Hello Wine Lovers,
Today is Friday, June 26th and we have a special guest visiting our wine tasting-table from 5pm to 8pm tonight, Joe Montoya. Joe, who represents Chateau St. Jean Winery in Sonoma County, will be pouring wine for our tasting tonight. The winery produces several wines under different labels around Sonoma and Napa. Chateau St Jean is a part of a large beverage corporation called Foster’s Group, which in addition to its California wine interests is the largest Australian beer conglomerate. A gentleman named Wolf Blass is the CEO of the corporation. (Foster’s also owns Meridian in Paso Robles and Berringer in Napa County, plus a host of wineries in Australia.)
A few years back, the Wine Stewards of Ralphs were hosted by Foster’s Group on a Northern California “wine country” trip. We were treated like royalty when visiting the wineries. Our day usually began with a fantastic breakfast at the hotel in Napa. Our lodgings were at the Villagio Hotel in Healdsburg, a stunning property nestled in the hills of the pastoral town, connected to an old winery property they use as a banquet hall for evening entertainment. From the hotel we boarded our luxury coach and headed to the wineries to tour the properties and taste the selected wines. Once the lunch hour arrived, a gourmet feast was prepared by the winery chef. True Napa and Sonoma-style cold meats and sandwiches served on freshly baked Focaccia bread, grilled vegetables, cheeses from local farms and, of course, amazing wine to wash it all down complimented our experience in the winery to a tee. The days proceeded with three or more winery stops to learn about the vastly varying winemaking styles in the region. What soil type was best for growing particular grape varieties, ageing processes, barrel types and even lengths of fermentation and methods of color extraction were discussed.
Learning and being held responsible for the information became a challenge as the days wore on; it became apparent that pen and paper were valuable tools (if we were to accomplish our task of learning about wine while drinking). At the Chateau St. Jean, we were given an exercise in wine blending to understand the complexity of the process in creating a specific style of blended wine. Our control wine was the famed Cinq Cepages (which is French for “Five” and “Grape Varieties”, so named because it contains all five of the red wine grapes grown in Bordeaux, France). St. Jean’s most celebrated wine, it was once voted “Wine of the Year” in Wine Spectator Magazine, probably the most coveted accolade in the world of wine criticism. It was our task to replicate this wine, getting as close as we could, to our control sample. It just so happened that my team came the closest and won the title as the best match to the test sample. From the winery estate we were on our way to the next property for more wine education and fact-finding. I must admit it is a breathtaking drive through Sonoma and Napa Valley – a much needed break from the cement jungle we so often call home. It seemed to me that the bread, the water, the cheese and all things culinary were just richer and more savory than any comparable items offered in Los Angeles. I find an energy when I am in “the Valley” so unlike that of the city where I live and work. Every morning at breakfast, from the hotel, you could see hot-air balloons rising over the vine-covered hills as the sun flooded the scene with morning light. I reflected that it was not a bad way to begin your morning with a view of such grandeur all around. As I walked to the bus to begin another day of wine education, a cool fall breeze swept through the adjacent vineyard lifting up the canopy of leaves and exposing a bounty of grape clusters hanging in the morning sun waiting to ripen and be harvested at precise sugar level. Journeys to this part of California are never long enough and always leaves you wanting to return as soon as time allows. Beauty and energy are not often found so well-meshed as here in the “wine country” of Northern California.
Join me and “the regulars” tonight for a line-up of spectacular wines paired with cheeses, La Brea Bakery bread and savory accompaniments. The price is $7 and Joe Montoya will be on hand to answer questions about these wines with his most intimate knowledge.
Mike the Wine Guy
Hello Wine Lovers,