J. Rickards Winery: Darn fine barn wine (VIDEO)

I spent three days in Sonoma County in July and, on a tip from David Scheidt, was privileged to meet Jim Rickards at his Alexander Valley tasting room in Cloverdale, CA. My premise for the trip was to taste first-rate California Rosés and J. Rickards Winery made the list.

The J. Rickards 2012 Bistro Table Rosé is perfect for the European palate, with fragrant rose petal, strawberry, watermelon in a crisp, dry finish.
The J. Rickards 2012 Bistro Table Rosé is perfect for the European palate, with fragrant rose petal, strawberry, watermelon in a crisp, dry finish.

With the summer in full swing, I wanted to begin with J. Rickards aperitif-style Rosé; it was dry and rosy-pink. Perfect for the European palate, the slightly fruity wine is a sure “patio pounder.” The 2012 Bistro Table Rosé opens with fragrant rose petal and strawberry on the nose with a burst of watermelon and crisp, dry finish. The complex taste lingers and is versatile with food or by itself at poolside. Try this blend of 60% Aleatico, 40% Syrah (100 cases, $20).

Just off of California Highway 101 north of Geyserville near Silver Oak Cellars in Sonoma County, the family-run operation of both wine grape farming and wine production is owned and operated by Jim and Eliza Rickards. They planted the vineyards starting in 1976, augmenting the original 1908 Old Vine Zinfandel block planted using horse technology.

When Jim left the military in 1969 with his military cut and large mustache, his dream was to work and own a winery.

“I wasn’t born into the wine business,” Jim said. I didn’t get it for nothing. I have worked my whole life for it.”

Hand-crafting small lot wines since 1991, Jim Rickards goal is to showcase the diverse soils and micro-climates of his vineyards. He has pioneered environmentally sensitive vineyard practices and been a proponent of sustainable farming techniques.
Hand-crafting small lot wines since 1991, Jim Rickards goal is to showcase the diverse soils and micro-climates of his vineyards. He has pioneered environmentally sensitive vineyard practices and been a proponent of sustainable farming techniques.

As their property had been in disuse and very little left from the original land owners, except the 105-year-old vines of Old Zinfandel planted by the Brignole family, the Rickards had years of development ahead of them.

In fact, the dream was so strong, they passionately recreated the early 20th century winery. He was told there was no water on the 60-acre ranch and that the best land use would be a rock quarry. Today, there are two wells and two large ponds providing water for all irrigation. Jim revived the original Zinfandel vineyard, adding new Zinfandel vines and later added Cabernet and Syrah, grafting much of their new stock. Born out of the encouragement of friends who have enjoyed the small lots of hand-crafted wine, the couple has been making wine since 1991.

As Jim began to share his passion for his wines, it became evident he was gifting me a personal history of his love for hand-crafted wines. His story includes pioneering environmentally sensitive vineyard practices and a long-time proponent of sustainable farming techniques. He spoke of losing 20 acres of vines in the late 80s-early 90s and replacing them with new disease resistant root stock. Jim’s tale includes nearly losing the farm to now growing 150 tons of grapes per year on his 45 acres.

J. Rickards Winery planned use of flowers, grasses, bird boxes and rainwater collection all add to the Jim's phrase whenever a visitor arrives at the tasting room: "Welcome to my house."
J. Rickards Winery planned use of flowers, grasses, bird boxes and rainwater collection all add to Jim’s phrase whenever a visitor arrives: “Welcome to my house.”

Land stewardship is extremely important to Jim. The planting and mulching of wild flowers and grasses and the planned introduction of environmentally friendly insects all help to create pesticides free vineyards for 20 years. He builds bird boxes which have attracted songbirds like the Western Bluebird and Tree Swallow. His use of manures and composts help add minerals and beneficial bacteria to the vineyards. From collecting rain water to the building materials his home and tasting room are made of, Jim has created a winery which is sustainable and suitable for the land he farms.

While J. Rickards is Jim and Eliza’s dream, they raised two daughters and a son who do not carry their parents’ passion into their adulthood. This Sonoma County winery remains under the zeal and spirited direction of Jim who almost always addresses his visitors with “Welcome to my house.” Jim’s warm, inviting personality soon wins over those who visit the tasting room to try some of his 15 varieties of wine. He truly has lived out the phrase, “Friends are the family you get to choose yourself,” welcoming folks from all over into his circle.

The Old Vine Zinfandel, Estate, planted in 1908 from the Brignole Vineyard, is flush with Blackberry and plum. The Ancestor Selections Zinfandel, Estate, is a prime example of the Alexander Valley with black cherry, raspberry and pepper.
The Old Vine Zinfandel, Estate, planted in 1908 from the Brignole Vineyard, is flush with Blackberry and plum. The Ancestor Selections Zinfandel, Estate, is a prime example of the Alexander Valley with black cherry, raspberry and pepper.

While I tasted through much of his wines, I do want to recommend visitors taste side by side the Ancestor Selections Zinfandel, Estate and the Old Vine Zinfandel, Estate. I loved the elegance of the 2009 Ancestor Zin. The ripe black cherry, raspberry and spicy pepper were balanced and smooth (658 cases, $24).

Yet I am old school. I preferred the rich, old-world full-bodied “field blend” of the 2010 Zinfandel, Old Vine. The boysenberry, plum and gingerbread were gorgeous. The mocha and juiciness lingered. Jim blended 80% Zinfandel, 10% Petit Syrah, 5% Carignane, 4% Mataro and 1% of Alicante Bouschet (515 cases, $25). This is a must-buy for those not yet familiar with J. Rickards.

I appreciated Jim sharing how he hand-crafts his wines while pioneering environmentally sensitive vineyard practices and sustainable farming techniques. Yet despite all the accolades his wines have earned, Jim is passionate, not pretentious, allowing the wine to speak for itself.

J. Rickards dry Bistro Table Rosé with smoked salmon salad. Wow! Great combo!
J. Rickards dry Bistro Table Rosé with smoked salmon salad. This is a full-bodied wine that is great for almost any patio meal.

Before this gets too long, I also want to recommend J. Rickards 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, Five Sisters Blend. It is fruit forward but made in the Bordeax-style. He smiles and calls it an $80 Cab in a $34 dress (322 cases).

Finally, the 2012 Sauvignon Blanc, Croft Vineyard is a Gold Medal winner at the 2013 North Coast Wine Challenge. I could smell and taste grapefruit, white peach, floral aromas, leading to fig and melon. This is great for summer lighter fare as well as richer foods like roasted chicken (1150 cases, $19).

With over 450 Sonoma County wineries, including J. Rickards, be sure to visit as there is sure to be wine to fit all tastes, pocketbook and pairing options.

For a short VIDEO introducing J. Rickards Winery and 2012 grapes, check out Wine Oh TV’s

Wine Oh TV’s Monique Soltani as she interviews Jim Rickards.

For more information on J. Rickards Winery, visit them online at http://www.jrwinery.com or call: 707.758.3441. They can also be reached via email: jim@jrwinery.com or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/J.Rickards.Winery. J. Rickards Winery is on 24505 Chianti Road, Cloverdale, CA, 95425.

If you missed my last post, check out the South African Mulderbosch Rosé delivers superb summer value.

Be sure to return check out my Twitter @TalesoftheCork and on my Instagram (talesofthecork) daily postings. I also would covet those who would suggest a wine, restaurant, chef or hotel to visit. Feel free to contact me through social media or via email at talesofthecork@gmail.com.

Guinness confirms Napa Valley owns wine relay record (VIDEO)

Charles Krug, the oldest family-owned commercial winery, along with St. Helena Kiwanis Club, St. Helena Chamber of Commerce and CHEERS! St. Helena, hosted The Napa Valley Wine Wave, Oct. 7.

Something was not right and Napa Valley residents take a stand at Charles Krug Winery, Oct. 7, 2012.

Located in one of the premier wine growing regions of the world, Napa residents, winemakers, growers and businesses believe the rightful place for the longest relay wine toast record belongs in St. Helena, California.

The problem: A group of Chinese located in Guangzhou, China, set a new record of 321 participants in November 2011. Knowing this was going to happen, seemed to rub St. Helena resident Lowell Smith the wrong way and he, with support from the St. Helena Kiwanis Club, birthed the idea of the Napa Valley Wine Wave and decided to raise scholarship money for local schools in the process.

Lowell Smith, right, discusses final preparations with a Wine Wave participant. Ali Morse, rear, sells commemorative bungstarters during the event. The are also available through the web site: http://www.happybungstarters.com.

“We actually applied for a Guinness World Record and the Wine Wave about a year and a half ago,” Smith said. “We then got the approval to apply for this record and have been planning this event ever since.”

Smith said Guinness World Records get 50,000 requests a year for setting records. Out of those, Guinness approves about 2,000 and most get accomplished.

Johanna Hessling, an official Guinness World Book of Records adjudicator (a judge) from New York City, was invited to the event because the St. Helena and Napa Valley area community planned a record attempt for the longest wine toast relay.

“I actually walk down the line as the attempt is happening and will be counting with my clicker to make sure that everyone who participates does it correctly,” Hessling said. “What this group needs to do in order to break, or achieve, that record today is to have a minimum of 322 participants take part in the toast, according to the guidelines that are established by Guinness.”

As the Guinness World Book of Records adjudicator, Johanna Hessling (center) walks down the line during the wine wave attempt, she uses her clicker to make sure everyone, including Lori Ayre (right) and Cheryl Gould, participates according to the rules.

Jay Lewis, a member of St. Helena Kiwanis Wine Wave Committee and retired professor from Pacific Union College in Angwin, Calif., volunteered to be a line captain to make sure his charges did everything right.

“I’m excited because so many people are coming together to participate in a World Record,” Lewis said. “The Chinese hold the record with over 300 plus and we are hoping to get 500. This is a great event to hold in the Napa Valley, the center of the wine industry, but the Chinese currently hold the record. Oh, come on!”

Set on the tree-lined grounds of the first commercial winery in California, Charles Krug Winery is a natural place to host over 500 people to participate or watch the Napa Valley Wine Wave.

Maggie Pramuk, center, works for Robert Biale Vineyards and is on the Appellation St. Helena board. She was excited to be a winery representative, pouring at the Napa Valley Wine Wave. Pramuk said she couldn’t believe how fun this is!

Kara Chamberlain, a student at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) at Greystone in St. Helena, heard about the Wine Wave and record attempt from her professor.

“We were sent out an email asking for volunteers or participants because this is for a scholarship fund that actually benefits our school,” Chamberlain said. “A few of my friends from school came here to promote something that we love. This has been so good for me to talk to the many winemakers of the St. Helena area and taste their many different wines. I appreciate that because that is what we are studying. I am hoping to become a wine writer. I am talking to the winemakers as much as possible and networking as well.”

In fact these and other students, along with local businesses, including French Blue, Sorensen Catering and Armadillos Restaurant, served appetizers while the wine relay participants toasted and clinked their way into the record book.

Charles Krug Winery is unique in the Napa Valley as it is still 100 percent family owned and now moving into the fourth generation. Pete Jr., the youngest son of Peter Mondavi, Sr., believes Napa is the rightful place for a record like the Wine Wave.

“St. Helena is where the industry started and Charles Krug Winery is as good as any in Napa Valley,” Mondavi said. “The winery opened in 1861 … 151 years ago. But first and foremost, this is about Kiwanis. We have been involved with St. Helena Kiwanis Club as a venue for fundraising events for many years. They came over with this idea and what better place to host this event? We have beautiful grounds that can hold over 500 people. Come to see where Napa all started.”

Peter (Pete) Mondavi, Jr. (right), proprietor of Charles Krug Winery, praises Kiwanis for creating the Napa Valley Wine Wave opportunity and thrilled the Mondavi-owned winery is able to host the event.

The “wave” of toasters kept Hessling busy from 1:30-2:30 p.m. She watches as each takes turns clinking glasses and sipping wine. After toasting, each participant turns to the person next to them and the process follows from one to two, two to three and so on. The longest relay wine toast is a sequential toast where participants clink glasses in order, from start to finish, rather than the more common toast where everyone clinks glasses simultaneously. Hessling kept pace and smiles each time a red flag raises, denoting when a 100th participant completes the toast.

As each one took turns, a “cheers,” “salut” or other proclamations sounded as individuals look into a partner’s eyes while sipping 2009 Charles Krug Zinfandel. A distinct ‘clink’ and the ringing sound of glasses chime as the dings or pings mix with laughter and chatter.

A 65-foot red and yellow hot air balloon from Napa Valley Balloons provided an impressive backdrop and participants danced to Ancestree, a Santa Cruz roots reggae band. The group grooved and mixed three-part harmonies into an impressive reggae/rock mix from 10:30-1:30 p.m.

St. Helena resident Sue Collins came with her husband Peter to enjoy the unusual afternoon festivities. Peter said they have had many memorable events at the winery and Charles Krug continues to be community-oriented, hosting great events on the property.

“We are here to support Kiwanis and support the wine industry,” Sue said. “We hope to have a little fun, get together with some good music and friends and enjoy a glass of wine in a beautiful location. Oh, and of course, there’s that Guinness thing, too.”

Ira C. Smith, Sports Director at KVON/KVYN, proclaims to the 487 participants, they broke the Guiness World Record. Johanna Hessling then awards Pam Simpson (CEO/President of St. Helena Chamber of Commerce) a framed certificate honoring the Napa Valley Wine Wave record, while Lowell Smith thanks Hessling with a commemorative bungstarter.

While hundreds gathered on the Charles Krug grounds, including the 487 people who took turns to ‘clink, sip and clink,’ there were dozens of others who watched as spectators; students and volunteers served and the Saint Helena Community Band played instrumental numbers until most revelers left.

“We brought our community together and we set a Guinness World Record,” St. Helena Mayor, Del Britton, said. “This unique world record now resides in the Napa Valley, the heart of the wine experience.”

All 487 Napa Valley Wine Wave participants received a medal commemorating the Guinness World Record for the longest relay wine toast, Oct. 7.

Upon completion of the record, Hessling, along with Master of Ceremony, Ira Smith, announces that the new world record of 487 now belongs to the Napa Valley Wine Wave of St. Helena, California. Each participant also received a world record medallion to commemorate the event.

Local food trucks, Marks The Spot and Awful Falafel, served gourmet pulled pork and chicken sliders and Middle-Eastern food. These where paired with wines from Appellation St. Helena, including Ballentine Vineyards, Charnu Winery, Chase Family Cellars, J. Lohr & Wines, Raymond Vineyards, Robert Biale Vineyards, Rutherford Grove, Salvestrin Winery, Trinchero Napa Valley, Tudal Winery, and V. Sattui Winery.

The Napa Valley Wine Wave was created by the St. Helena Kiwanis Club, in partnership with the wineries of Appellation St. Helena, St Helena and St. Helena Chamber, CHEERS! St. Helena, as a way to raise money for scholarships. Proceeds raised from the event go towards scholarships in the agriculture, viticulture, winemaking, business and hospitality industries. For more information and opportunities to purchase commemorative merchandise and donations for scholarships, visit the Napa Valley Wine Wave or on Twitter at @NVWineWave.

For more information on the Napa Valley Wine Wave, visit the award-winning channel Wine Oh TV and watch Monique Soltani’s VIDEO.

Johanna Hessling, an official Guinness World Book of Records adjudicator (center bottom), pronounces St. Helena the new home of the Longest Relay Wine Toast. The Napa Valley Wine Wave and its 487 participants cheer and toast their new record, Oct. 7, 2012. (Photo by Charles O’Rear)