honey.) Here’s what I’m hoping for under my tree this year.

I discovered these guys at the at the Oakland Temescal Farmer’s Market.  Their chocolates are incredible and they have a number of wine-based truffles to die for. With a tag line of “What is your VICE?” how can you not love them? Try the Blackbird (dark chocolate ganache infused with merlot.)  Or my favorite bar, the Fig + Anise (69% dark chocolate bar adorned with dried figs and anise seeds.) Available Sundays at the Oakland Temescal Farmer’s Market or online. $5-$56.

I have to agree with the OXO website when it claims that the OXO SteeL Wine Stopper/Pourer Combination is ‘the perfect two-in-one gift for anyone from the wine connoisseur to the casual entertainer.’ The incredible looking brushed stainless steel Stopper/Pourer Combination is so simple: Push the soft lever down and the bottle is sealed for short-term storage. Lift the lever up and the seal is opened for drip-free pouring. As an added benefit, wine is also aerated while it is poured out of the wide spout. Widely available also online at OXO. $9.99.

I’m always forgetting what day it is so the Food For Thought calendar serves as both a functional gifty as well as an aesthetic one. In case you’re wondering, July is my favorite. Available at Etsy.com . $10.

Although I resisted wanting William-Sonoma’s Wine Label Removers, I just can’t help coveting these memory aids. So easy to use: just remove the backing paper from each piece of laminate using the convenient side tab, rub over the wine label, taking special care at the corners, and gently peel it off just peel off the face of a label for placement in your wine journal or scrapbook (or if you’re like me my desk drawer). Available in sets of 20 at William-Sonoma. $19.95.


There are times when you just want to crack open a good bottle and hang.  These recycled windshield stemless wine glasses are just the ticket.  As an added bonus for the eco-minded, they are handmade in Colombia out of recycled glass from old car windows. From the website: “Sturdy and strong, the thick glass has a slight green hue from the tint originally added to lessen the sun’s glare. Beautiful and interesting, these stemless wine glasses are an uncommon take on a stylish design. Each is one of a kind and will vary.”  Available at UncommonGoods.com. $22 for a set of two.

Dean & Deluca’s Cult Wine Club is the next best thing to living in Napa. Sign on to receive ‘a minimum of three ultra-exclusive wines’ every quarter. As an added bonus, you get to attend the Cult Club’s exclusive annual Napa Lifestyle Event for members only. Available through Dean & Deluca. $1000.

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Q&A with Tyler Thomas, Winemaker for Donelan Family Wines

19 Nov

Donelan Family Wines is considered to be one of Northern California’s premier boutique wine producers and several of the wines produced under the supervision of Winemaker Tyler Thomas have received unbridled praise. Not long ago, in fact, Robert Parker gave Donelan several positive reviews with most vintages scoring a 93 or higher. Today we get to chat with Thomas, who calls himself a husband and father of three who happens to be also be a Winemaker. But he’s just being modest.

JK: Can you provide readers with a little background on who you are and what you’re doing?

TT: I am the winemaker for the Syrah focused producer Donelan Family Wines. As a small winery (less than 5000 cases) my role includes grower relations/vineyard management, winemaking duties, cellar management, and marketing participation. I am responsible for building the team that helps to ensure what we place into the glass is something of uncompromising quality – at least this is the mandate giving to me by our owner Joe Donelan.

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Q&A with Charlie Barra, of BARRA of Mendocino and Girasole Vineyards

15 Nov

As the third interview with California wine luminaries we were fortunate enough to track down Charlie Barra, owner and  grape grower for BARRA of Mendocino and Girasole Vineyards.

JK: Can you provide readers with a little background on BARRA of Mendocino and Girasole Vineyards and you?

CB: I grew up in a vineyard starting at a very young age. My family emigrated from Italy in 1906, so when they arrived in the Redwood Valley area of Northern California (where my vineyards are today) they began farming grapes as they had in Europe. So I was fortunate to be able to learn farming from my father Antonio and my grandfather, Guiseppe. And in Europe, they did not use chemicals in the vineyard, so it was a natural progression for me to adopt this approach when farming my own vineyards.

JK: What was your first job?

CB: I will be 84 years old this December and my first, and only job, has been grape farming.  As a child, I even got a pair of pruning shears for Christmas one year!

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Q&A with Linda Ault of Cedar Mountain Winery

12 Nov

Cedar Mountain Winery combines the creative interests of Linda and Earl Ault wine food and art. Earl is an accomplished sculptor watercolorist and large format photographer. Linda is a recognized amateur gourmet chef. Together they manage the farming activities and operate the winery. Earl is the winemaker. The Aults believe that quality wines begin with the grapes in the vineyard. They specialize primarily in Livermore grown and produced wines.

JK: Can you provide readers with a little background on who you are, why you care about sustainability and what you’re doing?

LA: Earl has been on the Board of Directors for the Wine Institute for many, many years (we are the smallest winery on the board). We have been practicing their Sustainable Winegrowing Practices for both the winery and the vineyard since they published the guide in 2002. The self-assessment workbook/guide is aliving document that is frequently updated. To us sustainability means a minimum impact on the environment. Why spray insecticide when lady bugs and soap will do (and the soap bio-degrades to fertilizer). Weeds in the vineyard are OK – they harbor pests that would be on the grapes. Disking the weed into the vineyard wipes out one generation of pests and adds compost to the vineyard at the same time. As for the winery, Cedar Mountain Winery is the only certified green winery in Alameda County. To be certified we had to pass audits in the following areas: solid waste reduction and recycling, energy conservation, water conservation and pollution prevention. And we must show improvements every year in order to maintain our certification. This past year we took out all of the water hungry landscaping in front of the winery, donated the plants to the local college for their plant sale and put in drought resistant, native California plants. After this year we won’t have to water them. We also put in a tankless water heater in the winery in order to use less water. Our gammajet washer, for washing barrels and tanks, takes only a fraction of the water we used to use. As we said before Sustainability means Minimum Impact on the Environment. I could go on forever on this subject.

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#WineWednesday Q&A with Dave Guffy, Winemaker, The Hess Collection

10 Nov

As the second interview with California wine luminaries we were fortunate enough to track down Dave Guffy of The Hess Collection in Mount Veeder, Napa.

JK: Although Hess Collection needs little introduction, can you provide readers with a little background on who you are?

DG: For the past 11 years I’ve been the winemaker for The Hess Collection, which is located in a historic winery high atop Mount Veeder in Napa Valley. Donald Hess established his first Mount Veeder vineyard in 1978, and today, we farm about 1,034 acres, all sustainably, with 704 acres of that total in Napa Valley.

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Q&A with Laura Mohseni, GM, Riverbench Vineyard & Winery

8 Nov

This is the first in a series of interviews with notable wine industry experts from VineCrowd.

As part of my research for a post on sustainablity trends in the wine industry I have been interviewing several experts and will publish our conversations over the next few week in this blog.  That said, no one has been more enthusiastic than Laura Mohseni, the General Manager of Riverbench Vineyard and Winery.

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Wine Industry Trend? Innovative Small Biz Financing

2 Nov

I recently became involved with Toast Wine Lounge, a start-up wine bar in my new neighborhood (did everyone catch that disclaimer…). The founders, Heather and Kristen, have so much going for them and their business plan that’s its hard to single out what really caught my eye. That said, there was one thing that really stuck out: In addition to selling t-shirts and pre-purchase punch cards, Toast is raising start-up capital by selling memberships:

We need YOUR help! In the past, when someone needed help building something useful, such as a barn, the local community got together and built it. Once built, everyone would celebrate by sharing a meal under the new roof. We seek to build TOAST in the same manner. Help us Raise Our Barn! Your participation by purchasing wine glass punch cards, toast-tees or better yet a membership is all it takes to open the doors to TOAST. We are certain we will reach our goal and that one day soon we will all sit back and celebrate our collective accomplishment by enjoying a glass of wine in an inspired setting.

There are a range of member benefits, depending on the investment level, but they include things like complimentary tickets to winemaker dinners, a TOAST email address and calling cards with a “Founder” title, vouchers for glasses of wine, priority seating at the Melchior table (reserved for members only) and ‘serious celebrity status when you visit Toast.’

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