Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Alpha Omega Collective

On Monday this week, I attended a special tasting at Alpha Omega Winery introducing their new Alpha Omega Collective, an umbrella brand featuring Pinot Noirs from Tolosa in Edna Valley, and Perinet’s Mediterranean reds from the Priorat in Spain.

The conversation with the three winemakers Jean Hoefliger of Alpha Omega in Napa Valley, Frédéric Delivert of Tolosa in Edna Valley, and Antoni Sanchez-Ortiz of Perinet in the Priorat, Spain detailed their particular wines and winemaking philosophy and the threads of connection between the three.

The three common threads among the estates according to Hoefliger were expression of place within the very particular soils, wine balance, and acidity. Each also has a philosophy of making wines that are enjoyable now, and with the ability to age and drink later.

I particularly liked the 2016 Tolosa Hollister Edna Valley Pinot Noir, it was true to varietal form, a truly delicious love note to the grape. I found the 2016 Tolosa Primera Pinot Noir slightly elusive on the day I tasted, but the assets of the variety were all there. The limestone soils of Edna Valley, as well as the sea air, add a touch of salinity to the red fruits and give the wines freshness and acidity.

The 2015 Alpha Omega Beckstoffer To Kalon was exceptional and wines from this legendary vineyard are well deserving of the merit. We also sampled the 2016 Alpha Omega Era Napa Valley in barrel made from multiple vineyards across the valley, and only the second time ever made from 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. The Era proved to be a true expression and reflection of the valley.

Of the three estates we tasted from the Alpha Omega Collective, it was the Perinet that grabbed my attention with their sheer authority and bold flavor profiles. The 2015 Perinet Priorat DOQ is a blend of 33% Grenache, 25% Carignan, 25% Syrah, and 17% Cabernet Sauvignon. And the 2015 Perinet 1194 Priorat DOQ is comprised of 65% Grenache, 32.5% Carignan, and 2.5% Syrah.

I was particularly captivated by the 2015 Perinet 1194 Priorat DOQ – and with my first sip of the 1194 I felt like the tannins were going to pull me right inside the glass. I felt like I’d been punched in the cerebral cortex, and I mean that in a good way! This is a wine that can take you deep. It was wily, but graceful -- the Grenache and the Carignan flavors in lockstep, with a trace of iron and salinity. Antoni mentioned the wines were best with spicy food to compliment the tannins, and at lunch the sandwich I had included hot spicy mustard, and that did indeed balance them nicely.

The Perinet wines are filled with vibrancy and vitality and grown in a terrior described as a triangle with four sides, on two levels, that is rocky, dry, hot, and cold and sometimes all at once. The area is shaped like an amphitheater and bounded by the Montsant DO region.

Antoni talked about the unusual conditions the vines grow in and how they are much like individual children with special needs. And as he spoke, I was suddenly reminded of Rodrigo de Sousa, the maestro in the show Mozart in the Jungle. Rodrigo’s catch phrase to his orchestra is “Play with blood!” – meaning play with life force, vitality, energy and with soul; and I could imagine Antoni out in his vineyards saying —“Grow with blood!” as he directs and shepherds the vines to their full vigor and potential.

And then it struck me — the Alpha Omega Collective is much like a symphony with three dynamic maestros each conducting their respective threads of terrior, balance, and acidity. But I think a there is a fourth common thread as well—charisma—all the wines have a presence that cannot be ignored.

Tasting Notes and Resources:
Alpha Omega Collective

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Small is Beautiful - Sonoma Underground a Tasting Sized Right

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that i’m quite choosy when it comes to events and I’m done with big walk around tastings. (No more Fort Mason!) Small and focused is where it’s at for me. A new tasting event -Sonoma Underground is a perfect example of Small is Beautiful.

Last month I attended the inaugural Sonoma Underground event, the brainchild of Laura Perret Fontana and Elizabeth Schneider, that is dedicated to the proposition that the small guys often get overlooked and lost in the crowded wine space. Fontana and Schneider’s criteria were producers making great wine fewer than 10,000 cases. (Although the majority pouring was well under that.) Oh and the other main criteria --“Nice people only! They couldn’t be a**holes.” I was told.  Ah, yes! That always helps.

As I strolled around the room...ahem...squeezed around the room, I noticed (with few exceptions) the actual owners/wine makers were pouring. That’s the bonus of a small event—the chance to connect with the winemaker.

While I was well acquainted with the majority of the producers Inman, Acorn, Crux, Kieran Robinson Wines, Keller Estate, Larsen Projekt, Longboard, and Robert Young Estate whom I wrote about here for Sonoma Discoveries—there were several I’d never tried before.

One of which was the Keller Estate Brut Rosé Bubbles! Whoa! What a beauty. And the Keller Estate 2014 Precioso Chardonnay was one of the most lush, elegant and delicious examples of the grape I’ve experienced.

Kathleen Inman’s Whole Buncha Bubbles and Endless Crush Rosé of Pinot Noir were also causing a stir among attendees at her table along with her standout portfolio of Pinots.

Those unfamiliar with Larsen Projekt Rosé of Grenache should rectify that as soon as possible. The wine, a lovely intentional rosé, has a tart fruit melody and a baseline of minerality that is like a foxtrot across the palate. Fill your dance card with it soon!

One of the new to me producers was Camlow Cellars –Oh my, what a discovery! Their 2014 Magna Porcum Pinot Noir Estate Green Valley Russian River Valley was simply wonderful. This has everything you hope for in a pinot noir and more. It’s vibrant and deep with an abundance of dark fruit and a dash of white pepper. Delicious now, with gentle tannins that suggest it will most likely be scrumptious in the long run as well.

My love at first sip white wine of the day was the 2015 Peterson Triple V White Blend Dry Creek Valley Estate consisting of Vermentino, Vernaccia, and Verdelho—a trio of varieties from the Mediterranean. The Peterson V3 was a revelation of flavor –an aromatic tone poem with great balance. Veni Vidi Vici—I came, I tasted, and my taste buds were conquered. Also very much enjoyed the Peterson Cabernet Sauvignon and GSM. Oh yeah, and the Syrah too.

Props to Laura Fontana and Laura Schneider digging deep to bring together small producers that are making great wine with integrity and spirit. It was a fun, engaged, and happening crowd (although I think I may have been the only one spitting). As the day wore on I noticed many people signing up for wine club memberships – always a great indicator of good wine.

If Sonoma Underground comes to your neck of the woods, here is some advice:
Buy the ticket. Take the ride.

Sonoma Underground is excellent for both the wine curious and the wine serious. Don’t miss it.

NOTE: My ticket for this event was complimentary. 


Monday, December 25, 2017

Christmas Past -- The 12 Days Of Christmas

In second grade my class performed the Twelve Days of Christmas for the Annual Holiday Pageant. Twelve of us were selected for the lead lines while the rest of the class stood on risers behind us and sang the repetitive chorus “On the X day of Christmas…my true love gave to me….”

Of course position one, the First Day of Christmas is the plum role, that line gets repeated every single verse.

Julie Connor was the Partridge in a Pear tree, and she reveled in it, telling the rest of us how her part was the most important and that everyone would be looking at her when she sang the final line. She gloated over how she would get to sing her line twelve times and told us that the only other good parts were up to day six. We tried to ignore her, but it was true. Anything over day six was pretty much a dud assignment. She did have the best part.

My best friend Penny had Seven Swans Swimming.

I was Eight Maids a Milking, pretty much the worst day in the song.

Really it is the worst day. Let’s break it down: There’s a wild and crazy assortment of birds, the coveted five golden rings, and then the gifts of the performing arts: dancing ladies, leaping lords, drummers, and pipers. But what’s up with Eight Milk Maids? They just don’t measure up the other gifts of birds, bling, and performers. The Eight Maids a Milking were basically the human chattel gift. This irked me.

But things got worse.

Our teacher, Mrs. Taylor, made our costumes that were for the most part successful.

Karen Harper was the envy of all the girls in her pink ballerina outfit for Nine Ladies Dancing and Richard Esquivel looked like Liberace with five enormous papier-mâché golden rings on one hand.

For Four Calling Birds, Mrs. Taylor wired stuffed crows to each of Stacy Martin’s shoulders, which unfortunately began to droop during the performance, and made her look like she was being pecked in the head. It was not unlike like a scene from The Birds.

My costume was pathetic. An ersatz Holly Hobbie. I wore a scruffy red corduroy jumper, an ill fitting apron, black rubber muck boots and a white bonnet that made me look half Amish and half insane. A tin pail was my sorry accessory.

Prior to the holiday pageant, I’d received some pointers from my aunt who gave voice lessons. She showed me how to breathe from my belly and how to relax my throat so as not to constrict the sound when I sang. She told me to find a face in the back of the hall and sing out directly to that person.

The night of the show the curtain rose and our song began. When it was my turn to sing my line I stepped forward, found a face in the back and sang out. I delivered the line strong, and clear -- Eight maids a milking.

I grew louder and more confident with each repeated verse.

Eight Maids a MILKING.


On the final round of the song, I noticed Mrs. Taylor trying to catch my attention from the center aisle in front of the stage. She waved her hand in a frantic downward motion signaling me to drop the volume.

I stepped forward for the last verse and gave it my all adding an operatic flourish at the end as if I were Brünnhilde the Valkyrie—warrior maiden in Richard Wagner’s Ring cycle opera.


Then I thrust my arm straight up and flung the milk pail into the air. It looped around then crashed down on the stage with a horrific clang, like a cymbal hit by a truck.

Mrs. Dempsey raised her hands abruptly from the piano keys. A stunned silence fell over the auditorium. Julie Connor stepped out of line and glared at me from inside her pear tree.

The milk pail rocked back and forth on the stage in a lazy arc.

I nudged Penny (who appeared to be in a slight trance) to indicate it was her turn to go. She chirped out Seven Swans Swimming and Mrs. Dempsey resumed the piano.

I don’t even remember hearing the rest of the song, the last partridge in a pear tree. But I do remember Julie Connor never forgave me for stealing her pear tree thunder.

I wonder what ever became of her?

Monday, November 6, 2017

Insider Guide for #WBC17

Sonoma is a Food and Wine Wonderland so this is but a very small slice of what the region has to offer. Here is quick list of places for coffee, shopping, dining and wine for #WBC17 attendees.

Nearby the Hyatt:

If you’d like to see the death of retail in real time visit the Santa Rosa Plaza Mall. Nothing going on here but the last gasp of some clothing chains and a few chemical laden bath and body product stores. But there is Apple Store here if you need accessories for your phone or someone tips a dump bucket on your laptop during speed tasting. (it can happen)

Head directly across the street to Flying Goat or A'Roma Roasters in Rail Road Square.
Or take a jaunt up a few blocks to Peet's on 4th Street.

Omelette Express 

Russian River Brewing Company

Bird and Bottle
Eclectic small/share plates menu with mix of traditional and southern influenced comfort food. Fancy cocktails.

Stark Steak and Seafood
Classic fare in an elegant but casual atmosphere with great wine list and over 60 whiskeys to try.

If you are sick of the whole shared plates thing, and really who isn't? Go to Rosso and get you own big plate of whatever or have one of their awesome pizzas all to yourself. Great local and Italian wine selections.

La Gare
Old-school French cuisine. You’ll like this place if you are over 60 and have an expense account. Located directly across the street from the Hyatt.


About 9 minutes due west of the Hyatt is Sebastopol where you will find the Barlow home of Crooked Goat Brewing and Wind Gap Wines tasting room, a must stop for the Trousseau Gris on tap.

Also in Sebastopol:
Ramen Gaijin 
Awesome and authentic ramen and Japanese influenced dishes with small plate Izakaya menu. Winner of 2017 Michelin Guide Bib Gourmand award.

HopMonk Tavern 
Great selection of beer and hearty pub food with some lighter selections. Good place for getting loud with a group. Has an all weather/outdoor beer garden with fire pits and lounge style seating.

Upscale locally sourced seafood in fast casual setting. Order and pay at the counter and then find a seat kind of place. Great food and wine but don't be surprised if you walk out wondering how the heck you just spent $75 on two tacos a salad and a glass of wine. But nice if you have a group and don’t want to do the split-the-check-tango at the end of the meal.

If you need weather updates use a weather app on your phone and be wary of people claiming to be “boots on the ground” when they are broadcasting from a bunker in an undisclosed location. ;-)

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Share the Love, Get a Cool Wine Road Podcast Mug – For FREE!

This awesome Wine Road Podscast Mug can be yours for FREE!

The Wine Road Podcast needs your help to spread the word and promote the podcast. And to thank you for your assistance we will send you this cheerful bright yellow Wine Road Podcast mug for FREE! It’s super cool with a big deep cup suitable for holding morning coffee or morning wine as the case may be. (No judging here!)

Use your mug for coffee or wine it’s up to you! 

To get the FREE mug all you need to do is three easy steps:

1 -- Leave a review for the Wine Road podcast on iTunes here—

2 -- SHARE our podcast link on social with the hashtag #WineRoadPodCast

3 -- Send an email with your name and mailing address to and we will send you the mug!

That’s it!

Plus all those that follow the above directions are entered into a drawing for a Wine Road Experience valued at $500.

So, what are you waiting for? You know you want it.
Do it for me, won’t you?

Marcy aka Millie Winehouse

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Masthead Sangiovese From Lodi-- A Wine Blogger Collaboration

Last year at the 2016 Wine Bloggers Conference in Lodi, the highlight of the opening reception was the Masthead Sangiovese. I adored this wine from the moment I first tasted it and kept asking how I could get more.

Luckily I was sent a sample bottle of the Masthead Sangiovese ( in October of 2016) and I opened it in November. Made by four bloggers, the wine is a beautiful mouthful of dark fruit with harmonious tannins, bright acidity and a delightful blend of spice and earthiness.

The wine is 100% Sangiovese blended from two lots of Mohr-Fry Ranch,  Block 433 in Lodi California. As I mentioned above, I was wowed by this wine when I tasted it in Lodi at the Wine Bloggers Conference and was very happy I was able to try it again away from the WBC chaos and enjoy it over the course of an evening. The particular evening I opened the wine was election night 2016, which had a chaos of its own of course, but I tired to ignore that slow motion train-wreck.

For me this wine will always be the bright spot in a dark day in history. Unlike election day that started out with promise and quickly deteriorated, the Masthead Sangiovese never let me down and continued to open up and reach new heights of flavor and complexity over the course of the evening.

What a brilliant idea it was to bring wine bloggers together to craft this wine.

UPDATE: While I tasted this almost a year ago it sometimes takes a jolt to get me to post to this blog and that jolt came by way of the recent news that Masthead received 90 points from Wine Enthusiast! I’d like to say you heard it here first that it was a worthy wine--but that’s what I get for procrastinating on this post!

In any event -- Cheers to Melanie Ofenloch of Dallas Wine Chick, Cindy Rynning, of Grape-Experiences and Peter Bourget and Nancy Brazil of Pull That Cork for a job well done.

You can read the full story of how the wine was created on their respective blogs via the links above.

File this post under #BetterLateThanNever

Monday, June 5, 2017

Huichica Sonoma - Food, Wine, Music and Craft Beer All in One

What are you doing this weekend? It’s not too late to make plans to attend the Huichica Sonoma Festival at Gundlach Bundschu Winery in Sonoma this Friday June 9th and Saturday 10th.

The festival, now in its eighth year, is a live music festival paired with regional culinary talent, Gundlach Bundschu wines and craft beer. The two-day event, founded by vintner Jeff Bundschu and musician Eric D. Johnson (of Fruit Bats) and curated by (((folkYEAH!))) Presents, will be held at the historic 159-year-old Gundlach Bundschu winery in Sonoma, is a family friendly event. 

"Huichica is basically great music, great food and great wine with no bad attitudes,” said Bundschu. “We love it when the artists and purveyors themselves are great people – the kind you’d want to hang with.”

“I’m very proud of the way Huichica, going on eight years now, has grown to be one of the most unique boutique festival settings in both content and geography,” said Britt Govea, founder of (((folkYEAH!))) Presents. “These events are not centered around commerce – it’s about providing a fully curated, rural experience of timeless music and great wines mixed with truly wonderful food that we are blessed to share with the public twice a year.”

Friday day passes for the festival are $40, Saturday day passes are $65 and two-day passes are $95. Admission for kids under 12 is FREE!

For additional information on the festival, lineup and vendors, please visit or


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