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Giornata Wines: Story behind top California Italian brand

Stephanie “Stephy” Terrizzi, twin daughters epitomize brand’s drive to success

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The view looking north east on the Giornata Wines property in the hills southeast of Paso Robles.

When the San Francisco Chronicle published 2016 Winemakers to Watch, December 1, 2016, author Esther Mobley’s introduction pointed to characteristics that not only describes Brian and Stephy Terrizzi’s passion for Giornata Wines, but I believe describes their kids’ focus as well. I think all four have a “fearless desire to set new paradigms, a bootstrapping ambition and an attention to their craft.”

While Mobley no doubt intends the readership to discover the three other winemakers as well, and no disrespect to them at all, I couldn’t help but think that her quote describes the whole Terrizzi family. All four, including 11-year-old twin daughters, Aida and Kate, exude individual passions, are entrepreneurial-focused and driven, sharing an intense collaboration and close personal family connections.

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Brian and Stephanie “Stephy” Terrizzi relax at the Giornata Winery in Paso Robles.

And during my mid January visit with Stephy and Brian on their Paso Robles area property, not only did I further understand Stephy’s role as viticulturist and Brian as winemaker, but I saw their children’s love for the land, its relationship with the vineyards and winery. I ultimately came to appreciate all four individuals’ vision of enterprise.

While any blog post or article about winemakers needs to include information about their craft and product, the story behind the Terrizzis transcends a case count, Giornata’s net worth or their next and upcoming release. The family’s drive to success actually isn’t just about scores, growing the winery or financial growth.

Instead, Brian, Stephy, Aida and Kate all impressed me as they each wove stories of time spent in the vineyard, winery, soccer and tennis practice, tap dance, rock climbing and hanging out with other local winemaker families. They all spoke about new business ventures, including the next new vintage, a pasta factory in the new Tin City development plus selling soap and bath bombs.

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Not only does Stephy Terrizzi looks after the vineyards on the Giornata property, but she also manages the famed Luna Matta Vineyard in Paso Robles.

The Terrizzis own 11 acres just south west of Paso Robles with four acres of vineyards atop a knoll. With plenty of room yet to grow Giornata Wines on the property, Stephy is in charge of their vineyards as well as the famed Luna Matta Vineyard. Brian is the winemaker, markets the wines and is forever Giornata’s dreamer.

While Brian left to pick up the kids from soccer and ballet, I walked the Giornata vineyards with Stephy as she shared her past struggles and excitement for their future plans.

On the south west to southern portion of the property, she described how disappointing it was to watch a 2013 fall Nebbiolo planting die in a December freeze, decimating the vineyard. But their loss today looks healthy and happy as the new acre and a half of Nebbiolo clones planted in 2014 have are doing well.

“Our trips and time working in Italy have shaped us,” Stephy said. “We planted Nebbiolo because of our time in Piedmont. Imagine driving the tops of the hills and those Nebbiolo vineyards in Piedmont. Most all are on the south-facing slopes. We love how well those grapes do there and believe they are an excellent fit for our property. Everything here is planted on 1103 root stock. We replanted vineyard in 2014, using FPS Clones 6 and 8 and the VCR Clone 430.

“We planted the different clones so I could tell and know the difference between all three of them,” Stephy continued. “They are all planted next to each other but we will blend them all together.”

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The Giornata winery concept actually took root back in 2003 when Brian Terrizzi moved to Italy to work under famed winemaker Paolo DeMarchi, right, at Isole e Olena in Tuscany.

The Giornata brand and Italian adventure really began when Brian moved to Italy to work under famed winemaker Paolo DeMarchi at Isole e Olena in Tuscany in 2003. There Brian spent three months during harvest, learning under the man who ‘changed his life.’

Brian would later tell me Paolo taught him how to connect his story with the wine, manage a staff and an insatiable desire to educate and develop a vision to create a world-class brand.

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The 2014 Giornata Wines Nebbiolo as poured during my visit to the winery in January 2017. Their Luna Matta Vineyard Nebbiolo consistently earns 92+ points.

After Brian returned to the States, he met Stephy at Fresno State while studying enology, graduating in 2005. Stephy eventually took a position in 2006 in the Luna Matta Vineyard in Paso Robles. Brian continued to work in Fresno at Sam’s Italian Deli, establishing Nick’s Wine Corner and for Chambers & Chambers Wine Merchants until early 2007. Actually, this is where I first met Brian but never made the connection as our family were friends with the deli owners Sam and Angie at the time.

Giornata Wines became a full-time gig by 2007 and have focused on Italian varietals ever since.

While I spoke with Stephy about most of their premium Italian varietals offerings, on this day we spoke at length about the best varietals to plant on the Giornata property and bottling estate Nebbiolo in the next couple of years.

“The new plants have taken root and as the they go deep and look for water,” Stephy said, “they will do really well on the high Ph soils of our property. Eventually, especially on a wet year like this, we hope to dry farm the Nebbiolo.

“We bought these clones at Novavine Nursery in Santa Rosa as they  are the most tried and true versions in the U.S.,”Stephy said. “I have them planted at Luna Matta as well. They’ve been around a while and have some traction behind them.”

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Stephy checks on her Trebbiano vineyard on the Giornata property’s north facing slopes. Daughter Aida will often join her, pulling weeds and helping mom train the vines.

Vineyards surround their home atop their hilltop perch. And as Stephy and I traversed the property with her mud-caked boots, a two-story rock climbing boulder/structure captured my attention as it dominated the hill.

“Kate loves rock climbing and one of our neighbors makes those structures,” Stephy said smiling and shaking her head. “While they both climb on it, its Kate’s thing.”

I nodded as it towered over us and initially obscured the chicken coup at the top of the hill.

“It’s been a tough week,” Stephy said as we walked up to the coup, “because their pet rooster ‘Red’ just died. The girls took it harder than the hens.”

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While most would not think twice about a rooster other than when he crows in the morning, ‘Red’ was the family pet, rescued from an underground cock fighting organization.

While I probably said something dumb like ‘any lost egg production?’, I didn’t yet know how passionately they or their twins cared about their pets or philosophy in raising them.

Red was not just a rooster. He was a rescue and probably was nearing 10 years old. The family rescued him from an underground cock fighting organization and he was one of their prized possessions.

As we arrived at the edge of the hill on the opposite side, looking due north, we peered down on the  oldest vines on the property: five rows Trebbiano, a full three years old, arguably the happiest vines on the property. Stephy went on to say they want to blend some Trebbiano in their Sangiovese with co-pigmentation. This is very typical to do in Chianti until about two years ago when the law was changed.

However, our conversation quickly morphed.

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Teaching responsibility and ownership happens at an early age for most families. The Terrizzi girls are no exception and care for a brood of chickens each week.

“This is a really fun place to work,” Stephy said. “We have two Italian Greyhounds who come out with me as I work in this area. They run around and catch squirrels, chase after gophers and mice.”

More sustainable practices I thought. Later she shared her admiration about the dogs. They loved the new a puppy and an 11-year-old. Both were adopted from the Italian Greyhound Rescue Foundation of Northern California.

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Both Terrizzi girls are active and use the climbing structure on the property as well as play sports, ballet, music and have their own business.

Stephy is the viticulturist for Giornata Wines but is also the vineyard manager for Luna Matta. She grew up in the midwest in Freeport, Illinois, and, while not on a farm, on the urban edge of a farming community. Growing up she was in 4-H, could milk cows and rope cattle and staunchly insists she still can.

Her work is already well documented by blogs and WordPress siteswine brokers and wine writer Jon Bonne wrote in his best selling book, The New California Wine: “Stephy has become the area’s great alternative vineyardist…making the most successful Nebbiolo yet in the state.”

High praise for a mom who still helps the girls make Valentine’s cards during the Monday before pink day, even though she would rather be pruning Giornata’s four acres of vineyards or on her prized Luna Matta site. But today she shared her dream and also spoke of future plans for her property.

“We would love to put in hazelnut and oak trees and start a truffle project at the bottom of this grade,” Stephy said, “but we really do not have enough water. We pump about two gallons a minute already but we have some big tanks to hold water but its not enough to do truffles.

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The Giornata property looking North towards Paso Robles.

“But at the bottom of the hill, we would like to do some bee boxes and a pig breeding project,” Stephy continued. “We already have a tack house at the bottom of the hill that used to house a horse before we bought the acreage. In fact, my daughter, Aida, wants to get involved and is saving up her money to buy a Llama. And I see 4-H in her future. Kate on the other hand will probably be a lifelong Girl Scout.”

The girls again. Later I found out, they too are entrepreneurs. With Aida taking on the ‘CEO’ role and Kate as the ‘CFO’ the twins own, operate, create, sell and deliver soap and bath bombs to their classmates, parents and occasionally to those who visit the winery. They even have participated in beauty and wellness shows in Atascadero. They take orders at school, make the products over the weekend and deliver the next week.

Their drive to create and sustain a brand takes passion, vision and a willingness to do more and do it longer than anyone else. This describes the Terrizzi family from the kids on up.

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Stephy Terrizzi is a well-renown and respected viticulturist as well as a sommelier. Photo by Julia P. Garrett © 2016 / http://www.juliapgarrett.photography

“I may also try Nerello Mascalese,” Stephy said. “I believe we can get this highly regarded Sicilian grape varietal next year on root stock. This is very exciting and I really would like to grow that. While this still might be two years away for us, we will see what happens but I definitely want some here.

“Down the road we would like to take the Trebbiano, the Friulano, and Ribolla Gialla, and do a skin contact white estate blend,” Stephy continued. “We should be able to get six tons of fruit from this property on a normal year. We can get a ton and a half of Sangiovese and two and a half to three tons of Nebbiolo.”

Giornata Wines is also known for their Sangiovese that is currently sourced from Luna Matta Vineyard and another Sangiovese crop that is farmed by a project run by James Ontiveros (formally of Bien Nacido) and Matt Turrentine. But Stephy is careful to point out that she is very picky as to how others manage their vineyards and ultimately their Sangiovese juice.

“What is really important to me is the farming aspect,” Stephy said. “We clearly live on our property and so it is important to treat the land in a respectful manner because we live here. We drink the water that we are ‘standing on top of’ right now so I don’t use herbicides at all.

“We don’t use a whole lot of anything,” Stephy continued. “Now as the grapes begin to develop, we will use fungicides but I strongly believe creating an ecosystem that is balanced. As you can see we have a cover crop of grasses. But we want to make sure we have lacewings around to keep the aphids and leafhoppers (in check) because when you do something, something else happens on the other side of the equation.”

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Stephy Terrizzi sustainability in practice focus is at the core of her vineyard efforts and Giornata wines are increasingly known as the highest quality tier of Italian-style wines in California. Photo by Julia P. Garrett © 2016 / http://www.juliapgarrett.photography

The Giornata wines are at the highest quality tier of Italian-style wines in California.

When it comes to sustainability, Stephy also is not only focused on what is best for her vineyards but for the land she loves, lives on. Sustainability is essential to continued success and a healthy balance.

“There is only so much land and as people move to California, and I am included in that. I am not a native Californian, it is important to keep this land healthy and not saturate it with synthetic fertilizers and chemicals. We’ve read in the last five-six years about the bee population plummeting. We’ve got almond and walnut trees on this property and without the bees … well and I’ve read that we’ve only got two years worth of food … and without the bees, we will all begin to starve. That is kind of a scary thought.

“We plan to get some bees out here pretty soon in February, get those up and running. It is really important to keep this balance and not become a monoculture and not let one thing take over another. It’s important to keep the balance on the property itself from vine to vine and have everything in harmony.”

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Italy meets California in Tin City area of Paso Robles. Owners and winemakers Brian and Stephy Terrizzi create premium Italian varietals. Photo by Julia P. Garrett © 2016 / http://www.juliapgarrett.photography

This is similar to the Terrizzi winemaking philosophy well. Like many who use biodynamic and sustainable practices, winemakers Brian and Stephy Terrizzi’s wines are natural and express a sense of place whether they are from their own properties or from area vineyards. Look for Giornata winery in the Tin City, which is quickly becoming the “epicenter of the burgeoning craft beverage community of Paso Robles,” according to developer Mike English.

Be sure to return to TalesoftheCork for Part II of the Giornata Wine story at the end of February. TalesoftheCork will further outline Brian and Stephy’s journey as they strive to create the finest Italian varietals in California. The upcoming post will detail more of Brian’s winemaker journey, latest releases and the couple’s new venture to open the summer of 2017.

Giornata Wines can be ordered via their website or and via the Tin City winery. They are located at 470 Marquita Ave., Paso Robles, CA, 93446. For more information, call their store: (805) 434.3075 or via email: info@giornatawines.com. Be sure to call, email or make online reservations in order to visit the winery. The are only open for tastings by appointment.

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Giornata Wines are known as California’s premium Italian varietals, including their Sangiovese, Barbera, Aglianico, Vermentino, Fiano, Ramato, Gemellaia, Nebbiolo, and blends.

Be sure to read TalesoftheCork’s previous blog post, “Trelio Restaurant reopens in Clovis.” And if winemakers, wineries or restaurants are interested in a TalesoftheCork wine and/or food review on the blog, InstagramTwitter and/or Facebook, please send us a request via email: talesofthecork@gmail.com or use DM on social media. TalesoftheCork also offers social media seminars for businesses.

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Trelio Restaurant reopens in Clovis

Ponderosa pine interior, menu highlights Old Town opening

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After closing just after New Years and a full-scale remodel nearing completion, chef and Clovis restauranteur Chris Shackelford is ready to reinvent Trelio Restaurant, January 27, 2017.

With a brand new interior of custom designed and manufactured local Ponderosa pine food grade tables, paneling, wine cabinets and bar, Trelio is ready to open their doors and serve a new menu

Opening in 2006 as an upscale, fine dining establishment on Clovis Avenue in Old Town Clovis,  Trelio has evolved from regional american cuisine that not only represents the locally grown and produced bounty  of the San Joaquin Valley, but also the changing food interests of the Fresno area and its owner.

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Trelio sous chef Thomas Stempien, left, and chef Chris Shackelford chat in the kitchen during dinner prep on re-opening night, Jan. 27, 2017.

And, while the central Valley’s dining options continue to expand and contract, often between the whims, perception and the harsh realities of economics, Trelio has been a stabilizing force in the Clovis dining scene even as owner and chef Chris Shackelford adjusted to both his and patrons’ expectations and desires.

“(In the beginning), we slowly migrated from being the ‘French Laundry’ of the central Valley to being more of a farm-to-table restaurant and comprehensive dining option in a European style,” Shackelford said. “That being said, we also enjoy the ties to regional cuisine of America.”

Trelio’s is food and wine centric. Every entrée and small dish they create is from scratch, including baking their own bread. As the restaurant has evolved and grown, owner  and patrons alike place an emphasis on cooking, food and wine pairings.

“There are a lot of correlations between our menu and the wine offerings as well as correlations between the wine list and the food we serve,” Shackelford said. Styles and ingredients may change but our core is European.

“The food is a mix being that I have a French core technique, but we create homemade pasta dishes, seafood, steaks, wild game to tapas dishes that might be found in Barcelona,” Shackelford continued. “Heck, nothing is off-limits. We might even offer a Mexican dish or even offer Armenian or Persian.

And as the San Joaquin Valley has such a diversity of people and culture that have made the area one of the greatest agricultural industries in the world, Trelio has made it a point to be relevant and reflect that diverse cuisine with a distinctly European flair.

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The new Trelio dining room is completely refurbished with Ponderosa pine tables, banquettes, paneling and a new bar milled from Sierra foothills trees above North Fork.

However, Shackelford and the new Trelio is adjusting its focus even as the chef and owner battles complacency in and out of the kitchen. He said he needed to change things up and began to change the menu about a year ago.

“We decided to shift the restaurant in what I believe to be the trending style to smaller plates, less expensive dinners,” he said. “We’ve basically been doing much the same for the last 11 years and decided to shift our focus.”

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Trelio used many of the 70 dead Ponderosa pine trees from Jim Shackelford’s (Chris’ father) property to form the furnishings in the restaurant, including the tables.

When the Shackelford brothers opened the restaurant in 2006, Chris quit his job and jumped in. This time he wanted to be more methodical in his vision for Trelio.

“I’ve been planning (changes) now for about six months with construction going on for about three months (furniture being built, etc.),” he said. “We are losing a few tables as part of a quality issue. We want to be full every night, keep our costs under control (food, staff) and be core, quality oriented.”

While the old Trelio had 12 tables, the 2017 version will only have eight including two sets of banquettes (up to 10 on each side for larger groups). The new menu is designed to be less expensive (up to 50 percent cheaper) and the portions are downsized by 20 percent to allow people to try other courses.

“The goal is to serve customers so they will not be overly full and be able to enjoy multiple dishes over an evening,” Shackelford said. “The menu is expanded, larger than it used to be. These options will be able to be put out (created) at a quicker pace. Simpler styles and more quality oriented dishes.”

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Chef, Sommelier and owner Chris Shackelford has changed the Trelio menu to reflect new techniques, expanded and less expensive offerings.

Besides special events, wine tastings, holiday and winemaker dinners, Trelio is also offering a new take on dinner in the dining room.

“I wanted a way to develop dishes or introduce new techniques to the staff, so three to four times a month, we we do ‘bar dinners,'” Shackelford said. “We only have four-five seats at the bar for longer and specialized wine paired dinners hosted by me, the sommelier and chef.”

He went on to explain that this would be an extended prefix menu, a rare opportunity to experience an artistic version of a dinner that will most often be theme oriented. Examples might be a Cajun dinner during Mardi Gras to a French dinner on Bastille Day.

Those who are interested in a bar dinner will sit with guests at a beautiful 16X4-foot custom made solid natural distressed Ponderosa pine top complete with rustic wood edges cut from father Jim Shackelford’s property in the Sierra foothills above North Fork. He had over 70 dead and/or dying trees and hired The WoodShed of Clovis to mill and manufacture the bar, tables, open wine cabinets and paneling that now graces Trelio’s interior.

The whole interior is custom and brilliant in its natural state of light reddish-brown, grey/blue hues as well as the knotty highlights and nail or insect holes associated with each tree. The Woodshed contractors completed all the fine woodwork in a refurbished Trelio to complement the new grey color scheme.

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Trelio’s menu is expanding and besides offering more dishes, the entreés will cost less and be 20 percent smaller.

While Trelio is already booked through Feb. 4, reservations are already filling up beginning  Feb. 7. Dinner is served Tuesday through Saturday and guests looking for a relaxed, upscale dining experience that is centered around handcrafted food, an Wine Spectator award-winning wine list and personal service should consider Trelio for dinner.

Upcoming events on Trelio’s calendar include a Winter Wine Tasting, Feb. 4; a special Valentine’s dinner, Feb. 11 & 14; winemaker dinner with David Scheidt of Mastro Scheidt Family Cellars, Feb. 23. The dinner at the bar special series begins Feb. 28 for “Fat Tuesday at the Bar.” Please call ahead for availability and reservations.

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Look for Trelio Restaurant near the Clovis Gateway to the Sierras sign on Clovis Avenue.

Reservations are recommended as Trelio will only seat 32-36 patrons per evening. Call (559) 297-0783, visit Trelio Restaurant on the web or use ‘Seat Me’ via Yelp. Trelio has seating times Tuesday through Saturday from 5:30 – 8:30 pm. Trelio is located at 438 Clovis Ave, Clovis, CA 93612.

Today, Chris Shackelford continues the Trelio Restaurant tradition and acts both as Trelio’s sommelier, chef and owner. He has been in the restaurant industry since he was 13 years old under a variety of central coast restaurants and chefs and at Erna’s Elderberry House for nine years before opening Trelio in 2006.

Be sure to read TalesoftheCork’s previous blog post, “Dinner pairings with Buena Vista Wines.” And if winemakers, wineries or restaurants are interested in a TalesoftheCork wine and/or food review on the blog, InstagramTwitter and/or Facebook, please send us a request via email: talesofthecork@gmail.com or use DM on social media. TalesoftheCork also offers social media seminars for businesses.

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Dinner pairings with Buena Vista Wines

California’s first premium winery continues excellence

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Buena Vista Winery old and new | BuenaVistaWinery.com

Whether or not you trace back California winemaking to pre Gold Rush days or after Prohibition, grape and wine production in California rivals any region in the world. And as we tasted through three wines from a reborn Buena Vista Winery, our appreciation for this Sonoma winery goes beyond its historic sites.

Founded in 1857 by Agoston Haraszthy, the self-proclaimed “Count”, Buena Vista Winery is California’s first premium winery.

The Count’s passion for innovation and excellence not only led to California’s first premium winery, but also to the development of the California wine world as we know it today. The Count saw the grand vision for producing fine wine in Sonoma County, and Buena Vista was his vinicultural laboratory.

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Buena Vista property began producing wine on an old, dry-farmed vineyard pre-Gold Rush. The land was developed by The Count of Buena Vista, Agoston Haraszthy de Mokesa of Hungary. | BuenaVistaWinery.com

He created the first gravity flow winery in California and excavated the first wine caves. The Count had been the first to experiment with Redwood barrels for aging and fermenting, and he brought over 300 different varieties from Europe to California.

Now fast forward to last week, Geena and I paired three Buena Vista wines over the course of a week, tasting new releases from the winery known for “purple gold” – the perfect ‘terroir’ and exceptional wines. While the winery’s revival is well documented, we had not sampled Buena Vista wines for years.

The impetus behind this week with Buena Vista was an invitation from the folks at thewininghour.blogspot.com. Owner and leader Lin shared how this historic winery created the first California property to make a true Champagne in Champagne. I was hooked and looked forward to receiving my shipment and began reading its history.

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The Count Founder’s Red Wine blend is sourced from Buena Vista Wineries Sonoma properties.

We learned the Buena Vista property already was producing wine on an old, dry-farmed vineyard on the site pre Gold Rush. In 1852, under the direction “The Count of Buena Vista,” Agoston Haraszthy de Mokesa of Hungary, the 800-acre ranch was purchased and developed.

The Count understood that great wine comes not just from great grapes, but also from great terroir—that magical combination of all the attributes of a particular site required to create remarkable wines—from the soil, to the climate, to the site’s exposure to the sun, to the vine itself. Upon first experiencing Sonoma, The Count knew immediately that this was going to be that perfect place for producing superb wines.

I agree!

Throughout the decades, The Count’s innovation and legacy have been passed down to others over the years; the property’s historic relevance and central role in California’s history kept the winery alive and producing wines during difficult years. And while others owned a produced wine on the property, it wasn’t until after World War II ended that the vineyards began their journey to a premium winery location.

However, after it was reborn, after Prohibition and first vintage in 1949, the winery and its owners began to promote innovation, championing new winemaking techniques to the state—including cold fermentation and the process of aging wine in small French oak barrels—thereby once again contributing to the rebirth of California’s incredible wine industry.

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Our Mexican steak, homemade refried beans, roasted red peppers, sliced avocados and fresh fruit were a wonderful match to the Buena Vista The Count Founder’s Red Wine Blend.

Our first taste of Buena Vista Wine was just after we opened a bottle of 2014 The Count Founder’s Red Wine blend ($20). I popped the cork just after 2 p.m. and decanted it for 30 minutes before sending it back to the bottle. I wanted to open it up a little before sipping while we prepared dinner (a common practice of mine with young wines).

The fact is cooking and tasting both wine and the foods as we create is so important. While we often will look at up dozens of receipes in the planning process of our meals, we test taste, herbs, spices, simmering broths and sauces ALONG with wine to determine which food and wine pairings compliment each other.

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The Count countered the spices in the beans and Mexican steak very well. You might also pair it with BBQ beef or country-style pork ribs.

Sourced from vineyards across Sonoma County, the 2014 vintage of The Count – Founder’s Red Wine offers aromas of rich, dark chocolate and soft baking spices, blending 8 varietals. Aromas include dark chocolate, dark berry, plum with hints of cinnamon and vanilla (baking spices). Nicely strucured and well-balanced, this wine has a long, dense finish that lingers long after the first sip.This immediately enjoyable wine will continue to evolve in the bottle over the next two to three years.

We paired The Count with pan-fried Mexican flat iron steak that we had covered with an oil, chipotle and cracked pepper run for a couple of hours. While those sat, we prepared roasted red peppers, cooked up a pot of spiced refried beans, sliced avocados and mangos and blood orange wedges.

Our second Buena Vista wine pairing coincided with a stormy, wet, and cold January night. We had planned on a second steak dinner the night before, opening the Cab, hoping to pair it with ribeye. However, the storm changed our minds.

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The Chateau Buena Vista 2013 Napa Valley Cab. was silky smooth and we couldn’t help but start sipping while the soup simmered.

The weather report predicted an epic cold front and storm far beyond “dreary and wet” in the San Joaquin Valley a couple days later. So we were a bit nervous as we had already opened the 2013 Chateau Buena Vista Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($50) and were eager to try it, not wanting to wait another night.

“Is it versatile and pair with a hearty, Italian soup?” Oh boy, we were thrilled.

The Cab is rich, lush and opulent. Red currant, blackberry, black plum and black, dusty cherry with just a hint of chocolate and even coffee. The dark, subdued dark fruit flavors were delicious with the soup my wife calls, “Mimi’s Soup” after her great aunt who made the family recipe for nearly 90 years.

So Mimi’s Soup takes center stage: Chopped vegetables (whatever is in the kitchen, pantry and fridge at time of creation, including kale, onions, garlic, carrots, celery, stewed and/or fresh tomatoes, bits of potato) spices, white and kidney beans, orzo etc. We cook the Italian sausage separately with spices, onions and garlic (at the end), adding beef stock and top with Parmesan cheese.

This is a showstopper all around. Love how versatile the Cabernet is and I know this would pair well with lighter grilled meats. Wilfred Wong of Wine.com calls the 2013 Chateau Buena Vista Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon the “poster child” of the winery. He’s not far from the truth.

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The 2013 Chateau Buena Vista Napa Valley was lovely velvety goodness with “Mimi’s Soup”, a hearty Italian perfect on a stormy, cold January evening.

Buena Vista Winery joined the Boisset Collection in May 2011. Today, Proprietor Jean-Charles Boisset is returning Buena Vista to its original glory with the complete restoration and re-opening of the champagne cellars, which have been unavailable to the public for over 20 years. Buena Vista wines are being driven to greater heights under winemaker Brian Maloney and winemaking consultant David Ramey, including the reintroduction of Sonoma, in honor of where it all began.

Our final Buena Vista wine actually was created as a Boisset Family Wine and from their collection in Champagne, France. Yes, they have a marvelous sparkling wine from France called Buena Vista La Victoire Champagne ($75!

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The Buena Vista La Victoire Champagne is elegant, with honey and brioche aromas with stone fruit, pear and peach notes.

Later during our Buena Vista week, we had so much fun thinking about and pairing this Champagne with all sorts of foods and came up with three or four that really seemed to capture our attention. The sparkling was elegant and paired so well with an assortment of appetizers.

We set the table with sour cream & onion potato chips, sour cream and caviar, mixed Italian olives, puffed pastry and Brie with sour cherry preserves, and finally smoked salmon, cucumber, shallots over a dollop of Crème Fraîsch with dill, lemon oil and lemon peel on a Spanish Regains “Tapas” Sesame Cracker from Pardners Pantry, Atascadero.On a side note, I must admit, I did save a little Buena Vista Champagne for a late night popcorn and movie time. One of my favorite snacks all around.

Anyway, the sparking is sourced from 70% Pinot Noir Premier Cru vineyards from Montaigne de Reims, and 30% Chardonnay from Grand Cru Mesnil sur Oger and Chouilly.

Love the Champagne’s elegant mouthfeel with grapefruit, honey and brioche aromas. It is so well-balanced with white stone fruit, peach and peach notes. We really enjoyed this sparkling with so many different snacks. And, I know it will go so well with most anything.

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The Buena Vista La Victoire Champagne is so versatile. The bubbly paired well with appetizers, including potato chips and caviar, Italian mixed olives, baked Brie and sour cherry preserves and smoked salmon, cucumber bites.

The Buena Vista wine cellars have undergone extensive restoration from 2011 to 2015 when the renovation was completed. Once again, Buena Vista is becoming the embodiment of the California wine world.

This is the vision that Count Agoston Haraszthy predicted 150 years ago and continues with Jean-Charles Boisset to today, and like many of his other visions for the Golden State, today it has come true.

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The caves at Buena Vista Winery.

Today the hope and vision of The Count has been restored and reinvented again. Jean-Charles Boisset and his family purchased the Buena Vista Winery in 2011, beginning a two-year renovation that has refocused and renewed Buena Vista Winery into a world class site. They join a collection historic wineries as part of Boisset Family Estates. Buena Vista produces over 25 varietals of still wines as well as sparkling wines from both California and France.

Be sure to read TalesoftheCork’s previous blog post, “Cambria, Paso Robles Wine Country host BlendFest.” And if winemakers, wineries or restaurants are interested in a TalesoftheCork wine and/or food review on the blog, InstagramTwitter and/or Facebook, please send us a request via email: talesofthecork@gmail.com or use DM on social media. TalesoftheCork also offers social media seminars for businesses.

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Cambria Art and Wine Festival, Jan. 27-29

Central Coast Wine Enthusiasts Next Events

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Cambria Art & Wine Festival, Jan. 27 – 29, 2017

One of the best things about a weekend getaway to Cambria on the central coast is the close proximity to all of the incredible wineries in the area.

Grapes grown in the unique coastal climate have a flavor unlike any other, attracting wine lovers from all over the world.

January is the perfect time to schedule your vino-vacation, too, because there are multiple wine-centric events happening in and around Cambria!


In true Cambria spirit, the Art & Wine Festival combines two major pieces of Cambria’s personality into one wonderful weekend.

From Friday, Jan. 27 through Sunday, Jan. 29, patrons can learn about local wine and local art all in one place. Festival highlights include shopping specials, wine tasting, wine pairing, raffle prizes, live demonstrations by artists, an art show/silent auction and more! Click here to purchase tickets, and don’t forget to book your stay, too, in Cambria area lodging!

Art & Wine Festival starts with Farm to Easel” event at the Cambria Farmer’s Market at 2:30 p.m., Jan. 27. For more information, check out the Cambria Art & Wine Festival details page. And keep up with the recent added venues as well. The event Kick-Off Party offers a five course wine & food pairing at Madeline’s Restaurant.  Entertainment, preview of the Art Show/Silent Auction and special raffle prize packages will be held at the Veterans’ Hall.

Cambria Art & Wine Festival tickets can be purchased online (recommended) and are also available at the Cambria Chamber of Commerce, 767 Main Street, Cambria, CA, or call  805.927.3624. Depending on the event(s), tickets range from $25-$105.

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Bonus Cambria wine lover event

Wine Pairing Dinner, Jan. 28

Pacific Coast Wine Trail is hosting their Wine Pairing Dinner in Cambria at Indigo Moon Restaurant, during Cambria Art & Wine Festival weekend, on Saturday, Jan. 28, at 6:30 p.m. Join Cayucos CellarsChateau MargeneCuatro Dias, Harmony Cellars and MCV Wines for an elaborate five-course meal! All-inclusive tickets cost $100 per person, and they must be purchased in advance. For reservation questions, call Harmony Cellars at 805.927.1625 and book this and other Pacific Coast Wine Trail events.

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Next Event for Paso Robles Wine Country

Vintage Paso Weekend, March 17-19

Enjoy the wine that put Paso Robles on the map: Zinfandel, the first variety planted in Paso in the 1880s. Vintage Paso is a weekend dedicated to raise awareness of Zinfandel. Events include a  Zinposium, March 17: Master Sommelier, Peter Neptune, will lead you through a tasting of Zinfandel and Zin-blends at the Paso Robles Inn Ballroom in Downtown Paso Robles. Later on Friday, join 18 Paso Robles wineries for a Zinfandel walk-around tasting, complemented by a fantastic dessert selection for the Z After Party.

Other activities are planned so be sure and check winery activities page for up-to-date information as more than 140 wineries plan to participate. Join fellow wine enthusiasts for a selection of wine and chocolate pairings, winemaker dinners, vineyard tours, laid-back barbecues, barrel tastings, live music, and so much more! Tickets will be available on the Paso Robles Wine Country website.

Cambria’s Moonstone Beach at dawn along the boardwalk.

Be sure to read TalesoftheCork’s previous blog post, “Cambria, Paso Robles Wine Country host BlendFest.” And if winemakers, wineries or restaurants are interested in a TalesoftheCork wine and/or food review on the blog, InstagramTwitter and/or Facebook, please send us a request via email: talesofthecork@gmail.com or use DM on social media. TalesoftheCork also offers social media seminars for businesses.

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Cambria, Paso Robles Wine Country host BlendFest

32 wineries pour best blends in sold out central coast event

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After walking along Cambia’s Main Street, enjoying its great shops, wine tasting, restaurants and art galleries, take the time to stroll the boardwalk along Moonstone Beach.

Within hiking distance of the Fiscalini Ranch‘s majestic Monterey pines, coastal oak forest and amazing bluff ocean views, Cambria hosted the ONLY wine festival dedicated to blended wines: BlendFest, Jan. 13-15. And with a second wine event at the end of the month, Cambria is heating up as a winter wine destination (More on that below).

The 3rd annual Paso Robles Wine Country BlendFest on the Coast was a blast, showcasing the scenic beauty of the central coast with the renowned wines of Paso Robles, only miles away. Over 400 tickets were sold over four blend-themed events, including the Grand Tasting, Winemaker Dinner and two Blending Seminars that pleased both Bordeaux and Rhone variety lovers.

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32 wineries poured their newest blends during the 3rd annual Paso Robles Wine Country BlendFest, Jan. 13-15, 2017.

BlendFest on the Coast partnered with Cambria and San Simeon lodging properties, Cambria Pines Lodge and the Cavalier Oceanfront Resort in San Simeon, who hosted the three-day event along with Stewardship Travel.

This year 32 Paso Robles wineries, pouring over 90 blends and hosts to local winemakers, winery personnel and wine enthusiasts from across the country, shared a passion for central coast red blends.

According to Christopher Taranto, communications director for Paso Robles Wine Country, the combined efforts were to create an event in the off season to get people out of the area to Cambria and San Simeon for a wine event that is both fun and a great consumer experience.

BlendFest is an event of our creation,” Taranto said, “to create a groundswell of excitement, travel to Cambria and San Simeon that turns people onto wine that they will take to their next trip to Paso but in the meantime have a great coastal experience.”

The event along with partner Highway 1 Discovery Route, offers wine lovers a chance to sip, savor and compare the artistry of blending and a chance to chat with winemakers and fellow blend enthusiasts. While we hoped to get tickets to the exclusive Winemaker Dinner, all 42 seats were snapped up pretty quick (Note: call, visit the Paso Robles Wine Country website early and check for 4th annual event by mid summer).

Taranto likes the winemaker dinner as it provides more of an intimate experience than the events later in the weekend.

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Robin’s Restaurant in Cambria hosted the BlendFest Winemaker’s dinner, pairing Paso Robles wine in a four-course meal.

“Each winery takes ownership of a table and leads a one-on-one dining experience with his/her guests, personally pairing the wines with the courses served by the restaurant,” Taranto said. “This is specially prepared meal and wine pairing: Real food and an honest experience with Paso wine. Each table had a different experience, reflecting the personalities of the winemaker and chefs.”

Seven winemakers met with guests at Robin’s Restaurant in Cambria for a four-course winemaker dinner and wine pairing, Jan. 13. Imagine Alta Colina Vineyard & WineryAncient Peaks WineryHarmony CellarsJ. Lohr Vineyards & WinesLone MadroneMCV Wines and Niner Wine Estates winemakers all pouring and sharing how their wines pair well with chefs Robin Covey and Shanny Covey’s culinary creations. Put me on the list for 2018!

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A docent-led hike in Cambria’s urban forest, ocean bluffs or other walks are wonderful ways to appreciate the central coast.

But before we settled in for a wine blending session, my wife and I decided to independently join in on a docent-led stroll through Cambria’s Fiscalini Ranch forest not far from the Cambria Pines Lodge. Our guide, Stephen Morgan, a long-time Cambria resident, walked and educated us on a 2 1/2 hour walk through the most gorgeous scenery.

He shared the area and ranch’s history, plant and wildlife, forest health and the most amazing vistas in and around the Monterey pines and oak trees. He also added loops through meadows and ocean bluff views that are better than the postcards advertise.

So after a rest and snack at our hotel, the Fireside Inn on Moonstone Beach, we were ready to enjoy the ticket holders ($65) for our first event of BlendFest: The second session of the Grand Tasting, Jan. 14, from 4:30 – 6:30 p.m. in the beautiful Cambria Pines Lodge on Burton Drive (The first session took place from 1 – 3 earlier that same afternoon).

The sold out BlendFest Grand Tasting event event gave 32 wineries a chance to meet with over 185 wine drinkers from across the country to meet, chat and discuss Paso Robles blends.

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The BlendFest Grand Tasting was split into two sessions with 32 wineries each pouring their latest three Paso Robles blends in the Cambria Pines Lodge.

Sandra and her husband, Tom, drove in from Pismo Beach for a getaway. Tom had planned a weekend away and surprised her with tickets to BlendFest.

“This has been a great weekend as I have spent quality time with my husband, enjoying beautiful wines, great food and visit my daughter nearby.”

With wine and cheese tables, various gourmet food bites (The Pairing Knife–SLO) and plenty of water to season our palate, we enjoyed a two-hour stroll through the wineries’ latest Bordeaux and Rhone blends from the Paso Robles wine region.

Jaclyn from Whittier, CA, heard of the event from Paso Robles Wine Country events. And after a friend, who attended last year, recommended the event, she bought her tickets online.

“I love Grey Wolf’s Soulmate because it is so smooth. I have had a great time tasting through about half of the wineries on our food, wine and romance weekend at the Cambria Pines Lodge. It’s great place to stay.”

Lorna from Santa Barbara was sent information to BlendFest by a co-worker and decided to make the weekend a Christmas gift to her husband.

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Set in a quiet, wooded setting, the Cambria Pines Lodge and Conference Center hosted BlendFest. Many attendees stayed at the lodge during the event.

“We are making this a romantic wine and food getaway,” Lorna said. “We went to the winemaker dinner last night at Robin’s and it was phenomenal. We ate foods we wouldn’t normally eat like duck liver sauce and bay scallops in a cream sauce. All four course were awesome. Go to Robin’s and eat there. The food is great.”

Winemaker Michael Barreto of Le Vigne Winery brought Bordeaux, Italian and Rhone-based blends to BlendFest.

“The wineries at BlendFest are creating and pouring the best possible wines they can make,” Barreto said. “BlendFest is a good way to taste the best blends that Paso wineries are pouring–in essence their best wines they make. Besides BlendFest is a great way for folks to see the central coast. This is on a three-day weekend in Cambria so there is plenty of time to taste, visit other wineries and still time to enjoy the area. It’s a great weekend event.”

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Whether on vacation or a serious wine connoisseur, BlendFest offers wine consumers a chance to swirl, sip and savor Paso Robles blends all under one roof.

Bret from Minnesota happened to be in the area on vacation two weeks ago and had never heard of a blending event before.

“We are wine drinkers back home and love blends,” Bret said. “We’ve been sipping and tasting but I prefer our first one: Zephyr from Zinaida. “It had a lot of flavor, complexity and was very soft. I know I’m gonna tell people back home about this blended wine tasting and how unique it is. But this feels like a natural event for me.”

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In an afternoon and evening session, 32 wineries poured three of their latest blends for wine enthusiasts at the Cambria Pines Lodge. Wine, cheese and gourmet food bites were also served.

Matt from Temecula had been planning an anniversary trip to the central coast and it happened to be the same weekend as BlendFest.

“We had gone to the Paso Robles website and found the information on BlendFest,” Matt said. “It seemed like a good idea to spend our 15th anniversary at the event.”

Matt’s wife Kerry said they were cab and cab blend lovers and this event seemed like a natural one to hang out in.

“We also plan on going to other wineries as the Grand Tasting is our only BlendFest event,” Kerry said. “We are headed to Justin, Daou, J. Lohr and Halter Ranch from here.”

Allison from Torrence heard about BlendFest because they are members of Hearst Ranch wine club and heard about the event through their social media.

“BlendFest is a great way to sample a bunch of great wines, there is a great vibe and good food,” Allison said. “Plus, we are staying at the Cambria Pines Lodge. This is so worth it because I don’t have to drive. We come and stay at the lodge a couple times a year and the rooms are great–plus they will take in our dog. They are so dog friendly. We always take in a tour in the area, watch the elephant seals, take a day and wine taste in Paso Robles.”

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The Cavalier Oceanfront Resort is right on the beach in San Simeon, five miles north of Cambria.

The final BlendFest event brought four winemakers to a two-part blending seminar at the beautiful Cavalier Oceanfront Resort in San Simeon, Jan. 15.

Emcee David Wilson, host of Grape Encounters Radio, not only supported the event but added a lively, personal and, at times, educational element which kept the 48 of us often laughing and relaxed. David celebrated with us the joy of wine and all “the fun that drinking it, and in this case, blending it, seems to stimulate!”

The great part of the blending seminar, also hosted by the Paso Robles Cab Collective, is that Wilson and three area winemakers shared their thoughts on the characteristics and properties of seven Paso Robles wines. During the two-part blending seminar, they also shared some ideas on how blending each wine into another changes the overall taste and aroma, providing tips and general tasting notes of each varietal.

Working in teams, guests choose to create their own Bordeaux-style blend, led by members of the CAB Collective. In a very short period of time, even wine newcomers became wine apprentices for the morning. Most of us had never considered creating our own blends from five varietals (Merlot, Cab Franc, Malbec, Cab Sauvignon, and Petit Verdot). With just a little math and chemistry, all of us were on our way to creating brand new blends of our own creation.

Wine lovers just like us sat at five tables of eight. They were from all over the spectrum. And like Tim and Nellie Perry of Inland Empire, we met individuals who made us feel very relaxed and comfortable.

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Seated at five tables of eight, budding winemakers used up to five varietals to create their own blend. After 40 minutes of testing, each table voted and submitted their “top blend” to the winemakers and host for judging.

“On the morning of the event, we were second guessing ourselves and thought,’Is this really our thing?'” Tim said. “We’re wine lovers, but definitely not experts. What does a Mortgage loan manager, and a Construction supply sales manager know about wine blending? However, despite being nervous or fear we would feel out of place, it ended up being the exact opposite for us.”

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The blending seminar included education and tasting notes and characteristics of five varietals.

The winemakers walked around the room, offering suggestions, answering questions and encouraging risk-taking at each table. Even the most timid created a blend fashioned around their preferences. It was really cool to taste the diversity of blends even at our table of eight. We truly created #drinkwhatyoulike and shared our creations with each other.

“The best part of the event for us was the assignment they gave us,” Nellie said. “We were told to individually blend our own wine from the bottles on table (Of course this was after tasting seven different wines,… yes I said seven!) and then our table group voted on whose wine blend would represent the table for the contest. To our surprise, my husband’s wine blend was chosen to represent table No. 4!”

I agree, this was a blast! We too met people from all over the state at the blending seminars and easily made new friends who had similar interests and fascinating stories. All of them. What a great way to spend a few hours. The bonus was the gorgeous coastal setting of San Simeon just minutes away from Hearst Castle.

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Host and emcee David Wilson of Grape Encounters Radio, left to right, and winemakers Steward Cameron (Ancient Peaks), Ben Mayo (San Antonio Winery) and Christian Tietje (Rotta Winery), educated and judged the blending seminars.

“At the end, we learned that it is okay to step outside the box,” Nellie said. “Go ahead and play with the wine. It’s okay to mix a few together and get the exact wine you are looking for.

“The extra bonus at the BlendFest event was the delicious BBQ lunch provided by (Higgies World BBQ) served afterwards. So delicious! All in all, it was a such wonderful and fun event that given the opportunity we will definitely do again and maybe invite friends to come along.”

I have to agree. All those who signed up for the two-part blending seminar had the same interests and varying abilities. After a brief education about the Bordeaux varietals on the table, we tasted were given about 40 minutes to create our own unique Bordeaux blend. Later members of each table voted on the top blend. Winners of each table then were judged and the winning table awarded an all-inclusive passport for visiting and tasting privileges at all 22 CAB Collective wineries.

Central Coast Wine Enthusiasts Next Events

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Cambria Art & Wine Festival, Jan. 27 – 29, 2017

One of the best things about a weekend getaway to Cambria on the central coast is the close proximity to all of the incredible wineries in the area.

Grapes grown in the unique coastal climate have a flavor unlike any other, attracting wine lovers from all over the world.

January is the perfect time to schedule your vino-vacation, too, because there are multiple wine-centric events happening in and around Cambria!


In true Cambria spirit, the Art & Wine Festival combines two major pieces of Cambria’s personality into one wonderful weekend.

From Friday, Jan. 27 through Sunday, Jan. 29, patrons can learn about local wine and local art all in one place. Festival highlights include shopping specials, wine tasting, wine pairing, raffle prizes, live demonstrations by artists, an art show/silent auction and more! Click here to purchase tickets, and don’t forget to book your stay, too, in Cambria area lodging!

Art & Wine Festival starts with Farm to Easel” event at the Cambria Farmer’s Market at 2:30 p.m., Jan. 27. For more information, check out the Cambria Art & Wine Festival details page. And keep up with the recent added venues as well. The event Kick-Off Party offers a five course wine & food pairing at Madeline’s Restaurant.  Entertainment, preview of the Art Show/Silent Auction and special raffle prize packages will be held at the Veterans’ Hall.

Cambria Art & Wine Festival tickets can be purchased online (recommended) and are also available at the Cambria Chamber of Commerce, 767 Main Street, Cambria, CA, or call  805.927.3624. Depending on the event(s), tickets range from $25-$105.

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Bonus Cambria wine lover event

Wine Pairing Dinner, Jan. 28

Pacific Coast Wine Trail is hosting their Wine Pairing Dinner in Cambria at Indigo Moon Restaurant, during Cambria Art & Wine Festival weekend, on Saturday, Jan. 28, at 6:30 p.m. Join Cayucos Cellars, Chateau Margene, Cuatro Dias, Harmony Cellars and MCV Wines for an elaborate five-course meal! All-inclusive tickets cost $100 per person, and they must be purchased in advance. For reservation questions, call Harmony Cellars at 805.927.1625 and book this and other Pacific Coast Wine Trail events.

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Next Event for Paso Robles Wine Country

Vintage Paso Weekend, March 17-19

Enjoy the wine that put Paso Robles on the map: Zinfandel, the first variety planted in Paso in the 1880s. Vintage Paso is a weekend dedicated to raise awareness of Zinfandel. Events include a  Zinposium, March 17: Master Sommelier, Peter Neptune, will lead you through a tasting of Zinfandel and Zin-blends at the Paso Robles Inn Ballroom in Downtown Paso Robles. Later on Friday, join 18 Paso Robles wineries for a Zinfandel walk-around tasting, complemented by a fantastic dessert selection for the Z After Party.

Other activities are planned so be sure and check winery activities page for up-to-date information as more than 140 wineries plan to participate. Join fellow wine enthusiasts for a selection of wine and chocolate pairings, winemaker dinners, vineyard tours, laid-back barbecues, barrel tastings, live music, and so much more! Tickets will be available on the Paso Robles Wine Country website.

Cambria’s Moonstone Beach at dawn along the boardwalk.

Be sure to read TalesoftheCork’s previous blog post, “DeLoach Vineyards on the table.” And if winemakers, wineries or restaurants are interested in a TalesoftheCork wine and/or food review on the blog, InstagramTwitter and/or Facebook, please send us a request via email: talesofthecork@gmail.com or use DM on social media. TalesoftheCork also offers social media seminars for businesses.