We read an article recently in a reputable publication that proclaimed Zinfandel as California’s “heritage grape,” and went on to describe this grape varietal as “a quintessentially American phenomenon. It’s zesty, rugged and loud, challenging to rear, a lover of barbecue.” This characterization of Zinfandel is not uncommon and we have even heard more casual … Continue reading Wines of Croatia, Part II: “Original Zin”
We import white and red Croatian wines and make them available to U.S. consumers at our Topochines Vino online wine store: www.topochinesvino.com. In late 2016 we made our first ever foray to the Balkans, a trip that was planned more or less on a whim and without any goal in mind but to explore … Continue reading The Wines of Croatia: Part I
This is the latest chapter in our ongoing series of posts about wines and wine makers that we feature on our Online Wine Store. Our Topochines Vino wine store focuses on small-production wines from family wineries in the United States and Europe. This chapter is dedicated to one of our newer winery partners, Ghost Hill Cellars … Continue reading Pinot Noir Blanc = Champagne without the bubbles
We recently ran across a book whose title asserts "wine is not rocket science." After our recent trip to Oregon's Willamette Valley, we are not so sure. One of the wineries we visited as we were scouting wines for our Topochines Vino Wine Store is Vidon Vineyard, located just outside of the town of Newburg in the … Continue reading Maybe making wine is rocket science after all
Just before Thanksgiving we made a trip to Oregon's Willamette Valley wine region to scout out unique wines for our Topochines Vino wine store. As our "home base" for our five-day trip, we stayed at Youngberg Hill Inn, easily our favorite place to stay in all of Willamette Valley. This was not our first time staying … Continue reading A pretty nice hill in Oregon’s Willamette Valley
You’ve heard the old joke, right? Q: How do you make a small fortune in the wine business? A: You start with a large fortune and lose some of it. A clear sign of our dubious sanity is our decision to become wine importers and online retailers, despite not starting with a large fortune. Today … Continue reading Making a small fortune in the wine business
We have been to some pretty cool places and met some very compelling people through our blogging and wine importing activities. Last week, we had an experience that shot to the top of our list of "wow" moments: lunch with Cary Gott. Those that work in the California wine industry or have any serious connection … Continue reading Lunch with Napa Valley Icon Cary Gott
This headline should make some of you happy, at least momentarily. And it is true - this will be a short post. We just wanted to link to a blog posted by our friends T Dracaena Wines. Not only are they super people, they make great wine. Here's a link to their blog post, which … Continue reading This will be our shortest post ever
Our friends Tracy and Marty were visiting from Southern California recently and we decided to go to San Francisco and hang out for the weekend. For our Saturday night dinner, our friends suggested that we try an eatery in the city, Dirty Water, that was new to all of us. It turns out that one … Continue reading You have to be game to eat at Dirty Water
The week before last, about 300 hundred wine bloggers and other professionals in the trade convened in Santa Rosa, California for the tenth annual Wine Bloggers Conference (WBC17). From the title, some might conclude that event is laden with over-indulgence, self-indulgence and downright snobbery. While there was some of that, we were surprised - as … Continue reading Drinking wine, a blogger’s continuing education
We had the opportunity last week to meet Sharon Kazan Harris, the owner and Director of Winemaking at Rarecat Wines in Napa Valley. There are a growing number of women vintners in Northern California wine country, but Sharon is one-of-a-kind. Not only does her Rarecat label produce wines from Napa, she is also producing, importing … Continue reading Encountering a rare cat in Napa Valley
Starting tonight, we will be one over 300 attendees at this year's Wine Bloggers Conference - WBC17. This annual event brings together wine producers and reps, bloggers, PR professionals, social media gurus, wine tourism experts, and other wine nerds. Although it is our first time, the conference is celebrating its 10th anniversary; for this event, … Continue reading An orgy of wine nerds and bloggers
For many in Northern California wine country, October was wicked and haunted indeed. Today, on the last day of the month, we say goodbye to October 2017 and welcome November with open arms and a spirit of optimism and hope. Last weekend we took to the car and drove about 250 miles through Napa and … Continue reading So long October, and good riddance
Two weeks after the first wildfire started its deadly tear through Northern California wine country, we are taking stock of things and wondering "what did we do wrong?" and "what could we have done better?" Today's post will be more in the nature of a confessional because, in retrospect, we should have been so much … Continue reading 10 Personal Lessons from Wine Country fires
As most everyone knows, it has been a devastating four days in Napa Valley and neighboring Sonoma County. Devastating wildfires have raged through our communities since late Sunday night, initially driven by winds that gusted at nearly 70 miles per hour. At 1:30 a.m. Monday, the sound of someone banging on the front door and … Continue reading #NapaStrong. Proud of my community.
Highway 29 and the Silverado Trail wind their way through some of the most well-known appellations in wine country: Stags Leap District, Oakville, and Rutherford, to name a few. Along the "valley floor" there are dozens of wineries, many of which are household names; some wineries have even achieved cult-wine status. But where there is … Continue reading Smith-Madrone winery on Napa’s Spring Mountain
Visitors to Northern California wine country who enjoy nature and a modest amount of exercise should carve out a few hours to paddle the picturesque and serene Russian River. For more than a decade we have made it a goal to canoe the river at least once a year; this year we found ourselves a … Continue reading This river is Russian, not rushin’
When our kids were smaller we used to take them to Gymboree where they could easily pass a few hours without needing any entertaining (thus giving us a break, naturally). For those not familiar with Gymboree, it is a large space with wall-to-wall child stimulation, a mish-mash of slides, ramps, ball pits, giant parachutes, mats, … Continue reading Cornerstone Sonoma: Gymboree for adults
Walking in to Silver Trident Winery in the Napa Valley town of Yountville, the first impression is that of being in someone's home (if someone's home was a Tuscan villa). This impression was reinforced as we walked past the foyer and saw a living room, dining room, and a small library - all designed with … Continue reading The wine is even better than the furniture
We were recently invited to Silverado Vineyards in Napa Valley for a tasting experience and tour. Situated on the historic Silverado Trail in the equally historic Stags Leap District, Silverado Vineyards has caught our eye more than once on drives up and down the valley. As we prepared for our tasting this past Saturday … Continue reading A golden experience at Silverado Vineyards
One of our very first wine tasting experiences in Sonoma County was about 10 years ago at Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards. Located on Highway 121 on the eastern end of the Carneros wine region, Gloria Ferrer sits on a hill with stunning views of vineyards and the surrounding mountains. The occasion for our first … Continue reading Vino, Glorious Vino
Napa Valley has more than its fair share of restaurants that are suitable for a special occasion. Our cousin Patricia recently turned 18 and we wanted to pick a unique place to commemorate this milestone birthday, especially since she was 7,000 miles away from home. Ultimately we decided that Market in Saint Helena would be … Continue reading A restaurant gem in Saint Helena
Most of the wineries we write about are family owned, small-production ventures. Last Sunday we went to Cakebread Cellars, one of the Valley's most established wineries and one that by no measure would be considered "small production." Annually, Cakebread produces over 150,000 cases of wine, which translates to nearly 2 million bottles. Clearly, Cakebread is … Continue reading My 3 favorite things: cake, bread, wine
We had family visiting from Spain for most of July and we wanted to show them as much of our amazing country as we could. After visiting Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon, and the southern Arizona desert, we thought a jaunt through Sonoma County would be a nice change of pace. Within Sonoma County's borders … Continue reading Over the river and through the woods
We usually don’t think of wine and gravity going together. When I knock over a glass of wine, gravity causes the precious juice to fall to the floor. Or worse yet, when the 2014 Napa earthquake struck, gravity maliciously conspired with shaking of the Earth to cause many bottles of wine to plummet to their … Continue reading At Moshin Vineyards gravity is good for the wine
Westside Road winds and meanders its way through Sonoma County's wine region, on some stretches moving East-West and along others North-South. In all of its directions and gyrations, Westside Road takes its travelers past some of the best wineries in Sonoma's impressive wine region. The Westside Wine Trail, as it's also known, starts in the … Continue reading This shack sells fantastic grape juice
A while back our friends Inna and Igor - fellow wine afficionados - proposed a novel idea for a wine tasting: a side-by-side tasting of the same varietal - in this case, Pinot Noir. What made this proposal particularly novel is that all four wines would be from the same producer, Etude Wines. We have … Continue reading Gluttony Punished
A new restaurant recently opened in Napa Valley's Saint Helena that we hope is around as long as its previous occupant. The Charter Oak opened a few weeks ago in the space that was occupied for nearly 30 years by Napa Valley restaurant icon Tra Vigne. In late 2015 Tra Vigne closed up and left … Continue reading A great place to break a fast
Last week we posted an article entitled "Top 10 ways to show off at wine tasting" (Top 10.) Today, we are focused on 10 ways to stand out from the crowd - but in a bad way. Hopefully everyone will consider this a list of things not to do rather than a list of suggested activities. … Continue reading Top 10 Ways to Embarass Yourself at Wine Tasting
For twenty-seven years we lived in Los Angeles. I'm not sure what that says about us. We're gluttons for punishment? Sturdy folk? Addicted to 72-and-sunny temperatures 365 days a year? For all that we enjoyed about Southern California (and it really was mostly the weather), we made an annual pilgrimage each summer to Northern California … Continue reading Hiding in Plain Sight
Wine tasting trips can be fun and exciting, especially if the destination is a superior winery located in a renowned wine region such as Napa Valley, Tuscany, Bordeaux, Rioja, or any of the New World regions (Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Argentina). These trips can also be intimidating given the massive amount of science that gets shared … Continue reading Top 10 Ways To Show Off At Wine Tasting
Yesterday we passed another milestone: we reached 100 countries where our blog has been read. This is a proof-positive of the global nature of our lives today as well as the wide reach of social media and the scale of blog platforms such as WordPress that are used literally all over the world. For the … Continue reading From 0 to 100.
When you live in Napa Valley it is common for other locals to ask "have you been to [fill in the name of a winery]." Sometimes we answer in the affirmative but often we have to admit we are unfamiliar with the winery in question. Over the past month we got "the question" twice about … Continue reading See, Sniff, Swirl, Sip, Spit. Repeat.
We enjoyed a wine recently at a local Napa Valley tasting room from a producer with which we were previously unfamiliar: Lamborn Family Vineyards. The quality of the wine compelled us to visit the producer's website and try to set up a tasting appointment. We could not find an option for scheduling a tasting but … Continue reading Great people making great wines
There is a winery in Paso Robles - Dracaena Wines - that we have been hearing about for the past year or so. Friends and fellow bloggers have posted about the winery's Cabernet Franc and the reviews have been positively glowing. On more than one occasion we visited the Dracaena website and took a closer … Continue reading This is what I call a drinking problem
For every one of our blog posts we have an important introductory step that takes place before we write a single word: brainstorm a headline. For reasons even we do not fully understand, we cannot get started before the headline has been cast in stone. Usually, the headline is a play on words or a … Continue reading I can’t make “pun” of this winery’s name
One year ago we decided that we wanted to start a blog about life in Napa Valley wine country and our experiences visiting the restaurants and wineries here. Almost immediately we felt that Napa Valley was too narrow a focus as our travels took us to other California wine region and wineries in other states. Before … Continue reading Happy Blogiversary to Us
Who would come to Napa Valley for honey tastings? No one! We did not really taste honey, but we did taste wine at a winery whose name means "honey" in German. What is "honey" in German, you ask? Honig. And that's where we found ourselves a few days ago, at Honig Vineyard & Winery in … Continue reading Honey Tasting in Napa Valley
Visitors to Paradise (aka Napa Valley) expect to immerse themselves in the beauty of nature, the decadence of fine cuisine, and the poetry of the region's wines. Left behind are the pressures and rules of "real life," right? Surely something as mundane and constricting as grammar doesn't matter in this world-famous wine region. Well, this is … Continue reading Puncutation Matters in Napa Valley
Last night we opened a bottle of 2015 De La Guerra Viognier from Napa Valley's Carneros region. Translated literally, the words "de la Guerra" in Spanish mean "of the war" or "from the war." In this case, however, De La Guerra refers not to any battle or war but instead is the name of one … Continue reading The fruits – or grapes – of war.
Best #wine #bar in #Hawaii. @WinePaletteMaui
Did Napa need another tasting room? Yes!
For most people, the letters "CIA" conjure up a plethora of images and ideas - clandestine meetings, skullduggery, espionage, exotic locations, and a fair amount of intrigue and danger. What probably does not come to mind is food, and world-class food at that. The reason for this is that our nation's spy agency has co-opted … Continue reading Why we love the CIA? For the food!
According to a famous 1990's advertising campaign,"milk does a body good." We subscribe to the philosophy that wine - good wine - also does a body good. We recently met Sylvie Laly, the wonderful Sales and Wine Director for Napa Valley winery Melka Wines, who was gracious enough to share some of their wines with us. … Continue reading Got Melka?
We recently visited VGS Chateau Potelle in Napa Valley's quaint town of Saint Helena and encountered a wine rating scale that we think has some appeal: VGS. Even casual wine buyers are familiar with the more common 100-point wine rating scale that Robert Parker first introduced in the 1980's in The Wine Advocate. Since Parker introduced this … Continue reading A Wine Rating System That Makes Sense To Us
The Oakland Raiders are one of America's most successful franchises: owners of three National Football league championships and a team that has placed twelve players, one coach and their owner into the NFL Hall of Fame. Over the course of their history, the Raiders have developed the reputation as one of the fiercest teams in … Continue reading Wine Pairs With Football in Napa
My wife and I have been visiting Marimar Estate Vineyards & Winery in the Sonoma County town of Graton for quite a few years now. Founded by Marimar Torres, a member of the prominent Torres winemaking family in Spain, Marimar Estate produces very high quality Chardonnay and Pinot Noir as well as Spanish varietals such … Continue reading A winery my mother would have loved
2016 was unquestionably an impactful year no matter what filters you apply to its 365 days: geopolitics, U.S. politics, the global economy, or the premature passing of a disproportionate number of treasured artists. Certainly, a historical understanding of 2016 will require a thorough review of all of these areas and more. Our goal, however, is not … Continue reading Top 10 Wine Moments of 2016
Today we made our third visit to Holman Cellars, a winery in Napa where some really interesting wines are being made. What keeps drawing us back is the unique setup at Holman Cellars, where there are multiple winemakers and wine labels working out of the same space, sharing the same crush pad, and learning from each … Continue reading Old-fashioned new wine co-op in Napa
Most wine regions are known for something specific. Burgundy is best-known for Chablis (Chardonnay) and Pinot Noir, Bordeaux for Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The Rioja wine region in Spain is best-known for Tempranillo. In Italy's Tuscany region, Sangiovese is king. If there is a grape that defines Napa Valley, it would be Cabernet Sauvignon, although wine … Continue reading Que Sirah Sirah
We read an announcement recently that HBO has partnered with Vintage Wine Estates, a collection of wineries based in Sonoma County, California, to produce several Game of Thrones-themed wines. Vintage Wine Estates produces wines from Sonoma and Napa Valleys, two of our favorite wine regions. But we would have thought HBO would source a GOT-themed wine from a … Continue reading Our Version of “Game of Thrones” Wine
Over the past decade or more, numerous reports have suggested that red wine is good for the heart. At one of our favorite wineries in Napa, the heart has been very good for the wine as well. As the picture above shows, inside the "E" in the Ehlers logo there is a heart, an homage … Continue reading Heart is Good for the Wine
"What's in a name? that which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet." Romeo & Juliet, Act II, Scene 2 What's the difference between Grgic and Grgich? Looked at one way, there is almost no difference - they are just an "h" apart. Looked at differently, they are about 6,271 … Continue reading From Grgic to Grgich
Okay, so maybe Napa Valley is not beer country yet. But over the past couple of years a number of brewing operations and brew houses have sprung up in the Valley and become instant go-to destinations. We previously wrote about one of our favorite beer spots, Carneros Brewing Company, which is in Sonoma County close … Continue reading Living in Beer Country
Wouldn't it be nice if drinking wine was considered an act of philanthropy? Some of us would be donors on the scale of Bill Gates or Warren Buffet. Well, I'm happy to report that there is a cool new concept that allows caring, big-hearted wine lovers to kill two birds with one stone: enjoy great … Continue reading What Are You Grapeful For?
Late winter and early Spring are our favorite times in Napa Valley. For one thing, the temperatures are milder and the influx of visitors has not yet reached its maximum volume. It feels like we have the place to ourselves, at least on occasion. A favorite part of late winter/early Spring is when the mustard … Continue reading Paradise, Napa Valley (Part II)
Images of Napa Valley often depict sprawling fields of grape vines and majestic winery structures that resemble castles or Tuscan villas. Certainly those pictures are appropriate as we have literally miles and miles of vineyards and side-by-side wineries along Highway 29 and Silverado Trail. However, Napa Valley is more than just grapes and wineries; for … Continue reading Paradise, Napa Valley (Part I)
Almost ten years ago we visited a prominent winery in Northern California to taste some of their wines. We were motivated to visit by the fact that one of the world's top-rated restaurants (Napa Valley's The French Laundry) had recently added one of their wines to its impressive wine menu. During the course of our … Continue reading Shouldn’t All Wine Be Natural?
This is the sixth and final installment in the chronicle of the European vacation where I decided to plan the entire trip and not tell my wife where we are going. She has discovered each destination as we cross a border or enter a new city. In most cases she has been in the dark … Continue reading I’ve a feeling we’re not in Croatia anymore
This is the fifth installment in the chronicle of the European vacation where I decided to plan the entire trip and not tell my wife where we are going. She has discovered each destination as we cross a border or enter a new city. In most cases she has been in the dark until almost … Continue reading Croatia’s Terroir
This is the fifth installment in the chronicle of the European vacation where I decided to plan the entire trip and not tell my wife where we are going. She has discovered each destination as we cross a border or enter a new city. In most cases she has been in the dark until almost … Continue reading Travel Log: 16 Lakes, Countless Waterfalls, and Too Many U-Turns
This is the fourth installment in the chronicle of the European vacation where I decided to plan the entire trip and not tell my wife where we are going. She has discovered each destination as we cross a border or enter a new city. In most cases she has been in the dark until almost … Continue reading “A” to Zagreb
We left Venice at 10:00 a.m. after a short stay in that magical city. Because it is impossible to rent a car in Italy and drop it off in our final country, I found a great service (Ondaytrip.com) to drive us to what i told my wife was "city 2 and City 3." As we … Continue reading Sneaking The Wife Across An International Border
If you followed my first post about the two-week European trip that my wife and I have embarked on, you'll know that I planned the trip all by myself and just gave her enough information to make reasonable decisions on what clothes to pack. We have a dynamic itinerary and the goal was to have … Continue reading Why Is It So Hard To Keep A Secret?
Today we are leaving on a two-week trip to Europe. Normally, my wife and I plan our trips together and work through the intricate details of itinerary: where to visit, how much time to spend in each place, what sites we should go to, where to find the best food and wine. This trip, I … Continue reading My Wife Doesn’t Know Where We Are Going
We traveled to Oregon in late September to drop off a kid at the University of Oregon in Eugene. Wrapped around that momentous event, we planned a series of adult activities for ourselves: wine tasting, visiting some nice restaurants, attending an Oregon football game, and staying at some wine country bed and breakfasts. This post is the … Continue reading A B&B That Serves Wine for Breakfast
As we rolled up to our final winery of our Oregon visit, we might be forgiven for expecting to enjoy one more glass of Pinot Noir before returning to California. Certainly, the Willamette Valley, where we spent the beginning of our Oregon wine sojourn, is best known for Pinot Noir: over 70% of vines are … Continue reading Pinot Noir? Pinot Nowhere.
The mother (and mother-in-law) of this blog-writing duo was born and raised in Spain and did not come to the United States until she was thirty years old. She brought with her a fierce pride of her homeland; nowhere was this fierceness more evident than in her preferred beverage: red wine from Rioja. She refused to … Continue reading Rioja, Oregon
Don Essig has been the public address announcer at Autzen Stadium, the football home of the University of Oregon Ducks, for the past 46 years. In 1990, umbrellas were banned at Oregon football games after fans complained about blocked views. Fortunately for the fans who attended that first umbrella-less game, it did not rain that … Continue reading A Fun Little Lie in Eugene, Oregon
A couple of months ago we "met" an Oregon winemaker named Jerry Sass on Twitter. At this point we can't remember if he followed us first or the other way around. But either way, after checking out his website we liked what we saw in terms of the winery's story and the approach to winemaking. … Continue reading A Lot of Sass In Willamette Valley
We spent nearly a week in Oregon at the end of September, a trip motivated by the need to drop our son off at the U of O. We decided to add a couple of days to the trip and visit some wineries and wine regions we have not been to before. One of the benefits of writing … Continue reading O, Oregon!
"Diner." That's all it says on the road sign. "Diner." What else do you need to know, right? Situated along Highway 121 in the Carneros wine region that straddles Napa and Sonoma, the diner's aromas waft across its parking lot and onto the Highway as cars drive by, either coming into or out of Napa … Continue reading A Restaurant Too Cool For A Name
A few days ago we had the pleasure of spending some time (about three hours, actually) with a winery owner that with a one-of-a-kind experience in the wine business. We visited Ceja Vineyards in Napa and tasted wines and toured the estate property with founder Amelia Ceja. During this visit, we learned about the inspiring … Continue reading An All-American Story.
If you like underdogs, you would root for one of the few Latino-owned breweries in the United States. But if you really, really like underdogs, you would root for a brewery owned by Mexican immigrants and opened in the heart of Northern California wine country. For those extreme fans of the underdog, we present Carneros Brewing … Continue reading Beer? In Wine Country?
If there is a downside to living in wine country, it's that we generally have no occasion to stay at the many cool hotels in our area - Napa and Sonoma counties. Sure, we could shell out the money any time and stay wherever we please, but that would feel wasteful. Last week, though, we … Continue reading H2, Oh!
Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma County boasts some of the finest vineyards in the region, if not the entire state. Home to over 9,000 acres of planted vines, Dry Creek Valley is 16 miles long and 2 miles wide, with both valley floor and hillside locations. In this sub-appellation of Sonoma County, there have been grape … Continue reading Identity Crisis? An Aussie Making French Wines in California.
Along Highway 12 between the towns of Sonoma and Santa Rosa, there are multiple wineries nestled in the west-facing slopes of the Maycamas Mountains. Because we are usually on our way to or from another destination, we had not, until last weekend, stopped at any of them. One winery in particular - Kunde Family - had … Continue reading Cool Day at Kunde
For those who love modern, inventive cuisine, beautiful decor, and superior service, there is a new "must visit" destination in the Napa Valley: Two Birds/One Stone just north of St. Helena, on the grounds of the Freemark Abbey winery. TBOS had been on our list of places to visit since it opened in June of … Continue reading Two Birds. One Stone. Many Plates.
In the past two decades or so, Napa Valley wines have had a profound impact on the global wine industry, influencing how "good" wine taste, how wine should be made (fermentation practices, barrel aging, alcohol content), and certainly how to market wine to consumers. This influence extends even to France, which has a much longer wine making … Continue reading A Frenchman in Napa Valley
One of our favorite destinations in California is the town of Jenner, a spot known as the "River's End" where the Russian River meets the Pacific Ocean. There is something majestic about two bodies of water coming together and this particular location is no exception. On top of a bluff overlooking this amazing spot sits a fantastic … Continue reading You don’t have to swim upstream to eat here