Old and Fun? This Book is Just That

Written in 1958 by Leon D. Adams, one of America’s early wine writers, The Commonsense Book of Wine is one to find and keep.
It’s easy. You can get it in paperback for less than $10.
And what a deal.  Not only does this classic offer first-rate advice on everything from wine snobs to storing wine in your closet, but also, it does so with humor and style.
Our book pick of the month!


Thanksgiving Wines — For Us, It’s About Small Family Wineries

When we think of Thanksgiving, we think of family.  After all, that’s who most of us spend that holiday with, so it makes sense.
And along those lines, we started thinking about all the family
wineries that have been part of The California Wine Club over the years, and how truly thankful we are for their energy and
dedication to artisan winemaking. We’d like to share a few of our favorite Thanksgiving wine choices from some of these wonderful small wineries.
Love Zin?  Then choose any Zin from Storybook Mountain Vineyards just above Calistoga in Napa Valley.  Two generations of the Seps family tend vineyards marching up the steep
sides of their magical valley dedicated to Zinfandel. In fact, founder Jerry Seps was a founder of Zinfandel Advocates & Producers (Z.A.P.), whose January Zin tasting in San Francisco has become a Zin lovers’ annual pilgrimage.
If it’s Pinot you’re after, you can’t go wrong with Maysara, begun by the Momtazi family in McMinnville Oregon in the foothills of Oregon’s coastal range.  Moe Momtazi began the project in 1997 and soon was proving the benefits of biodynamic, chemical-free farming with more than 500 acres of vines, one of the largest vineyards in Oregon.
Today, Moe and Flora’s three daughters handle everything from winemaking to marketing, while the family’s six different Pinot Noirs (plus Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Rosé and sparklers) will knock your socks off.
Syrah is another Thanksgiving wine to savor, and we’d suggest one from Fess Parker Winery in Santa Barbara where Syrah is a regional success story.  “Davy Crockett” star Fess Parker began the winery in 1989.  His son Eli soon showed talent for making wine and was ultimately named the “André Tchelistcheff Winemaker of the Year” in 2006.  The winery produces several bottlings of Syrah — we’re sure one will be a great companion for your turkey.
Get ready for family, wine and Thanksgiving!

Sediment — No Worries!

Have you ever noticed layers of something at the bottom
of a wine bottle?  What the heck is that!  It’s called sediment, but not to worry — it’s the harmless by product of fermentation and solid that drift to the bottom of the bottle.  Typically, you’ll find this only in red wines that are at least 10 years old.
No one wants to drink cloudy wine, so it’s best to
rid the wine of the sediment. How to do this?  Drop
by the “Wine Tips & How-To’s” section of our video site, http://www.youtube.com/user/thecawineclub/playlists.
And savor every clear drop!

Thanksgiving recipes from Handley Cellars


Handley Cellars in Anderson Valley, Mendocino County, enjoys the cool climate perfect for sparkling wine.  This rich appetizer is fabulous with the Handley Brut Rosé.  Interested in Handley sparklers?  They have a waiting list for their Handley Cellars sparking Brut and/or Brut Rose from their library. http://www.handleycellars.com


Fig, Goat Cheese & Prosciutto Appetizers

18 dried black mission figs

¼ lb. prosciutto, sliced very thin

¼ lb. Humboldt Fog Goat Cheese

Tooth picks

Cut stems off the figs and cut a slice down one side.

Fill with a small nugget of cheese.

Wrap in a half slice of prosciutto, secure with a toothpick and place on a flat baking sheet.

Bake in 350˚ oven for about 10 minutes.

Note:  Other varieties of dried fig can be used.  Larger ones need to be cut into bite-sized pieces.  Bacon is a good substitute for prosciutto.  Use a third of a slice of thin sliced bacon, or just a square of thick bacon.




This vegetable dish is a terrific Thanksgiving add-on

from Handley Cellars.  It’s especially good with a rich red like Handley’s Ranch House Red, a blend of Pinot Noir, Syrah and Zinfandel.  Enjoy!


Kale with Shallots and Bacon

2-1/2 lbs. kale

10 slices bacon, cut into short strips

2 c minced shallots

Fresh ground pepper

Kosher salt


Clean and rib kale, discard stems.

Stack a few kale leaves and roll lengthwise into a cigar shape. Cut crosswise into 1/4″ wide strips with a sharp knife. Repeat with remaining leaves.

Set aside.

Cook bacon in a heavy saucepan or skillet over moderate heat until crisp, stirring occasionally.

Transfer bacon to paper towels to drain.

Pour off most of the fat, reserving 3 tablespoons in pan.

Add shallots and sauté about 1 minute, turning often with tongs.

Cover and continue to cook kale until tender, about 6 minutes.

Toss with bacon.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

David Pack’s Napa Crossroads — Great Thanksgiving Music


What happens when a Grammy award-winning producer and vocalist gets together with Napa Valley wine notables (with no musical experience) to produce an ode to Napa?  Something darn good. 

David Pack went out on a limb collaborating with 5 Napa wineries: Silver Oak, Far Niente, Pride Mountain, Gargiulo Vineyards, and Casa Piena.  Together, they created what David calls “a love letter to Napa”.

He composed all the songs in Napa Valley, where as a wine lover he has spent a good deal of time.  “It has inspired me for 4 decades,” David said.  From “Wine Country Cowboy” to “Full House Full Heart”, Napa Crossroads will likely inspire you, too.  A great Thanksgiving CD from one of America’s leading artists, eager to share his passion about California’s most popular appellation.

The Most Wine-ful Holiday is Coming Up–Which wine is our ultimate choice with the turkey?


Of all our holidays, Thanksgiving is the most wine-oriented.  It makes sense.  This holiday is all about a feast, and what is a feast without wine?

Last week, we mentioned Zinfandel, Viognier and sparkling wine as Thanksgiving pick.  We can also recommend Pinot Noir, Syrah and Cab.  But of all these, we really feel sparkling wine is the standout.

Thanksgiving kicks off the holidays and the holidays are all about sparkling wine, culminating in New Year’s Eve, when bubbly galore is poured.

It’s a mistake to confine bubbly to just toasts.  It can be a versatile food wine (though vinaigrette dressings, cheese and chocolate can be a challenge).  The drier the sparkler, the more versatile it can be, so reach for the extra-brut and brut categories.

To highlight the wonderful acidity, balance and flavor of a fine dry sparkler, here are a few great food choices:

  • seafood appetizers, especially oysters and lobster
  • salads and vegetables
  • fruit-based desserts, like sorbet, berry tart, fruit compote or fruit plates
  • mildly sweet desserts, like pound cake or lemon custard

Here are a few questions we often hear about sparklers.

  1. How do I tell if a sparkler is dry or sweet?

The name tells all:

Extra Brut = the driest

Brut = tastes dry with no hint of sweet

Extra Dry/Extra Sec = tastes just a bit sweet

Sec = definitely sweet

Demi-Sec = Sweeter still

Doux = the sweetest sparkler

  1. 2.  What is the difference between Champagne and sparkling wine?

By law, a sparkler can be labeled as Champagne only if produced in that world famous wine region of Champagne, France.  So, sparklers around the world go by other names, among them Cava in Spain, Spumante in Italy, Sekt in Germany and sparkling wine in the U.S..

  1. How can I tell if a bubbly is high quality?

The highest quality sparklers are made using the laborious and time-consuming methode champenoise.  This term will appear somewhere on the bottle.  It takes years.  And the price reflects the time and effort invested in the wine.

  1. How do I open a bottle of bubbly?

Thought you’d never ask!  Just go to this address–http://www.youtube.com/user/thecawineclub/playlists click on “Wine Tips and How-to’s” and scroll to the bottom.  You’ll see how easy it can be.  Happy pouring!

Why Terroir Is At the Heart of Wine’s Fun


Terroir — the weather, soils, terrain that are home to a vineyard — is coming into its own in California.  By that we mean, winemakers and wine lovers are really starting to tune in to the power and delight of wines made with terroir in mind.  That is–wines made of grapes perfectly suited to their terroir.

It makes sense.  European winemaking is founded on the concept of terroir.  During the 1960s, at the rebirth of California wine, winemakers were mostly trying to figure out which wines consumers wanted.  All kinds of grape varieties were grown in all kinds of places — often the wrong places.

Now, it’s a whole new ball game.  California winemakers have zeroed in on exact places for certain varietals — and they’ve also recognized that certain varietals can do well in a variety of sites.  And that each will have its own interesting take on that particular type of wine.

Pinot Noir is a good example.  It needs cool weather.  So places like Sonoma Coast, Carneros and Anderson Valley are naturals.  On the other hand, Syrah is more flexible. It can do well in a cooler region or, warmer.  From a warmer region, Syrah will be darker and fruitier.  The cool climate Syrah may be less showy but spicier with higher acidity and tighter structure.

You’ll find Cab all over the state, but the bottom line is this:  it’s got to be a warm enough region to adequately ripen the fruit.  If a region is too cold, such as western Santa Barbara County, King Cab will never don its crown.

White wines depend on cool terroir, or at least cold nights, to develop the acidity that gives them their zing and personality.

And in every terroir that is suitable for each grape variety, there will be more variables than just the weather that affect the taste of the wine.

–Soils can be unique volcanic, clay, well-draining loam, alluvial…

–Sun exposure can be morning only, or just late afternoon, or full-on all day; or a variety of exposures

–Elevation can lengthen the growing season and let grapes reach perfect ripeness

And so it goes.  Uncorking terroir opens up a whole new territory for wine lovers–an exciting, endlessly fascinating journey of exploration.  What’s your favorite “regional wine”?  The terroir party is on!

Thanksgiving wine pairings


Uh oh. Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and people are already asking us:  what should we pour?

Which wine goes best with turkey?

People are asking because Thanksgiving can be a problematic food & wine pairing.  Why?  One dish: cranberry sauce.

Cranberry sauce is delicious with turkey and stuffing.  However, its boisterous personality is a tough customer with wine.  Seriously, have you ever met a cranberry and a wine that got along really well together?  If so, let us know.

Meanwhile —

Here are three wines that might carry you through the entire feast and pumpkin pie, too:

  • Sparkling wine. We have always said it’s versatile—Thanksgiving is its ultimate test.
  • Zinfandel: Bold, red and has the chutzpah to stand up to a spicy stuffing or dare we say, a cranberry?
  • Viognier: A subtle white that will blend in with the elements of Thanksgiving, in a lovely, polite way–the perfect holiday guest, no?

Sonoma Plaza after harvest


Some places in wine country have certain seasons that we really love.  Sonoma Plaza after harvest is one of them.

At this time of year, the pressure is off the winemakers and workers — the wine is in the barrel — and it’s time to take a stroll among the huge trees of the plaza’s 8- acre park, breathe in the cold fall air and drop by one of many great (and affordable) restaurants (Harvest Moon Café, Red Grape Pizzeria) for a meal and fabulous local wines.

Sure, there’s festivities upcoming, like the Lighting of Sonoma Plaza on Nov. 14th, the Olive Festival in January and the International Film Festival in March.  But right now, it’s the plaza’s ambiance that most attracts us.

This town square is downhome.  Small town.  It’s a contrast to Healdsburg Plaza further north.  Sonoma  Plaza seems more community-oriented. You’ll see more  families walking the dog (or their miniature horses!) than limos.  Joggers with baby buggies, school kids racing through the shops (lots of fun, artsy, trendy stores here) — it’s a warm, lively vibe of locals enjoying one of California’s best wine regions.

And it’s got history.  Tons of it.  Here is the birthplace of the State of California, the site of the Bear Flag Revolution; the home of General Vallejo; original barracks; and one of California’s oldest missions.

It’s all good in Sonoma Plaza…do you have a wine country “fall favorite”?

What would Dracula drink? (Besides blood)


We just know Dracula loved a glass of wine when no one was looking.  It was an image thing, all that blood on his chin.  Come midnight, even he couldn’t resist a tender steak with a rich red Cab.  If anyone asked, he could say it was blood, and no one ever did, because they just assumed … he was Dracula, after all. Continue reading