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Sonoma

Black Knight

Black Knight

Black Knight: Tough Love, Good Wine

Black Knight Wine on VAULT29

Great wine is truly all about location, and to inspire greatness in grapes requires a bit of tough love. About 3.4 million years ago, Mount St. Helena violently erupted. Right nearby in the Sonoma coast appellation, Taylor Mountain also erupted, flattening and burying an entire redwood forest in the process. A million years after that, the Rogers Creek fault opened up along the top of Taylor Mountain causing lava to flow out and combine with the volcanic soil already present. This violently created, rough soil paired with the cooling Petaluma Wind Gap breezes made this mountain the perfect location to give grapevines a little tough love. Finally a few million years later, in 2007, the Black family decided to move out onto that same mountain in the hopes of making beautiful wine.

My father decided he was entirely fed up with corporate life and needed a drastic change. Our little family of five chose to turn our lives upside down and move from comfortable, mainstream Pennsylvania all the way out to California with no idea what adventures were ahead of us. As a chemical engineer, my dad spent his career turning around failing chemical plants, and he decided to use this knowledge to pursue his lifelong passion for wine and buy a failing vineyard in need of love. The first few years on the farm were an uphill battle involving overgrown and possessed Merlot vines, old broken down tractors, and countless quirky anecdotes about chasing the neighbor’s runaway cows and learning how to properly transport barrels of wine with a forklift by the age of 14.

Almost a decade later, we have turned our little family farm into something truly remarkable. We have managed to double the size of the vineyard to 35 acres, developed 2 different wine labels, created a beautiful guest house, and converted a barn into a fully functional custom crush facility. Our two different wine brands are Fault Line and Black Knight Vineyards. The Fault Line label is our commercial brand with about 1,500 cases of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Merlot produced. These are beautifully balanced, easy to drink wines that can be found in many local restaurants in the area. We were very successful from the beginning, as our 2012 Chardonnay immediately won 96 points and a gold medal in the North Coast Wine Challenge due to its unique minerality coming from our rocky volcanic soil.

Our Pinot Noir small lot reserve collection under Black Knight, with a production close to 200 cases, is particularly exciting as it showcases numerous micro-climates from the same small vineyard, providing drastically different tasting Pinot Noirs. Our newly awarded Sonoma Harvest Fair Gold Medal winning En Passant Pinot consists of earthy clones 115 and 828 which bring out spicy flavors and complex structure. In contrast, the single clone 777 Dragon's Back is exclusively made from grapes grown directly on top of the fault. This wine is the closest you will get to knowing what a highly volcanic and granitic fault tastes like.

The great advantage of growing the grapes and making the wine is it allows us understands our product and tailor wine making decisions based on this knowledge. Over the years we have learned to utilize our micro-climates and farm according to the optimal needs of the grapes. Similarly we use various methods for fermentation in order to heighten their complexity. We use three different methods with traditional wine barrels, stainless steel tanks, and flextanks. Flextanks are a relatively new and innovative form of winemaking, where wine is poured inside plastic tanks, and oak staves are added as desired. this bold new technique allows the winemaker more control over the fermentation process and Black Knight has been on the forefront of this new technique. Flextanks have a major advantage over barrels in that they are just as breathable, but they do not lose as much moisture as traditional barrels. This eliminates the need for frequent “topping off” of barrels, keeps the alcohol contents low, and the wine flavorful. Flextanks can also be continuously reused, unlike barrels which must be replaced every few years, making them extremely cost efficient for small winemakers like us.

Our new custom crush winery is distinct because it gives small-scale winemakers the opportunity to work with high end equipment.  Additionally, having our own winery allows us to have a little more fun with our grapes and invest in new projects. In the next few months we will be releasing our first methode champenoise. We also decided to make a more traditional form of bubbles, a petulant natural or pet-nat wine, and are excited to share our various techniques for making bubbly wine in our new tasting room come late march. However one of our most exciting new venture is the Gamay Noir. This is our first harvest with the Gamay, and our vineyard is one first gamay growers in the entire country. This exotic new wine will hopefully be ready to share this summer. Black Knight Vineyards is an ambitious family vineyard and winery, and we are always excited for the next adventure. We encourage anyone who wants to get a unique and personal experience in the wine industry to come visit the farm, but be prepared to get your hands dirty.


We encourage you to be a part of the VAULT29 community! Share your wine experiences and discover others, worldwide!

Wonderment

Wonderment

Wonderment Wines: Living the Dream!

It’s been said that ‘happiness is not a matter of intensity, but of balance’ and we couldn’t agree more. That’s why we’ve created our family of Wonderment Wines. Focused on specific terroir and vineyards using the perfect balance of dedication, integrity and fun that makes life so enjoyable.
— Stephanie Cook

‘phrases to live by….purposely on the CORK of each bottle of Wonderment Wine’ 

Wonderment: Who we are - Terroir, Terroir…!!

Wonderment Wines produces handcrafted single vineyard designate wines.  We specialize in Pinot Noir, Heritage Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Semillon & Sauvignon Blanc from premier vineyard sites in American Viticultural Areas (AVA) such as Carneros-Napa County, Oak Knoll of Napa County, Carneros-Sonoma County, Russian River Valley, Rockpile and Lake County. Working closely with top growers in these respective AVAs such as Dutton Ranch, Mauritson, Bacigalupi and Hyde Vineyards our wines are focused on specific terroir where each wine represents the vineyards distinctive style and expression.  We incorporate artisanal methods with minimal intervention in both the vineyard and winery with the specific goal of creating wines of balance, finesse and elegance.  

Owner & Winemaker: Stephanie Cook - Who I am…. !!

Stephanie cook, owner & winemaker

Stephanie cook, owner & winemaker

I was born and raised in Leesville, South Carolina and a have been a resident of Charleston the past 17yrs, I began traveling the world as a fashion model, living and working in London, Milan and Istanbul in my late teenage years and early 20s.

Landing back in South Carolina, this time in the wonderful city of Charleston, I turned my lifelong love of food into a new career, earning my culinary degree and graduating magna cum laude at Johnson & Wales University ten years ago.  After staging in a restaurant in Milan, I returned to the incredible food, history and beauty of Charleston. What an amazing city Charleston is; full of southern charm, soul, and fantastic people.  I put my hospitality and entrepreneurial skills to the test, creating and leading the successful special events and catering company, Bridgeside Events, which I later sold.

All the while, my dream to become a winemaker waited patiently for its moment. After losing my Dad unexpectedly, the man who made homemade Muscadine wine in the laundry room, it motivated me to make my dream of being a winemaker a reality.  

Not long after, I met Bob Biale of Robert Biale Vineyards and informed Bob that I was coming to work for him. True to my word, I worked the 2011 harvest in Napa, soaking up every bit of knowledge I could.  The Bob and the cellar staff have become life long friends and mentors.  The experience was truly life altering!

Also in 2011 while working harvest I bought my own grapes and made my first Pinot Noir (a barrel of precious Dr. Stan’s Vineyard) and two Zinfandels. These three exciting wines constitute Wonderments very first release and the realization of my Dream!

In 2012, I continued honing my skills at Spottswoode Vineyard & Winery, a historic Victorian era estate in St. Helena and I fell ever more in love with winemaking.  In 2013, I worked as the senior intern at Anomaly Vineyards for acclaimed winemaker Mark Porembski.  In spring of 2014 I decided to go down under to New Zealand, specifically to Marlborough and spent 8 weeks in the role of Vintage Winemaker for Spy Valley Wines.  Then during the fall 2014 Napa/Sonoma harvest I worked harvest at Staglin Family Vineyard with winemaker Frederik Johansson.

Each of these experiences have helped shape what today are Wonderments highly acclaimed vineyard designate bottlings.  I am so fortunate for my experiences with each of these special wineries and the people that define each of them.

The Wines: What we represent…!!

Preceding the 2012 harvest, we were able to quickly build a handful of relationships with some of the top growers in Sonoma and Napa AVAs : Bacigalupi, Dutton Ranch, Hyde, Mauritson.  Since the 2012 Vintage we have produced six red wines focused on Pinot Noir and Zinfandel along with a historic half acre block of Russian River Valley Petite Sirah.  

These six bottling have been produced every year since, with each year providing us more and more understanding of the wines ‘sense of place’.  These varietals, as evident early on with our first vintage in 2011, were chosen for very specific reasons.  As a South Carolinian with a culinary background the balance and synergy between food and wine is tantamount for an elevated experience.  Pinot Noir for myself and for many is ‘the great’ wine of the world and is such an amazing compliment for so many types of food.  As a varietal, it is elegant and feminine with a subtle backbone of power.  Zinfandel on the other hand is the great heritage varietal of California and for many is considered ‘The American Wine’ - planted and farmed by the first settlers to the Sierra Foothills over 150 years ago.  For me, it is again the compliment Zinfandel provides with a variety of cuisine - it produces a wine with balanced fruit, mouthfeel and acidity.  Interestingly, many winemakers consider both these varietals to be difficult to produce consistent, quality wines - quietly that also might have been a motivator!!  Lastly - it is a privilege to have found such a fantastic little half acre of Petite Sirah in the Russian River Valley.  These vines are twenty years old and dry farmed.  I will always remember John Bacigalupi explaining how he and his father Charles decided which PS vines to graft over to this block.  The genetic material for this block of PS is filled with over 100 years of RRV harvests.  For Wonderment it is our Cabernet Sauvignon Imposter - filled with fruit, structure and joy in any situation.  Bring on the steaks and the ‘Big Green Egg’. 

For the 2013 Harvest we were focused on producing a white wine.  We were able to convince Larry Hyde and his son Chris to sell us a row of Semillon planted in 1978 during the original development of their 160 acre Carneros-Napa Valley vineyard.  This row of slightly diseased almost 40 year old wines have been so much fun to work with.  The 150 vines produced about one ton of fruit each vintage producing approximately 50 cases of Wonderment Hyde Vineyard Semillon.  During each vintage we barrel ferment in stainless steel then age for 4 months in neutral French oak before bottling.  We are excited to see this wine age but at only 50 cases the 2013 vintage sold out quickly.  and currently the 2014 vintage is available.  Sadly, the 2015 vintage (currently in bottle) will be the last of this Vineyard designate bottling as this part of the Hyde vineyard was redeveloped in spring of this year.  Yet, we are excited to be releasing our first Sauvignon Blanc from the Las Trancas Vineyard farmed by the Hydes and located in the Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley next spring. We were able to get a few tons for the 2015 harvest and are extremely excited to share this wine with our new and existing supporters!

This journey the past five years can only be described as ‘Living the Dream’..  more specifically ‘Living my Dream’ and hopefully you will enjoy and find time to share my dream with your friends and family.

      William Knuttel: The #Winemakers Winemaker     

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
          
             
                  
             
          
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     Long time California winemaker   William Knuttel   has been solely focused on the making of ultra-premium wine for the entirety of his wine career. Knuttel’s philosophy has long been to make an enormous range of wines in various styles each vintage, for the simple reason that a winemaker only gets to make a limited number of vintages over his lifetime. This wealth of experience has led to an adherence to traditional winemaking practices, resulting in balanced, elegant wines that pair well with foods and have excellent aging potential—the hallmarks of classic wine.     

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          
           
              Knuttle in the Saintsbury lab (1986)  
           
          

         
      
       
    

  


     William Knuttel was a chemical engineer before discovering his passion for winemaking, and that early career provided him with two valuable opportunities. The first centered on an awareness of what it takes to bring a raw material to a finished product, while the second was the wherewithal to purchase, learn about, and understand fine wine.   A tragic accident at a chemical plant diverted Knuttel’s path to the world of winemaking, when he abruptly decided to change careers and pursue his Master’s Degree in Viticulture and Enology at UC Davis. Yet another tragic quirk of fate caused him to abandon his quest for that degree just as he was finishing his thesis work, and Knuttel moved to Napa Valley to begin his winemaking journey at   Saintsbury  ….who sought his skills in large part due to his chemical engineering background, as they were in startup mode. Thus ensued a long stint as winemaker there, from 1983 to 1996, helping establish the brand as an international leader in high-end Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in the Burgundian style—and, incidentally, revolutionizing the way those varieties were produced in California. During his tenure at Saintsbury, Knuttel also founded and was owner/winemaker of Tria from 1995 to 2003, producing fine Pinot Noir, Syrah and Zinfandel. He became Vice President and Winemaker at  Chalk Hill Winery  from 1996 to 2003, specializing in ultra-premium Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris.  From 2003 to 2011 he was Executive Winemaker at  Dry Creek Vineyard , where he completely re-honed the styles and quality of that winery’s extensive portfolio.  William Knuttel’s eponymous brand derived from his constant striving for new and exciting projects—not to mention the notion that he was spending too much time “behind the desk” making wine for other wineries. The brand was born in 2001, solidifying his reputation as an ultra-premium winemaker that many in the industry have come to know and respect.     


  

  


 
   
    
      

        

        

        
          
             
               
                 
                      
                 
                
               
             
          

          
        

      

        

        

        
          
             
               
                 
                      
                 
                
               
             
          

          
        

      
    
   

  

 


  



 
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     “ Winemaking is like other industrial processes: raw material to finished product…but winemaking allows me to access my artistic side as well, and that’s why I love it! ” 
   
   — William Knuttel 
 
    

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          
           
               Sebastian preps the hopper for the next round of grapes to go into the destemmer/crusher (Harvest 2015)   
           
          

         
      
       
    

  


     Over the years, Knuttel has developed long-term relationships with growers, giving him access to extraordinary fruit, especially important when it comes to single vineyard wines. Uncompromising and ever curious—a winemaker’s winemaker—Knuttel believes that wine is comprised of terroir, style, and technique (he would make an argument for geography and psychology, too!). Nurturing the grapes stamps a character into the wine, and the experiences of past winemaking ultimately find their way into the current endeavor. The image on the label—a fencer in multiple exposures, superimposed to show the complete motion of “le coup d’epee”—metaphorically embraces all of these characteristics and highlights the balance, finesse, power and poise valued by the winemaker.     

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          
           
               Another one bites the dust! Empty bins outside the facility in Sonoma (Harvest 2015)   
           
          

         
      
       
    

  


     The William Knuttel label produces around 5,000 cases annually, which only seems to be a large number when the many single vineyard and specialty bottlings are considered. The winery is family owned and operated, and proud to have a tight knit crew that we consider part of the family. In 2012 Knuttel opened a   custom crush facility in Sonoma  , the home for the William Knuttel brand and where several of our client’s wines are crushed, bottled, and stored. Knuttel’s daughter,   Kate  , has become the winery’s Business Manager, while his son, Sebastian, is starting his career as Knuttel did: working closely with the fruit and finishing product in the cellar. Knuttel confers on a daily basis with the facility’s Winemaker and General Manager,   Rex Smith  , as well as the rest of our cellar crew: Enrique, Miguel, Jose, and Oliver. The team creates both high quality affordable wines, as well as ultra-premium single vineyard and specialty wines. Over the past few years, we have been especially proud to present our Vineyard Designates Series, which as the name states, features the vineyard names of our loyal growers. With this series, as with all of our wines, we strive to ensure that each vintage upholds Knuttel’s winemaking philosophy, as well as set the bar for ultra-premium wines in the valley.     


  

  


 
   
    
      

        
          
             
              
                    
              

              
                
                   
                     
                       Knuttel sampling Malbec at Peterson Vineyard 
                      
                     
                   
                
              
                
             
          
          
        

        

        

      

        
          
             
              
                    
              

              
                
                   
                     
                       Kate, Bill, and Sebastian enjoying some time off together! 
                      
                     
                   
                
              
                
             
          
          
        

        

        

      
    
   

  

 






      Currently, in addition to   William Knuttel Wines  , Knuttel is partner and winemaker for two other brands:   Ottimino  , which produces Zinfandel exclusively from the Sonoma Coast, and   Teira  , producer of premium Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel and Merlot from Dry Creek Valley. He is also owner and winemaker of   Robin K  , featuring sub-appellated premium wines from the finest Sonoma regions. Knuttel, an avid music lover, sits on the board Berkeley Symphony, where William Knuttel Winery is an official sponsor.   Visit   William Knuttel Winery   at Arcana, LLC, Crush Facility, in Sonoma,  by   contacting   to make an appointment. William Knuttel Wines can also be found at   Napa Wine Company Tasting Room   in Oakville (Napa Valley),   online  , and on  Facebook .           We'd love to see your William Knuttel wine experiences in the   VAULT29 app  . Use hashtag #WIlliamKnuttel, #WilliamKnuttelWines, or #WKW -- Cheers!

William Knuttel: The #Winemakers Winemaker

Long time California winemaker William Knuttel has been solely focused on the making of ultra-premium wine for the entirety of his wine career. Knuttel’s philosophy has long been to make an enormous range of wines in various styles each vintage, for the simple reason that a winemaker only gets to make a limited number of vintages over his lifetime. This wealth of experience has led to an adherence to traditional winemaking practices, resulting in balanced, elegant wines that pair well with foods and have excellent aging potential—the hallmarks of classic wine.

Knuttle in the Saintsbury lab (1986)

Knuttle in the Saintsbury lab (1986)

William Knuttel was a chemical engineer before discovering his passion for winemaking, and that early career provided him with two valuable opportunities. The first centered on an awareness of what it takes to bring a raw material to a finished product, while the second was the wherewithal to purchase, learn about, and understand fine wine.   A tragic accident at a chemical plant diverted Knuttel’s path to the world of winemaking, when he abruptly decided to change careers and pursue his Master’s Degree in Viticulture and Enology at UC Davis. Yet another tragic quirk of fate caused him to abandon his quest for that degree just as he was finishing his thesis work, and Knuttel moved to Napa Valley to begin his winemaking journey at Saintsbury….who sought his skills in large part due to his chemical engineering background, as they were in startup mode. Thus ensued a long stint as winemaker there, from 1983 to 1996, helping establish the brand as an international leader in high-end Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in the Burgundian style—and, incidentally, revolutionizing the way those varieties were produced in California. During his tenure at Saintsbury, Knuttel also founded and was owner/winemaker of Tria from 1995 to 2003, producing fine Pinot Noir, Syrah and Zinfandel. He became Vice President and Winemaker at Chalk Hill Winery from 1996 to 2003, specializing in ultra-premium Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris.  From 2003 to 2011 he was Executive Winemaker at Dry Creek Vineyard, where he completely re-honed the styles and quality of that winery’s extensive portfolio.

William Knuttel’s eponymous brand derived from his constant striving for new and exciting projects—not to mention the notion that he was spending too much time “behind the desk” making wine for other wineries. The brand was born in 2001, solidifying his reputation as an ultra-premium winemaker that many in the industry have come to know and respect.

Winemaking is like other industrial processes: raw material to finished product…but winemaking allows me to access my artistic side as well, and that’s why I love it!
— William Knuttel
Sebastian preps the hopper for the next round of grapes to go into the destemmer/crusher (Harvest 2015)

Sebastian preps the hopper for the next round of grapes to go into the destemmer/crusher (Harvest 2015)

Over the years, Knuttel has developed long-term relationships with growers, giving him access to extraordinary fruit, especially important when it comes to single vineyard wines. Uncompromising and ever curious—a winemaker’s winemaker—Knuttel believes that wine is comprised of terroir, style, and technique (he would make an argument for geography and psychology, too!). Nurturing the grapes stamps a character into the wine, and the experiences of past winemaking ultimately find their way into the current endeavor. The image on the label—a fencer in multiple exposures, superimposed to show the complete motion of “le coup d’epee”—metaphorically embraces all of these characteristics and highlights the balance, finesse, power and poise valued by the winemaker.

Another one bites the dust! Empty bins outside the facility in Sonoma (Harvest 2015)

Another one bites the dust! Empty bins outside the facility in Sonoma (Harvest 2015)

The William Knuttel label produces around 5,000 cases annually, which only seems to be a large number when the many single vineyard and specialty bottlings are considered. The winery is family owned and operated, and proud to have a tight knit crew that we consider part of the family. In 2012 Knuttel opened a custom crush facility in Sonoma, the home for the William Knuttel brand and where several of our client’s wines are crushed, bottled, and stored. Knuttel’s daughter, Kate, has become the winery’s Business Manager, while his son, Sebastian, is starting his career as Knuttel did: working closely with the fruit and finishing product in the cellar. Knuttel confers on a daily basis with the facility’s Winemaker and General Manager, Rex Smith, as well as the rest of our cellar crew: Enrique, Miguel, Jose, and Oliver. The team creates both high quality affordable wines, as well as ultra-premium single vineyard and specialty wines. Over the past few years, we have been especially proud to present our Vineyard Designates Series, which as the name states, features the vineyard names of our loyal growers. With this series, as with all of our wines, we strive to ensure that each vintage upholds Knuttel’s winemaking philosophy, as well as set the bar for ultra-premium wines in the valley.

Currently, in addition to William Knuttel Wines, Knuttel is partner and winemaker for two other brands: Ottimino, which produces Zinfandel exclusively from the Sonoma Coast, and Teira, producer of premium Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel and Merlot from Dry Creek Valley. He is also owner and winemaker of Robin K, featuring sub-appellated premium wines from the finest Sonoma regions. Knuttel, an avid music lover, sits on the board Berkeley Symphony, where William Knuttel Winery is an official sponsor.

Visit William Knuttel Winery at Arcana, LLC, Crush Facility, in Sonoma,  by contacting to make an appointment. William Knuttel Wines can also be found at Napa Wine Company Tasting Room in Oakville (Napa Valley), online, and on Facebook.


We'd love to see your William Knuttel wine experiences in the VAULT29 app. Use hashtag #WIlliamKnuttel, #WilliamKnuttelWines, or #WKW -- Cheers!

One Extraordinary Ordinary Day

One Extraordinary Ordinary Day

A few weeks ago, we had the privilege of experiencing three very unique tastings in the Sebastopol/Russian River Valley area with friends. The day was nothing fancy; these weren’t wineries with art galleries, mouth-dropping views or petite bites prepared by an estate chef to pair with the wines. That said, it was one of the most memorable.   

It got me thinking: What made this day stand out from the others?

In one single day, to be able to hang out with three different winemakers – in their dining room; with their families; and in their backyards – was pretty special. The conversations were all different, but the take away was always the same – everyone has their individual wine journey. It starts with one of life’s fateful experiences: a chance meeting or an unforgettable bottle of wine. From there, wine affords a lifetime of opportunities to taste parts of the world and meet others with a shared passion and appreciation. And for some, even chase dreams.

Create your own experiences by tasting at:

Trombetta Family Wines with Erica and Rickey and enjoy their family home, gorgeous gardens and hen house!

DRNK Wines with Ryan, Katie and Henry in their awesome caves!

Teac Mor with Steve and Stefanie deep in the vineyards!


See more of our day by downloading the VAULT29 app and searching for the wineries mentioned above or search by hashtags: #DRNK, #Trombetta or #TeacMor!

Bennett Valley Cellars

Bennett Valley Cellars

Get to know an appellation in three easy steps! by Lee Stipp

An appellation is one of the most important aspects of the wine but one of the most overlooked. Geography and weather are two top characteristics of an appellation but there are other factors such as history that come into play. Every bottle of wine should tell a story. Let us tell you the story of the Bennett Valley: an appellation so rich in history and unique in character, we chose to put it on our label.

Step One: Where

The Bennett Valley appellation lies entirely within the Sonoma Valley appellation, and overlaps part of both Sonoma Mountain and the Sonoma Coast appellations. The boundaries of the AVA roughly correspond to the Matanzas Creek watershed. With 8140 total acres, about 650 acres are planted to wine grapes, making it one of the smallest AVAs in Sonoma County. Most of the planted acreage sits on a benchland between 400 and 1100 feet above sea level, while the elevation of the region extends up to 1887 feet.

Image: Bennett Valley lies wholly within the Sonoma Valley between Santa Rosa and Glen Ellen.

Image: Bennett Valley lies wholly within the Sonoma Valley between Santa Rosa and Glen Ellen.

Step Two:  Why

Weather and soil are predominant factors in making the Bennett Valley a unique place. Consistent marine influence defines this cool-climate region. Through a deep gap in the mountains (known as the Petaluma Wind Gap), early morning coastal fog and cool marine breezes  pour into the valley on a regular basis throughout the growing season. While the AVA is classified as a very cool climate, the mountains that define its boundaries shelter the vineyards and protect them from extremes. More of an alluvial bench than a valley, volcanic activity created both the diverse topography and a wide range of soil types, exposures and terrains. The volcanic history of the landscape defines the soils: steep, rocky soils with good drainage encourage deep roots and intense flavors without dilution.

Image: Fog rolls through the Petaluma Gap and into the Bennett Valley resulting in perfect growing conditions for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay

Image: Fog rolls through the Petaluma Gap and into the Bennett Valley resulting in perfect growing conditions for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay

Step Three: How

How did this wonderful place get discovered? The Bennett Valley has a rich history of human involvement that linguistic experts believe go back to 7000 BCE. From there, Russian and Spanish settlements began in the early 1800’s (around Fort Ross). The late 1840’s Gold Rush era brought even more people, mainly from established US states. One notable person, John Bennett, was an influential politician for which the valley was named after. John Bennett’s daughter died of Typhoid Fever at an early age and is said to have been buried in the Bennett Valley. Wine grapes were planted in the 1850’s and up until a massive phylloxera infestation put an end to wine grape growing until Matanzas Creek Winery was born in 1977. On December 23, 2003, Bennett Valley became an officially recognized American Viticultural Area.

Getting to know Bennett Valley Cellars

Via Italia!

Pietro Zanin, born in 1881 in Rivamonte, Italy, purchased a vineyard in the Veneto region. There was no family meal without wine.

Fortunato Zanin, born in 1904 is Rivamonte, Italy, followed his father’s footsteps in the vineyard and made sure that his grandchildren would inherit the vineyard to ensure family ownership.

Emilio Zanin, born in 1939 in Agordo, Italy in the Italian Alps, maintained part ownership of the Veneto vineyard until he immigrated to the US. He sold his ownership in the vineyard to purchase Marina’s Vineyard in the Bennett Valley.

Luca Zanin, born in 1970 in Flushing, NY, worked with Emilio and his cousin Mark Zanin in creating a winery supply company located in Windsor, CA. Shortly after founding their Company, Luca bought a vineyard down the street from Emilio’s in the Bennett Valley now known as Simpatico Ranch.

What's in the bottle? (click on bottle(s) to learn more)


We'd love to see your Bennett Valley Cellars wine experiences in the VAULT29 app. Use hashtags #BVC or #BennettValleyCellars!

Wine Mic Monday: Sonoma Winery Techniques

Wine Mic Monday: Sonoma Winery Techniques

"Wine Mic Monday" is a VAULT29 series based on an "open mic concept" where wineries take over our blog...because every glass and bottle of wine has a story. Last week, we recapped Napa Valley wineries in Season 1, part 1: Napa Valley. In Season 1, part 2, we look back at our stories from Sonoma County. There are many different viticulture practices, such as "Dry Farming" practiced by Emeritus, and "Biodyncamic Farming" or the hollistic approach, as practiced by Teac Mor. Take a look at Alma Fria's "Viticulture on the Fringe" and get deeper insights into their farming and winemaking techniques. Find out why Spell believes soil quality is the single most important factor in defining the distinctive character of a wine in "The Importance of Soil Types." 

Dry Farming 

You know when you get a summer tomato from the farmers market, you’ve been eating tomatoes from the grocery store all winter and spring and when you take a bite you instantly remember what a tomato really tastes like? That moment connects one with the farmer, the land and the food. Someone planted the tomato, tended to it and picked it. It grew in a field, in soil not in a greenhouse, not hydroponically. 

One should get that same feeling when tasting a wine made from non-irrigated grapes, or dry-farmed. Dry farming is not widely practiced in California due to a lack of rainfall during the summer growing season. In almost all other grape growing regions of the world there is summer rainfall. Read more about Emeritus' farming practices and get to know their exceptional wines!

 

Viticultire on the Fringe

Alma Fría \al-mah free-ah\: the soul of a family; the cold of a geography. The Hatterman family migrated to Northern California and planted new roots in the remote ridgetops of Annapolis on the West Sonoma Coast.  From this beautiful and remote place, they are committed to handcrafting Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays of elegance, finesse and complexity. Reflecting on their wine journey, they constantly remind themselves just how fortunate they are to work with terroirs of such potential and beauty and to do it with the help of talented and great people with whom they beat down together the remote paths and the gravel roads that make up this special region.  In Carroll Kemp, winemaker, and Greg Adams, viticulturist, they have found true journey companions. Read more, you don't want to miss getting to know the Alma Fria family and their gorgeous wines!

 

The Importance of Soil Types

One trait commonly touted by many wineries throughout the world is the soil quality their grape vines are rooted.   At Spell, they believe that it may be the single most important factor in defining the distinctive character of each wine. The soil taxonomy of each vineyard is as varied as the geographical diversity.  Soils rang from gravelly loam with moderate permeability and low water holding capacity to expanding clays with slow permeability and high water holding capacity.  The vines rooted in these varied soils take up varying levels of macronutrients and micronutrients which form the foundation of vine development. Read more on the impact soil, water, and the sun have in the composition of each grape and ultimately wine.  Familiarize yourself with the beautifully crafted pinot noir & chardonnay of Spell Estate!

Biodynamic Farming

Steve Moore cares for Teac Mor's vineyard, and he’s passionate about what he does. He farms biodynamically, and feels deeply connected both to the land and to the vines. “I consider the vines my children and I want them to thrive long after I’m gone,” he said. Doing so requires Steve take a holistic approach to farming. An olive orchard and large vegetable garden on the vineyard promote a healthy ecosystem by attracting beneficial insects. “I believe the vines are not only alive, but aware of their environment. I think that a healthy vineyard will result in better wine.” Read more about Steve's daily vine inspection to his harvest techniques and on to the release of Teac Mor's small production wines! 



Teac Mor

Teac Mor

"Wine Mic Monday" is a VAULT29 series based on an "open mic concept" where wineries take over our blog to write about aspects unique to them and their wines. Hot on the heels of a Best of Class designation for their 2011 Pinot Noir and a Gold for their 2012 Chardonnay in the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition 2015, we welcome Teac Mor Vineyards to take over our mic. Teac Mor Vineyards is a family owned and operated winery in the Russian River Valley appellation of Sonoma County. They produce Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from their estate grown grapes. 

"Teac Mor" by Christine Moore

In 1998, we planted 30 acres of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. By 2001, we were selling those grapes.  We chose as the name of the vineyard Teac Mor, which means “big house” in Gaelic. The name pays homage to our father’s childhood home in Ireland, which was the only two-story structure in his small village of Leitra, Galway.

Teac Mor Viineyards | VAULT29

My brother Steve cares for our vineyard now, and he’s passionate about what he does. He farms biodynamically, and feels deeply connected both to the land and to our vines. “I consider the vines my children and I want them to thrive long after I’m gone,” he said. 

Teac Mor Harvest | VAULT29

Doing that requires that Steve take a holistic approach to farming. “What I do this year will impact future harvests, and I’m always thinking several years ahead.”

An olive orchard and large vegetable garden on the vineyard promote a healthy ecosystem by attracting beneficial insects. “I believe the vines are not only alive, but aware of their environment. I think that a healthy vineyard will result in better wine.”

Steve inspects his vines daily and adjusts his farming techniques based on what the vines call for. “There are five types of soil on this site alone,” he said. “To be successful, I need to see the distinctive needs of each plant.”

While harvest varies from year to year, we consistently sell the majority of our grapes to other producers - Duckhorn, Hale Mary, Bluxome Street, to name a few. In 2009, we began bottling our own wines. We produce roughly 1,000 cases each year, or approximately 600 cases of Pinot Noir and 400 cases of Chardonnay. When it comes to wine making, we adhere to a minimalist philosophy, seeking to preserve the essence of the fruit.

For our Pinot Noir, we use our Clone 777 and Pomard grapes. We allow the wines to take their time through fermentation, keeping fermentation temperatures relatively cool.

Teac Mor Barrels | VAULT29

After fermentation our Pinot Noir wines are laid to rest in the highest quality French oak barrels. The Pinot Noir wines are not repeatedly racked or aerated. Instead, we allow them to lay peacefully in their barrels with their lees. This gentle approach produces Pinot Noir wines that are beautifully complex with subtle oak, exotic spice and a long lasting finish.

Our Chardonnay wines are made with both Clones 96 and 4. We blend the two clones, working to avoid masking the fruit’s natural beauty with heavy oak or secondary fermentations.

We use a stainless-steel fermentation process, age the wine with their lees and bottle them relatively quickly to preserve freshness, acidity and balance. The result is a bright and clean Chardonnay with refreshing acidity and defining minerality. 

People often ask us about the meaning of our label. We call our golden angel, Teaca (pronounced Teesha). She is our symbol of elegance and beauty. We believe you’ll find elegance and beauty inside our bottles too.


"Like" Teac Mor on Facebook & "Follow" them on Twitter @TeacMor.

Teac Mor Vineyards 4489 Occidental Road, Santa Rosa | www.TeacMor.com                                    Vineyard Contact, Steve: (707) 849-5510 | Media Contact, Christine: (415) 205-8095 | teac@teacmor.com 

Be sure to view and add your Teac Mor experiences in the VAULT29 app!

The Hit List: The Barlow

The Hit List: The Barlow

Photo cred: http://thebarlow.net/

Photo cred: http://thebarlow.net/

One of the greatest pleasures as a wine lover is to go beyond the "big names" and discover the smaller, boutique wineries in lesser known regions. As a Californian, our unlimited access to some of the best wine in the world is a car ride away, whether you're in Northern California (Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino, Anderson Valley), Central California (Monterey down to Paso Robles) or Southern California (Santa Barbara, Los Angeles and even San Diego). 

One of my most favorite places to visit is the small town of Sebastopol, 20 miles east of the Pacific Ocean in Sonoma County. In the past, the town was known for its sprawling plum and apple orchards, but today, most of the land is predominently vineyards. Emeritus Vineyards (recently featured in our inaugural Wine Mic Mondayseries) is a personal favorite, along with the very friendly folks at Dutton Goldfield, Marimar Estate and Lynmar. 

A new addition to the town is The Barlow: a state of the art "business community" made up of wineries, eateries and galleries. The concept is to bring together consumers to learn, enjoy and appreciate all that goes in to producing the best food, drink and art - a really cool concept!

WINE:  At the top of our list is MacPhail (no appointment needed, gorgeous tasting room and the ultimate hosts in Jim and his friendly staff!) Don't miss: (1) their "terrior wall," which showcases the different soil types in the vineyards they source grapes.  (2) the Gap's Crown Chardonnay and the Anderson Valley Pinot from the Toulouse Vineyard. They also offer food and cheese pairings - highly recommended!

For the religious Wine Spectator readers, Kosta Browne (appointment needed but their entire facility and operation is located here) is a must. The #1 in 2011 (Kosta Browne's 2009 Sonoma Coast Pinot) will be long gone, but they consistently make exceptional Pinot Noir year after year. 

FOODZazu Kitchen + Farm says "you don't get any more local than local can get." Bacon is the common staple here, with the brussel sprout salad and "bacon in the burger" pretty popular menu items. The wine list has lots of local varietals to try, and if you're in the mood for a cocktail, they have you covered too!

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Other notables: Spirit Works Distillery, Subzero Ice Cream and Yogurt, Taylor Made Farms (Organic Coffee) and Woodfour (Brewery). 

You can find our Barlow experiences in the VAULT29app, but we encourage you to visit and add your own!

"Buzz" (aka #ElfOnTheShelf): Reporting Back to #Winelovers!

"Buzz" (aka #ElfOnTheShelf): Reporting Back to #Winelovers!

"Buzz" the Elf stumbled into the VAULT29 office in December 2013 after escaping his previously adopted family who, heaven forbid, strictly prohibited him from drinking wine. 

His new role is to set out into the world of wine and report back to winelovers. Stay tuned for his 25 days of wine adventures.

Day 1: Buzz is caught hanging out in the vineyards deep in the heart of Sonoma County. 

Day 2“Buzz” makes his debut winery appearance at Lynmar Estate and captures his experience using the VAULT29app. The Reserve Tasting was right up his alley as he sipped Quail Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir (93pt Wine Enthusiast) and Chardonnay (92pt Wine Enthusiast), along with other limited release single vineyard wines. VIP treatment has “Buzz” recommending you visit with friends and experience the Wine & Food Picnic Pairing

Day 3: With a hop, skip, jump across the street from Lynmar, Buzz made a visit at Dutton-Goldfield. He began his experience with the Discovery Tasting where he enjoyed the newly released cool climate pinot noir and chardonnay. While sippin’, he learned about the history of the winery and how the family business has grown from owning 35 acres to more than 1,000 acres in the Russian River Valley! Buzz reports back that his $15 tasting fee was waived with his wine purchase. He’s already planning his next visit to experience the Beast and Pinot Pairing

Day 4: For years, Buzz read about the “buzz” surrounding Hall of Fame winemaker, Merry Edwards, and always wanted to plan a visit to the acclaimed winery.  Since he knew he was going to be in the area, he called ahead and organized a private tasting with 7 of his friends – they even splurged on a limo. Surrounded by winery cats, Buzz and Co. sipped on Estate Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc while they learned about vineyard sustainability (ex: organic mushrooms are used as compost).  You’ll notice from the picture, Buzz was on his best behavior  (ie sitting upright). Buzz loved the wines and Merry Edwards is his new #wcw (Woman Crush Wednesday)! Share your Merry Edwards experiences in our app!

Day 5: Rumor has it “The Barlow” is a state of the art facility with some pretty impressive wineries – food and art too – but Buzz is a workaholic and is dedicated to reporting on the wine scene. Buzz decides to make a pit stop in downtown Sebastopol, a 10 minute drive from his previous stop, Merry Edwards Winery. Not to worry winelovers, Buzz believes it’s always best to have a designated driver – he never drinks and drives. 

Buzz’s first stop is the MacPhail Tasting Lounge – he was drawn to the bright red Radio Flyer wagons which matched his outfit.  Jim and his staff spoiled Buzz, first with the Chardonnays then the Pinot Noirs.  Buzz was so complimentary of the wines, Jim even hooked him up with a splash of the Mardikian Pinot Noir from the Sonoma Coast (special hat tip to Jim!) Buzz was in such a gift giving mood, he purchased a special gift box for his mother (he’s a mama’s boy but in denial). In Buzz’s book, an awesome venue with awesome wines makes for an A++ rating – and MacPhail is not to be missed!  

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Day 6: Within walking distance from Macphail, Buzz headed over to Wind Gap’s new tasting room at The Barlow. He wasted no time taking a seat at the bar and ordering the Sun Chase pinot noir by the glass. This sexy wine put him in a seductive mood where he jumped off the bar stool and begin dancing to the music (yes, he embarrassed himself). He LOVED the ambiance of the tasting room and suggests ordering a wine by the glass, experiencing one of their 4 tasting flights and/or trying a few different wines (2oz pours)!

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Day 7Buzz respects firefighters and the hard work they put in saving lives. So, today he reports back to wine lovers from Hook & Ladder on Olivet Road, Sonoma CountyBuzz knew his driver pulled up to the correct winery when he saw the vintage fire truck parked in front of the property. Upon entering the tasting room, Buzz is filled with appreciation by the numerous firefighter t-shirts hanging in the rafters. Devin, the Tasting Room Manager, welcomed Buzz to taste some wine. From Sauvignon Blanc, to Chardonnay, to Gewürztraminer, to red wines like Merlot, Red Blends, Cabernet, Zinfandel and more! Buzz was mesmerized by the amount of different wines he’d be trying. During the tasting he learned of the winery’s history and couldn’t believe how affordable the wines were. Great people, interesting story, good wine, and amazing price points have Buzz suggesting you visit Hook & Ladder, a DeLoach family winery.

Day 8Buzz, ready for a relaxing wine experience after his Hook & Ladder adventure, crossed the street to visit Pellegrini Estate on Olivet Lane vineyard. The olive trees, which lined the entrance of the property, put him in the perfect wine tasting mood and the Tuscan-styled winery was so inviting. Buzz selected the Classic Wine Tasting option ($10) where he sipped on Pellegrini wines and enjoyed the vineyard views.  He mentions the winery pours Olivet Lane wines too, but they were sold out (next release is Feb. 2015). There were several different varietals to taste, like a Sauvignon Blanc, Rosé, an un-oaked Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot, and a Zinfandel. Nice price points meant Buzz went home with a case and a gift pack for his mother! He suggests you pay this venue a visit and capture your relaxing and affordable wine experience using the VAULT29 app!

Woodenhead_2010 Pinot_RR-WEt Kiss.jpg

Day 9: Buzz made his way west to Woodenhead Vintners (only 1+ mile from his previous stop on Olivat Lane). The dynamic duo of Nikolai and Zina presents wine lovers with exceptional wines to taste on the winery deck (or bar) while enjoying sweeping vineyard views. Buzz tasted several  Pinot Noirs and Zinfandel’s which are produced from various regions across California, including Santa Cruz Mountains, Humbolt County, Mendocino, Alexander Valley, and of course, the Russian River. The “Wet Kiss” Pinot Noir was Buzz’s favorite, not only because it was divine, but it got all the ladies who were wine tasting to flirt with him (so he says). Per Buzz, Woodenhead is a great place to stop for a cool wine tasting experience and documenting it all using the VAULT29 app..

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Day 10: Of course Buzz had heard of the name “Korbel” and consumed bottles of the “California Champagne”, but never paid the winery a visit. He continued west from his previous stop at Woodenhead on into Guerneville. Planning ahead, he took advantage of booking Korbel’s free tour and tasting. Tons of bubbles flowed as he walked through the winery learning about their 132 year existence and the winery’s survival during Prohibition. Buzz also learned of Korbel’s winemaking approach as all California Champagnes are made using the méthode champenoise method, meaning the champagne is fermented in the same bottle in which it is served/sold. After the tour and tasting, Buzz made his way to the onsite deli where he ordered a sandwich and sat on the outside patio overlooking the vineyards. Before leaving he picked up a case of affordable wine. Buzz documented his Korbel experience using the VAULT29 app and he recommends you do the same! 

Day 10: Buzz makes a stop at the historic turn-of-the-century hop barn at Martinelli Winery while on his way from Guerneville to downtown Sonoma. He tasted estate grown and produced wines for just $10! While sippin’, Buzz learned of the intriguing family history, including why the steepest non-terraced vineyard in Sonoma County is named Jackass Hill, how the Martinelli children hand-polished Gravenstein and Golden Delicious apples to sell along with fresh pressed apple juice, and how only ~10% of the grapes grown are used for their own wines. Buzz suggests Visiting the winery to get the full scoop, enjoy lovely crafted wines, and peek around inside the winery gift shop. Don’t forget to capture your Martinelli experiences using the VAULT29 app.

Day 12: Buzz took a drive to downtown Sonoma (~35  miles from Martinelli) to visit Sojourn Cellars. From reading various reviews, he had heard of their highly acclaimed winery producing high quality pinot noir, chardonnay, and cabernet. Buzz called ahead to make an appointment, no walk-ins. He took a seat and began his side-by-side comparative tasting, first with chardonnay, to pinot, and finishing with a Spring Mountain (Napa) cabernet. While tasting, he learned of the various soil types, as well as how Sojourn came to be -- over a tennis match. Thank goodness for tennis matches! Their quaint tasting room, intimate setting, knock-out wines, and lovely hospitality made the visit one to remember. Buzz highly recommends stopping by Sojourn when in historic downtown Sonoma and using the VAULT29 app to capture the experience.

Day 13Buzz makes a quick pit stop over to another downtown Sonoma haunt, Kamen Estate, conveniently located within steps from Sojourn Cellars. He loved the laid back vibe of the tasting room, especially the Carrera marble bar and the phase paintings hanging on the wall. Buzz, feeling good from all the Pinot and Chardonnay goodness, gets chatty with the Hospitality Ambassador, Kyle, who tells him about the history of Kamen. In 1980, Robert Kamen came to Sonoma to celebrate the sale of his first screenplay. Buzz learns Kamen was actually behind many of his favorite movies like Karate Kid, Taps, A Walk in the Clouds and many more. Buzz realizes the phase paintings are lines from many of the films he's written! Buzz tasted an estate grown cabernet, the Writer's Block - a red blend, and a crisp stone fruit sauvignon blanc, but his favorite take away was the Kashmir (only 175 cases produced). With a swift call to his limo driver, Buzz put his purchased stash of wine away and began walking to his next downtown Sonoma destination. He suggests using the VAULT29 app to find and capture your Kamen wine experiences just like he did.

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Day 14: As Buzz walked through Sonoma square from Kamen Estate, he came across the charming little tasting room known as Hawkes Winery. As he walked through the bright red front door, Douglas, the tasting room pro, welcomed Buzz to find a seat at the bar. Soft music was playing and Buzz was ready to taste. He tasted four wines: a chardonnay, a merlot, and two cabernets all for $10! While Hawkes is known for their cabernets, Buzz enjoyed the un-oaked chardonnay best. He recommends visiting “your friend’s cottage” and capturing the experience using the VAULT29 app!

Day 15Buzz’s next stop was easy, he literally walked across the street to WALT wines. This cozy “homey” little tasting room melted his heart! The friendly, knowledgeable, and passionate staff welcomed him to WALT, offered him a seat, and walked him through their amazing tasting experience – 5 knock-out wines for $20. As he sipped he learned that Kathryn Walt Hall is not only the proprietor of WALT wines, but also of HALL wines on Hwy 29 in Napa Valley (Buzz is a fan of HALL’s killer cabernets). After the tasting, Buzz was escorted to the “backyard” tasting area where, rumor has it, is the perfect place for Summer afternoons. Buzz informed the staff to expect him (in disguise) in the Summer or sooner. He left with a couple of chardonnay’s and pinot noir’s and captured his WALT experience using the VAULT29 app!

Day 16: Buzz took a 10 minute relaxing ride inside his limo to Gundlach Bundschu. The property was lined with rows of zinfandel vines, nearly 40 years old. Upon passing the vines, the limo driver abruptly stops. Buzz hops out to sit shotgun and strike a  pose inside Gundlach Bundschu's classic truck. Finally inside the winery, Buzz begins his tasting. For $10 he tasted 5 estate wines, no appointment needed! He learned Gundlach Bundschu was one of the first wineries to produce the merlot varietal! Besides merlot, you can taste varietals like: Gewürztraminer, Cabernet, Zinfandel, Tempranillo, Cab Franc, and so much more! The history of this winery is astonishing and dates back to the late 1800's. Buzz will definitely be back in the Summer with his friends where he'll partake in a private cave tasting or vineyard excursion with his friends! This winery is highly recommended. Be sure to capture your Gundlach Bundschu experiences using the VAULT29 app! 

Day 17Buzz’s next wine experience was conveniently located around the corner from Gundlach Bundshu at Scribe Winery. As his limo driver maneuvered up the hill, Buzz was pleasantly surprised to come across an inviting group of winelovers huddled around the firepit, covered in blankets and throws. Beyond the majestic oak trees was an exceptional view of the valley floor – with rows and rows of vines lining the distance; the perfect backdrop for wine tasting. The hostess popped a few bottles for Buzz to try: the 2012 Chardonnay, the 2013 Carneros Pinot Noir and the 2014 Nouveau of Pinot Noir.  Since Santa Claus is such a big fan of Beaujolais Nouveau, Buzz decided to purchase a case of the Scribe Nouveau – an artisan’s take on the popular French wines.  You can find wine experiences from Scribe Winery within the VAULT29 app

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Day 18: Buzz was really (REALLY!) excited to head over to his new wine tasting destination: Patz & Hall. He’s been a long time fan of the producers (who are celebrating their 25th anniversary!), and they recently opened their new tasting salon on Eighth Street.  He pulled up to the winery, on the hour, just in time for his wine tasting appointment. For $25, Buzz enjoyed 4 single vineyard wines and he blissfully enjoyed each and every one! His report back to wine lovers is, do not bypass this wine experience when in Sonoma, as some of the best chardonnay's and pinot noir's are produced by Patz & Hall! You can find wine experiences from Patz & Hall within the VAULT29 app.

Day 19Next up: Buzz heads over to Anaba to get his fix of Rhone and Burgundian style wines.  Located on the corner of Arnold and 8th Street is the charming, restored 100 year old farmhouse. With picnic basket in tow, Buzz wanders into the tasting room and meets his host. For $10, he tasted 6 different wines on the patio while enjoying the vineyard views. Anaba also offers an educational experience for $30pp, “Beyond the Label”, should you have interest learning about winemaking, wine pairings, harvest + more! This quaint place with great wines and a friendly staff will have you repeatedly coming back. Buzz highly recommends paying Anaba a visit and capturing every moment using the VAULT29 app!

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Day 20Next up on Buzz's wine itinerary is Schug Winery, a 50 acre vineyard in the Carneros region of Sonoma Valley. Perched above the hillside, Buzz hops out of his ride and takes in the sights of the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vines. "Spectacular," Buzz says under his breath. Buzz checks into the tasting room and decides to spend the $10 for the tasting fee. The tasting room staff provide him with the option for the self guided tour which is free. Because the day is gorgeous, and time essentially stands still for Buzz (19th winery in one day), he decides to view the grounds at his own pace. With a glass of Chardonnay in hand, he picks up his detailed walking guide and takes off for the vineyards. Buzz is a wine extraordinaire, so he is very familiar with Walter Schug, one of the industry leaders in California wine production. Schug Winery is a dream venture he started with wife Gertrud in 1980. Their focus is to produce world class Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines, combining old world influences with modern winemaking. If you go, Buzz recommends the classic 2013 Carneros Chardonnay and the 2012 Carneros Pinot Noir - both at $30/bottle which is a great value. For those who love the heavier, more complex reds, don't miss the 2009 Merlot and 2011 Cabernet, both sourced from the Sonoma Valley. Pay Schug a visit and capture your wine experiences using the VAULT29 app!

Day 21Buzz decides he's in the mood for some bubbles, so he asks his limo driver to head south and take him to famous Gloria Ferrer. The property is very impressive; a long olive tree-lined road (he counts 170  trees) runs down the middle of 355 acres of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vines. At the top of the road sits the winery, and Buzz makes a bee-line through the tasting room and out to the patio with sweeping views of the Sonoma Valley. Buzz is greeted by a very nice member of the winery staff and is presented with the various tasting options which vary from cave tours, flight tastings and individual glasses.  Buzz decides he better pace himself, so he treats himself to two nice glasses of bubbles, the classic Carneros Cuvée and the Brut Rosé. (Rumor has it, real elves drink pink). He learns Gloria Ferrer was the first sparkling house in the Carneros district, and they were also the first to bring over Champagne clones to the area. Halfway through his flute, Buzz decides to order himself a baguette and his favorite cheese, Mt. Tam by Cowgirl Creamery. The complimentary smoked almonds were an extra bonus. Feeling stuffed, he ordered a bottle to go and took off to his next destination. Buzz recommends visiting this gorgeous property and capturing your Gloria Ferrer wine experiences using the VAULT29 app!

Day 22:  Buzz's limo whipped down the hill at Gloria Ferrer, and made it's way a short distance to Jacuzzi Winery. As they pulled in, Buzz jumped out and took an "elfie" on the winery's sign. He thought he was sitting on, what appeared to be, a plane propeller, but didn't know the significance. He walked through the winery doors and into the tasting room, and was ready for his wine experience! During his complimentary wine tasting (5 wines, no appointment w/groups 6 or less!)). Buzz learned the Jacuzzi family has a fascinating history that spans 2 centuries back to Italy. Family members immigrated to the United States, and spent years in the aviation business (hence the propeller!) After a tragic airplane accident that took the lives of loved ones, the family worked in Berkeley, CA selling water pumps. Eventually, the family invented the popular whirlpool spas - which we now commonly refer to as "jacuzzis." He loved all the wines, including the Italian varietals available at Jacuzzi, like the Montepulciano and Barbera. With prices so affordable, he couldn't pass up taking a case home with him! Like Buzz, visit Jacuzzi and capture your experience using the VAULT29 app!

Day 23:  Feeling good from tasting at Jacuzzi, Buzz walks directly across the street to Jacuzzi’s sister property, Cline Cellars. An enormous amount of roses line the driveway as he made his way to the tasting room (he later learned there are over 5,000 roses on the property). Buzz began his complimentary tasting of 5 non-reserve Rhone-style wines, and because he enjoyed the friendly flavored non-reserves so much, he decided to try a flight of 3 reserve wines for only $5 (8 total pours for $5, but who’s counting?) As he sipped, he learned Cline sustainably farms and crafts single vineyard, Sonoma Coast, old (ancient) vine, and California wines. When in the Sonoma area, Buzz suggests paying both Jacuzzi and Cline Cellars a visit. The family history is awesome, the grounds are stunning, and Buzz reports back, “it’s not just a winery it’s a getaway with cool attractions like the Carp Pond, Museum, and exotic bird display.” Be sure to add your Cline cellar wine experiences in the VAULT29 app!

Day 24:  For the very last stop of Buzz’s Sonoma wine-tasting extravaganza, he asked his limo driver to stop at Viansa Winery.  The limo carefully pulled around the fountain, up the road through the olive tree orchard, to the top of the property.  Buzz stepped out of the limo and was immediately transported to a hilltop village in the Tuscany region of Italy.  “Bellisimo” exclaimed Buzz! Once inside the winery villa, Buzz was greeted by the friendly staff and he tasted 5 wines for $5 – an incredible deal in wine country!  His favorite wines were the Zinfandel and the Reserve Italian varietals: Primitivo, Sangiovese and Barbera.  He loved the 2011 Vino Rosso Red Blend as an everyday red wine, so he purchased a case.  Since the views were so stunning, Buzz decided to stay and order a pizza to go along with his Vino Rosso.  As he sat there taking the moment in, Buzz recalled the many incredible wine experiences he enjoyed in the Sonoma region.  He pat himself on the back and couldn’t wait to return to the North Pole to show Mr. & Mrs. Claus (and all winelovers) of his wine experiences captured using the VAULT29 app

Wine Mic Monday: Emeritus Vineyards

Wine Mic Monday: Emeritus Vineyards

"Wine Mic Monday" is a new VAULT29 series based on an "open mic concept" where wineries take over our blog to write about aspects unique to them and their wines. This week, we are proud to feature Emeritus Vineyards from the Russian River Valley. Their 2011 Hallberg Ranch Pinot Noir was just named #26 in Wine Spectator's Top 100 wines in 2014.

"Dry Farming" By Mari Jones, Emeritus Vineyards

You know when you get a summer tomato from the farmers market, you’ve been eating tomatoes from the grocery store all winter and spring and when you take a bite you instantly remember what a tomato really tastes like? I love that moment, it connects me with the farmer, the land and the food I’m eating. I remember that someone planted the tomato, tended to it and picked it. It grew in a field, in soil not in a greenhouse, not hydroponically. 

That’s the feeling I get when I taste a wine that is made from non-irrigated grapes, or dry-farmed. Dry farming is not widely practiced in California, as we don’t have rainfall during the summer growing season. In almost all other grape growing regions of the world there is summer rainfall. Our practice of dry farming evolved from a conversation my dad, Brice Cutrer Jones, had with his Burgundian friend and former business partner Aubert de Villaine. They were developing a vineyard together when my dad was given a life-changing lesson: “When you irrigate you change the signature of the wine.” We have been working at this practice since 2008, trying to capture the terroir of our incredible vineyards and create the most honest wines. 

Hallberg Ranch - Goldridge Loam & Sandy Clay with Roots

Hallberg Ranch - Goldridge Loam & Sandy Clay with Roots

After 3 years of weaning our vines off water, they were capable of sustaining themselves just on rainfall stored in the soil and not needing any supplemental irrigation. And we were dry farming! It wasn’t easy to get there, but it was worth it. When a grapevine is irrigated, the roots of the vine will only grow where the water diffuses in the soil, which is a shallow area underneath the vine, and almost like growing the vine hydroponically. When vines are cultivated without irrigation they will grow roots deep and wide in search of water, especially in a drought as we are in now.

So what does all this mean for our wines? We’ve found that the grapes achieve full physiological (flavor) ripeness at a lower sugar level, so we have less extracted and cooked fruit flavors in the wine and lower alcohol levels. We find the grapes retain more acid so we have a more acid driven wine, even in warmer years. And we see smaller berries which creates more concentrated wines and a tannic structure. The wine has so many more dimensions, in our early vintages our wines were “classic Russian River Valley”, bold fruit flavors, low tannin, and higher alcohol wine. They were all personality with very little character.  My dad always says, "The character of a wine comes from the soil, the personality from the climate."

Hallberg Ranch Vineyard

Hallberg Ranch Vineyard

After a couple vintages of totally dry farmed vines, I’ve seen a shift in the balance of our wines. They still have lots of Russian River Valley personality, bright fruit flavors and the like, but they are more elegant, more restrained and grounded with the character of our soils, which lends earthy and spice flavors, but also brighter acidity and a soft tannin structure. The wines express their vineyards, they express their vintage, and they express the people who care for the vines every day - just like the tomato from the farmers market, more complex, more exciting and more honest.

When Mari isn't drinking Emeritus, she enjoys wines from Stony Hill, Benovia, and DRNK.


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